Saturday, May 23, 2020

Video: Project $300ZX lowbuck Z31 Nissan Part 2

$300ZX Part 2: Swapping V6 engines

Part 2 of our Project $300ZX picks up as we remove and transplant a used fuel pump into our $300 1984 300ZX. The donor part came from what would soon be our "new" parts car in the driveway — a 1986 Nissan 300zx 2+0 NA (naturally aspirated). When you have one non-running 300ZX make sure to buy another in worse condition. Makes sense, right? 

WATCH Project $300ZX Part 2:

The body shop owner, where we found the parts car, was nice enough to let us "try out" the fuel pump before we made a decision to buy the car. A sweet deal by any measure. Fuel pump worked. Deal made. Our driveway and neighbors would thank us later.

Joe, my 16-year-old son, and his buddy, Ethan, tore into the project. Removing fuel pumps, gas tanks and destroying their good clothes in the process. With the donor fuel pump in place, the running and "knocking" engine was verified during a two-lap drive around the neighborhood. The decision to yank the "ran-when-parked" engine from our new parts cars was official. Two 3.0 V6 engines would need to be pulled out.

1984 Nissan 300zx has a rusty fuel pump that didn't work. Time to find a donor since we couldn't afford a new pump at $500 on a $300 car.
1984 Nissan 300zx has a rusty fuel pump that didn't work. Time to find a donor since we couldn't afford a new pump at $500 on a $300 car.

A $350 parts car 300ZX was located. Ran when parked. Fuel pump worked, so we decided to buy whole car.
A $350 parts car 300ZX was located. Ran when parked. Fuel pump worked, so we decided to buy whole car.

We learned the 1984 $300ZX had a bad knock and we needed to replace the engine - cheapest way was toss the parts car engine into it.
We learned the 1984 $300ZX had a bad knock and we needed to replace the engine - cheapest way was toss the parts car engine into it.

$300ZX is in full swing!
Engines swinging on chains. Enjoy! And stay tuned for more! 

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Yard Bird: 2002 Pontiac Firebird finds 2nd owner

Daytime pic with Firebird parked on road with headlights up and glowing.

Bird’s eye view. Ever noticed a car and thought it was cool? Then you notice it again. Then you can take no more, and beg the owners to take some money in exchange for the car, a few papers and the keys?  We at Junkyard Life do that all the time. Sometimes we are cool about it, but if I (Ron) am involved, forget negotiating and playing with a poker face, for I have not one. Those other times we buy the darn thing and no one believes it randomly followed us home. A 2002 Firebird Sport Coupe in Sebring Silver Metallic  found it’s way to my garage. We love the Yardbirds – the Jeff Beck kind or this really cool Bird we found in a yard. 

Firebird ownership can be addictive. I had to have this one. This yard bird was still in the hands (yard) of Miss Debbie, the original owner. A really nice lady who took great care of it, didn’t let anyone else drive it and serviced it regularly. The interior was as clean as the day it rolled off the showroom floor.

Wearing a bright Silver Metallic exterior and a harmonizing black cloth interior, this 2002 Firebird Coupe was packed full of options. How many options can one cram into a Firebird? Miss Debbie was up to the challenge. Her poor Pontiac salesperson at Crown Pontiac in Hoover, Alabama developed writer’s cramp filling her order. She was among the last lucky people to own a brand new Firebird. What a day that was. She went straight to her mom and sister’s house. “Look what I got!,” she said.

What did she get?
A beautiful Sebring Silver Metallic Pontiac with tons of options. Power seat, power windows, power door locks, T-Tops, power mirrors, power rear hatch release, cruise control and more things we didn’t even suspect or knew were even available on a V6 car. We were pleasantly surprised to find a positive traction rear end with the optional 3:42 gear. It moves this Bird quite well. Thank you, Miss Debbie. Your Bird is in good hands.

