Friday, March 4, 2016


It's been way too long since we posted anything, for which I apologise!
We completed the full disc-brake conversion just in time for our cross country move back to the East Coast, which I will post about soon.
In the meantime, we wanted to share this helpful info from a fellow Metallicar conversion. We don't plan on swapping Vlad's 293 engine, but want to cover as much helpful info as we can here, so I asked James to write a guest post to share about his process doing a BB to SB conversion.

Find more on Amara's build at!/amarasupernaturalimpala


Hey everyone, I got asked by Stella to guest write a blog post about what is involved in doing an engine swap/drop in a 1967 Impala. I’m currently in the middle of a build, using a California 396 car. It has a 12 bolt, TH400, power brakes, A/C, and power steering. That being said, here are a few tips about pulling/dropping an engine back in one of these cars. The process of building an engine is an entire other topic that many people have already written volumes on.

Pulling: the easiest way to pull is to remove the radiator support, and pull the engine and transmission together, as shown here:

Make sure you have everything unhooked, and put the car back on the ground. Then you can simply roll the car backwards and there’s your engine/trans combo. Before you pull check twice and make sure that nothing is still hooked up!

Installing a new engine:

Going from a big block to a small block: My car was a big block car, so all of this holds true for doing a conversion down to a small block. Also note this: You DO NOT have to change frame stands to go from a BBC to a SBC. I have seen both answers on this, but i have confirmed that you can leave the frame stands in the car, they are the same (or close enough that is doesn't make any difference)

1. U Joints: The factory U joints are held in place by a plastic mold, you have to use a torch to remove the plastic retainer. They will come out of the hole like a snake when you get them hot enough. For those of you with TH400s, you need Precision 534G and 355 U joints. Those with a powerglide will use a precision 369. To double verify, be sure to measure your U Joints dimensions before ordering/ driving into town.

2. The Murray radiator that you can buy at most auto parts stores is a nice piece. Plastic and aluminum, not brass, so it is $300 cheaper than a "period correct" alternative.

3. Summit/ blackjack/ etc headers that fit most chevys of this time period will fit easily. The cheap Summit part number is SUM-G9001. This style of header fit well enough. For those of you with straight plug heads, you may have to use accel shortie spark plugs to keep from burning a plug wire boot. These headers neatly clear TH400 factory linkage, the steering box, and the trans cooler lines (more or less). They also tuck pretty decently under the car so ground clearance shouldn't be much of an issue.

4. A moroso or miloden kick out deep sump pan will fit the car. I used the moroso 20190 pan on my motor. Please note this is a driver dipstick pan, so verify its the right one for your motor!

5. For those of you who want to go to a modern style altenator with an internal regulator, the conversion is simple. Here is a simple writeup on what has to be done.

6. Engine and trans mount: The cheapest trans mount is the anchor brand piece that you can buy at oriellys or napa. Its a simple rubber mount. Unlike the motor mounts, there is no added safety to having a poly mount. Now when it comes to the engine mounts, upgrading to an intergral lock motor mount is really a safety issue. right around this time GM had some problems with motors tearing their mounting and bouncing around the engine bay. So do yourself a favor, buy modern style mounts with a safety lock. I used Energy suspension 3.1114G motor mounts. They are poly, and have the safer interlock design.

7. Change your rag joint! Mine was pretty much falling apart, yours may be too. You won't know how worn out it is until it is out of the car. This item is often overlooked, and can make your car drive like new again. The easiest time to change it is when the engine is out of the car, but it can be done with the engine in. Yes you have to drop the steering column. And yes it is much easier with two people, but one person can do it by themselves.

Pictured above is the new engine, with the Murray radiator we discussed above, the Summit G9001 style headers (These aren’t actually summits, but they are bent the same) The power steering pump is a 74 Camaro piece, the bracket is a billet piece off Ebay from ICW brackets, the Alternator is a 1984 Trans Am piece with a three wire setup, the Alternator bracket is a summit racing piece that doesn’t use an intake bolt hole, and using these pieces allows for identical Gates 7445 belts to be used on both pulleys.

