1979 Sunbird coupe Project

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1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Chief_Runs_W_Coyotes » Tue Apr 21, 2020 10:54 am

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I thought I would take a few to introduce the Blackbird, she's a 79 sunbird sport coupe that I purchased last October as a father and son project. It was heavily optioned from the factory, mainly for luxury. It was a fairly cold winter here in Indiana so very little has happened at this point, but with it warming up we will begin restoring and modifying it soon. This is my first project car and I must say, I'm no mechanic, but I have managed to maintain my own vehicles over the years. Disclaimer: this will be a fairly slow build that is not going to be a race car, just an enjoyable grocery-getter and car show frequenter.

So on to Project Blackbird:

    The Good:
    Binder of documents including purchasing paperwork from 79 and all maintenance through 2013
    63,000 original miles
    4 speed manual
    Clean interior (cloth seats are faded though)

    The Bad:
    Fenders rusted out behind the front wheels
    A little bubbling under the landau
    Headliner was replaced by a previous owner with the wrong color

It is currently an Iron Duke with the crossflow head. The original one was delivered with a cracked block that leaked everywhere and was replaced within weeks of ownership. While definitely not a performance engine it seems to perform well in the little bird. I took it on a 8 hour road trip last weekend and it did great for 7.5 hours of that. This trip included driving through Brown County State Park which has many steep inclines and tight turns, and she handled beautifully. She also managed to get around 30 miles per gallon across the trip, no complaints with that. But as most of us know, a little power is never enough, and it did get a little anemic on the highway. I considered many different engine options but I keep coming back to making some minor improvements to the current engine and just enjoy cruising it. So that being said here is the current list of plans for the car (phase 1):

1. Wheels and Tires: New tires, this is why I said it did well on 7.5 hours of an 8 hour road trip, it broke a belt in the rear 30 minutes from home. The tires were put on during the 90's so it was to be expected eventually. I considered all the tire and wheel options and as of now I plan to keep the stock wheels. Paint stock wheels in argent silver, classic chevy rallye wheel color, replace trim rings with rash free ones and clean up center caps. Current color match paint job was performed by the previous owner and while okay, I'm not as happy with it as I could be. I think the black rallye wheels hide the design a little too much.

2. Body: replace or repair fender rust and body rust around the landau top. Body is straight and true other than the couple rust spots so I'm going to attempt to restore the current paint instead of doing a full respray. Weatherstripping needs replaced on doors and door windows, windshield and rear seem okay.

3. Grill: there's a lot of chrome on the front of this car, I'm looking to tone it down by painting the headlight bezels black but leave the forward edges chromed to create a nice outline, same treatment for the grill. All done with chrome black-out for proper adhesion.

4. Interior: Custom fabric seat upholstery with matching door inserts. Paint interior plastic bits with original buckskin color. Remove what is left of the wood grain sticker from the steering wheel and paint that portion flat black to match other interior bits. ADD SOME CUP HOLDERS! Honestly, this has been one of my biggest complaints with the car since day one. I hate the over the door hangers, and who designs a car that can't hold a cup? Curious about what others have done to make this happen. Fix the clock, find the high beam switch, replace headliner and replace seat belt looms.

5. Engine: Rebuild carburetor, still going strong but it has never been rebuilt and would provide some peace of mind. Custom exhaust header as mine looks like a corn cob and replace catalytic converter with a high flow and get a high performance muffler. Replace intake snorkel box with an open element style. EGR delete to go along with the previous two sets of modifications. Other than that just standard tune-up and repaint the engine. I want to keep the engine mods to a minimum at this point as I'm still considering a non-conventional engine swap down the road.

Thoughts and suggestions? Perhaps some useful forum redirection? I look forward to reading the replies.
1979 Pontiac Sunbird (currently undergoing restoration) with the old duke and a 4 speed
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Kenova » Tue Apr 21, 2020 12:59 pm

Fuel injection and turbo for the Duke!

Sorry. My brain to mouth filter malfunctioned. :lol:

You have a fine looking 'Bird there. Follow your plan for rust repair and enjoy it.
Be forewarned, there is very little selection for 13" tires.

Ken
My other car is a Nova.
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby zeke » Tue Apr 21, 2020 3:14 pm

Welcome to the forum! Nice coupe :th:

This isn't ideal as it's a little hard to get the can in and out but much better than nothing. If I extended the mount by an inch, it would work great. Doesn't interfere with passenger's leg.