Last of the breed
We know it was not the last Firebird, but it was built in late August of 2002 and depending on how many Birds were hatching per day, this may very well have been built in the last week of production. (A mere 1,349 from the last Firebird to roll off the assembly line.) We also know it isn’t a rare model, but consider the minuscule number of Firebirds you see cruising around today. They are an endangered species to be sure. Ask anyone at the Trans Am Nationals, which we attend every August, about the disappearing act the Firebird is pulling. Many people have fond memories of a Bird from their past, but now regret letting the car out of their possession.

The Big Bird Show
Despite not being a Trans Am or a Formula, my Silver six-cylinder coupe will be welcomed at the Trans Am Nationals, the aforementioned annual gathering celebrating Pontiac Firebird history and a fellowship of Firebird fans. We also provide a counseling service of sorts to people passing near this gathering of Birds and take the time to stop and tell us their Firebird story usually ending in some type of seller’s remorse. We nod politely and use comforting words while we vow to ourselves to never be on the other side of that conversation. Long live the Firebird!  

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Junkyard Life’s Firebird Fun Facts

  • The actual last Firebird built was a bright red Trans Am convertible. 

  • This Firebird was sidelined due to cooling problems. 

  • 2002 saw 23,330 Firebirds built.
Exotic birds, such as Scarlet Macaws or Cockatoos are often subject to quarantine before being sold to the public. I bought this Bird DURING a quarantine. There has to be a joke or an irony here, but I just can’t put it together.
  • The most popular color for 2002 Firebird Coupes was black, selling 1,545 cars, narrowly outselling Bright Red at 1,504 cars.

  • The rarest of the Firebird Coupes would have to be Sunset Orange Metallic, a stunningly beautiful color, but only 372 were made in that optical celebration. 

  • Our color, Sebring Silver Metallic was the  fourth best-selling exterior hue with 1,189 so equipped. 
  • Sebring name comes via the South Florida city known for auto racing and home to Sebring International Raceway, which is one of the oldest continuously operating race tracks in the U.S. The first race there was in 1950.

  • The name “Firebird” is based on the famous Phoenix bird, which comes from Slavic folklore. 

  • Rumor has it that the car’s name “Firebird” was not contrived on the spot, but more of a revival of a name from turbine powered show cars GM was considering in the 1950s.
John Delorean would not have named this late arrival to the pony car war anything less than something spectacular.

*Editor’s Note: Junkyard Life staffer Ron Kidd made it through this article with only one classic rock reference and one mention of his hero, John Delorean. This is progress for him.

Shiny chrome 5-spoke wheels and shiny silver paint.

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Friday, April 10, 2020

1968 Corvette 427 Rescue of a Legend

Building and roof falling in on Corvette so it must be moved to save it from further damage.

The Urban Legend Lives On. 
Every town has a mystical car story from which urban legends are born. We tracked one down, uncovered the story and actually saw the car! It was (and still is) a 1968 Chevrolet Corvette (that story here) with a fat 427 and a 4-speed. Here are the Cliffnotes:

Young man does these things...

  • buys his dream 1968 Corvette convertible.
  • dominates the streets in his hometown.
  • encounters local law enforcement.
  • eludes a major citation, as well as several more he had coming.
  • stashes the car for 33 years.

1968 Corvette must be moved to keep it safe. The old barn/garage was in need of repairs.

Fast forward a few decades
Family helps Big Block Mike move his Vette from the once enjoyed seclusion. Mainly due to the threat of the now dilapidated garage coming down on the poor car. Junkyard Life was invited to witness the grand move. How could we turn that invitation down? A 427 Corvette? This is the ultimate in automotive excavation! We had to be there, join us!   

Rear wheels and tires are locked up and slide through the mud.
Tires slide through the mud as the 1968 Corvette dragged out of barn by a yellow tow strap.

The Corvette Virus

Now, extracting an automobile from where it has been sitting for three or four decades is not without its challenges. The Polyglass tires refused to hold air. Of course they wouldn’t. None of us thought they would. The period correct Cragar mags declined our request to leave the car. So a combination of, our buddy, Chris Sanderson’s temper and a large sledge hammer persuaded the stubborn tires to change places. Three 15-inch Rally wheels and one GM steely we had in the Junkyard Life stash served rolling stock duty for the relocation. The loading went surprisingly well after that, despite a few more expected problems. Nothing these guys couldn’t handle.

