The Great Beater Challenge is the main reason I bought this Pontiac, and the event date is fast approaching. Too fast in fact. This is not reality television-manufactured drama, there is just still a lot of work to be done, not much time to do it, and I really do not know if I will make it in time. In this segment I dig back into brakes in a thrash to get the car roadworthy. Hopefully reliable too.
In one of the previous segments I had mounted the front disc brakes and master cylinder. That is great but it takes a bit more than that to have a functioning brake system, especially when the vehicle has been off the road so long (1981 in this case). The rear brakes would need, at minimum new wheel cylinders but likely new lines as well. The first challenge was removing the rear drum. I had spend hours and hours attempting to get the stubborn drums off without success so I called in help. A friend and fellow Great Beater Challenge competitor brought over his expertise and 1966 Dodge panel truck.
He was able to remove the stubborn drum in a shockingly short time as well as loosen the front tie rod ends for me. The wheel cylinders were well past their best.
A replacement cylinder popped in without too much hassle. The shoes had enough meat left on them for the time being.
Not surprisingly the brake lines were not in great shape so I built up new ones for the rear.
New fluids were up next, including the differential …
and engine oil.
The headliner was rather gross looking and likely was hiding some mouse poop so …
out it came. Unfortunately it still looks terrible but at least the dust issue is better. I have a cheap idea to fix the cosmetic issue but I will just have to see if time allows for it.
I found a petrified mouse under the rear seat.
The next task was bench bleeding the new master cylinder, something I have never done previously.
The new master cylinder came with some very short hoses and the required fittings. I used to the push rod from the old cylinder instead of screwdriver to activate the cylinder during bleeding.
After what seemed like a long time the fluid was bubble free. The cylinder was ready for final mounting.
We ended up moving house this summer which really interfered with working on the Pontiac. I hoped to drive the Pontiac over to the new house, but after attempting to bleed the brakes a few times without success that was no longer an option. My wife convinced me to take it to a mechanic for the final bleeding. The old car got towed over for a brake bleeding and alignment (the disc conversion adds about 3/4″ of toe on each side).
Unfortunately the shop was unable to bleed the brakes. They did point out that my brake lines could foul with the control arm in the stock location during full steering lock and that I had forgot a copper gasket at the caliper.
After the house move, my friends once again bailed me out with a trailer ride to the new location. I was able to resolve the two items above and we successfully bleed the brakes. Huzzah! The shift linkage felt really stiff but after a good lube up it was back to working order. There are a lot of lubrication points on a manual column shift!
It is crunch time as I only have a few days left with front end alignment, exhaust and engine tune up to go. Hopefully there are no more snags and delays with the Great Beater Challenge scheduled for August 25th and 26th. I did manage to find a few minutes to dig out the Fuzzbuster II radar detector I had from the Reliant Scimitar I bought many years ago. Seems like an appropriate accessory even if it is ten years or so too new.
The whole Affordable Classic series:
The (Pontiac) excitement builds!
So what was the trick for popping the drums off?
Lots of lube on the adjuster and he just worked it free.
And here I thought the “Great Beater Challenge” referred to efforts to remove the rear drums with a sledge hammer. Glad your friend came up with a better solution.
Good luck from here forward, we are pulling for you!
I hate bleeding brakes. But then I have always done it old-school with an untrained helper working the pedal.
A time crunch takes all the fun out of working on an old car (or any car, for that matter) so good luck!
Veterinary syringe and tubing.
Hit the bleeders with PBlaster or whatever you use several times in the weeks previous, takes a second to hit ’em all and wipe with paper towel.
All new bleeders so for once they were not the problem. Actually new master cylinder, new calipers, new lines, new wheel cylinders – it should have been super easy.
A good vacuum bleeder will let you to the job alone.
That is actually how I did it. We just tracked down the last leak together.
My English VW nutter mate has a pressure bleeding toy its driven by air from a tyre makes bleeding very easy, Ive used it more than he recently.
I know you were pressed for time but, after all that brake work you left the old shoes on?
Great story by the way!
A favourite CC post photographed and described in the usual detail (as ever) Mr Saunders. I do hope you get there.
“…the brake lines were not in great shape, so I built up some new ones..” As you don’t – not at my level of skill! If only.
Most curious as to what you mean when you say the garage couldn’t bleed the brakes, especially as you later did. Is that because of a fault they couldn’t find, or just general notgoodenoughness on their part?
Took us maybe an hour to sort out. I suspect they just did not want to dig into something that could have exposed more issues that in turn would have ballooned the bill. I am sure garages would much rather work on a 2000-era something than an old weird car. We did have a little bit of debris in one line that I think was stopping the flare from seating properly. Luckily it fell out and we got the lines bleed.
