With the exhaust fabricated, attention has turned to finishing up the wiring and mounting the battery box. Marcus also redid the intake piping that came with the Samberg radiator kit and its LS7/LS3 MAF adapter. The fitment of this pipe puts it close to the hood with the LS3’s drive-by-wire throttle body, so the goal is to achieve enough clearance to not make contact.
The fusebox was also simplified and moved forwards. I’ll need to pick up a new fusebox cover in the future because the peeling sticker is distracting.
Back when I was still amassing parts for the swapping and in the planning phases, I gave the battery notable thought. I knew I wanted to have the battery moved out of the engine bay. The most popular relocation method has been to place the battery into one of the storage bins behind the seats. It is a clever and compact way of mounting everything, but I didn’t like how the battery was kept near the middle of the car and inside the cabin directly behind the passenger or driver. The ideal position for the battery is at the rear, in the hatch.
After researching the subject, I decided upon an interesting solution: mounting 2 dry cell 6-volt batteries on their side in the spare tire well, and wiring them in series. I picked up a pair of Optima 6-volt batteries to meet this purpose. With the batteries laid on their sides, they should still remain mostly flush to the hatch’s floor when mounted in the tire well. Slide the carpet over and presto.
In the beginning, I shared this concept with Marcus and printed him a picture to follow. Here is the battery box he fabricated for the batteries:
Mounted into the car with the batteries:
Cabling complete. The positive cable goes along the channel through the chassis and directly to the alternator. The ground cable is attached to the chassis and there are 2 more engine grounds in the bay.
With the batteries connected, the car STARTS! Marcus noted that it cranks fast and sent me a quick clip of everything running. Needless to say, things are starting to become very interesting.
The moment of truth has been reached. There are still a few more bugs to be worked out and then hopefully the metamorphosis will be complete.
FINALLY, progress. The car has admittedly been sitting mostly idle inside the shop while other matters came up. Marcus is in the process of opening another, larger shop and has likely been spending most of his time there setting it up. I know extended wait times come with the territory with these large scale projects, but the push towards completion needs to be strong.
Attention has been returned to the car and the exhaust system is now fabricated and installed. It consists of 3″ stainless piping coming off the headers’ v-bands into a y-pipe and Borla muffler. At the other end of the muffler is a single 3.5″ section to a 4″ tip – race style.
Everything is Tig welded together.
The “catback” section has an additional v-band.
Making the cone to adapt the 4″ tip to the exhaust piping:
With only 1 muffler in the entire system, I can only guess that this will be on the louder side.
Here is what the catch can lines look like routed in the engine bay:
Although the car is taking longer than initially expected to finish, the passing time has given me a new perspective. I can’t hide the fact that I’m anxious to have the swap completed, but at the same time I’m comforted by having the luxury of busying myself with other aspects of life while the work is performed. If I were to tackle the swap myself in my garage, like the Single Turbo conversion, my weekends and free weeknights would have been greyed out by laborious wrenching. It takes this relativity to understand the magnitude of dedication required by a “hobbyist” to build together a large project by himself. Looking back over the years, I can see just how many weekends were sucked away from me because I had to spend hour upon hour in the garage instead. Granted, I’ve gained invaluable experience from doing so and it wasn’t necessarily a bad way of spending time; however, after having done it, I can really appreciate the convenience of leaving this V8 swap in the hands of a professional instead.
I stopped by the shop the other week to pick up a few remaining leftover parts. All of the crankcase ventilation AN lines were routed to the catch can. The car is getting close, so it’s just a matter of knocking out the last remaining items on the list: finish the wiring, fabricate the exhaust system, fine tune the ride height, install the battery and cables, install the front bumper, and anything else in between.
While Marcus continues to plug away at the car, there isn’t much to update at the moment. So as a filler, here are a couple pictures of the Samberg radiator setup which I forgot to post earlier:
The assembly is fully shrouded with dual SPAL fans and features a cut out for a K&N air filter. The level of quality is very high and I personally think this radiator setup is far superior to any rotary V-Mount offering out there, purely based on its simplicity and integration. I’ve said this before, but if Samberg’s products did not exist for the RX-7, I most likely would not have considered swapping a V8.
In the background, I purchased another new OEM ’99 bumper and rebar. This is my THIRD ’99 bumper and the fourth bumper I’ve had painted for the RX-7. Figuring out the bumper has truly been an enduring task. To make a positive outcome more certain, I also picked up a new set of mounting brackets and rivets from Mazda (which was surprisingly expensive, more than the ’99 bumper skin). The minor deformity issues in the bumper skin from the past was due to transferring the old mounting brackets. The Mazda rivets have a specific torque and do not pull excessively on the skin when installed. The topside of this bumper finally came out nice and flat, and is hopefully something I can live with.
I’m going to hold onto my pre-’99 bumper just incase I decide to flipflop again. At first, I was conflicted with which bumper I preferred, but my cognition was mostly skewed from the feeling of disillusionment of all the failed ’99 bumpers. In the end, I know that the car needs to have the updated look of the ’99 bumper.