A removable hardtop and Camaro bucket seats were added in the 1970s. Sidepipes once roared beneath the doors.

Stubborn Clutch-Release Thyself!

No. It will not. I even said “please” several times. The heavy duty 1970’s era clutches made a work out of just a small commute. This one decided to stay in place and the 4:11 positraction rear did it’s job well and would not under any circumstances let those rear tires move. It has been in that position for 33 years-why unlock now? The original 4-speed took the side of the clutch and it too refused to move. No shifty business going on between those seats. What happened to common courtesy and southern manners? I said, “please!”

The one car wooden garage is close to caving in on the car. Moving it was the only option.
Don't look back! The Corvette is finally pulled out into the daylight.

Need help moving a car? Tell them it's a Big Block Corvette. Chris and Daryl go under to find a mounting point for winch.

Rear deck of the 1968 Corvette covered in animal waste and debris from decades in storage.
Footprints and debris from critters, such as possum, were found on the Corvette.

You Force my Hand-and my Tow Strap-and my 1968 Mustang

What? You lost me at “hand”*. You read correct. The solution to our locked up 1968 Corvette was a tow strap locked onto the chassis of a 1968 Mustang. Hey, it was there, we needed it, we used it, we were in Ford country! What can we say? So if you strap a Corvette to a Mustang, you can then pull the trailer from underneath it. Thus, freeing the Corvette. I know you Ford guys have some metaphors and phrases , so go ahead and hit us with them. We knew the job was dangerous when we took it.

Un-Locking the Rat Junkyard Life Style

It isn’t everyday we get to take the spark plugs out of a Vette and spray a ton of anti-seize penetrating oil into the massive bores of the 427. So we took advantage of that opportunity as well. Is that Junkyard Life style or what?  So stay tuned as we let this beast sit for a couple of days and let the magic oil do what it can, so maybe… just maybe, we can turn the motor by hand and see if it will budge. If it does, then a whole new line of fun begins! Stay tuned!

Ron Kidd

— Junkyard Life

* Editor’s Note: According to Junkyard Life staffer Ron Kidd, the phrase “You lost me at hand” was the first unsuccessful phrase before the “You had me at ‘hello’” slogan became popular.

Tag date is 1987.

Unloading required strapping the Corvette to a 1968 Mustang.

A 1968 Mustang, hidden in shadow of garage, helped hold the Corvette as trailer pulled away. Wheels, brakes and/or transmission on the Corvette are froze up.

No options under here. Manual steering, manual brakes, no A/C.
A look at the Fat motor 427 under the hood of the 1968 Corvette.

Street racers ran and hid from cars with these emblems back in the day.

Original wood wheels bring $500 in good shape.
Aftermarket steering wheel was cool. Now, not so much.

A set of borrowed Rally wheels and tires used to transport the Vette. Instantly the car looked better.

Will it turn over? To be continued...
Chris, Daryl, and Ron take a look at the engine. Will it turn over? To be continued...

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Video: Project $300ZX lowbuck Z31 Nissan Part 1

This 1984 Datsun/Nissan 300ZX spent 30 years with one family before being offered up for sale at $300. A minor basement flood dashed the family dreams of one day restoring the 5-speed, V6, 2+2, slicktop. The Z31, as they are known in Nissan circles, had been parked 20 years after developing an engine noise.

WATCH Project $300ZX Part 1:

One man's trash, another man's treasure! Junkyard Life jumped on the deal but soon learned that these cars have little value when in non-running condition. Damage to the ECU (computer) and an engine full of syrupy sludge had me on the verge of flipping or stripping some parts to get my money back. But, this car has an unlikely rescuer! My son, Joe, a 16-year-old with dreams of hammering gears in a 5-speed sports car. With barely a budget, the quest was on to find a good engine and/or parts car.