Cheap hanging cup holder from Walmart or wherever, with the hook cut off. Sim to this one: https://www.amazon.com/Custom-Accessori ... 3FF8E6A3CB
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby RedFiveKBS » Tue Apr 21, 2020 3:29 pm

Awesome car! I don't get to the Forum much anymore since it is so much easier to communicate on FaceBook these days. Zeke (the guy above) sent me the link to your post. Beautiful bird! I am a Sunbird guy myself. I currently have 3 Sunbirds; two coupes and a Formula hatchback that is in the process of being rebuilt.

I am in Northeast Ohio. Where are you located?

Here is my driver. It is a 1980 Sunbird coupe like yours except I have the V6. I've put 10,000 miles on it in the last three years. Two Hot Rod Power Tours completed which was 5,000 of the 10,000 miles. Welcome to the club. If you're on FB be sure to join Monza Madness. I need more Sunbird people there!! LOL

I have the same issue you have with the fenders. These cars tend to get their cowl drains clogged and then the bottoms of the fenders rot.

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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby RedFiveKBS » Tue Apr 21, 2020 3:30 pm

If you haven't done so already, look inside your driver's side door. You MAY find your build sheet like I did.

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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby 283vega » Wed Apr 22, 2020 5:04 am

Welcome to the forum. This is the place to come with all your question , its a great group of guys here.
283 vega
70 corvette


Brian
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Monza Harry » Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:25 pm

Well that looks like as good a place to start as any. [Except Clyde did do it the best way, he bought his new! :mrgreen:] That car looks really Good! And you seem to have a pretty solid plan in place, enjoy it and bring us along for the Ride Please Oh and welcome aboard this "Crazy Train" This is one of the best bunch of (Guys) I should say "Enthusiasts" you will find Period! Harry
I'm not a hoarder I'm a preservationist 78 Monza Spyder (Soon To Be 2+2 with Spoilers)
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Chief_Runs_W_Coyotes » Fri May 22, 2020 4:28 pm

Kenova wrote:Fuel injection and turbo for the Duke!

Sorry. My brain to mouth filter malfunctioned. :lol:

You have a fine looking 'Bird there. Follow your plan for rust repair and enjoy it.
Be forewarned, there is very little selection for 13" tires.

Ken


I’ve considered a small snail many times now and have decided against it. Fuel injection is a no go because the whole idea behind it is a pure and simple driving experience. I found some Toyo Extensas I liked but I’m holding out for now for a set of 15” minilites. I think they would look great on the car.

@RedFiveKBS I’m in the Indianapolis area, and that’s a great looking bird you got there! Do you have any idea where I could source some okay fenders? I’m not sure there’s enough of the lower drivers side to even salvage.

Got a couple photos to add shortly but they are currently too large to add from my iPhone so I will have to later. Things have been crazy in my house lately thanks to Covid and teaching from home but as we transition back I should have more time to get started on this project. Going to start the engine repaint here soon!
1979 Pontiac Sunbird (currently undergoing restoration) with the old duke and a 4 speed
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Chief_Runs_W_Coyotes » Tue May 26, 2020 5:45 pm

Well it looks like this project is about to finally get started. I picked up a welder and some sheet metal the other day and I hope to get to repairs here soon. I tried to upload these photos the other day but they were too large at the time but I finally got around to fixing them. The option sheet and what's left of the window sticker were in the binder that came with the car, along with all (or at least a vast majority of) the service history.
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Reason for my bad vibration from the long drive I had
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What's left of the window sticker
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Original option sheet
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A decent picture of the interior
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1979 Pontiac Sunbird (currently undergoing restoration) with the old duke and a 4 speed
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Chief_Runs_W_Coyotes » Tue May 26, 2020 6:01 pm

zeke wrote:Welcome to the forum! Nice coupe :th:

This isn't ideal as it's a little hard to get the can in and out but much better than nothing. If I extended the mount by an inch, it would work great. Doesn't interfere with passenger's leg.