Be sure to check out!/amarasupernaturalimpala for future updates and information on doing various aspects of this build.


Thank you James and Amara! If anyone else is working on their baby and would like to submit a guest post to help the rest of us out, please get in touch!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


When Vlad became a member of our family, she had an immediately apparent problem which you may have deduced from previous photos.

Her front passenger side spring was broken, inviting the cruel and very un-badass nickname 'Eileen'.

We knew we would have to replace the springs fairly quickly (when you replace a spring one one side, you should always do both). We decided to replace her shocks at the same time, so we ordered new front springs, and front and rear shocks (we haven't actually switched the rears yet, but they will be done soon and I hope won't cause too much pain, so I will just include them in this post).
A few months ago, I joined a meetup group called 'Gearhead Girls', run by a retired female auto shop teacher. After several theoretical classes, the girls in the group were looking to do some actual work on a car, so I volunteered Vlad for a group session. Replacing the springs is something I was pretty scared of. If you've never looked closely at a vehicle's spring, take a look in one of your wheel wells. Your cars springs are designed to support the weight of your car and several passengers. The curb weight alone of a '67 4 door hardtop is well over 3500lb. Add a couple of festively plump Europeans and their large breed dog, plus any of the Scooby Gang along for the ride, and you've got a minimum of around 2 tons of weight those springs need to carry safely away from all manner of demons, ghosts and Leviathans.

Suffice to say, car springs are some heavy duty steel, and operate under an incredible amount of tension. Working on springs is very dangerous and has maimed and killed people. So it's not something this risk-averse girl was looking forward to much, but it needed to be done.

The old broken spring, or half of it.
After the springs and shocks arrived, I set a date with the group and we agreed to meet up one Sunday morning to work in the lovely air-conditioned shop of the group leader. I asked how long she thought it would take to do this job, and was amazed when she said '3-4 hours'. I didn't believe that for a second, but I also didn't think I would still be working on the springs a week later. My best guess is that from start to finish, changing the shocks and springs took around 50 hours (including a couple of lunch breaks and running around for a few parts). I'm imagining real mechanics reading this and having a good belly laugh.

After reading through the shop manual section on suspension, I discovered that Chevy wanted to use a 'special tool' which you had to fabricate from steel and a block of wood to change the springs. That seemed kind of crazy and I couldn't find any information anywhere about how it would work. I looked at several YouTube videos of changing springs (none of them close to the age or type of Vlad) and messaged Rick my YouTube Impala buddy to ask how he had worked on springs. He said he had used a spring compressor, which is what everyone else seems to use too. They can be bought, or rented at places like Autozone or NAPA.

You need an internal spring compressor to do this, and there are two types I came across. The first that we tried (from Autozone) had a hook like top, and a pickle fork type bottom - you hook over the spring inside and insert the bottom plate through the edge of the spring. This is what we used to remove the first (broken) spring. It went somewhat uneventfully, considering the spring was sheared in half, which was kind of terrifying. It didn't go as well trying to compress and install the first new spring though.

The new springs were about 17" tall, but needed to be compressed to around 11" in order to fit into the space. To get into this space, we had to remove the brake drum, take out the old shock, unbolt the strut rod and sway bar, and unbolt the part of the ball joint that attaches to the control arm. Most of these were caked with 40+ years of dirt and grime or rusted with damaged nuts or threads so not too simple to take apart. When you have your spring compressed to a small enough length (this is why you need tickets to the gun show, especially if you have to do this compression/decompression 8+ times like I did for various reasons - not enough thread left, spring compressor not gripping straight, etc)

Once in place (on the Impala, there is a slight tail to the spring which fits in a metal 'pocket' only one way), you put the spring in place, then jack up the control arm until it touches the bottom of the compressed spring, then decompress until the spring fits itself into the pocket. Or, in some cases, the spring compressor might just suddenly decide to release itself and the eager spring will jump into it's new pocket, scaring the shit out of all around and especially the person closest to it (me). My spring-fear began to grow. For this reason I decided I did not like the pickle fork style compressor. It was put on correctly as far as we could see, but it slipped out as soon as a little tension was taken off of it by the jack. I decided to try to find another style of spring compressor which I had seen online, and luckily NAPA had it to rent.