Part 1 begins as we haul the basement-fresh 1984 $300ZX home. Fuel pump issues and a rusty gas tank were the first issues that needed addressing. Soon after, a 1986 300ZX parts car (ran when parked) is located for $350 but it is filled with Amazonian-sized ants and piles of rat poo. Joe and his buddy, Ethan, tackle the dirty work and turn wrenches to try and make the $300ZX run! Er, knock!!

The 1984 Nissan 300ZX as it sat in a basement after 20 years. Engine woes sidelined the car but other obligations always seemed to push the car's needed repairs on the back burner.

More details to follow on the $300ZX and more videos. Stay tuned!

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Sunday, February 16, 2020

1976 Pontiac Catalina: low price, full style, grandma or gangster?

A greenhouse to envy or a home to sun worshippers? No, a 1976 Pontiac.

Another Catalina! We love Pontiacs. We love weird window glass. We love unique and classy chariots of Pontiac fame. So how is it that after all these years we overlooked the beauty and styling cues of the 1976 Pontiac Catalina? Well, we did until Jody and I stumbled upon this forgotten full-size classic in the parking lot of Vintage Garage in Harpersville, Alabama.

From that point on, smitten by the luxury appointments and the overall “wow” factor that Pontiac lovers know so well. The factory options fit their place in this Catalina eloquently. The big Poncho two-door was just layed out so well.

You know what we didn’t know well? This entire car. It occurred to us that we had seen very few of them even though the greenhouse glass had us at “hello.” We still don’t know much about these Catalinas, being just recently smitten. As the world turns, the collector car circles seem to have forgotten about this one. It is a fine fine day for a reunion.

Four flat tires and weeds growing through parking lot cracks around car.
Weeds and flat tires can't keep us away from this 1976 Pontiac Catalina 2-door in light blue with white vinyl top.

Eight is enough

Code “P” in the VIN tells us that there is Pontiac motor waiting for us. The 165 horsepower Pontiac 350 was not what we expected. Really, we were betting on a 400 Pontiac. The next safe bet would be the 455 Pontiac, seeing that it was the last year available and if you were to find one, it would be nestled between the fenders of a full-size luxury car. 

Don’t let that discourage you from enjoying the rest of this Pontiac. The 350-V8 was indeed a hardworking powerplant that has a following of sorts. So, maybe it had to work a little harder than larger engines, but it did it. This discarded little brother of the larger engines was indeed a great and long lasting engine. You would be surprised at the enthusiasm this seemingly forgotten engine enjoys today.

A small quarter window meets the back edge of the door glass.

Sunny in there?
A good roof designer is valuable. The Pontiac design team that dreamed up these wild windows was a hero to all fans of strange automobile glass. Dig the aerodynamic rear window design. Fall in love with the rear quarter windows. Fall in love quickly, because they could disappear with the push of a button… that's right… POWER rear quarter glass! 

1976 Pontiac literature refers to this as a “hardtop” but it seems to us this conflicts somewhat with the idea that this could have been a sedan. Junkyard Life loves odd car roofs. We are not sure we would call this design a “hardtop” by definition. We are only sure that we love it. 

Tri-spoke Pontiac steering wheel in view as we peek through the glass.
Driver's seat cover has seen better days but is still cover in original white vinyl. 1970s big clock/100mph speedo combo gauges.

Options: Whatcha want, Shorty?
It appears whoever ordered up this car went wild checking options… or did they? We learned many things came standard on this car. It was not hard to get many of the goodies that made day-to-day life enjoyable. Power everything, tilt this, cruise that, 15-inch wheels with what Pontiac called the “Deluxe” wheel cover. *(Fun fact warning: This hubcap was available across the Pontiac line, except on the Sunbird and Astre. Basically anything that had a 15-inch wheel except the Trans Am. When the exclusive Grand Prix was ordered with this wheel cover, it was the same hubcap but with a “GP” logo on it.) The 1976 Pontiac brochure also makes mention of a power pedal extension available in all full-size models to make the vertically challenged more comfortable. Oddly, NOT available in a full-size station wagon.

