Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look - First Generation Forum

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Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Monday, March 16, 2015 7:58 PM
Well, thanks to this board I was able to find a 1984 Buick Skyhawk Custom. It's a silver two-door. My goal is to make it look like a T-Type. That means:

1. The larger T-Type steel/aluminum wheels (with the holes of various sizes) in them available from at least 1986 on. A BIG reason for this particular upgrade is because I can then go up to 14-inch tires (I hope) since 13-inch tires are so impossible to find.

2. Black bezels.

3. Black "grill" on the lower portion of the nose cone.

4. Black or charcoal on the lower half of the car. I think I'll do this not by paint, but by that new process that they can apply and later peel off - Plasti-Dip? I may keep the upper-half silver, like the original T-Types, or at least the ones that Buick seemed to feature most in the original ads for T-Types. OR, I may Plasti-Dip the top half a white or burgundy. I remember seeing a NEW white-and-charcoal T-Type at a hotel and DREAMING of someday owning one. This was 29 years ago...

I probably WON'T go with the blackout tail lights, the blacked-out molding or the all-black crest on the nose cone, but I think that's okay because I don't think the original T-Types had that, but it's a nice look.

And no - I won't put a "T-Type" logo on it as it doesn't have the turbo. And I THINK it's good not to have a 30-year-old turbo, right? Were they more apt to break down over time?

NOW, my problem is that the one time I did anything to a car remotely "mechanical" - replacing the wiper blade - it flew right off the car the first time I turned on the wipers.

I KNOW that it's a bad idea for a guy like me to buy a car that needs restoring/updating, but I have $8,000 set aside for purchase, fixing, restoring and upgrading.

So, after spending about $3,100 so far, I still have $4,900 left. I'm hoping I can get everything else done for $2,000.

Next steps:
1. Take it to a mechanic I know and trust for a complete checkout, new spark plugs and any and all fluid and filters he can change.
2. Get whatever fluids he can't change changed.
3. Register it with the state.
4. Get the rust spots on the roof and driver door looked at. HOPE it's not too far gone in that department.
5. Get the rust spots fixed and I guess repainted.
6. PROBABLY get that chrome lower-body cladding (not the mid-level bumper guard) removed and the holes filled up and painted since that will probably be easier than trying to find the passenger-side lower-body molding.
7. Get the interior and exterior detailed.
8. Get the old tires removed off the larger, later, multi-hole T-Type wheels (I'm raiding a 1986 T-Type I bought years ago then gave to a friend whose parents ran it into the ground then let it rot on their land. Why do people who abandon cars on their property "for later use" ALWAYS leave the windows open?!) Only thing missing on those: ONE of the center caps featuring the tri-shield logo. Gotta find that.
9. Clean and polish the newer wheels.
10. Purchase and install new, larger tires, hopefully with white lettering, and get them on the wheels and on the car.
11. Have the lower body Plasti-Dipped charcoal, and MAYBE dip the top white or burgundy.

Wow. That sounds like a lot of work. Maybe I'll just park it in a field somewhere...

I'll update as VISIBLE changes are made...

Oh - and the manual transmission on the T-Type is supposed to be good, according to my friend's dad, and he bought a transfer case for the car that he never installed. I promised to mention that on here. He'd like $100 minimum for each. Let me know if you're interested in that or anything else. I've stripped mostly body trim off it and the wheels.

And now this important Skyhawk update from 1983 (and, OUCH, look at the trim falling off a NEW Skyhawk in GM promo film starting at 10:50...): http://testdrivejunkie.com/1983-buick-skyhawk-manufacturer-promo/
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Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Monday, March 16, 2015 9:34 PM
I think your approach is fine.As it is your soley making a model you have more like a model you wanted minus the features yours does not have.I am a oem stock guy and keep pretty much everything as is.The only item not stock is my radio and speakers.If you need some assistance on things just ask before making a bigger issue!!! If you were closer I could very easily go thru the car for you and check the to do's.Long day and keeping my rambles short as I am off wed-fri when I am well more alert.I'd bet your struts and shocks need replacing.On that note I suggest monroes sensa trac shocks and struts for a superb ride.I would def check the rear spring perches (under the rubber boot) inside the springs for any break down of the perches.This does happen and is a EASY fix.I am stopping for now as I can get out of hand.R

Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 5:59 AM
Well this is a good day for me...it means I'm no longer the worst wrencher here!

