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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I suppose it's time to catalog my build. This is the car I always wanted, a Dark Cherry '96 Impala SS. But how I got it was pretty interesting too.

I owned my gold 9C1 from 2004 to 2014, and had a bunch of Roadmaster wagons as well. Around 2012 my dad purchased a Dark Cherry '96 Impala . He always loved a good deal, and the seller was nice, but what he got needed a lot more work than he bargained for. It didn't run when he got it, and everything was worn out, with 167,000 miles on it. This picture is after we did a lot of work on the paint.
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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
We got the interior cleaned up, had the worn-out ball joints, tie rod ends and idler arm replaced, and I provided some extremely rare Eibach 3832.102P and 3832.501P springs produced for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police 9C1s. At the time I bought those springs from a supplier in Ontario Canada around 2010, there were only 10 sets left. Who knows how many are still out there. Combined with the Bilstein B46-1104 and B46-0929 shocks, it rides very nicely. For a midwestern car, the undercarriage was very solid.
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I think that's a Hooker catback? It's at end of life, but it sounds really good.
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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
The transmission had no torque converter lockup, so I followed my own advice and installed the Sonnax 77754-03k TCC regulator valve. When I dropped the pan there was literally 1/8" of clutch dust in the bottom, and I thought for sure that the TC clutch, but to my amazement, lockup worked perfectly afterward! I put a lot of the Sonnax HP-4L60E-01 shift kit in while I had the valvebody out, and while it drove good, it still had a bang shift the first time you took it out of Park every time you drove it. More on that later.

EDIT - I had lots of discussions with one of Sonnax's lead developers about how to properly flush a transmission if the fluid hadn't been maintained. This fluid was both brown and dirty (and low) when we got the car. After cleaning out the pan and valvebody, I reassembled everything and added fresh Dex/Merc3. SIXTY MILES LATER the fluid looked like a chocolate milkshake. It was completely opaque (you couldn't see through it) and was so full of clutch dust you couldn't even hardly see the red dye they add to ATF. We flushed it out through the cooler line and it stayed clean for the next 1,000 miles I put on it before taking the car apart. My dad was amazed how easy it was to do this, and how noticeable the color change was as the clear fluid exited that hard line through the clear plastic hose I put on. Yep, there's the new fluid. Still had that harsh first shift of the day though. Something's not right inside.
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Anyway, we got it running and driving, but with multiple broken exhaust bolts on each side, and stock injectors that had been sitting for years, I was very concerned that the catalytic converters would not survive intact much longer. He didn't drive it very much; only 168 miles in 5 years. He traveled a lot for work and really loved his job, so the car never made it very high on his priority list. The tires were 2005 vintage as well, and rode like bricks, so it wasn't the greatest ride. The cooling system was original 96, and the stopleak had parked everywhere. In fact, it had blown a hose right before he got it, and there was stop-leak all over the engine-bay. Whew. The previous owner had replaced the radiator and water pump but the heater core was totally plugged. We replaced that and the heater hoses / restrictor and finally got heat. But the coolant looked nasty, even after a couple of flushes. I have some pictures of all of this but it was before I had a cell phone camera. Lots and lots of elbow grease got the engine bay looking somewhat presentable.
197425
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
In September 2017 my father passed away from a pulmonary embolism that broke loose and caused a heart attack. He died peacefully in his sleep the day after he got home from seeing us. God was so kind to us and to him in all of this, despite the pain of his loss. I made a vow to visit my mom at least once every three months. Every time I did, I'd take the Impala out just to exercise it. I'd drive her over to the cemetery and we would visit his gravesite.

But the car couldn't stay with her; it needed a lot of TLC and at that point it wasn't reliable enough that I felt comfortable with her driving. So we made a plan that I would take it and sell it. In fact, my dentist heard about it and was hounding me every two weeks about when I would get it to Huntsville.
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So my brothers and I cleaned it up, did some final checks on it, and in July 2018 I gently drove it 450 miles to Huntsville on those ancient tires. I don't have any pictures from that trip, and 10 miles out it developed a misfire, but wiggling all the plugs and wires seemed to cure it and we made it the rest of the way without issue. This too was another miracle, as you will see as we go. I should have had it transported.
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Made it to Huntsville, 13 year old tires, dodgy ignition system and all.
 
