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After 14 years, my "New to me" Vette started... Guess I should carry on?


Nov 9, 2011
Alcona, Ontario, Canada
1987 Bright Red convertible
First post here, well second if you count my Intro. the other day.
I picked up an '87 Convertible last Friday, 220,000 KM that had been sitting tucked away in a warehouse for 14 years, as a winter project. After doing a lot of reading here I am getting a somewhat basic idea of how these beasts work (or don't work).
I was firstly stumped that the fuel pump would not make any noise but I had power to the relay, no power at the fuse. I bought a new fuel pump, plugged it in and it worked. I installed it this morning and gave the ole beast a try. I could hear the pump and heard it pick up the fuel to recycle it. After about 5 tries, she fired up. I only let it run for about 5 seconds because I have no exhaust on it, the valve covers are loose, PCV not hooked up, CVV hole open, and a couple other vacuum tubes are open because I have no idea where they go to. This appears to be my first step on learning this car and getting it back on the road I guess..
Anyway.. enough of that as I am sure you pro's are going, "Ya, so what.. it started.. " :D The plugs and wires are old and need replacing, and it'll need an oil change of course. I'll keep using the search engine here but should I stick with AC Delco? And, do we rebuild these distributors or just buy new? I'm an MGB guy and we rebuild them.
What else besides plugs and wires should I concentrate on for now?
Looking forward to a long relationship on this forum, and I'll have LOTS of questions.


AcDelco, is probably higher quality than some others but you'll probably get along just fine with others. I would just get a new distributor they are Extremely common and given the age and mileage, peace of mind.

I would concentrate on bringing the car up to date on its maintenance and wear items. Change EVERY fluid out on the car. Check over every square inch of it and replace anything suspect or broke. IF it just going to see primarily street use, standard replacement parts are find, anything more than street use, I would go higher quality on the parts and fluids. Belts, hoses, t-stat,etc....are things worth replacement after sitting for 14 years, if you want a reliable car. I would check any bearings out as well...such as wheel bearings, serp. belt idlers, tensioners, alternator, etc...anything that moves in any way, inspect thoroughly.
father & son

Try to locate all the grounds, as possiable, and make sure they are really clean and secure.
Congrats on the progress !

baby steps as they say........

If you have already done so, your FSM will guide you thru every portion of the restoration process. There are diagrams of vac hoses, where and what they do. Replace all. Not a big deal. Getting the correct lines plugged in the right places is critical. Some operate on low "ported" vac while others use stronger manifold vacuum.

AC Delco is what works best. Especially inside the distributor. Keep in mind that this is a GM HEI...its extremely reliable and has no need of service unless the module inside gets fried. It works or it don't. These dizzys will run 200K miles very easily without service. There is nothing to do actually, beyond setting the base timing.
DO pull the cap and make sure there is a good layer of silicone grease under the module. It MUST sit on a bed of silicone grease for heat transfer. Be careful with the wires inside the cap. They can get pinched and cause your next problem...

Spark plug wires...unless they are damaged externally, no emergency. Use the old ones unless there is proof they are bad. If they have'nt been run in 14 yrs there is a fair chance they are fine. Wires don;t actually wear...they get damaged on the outside or kinked and the core gets broken. Its obvious if the wire is physically ok or not. Plugs...for a stock motor, use the stock Delco plugs. Too many of the "gimick" plugs just don;t work well and do nothing more than waste your money. The HEI system is very HOT, so falling victim to slick marketing from MSD or Accel and being tempted to use their coils or wires or whatever else only gives a nice placebo effect for about a day..... If you;re performance tuning for that last 3 hp at 5000 rpm...then by all means go shopping !

Don;t forget the HD oil cooler on the oil filter. Cooler or warmer, whichever the season is, it has a couple short hoses that are VERY difficult to access on the side of the road. Those are under the a/c compressor and should be changed now before putting it on the street. There are also 2 at the oil filter.
Check the heater core....hoses and water valve. Check vac inside cabin. That enters from a vac line behind the dist that splits off to power the cruise control. There are check valves in the vac lines as well. make sure those are turned correctly.
The radiator is probably junk from oxidation from sitting dry or partially filled for that long. A new larger capacity ALL aluminum is only $200 and will be a major upgrade in cooling and convenience. That being said, the water pump may fall into the same area....Sitting for that long is harder on a car than if it were driven everyday. If they are not properly stored, bad things can happen. Time wears out everything....eventually.

