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    Thread: GM won't build me a new wagon, so I'll build one (Project Thread)

    1. Member rimtrim's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 02:43 PM #1
      This is not a new project, but a couple people have asked me if I'm ever going to start a build thread, and I decided today is the day. The car is a 1986 Pontiac Parisienne Safari. I've had it since 3/2000 and it was my first car, which I bought myself. It's been off the road since 10/2005 and I've been slowly taking it apart. Here is how it sits right now:

      The interior is mostly stripped out. There is some rust on the floors but nothing too severe. Any patching needed will be minimal.

      The original owner was an old man who only put 37K miles on it. It now has about 63K total. There is a fair amount of rust, lots of faded, cracked or missing trim parts -- the usual stuff you would expect from a 22-year-old car. I am going for a mostly-OEM restoration, using as many original GM and ACDelco parts as possible, with a few minor upgrades and changes. It has a 305 V8, 4-speed auto, 4-barrel electronic Quadrajet carb.

      Today I picked up the engine block from the machine shop. It has been rebored and decked. Now I just need to order a new cam and a few other parts, and I'll be ready to put the engine back together.

      Other finished engine parts:

      Except for the pistons, which are new, all the engine parts shown are the original items. With such low mileage, everything was in decent shape and just needed normal machining work.

      Next steps are to get the engine assembled and send the trans out to a rebuilder. In a few months I hope to get started on body work. This is a very slow-moving project for two reasons: (A) I don't have a lot of spare time and (B) I live in Philly and the car lives at my parents' house in NJ, so I have to drive 2 hours just to get to it. So don't expect an update every week -- though hopefully I'll make some serious progress this summer.

      -Andrew L

      "The whole economy is hinged on potholes." --Ray Magliozzi
      Hubcap Business and Pontiac Project, both on hold while I finish The House | Philly/NJ highways blog Windshield Time

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      03-29-2008 02:47 PM #2
      Quote, originally posted by rimtrim »
      Here is how it sits right now:


      I bet your neighbors love you.


    3. Member Gvr4-330's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 02:49 PM #3
      Cool project

      My first car was an 86 Olds Custom Cruiser. I hope your new engine will run better than the emissions choked V8 mine had.

      I'm also surprised no one has complained about your car sitting on the street like that. Or is it a driveway?

      Rob


    4. Member AdrockMK2's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 02:49 PM #4
      A 1986 Pontiac Parisienne Safari has never seen such love! I love wagons, good luck with the project!

    5. Member nopal 6.0's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 02:51 PM #5
      When I first saw the pics without reading, I was thinking that you were going to drop an LSx or something else.

      Cool project, I'll keep an eye for updates.


    6. Member Live-Wire's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 02:55 PM #6
      Interesting choice of car to build up... definite sleeper tho! (in a straight line) - or is this 305ci V8 the normal engine... and not much of a performer. It's still a 5.0L V8 isn't it? Should work well enough.

      Do you have any pictures of your 1990 Buick Electra wagon? I've never seen a Buick Electra before (that wasn't from the 1960's) especially not in wagon form? Were they the Buick version of the Celebrity wagon? Front drive with the 3.1L engine (or the 2.8).


      Modified by Live-Wire at 2:57 PM 3-29-2008


    7. Member rimtrim's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 02:57 PM #7
      Quote, originally posted by nopal 6.0 »
      When I first saw the pics without reading, I was thinking that you were going to drop an LSx or something else.

      I get that kind of suggestion a lot...I admit it would be cool, but I want this to be a daily driver, so I don't want to worry about horrible fuel economy and trouble passing emissions. Also, as a computer geek, I find the old electronic systems to be kind of neat once you understand how they work.

      For those asking about where it's parked...my dad had already claimed the garage for his project ('77 Celica) so I'm stuck in the driveway. At my own house in Philly, there is no room for an extra car. If things get too tricky when it comes time to do body work, I would consider renting a garage somewhere for a few months. Anyway, there are a few people on this street with worse junk in their front yards so we're covered

      -Andrew L

      "The whole economy is hinged on potholes." --Ray Magliozzi
      Hubcap Business and Pontiac Project, both on hold while I finish The House | Philly/NJ highways blog Windshield Time

    8. 03-29-2008 03:06 PM #8
      I had an 87 Safari. Slow, but was soooooo comfortable to ride on the highway. I fit 9 people and a keg of beer in this car when I used it at university.

      Good times. I miss the white, wood paneled Safari.


    9. Member rimtrim's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 03:06 PM #9
      Quote, originally posted by Live-Wire »
      Interesting choice of car to build up... definite sleeper tho! (in a straight line) - or is this 305ci V8 the normal engine... and not much of a performer. It's still a 5.0L V8 isn't it? Should work well enough.

