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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

Hoping to learn some new stuff here.

Six weeks ago I purchased a 1966 Lemans that had been sitting in a barn for the last 20 years. Old owner bought it from Tennessee and drove it around Michigan as a daily driver for a number of years before parking it in the barn.

Specs:
  • 2 Door Hard Top
  • 326 Automatic ST-300
  • Factory AC
  • Factory Power Steering
  • Brake Booster
  • Fontaine Blue w/ Parchment Interior
At some point someone did an engine swap from the original 326 to a 350 out of a 1976 Trans Am. Kept the original ST-300 trans. When this was done they did not reconnect the AC and had all the parts tied up in the engine bay with the compressor removed. Car was repainted a Ford blue.

Problems:
Mice! The car was filled with nests everywhere there was a space. Smelled horrible. Complete interior is shot.
Oil leak from valve cover
Rear window leaks water into the trunk - rust along bottom moulding
Gas tank was half full with old gas, lines were chewed
Rear quarters have rust holes around wheels
Trunk rusted through in a few spots and had a quart of oil spilled in it
Was driven on a dirt road and not washed before storage or really ever it looked like
Car was heavily smoked in and the ashtrays were still full

I bought it without starting it and had it towed to my friends garage where we could work on it.





Didn't get too many images of the interior before tearing it out but here is the general condition:


 

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Welcome! Looks like a really good platform to start with. To the best of my knowledge, the Trans-Am never came with a 350CI. They had either the 400 or 455. The Firebird Formula or Firebird line had the 350CI, so verify the engine code and the letter code found on the center exhaust port on the heads. Like any Pontiac engine, the 350CI has potential, but won't replace cubic inches if you are looking for all out performance.

Don't redo/rebuild the car out of sequence. Meaning start with the chassis and work up. I see cars that are really rust buckets and some guy rebuilds the engine and then thinks its an 8K car when its an upside down project that will never return the money invested into it to bring it back - if he can get a buyer.

Make sure the frame is solid as your first step. Check body mounts/bushings.

Check your wiring and operation of all the lights. You don't want any shorts that could cause a wire fire or melt down. Age can make the wiring brittle and typically a car of this age has had some mods done to the wiring as eager hands like to add gauges and stereos.

Then I would go through the brakes from front to back adding front disc brakes and dual master cylinder for safety sake in todays world with all the nuts out on the road. Old fluid goes bad, rubber lines rot, master cylinders & wheel cylinders stick, and steel lines corrode.

Then I would tackle the suspension. Remember, the car is old and rubber parts have surely rotted/deteriorated and can affect ride/handling/safety. These older cars typically were worn out past 60,000 miles as the parts were not designed to last like today and unless you serviced the car regularly and greased the front end religiously (who did that? LOL), wear takes its toll. Don't be fooled that things look tight - grease can get thick and dry out from setting and appear to make a worn ball joint or steering link look good.

Next I would tackle the rot where ever it may be found and fix as needed.

There is of course more to be done, but you should have a plan and then follow it IF you are going to rework the car and bring it back. However, you could just drive it as is with minimum work BUT, I would still be replacing brake parts that rot and all flexible gas line hose as the old rubber line (and fuel pump/carb internals) is not compatible with ethanol gas and you don't need a fire.

I have learned the lesson that trying to drive a car while working on it as you go doesn't seem to work well. I find it easier to simply hold off on driving it and rebuild the car - however long the project takes - and then enjoy the ride. :thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter #4
So I don't plan on doing a full body off resto for now. Maybe in a few years. The goal is to take one cruse this year and pack it away for the winter.

When we first got it to the garage we ran a new fuel line into a can and it fired right up and ran great. Whew!

I did also tackle some stuff that I don't have pictures of presently.

  • Font disc brake conversion
  • New rear drums
  • New Brake Lines
  • New gas tank and lines
I had to get rid of the smell because you couldn't even really stand within 10-ft of the car without puking and my wife would be super pissed if she found out I bought a car this ruff. So I gutted the entire interior immediately. Ordered a complete Legendary kit from Ames.


