12.99/$1,299 Update – While The Cats Away The Mice Will Play


While The Cats Away The Mice Will Play by Dennis Pittsenbarger

Editors Note: This report was filed on October 29, 2015. Mere moments before CI staffer Dennis Pittsenbarger jetted to Las Vegas to serve as Host of the 2015 SEMA Show. There he hobnobbed with the giants of the industry and did all he could to convince them that indeed, we are not out of our minds. 

Have you ever stepped back and thought how lucky you are to have friends?
We’re talking true friends. The kind that will do anything for you. And straighten you out when you need it.

In a car guy’s world it’s always good to have friends, but it’s even better to have friends who have shop space they are willing to let you use. Wait. They also let you use their tools. And the lift. And are willing to jump in – even when you’re gone – to get things done.

In my world, Michael Christopherson is that friend.



Now before we go into why I owe Mike a bottle of his choice for what he pulled off today, let’s go back about a week and a half ago when we thought we were dead in the water (literally). After committing a chunk of our $1,299 budget to new injectors, a fuel pump and lines we thought we had it licked. But, after buttoning the Z28 back up we decided to check and fill all the fluids, and that’s where it started to look bad.
The coolant system was obviously dumping water into the engine. The question was where.

If you remember my Levels of Disaster in the previous entry,
http://www.carsillustrated.com/a-12-99-challenge-update-by-dennis-pittsenbarger/, it went something like this.



FML Level One: The lower part of the TPI manifold is deteriorated or corroded to the point of either it being bad or the gaskets being faulty. Not something we want to be true, however it would not be the worst thing that could happen. Even though it would be added work to get to 12.99, a used bottom intake plate off of a TPI unit and/or the gaskets are not going to kill the remaining budget.


FML Level Two: We pull the intake and then find that we need to pull the heads and have either bad head gaskets, bad heads, or even worse a cracked water jacket in the block. Yes, at this time you can all put your hands together and pray that it’s “level one”. Or, you might be laughing and cueing up your Monday morning quarterback jersey to tell us what we’re surely doing wrong in your professional opinion.



Well, thank the car gods it was FML Level One “Light” and was only the faulty gasket at the base of the lower intake portion of the TPI unit. Problem solved. But one plate of humble pie still to be served.


Mike removed the TPI upper and lower, and all the connected hardware to find what he thought to be true. That it was the manifold gaskets that were junk and with a little prep work and re-assembly we should be back on track. (Credit and thanks also go to Al Oppenheiser, Chief Engineer for Camaro, who also diagnosed the problem before I could relate Mike’s suspicions.)

So the coolant leak is fixed. And we can now attempt to turn the tires in anger. But I did not know this until late today, because between getting back from my 10th wedding anniversary, the 2016 Camaro #findnewroads tour, voice over work for other projects and basically catching up with everything before departing to work for SEMA for an entire week…I did nothing. Not a wrench was turned, not a bolt was tightened in this chapter of the 12.99 Z28 by me. Which brings us back to the start of this entry.



Good friends are hard to find. Good mechanics are hard to find. But it’s even harder to find a great friend who is a great mechanic. Thanks Mike and yes, I know I have the next wave of bugs to work out of the Z28 all on MY shoulders. Go have a drink, I need to tune this thing up.

Tune in next time when we answer the questions: Does the fuel system actually work? Has the car sprung a different leak? What are “the next wave of bugs” and have they been worked out? Will it start, and if so, can it spin the tires? All in the next installment of 12.99 (we hope) For $1,299 (we pray) – The Cranky Camaro Editiorial


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