Much like late-1960s Cadillac coupes, these windows slide side-to-side.
A power window switch in the back seat tells us that those power quarter windows ramp up the "wow" factor on this Catalina. They slide side-to-side.

Final thoughts
We found a unique Pontiac that is seldom found on the road or in the junkyard. A 1976 Pontiac Catalina in a two door with amazing glass! This color (Athena Blue) suits it well and has a subtle, yet powerful presence. We have learned a lot about Catalinas here at Junkyard Life recently (Emma Goose) and it is safe to say… we dig them! This example has fallen into the right hands and will be something to behold once again. We certainly hope so!

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life: The Story Beneath the Rust

(Editor’s Note: Ron finds a way to work a Grand Prix into everything, doesn’t he?)

Need some Vitamin D? Crawl up onto the hat rack and stretch out in the sunshine.

Pontiac used variations of wide, 3-line tail lights for many years on big, small and performance vehicles.

Big 1976 cars often landed in demolition derbies. This one has survived with super stout bumpers intact.

Montgomery, Alabama dealership emblem reveals a lot about this 44-year-old Pontiac. Now in Harpersville, sitting just 75 miles away from where it was bought new.

A cool white interior color was needed in a car with this much glass. It looks original, and I could almost make out either 102k or 82k on the odometer.

Sun-bleached paint turns to rust on the top surfaces of the trunk lid of the 1976 Pontiac Catalina. Just a big Cat lying in the sun. Grandma and the gangsters would be envious.

Got a great car story? We want to know it. Send us details! Send emails to Jody Potter at and Ron Kidd at

Saturday, January 11, 2020

1994 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am GT $100 rescue

Hardtop Grey Purple Metallic Trans Am was now mine, rat included.

Dirty bird rescue. I followed up an ad on Facebook Marketplace (more on that one later), which led me to a wooded lot with 100 old cars. Among them sat a 1994 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am GT in Grey Purple Metallic paint (Code 91U) sitting on only one wheel. Three corners of the Bird sat on dirt or chunks of concrete block. Despite the lack of rolling stock, and the less desirable LT1 engine (vs the LS1), I was quick to drag the old girl home for $100. Scrap price money. 

Back in 1994
25 years ago I couldn't afford the new Trans Ams near $24,000 price tag but I loved their swooping curves, 6-speed manual transmissions and powerful engines that validated their poor man's Corvette reputation. I sat in one of these fourth gen Birds when they were new on the showroom floor. Someday, I will own one of these, I thought. I told anyone who would listen to my soon-to-be college graduate/Trans Am owner life plan. I went for several test drives but couldn't pull the trigger. Instead, practical decision-making led me to a Chevy S-10 for my post-college transportation. Regret, and the truck's uncomfortable seats doomed my choice. This $100 Trans Am is my redemption!

Both in rough shape.
The hardtop Grey Purple Metallic 1994 Trans Am was now mine. Just add wheels and my dream is complete.

Walk around
The first thing I noticed was the seldom seen Grey Purple paint. Only 120 Trans Am GTs were built in this color. This is also a hardtop Trans Am GT, 1-of-2,302 hardtop GTs built for 1994. The GT performance package got you a 155 mph speedometer and 245/50R16 Z-rated tires. The combination of the GT package, hardtop and rare color means this was an unpopular choice when new but that means a collector may want to brag on the rarity of such a beast someday. 
  The glovebox holds the detailed RPO code sticker that includes the Y83 GT option code. Among this Trans Ams other options, G80 for Posi Traction, GU5 means 3.23 rear gear ratio, PW7 is the code for 16x8 alloy wheels and FE2 for the Suspension system/Ride handling package.

Under the hood a massive rats nest was not enough to deter me from buying the $100 Bird. LT1 power means 275 hp and 325 foot-pounds of torque.