As the weeks slide by, I can feel my anticipations and anxieties starting to swell. I am having to consciously suppress images of myself terrorizing the streets of the Bay Area with tire smoking abandon, for that time is not yet ready.
Nonetheless, progress can’t be rushed and the waiting should hopefully help make the finished product that much sweeter. Now, to catch up with recent developments. Marcus finished measuring and mounting on the transmission brace. The TR6060 transmission has a different tailhousing which required a modified bracket to be fabricated to mount up with the bushing and brace.
Next, the 2 arms from the MGW Short Shifter and the shifter linkage were measured and cut to move the assembly into the optimal position in the tunnel opening. Otherwise, the shifter would have been mounted too far aft with the TR6060.
The MGW arms feature a straight section, which made the shortening work easier. The cuts had to be exact in order to insure that the arms are the same lengths for proper installation.
Arms and linkage welded back together:
With the transmission sorted, the driveshaft could then be installed.
Here’s a closer look at the trick CV joint…
The crankcase venting and PCV elimination sub-project as suggested from the previous post will tie into this aluminum vented catch can, near the position of where the ABS pump was.
Marcus also took the time to change out various fasteners in the engine bay with nicer, stainless steel allen heads.
Both the front subframe/engine and rear subframe/differential are installed. Work is now focusing on the smaller items on the to-do list. This portion is all detail-oriented and deservedly requires the most time due to its inherent tediousness.
Here is a snippet of some of the progress that has been recently made, as this swap creeps towards the finish line.
Marcus cleaned up the thermostat housing by welding up and blocking the heater coolant nipples. After consideration, I decided to obviate the heater lines and plan to eventually remove the heater core entirely from under the dash. With the air conditioning removed already, this was the next progressive step. Since my RX-7 is principally a fair weather car and I live in California, I foresee no requirement for a heater. Now there is no need to worry about the heater core leaking.
AN fittings were welded onto the valve covers. This is part of a sub-project to improve crankcase ventilation. The PCV will be obviated and an externally mounted vented catch can will be routed in.
Keeping in theme with the generous reliance on AN fittings, the crossover tube at the front of the engine was optimized as well. Before, there was a rubber line that was awkwardly routed in a loop (see the penultimate picture in this post: radiator overview).
The location of the proportioning valve had to be revised due to clearance issues with the LS3. New lines were bent and the valve was positioned further upwards.
Lastly, here’s an overview of the Samberg radiator setup in the engine bay.
Getting close! All the major parts are in, like this custom length aluminum 3.5″ driveshaft from none other than The Driveshaft Shop.
We had to place priority on getting the front and rear subframes prepared and ready for mock up in order to take the measurement for the driveshaft. I then placed the order immediately with Driveshaft Shop because the production is supposed to take 3 weeks. Conveniently, they actually finished it for me in a little over a week. Like all the other top-notch offerings from Driveshaft Shop, this one is no exception. It features a bolt-on CV joint adapter to the TR6060’s flange and then a universal joint at the 8.8 differential’s end. Incorporating a CV joint is more expensive, but features a higher range of adjustment with lower vibrations.
The fuel lines were another item on the list that needed to be measured up and then custom ordered. There will be a total of 3 “flex” lines: 2 from the gas tank to the Wix fuel filter/FPR and 1 from the fuel rail to the firewall bulkhead. The rest of the fuel system will be plumbed with a -6AN stainless steel hardline. I really wanted to overkill this area to eliminate any chance of fuel issues in the future, including fumes and having to smell gas in the garage.
I picked the XRP HS-79 hose for the lines, which is aerospace quality and incorporates smooth-bore Teflon with a Kevlar composite construction. Unlike other hoses which can be assembled at home, these have to be machine crimped. Marcus made the measurements and I gave them to XRP to pre-make. The quality of the HS-79 is certainly reflected in its pricing. This unassuming box of 3 lines was close to $400!
Here’s a look at the Wix filter with the stainless steel hardline routed.
Marcus made this bracket to hold the bulkhead connector for the long section of the hardline. Attention to detail – epitomized.
At the other end on the engine bay’s firewall, there is another bracket that holds together the fuel hardline and hardline for the rear brakes.
The goal is to remove redundant wires and relays from the engine bay to have a clean, tucked install. A great deal of effort is obviously required for this portion. Marcus has been working on the wiring harness over the past week. Any splices made were done properly via soldering and heat shrinking.
It was also determined that the spot-welded brackets which used to hold the stock radiator’s crossmember needed to be removed from the frame rails.
Alas, here is the engine mounted for the final time in the car.
The view from below… the Samberg components are truly superior to the factory Mazda counterparts.
The Spoolin headers have a good amount of clearance on both the passenger and driver sides.
While work is continued on the car, here is a mid-week update to tide things over. When ordering the MGW Short Shifter, I opted for a threaded lever in a M12x1.75 rather than the regular slotted style lever for Camaros. The stock Mazda threading is a finer M10x1.25. The different lever threading meant I had to ditch the FEED shift knob, unfortunately. On the bright side, this enabled me to try a new direction and go with a product that wasn’t quite off the shelf… I looked around at various custom alternatives from companies and ended up shooting an email to Chris at WC Lathe Werks to see what he could do for me.
