WDMS Chapter 161

Alien LT1

March 2010

Pics resulting from the CL ad

*Note from Costas: I've got nothing on this one. I didn't even know about it until after it happened, but sit back and enjoy Gary and then Nick's story on this LTwonder... :-)

Gary:

In keeping with the WDMS spirit of traveling to pick up wayward Camaros and Monzas, here's the story of a wrecked í97 LT1 Camaro.

Craigslist can be a wonderful thing.  Iíve used it a few times with good results: bought a camper shell, wheels/tires, sold a car or two.  When the newest version of the CMC2 rules were released, third gens were now allowed to either modify their 305 TPI, build a carbíd vortec 350, or drop in an LT1.  Iíve been casually looking for an LT1 to put into Knocker when I make the jump from CMC to CMC2.  Aluminum heads?  Yes please!  In my wee head, I figured a wrecked 4th gen would be ideal in that the at least I would know the main reason for selling would be something other than a bad motor.  Buying just a longblock or even a running car always plants a seed in your head that maybe the owner knows something is going bad.  Plus, with an entire car, we may get lucky and get to use some of the interior for Lauraís í91 RS.

I just happened to come across an ad for a wrecked Camaro in Abilene ís craigslist.  Ok, so itís a bit far away from me in Houston .  But wait! Location of vehicle says Brownwood .  Ok, so itís a bit closer than Abilene , but Iím still not sold.  I call and the lady who answers the phone tells me itís a 6 speed (score!) but doesnít know a mileage or details since the car belongs to a friend of hers who is computer illiterate.  Lemme think about that.

About the same time, Laura had come across a good deal on a Queen bedroom set on Houston ís craigslist.  We were looking for a queen bedframe, and the ad included a mattress/box for an extra $50.  Laura asked if I knew anyone that needed a queen bed.  HmmÖ  A quick email to Nick, and heís all over it for his guest room.  I may even deliver it if he helps me load a busted Camaro onto my trailer.  The wheels start turningÖ

Laura emails the furniture people, I email the Camaro people for more pictures, mileage etc.  I get a call back from a guy, Wes, who fills me in a bit more about the car.  He tells me the engine seems fine and turns over by hand.  I ask about the trans and he mentions he couldnít get the clutch in because the floorboard is bent up.  ???  Oh, the car was t-boned on drivers door.  A picture in the ad would have been nice.  He then tells me that they have someone coming to look at the car that night.  The earliest I could get up there is the coming weekend.  First come, first serve. Dang.

Shortly after, the furniture ad is deleted by author.  Laura never got a reply. 

Email from NickÖ

ďd'oh

no furniture, and possibly no LT1....0 for 2 (maybe)

:-\ Ē

Next day (Wednesday), it all turns around.  I call the Camaro guy and he tells me that the other guy came over with a cherry picker to get the engine, but there wasnít enough room between the front of the car and the fence.  If Iím really going to come get it, heíll hold onto it until the weekend.  I specifically tell him my concern is loading onto the trailer, and ask if the front suspension is ok to bolt some wheels onto.  He affirms.  Laura gets an email saying if we have a truck and can pick up the furniture tonight after 6, itís ours. Double Woo-Hoo!  To top it off, the actual address is in the town of Goldwaithe , which is closer still to SA.

Friday afternoon, we head to San Antonio to spend the night at Nicks.  I had every tow-strap, ratchet strap, tie down, bungie cord, random bits of wood, jacks, jack stands I own loaded up as well as Nickís new bed.  We arrive at Nicks, make our bed, and are out for the night.

Laura is liking the scenic hills on the way from San Antonio to Goldwaithe.  Around 11:30 we arrive at Goldwaithe city limits, and proceed thru the town.  This next right is the street.  As we come around the trees, the street is staring down at us at about a 30* angle.  Itís STEEEEEP!  We collectively hope that thereís another way out and we donít have to come back down that grade loaded.

A quick look over and this car is HURT!  There isnít a single panel with the exception of the roof that isnít damaged.  The header panel is straight tho and the engine does appear stock and is ok shape.  Now the fun begins.

We first jack the front of the car to get the wheels on.  The passenger side is sitting on a cinder block making it a bit easier.  Nick has the driver side and makes a catastrophic discovery.  The lower ball joint on that side has been sheered off.  Technically the guy I spoke to was correct.  We could bolt a wheel on.  Having it roll and support the car was another issue.  The collapsed front wheel would play havoc on the loading party.

First we jacked up the back end up of the car and I thanked myself for having such a low trailer.  We placed some wood under the car to make it slide up the trailer once we start winching.  I backed it up and lowered the rear of the car down.  Reposition the jacks and back up some more.  It was working out well.  With the car 1/3 on the trailer, we lowered the ramps.  Now just to pull it up the rest of the up with my newly purchased cheap-ass winch.  HAHAHA!!! Whatís that? Oh, thatís the car laughing at the puny winch.  Ok, so thatís a no-go.  Glad I brought my dads come-along.  We hook it up and the car started to move.