      Do you have any pictures of your 1990 Buick Electra wagon? I've never seen a Buick Electra before (that wasn't from the 1960's) especially not in wagon form? Were they the Buick version of the Celebrity wagon? Front drive with the 3.1L engine (or the 2.8).

      Yes, the 305 is just the regular V8. It's not fast, but it's torquey and durable. I'm really going for a new wagon just as GM built it, rather than a hot rod. I thought about just buying a new or late-model car, but I didn't like anything as much.

      The Electra Estate Wagon is the full-size RWD wagon. The main body is shared with the other GM wagons including my Pontiac, but the fenders, hood and front fascia are unique. Actually, '89 was the last year they were badged as Electra -- mine just says Buick Estate Wagon, but it's the exact same car as the '89 Electra. For '91 it was replaced by the new bubble-body and became the Roadmaster. Pics of mine are here and here.

      -Andrew L

      "The whole economy is hinged on potholes." --Ray Magliozzi
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    10. Member IntrstlarOvrdrve's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 03:07 PM #10
      Honestly you may be surprised by the fact that larger engines do sometimes get better gas mileage. I know that when I worked for a remodeling crew we had a fleet of chevy vans..and the two with 350's got much better gas mileage than the one with a 305. I guess it just had to strain too hard for the size of the van.

      Also with an LS engine unless you convert to a carb, its going to have fuel injection which is probably going to produce less emissions than a carb ever will. Remember, the day a carb works best is the day that its new/rebuilt...

      Cool project though, wagons are the biz.

      '04 M3 |'86 Jetta |'76 F100 |'64 Wagonaire |'62 Bel Air| '61 Bug

    11. 03-29-2008 03:20 PM #11
      Did you ever think about making that into a woody?

    12. Member GTI_CH's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 03:26 PM #12
      Quote, originally posted by Ben. »

      I bet your neighbors love you.

      thats exactly was I was going to post
      cool project though.


    13. Member devianb's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 03:27 PM #13
      Quote, originally posted by AdrockMK2 »
      A 1986 Pontiac Parisienne Safari has never seen such love! I love wagons, good luck with the project!

      Lol I agree, which makes this a very interesting project. Can't wait to see how it turns out.


    14. Member bikerboy's Avatar
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      03-29-2008 03:29 PM #14
      Cool project, I'll definitely be keeping this one on the radar.

    15. Member rimtrim's Avatar
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      04-26-2008 09:48 PM #15
      The "favorite build thread" thread reminded me to update this. I haven't had time to do anything to the car lately, but I bought a bunch of new parts. For the engine build:

      Shown here: Camshaft, lifters, head bolts, main and rod bearings, front and rear crank seals, timing chain and gears (solid metal gears, not the stupid plastic gear that GM used for some reason), coolant temp sender, thermal switches for EFE and canister purge.

      Not shown: Lots of gaskets, including Fel-Pro Permatorque head gaskets, which are the heavy-duty ones they sell for police and taxi applications.

      Before I can put the engine together, I need to check the bearing clearances. That issue has turned out to be sort of a fiasco, because I didn't realize when I took the engine apart that the journals on a crank are not necessarily all the same size from the factory. My generic SBC rebuild manual didn't mention this, and neither did the machinist who did the work on the parts. I am reusing the original crank with no machining (the machinist determined it was fine and didn't need regrinding) so I expected to be able to use a standard bearing set.

      A few weeks ago I was reading the real Pontiac shop manual and it explained that crank journals are not always exact when new, and the factory will sometimes use multiple different sized bearings in the assembly of a new engine. If I had known that before I took it apart, I could have checked all the bearings that came out to see what size they were, but I didn't, and I just chucked them all. So, now I'm starting with a full set of standard bearings and I will need to measure the clearances and see if any need to be changed for different sizes. Once I get that straightened out, the engine goes back together.

      A couple other neat NOS GM items I got recently:

      I'm still looking for a lot of trim parts. I just have to find that stuff piecemeal on eBay. I've been buying parts here and there for about 3 years now in anticipation of this project, so I have a pretty good assortment, but not everything I need.

      -Andrew L

      "The whole economy is hinged on potholes." --Ray Magliozzi
      Hubcap Business and Pontiac Project, both on hold while I finish The House | Philly/NJ highways blog Windshield Time

    16. Member Chrissy's Avatar
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      04-26-2008 10:03 PM #16
      http://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu...1.jpg

      My Grandpa had that same wagon when I was a kid! I just remember my Mom driving it and getting pulled over on the way back from the cabin and she had me convinced that she got a ticket for going too slow!