While doing all this on top, I'd start with ohms testing the fuel injectors. IF you find some that are weak, now is the time to replace them while the top end is half apart. Also vac test the EGR valve. If new injectors are needed thats also the time to do the EGR and some housekeeping in the manifold area. Not a difficult job with the right tools. While under the hood do what you can to inspect the wire harness and get it wrapped up and taped up good. Its fragile and must not be exposed to heat and the common chemicals found under the hood. Check every elect connector under the hood. The Corvette electrical system gets its information thru variable resistance signals from sensors. Control functions are managed thru GROUND path completion....not hot wire on/off. There are hot wires to everything that stay hot all the time. Its the grounds that matter.
Also, while under the car look at the collection of ground wires just above the oil filter. Those are critical. Thats the set of grounds for all the ECM and dash gauge and controls. The power source for those thiongs originates at a small terminal behind the battery...called the "jumper post". That does not go to fuses,. rather connected directly to the ECM and dash with fusable links under the battery.
There are 2 MAF relays behind the brake booster. Same relays, both for the MAF sensor. Fuel pump relay near by, cooling fan relay in same area on wheel well liner. FSM will describe all the locations, I'm just listing so they can be looked at. Avoid getting the air pump wet or the alt, both die if run with water in them. Power steering will almost certainly be hard to turn until it gets hot, and thats normal. Its called "morning sickness". Suck out all the old fluid and refill with some cheap and do it again. Its a messy deal to change PS fluids but it will save your pump and rack. When its fairly clean, refill the res with LUCAS Rack & Pinion conditioner and stop leak. Its one of the few products that seems to work for everyone thats ever used it. It will end the sticky hard steering instantly and it will seal most minor leaks. Big leaks require rack replacement, again, normal. Most of the car has items that require replacement instead of reconditioning. If you see dry rotted suspension bushings, decide on what you want....tight sensitive steering and suspension or something more comfortable...the difference between rubber or poly bushings. Check all 4 wheels for bearing wear. If a wheel wiggles ANY< the bearing is junk. These are non servicable and hub replacement is required. Good bearings cost around $100 each..up to $150. Cheapo chinese copy bearings can be had for $75 each...and they will be needed again in a year for another $75 each...
Same for U-joints. you got 6. Check them all and use the stock equivelent. Not servicable, solid joints.
Rear end. As bullet proof as any part of the car, IF its maintained. There is no drain, so use a pump or sucker tool to draw out as much as possible of the old gear lube. Be certain to replace with the correct GM lube AND use posi-track additive AKA GM limited-slip additive. It won;t work well without the correct lube. Its also expensive to replace.....

I'm sure there will be other questions. Ask. Somebody will see it and respond.
My best advice, live by that FSM and you'll be fine. Great winter project.
Most important of all....have fun ! :thumb
Thanks Boom and others. Great, insightful writeup that was. I have a factory manual on the way, and also have a good buddy who works at a GM parts shop who is going to look out for me and get me my parts for cost. Time is on my side with this project as well. Interesting you mentioned this, " Check vac inside cabin. That enters from a vac line behind the dist that splits off to power the cruise control. There are check valves in the vac lines as well. make sure those are turned correctly." because I have been looking at them, which seem to be open ended, and wondered what they were for.
Thanks again, and wish me luck..
motor oil

Hey You really should have drained the oil,and replaced it along with a filter before you started it.

14 years old ???? Not too many of the original lubricating properties left I would think.:ugh
Get those fluids outta that thing the sooner the better. Brakes and antifreeze ASAP!!!!!!:ugh
Here are the ground locations

Since it fired for a few seconds you probable can work on other things for a while. But the time will come when it won't run right and when that happens remember the grounds are the life blood of these cars. The ECM does not use the voltage going into a sensor it uses the voltage going through the ground to make adjustments to how the engine runs. It also uses redundant sensors to determine if it should be in open or closed loop. There is a temperature sensor in the water pump that the ecm uses to determine what the water temp is and based on that it goes from open to closed loop. Now if you look on the right head just ahead of the #8 plug there is another temp sensor this is for the gauges.

I can not stress the point boomdriver made about the wiring being brittle. The more times you touch it the greater the chance is that you will have broken wires.
Probably should have but I checked it first and it was nice and clean and didn't "Appear" to have broken down, but I only had it run a few seconds. I'm making a trip to the goodie store tomorrow to grab a bunch of things including oil. What would be a good grade as it won't be driven at all this winter? The fuel filter will be tops on the list too.
The car was out of the eliments for the 14 years, stored in a warehouse surrounded by plywood. I also didn't want to do all the fluids before I knew the engine was still good either. Ya never know.. but I'm thinking the guy I bought it from was upfront with what he's told me about the car.

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