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The floor was in pretty good shape, there were a few pin holes in front of the drivers seat and one of the front seat bracket welds was broken and the front of the bracket lifted up. Little bit of surface rust.

Had my friend weld those two spots up. Luckily for me my friend with the garage has worked in a body shop his whole life and just got done building a 64 Malibu A body. I cleaned up the surface rust.

Took a power washer and went after the inside for about 3 or 4 hours. Inside of the door panels was full of dirt/mouse stuff/etc. Everything in the roof supports was full. Blew air and water in all the crevices and vacuumed everything possible, multiple times.

After about two weeks of leaving everything open full time, the smell subsided a bit.

Painted the entire floor interior door panels, roof, and dash interior with chassis saver paint.
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After painting the smell is now completely gone.

With the dash, dash wiring (including fuse box), and center console pulled I set about cleaning/painting/ordering parts/restoring those parts at home. Surprisingly the dashboard harness wiring was in great shape and not chewed on at all. All the wiring is still flexible and not brittle. I continuity checked everything, checked it all for wire nicks, cleaned all of the connections, and re-taped everything. Installed new lens, bulbs, and fuses.

Ordered some SEM Trim Black Ultra and went after all of the original black parts. Washed everything that was still in good shape.

Finished dash
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Finished center console
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Installed Dynamat on everything and re-installed the dash so we could fire it up and test the gas tank, brakes, etc.
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All of the electrical works including the wipers! Need a new horn switch since some plastic parts snapped off during dis-assembly.

Engine compartment and more later.
 

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Welcome, looks like a nice foundation, especially being exposed to our Michigan weather for those years. I am also partial to the barrier blue iridescent, thats what my Tempest custom was, the new Bahama Blue is almost an exact match with fine silver flake. How can you not like the rear end treatment and bright work on the LeMans (i looked all over to find the center piece for mine). Mine was in a car port since 1976 before i rescued it 8 years ago, also did the bucket and console switch and used a B&M ratchet shifter for the new 3 speed TH400. Motor is 462 with dual quads fabricated into the tripower Ram Air intake and 2.5" RA alum. exhaust. I did it all body on as it was a high desert car and had almost no rust. With the help from the guys on here i ended up doing everything but short block assemby by myself including body and paint for the first time.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Welcome, looks like a nice foundation, especially being exposed to our Michigan weather for those years. I am also partial to the barrier blue iridescent, thats what my Tempest custom was, the new Bahama Blue is almost an exact match with fine silver flake. How can you not like the rear end treatment and bright work on the LeMans (i looked all over to find the center piece for mine). Mine was in a car port since 1976 before i rescued it 8 years ago, also did the bucket and console switch and used a B&M ratchet shifter for the new 3 speed TH400. Motor is 462 with dual quads fabricated into the tripower Ram Air intake and 2.5" RA alum. exhaust. I did it all body on as it was a high desert car and had almost no rust. With the help from the guys on here i ended up doing everything but short block assemby by myself including body and paint for the first time.
Great work, hope to be there sooner or later.
 

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Engine and mechanical beginnings.

I removed all of the heating and AC parts and installed panel covers. The heater box and all of the vent pieces were so filled with nests I didn't feel like taking that on at the moment. I figure I'm only going to drive this in the summer anyway so who needs it. Maybe I'll install an aftermarket AC kit later.

AMES had an AC/Heater delete plate that I picked up, but it didn't even come close to being correct. We ended up cutting that up and fabricating a few others.

To remove the AC parts behind the kick panel we had to remove the inner fender well, which was super difficult with all of the other AC parts in the way. It did go back in relatively easily though.

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  • New battery and alternator
  • Full tune up
  • Changed all of the fluids (except rear diff - we'll get to that later)
The power washing even showed some blue on the engine!

Slapped on some new wheels and tires.

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Took it off the stands and went for about a 1000-ft test drive. I noticed that there was not something right in the rear wheel. The car would shimmy a bit back and forth.

Back up on the stands.

Opened up the differential expecting the worst. The fluid was about 1/2 full, maybe less; however, all of the gears were perfect and there was no metal in there.

Was hoping to drive it home but it wasn't meant to be yet.