After a few back and forth exchanges, I was able to finalize the exact shift knob that I visualized with him:
- 2″ diameter sphere
- 2.75″x1.2″ collar
- Blended transition
- 2 grip grooves
- Blue/Bronze coloring
I have always liked spherical shift knobs. With this being a hand made affair, I wanted to take the opportunity to elevate the design aspects. I decided on adding a taller collar to the shift knob to increase leverage and reachability. The quality and machine work on this shift knob is very high. I can’t wait to throw it on and start rowing through gears. I would personally rank a shift knob equal to a steering wheel in terms of “touch factor” and driver input importance.
The hectic pacing of the project has slowed down going into the third and fourth weeks. Much of the heavy lifting has been accomplished and the focus has turned to the intermediary steps and other details. The engine and rear end were mocked up onto the car so measurements for the new driveshaft could be made. Marcus also figured out what fuel lines were needed and gave me the information to order with XRP. More dramatic progress should be made once the driveshaft and fuel lines have arrived.
Here is what the rear end looks like with the 8.8 differential and axles fitted to the Samberg mounting brace.
I was lucky to be able to pick up this 8.8 Cobra (’02-’03) differential locally, because they are becoming harder to come by. I dropped the differential off to Samberg and asked him to do a full clean and rebuild so all the seals and bearings are fresh. A new set of Ford Racing 3.73 Gears were installed as well. These are supposedly the only gears that do not whine. If I had stuck with the stock FD rear differential, not only would I have ended up with a weaker unit, but re-gearing it would have been difficult due to almost nonexistent alternatives. Pairing up the power and torque of the LS3 with the gear ratios of the Camaro TR6060, the FD’s 4.10 ratio would have certainly been on the higher side.
The new front subframe was assembled and ready for install.
The cool thing about having the entire front subframe out of the car, everything can go back in from underneath rather than over the top. The chassis is simply dropped on top of the subframe via the lift.
A test fit… this picture aroused a couple knee shakes in me.
The front assembly with the long tube headers mounted:
And to bring closure to this post, I leave it with an eye candy of a suspended rear Ohlins DFV coilover.
With the rear subframe dismounted from the car to fit the new 8.8 components, Marcus took the time to weld on reinforcement plates. These were included with the Samberg kit but required additional refinement for a more perfect install.
The original plan was to use rubber/polyethylene differential mount bushings, but in the end they were discarded and a new set of bushings was lathed out of Delrin. Rubber bushings have been reported to fail under extended use with the 8.8 rearend. Using Delrin should offer a more robust solution with an indefinite lifespan.
As another showcase of detail, the Mazda fuel filter mount was offered up to the Wix filter/FPR. The ground strap from the Wix mount was tig welded on to adapt over the Mazda mount. This allows for a clean and OEM-like solution. Granted the OEM mounting location is rather high on the subframe, we are hoping accessibility can still be maintained enough to not warrant a relocation.
Samberg makes a nice, water-jetted pedal mount for the 5th Generation Camaro’s fly-by-wire pedal. The mount was painted a gloss black.
Moving up front, work was completed on the LS3 itself. The Improved Racing baffle was installed into the F-Body oil pan.
At the last minute, I was able to pick up Improved Racing’s newly released crank scraper which fits LS3 engines. This part was fresh off the manufacturer’s tooling and I had it immediately Priority mailed to the shop. As its name suggests, this plate is sandwiched between the main caps and windage tray and closely contours the crankshaft and rods – literally scraping off excess oil. The crank scraper will aid in oil control and ensures that more oil makes it to the bottom of the sump for recirculation. Having oil remain on the crank, where it is not needed, creates parasitic drag and windage losses.
With the windage tray and pick up tube installed:
The crank scraper should be especially helpful with the F-Body oil pan because by design of its shape, oil control is minimized for the front 2 cylinders while the crank scraper can each out to them. This can be seen from the above picture – where the windage tray is only able to cover a 3/4 length.
With no power steering or air conditioning, the serpentine system was greatly simplified, however, a modified idler pulley was necessary to fill in the gap. Marcus machined a spacer to push a ribbed idler pulley into the right track.
Here is what the pulley system (including the Katech tensioner pulley) looks like with a belt:
I had the mounting components from Samberg powdercoated in Red, taking inspiration from Ducati trellis frames. If I’m going to have the entire front subframe changed out, I want it to be recognizable with a bit of flash appeal.
Marcus also redid and straightened the Wilwood clutch master cylinder pushrod, which Hinson modified to be crooked.
The Samberg kit included new eccentric camber plates that needed to be welded onto the bolts, which were fully tig’d on.
The larger plates should allow for an increased range of adjustment.
Instead of dealing with crating and shipping the 13B-REW, I did the next best thing – trade it locally for a set of Ohlins DFV coilovers. I worked the trade with Heath from Sakebomb Garage, and he dropped off the Ohlins when he came to the shop to pick up the motor.
The Swedes know suspension…