      And then, one day it got broken into and all of my Uncle's books were stolen out of it. Now that I think about it, I have no idea what ever happened to that thing.


    17. Member TangoRed's Avatar
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      04-26-2008 10:10 PM #17
      Oh lordy, I could only imagine what my HOA would do with that. Cool project though!
      Quote Originally Posted by DamienR8 View Post
      in 2038 you will have the ability to think of a car, then your body will actually turn into a car, then you will die in an accident.

    18. Member irsa76's Avatar
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      04-27-2008 03:13 PM #18
      Cool build. You on the Stationwagon forums?

    19. 04-27-2008 03:21 PM #19
      Interesting project choice. I love wagons
      2008 BMW 328 Sports Wagon- 6spd manual - for sale

    20. Member SchnellFowVay's Avatar
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      04-27-2008 03:25 PM #20
      Quote, originally posted by rimtrim »

      This really ups the resale value of the surrounding houses . . .

      But cool build!

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    21. 04-28-2008 03:45 PM #21
      Quote, originally posted by SchnellFowVay »

      This really ups the resale value of the surrounding houses . . .

      But cool build!

      .....x2 cool idea


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      04-28-2008 03:58 PM #22
      This is a cool build. My grandfather used to buy a new Buick wagon every couple of years when I was a kid, and he had one of the first MY's of the Electra Estate Wagon in this style. I used to think that car was pretty sharp looking.

      I have to say I'd be hard-pressed not to update the engine management and transmission to something that would be more fuel efficient and burn cleaner--and I know both can be done by raiding the GM parts bin. But I appreciate you taking the time to restore a car like this in any form.


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      04-28-2008 04:04 PM #23
      Quote, originally posted by Numbersix »
      I have to say I'd be hard-pressed not to update the engine management and transmission to something that would be more fuel efficient and burn cleaner--and I know both can be done by raiding the GM parts bin. But I appreciate you taking the time to restore a car like this in any form.

      Agreed. I had an 81 Electra sedan as my first car. It was pretty slow, and the original four-speed auto didn't make it past 80k without a rebuild. But it is good to see this being built up.

      I sorta wish I kept that Electra and built an LT1 powered sleeper....

      Tom


    24. Member mraguilar's Avatar
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      04-28-2008 04:18 PM #24
      Quote, originally posted by Ben. »

      I bet your neighbors love you.

      probably he is in New Jersey, (by the plates) so neighbors don't care


    25. Senior Member ClockworkChad's Avatar
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      04-28-2008 04:52 PM #25
      why of all the cars to build this is what you are going with ?
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    26. 04-28-2008 05:05 PM #26
      I really love these cars - My family had an 82 (?) Bonneville for the majority of my young life and it was just very pimp, capable, and clean inside and out.

      The feel of the older V8 American cruisers is one of comfort, isolation, and heft. The sheetmetal must be twice as thick as any modern car.

      Since we're reminiscing, I remember, when it was getting a little dull, Pops gave it to my mom with a brand new paint job for her birthday and my dad drove a new civic (was about '90) to save on his commute. At least that was the plan. After painting it, the Bonnie was too nice to pry from his hands apparently. A couple weeks later. he crashed it into a telephone pole before my mom really got a chance to drive it much


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      04-28-2008 06:14 PM #27
      *sniffle*
      Quote Originally Posted by Kyle C
      The world runs on marketing, and in the case of winter tires Subaru has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that any round, rubber-ish object that holds a bit of air and passes as a tire will get you through the snow just fine, but only if it is attached to a vehicle with AWD/4WD.

    28. 04-28-2008 07:05 PM #28
      rimtrim,

      What are your plans for the exterior? It would be pretty cool to see someone clean one of these up, by taking off the mouldings, maybe shave the handles......???......slight drop with some tasteful wheels?????

      Cool project.


    29. Member westy66's Avatar
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      04-28-2008 07:31 PM #29
      i bet the LS1 would get better mileage that that rebuild is gonna

    30. Member DeeJoker's Avatar
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      04-28-2008 07:33 PM #30
      Absolutely watching this thread. Memories of cruising in the back seat of my friends' parents' wagons, waving at the cars behind us... wow.

      Rimtrim, I know a lot of the folks are asking why the 305, etc. Having owned a mid-80's 305-powered turd, I have to as well. That wheezy engine was rated at 170hp. It was horrible on MPG, somewhere in the 14 range. That was in a Cutlass Supreme, not a wagon. Can't imagine the wagon is any better.