Cheap hanging cup holder from Walmart or wherever, with the hook cut off. Sim to this one: https://www.amazon.com/Custom-Accessori ... 3FF8E6A3CB


I'm currently using the cheap over the door hangers but they drive me crazy(er)! Do you know of anyone who moved the e-brake to one side and did a custom center console top plate there with cupholders built into it? That's what I am currently considering. As far as my interior goes, the only vinyl rip I have is the armrest on the center console so I am looking at rebuilding it anyway. I'm also considering ditching the shift boot for an aluminum plate for a gated shifter as the 1st and 3rd positions are so close I, occasionally, find myself in the wrong gear when taking off. Duke doesn't like it one bit lol. Not a necessity by any means but it would look nice.
1979 Pontiac Sunbird (currently undergoing restoration) with the old duke and a 4 speed
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Chief_Runs_W_Coyotes » Wed Jul 15, 2020 4:26 pm

Been busy lately going to have to triple post to get the images in here but away we go...my daily driver had the battery die over 4th of July weekend. I knew the tires were on their last legs but I thought, oh well it’s only three miles, it’ll be fine 8) and by the pictures you can tell it wasn’t. I didn’t even make it a mile. The original spare and air canister worked great! I plan to deflate and repack it as well as get the canister filled back up somehow. I decided not to push my luck any more that day and turned around and went home. I can honestly say it wasn’t my worst flat tire experience and my son got to learn from the experience.
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My son changing his first flat tire
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Here you can see the broken belt
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41 years compacted and it still holds air!
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1979 Pontiac Sunbird (currently undergoing restoration) with the old duke and a 4 speed
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Chief_Runs_W_Coyotes » Wed Jul 15, 2020 4:31 pm

Decided to tackle the rear passenger quarter but the trim screws wouldn’t budge. I was only able to remove one so far. They’ll come free eventually but I will probably replace most of the screws. Classic industries should have them.
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Rusty passenger quarter panel
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Chrome trim is in pretty decent shape all around
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The trim screws were all stuck and rusted in place so a little penetrant and a lot of time and they will come off
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1979 Pontiac Sunbird (currently undergoing restoration) with the old duke and a 4 speed
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Chief_Runs_W_Coyotes » Wed Jul 15, 2020 4:43 pm

After a blown tire and rusted bolts the bird needed a simple although small victory. We removed the bumper sticker that was older than my dry rotted tires, and straightened the tail light grilles. My son did a good job. And although he might be the only person in the photos I definitely did my part scraping off the sticker too. Next up going to get the chrome trim finally removed and start making some patch panels. It’s a bit worse than I originally noticed but overall still isn’t bad for its age and state of survivorship.

Another big accomplishment was going through the body issues with my son and finding everything that needed done and making a list of it. After we work our way through the body list we can get on to some of the fun stuff...wheels and tires, improving (lowering) the stance, and eventually engine decisions. Interior will be a winter project.
Attachments
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Original bumper sticker had to go
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Goo gone and a plastic razor blade did the trick with some help from a microfiber towel
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So much better than before. Small victories
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1979 Pontiac Sunbird (currently undergoing restoration) with the old duke and a 4 speed
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Chief_Runs_W_Coyotes » Mon Jul 20, 2020 10:18 pm

So my wife surprised me this last weekend and gave me the money for a set of new tires for my birthday. She knows how much I miss being able to drive it. A couple more weeks and I will have the bird back on the road. I also figured this would be the best time to repaint the rims. I didn’t like them black because they were too muted but the charcoal seems to be a good balance. One down and three to go... I’ll also be getting some new trim rings soon as the curb rash is pretty gnarly on these ones. I’m going to try and salvage the center caps using some translucent red model car paint to revive the Pontiac logo. Pretty happy with the results so far
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Before painted black
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After painted charcoal
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Leaned against the car for a different angle
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1979 Pontiac Sunbird (currently undergoing restoration) with the old duke and a 4 speed
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Re: 1979 Sunbird coupe Project

Postby Chief_Runs_W_Coyotes » Mon Aug 03, 2020 7:52 am

Still waiting on tires to ship as well as some new lug nuts (currently back ordered at Jegs), so I took some time to tackle freshening up the grill. It looks much better but I would still love to get my hands on the 76 model grills with the honeycombs. If anyone reads this and has them pm me please!

I’ve been holding off on major body repairs until I get the tires and take a couple joy rides while the weather is still nice. I found a hole in the rear driver quarter large enough to fit four fingers in...glad I bought a welder! I would be interested in a driver side fender also if someone has one in “decent” condition.
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1979 Pontiac Sunbird (currently undergoing restoration) with the old duke and a 4 speed
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