Restoration of a 71 Cutlass by a beginner

Old September 14th, 2015, 02:21 PM
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Restoration of a 71 Cutlass by a beginner

I thought I would create a thread of my restoration to help me document what I get done and get tips from others. This is going to be very picture heavy.

Background: I don't know what I'm doing. Mechanically inclined, but never done this before, not a mechanic, don't know how to do metal work, etc, etc. My son is helping me along the way. He is a mechanic, builds race cars, off road vehicles, has some time in a body shop and worked at Sherwin Williams auto paint store for a while. He can do pretty much anything.

This is the car my father bought for my mother in 1974 from the local Oldsmobile dealer. This is also the car my sister and I learned to drive in. They had two convertibles, a blue one and a brown one. This was a week or two before the fourth of July and the blue one was supposed to be in the parade. However (fortunately) my moms favorite color is blue, they had to use the brown one in the parade. The car is a pretty basic car, 350 4 barrel automatic with white interior.

My mom drove this car until the early 80s then it was parked in my dads shed (pole barn). It sat there many years, he and I were going to restore it, but neither one of us knew what we were doing. Then we had kids, no money, no time and the car sat.

This is from around 1980
71olds_zpsdfwzojsd.jpg

Some time around last spring or the winter before my son asked if I was ever going to do anything with it and offered to help. He made it sound so simple, you just take stuff apart, clean it, paint it and put it back together. Sounds simple enough so last summer we started on it. I am fortunate to have a large space to work on this, unfortunately I'm in Illinois and it's not heated.

I wanted to keep the car mostly original, but I knew there were a couple of things I wanted to change. I wanted better braking, more power, if possible money-wise a manual and I really wanted an OAI hood. Oh, and chrome wheels.

It seems like I've already had a lot of things just fall into my lap as it were. Shortly after starting I saw a guy on craigslist selling a 71 OAI hood and he only wanted $600. I texted and emailed and finally got his wife. She said someone was coming to look at it that evening, but the first one that had the cash had the hood. I showed up at his house about seven or eight and the other guy was supposedly on his way. I talked to the guy who works at one of the better collision shops in town and it turns out he is related to someone I know. He was planning on using it on a Cutlass he had, but his some wanted to build a race car out of a Mustang or something they had. He said he had test fit it on the car and it fit well. It was a fiber concept hood, from what I can tell, but it doesn't have the latch. Anyway I handed him six bills and asked if he could hold it for a day or so til I could get a truck to pick it up. He said he'd drive it to my shed about 20 miles away, so now I have the hood I want.

Last winter on craigslist I see a guy about an hour and a half away with a set of 2008 brakes with 10k on them for $300. I pick them up for $250, calipers, brackets, pads and rotors. Since then I created an electronic drawing of the bracket to mount the front calipers to a set of drum spindles I picked up. A friend of mine cut them out with a plasma. I found a set of 2000 f-body backing plates on ebay for $52 so that almost completes my brake upgrade.

I bought a complete front brake setup from a Chevelle guy for $50 so I could use the drum spindles and hubs for the C6 conversion. He said that he had recently rebuilt them. I gave the drums, pads and springs and stuff to get rid of.

I picked up some tail light lenses NOS I think on ebay about 10 years I think. This past year I bought a rear bumper, it's not great, but I got a set of lights and shields with it.

I'll post more including some before photos and some progress photos soon, but this is before we started.

before_zpscwmuhjlp.jpg

Last edited by DewChugr; September 14th, 2015 at 02:25 PM.
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Old September 15th, 2015, 06:14 PM
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good luck with the car looks like a nice car and a cool story to go with it.
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Old September 15th, 2015, 07:33 PM
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Sounds like a fun project for you and your son.
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Old September 17th, 2015, 01:04 PM
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Cool car and history....looks like it has AC...
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Old September 17th, 2015, 01:07 PM
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That is going to be a nice one...again. Good luck with your plans.
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Old September 17th, 2015, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by sammy View Post
Cool car and history....looks like it has AC...
Thanks. Yes, it has AC. I took it to the state fair years ago when it was really hot. Had the top up and air on on the way over and put the top down at night when we came back. I'll be keeping that feature.
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Old September 17th, 2015, 01:36 PM
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I picked this body control module up from a LS1 Camaro. I plan on using it to add keyless trunk release and power locks. This also lets the dome light radio and windows work after the car is shut off for a period of time and other modern features. Here some info on how it's done. Probably paint it to match the car except the lens part.