What happened here?
This Bird has been sitting since 2006 according to the tag. During that time the driver's side window has been busted out and the three missing wheels walked to the nearest scrapyard to fetch about $30 bucks. Inside is a disaster area. A large critter had devoured the headliner material and built huge, overflowing nests inside the glovebox and under the hood. Dank water in the driver's seat and floorboard had formed the breeding ground for swamp monsters. The worst part was found in the console. It was an automatic! The horror.

A busted door glass allowed rain to ruin the driver's seat of the Trans Am.

Have wheels will travel
The first rule of junk cars is... wait, there are no rules with junk cars. But, having an extra set of wheels and tires is a good thing to have for times like these. I mounted my spare set of Rally II Pontiac wheels and "may-pop" tires onto the ’94 Bird. Lucky for us that the 5x4.75 inch bolt pattern fits a 1973 Trans Am and a 1994 Trans Am for the purpose of rolling the car onto a trailer. The rim offset is way wrong, so, the front tires rub when the wheels are turned more than a couple inches.

Rally II rims fit under the 4th gen bird as a temporary fix to roll it onto my car trailer.

Hauling home with a guest
I met the caretaker of the field of cars, Glen, at the lot for pick-up of my diamond-in-the-rough. He pulled it to the road through many mud holes with an old wrecker. My new winch made short work of the loading process, but the 3,400-lb Pontiac made the trip to my driveway with a secret passenger onboard. 
  I met him after I cleaned out his mess under the hood and as I was vacuuming out under the passenger's side of dash. The jumbo rat plopped onto the driver's side floorboard, with a thud, hopped onto the seat and leaped out the window. It was huge! And it moved fast! Like a squirrel.

Trap time
I found fresh green leaves and sticks under the hood a couple days later. This rat wasn't going to leave. I pulled out the seats and carpet and placed a giant, wooden mouse trap, loaded with peanut butter on the floor. The next morning the 7-inch long (11.5 inches. including tail) rat was found enjoying his last meal. Time to scrub this car down. 

A big nest was found in the glovebox.
Glovebox was also home to Mr. Rat. Packed full.

RPO codes sticker found under the nest in the glovebox.

What do we got here?
Time to see what this LT1 engine will do. I tossed in a hot battery and hit the key. Nothing. I crawled under the Bird with a screwdriver and jumped the starter solenoid. It turned over several times. Yes! This is getting good now. Then, I sprayed some starter fluid into the throttle body. Screwdriver in hand, I crawled under and got the engine to turn over and run for few seconds. No knocking! This old Bird might me worth fixing after all.
  Stay tuned. Will the $100 Trans Am be a keeper or a project/parts car for somebody else?

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life: The Story Beneath the Rust

The extra wheels and tires were needed to move the junk T/A.
Ever wonder what white wall tires look like on a late model Trans Am?

1994 Bird lands in my driveway. Not the last, I hope.

13 years sitting in a wooded field will make a car look bad.
Before washing off the scum, a good vacuum job was needed.

Most panels are composite - not steel.
Plenty of composite parts on the 4th Gens. The steel quarter panel shows a fire extinguisher-sized dent.

A 1986 Nissan 300ZX parts car is loaded up for the scrap yard to make room for the latest Pontiac. My driveway junkyard is a glimpse of what Junkyard Life is about.

Grey Purple Metallic is an uncommon color on '94 models. Made more rare because it's on a hardtop GT model Trans Am.

Seats and carpet had to be yanked to clear out the years of yuck.

Grey Purple Metallic 1994 Trans Am.
Photos don't do this color justice. I imagine this paint color looked sharp when it was new.

Hate to see a car get scrapped but the T/A was worth the spot in the driveway.

Fourth Gen Trans Ams (1993-2002) look fast sitting still.
Even in this condition.

Back seat is rough but better that the damaged front seat. This car has felt the brunt of living with a busted window in the woods.
Windows caked with years of tree sap and dirt.
155 mph speedometer in 1994 Pontiac Trans Am GT has busted lens.

Tequila in a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew? Trans Am trash pile.

Washed and mean looking 1994 Pontiac Trans Am GT looks better every minute.

Got a junk car story? We want to know it. Send us details! Send emails to Jody Potter at