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FWD ground pounder - Last Indian

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The Last American Indian

A little back history to explain The Last Indian’s progression.
I’m not that guy that does car shows. So I just do cars for me! To please me! For the pleasure of seeing an idea live! But in 1984 a Swedish magazine, (Start & Speed) was here in Cleveland and was told of my custom 1969 Z/28 by a friend of a friend. They approached me for a cover piece so I allowed it. Most of the car was custom designed and handmade, including the full frame with an OEM type suspension front and rear, not coil overs in the back like you often see with full frame conversions, but it was so much more than that! For a myriad of reasons I sold it and a “74” Z/28 that was custom as well in 2004 after 35 and 30 years of ownership! 
I had bought a brand new 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix as a daily driver, so after selling the Camaros I decided to take the GP for a summer only car and for a FWD it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good mind you, but I loved the updated Coke bottle shape and styling. So I thought I was done modifying & customizing cars I was just going to drive it. I had done a lot with cars at multiply levels, maybe it was time to refocus on something new, not sure what, maybe bird watching? Well the boredom lasted a year! So I embarked on a new path, a path that I didn’t know would became that of The Last American Indian! With the Grand Prix being the last American designed & built Pontiac and the end of Pontiac as a car company occurring just a few short years later!  
 I had always owned RWD cars until the GP, but I found myself realizing all I had ever seen anyone do with a FWD, was either cosmetic things or on the engineering side, power or drifting. Yet no true performance handling, no true blend of drivetrain performance, handling and style! Especially not in an American car and not in the vein of the old muscle car era ground pounders and most assuredly not performance handling. I remember when the first gen Camaro was called the poor man’s Porsche and that was what inspired me to make mine better than a Porsche. Why not a similar mind set with FWD I thought? Drifting isn’t powering thru a corner and it certainly isn’t handling, so l thought, try something different!   
So here we go, The 3800 is normally aspirated, but there have been upgrades on the motor and its peripheries,(heads have been shaved .020, intake ports opened up, exhaust valves opened up, 1.9 Yella Terra roller rockers). Throttle body machined out to 72mm with a Ultem insulator plate. The stock exhaust on the left bank is not adequate for it’s duties so a ZZP Power Log replaced it on the left bank, but the crossover and right exhaust manifold are large enough to handle their respective duties. The down pipe was replaced by a Random Technology 3” high flow cat, this cat doubles the CFM output of the stock cat. The cat back system was kept, as believe it or not will work better than any of the aftermarket ones. The OEM cat was really the only restriction issue.  Next Suspension! 

Random-GM exhaust.JPG


3.8 yella rockers front.jpg

front subframe sec (2).JPG



Two for the show.JPG

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First, I needed to look at current perimeters, (SSF) static stability factor (1.4), weight distribution(65/35), CG(20”), RC(67”), wheel base(110.5), track width ft.(61.7) rr.(61.1) & suspension geometry. These numbers are not very good for a car that you want to handle, they're pretty normal for FWD though.
After modifications, (SSF)(1.68), weight distribution (54/46), CG(16”), RC(51”), wheelbase(same), track width ft.(64.5”), rr.(64.5”) & suspension geometry completely modified.
So without getting to technical & lengthy, it goes like this. To effectively increase handling you must lower the CG the RC & the weight distribution if that applies, and it did here. So the  first thing you would always prefer is to lighten the car where needed, but when you can’t you move the weight around and where necessary you add some, thus was the case here. Than you look to increase the track widths & last modify the suspension components to take advantage of those changes.
300lbs. was added to the Indian and all but 15lbs. of it was below wheel centerline. The equivalent of 80lbs was removed from the front nose area and relocated to the rear of the car, again below wheel centerline. 30 lbs was added to the rear impact bar. Part of the weight redistribution was the relocation of the battery to the trunk spare tire well. Additionally the entire frame structure and dead spaces (lower firewall & rear cavity structure, control arm area) were filled with structural urethane foam, contributing 22 lbs of the 300. The rear suspension carrier was reenforced to reduce flex in hard cornering, extra large lateral bars & trailing arms were installed. Redesigned upper rear strut mounts. Redesigned front lower A-arms to reduce torque steer and increase power transfer to the ground. Front struts components redesigned for increased corner stability & power transfer through better spring function. Heavy duty police package springs front & rear were installed. Upper strut bearings replaced with industrial grade pieces, better responsiveness and smoother wheel control & stability. Both front and rear sway bars and their end links were replaced. The front bar was replaced with a solid 34mm bar with larger diameter, shorter and stiffer end links. While the rear bar was replaced with a 22mm diameter bar and a redesigned set of end links as well. Both sets of end links make a significant improvement over the OEM units as they make the bars do what they were designed to do, prevent body roll and keep the wheels planted on the ground.