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I got the rear bumper cover and spoiler repainted, did some more cleaning, ready for sale. The car looked awesome, and some fuel injector cleaner on the trip down had it running pretty good minus the leaks. The transmission drove and shifted great for 170k miles, other than that harsh P-OD shift when you first started it.
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Except for that one tear in the driver's seat, the interior was in pretty nice shape.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
To my amazement, the dentist nitpicked the car to death and claimed it would need $3000 in paint work. I was flabbergasted. I halfheartedly posted it in a few places for sale, and just started driving it. In contrast to my 200hp daily driver minivan, this thing was loud, obnoxious, unrefined, and put a smile on my face everywhere I went. Eventually I talked it over with my wife and we decided to sell the minivan and I would just keep this and drive it.

But I knew it needed a lot of TLC, so it was time to start in on that. First order of business, exhaust manifold bolts to preserve the catalytic converters. I asked around and found a mobile welder. $70 later, all three were out. Best money I ever spent. He spent 15 minutes getting the bolts out, and 25 minutes talking about his various cars.
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Down in the south, this guy is a miracle worker. Up north, any local muffler shop would be able to do this. Hey, you northerners who work in exhaust shops, pack up your stuff, move south, and you can make bank just driving around extracting bolts all day. Southerners will think you're Superman!
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
A good friend recommended I have my exhaust manifolds checked for flatness, and sure enough, the front and rear ports were 0.020" - 0.040" warped away from the heads. No wonder those bolts were breaking. So I took them to the machine shop and had them planed flat.
197438
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
My original plan was NOT to take the motor out, so I did some work with the motor in the car. This was a hairy moment - the previous owner had an oil pressure sensor installed, and the brass fitting didn't want to leave. I managed to coax it out, phew.
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What a nice story as it unfolds!
 

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So cool! Congratulations!!!
 

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Where's the popcorn smiley when you need it …
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
So I ended up pulling the engine anyway. Another friend who's an expert with B-bodies convinced me that by the time I was done doing everything I wanted to do, and since the AC had already leaked out (compressor nose seal) it'd be faster to pull the motor:
  • Leakdown test
  • Complete ignition system
  • New exhaust manifold bolts and gaskets
  • Intake manifold reseal
  • New valvesprings (stock replacement)
  • New valve stem seals
  • New timing chain
  • Ported oil pump
  • New front and rear crankshaft seals
  • New timing cover seals
  • Flush the block
  • new knock sensors.
So, we pulled the motor. I removed the transmission from the bottom; pulling the motor maybe took two hours with the transmission work? Not too bad. I also noticed the steam pipe had started leaking, and that sucks to work on with the motor in the car. So hey, add that to the list.
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Meanwhile I started prepping parts for cleaning and painting. I disassembled the throttle body for painting. How about that '96 Dexcool/Stopleak duo, eh?
197463
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I'm a big fan of baking paint at 170F in the oven all night before installation. Here's the completed throttle body and water pump neck, as well as a bunch of bolts. Thanks to the guys at EFI Connections for the new throttle body top plate gasket, as the old one was junk.
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That's awesome! Does baking the paint make a noticeable difference?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
To an extent, yes. It makes the paint a lot tougher, so it's more scratch and scuff resistant. It does not fix surface prep or adhesion problems. It also won't stay on bolts unless you use nylon-coated sockets, which I learned too late for this project. Where bolts with washers tighten down, the paint will just shatter into small flecks and not smoosh down. For places with somewhat flexible metal such as the hood latch brackets on the front of the radiator support, fully cured paint does not like that flexing. As I put things back together I used a lot of motorcycle chain lube, which is a spray containing thick grease held in suspension with a solvent, so it goes on runny and then dries hard. Never use any power tools - all goes back together by hand.
 
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