Turbo V6 Camaro

Question... if someone (me) was working on a 1996 one of these for a young enthusiast in my squadron, and was debating starting upgrades (either 3800 turbo or LS-swap) while the underbody looks just as crusty... is there a standard approach to reviving/protecting the unibody structure? It seems like surface rust more than the structural cancer my GTP chassis died of after 15yrs of NY/MI/WI/MN winter fun.
This car was and still is a lost cause IMO. I made it good enough so that it won't kill me in a minor accident, but I still won't have the piece of mind until this shell is scrapped or fitted with a roll cage. I don't really have a strong method. It's just will power to keep this thing going.

For the most part, my approach has been dealing with the worst parts first. If there's rot, there's no way around cutting it out until you find clean metal and welding a patch in. I've even cut pieces of the frame channels out and rebuilt them. Since my welding skills are meh and I had to cut almost the entire floor out of the car, I reinforced everything with weld in subframe connectors. In theory, it's not necessary but these cars are flimsy from the factory and these bars made me feel a lot better. I would not recommend anybody doing this sort of restoration though. Rust free V6 F-bodies are cheap. I only did all this work to prove to myself that I could and because I have an odd love for reviving unloved cars. There's also a lot of sentimental value in this particular car.

Other than that, it's really just staying on top of it as best as I can. Rusty bolt-on parts like suspension links are just fun opportunities to upgrade. However, I refuse to bolt a nice new part to rust. The suspension brackets are in good shape and easily cleaned up with a wire wheel and some chassis paint or Eastwood rust converter. Don't use rubber undercoating. Naval jelly also works well for cleaning stuff up and I don't use it as much as I should. Eventually everything that bolts to the shell will be replaced so that I don't have to worry about them. If I at least give each part of the shell that the parts bolt to a good repair then I shouldn't have to worry too much about the shell either.

Once I start creeping up to about 450hp, this shell is going to start giving me the creeps regardless. I have a plan for stiffening things up, but I may eventually move to a nicer chassis and tune this car back down.
Gotcha. This guy is kinda excited to do some mods, but I'll be looking hard at the integrity underneath before we decide to get too invested. I've seen some cherry V6 F-bodies for $3-6k floating around that are probably going to end up in my shop within a year, as a customer project or my own.
Gotcha. This guy is kinda excited to do some mods, but I'll be looking hard at the integrity underneath before we decide to get too invested. I've seen some cherry V6 F-bodies for $3-6k floating around that are probably going to end up in my shop within a year, as a customer project or my own.
I'd say the places to check are the rear wheel wells, where the frame channels end under the driver and passenger feet, all floor pans, and the "butt cheeks" which are directly under the rear seats. Those seem to be the most common rust spots on 4th gens.
I might as well update I guess. I pulled the cheap reed regulator manual boost controller by Turbonetics, and did some backwoods testing. It didn't seem to be doing anything. I was able to blow through both ports without much effort regardless of where the dial was set. To the trash it goes. Luckily using this type means that hooking up my MAC valve is exactly the same in terms of plumbing. I just need to wire it up to the gauge which has been patiently waiting for this moment.

Here's a very old picture of the old setup since I forgot to take a picture of it before removal.

I bought the AEM boost controller used really just because I wanted a boost gauge that matched my wideband. Finding the MAC valve that came with this thing in my mountain of "some day" parts was not easy.

I started by making a nice little aluminum bracket to mount the MAC valve in the same spot as the MBC. I hated how floppy the MBC was with its supplied bracket. I had this aluminum angle sitting around which worked perfectly.



Those rusty screws were going to make my eyes hurt, so I blasted them.

And shot them with chassis paint.


Then I just needed to make the wires look nicer. The wiring from the gauge was already ran when I installed it.


I haven't tried to program it yet. The car needs plugs and the GN still stakes priority. The Camaro will not be making it to the Nats because my wife had an unexpected surgery which ate up all her PTO. She's in no shape to be driving, walking around, or even sitting upright for long periods of time anyway. I look forward to getting this thing going though. Maybe for 2024, I'll bring this car with some slick boost control settings and a mini spool. These weak launches are killing my soul and I don't really want to shell out for a rear end yet. We'll see.
I haven't been able to figure out what's wrong with this car. The fancy solenoid didn't help. In fact, the issue has gotten impossibly worse. I can only achieve 5 psi now. o_O How do I have less than wastegate pressure?

I checked the mac valve. I can blow through port two and out port three without issue. I can't blow through port one. If I energize the valve I can blow through port one. I'd say it's fine. I turned to the wastegate, pulled it off, and found no issues there either. The diaphragm looks and works great.