above is stock upper strut bearing vs industrial grade bearing that was adapted as seen below.





above & below are fabricated replacment  pieces for the OEM abortion of a transverse bearing they used on the front Aarm. 





front sway bar modified connection (2).JPG


rear suspension carrier mod.JPG


bat trunk.JPG

P6220383 (1).JPG

Edited by Last Indian
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Rims, Rubber & Brakes & the rest! Wheels increased from 16”X6.5” to 18”X8” & tires went from 225/60r16 to 245/45r18. Brakes were modified & the brake fluid was changed to Valvoline Syn Power DOT5 fluid. Plus all the custom made hardware & gingerbread which is to much to name. 









Front view of Indian interior.JPG





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  • 4 weeks later...

P1170190.bmpP1170190.bmpP1170190.bmpP1170190.bmpFinal details of the Indian. It might not be apparent, but there isn’t much of the Indian that hasn’t been modified, improved or upgraded. This includes converting most all body bolts (not suspension) to American standard threads and using 316 stainless steel bolts or screws. Custom sill plates & pedals, front splitter, HID lighting, brake pedal ratios as increased. Door panels were isolated via felt inlays to reduce noise. So for what it's worth here are some additional pics of that detail work.


Indian interior from backseat .jpg



rear pass thru & amp.JPG

blueprinted knuckle assy.JPG




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Thank you Steve

Jim, the exhaust is not plated gold. There are amber leds affixed to the impact bumper reflecting down making it appear that way. I see you like Camaros. When I get a chance I'll post up a build I did on my wife's 74 Z/28 27 years ago.

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  • 4 months later...

Call it the 13 year itch or what ever you like, but it's been that long since the major upgrade in 2004 on the Indian. So with it being 17 years old it was time for a major refresh and some upgrades as well as some improvements from what’s been learned in 13 years of mods in use.
First the fuel & brake systems need refreshed. All lines, fill tube, vent system, tank, pump and hoses.


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So for those who have a interest in these types of things I hope this helps in some way. As I said the fuel & brake systems needed refreshed. All lines, fill tube, vent system, tank, pump and hoses were replaced by I.E. OEM pieces. Also the area under the fuel tank and rear suspension carrier were never fully painted with the special paint I use, so now I could finish that.







Edited by Last Indian
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The brakes are a bit of a different animal though. New OEM lines were used and most nearly all the rest was either cleaned up and reused or made. External hardware is OEM, or at least appears to the casual observer to be OEM, but that’s were it stops. Rotors, pads, fluid, O’rings, peddle ratios & material selections are all changed, I.E. non stock or custom. From a purely pragmatic standpoint a car brake system is a fairly simple hydraulic system. It's applied physics, the total weight, weight distribution, center of gravity, roll center and weight transfer, along with coefficient of friction for materials, add fluid chemistry for work function. This may sound complicated, but it's not. Yet the OEMs have complicated the hell out of it to C.T.A…. So I take my systems back to the basics that work best and longest without problems. OEMs use large square, and I use the word loosely, O’rings, why? O’rings are a mechanical device, there is a whole mathematical science around them, they are not a gasket. They are round for a purpose and the tiny center ridge that runs around them is not a parting line. I could detail more, but it's not the point here. So number one I change both the O’ring? To an actual O’ring and from buna rubber to Viton. Most brake systems hold residual pressure which in turn creates brake drag. In every system I run I look for a way to negate or elevate that pressure.