IMG_3678_zpsd8emzdgz.jpg

I picked this third brake light up from the junkyard. It's common to blazers, yukons, azteks, astros, etc. I'm thinking of making some type of magnetic mount to mount it between the top and trunk for driving around with it easily removable for shows, etc. I'll have to work on it a bit as it's got a curve to it.

astro%20brake%20light_zpszupmmpoy.jpg

The brakes I bought and the rotors vs stock.
c6%20caliper_zpsrnfzfcpg.jpg

c6%20and%20cutlass%20rotors_zpshvmpk3cv.jpg
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Old September 17th, 2015, 01:44 PM
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This is one of the drum brake hubs. I sent these through the "rust bucket" electrolytic rust removal system then primed and painted them black. It takes a while, but it is amazing how well the rust is taken care of with this method. Apparently this is the method museums use when restoring rusty items.

In order for them to fit in the C6 rotors the outside diameter of the hubs needs to be turned down. I'm fortunate enough to have a friend with a lathe who did this for me. There are measurements online for the diameter needed, but I found I had to go somewhat smaller to get them to fit. I still need to drill them for 1/2" studs.

drum%20hub_zps3cx9qrgw.jpg

Last edited by DewChugr; September 17th, 2015 at 01:54 PM.
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Old September 17th, 2015, 01:52 PM
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These are the 1998-2002 f-body backing plates with integrated parking brakes. They were kinda nasty and showing their age when I got them. I disassembled, de-rusted and painted them. One of the pads on one side is peeling of the metal frame of the brake shoe so those will get replaced. I'll paint them before use so they don't rust so easily.

f-body%20backing%20plate-1_zpsrcsumhsw.jpg

f-body%20backing%20plate-2_zps7kd0fqop.jpg

f-body%20backing%20plate%20hardware_zps1xebczqh.jpg

f-body%20backing%20plate%20painted_zpsg136obuc.jpg
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Old September 17th, 2015, 02:00 PM
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These aren't the best pictures, but it shows a little of the results of ther rust removal. When I did these bumper brackets I was using a 5 gallon bucket so I did one end then flipped them and did the other end.

bumper%20bracket-2_zpsxfvssgv8.jpg

bumper%20bracket-1_zpsfnehp3ia.jpg
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Old September 17th, 2015, 03:23 PM
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Thanks again for sharing your plans, some of them are out of the box. Speaking only for myself. I like it and I'll be watching.
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Old September 17th, 2015, 04:44 PM
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Very cool. I'll be happy to keep watching.

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Old September 17th, 2015, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by don71 View Post
Thanks again for sharing your plans, some of them are out of the box. Speaking only for myself. I like it and I'll be watching.
Thank you. As you can see I am not doing a 100% accurate restoration. I plan on driving this car a lot when it's done and take some longer trips with it. As you can see there are some things I am going to change and there are more to come. It's my car, I'll never sell it, most likely my son will get it one day. Anything I don't leave on the car I am going to save so if he ever should want to put it back 100% original he can. I may even have the stock hood painted when I get the car done.

Like the door/trunk release. Yeah, I'll rarely lock the doors, but I want to be able to pop the trunk so there is no chance of scratching the new paint. I've got a lot of stuff to pay for on this so I'm trying to keep most everything budget oriented. We have a super cheap junkyard nearby and while they don't have old cars they have things I can re-purpose. I bought the Jeep GC steering box there for $35, which I thought was a little high. But then I got a Windstar fan setup for $10 and a Volvo relay for $2 and 2 or three for the Astro brake light. I could have ordered something new from summit, but I can't justify the expense for that. I could have bought some high end brake setup, but I've only got $302 in this and all I need is a proportioning valve and master cylinder.

I really want three-point seat belts and possibly better seats. I think I can get seat belts there and seats either from there or Craigslist. I might make a custom console, not sure yet. I am thinking about making cooled cup holders, but I'm not 100% sure how well they will work. I'd like to put the battery in the trunk so I grabbed a battery cable out of a 3 series BMW. It's not long enough as is and I didn't grab the piece that routes the power through the floor/firewall, a 7 series would be longer.
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Old September 17th, 2015, 07:00 PM
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I had thought about grinding the letters off of the calipers, but I decided not to in the end. I went with silver paint on the calipers and cast iron on the brackets. I like the look of the cast iron paint and will be using it for other things as well. Color isn't great, but you get the idea.

painted%20caliper_zpsuoi23g7l.jpg
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Old September 17th, 2015, 07:15 PM
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Where I'm at now.