I threw a 16 psi spring in there just for fun (or destruction) and it didn't really make any difference. I was paying more attention to my gauges this time though. I noticed that my wideband is showing 16-17:1 at cruise and idle. It also takes forever to boost to actually come in. My response used to be really good, but now there's no chance of having boost around town. Even on a long stretch of road, the boost gauge sits at 0 for a while before slowly going positive. I'm going to guess that I have a bad boost/vacuum leak. I'm just surprised that my idle rpm isn't higher. Maybe it's an exhaust leak? I think one bad enough to make this much of a difference would be a lot more audible though. I guess we'll do some more diagnosis when I find time.
I see what looks to be a BOV under the turbo.
If so, could it be leaking?
Intercooler core leak?
Data logs?
I see what looks to be a BOV under the turbo.
If so, could it be leaking?
Intercooler core leak?
Data logs?
No BOV. Data would be a good thing to collect. I just wish I was better at reading it.

I can't imagine that anything upstream of the throttle could be causing it due to the fact that the MAF is integrated into the throttle. If there was a leak causing lean conditions it would have to be somewhere between the throttle and o2 sensors. This car is also locked into open loop so the o2 sensors should really have nothing to do with it either.

Then again, this car does like to give me problems in pairs so anything is possible!
I'd do a hunt for escape routes... exhaust end-to-end, charge pipes, manifold, etc. The MAF isn't going to account for things escaping at most locations, it just sees what it sees and commands fuel accordingly. When you piss air or an air/fuel mixture out somewhere in the process before/after it, the reading isn't going to provide significant value until it's buttoned up.

Just watched the YT channel BoostedBoiz and PFI (somewhat hacks, but they have their corner of the market) chase down a cracked weld after turbo after boost wasn't building on the dyno. Louder exhausts make this harder to trace, sometimes. I didn't know my GSX's 1st wastegate pipe and log manifolds had cracks until I removed them to upgrade the turbo setup 10yrs after the initial build.
The problem ended up being exactly what I thought it should be given that the wide band displayed very lean and the narrow bands displayed normal. How I didn't find or notice this hole sooner is the bigger mystery! I have a big leak between the sensors.

It appears that hanging the turbo so far away from the engine unsupported finally got the best of my crappy welds. I haven't had the time to pull anything apart and try to fix it. My skills and tools have improved a lot since then so I'm confident that I can make it stronger than it ever was. I just wish I could find a nice way to brace it.
Good find. I've been watching how many race builders utilize a crossbrace for support when centering the turbo behind the radiator.

Get in a good couple hours of staring at it with a beverage in-hand, and you'll come up with something.
These are on an engine with all 8 cylinders. ;)
It is in an 86 Regal, tho.
Obviously won't fit your system. Just an idea.
BW400SX3 side mtd 016.jpg

BW400SX3 side mtd 005.jpg
I swear it's not because of the exhaust leak, but impulsive decisions were made. I acted on them quickly, and now there's no turning back!


I don't think I've gone into much detail about it here, but I've been on the hunt for an L67 or L32 donor engine for a while now. My L36 is healthy, but my goals surpass it's limits. I've persued a few engines from friends and marketplace, but all of them turned out to be duds in one way or another. From egg shaped cylinders to long term outdoor storage I couldn't justify replacing a known good engine with known trash.

Today, things get serious. A buddy is selling his '04 GTP Comp G. I'm picking it up today for $1600 bucks. It currently cranks but doesn't start. However, it was well loved and I have seen the insides of it while it was apart for upgrades. My plan is to get that car running, immediately pluck that engine, and put the NA short block in it's place. Then I'll sell the Comp G as a runner for about 2k. I see that as a huge win. The only catch is that the wife is not thrilled about it. I'm not allowed to have the car (at least disassembled) at my house, so I'll be working on it in another buddies yard and trying like hell to get this process done quickly. Once the Comp G is running with the top swapped L36, I'll take my time with the Camaro rebuild, but I'm super excited to finally empty my shelves of parts into the car!

While the engine bay is empty, a lot of rust will be cut out and patched as well. Wish me luck!
It looks like E85 has been washing my pistons off nicely.

I just need to remove this clutch, flywheel, balancer, oil pan, and filter adapter. Then it's ready to go in a GTP. I'm in for some fun diagnosis though. Mice have not been kind to it and I almost guarantee that's why it won't start. That will probably be a job for this weekend though. I want to get this K-member disassembled, so I can scrap what I'm not using and get the rest out of my way!
I've made a terrible mess.
Engine pull disaster site.jpg

I also bought my donor car on Tuesday. She's not bad considering what I paid.




