The Grey Car: Pulling the 403


Well, here we are, back at “The Grey Car,” my 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix Brougham.  Like I said in the Introduction post, she’s been in my family since well, roughly 1985 or so.  She started life as a diesel car with an automatic transmission, went through several different Oldsmobile engines (since they share the same basic layout as the Olds-block diesel) including a few 455’s, until the current 403.  Around 1989 we put a Borg Warner 5-speed from a 1979 Cutlass in there, and when first gear went out (and we couldn’t get parts for it) we swapped in a 4-speed Saginaw from a 1979 Grand Am that we had parted out a few years earlier (it was a true “Flintstones” car, if you know what I mean…)

That was 1996.  Flash forward past a regular soap-opera of epic proportions (really) to today.

Now here I am again, in a weird case of deja vu, pulling the engine from this bay yet again.  You can read the reasons in the Intro post.  Suffice it to say, that hopefully the engine is fine and I can just pretty it up and put it back in, after cleaning up the bay to a decent level of “show quality.” Whatever that means.

It’s been an interesting trip getting this to where it is.  A lot of these bolts I remember tightening.  Long, long, ago.  They weren’t quite as rusty then.  Some I have no idea how we did it (I have slept once or twice) and a few, like this infernal clutch Z-bar, I really have no idea how we did it.  All the bolts are inaccessible unless you’re a contortionist.  Which I’m not.

What’s happened so far:

  • Removed all the accessories, belts, and brackets.  Set the AC compressor and steering pump off to the side in the car since I don’t really want to disconnect them just yet.
  • Removed the fan, shroud, and radiator, just to give a little extra clearance and so it doesn’t get smashed by accident.
  • Dropped the driveshaft and crossmember.  Disconnected the speedo cable and backup light switch from the transmission.  Don’t forget you’ll need another yoke or a plug, or you’ll wind up with a puddle of transmission fluid. Yeah, for some reason I thought the manual was immune to that. Doh.
  • The intake and exhaust, and everything on top of the engine was already off, since I’d pulled the heads once with the engine still in the car.   This included pretty much all of the wiring, just to get it out of the way.  I left the distributor in, but that may have to come out still.
  • Disconnected the clutch spring and ball…  leaving the $^!#$ z-bar in the way.
  • Disconnect the starter wiring… which is trapped behind the heat shield.

I had to stop because its been infernally hot here.  This photo of the thermometer in my shop tells the tale.  Yep, its pushing 105°F in there.  So I stopped.  Then I had to focus on this website! Argh. I need a clone.

It's DAMN hot....
It’s DAMN hot….

Anyway.  Where I’m at now, at the time I’m writing this….  The hood is off (its still on in the pictures, I know…), All I have left to do is:

  • Pull the starter heat shield so I can get the wiring harness loose. (Hopefully I can just leave the starter on there.)
  • Remove the driver’s side motor mount bolt (I pulled the passenger side in order to get the back corner spark plug and pushrod out. Yes I realize I shouldn’t have had to do that, but there it is.)
  • Remove the shifter.  I disconnected the rods, but still haven’t removed the shifter.  I’m pulling the entire thing in one shot.  Just seems like the thing to do.  This hasn’t been removed in 20 years, that I remember because I sent it in to Hurst to get rebuilt, when they still did that.
  • Remove the clutch Z-bar.  Here’s where its going to get tricky. The arm bolt is basically inaccessible under the hood to all but the triple jointed and tiny-armed.  So I’ll have to take the bracket off the frame, which hasn’t been off in… 25 years? yay. Of course those bolts are handily covered up by the inner fender behind the wheel… ugh.

…then its one last check for clearance and connections, and its time to jack that puppy on out.

I do have some video shot, but since I’ve been working on getting this site launched, I haven’t been able to get it edited and published.  It’s coming.  Until then, enjoy these photos of the carnage.



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