This is the first type of compressor we used:
And this is the second type of spring compressor, which I feel works best for this job:

At this point we were on about day three. I picked up the second style of compressor and we got to work. I also grabbed a heavy duty chain and padlock, and while I compressed the spring, we tightened the chain as we went in the hopes it would give some protection against the spring suddenly decompressing and flying loose around the shop (or through my skull).

The spring in all it's uncompressed glory.
Compressed to roughly the length needed to fit in. The pink string was an idea of how to get the tool out more easily after - it did not work and we didn't use it on the second side.
It was decided that because the first compressor let go of the spring, that it would be safer to put the compressor on, then use hose clamps to hold the compressor in place, to prevent the tool sliding. DO NOT DO THIS. It was a bad idea. It worked, sure, and after compressing the spring for the zillionth time I was able to slide it into place and start to decompress the spring. However, the hose clamps prevented the top piece of the tool coming free, (the bottom hose clamps can be reached and undone) as a couple of them were wedged between the spring and the car frame. On the second spring, I did not use hose clamps at the top (I agreed to use them on the bottom because of debate about this) and there was no slippage.

The stuck top part of the tool. You can see 2 of the hose clamps. 
Much of day 4 consisted of welding a special make-shift tool to get the top part of the spring compressor free and praying feverishly to Castiel. Thankfully, this worked, and once we were able to get the top part free, we were also able to remove three of the top hose clamps. One remains stuck in the spring forever. This knowledge pisses me off, so that's the last I will say about that.
The tool we made to free the compressor - a square pipe (with two more metal pieces added at the top) welded to an impact wrench extension which we used to 'hammer' free the tool. 

Once the spring was in and we put the pieces back together, replacing the shock was fairly simple (you will need a scissor or bottle jack to slightly compress the shock while you bolt it in. We replaced the rest of the parts on the RH side and torqued to specs given in the manual.
The first spring and shock in place. 
One tip to get more play in the ball joint arm is to remove a rubber stopper underneath it - this gave us about 1" more room so that we did not have to compress the spring quite as much. Be careful though as it's old rubber and likely brittle. I was lucky and able to get them in and out fairly easily without breaking. You can use some lube to get it back in. That's what she said.
The cone shaped rubber stopper we removed. 
Getting the drum off the driver's side was not fun. One of the springs in the brake assembly had popped out and expanded the shoes all the way into the drum so it was wedged on. Luckily I had super ex-marine Chere, an awesome lady who had come to the shop every day to help me out. Together we managed to pry the drum off, and got to work unbolting everything prepping the side for the spring. Chere is left handed, and her lefty strength was invaluable undoing many of the awkward bolts. I highly recommend finding a strong lefty for all your car projects!

Cas answered my prayers to never compress a spring again, and T was able to join me on the Saturday to keep working. He compressed the second spring without much to-do, and popped it into place.
T looking way too happy about compressing his spring. I think he only had to do it twice. 
The bushings on the strut rod were totally worn away or missing in some parts, so we decided to order new bushings and put everything back together when they arrived after my trip to CA the following week.
New strut rod bushing vs old.
So 2 weekends later, T and I returned and replaced the left shock, re-assembled the parts and torqued everything. Since we had loosened the brake shoes as much as we could to remove and replace the drums, I adjusted them back again manually and then used the automatic adjuster once she was back on the ground by driving 3ft backwards and forwards like a weirdo lots of times.
Done! About to take her outside to adjust the brakes.
For some reason, even with the new spring in, Vlad is still sitting considerably lower on the passenger side. I don't know if this is because the spring was broken for so long? And we're not sure what to do about it, so that will need more research. If anyone has any ideas please chime in!