The front wheels are at the edge of the ramps and itís starting to all go wrong.  The collapsed suspension is just getting caught up under the car.  The other wheel will not stay straight.  At some point, the come-along gets harder to ratchet and the center part of the come-along comes out of alignment.  The cable is tangled within.  We spend a while to try fix it as best we can getting the cable unstuck and getting it half workable again.

The car now has the front wheels on the ramps.  We decide to jack up the ramps level with the trailer, block the ramps and the car tires, and slowly back the trailer up again.  In theory, the ramps will slide into the trailer, and push the car up.  This worksÖ for a few feet.  The ramps are now almost back in the trailer, the front wheels of the car barely on the edge of the ramps.  Thereís too much resistance from the rear end of the car on the trailer.

Time for plan E.  We placed a jack on each side at the back of the trailer and disconnected the trailer from the truck.  Chocked all the wheels of the trailer. We tied a tow strap to the hitch and the front of the car.  Slowly eased the truck forward andÖ started to spin the tires in the soft dirt.

I think you know whatís coming next.  No, not ďHold my beer and watch this!Ē  I got a small running start and jerked the car forward.  It worked!  Since this Camaro is, oh, about a foot and a half narrower than a stock Camaro, we routed the strap straight, then left, then right to make sure the car didnít fall into the center section of the trailer.  On the last jerk, the entire trailer pivots and digs and sinks the trailer jack into the soft mud.  Iím done.  Letís go home, they can keep the trailer.  As it turns out, the jack is undamaged, we can get a floor jack under it easily to hook it onto the truck and more importantly, the car is actually completely ON the trailer.  Holy crap.  We use the half broken come-along to inch it up a bit more until the wheel gets hung up on the license plate frame of the trailer.  Itís good enough, lets get this trainwreck up onto the rock patio / driveway and get it strapped down.

Look, they have a Ranger!! I'm shocked you guys didn't buy that too!!!  ~Costas

Easier said than done.  The soft dirt at the lip of the patio was no match for the truck tires, as in, the tires sent the dirt flying.  The ledge/form of the patio was now a good few inches above the dirt.  I back the truck up and we throw some wood into the newly excavated ruts.  The truck climbs up onto the patioÖ only to get hung up on the unleved rocks.  Itís not even a 2Ē height difference between the edge of the patio concrete and the top of the rock, but the dirt embedded in the all terrains just lets the tires spin.  The back yard is not even by any means either.  The front tire of the trailer is at the base of a small hill making things just that much tougher.  Un-freakin-beleivable.  A little gas, a lot of gas, add wood, nothing works.  If I back up, I fall back into the ruts.  Finally we decide to back up, move out of the ruts and take another stab at it hoping I donít make a repeat performance.  GAS GAS GAS!  Yes, finally , truck, trailer, car and on solid, uneven, ground.  Itís (almost) over.  ~4:30pm.

We get it strapped down, pay the lady her cash, and get the @&%* out of there.  I know the trailer is nowhere close to being loaded properly and the tongue weight is maybe in the positive number range.  We ease back thru town with a state trooper following us for the first few parts.  Nothing to see here.  On the highway, we can cruise at about 44.5mph.  At 50mph, itís a matter of minutes before thereís a nice wag from the trailer.  44.5mph it is then until we find a bigger town.

We find a tractor supply, buy a new come-along, and heave the turd up as far as it will go.  Still back loaded, but now our cruising speed is 60mph.  65mph thereís still no wag, but weíll play it safe. 

Finally get back to San Antonio , decide to spend the night as itís been a long day (understatement!).  Thankfully after Tractor Supply, itís an uneventful journey asides from all the stares from people as they pass.

Itís home now, awaiting the removal of the trans and engine and maybe the diff, then off to a scrap yard.  Hopefully that ordeal will be cake compared to Ö Iím going to keep my mouth shut and not jinx myself.  Either way, a BIG thanks to Nick and Laura for helping with this mess.  No way Iíd have any hair left if it wasnít for them.

NICK:

The year was 2003. The phone rang. It was Gary. "Hey man, I bought a 3rd Gen on the internet, wanna go with me to Amarillo to get it?". Me "SURE!!". Saw it on the internet. Had to have it. After a long drive from College Station, we pulled in to Amarillo and headed for the address. We see this red Camaro drive by us going the other way, looks *just* like the car Gary says he is going to buy. Smoke is billowing from the rear of the car as it accelerates. Uhhhh....and so begins the legend of Knockr. 