The trouble was that it was not a runner, and given the luck I've had with marketplace and junkyard engines I wanted to hear this thing run before using it in my Camaro. Despite all the mouse droppings that accumulated over the last few years that the car sat, it seems that nothing important was chewed up.
It was kind of odd how it finally decided to fire because I didn't really do anything. I smelled fuel, so I checked for spark. It had none. I checked for injector pulse and it had none. That was pointing me to a crank sensor issue. I took one look at the crank sensor location and said no thanks. Plus the wires looked good. We decided to give it another crank. We heard it cough and saw spark and injector pulses. Goofy. We plugged the two cylinders under test back in an the car came to life. This is strange, but I'll take it! The tapping ion the video went away after a fair amount of driving. She sounds and feels great, so I suppose it's time to tear this thing apart!
Can anyone help me understand what I'm looking at? Why is one of my exhaust valves orange while the others are white?
Orange valve.jpg
Back to the Comp G
At Devan's.jpg

I started disassembling the freshly revived car which made me feel bad at first. I quickly got over it though. Every bolt was loose, and then there was this.
Oily intercooler.jpg
Oily intake.jpg

That's definitely where my KR was coming from! No good. Apparently that custom PCV doesn't function as well as it looks! Either that valve is stuck open or there's just way too much vacuum on the pretty stainless line. Either way, I think it needs to go in favor of a tried and true catch can.
I found a cool marketplace deal, so I made a sorta unexpected purchase.

Hopefully I'll have this 8.8 housing ready to rock by the time the engine is back in the car, but I definitely need to finish the Grand Prix at least before I touch this.

You may notice that this one already has the F-body provisions welded on! It was done In a way which I actually like more than the $1400 Hawks housing. The tubes are stock Mustang width which means it's narrower than the Camaro 10 bolt by about 1" on each side. This will allow for much cooler wheel choices. I'll also be able to run off-the-shelf axles. The negatives are that I'll be kind of stuck to Mustang brakes (which were included) and Mustang lug pattern, but I'm okay with that. To run my current wheels I would need a big spacer anyway. If I'm already making new brake lines, the caliper choice won't matter either.

This is certainly adding a lot of work and time over the Hawks prebuilt unit, but the money savings will be well worth it.
Nice find for the axle. If you have a V8-style one coming out, I may see if my local young dude wants to buy it as a mild upgrade.

The PCV is a fickle bird on these, and ZZP is on Rev 7.0 or so, trying to incorporate the 2 passages in the IC core. With higher boost comes higher blow-by issues, too, which overwhelm stock 3800 passages quick, too. Open breather (or one on a can) isn't perfect, but it at least solves the primary headache.
Nice find for the axle. If you have a V8-style one coming out, I may see if my local young dude wants to buy it as a mild upgrade.

The PCV is a fickle bird on these, and ZZP is on Rev 7.0 or so, trying to incorporate the 2 passages in the IC core. With higher boost comes higher blow-by issues, too, which overwhelm stock 3800 passages quick, too. Open breather (or one on a can) isn't perfect, but it at least solves the primary headache.
The one I'm pulling out is insanely rusty and just an open 3.23. It would be free and better than a 3.08, but I personally wouldn't waste the time swapping it in to anything that I cared about.

I'm not a huge fan of open breathers, but I admit that it's easy. I guess this is a good lesson in why I shouldn't reactivate the valve in the Camaro. I had already long since given up on that, but this discovery solidifies my decision.

It's been hot and tornadoey outside the last couple days, so I haven't been able to get out to pull the engine yet. My wife has been happy to have me home and working on the house anyway. I'm hoping to get out there bring the L32 home within the next couple days though.
Wow... this is a downer. I went to get the engine prepared to pull out of the Grand Prix when I found this massive groove in #3.

After three failed attempts to get a good 3800 on my engine stand I thought pulling one from a running/driving car was the way to go. I guess The Comp G makes #4, and I can get screwed in any situation.

I may need to take a break for a while. I'm not a quitter, and that part of me says it's time to give up finding a new engine and just have one built. The other part of me is really upset over how much time and money I've wasted in this endeavor. I can slap this car back together and sell it cheap. I can throw my L36 in it, still sell it cheap, and be worse off than I started. I can part this car out and probably make a decent amount of money at the cost of being a huge pain in my ***. I don't know. The anger in me has me wanting out of this entire situation. Even before this discovery I was looking at rollers to swap all my stuff over from my rust bucket Camaro, so a double part out or just selling my Camaro as a roller is a possibility too.

I'll think about this a while before making any rash decisions, but this really blows.