Submitted by: Noel Carboni
This is my daily driver car, presently at more than 208,000 miles and running strong! It looks stock, but it has been modified heavily to improve its fun rating. Let me explain...
I bought this car new with a Chevrolet small block 350. However, the current engine is a 418 cubic inch small block Chevy, created from a 2-bolt 400 block bored and honed .034 over and outfitted with a special offset-ground crank and custom solid roller cam.
On top is a F.I.R.S.T. (Fuel Injection Research System Technology) TPI system, which sports a big single vane throttle body and large runners. This replaced the TBI (Throttle Body Injection) system originally shipped with the car. The F.I.R.S.T. TPI system is rated to flow enough fuel/air for 450 HP. Unfortunately, the manufacturer (IMPCO aka AirSensors) appears to have gone out of business. I wonder where I'll get my next mass-airflow sensor...
The TPI has its own computer, nestled in the glovebox, which provides buttons to select parameters and a knob to adjust them. Tweaking this thing turns out to be a fun way to pass the time at stoplights, with the runs between serving as tests.
The existing GM ECM (Electronic Control Module, or "computer" by another name) still manages spark timing. I reverse-engineered the ECM tables from the ROM (Intel 2532 EPROM compatible pinout) and did a lot of seat of the pants testing to determine the optimum curves for avoiding detonation and for making Mustang drivers feel bad.
Cyclone 1 5/8" headers wrapped with Thermotec insulation carry the hot gasses out into a dual 2 1/2" exhaust and through 2 cats. The insulation saves a lot of wear and tear on engine compartment goodies, not to mention the hood paint. Contrary to some lore, the headers seem none the worse for wear so far. The exhaust passes exits through 2-chamber Flowmasters, for a fine sounding farewell.
The engine idles well (although a bit rough below 800 RPM) and pulls strongly from 1500 to 6000 RPM. It really kicks you in the pants at 3000 (smokes the tires in 1st AND 2nd gear)! This mandates a conservative approach to driving in the rain or in any traction-limited situation!
Transmission, Driveline, and Suspension
If you remember, the 1982 model only shipped with a 700R4 4-speed overdrive automatic. 1982 was early in that transmission's design lifetime. You other 1982 owners have may have guessed that it ground itself into little metal shards at about 60,000 miles, still coupled to the original unmodified 350 engine. What to do?
I bought a Doug Nash 5 speed, way back before Richmond Gear bought them out and began making their 6 speed. I put about 130,000 miles on the 5 speed, at first behind the 350, then later behind the 418. I rebuilt it once, then after a bunch of miles and breaking some teeth on 1st gear, I finally decided to upgrade to a Richmond Gear 6 speed with overdrive!
I front-ended the Richmond 6 speed with a Centerforce dual friction clutch setup, a Lakewood blow-proof bellhousing to stash it in, and a bunch of miscellaneous '80/'81 Corvette manual transmission application parts from GM. Everything from the backup light switch to the Z-bar stud on the engine to the clutch/brake pedal linkage to the length of the drive shaft had to be dealt with.
The stock '82 cross-member didn't fit my manual tranny application, so I got a late '70s part from a junkyard and modified the transmission mount. Since this cross-member has holes for exhaust pipes on each side (rather than a hump on one side) I had to spring for a custom-bent exhaust system (anybody ever notice that the word "custom" is gold-plated?). The list just goes on and on of big and little things that had to be done. What an exercise, BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!!! The Long shifter that comes mated with the 6 speed Richmond tranny is a pleasure to shift, the exhaust note is healthy, the tire smoke impresses the guy behind, etc. This is the way GM should have built these cars in the first place. Come to think of it, the late model 'Vettes have a lot of these attributes...
Twist and Shout
It seems the 1982 aluminum differential case just isn't up to the kind of torque I'm pumping through it. Undaunted, I commissioned Carl to custom build a GM 4th generation (84-96) Corvette Dana 44 differential into something that will fit my car, and he's halfway through that effort (he plans to offer this as a conversion kit for 3rd generation Corvettes). For now, I'm driving yet another rebuilt 1982 differential, and I guess I'll just have to be a little easier on it. :(
Bump and Grind
One thing I'm thinking about doing now is replacing my 550 lb front coils, A-arms, etc. with a VB&P transverse fiberglass monospring system. This should reduce the unsprung weight a good bit and improve handling over not-so-smooth surfaces, not to mention refresh my bushings. Also, VB&P updated their rear setup to provide a dual mount for the '82 aluminum cross-truss. I might have to check that one out as well.
Getting Down to 55 At Red Lights
For those of you considering carbon-metallic pads, one warning: The friction characteristics change slightly as they get hotter (they grab more when hot). This isn't a problem when you learn to expect it, but please don't let it surprise you when you first put them in. Also, contrary to popular lore, they DO make a LOT of black brake dust. They DON'T seem to wear very fast - interesting.
A Seat of the Pants Improvement
A nice ride has got to be nice to ride in. As shipped by GM, the Collector Edition Corvette was outfitted with a very sharp interior. The door and seat leather was a silvery color with successively darker shades in several panels. Even with good care, however, over the years the leather seats degraded as this car saw daily use. Plus, the Florida sun didn't help any, even though the car sleeps its days away under a car cover. At one point, the leather in the driver's seat split open in several places, exposing the seat foam. New, correctly appointed Collector Edition leather seats can be had from several sources for the paltry sum of about $750.00 a pair, but I had an alternative in mind... The leather seats were actually rather uncomfortable in the sun, and I really didn't want to contribute to the demise of Elsie the cow, so I special-ordered a set of custom cloth seats from Dennis Hand of Corvette Originals in Georgia. He charged me $250 per seat and took his time, but I think you'll agree these seats are beautiful!
Music to Shake the Rearview By
There is nothing like the symphony from a good V8, especially with those Flowmasters under there, but sometimes a person just HAS to have some good tunes. In this car it is especially important to have enough wattage to actually be able to hear the stereo over the significant sound of the exhaust. I am by no means an "audiophile" or "stereo expert", but I've wired up a dandy little modest system that sounds simply fantastic! My original Delco ETR Stereo Cassette gave up years ago with a litany of failures. At that time, I searched for a stock replacement, but alas GM had sold its last unit just prior to my need. Not knowing where I could get the Delco refurbed, I set out to replace it. What I chose was a simple Sony AM/FM Cassette with a decent 22W per channel power output. I tied this to an 80W per channel Radio Shack equalizer/booster and some really good rear Pioneer big magnet speakers that I picked up at a swap shop. Also in the mix is a Radio Shack 100W powered subwoofer tube that I mounted in the cargo area. With a little tuning of the equalizer and crossover, I got this setup to sound as good as this car runs, and with enough decibels to jam at major MPH with the windows open.
C1: 1953 -
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C3: 1968 - 1969 - 1970 - 1971 - 1972 - 1973 - 1974 - 1975 - 1976 - 1977 - 1978 - 1979 - 1980 - 1981 - 1982
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