Fast foward to 2010. The e-mail, uh, rings. (It's 2010 folks, phone calls are sooo 2003!). It's Gary. "Hey man, I found a Camaro on the internet. Wanna go with me and Laura to Brownwood to get it?". Me....."SURE!". <facepalm> You see, I was duped by a smooth talking Scotsman. The conversation was "hey, we've got this awesome mattress/box spring that we will deliver to you in San Antonio if you just help me load up a car". Heh heh heh. Point....Gary. I had seen the Craigslist ad and I knew this was going to be a challenge. I mean, you always hear stories about how when people sell things, they post pictures of the item's "good side". Well, let me tell you, these pictures from the ad are definitely the car's "good side". Mostly because the other side wasn't even fully there. 



remember this???



So we drive to Godlsthwatthsihsestheachoo, TX, arrival 11am-ish. Yup...it's a crushed Camaro. Wow. It's really crushed. The rear axle housing is in place, but the ends of the axles are sheared off at the flange on both sides. No way you're getting wheels on there. I'm told the owner told Gary that "oh yeah, you can bolt wheels on the front". Well, he was technically correct. What was not mentioned was the lower ball joint on the driver's side was sheared off at the control arm. The spindle and hub/brake assembly was free to move about the cabin. This did not look promising, as there was no way the car would roll easily (or at all). We soldiered on. Jacked the car up, and bolted wheels to both front hubs. After some brainstorming, we all agreed the best primary course of action would be to get the rear of the car up in the air, and back the trailer underneath it. Throw some wood down, and slide the car up on to the trailer. Even easier, because Gary bought a winch for his trailer to help us out. "Hey Gary, where'd you buy that winch?" "Wal-Mart". <facepalm>

Car is up in the air. Here comes the trailer. Steady, steady...success! This was, by far, the peak. It was a steep ride downhill from here on.





Gary, hook that badboy winch up. Whirrrrrrr<poot>. Back it off, try again. Whiirrrrrr<poot>. Hmmmm. The car didn't move an inch. <sad horn>

Alrighty...now what? The rear of the car is sitting on the trailer. Let's jack it up again, and see how much more we can get the trailer underneath it. OK. Jackjackjack. Backbackback. Let 'er down. Alright. We're getting closer! OK, the winch didn't work. Let's try the come-along. Crank, crank crank. It's moving a little bit. Crank crank, crap. The come-along is not coming-along at all. In fact the cable is caught in the gear, and not moving an inch. We use some conglomeration of a prybar, screwdriver, and impact wrench and manage to Aggie-engineer the come-along back in to 7/9th's working order. But it's getting us nowhere and not even fast. 




We talk a bit, and toy with the idea of getting a tow truck to come over and winch the car on to the trailer for us. Problem is, the closest tow service is many towns away. Hey wait a minute. Why do we need a tow truck, when we have a truck and a tow strap right here with us. Oh yeah, it was a total "hold my beer, watch this" moment. But at that moment, it was genius. We'll unhook the trailer from the truck, hook a tow strap to the hitch, and wrap said tow strap around the Camaro. Oh....yes....that's....right. Place some jacks under the rear of the trailer. Pull the ramps down, straighten the wheels as much as possible, and let's get this puppy up. Strap is taught, we are clear, give it some gas, Gary! The truck spins it's wheels in the backyard, and goes nowhere (hint hint, I'm foreshadowing for later). It's pretty soft ground back here. NO MATTER, back it up, and let's give it a few good jerks and load it up. One, two, three, JERK. WOW, it actually pulled the car up! Do it again!! JERK! It's moving quite good. JERK! The front wheels are up on the back of the ramps. But wait, the car is crooked. NO MATTER, we'll put the strap around an offset trailer frame support and whlie we jerk it, it'll straighten itself out. Heh, heh, heh. JERK! Well, it kinda worked, but man the trailer moved a good bit. Let's try this one more time. JERK! That's great, but we're now at a point where the front wheels are ALMOST pointed towards each other. I kid you not. The driver's side is obviously freeballing, and thanks to all the jerks up the trailer, it's barely hanging on by a thread. And since it's obviously not connected to the tie-rod anymore, the opposite side has nothing to do with it, so it's pointed wherever it wants too. The car was getting too close to the driver's side of the trailer, so we figure one last jerk will get us a little further, and this time it's hooked to another offset trailer frame support. One good JERK with the truck, and surprise, surprise, the trailer tongue flies off the wood support we put down, and digs itself in to the ground. The car got nowhere, and now the trailer jack is looking for buried treasure. Geez.