It was probably sucking air due to the missing copper gasket at the caliper. Also, sometimes during the course of bleeding the brakes by the “pedal” method lots of tiny air bubbles develop that just won’t go away until you walk away and let the car sit for a while. The car is looking good! Hope it’s finished enough for the Challenge!
I must of missed the July update.. So I read both just now.
Excellent series…! Seeing the photos ignites so many memories.. I remember those cars when they were family drivers. The early 60’s Canadian Pontiacs have alway been my one of my favourites. I have such fond memories of my 62 Strato Chief .
I hope you get it done in time, but theres always next year Eh !
By that time, I’d expect he could transplant a 389 into it…
Oh, yeh, won’t work, it’s a Cheviac…
I love reading these updates on the Laurentian — thanks for posting them. And congratulations on posting this site’s first-ever picture of a petrified rodent.
The Fuzzbuster brings back memories. Back when radar detectors were big and dash-mounted, I used to look for passing cars that were using them, and then follow those cars at a little bit of distance. If they’d hit their brakes randomly, I’d slow down too, figuring that their radar detector had sounded an alarm.
The Fuzzbuster, besides lending its name to as a generic term for radar detectors, serves another, less honorable service. The early-stage radar detectors, besides not working all that well, had a very bad habit of setting off everyone else’s radar detector when it got near them.
So, for a bit of fun, you could leave it turned off until you spot someone else with one. Then, turn it on, watch the guy in the other car panic as his detector lights up and he hits the brakes.
Car looks great, especially given how you came by it. Personally I like the wheels.
Nice, this is thrilling stuff, believe me.
You must have better luck with flaring brake lines than I do. I had a cheap flaring kit which was terrible, later I bought an expensive professional one. It too was terrible and would not make a concentric flare 🙁
I have actually got pretty decent over the years. I have a mid range set that I think cost me $60 or so.
I’ve found that the secret to a successful flare is to make sure that the tube end before starting is *perfectly* square. I’ve had to redo some 2 or 3 times to get a nice double flare. It usually involves some time with an assortment of small files. Also, a cotton swab inserted beforehand to pull the little chips back out.
I think you will make it to the beater challenge. -Yes you will!
Such a sharp-looking car. I’m even starting to like the colour 🙂
Good luck on the challenge!
New headliner goes in after the Beater Challenge. Will a Catalina headliner fit?
Not sure. I would have to do some research. The Canadian cars are a little bit odd.
The basic body should be the same. The difference was primarily underneath. But the tooling for B-Bodies in this size car for all that shared it ought to be essentially the same. My guess is it would fit.
Ye Ol Pontiacs looking good, No head liner, no problem, I sprayed the roof interior of my Hillman with white anti chip mixture and glued on some sound deadener admittedly its a stiffer panel than what you have but that would work and it brightens the inside of the car up. Looking forward to seeing this car up and driving and back in its natural element.
I really like seeing projects like this. A sensible, real world classic car with tasteful updates like the brakes. Not a cookie cutter Camaro/Tri-5, and not the usual “throw an LS and 20” wheels in it, and garish paint” project either. I keep trying to get a project like this going, other than the state I’m in being difficult about titles…
Which makes me want to ask, how hard is it getting a title/registration on an old car that’s been sitting for decades where you are? I tried buying a Stude but my state required a $5k bond before issuing a (temporary) registration, totally blowing my project out of the water.
Good luck with the Pontiac and I hope you have fun in the challenge with it!
The only thing you’ve done on this car that I could also do is vacuum up mouse poop.
Loving this series and all the detailed explanations and great photography. Thanks for sharing your talented work.
You might want to rethink the brake shoes, those look like bonded (glued) linings. That glue does fail over time though it is possible the older glues that might not have been low VOC, non-cancer causing ingredients might be better. However the fact is with the modern cars with a parking brake drum inside the rear rotor bonded linings loosing their bond after 15 years or so isn’t that uncommon. Back in the day we didn’t find out because the parking brake was the service brakes and the linings actually wore out long before the glue could fail.
I had that happen on my 95 Explorer about 5-6 years ago. Parking brakes were failed due to not working, and when I pulled the rear rotors off, the original parking brake shoe linings were completely gone.
If it happens at speed then yeah that is what you’ll usually find when you do pull it apart. If you do use the parking brake then it is likely to happen when you release the brake and try to go and find out you roll a foot or too and then that wheel stops rolling.
This has been a great series and I hope you make it to the challenge. Nice Dodge truck, too.
I have been enjoying reading this series, and love the look of this car. Makes me long for the ability to work on my 65 Mustang affordable classic. My current home situation doesn’t allow it at the moment…but soon!
I’m rooting for you to make it to the Beater Challenge!
I love the car and your stories, but really, so much effort to remove the drums, and then leaving that 80% gone shoes on? Hope they will last you on the challenge!