Had my friend pull the axles to check bearings. He looked for a while trying to find the C clips before he realized that they were bolt on. Here's what we found on the passenger side:

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Need take it in to someone who can press in new some bearings.

That's where it stands as of today. Hopefully, I'll be able to drive it home later this week.
 

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Very nice Jeremy. I like the color. It’s more enjoyable when a person can say they did this and that on a restoration.
 

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Nice start, Jeremy. Your LeMans should be a really nice car when you're done. Looks like you've made a good start and know what you're doing. Best of luck with it. (Understand the wife thing really well.)
 

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Forgot to mention that if you decide to replace that two speed ST-300 with a three speed trans, the TH350 is a bolt-in. a TH400 is an excellent trans (I have one) but it would require trans crossmember relocation and a new drive shaft. A beefed up TH350 should hold up well behind whatever engine you replace your 350 with (if you do).

If you decide to modify your 350, here is an interesting thread:

350 Block Stroker Builds ? - PY Online Forums

Best of luck.:thumbsup:
 

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Forgot to mention that if you decide to replace that two speed ST-300 with a three speed trans, the TH350 is a bolt-in. a TH400 is an excellent trans (I have one) but it would require trans crossmember relocation and a new drive shaft. A beefed up TH350 should hold up well behind whatever engine you replace your 350 with (if you do).

If you decide to modify your 350, here is an interesting thread:

350 Block Stroker Builds ? - PY Online Forums

Best of luck.:thumbsup:

I had to read that forum thread over at PY on the 350. Seemed more like a bunch of banter that never really answered the OP's original question. It was like throwing out a question to a group who got so involved answering amongst themselves that they didn't see the OP walk off to leave them in their own conversation. :yesnod:
 

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Very nice! Once I get my 65 GTO to a finished point (Like they ever are right?) I would like to find a 64 or 65 lemans automatic even a 4 door version and make a nice sleeper.

Good luck with it, looks like a solid platform, hey as long as the frame is good and the body is good the rest is simple.
 

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Installed the new axle bearings, seals, carpet, seats, and center console.

Took my first cruise and it drives fantastic. That 350, 160hp engine is a dog though.

Going to probably work the suspension and body mounts this winter, then body work, then new drive train, then paint, then.......
 

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Installed the new axle bearings, seals, carpet, seats, and center console.

Took my first cruise and it drives fantastic. That 350, 160hp engine is a dog though.

Going to probably work the suspension and body mounts this winter, then body work, then new drive train, then paint, then.......
Much better looking. :thumbsup: Keep in mind that the 160HP is NET, not Gross, as the ratings changed in 1971. The 350 has much potential if you choose to keep it.
 

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I would find a good 400 virgin block Save up for some eddie heads and have it built while driving and enjoying the car with the 350. The 400 can be bored and stroked over 462 C.I. and easily make 500+ HP and well over 500 TQ if you want "more cowbell". The TH 350 can be built to handle up to 500 HP above that you would want to go with a TH400.
Motor swap can be done in a weekend and you get to enjoy the car and get a feel for it before you make a rubber burning monster out of it. Most projects get stalled because stuff is easy to remove, then after 6 months waiting for your motor the parts are a jumble and much harder to re-assemble when your memory is not fresh and parts not labeled and photographed in place.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Haven't updated this in a while.

Removed the rear end, painted it up, and upgraded the rear suspension.
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Drove it like this most of last summer.

Sadly this happened more than once.
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With the last one the ST300 went out. Lost all of the fluid and gears while driving. It's been sitting in the garage since.

Set about looking for a 400 or 455 and a TH350 and came across a good deal on a 400 with a TH350 so these are sitting in the garage waiting for the weather to break.
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Trans looked pretty rough so it's presently getting cleaned up and rebuilt.

Hopefully back on the road later in the spring.
 

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Nice. You will like the TH350. I recently swapped my ST300 for one but still running the mighty 326. From the look of the weather in your photo you must still be in Michigan. Nice to find a car in that good of shape up there. I grew up in a town called Richmond. Plenty of rust around there.

Jim
 
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