The new springs and shocks certainly made for a smoother drive home. Our next big project will be converting the old drum brakes to discs. I'm hoping this will go a little easier, but I am sure it won't!

When we got home, T fitted Vlad with her new plate surrounds that I got him for his birthday. I also got him front AND rear bumper guards.... what a lucky guy! He grumbled that these were really presents for 'both of us'. He got Matchbox Twenty tickets too, so don't feel too sorry for him people.

As a reward for reading all the way to the end, I gift you with this picture of how I looked every night that week.

Parts used in this episode:
Shocks: KYB Gas-A-Just front and rear shocks KYKG4515 and KYKG5507 (
Springs: Moog CC609 (
Replacement bushings for Strut Rod: Moog MOK6092 (
Spare cotter pins for putting the drums back together.

Tools needed:
Multiple socket sizes, deep and shallow, with ratchets. An impact wrench is very useful.
Multiple sizes of spanners, or as the Yanks like to call them, 'wrenches'.
Spring compressor - borrow this from NAPA, about $50 returnable deposit.
Torque wrench.
Wire cutters.
Brake adjuster or flat head screwdriver.
Breaker bar.
Floor jack.
Jack stands.
Wheel chocks.
Bottle or scissor jack.
Wire brushes are handy to clean up rusted bolts and nuts.

Sergeant Safety Says:
Don't forget - Gloves, eye protection and also hearing protection if you use an impact wrench.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


One of the first things I did after we got Vlad was order a new set of locks. She had a different key for every lock - doors, boot (trunk to you Yanks), glove box and ignition. I ordered a matched set so that we didn't have to jangle around 4 keys and try to figure out which one is which every time.

On Tuesday, T had an unexpected, and very welcome, day off. When I get unexpected 'free time' I often like to take advantage of it by being as lazy as I possibly can. My dearest T-Rex on the other hand is gnawed by guilt when he sits doing nothing. I am too, but I'm pretty good at ignoring guilt. Irish Catholic's don't get off so easy. So he decided late afternoon Tuesday was a good time to start putting in the locks. I begged to differ, not liking the prospect of spending a hot sweaty evening (it had rained heavily earlier) in the garage with no AC. I lost (this actually happens a lot. I don't always get my way. But I choose my battles well.)

He started with the boot, and had that one switched out in no time. It was a simple straight swap and not a difficult location to get to. I stood around and took photos for this part, pretending to be helpful. It's usually best not to interrupt stubborn engineers in their natural habitat to offer 'helpful tips', they can become aggressive.

Removing the old lock. 

The new 'trunk' lock.

In she goes. Get in your home, lock.
 After the relative ease of the trunk lock switch, T was lulled into a false sense of security. And also bitten by several mosquitoes. So he changed from his shorts into the uniform of the lesser-spotted desert-dwelling mechanic: overalls and flip-flops. The next lock, however, proved more difficult.

I'm in a boat. With my flippy-floppys.
Not as easy to get at the door locks. 
 The door locks were more difficult to get out. After removing the door panel, you can reach inside and pop out a small little metal piece (sorry for the confusing highly technical terms) that sits between the lock cylinder and the inside of the door. Ours was stuck, due to sitting there for 47 years, and a little bit of rust. After struggling with it for a while and requesting a tool that was nowhere to be found, I suggested spraying on some WD40 and leaving it a while.

After much frustration on both our parts searching for the magical tool that would grip this thing, I decided to just go next door and ask our neighbours if they had one. Unfortunately I didn't know what it was called, only what it looked like, so I had to say "Hello, do you have a thing that looks like a wrench, but it's not a wrench, but it grips things and is adjustable." He kindly put me out of my misery by just letting me look through his tool chest, where I immediately found 3 (little, medium and big) and took them all.
Little did the trick. And now thanks to the power of Google, I can tell you that the tool needed was 'adjustable pliers'. See how educational this blog is already? You're welcome readers!