Last summer we took apart most of the car, engine, trans, interior except dash, front end, door glass, etc. Everything small enough was put into zip lock bags and labeled. Larger items were labeled with tape and sharpie. All wires were labeled as to what they went to. Bolts for some items were pushed into cardboard and labeled and show location of where they came from.

All of the photos are on my phone right now but once I get them organized I'll post some progress shots. I took photos of things before they were taken apart, photos showing where bolts went, which side of a bracket had the bolt or nut on it, photos of a lot of stuff. I may try zinc plating some of the hardware, doesn't look to hard.

This summer has been mostly cleaning, de-rusting, and painting of things. This includes calipers, rotor hats, bumper brackets, headlight buckets, tail lights, polished lenses, etc, etc. I love Meguiers Plastx, it's great stuff.

I would still like to get the body off before it gets to cold to work at the shed so I can get it powder coated and work on putting it back together at home in the garage this winter.

More to come.
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Old July 27th, 2016, 09:24 AM
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I've totally neglected to post on this in a long time.

The car is mostly disassembled now, the frame is still under the car, but it is free from the body. I did a lot cleaning, de-rusting and painting of parts. A lot of the de-rusting was done electronically and a bucket or tub.



I did all of the light assemblies, painting the inside bright white and polishing the lenses with Meguire's Plastx.





Drilled out the rubber on the control arm bushings and got those out and mostly de-rusted. I'm not sure if I am going to have them powder coated or not. They aren't perfect yet.


I got my junkyard Grand Cherokee steering box cleaned up. I'm going to pint it cast iron.
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Old July 27th, 2016, 09:33 AM
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This is where she is sitting now.








I need to get the frame out so my son can weld in some washers I'm getting from Fastenal for the spots where the holes are rusted out. Once the frame is cleaned up a bit and repaired I'll be taking it to get powder coated. I haven't decided how I am going to do the bottom of the car yet.

The floors are pretty solid, but we haven't gotten into cleaning and inspecting close up yet. Looks like the floor is going to need at least a small patch. I've got a set of 4 aftermarket sections of the floor I bought off a guy that was working on a Chevelle. Hopefully I won't need them, but I bought them years ago, just in case.

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Old July 27th, 2016, 09:48 AM
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Once the frame is done, I can start putting some of it back together. My family, mom and sister have bought me a lot of the suspension parts for my birthday, that will be a huge help. I just ordered a T/A front sway bar off car-part.com. I still need to get end links, ball joints and shocks/springs and that will be most of the suspension pieces.

I'll ,ay get a cheap set of wheels and tires at some point to roll it around on because the stock wheels won't clear the C6 calipers. A friend made me a set of brackets to mount the front calipers and if they work as planned I will post a drawing file for anyone that might want it.

I think I found a guy who can do the bodywork and paint. I still have to see some of his work in person, but I have been following him on facebook for some time and his work looks good and isn't astronomical, and he gets stuff done in a timely manner. The rust isn't as bad as we were expecting. It is mostly fenders and quarters, the windshield frame is solid, floors appear to be pretty good, core support isn't rusted to hell, overall I am optimistic.

I am torn on the color. One part of me wants to keep it the original blue and put white stripes on the hood and part of me really wants to paint it C7 Laguna blue. I just love this color.



I want to put some different seats in the front, something more comfortable and more sporty, with heaters and 3 point belts. No idea what yet, thoughts? I'm thinking about mounting small speakers in the top edge of the seat backs like some newer cars do on convertibles. The new Mustang heated/cooled seats are pretty nice. Of course then I have the issue of being nearly impossible to find white seats.

Which would be a better option, anchor the seats to the factory anchor behind the rear seats or find seats with integrated belts and make some type of reinforcement to mount them so they wouldn't rip out of the floor in an accident.

Anyway, just a little update to where the project is now. With some luck I can start putting parts back on instead of taking them off soon.
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Old July 27th, 2016, 09:50 AM
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Thanks for stopping in and giving an update.

You eat an elephant one bite at a time....and looks like you're on your way.
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Old July 27th, 2016, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by don71 View Post
Thanks for stopping in and giving an update.

You eat an elephant one bite at a time....and looks like you're on your way.
Thanks!