      By raiding the GM corporate bin, you could easily step up to a fuel injected motor that easily would trump the 305 in power, fuel economy, and, well, longevity. There is a distinct reason why those cars had odometers that rolled back over at 99,999.9 miles. GM flat out didn't expect the motor to go that long. My trusty Cutlass' engine shat the bed at 89K miles. Granted, you're doing a rebuild and there is the satisfaction of having literally built the engine, but even a carb'ed 350 would be a step up.

      What are your plans for interior/exterior colors, etc? The stock color isn't bad, but an era-specific Navy Blue would look killer.


    31. Member tehAndy's Avatar
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      04-28-2008 07:45 PM #31
      Love it. Big wagons are awesome. I need to get one before gas is $6 a gallon.

    32. 04-28-2008 07:54 PM #32
      Quote, originally posted by westy66 »
      i bet the LS1 would get better mileage that that rebuild is gonna

      IMO, there's something cool about trying to restore a car to it's new state and actually driving it. It's one thing to upgrade everything as you rebuild it, transforming it into a new car. It's another to restore it to showroom condition and babying it (i.e., retiring it from being a daily driver), but this is a nice compromise. It'll drive like it's new and he won't have to worry about every little detail of the car by keeping it mostly stock.


    33. Member rimtrim's Avatar
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      04-28-2008 08:03 PM #33
      To answer some of the questions:

      Why this car? I don't really know, I just like it. This was my first car, and it was exactly the car I wanted. I think it fits my personality perfectly.

      Why the 305? I want this to be basically a stock historical rebuild, rather than a custom. I'm sure there will be lots of nice custom B-body GMs being built as these cars get older and more desirable, but there will probably be few originals. Also, this is my first major restoration project. Trying to make a lot of changes might be too much for me. First I want to understand how GM built these things originally. Sometime in the future I think it would be neat to rebuild one of these with a home-grown EFI system and a cool 1980s-looking dash screen showing real-time sensor readouts and stuff. But I don't really have the ability to do something like that yet. I've spent a lot of time understanding how the original computer system and carburetor work, so I'm not just blindly messing around with that stuff. By the time this is done, I'll probably be able to draw the wiring diagram from memory.

      Exterior changes? Again, I am going for basically completely stock. I may make a few very minor changes, such as slimmer rub strips in place of the big rubber ones, and a deflector-type roof rack (mostly because NOS non-deflector racks seem to be non-existant). I already have a set of perfect NOS wheel covers -- they are the non-wire disc type with the red reflector emblem. So, no aftermarket wheels. I think most aftermarket wheels look out-of-place on older cars, unless they are from the right time period. When I first got this car years ago, I thought about converting it to a woody, but I don't think I want to do that. My Buick is a factory woody, and I really prefer the plain look.

      -Andrew L

      "The whole economy is hinged on potholes." --Ray Magliozzi
      Hubcap Business and Pontiac Project, both on hold while I finish The House | Philly/NJ highways blog Windshield Time

    34. 04-28-2008 09:07 PM #34
      Quote, originally posted by rimtrim »
      Why this car? I don't really know, I just like it. This was my first car, and it was exactly the car I wanted. I think it fits my personality perfectly.

      That's the best reason I can think of.

      Quote, originally posted by rimtrim »
      Exterior changes? Again, I am going for basically completely stock.

      C'mon....not even a color change? Pretty please?

      Quote, originally posted by rimtrim »
      I think most aftermarket wheels look out-of-place on older cars, unless they are from the right time period.

      -Andrew L

      You know....come to think of it, off-hand I can't really imagine anything *but* a set of factory rims.....

      Maybe some Coy Smoothies (II's), but that's big bucks, and it would probably be a little too hot-roddish? I've seen some pretty nice aftermarket redo's, in which they've taken the old Vette Ralley wheel and upsized/billeted it, then just put the smoothy cap on them......that would look pretty hot on an old wagon!

      I dunno. Regardless, I wish you the best of luck!

      *edit*

      I can't help it......lol....I get too excited about stuff like this, but here's a link to a ton of different tasteful wheel options.......

      http://www.newstalgiawheel.com/wheels.asp

      I'm done.


      Modified by thesteve at 9:15 PM 4-28-2008


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      04-28-2008 09:57 PM #35
      Even though he's going for stock, I think the best option for wheels would be a set of Pontiac 5-spoke Rallyes, like so:

      That'd be just right.

      This thing is seriously tempting me. If I hadn't found the Jeep and I was still looking for a car, I'd probably pick that up.


      Modified by tehAndy at 8:59 PM 4-28-2008


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