This is the last picture I took, as it started to get dark and even hotter and I wanted to hurry the feck up.
With the right tool (and WD40 as suggested by moi) the drivers lock was out quickly. The last two keys to switch were the ignition and the glove box. I volunteered to tackle the glove box, since somehow working on the ignition meant T was upside down on the front bench and I figured we could both do one at once and get the hell out of the sweaty garage. When I looked at the lock, it was immediately apparent what to do and I felt like a genius!  A small screw inside the glove box held the lock in place, and unscrewing it, it popped out straight away. Yippee! All I had to do was pop the new one in and screw back in place. Except, hang on. The new one's in, but it won't close.... oh hamburgers.

The new lock has two edge pieces - similar to the hole in the picture above - the hole it fits in is not a circle, but has extra holes in a cross shape to accommodate pieces of metal to make sure the lock goes in straight. Well the new lock seems to have slightly fatter pieces, preventing it from sliding all the way in to the hole, and  therefore from closing properly, as the latch can't quite reach. So my easy job then went to trying to adjust the catch plate inside, but I was unable to bend it enough. We got it temporarily shut in the end, but it definitely needs some adjustment - either bending the plate, or maybe sanding down the extra lumps of metal a bit? Was far too sweaty to care at this point, and T had finished the ignition (which I paid no attention to, so no idea how, sorry. I'll ask him later and edit this in case anyone needs that info!)

Now Vlad's keyring is considerably lighter, and we won't have to fumble around trying to figure out which key to use!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Since we brought Vlad home in February, we haven't really touched her. Last week we went out to a friendly local dude with a garden full of Chevy's and a garage full of parts, and picked her up some salvaged parts she was missing - a drivers side arm rest, a foot brake knob, interior light housing and coat hooks and a window winder. He was kind enough to give us the little rubber stops missing from the sun visors too, so they are now both operational :)

The known mechanical problems right now are that there is a pink fluid leaking from her (transmission or power steering? Not certain yet but we believe transmission). She also has a busted front passenger side spring. New springs and shocks are on their way! Because of these, we haven't driven her much or very far. AC is also not working - this is yet to be diagnosed. I did take her out for a spin to the library on my birthday, it took several tries to get the poor girl going after a while without starting.

Last weekend we ordered a sweet new radio for our girl. I had ordered a Rampage AV2000, which is the correct radio for the Metallicar, but T expressed some dismay (okay major annoyance) that he couldn't play mp3's in our baby. Bitch. Anyway, the company emailed me to say the radio wasn't available after all. So we ended up going for the Retrosound Model 2, which has bluetooth, usb, and all sorts of techy things to satisfy the engineer. She IS a beauty, but I'm so ashamed. I'm sorry Dean, I've let you down. 

I wanted to get up a bunch of early pictures now so as we go along, we can see her progression. So below are lots of pics from many angles that show the extent of most of her scars and battle wounds. 

Damaged driver's side panel. From what I understand, the metal at the top is all that is needed to make a new panel here, so not sure whether we will reupholster yet or get a new panel altogether. 

Pretty much the condition of all the weather stripping on poor Vlad.  

Reversing light housing is damaged on both sides. 

Damaged trim and crazed paintwork, but  she has her original emblems :)

More trim in bad condition. We're not sure if it was painted at one point? 

Holy rusted metal, Batman. 

Her once awesome teal interior :)

Very cracked 47 year old steering wheel

Sadly the previous owner cut a huge hole in her dash panel to install a new stereo. Worse that that, it appears he accidentally cut right into the metal - see bottom right. Doh. 

Vlad currently has 4 keys for her doors, ignition, glove box and boot. I bought a new set so that all her keys match, but we haven't installed it yet. 

Pitted and rusting chrome everywhere. 

Where is Dean supposed to lean his arm?

A badly patched rust spot. There are a couple of these. 

The belly of the beast. 

I hope the Dr who did this surgery lost their medical licence.