One minute it seems like an impossible job that I can't possibly do and it will never get done and the next minute it's one step is done and it was no big deal and, hey this isn't bad at all. I couldn't do this without the help of my son, the word can't isn't in his vocabulary. He always says, eh, if it breaks, doesn't work, or whatever we'll worry about it/fix it then.
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Old July 27th, 2016, 10:02 AM
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Great Job,

Well for someone with little practical skills as you have said, your doing awesome work!! you got skills LOL. As someone who has cleaned every inch of the underside of my car, I strongly, suggest either building a rotisserie or buying one by hook or by crook, it will be worth every penny and you can sell it afterwards. I am working in a very tight space single car garage, I raised the body up over the frame and built a frame of 4 x 4s to hold it up while I worked on it, had to work lying down on a creeper or mat and I was the drop cloth, horrible horrible work, and it took weeks!!.


anyway you will then be able to work on two fronts at the same time cleaning and stripping and the chassis just my 2 cents.


Regarding the rust removal what are you using for power source? a battery?
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Old July 27th, 2016, 10:06 AM
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He's got a good attitude. Nice work so far.
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Old July 27th, 2016, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Eddie Hansen View Post
Well for someone with little practical skills as you have said, your doing awesome work!! you got skills LOL. As someone who has cleaned every inch of the underside of my car, I strongly, suggest either building a rotisserie or buying one by hook or by crook, it will be worth every penny and you can sell it afterwards. I am working in a very tight space single car garage, I raised the body up over the frame and built a frame of 4 x 4s to hold it up while I worked on it, had to work lying down on a creeper or mat and I was the drop cloth, horrible horrible work, and it took weeks!!.


anyway you will then be able to work on two fronts at the same time cleaning and stripping and the chassis just my 2 cents.


Regarding the rust removal what are you using for power source? a battery?
Thanks.

I am using an old battery charger on low setting. High setting doesn't seem to work better. Here is some information on the process for anyone interested. It works great and safe for things like the spindles. It will take most paint off as well, especially if there is rust under it.
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Old July 28th, 2016, 12:46 PM
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I'm in, this is an interesting build.
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Old July 28th, 2016, 01:36 PM
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Washers for frame repairs.

OPG sells these washers 14 for fifty bucks. Seriously, fifty bucks?

The size they are selling is 2-3/4" OD x 1-1/2" ID x 1/8" thick. I found these washers on Fastenal's website, part number 33101 for .90 a piece. They are a little thicker, but I think they will be fine. If you search for these washers on other sites and can't find them they have a 1.5 inner diameter, but they are for a 1-3/8" bolt so try searching for that. They had to order them in from Indy, three days to get them.
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Old July 28th, 2016, 01:49 PM
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I don't see a problem, you can always chuck them up in a lathe and open the ID a bit more.
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Old July 28th, 2016, 06:21 PM
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I used some large washers from a local fastener company to fix the front body mounts on my frame before powder-coating. They were a little thicker than the frame metal so I beveled the edges of the washers to make sure I got good weld penetration. Worked really well and only cost a couple bucks for the washers.
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Old July 28th, 2016, 06:50 PM
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Nice, I understand people making a living but sometimes these resto companies just sucking the blood out of us I bought some block sanding spray from Eastwood found a can of black primer did the same job
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Old July 28th, 2016, 06:53 PM
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3-point seat belts in convertible

I really like your build. I'm doing very similar mods to my car as you, C5 brakes, third brake light, 3-point seat belt seats. I've found that BMW convertibles from the early to mid 2000's have an integrated shoulder belt built into the seats and they fold forward for access to the back seat. The seats are regularly listed on eBay usually in black leather. They are not as wide as the Strato buckets and the mounting points are not the same so they are definitely not an easy bolt-in option. You will have to reinforce the floor as stated earlier. I'm still working out the wiring for the memory and seat heater functions and will post the info when I get it figured out. Good luck with your project.
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Old July 31st, 2016, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by cdrod View Post
I really like your build. I'm doing very similar mods to my car as you, C5 brakes, third brake light, 3-point seat belt seats. I've found that BMW convertibles from the early to mid 2000's have an integrated shoulder belt built into the seats and they fold forward for access to the back seat. The seats are regularly listed on eBay usually in black leather. They are not as wide as the Strato buckets and the mounting points are not the same so they are definitely not an easy bolt-in option. You will have to reinforce the floor as stated earlier. I'm still working out the wiring for the memory and seat heater functions and will post the info when I get it figured out. Good luck with your project.
A 2 door should work also. I had a pair of seats from a 2001 325xi I pulled at a junkyard to sell, they were from a 4 door. Nice seats. I think it is pretty easy to get the memory and heat working. The heater controls are in the center part of the dash, but I think you can do it without that. I think there were a few that had white seats, but very uncommon.