Well, the good news is, the car is up on the ramps. What do we do now? The come-along is half-broken, the winch is wimpy, and we can't jerk the car anymore because the front tires won't let us move it. A 5 watt lightbulb goes off in our heads. What if.....just what if....we jack up the ramps to where they are level with the trailer. This way, the entire car is level with the trailer. We'll re-hook the trailer up to the truck. At the back of the ramps, we'll block them off so that the are immobile, but supported. We'll back up the trailer with the truck, which *should* allow the rear of the car to slide forward on the wood sheets, the ramps will be sucked in to the trailer which will take the front wheels with them, and get us ever so close to getting the entire car on. BRILLIANT!!

Truck is hooked up. Ramps are blocked off. Easy does it now. Reverse gear, gasgasgas. It's working! The trailer is moving, the ramps are sucking in, and the car is slowly sliding forward. Little by little, the car creeps forward on the trailer. We get it to a point where the car has stopped sliding, and is getting ever close to coming off the ramps. So we call it quits on that idea. We hook the come-along back up and try try try to get it moved. Inch by inch it seems to be working. After A LOT of cranking, the car is finally ON the trailer. Barely hanging on. To say the trailer was tail-heavy was an understatement (there's that foreshadowing again). Damn, son! Strap it down, we'll cover it up and get the F outta here! 

To quickly describe this person's property, the Camaro was in the back corner of their backyard. The side of the house where they parked their cars was paved with uneven large stones set in concrete. After all our shenanigans, the trailer and the rear tires of the truck were all in the backyard, front tires were on the paved/stone portion of their driveway pointing out towards the street. OK Gary, get in and tow this pig out in to the street so we can cover it up with a tarp. Gary gets in, throws it in driver, and eases on the gas. Wheelspin. Wow, that created quite a rut in the dirt, and rather quickly. No matter, more gas should solve this. Give it some more, Gary! WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELSPIN. Ummmmmm. Well then. The truck managed to get to the point where the rear tires were at the edge of the driveway, which was unfortunately just a TEENY TINEY OH SO NOT FUNNY bit higher than the backyard. And, well, because the trailer was so tail-heavy, there was absolutely no weight on the rear tires of the truck, or the nose of the trailer. Spinspinspin. Not going anywhere. Let's throw some wood down, see if we can't get it to bite. Spinspinspin, FLING goes the wood out the back of the truck. OK. Seriously. You have got to be kidding me. We fought this car tooth and nail to get it ON the trailer, and now we can't even get the truck out of the backyard. The task that should be meaningless and simple. Step 1, drive truck, step 2, profit. UGGHGGHGHGHGHGHGH!!!! Finally, after digging two trenches in this person's backyard (those were there when we started, you can't prove a thing) Gary backs up the trailer as far as he can, and just nails it. Front tires, UP. Rear tires, UP. Rear tires, spinning, spinning, spinning on the smooth stones, and finally GRIP, and it pulls the trailer on to dry, solid ground. O...M...F...G. It's now 4pm. We throw a tarp on the rear of the car to prohibit any glass or interior panels from spreading themselves all over the highway, Gary pays the nice lady (who didn't mind the ruts, surprisingly), and we head towards home. 

Wait, what's that? You think the story is over. Silly rabbit...

We stroll through town, and get on over to the highway. Gary's creeping up in speed, and as I'm watching in the rearview mirror, the trailer starts swaying side to side rather violently. I ask "what are you doing?". To which the response is "nothing". We had barely made it up to 50mph, and because of the complete uneven weight distribution of the trailer, we couldn't muster more than 45mph before the trailer would just wag it's tail like it was waiting for it's treat. Umm, ok. Well, 45mph it is. It's *only* 150 miles. I do a quick check of the Googly Maps (iPhone FTW!!! ~Costas), and the nearest Tractor Supply is a few towns away in Marble Falls. Gary wants to get a new come-along to try to bring the car up closer. A good idea! A quick stop on the way at Chicken Express and our bellies are full and ready to head on. We make it to Marble Falls, and secure ourselves a new shiny come-along. Unstrap the car, and Gary hooks up the cable to the trailer, and to the rear bumper. Crankcrankcrank, the car is moving! Slowly but surely, crank after crank, the car scooted up. Had to reposition it a few times to make sure the car was staying straight. After it got close enough, we unhooked the come-along. Went to the front of the car, and it was now kind of crooked. Hooked up the come along to one side, and cranked it over bit by bit. As the sun was setting on us in the Tractor Supply parking lot, the car was finally straight, and repositioned enough to strap it down, call it good, and drive home to San Antonio. The little bit the car moved helped a ton. Gary was now able to get up to 60+mph and it towed straight as an arrow. Got home to san Antonio, watched F1 qualifying, and called it a night. 

Those crazy kids left early in the AM back to Houston. I can't wait to hear how he's gonna unload it :-)

 

UPDATED!!!!

Motor/Trans is OUT!!!