1970 Pontiac GTO

Not too long ago a very nice 1970 GTO convertible came into the Tune Up Shop after the owner made a reservation to have us look it over. It was a recent purchase. The new owner scores high marks for shopping wisely and has my total admiration for including his teen age son in the transaction. The two of them traveled to Monterey to take delivery of the purchase. The two of them, with top down, began the return home along the winding and treacherous miles of CA Highway 1. The highway is world renowned for being an adventure of it's own. The adventure is not without risks. More than a few drivers over the years, since the road's completion, have met their doom after plunging over the edge into the rocky surf. The curves and bridges along with blind turns require constant attention of even the best drivers.

Allow me skip ahead briefly to inform the reader that the owner of the GTO and his son made it home safely. That accomplishment was completed with more luck than vehicle safety. The entire topic of this essay is to highlight the importance of safe repairs on modified vehicles. One cannot trust the vehicle with your life simply due to the vehicle having been through a famous shop. Always operate as a skeptic when first operating a vehicle that has had numerous repairs. Your life may depend on it.

When this GTO arrived at the Tune Up Shop it was delivered by a AAA tow truck. The reason: One of the new KYB shock absorbers on the rear had become detached from it's upper mounting. This allowed the shock to lean across the differential which caused the shock absorber to sever the brake line that was lying loosely along the top of the differential housing. As bad as this sounds and is, that single event was the not the worst of those we discovered when we had completed our inspection. I can truly state that this vehicle was the most severe case of poor assembly that I have witnessed in my 50 plus years of automotive involvement. It was what we commonly call a death trap. There were sufficient potential catastrophic failures that I felt the need to document them with video. The initial videeo required 33 minutes. When you are in the Tune Up Shop you may watch the video if you wish. I will summarize a few of the failures.

It is difficult to chose the most threatening of all the situations. I will begin with the steering. The front spindles had been changed to allow for large disc brakes and to allow front suspension drop of about 2 inches. Good design work but poor and unsafe emplementation of it followed. The tie rod ends did not bolt into the new openings on the replacement spindles. The technician's answer was to use a die grinder on the spindle's openings to enlarged the openings. Enlarge it he did but he also eliminated the taper that is designed into tie rod end fittings. The hole in the spindle became a straight sided hole. The taper, that all tie rod ends utilize, insures that when fully tight, the tie rod end is fitted to the spindle in the most secure manner. Most all cars utilize this fitting procedure because it works really well. In this case, the technician opened up the hole for the counterpart on the tie rod end and simultaneously eliminated the taper. That produces a loose and unsafe fit with a very limited life. If that wasn't enough, he loosly installed the castigated tie rod end nuts which are designed to accept a cotter pin. He installed each tie rod end nut one and one half turns and failed to install a cotter pin. The highly critial nuts on the end of each tie rod end were loosely installed only one and one half turns instead of being tightened the customary five to six turns. Talk about an accident looking for a place to happen. Each side of the vehicle was done in the same manner.

The power steering hoses were only slightly less dangerous. The pressure hose was twisted into a 180 degree angle and positioned about one half inch from the serpentine belt. It was ready to be sliced open by the belt. The result would have been a stream of pressuried hydraulic fluid sprayed onto the the left front tire and loss of power assist. The return hose, which has less pressure, was positioned in a way that allowed it to slip off the nipple to which it was attached.

The fuel system is near the top of the dangerous items on this vehicle. First off, the vehicle had a very nice transplanted LS Chevy engine. This engine in its normal configuration uses fuel injection. Fuel injection requires 60 psi for it to function. That requirement means one must employ a fuel injection pump (normally positioned in the fuel tank) with 60 psi minimum and adequate volume for the LS engine to operate. This 1970 model vehicle had no high pressure pump in the fuel tank. So, a high pressure pump was added. The technician who built this vehicle chose a position along the frame, directly under the driver to mount the pump. That position was not the best of all positions but paled in comparison to the quality of fuel line that was hooked to the output of the pump. Instead of fuel injection hose that will withstand 90 psi, the technician used regular fuel hose whose burst pressure only goes to 30 psi. That means all the way from Monterey, CA to Orange County, the fuel line, directly under the driver, was being subjected to twice the maxium pressure it was designed to withstand. How much longer could the fuel hose have withstood the excessive pressure without exploding. Once again, if that wasn't enough, the fuel line from the pump to the engine was completely unsupported by clamps, supports or anything. In one place where the fuel line could have clotheslined over a crossmember of the frame for some megar support, the technician had allowed the line to drop under the frame. As a result of that desion by the builder, the line was barely two inches off the ground when the vehicle arrived at our shop. Let's sum it up. A 100% overstressed fuel line that was directly under the driver was barely two inches off the pavement all the way from Monterey to Orange County. That must be the best 30 psi fuel line in history. Luck, once again was keeping this car on the road.

1970 GTO Tie Rod End 1970 GTO Fuel Pump













I failed to mention that the high pressure fuel pump connected to the low pressure line was a straight connection from the battery without a fuse. Also, notice in the photo on the right, the small power wires to the pump are tie strapped to the low pressure fuel line that is overloaded with 90 psi. If the electrical circuit became overloaded (remember there was no fuse) the power line would melt right through the fuel line. One more way to set off a fatal fuel explosion. Many of the other circuits followed this fool hearty scheme. Lack of fuses and poor location of the wiring was rampant throughout the vehicle. I will add the video later so that you can appreciate this adventure as I observed it for the first time.


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