PM me your email, I have info that might help with the seats.
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Old July 31st, 2016, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by DewChugr View Post
I think it is pretty easy to get the memory and heat working. The heater controls are in the center part of the dash, but I think you can do it without that.
BMWs of those years have most body functions controlled by the body computer, so I wouldn't count on it unless you are certain.

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Old July 31st, 2016, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by MDchanic View Post
BMWs of those years have most body functions controlled by the body computer, so I wouldn't count on it unless you are certain.

- Eric
True, the memory might be a problem, but the power will work easily and I'm pretty sure you can make the heaters work as well. I don't remember how they store the memory, but it might use the can-bus. Although, I have read people swap them in other BMWs and the seats retain the old memory position, so maybe that is stored in the sets as well. It's been a couple years since I have looked into this.

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Old July 31st, 2016, 04:36 PM
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Wow hi tech lol you guys are just amazing
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Old July 31st, 2016, 05:20 PM
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BMW seat memory

DewChugr:
The BMW seats do communicate with a BCM (body control module) using the K-bus, so the mirror and seat settings can be adjusted & saved to suit an individual driver, and recalled based on the key FOB signal. I'm pretty sure the seat memory data is stored locally in the seat controller. The K-bus is a serial data bus that uses a 12v logic-hi. I think I can get the seat memory to work if I apply 12vdc to the K-bus pin on the seat controller module - although I haven't tried this yet. The seat heaters are not K-bus controlled and use a PWM signal sent by the DSC module in the center console. That all I know (or suspect) at this time. I sent you a PM for more info about the seat controllers. Thanks!
Rodney

Last edited by cdrod; August 2nd, 2016 at 03:44 AM. Reason: Typo
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Old July 31st, 2016, 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted by cdrod View Post
I really like your build. I'm doing very similar mods to my car as you, C5 brakes, third brake light, 3-point seat belt seats. I've found that BMW convertibles from the early to mid 2000's have an integrated shoulder belt built into the seats and they fold forward for access to the back seat. The seats are regularly listed on eBay usually in black leather. They are not as wide as the Strato buckets and the mounting points are not the same so they are definitely not an easy bolt-in option. You will have to reinforce the floor as stated earlier. I'm still working out the wiring for the memory and seat heater functions and will post the info when I get it figured out. Good luck with your project.
What are you using for a booster master cylinder and proportioning valve? What are you using for brackets to mount the calipers?
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Old August 1st, 2016, 06:50 PM
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This past Friday we got the frame stripped down. There were several body mount holes that were rusted out. The ones in the middle part of the frame were the worst. They are kind of dish shaped so I think water collected there. We got the six that were bad cut out with an air grinder to fit the 2-3/4" washers I bought (see above). These are a little thicker than the ones opgi sells and are the perfect thickness. The rest of the frame looks very solid. The core support holes are good, one had a little rust, but not enough to worry about.

I've found a powder coater that I think will be good. They blast, acid wash and phosphate wash before powder coating. I going to try to take it there Wednesday afternoon. I should get it back within a week or so. My son did all of the welding since I don't know how. He can do pretty much anything.

I'm posting these photos from my phone. I hope they aren't huge.








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Old August 1st, 2016, 07:14 PM
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Nicely done.

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Old August 1st, 2016, 07:41 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Houston, TX
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Originally Posted by DewChugr View Post
What are you using for a booster master cylinder and proportioning valve? What are you using for brackets to mount the calipers?
I bought a set of used Kore3 front hubs and caliper brackets from a guy on the Pro-Touring site. I was planning to make my own caliper brackets, but stumbled into the used parts and decided to spend my fabrication time elsewhere. The Kore3 hubs are aluminum and about 2 lbs lighter than the drum hubs. I'm planning to use a 1" MC from a '01 Blazer and probably a dual 9" diaphragm booster. I want to get the new engine running first to measure the vacuum before choosing the booster.

The rear brakes are 11.6" discs from a '01 Blazer; front to rear brake bias should be about 60:40 without a proportioning valve. I'll probably need a prop valve to dial back the rear if they lock up before the fronts. The C5/Blazer brake combo is about 40% more braking force than the factory 4-wheel drum set-up.
Here's a link to my build page, the hubs and calipers are in post#99.

https://classicoldsmobile.com/forums...ertible-3.html
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Old August 4th, 2016, 11:47 AM
  #40  
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Took the frame to the powder coating place yesterday. Very affordable and a quality shop. Had to drive about an hour and a half, but I think it will be worth it. We changed from glossy black to semi-gloss black due to the fact that the frame isn't going to be all that smooth to begin with. I should have it back next week, can't wait to see it.
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