FullSizeRender 18.jpg

FullSizeRender 19.jpg

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I finally found a few suspension pieces I’ve been in search of for awhile. Front sway bar polyurethane frame bushings & a 1” diameter rear sway bar with polyurethane frame bushings. One of the issues with sway bars and their effectiveness is energy transfer. This almost always comes from inadequate links. In the case of the Grand Prix both the front & rear links are inadequate and once the links are improved the frame bushings become inadequate, with the rears being the worst in both links and bushings. Once the rears are improved properly the rear suspension carrier becomes suspect. So while I had improved it in 2004 I found interference problems with the lateral bars and had to cut some of the bracing out which in turn allowed the carrier to be less than adequate once again. On this refresh another carrier was acquired and modified with bracing in a way as to not interfere with suspension travel. 
Another issue was in the front. Between the larger solid bar and the huge improvement in the front links energy transfer was vastly improved and even in the hardest cornering a flat response occurred, but even a double jam nut would not stop the unthreading of the link shaft over time. So I finally pinned the lock nut of the upper jam nut and that resolved the issue with no more occurrences. I expect additional improvements with the larger rear bar and the added polyurethane frame bushings.





IMG_0180 (1).jpg


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Some clarification on some of the suspension mods! FWD’s are notorious for torque steer, even worse than rear wheel posi-traction. FWD’s have deadlier results because unlike rear wheel drives that can counter against torque steer some by steering the front wheels to counter the effect, fwd cars can’t do that. The torque is on the front wheels that steer and the wheel geometry is changing do to that load and poor suspension components. Some of the more recent FWD cars have made effective changes to help eliminate torque steer through incorporating a right side drive shaft bearing to control shaft whip. They also have finally changed the weak and worthless vertical A-arm mount and a few other things to keep suspension geometries in place during high torque loads. Yet for those who have older FWD’s there are really not many or any aftermarket remedies. So to clarify things that can help those who want to reduce torque steer here are some details. 


The lower A-arm is the largest offender, the lower vertical bushing literally allows the suspension geometry to change split second by split second under torque loads, causing the car to be incapable of turning, but just plowing straight.04621648-4719-4BDE-ADCE-14FCBF39F2CD-3776-0000033E5F558A05.jpeg

Upper strut brace, another offender. With most front wheel cars having at least 60% of the weight in the front half, nearly all cars see a substantial flex/movement in the upper strut body housings and strut hardware, I.E. strut bearings, mounts, strut shaft, etc… IMG_0071.JPG



Edited by Last Indian
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  • 5 months later...

Finally getting back to this been a busy year.

One of the areas that deteriorates in this generation of GP’s is the rocker area. So while mine have been coated internally and foamed filled the the rocker brackets can still be an issue. These brackets carry the polyurethane rocker covers that finish the bottom of the car. These were pulled, sandblasted and coated with a special paint. 



Re-polish of the catalytic shield.
Upgrade of the lateral bars threaded couplings to 316-L stainless steel. 
Repainted engine.





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22 hours ago, JUSTA6 said:

Nice job,  great FWD info.

Thanks Buddy!

Didn’t drive the Indian much this year, about 450 miles. 

This video is the Indian’s 3800’s sound! And tires squawking at 30 mph.



Edited by Last Indian
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Seem to be having a prob with windows, can't play your files.  Straight up, I'm techno stupid.   Lotta stuff not working as I'm still on XP and need to upgrade about 10yrs worth of technology.  :huh: 

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2 minutes ago, JUSTA6 said:

Seem to be having a prob with windows, can't play your files.  Straight up, I'm techno stupid.   Lotta stuff not working as I'm still on XP and need to upgrade about 10yrs worth of technology.  :huh: 

I don’t think it’s you, I think it’s me! I don’t know what the hell I’m doing :nuts:. I need Ringo! 

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  • Founders

Playing fine here once downloaded. May need to specify to open the file in a media player once it's on your pc. Need one that plays mp4's. Windows media player should. If not I recommend VLC: https://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html

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12 hours ago, stratman said:


I lack the words to describe this post. You are an incredibly talented man.

Thanks Stratman! I love the Vette! Enjoy the hell out of it!

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