Not being mean Hugh, just bustin a little.

Glad to see you got a nice looking one there, nice you have plans to make it your own. You should look into your community college for automotive courses to learn some basics. Changing spark plugs is not difficult and it will save you tons from the mechanic. My mechanic is good at either fixing what I mess up, or at least nice about taking a look to make sure I did things right. Shocks are another easy one, but I wouldn't recommend doing struts yourself until you are more confidant in your ability or have some great friends there with good ability to help you (that's what I did and still had to pay the mechanic to sort of finish it off for me). But I sure learned a lot.

Stay on this board and post your questions in the forum instead of a PM so you get everyone's knowledge.

Keep in mind, some of us had our cars for many years and are still working on them. With any car project, it's a journey with a destination you will likely never reach, but it sure is fun to try.
Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 2:48 PM
Thanks, guys. I'll have the mechanic check out the springs and shocks.

Looks like I can get the roof rust, driver door rust and a spot of rust on the passenger side cleaned up and re-painted for $650, so I think I'll do it.

Hope to go get and clean up the 86 T-Type wheels this Friday.
Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 7:14 PM
Once again that is a nice example of an original Hawk. Your plan sounds like a nice upgrade. I'm sure a lot of us on here will keep an eye out for the t type stuff for you. Sometimes it takes years to accumulate the the parts needed to complete a project. I'm always looking for parts for mine.. I have been running an ad on CL looking for 1st gen parts for years and have come across some good cars and parts. Plus post some pics of the 86 parts car sitting in it's final resting place.

Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 4:56 AM
Real Nice Hawk Hugh!! :-)

Not trying to scare you, but I see that top has orange peeled heavily in your photo. The whole top will have to be sanded down and resprayed. I am guessing the hood and deck lid are probably in the same shape too.I too let my wagon get to that stage and it has been a rough ride ever since. I have continued to have issues with the paint peeling off on the top. I do stay on it and sand and repaint as soon as I see trouble .Of course I am not an expert and do the best I know how to get by. I guess part of my troubles comes from the lack of acid etch primer. Still I have managed to keep the wagon going since 2002 so I can contribute that if you keep at it they will stay servicible. Keeping it covered with a car cover and tarp really helps in this department.

Hopefully someone with far better knowledge and abilities can lend you some advice. Just want you to be aware that there is a possibility that 18 months after you get it repainted you might see problems again.


Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 9:33 AM
Thanks Orlen and 84conv. You know, it's odd but the trunk and hood aren't showing any signs of rust. I did notice that there's a little gap between the window rubber at the upper drivers side of the front window, and I'm wondering if moisture got into the roof that way.

A body guy I know who did a nice job a few years ago in identifying, removing and painting the rusted areas on a Reatta I owned says he can get rid of the roof rust, a spot of rust on the driver's door and a spot of rust on the passenger reear fender for $650. He said he'd actually have to remove part of the roof.

SO - we'll see. I'm the guy who has to pay someone else to do EVERY little thing...

And the car is currently in with a very trusted mechanic for a thorough inspection, fluid changes and any and all else it might need.

I just bought the one center cap I'm missing for the 86 T-Type wheels. I plan to go get those Friday from the rust field. The center caps are the tri-shields in black on a silver background, surrounded by a black cap. I negotiated the guy on Ebay down to $26 for that.
Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 1:05 PM
I think you need to start with something small to get going on doing some of your own work. Pick something you want to do and give it a shot. If it doesn't work out, you can then pay someone to fix your mistakes.

While I wouldn't suggest something that could overall kill the car, most small projects, like spark plugs, won't kill it. You might make it run bad for a short time until the mechanic fixes it; but you won't kill it. Take a picture of the wires before you start, and while doing it, only do one wire at a time. Heck, I crossthreaded a plug and this caused it to slowly loosen and remove itself from its place just enough to cause issues. I had no idea what was wrong and while maybe I should've looked at the plug, everyone here was helping to figure out why I had a backfire every random once in a while. While doing the timing belt with a mechanic friend, he saw the plug sticking out. He re-threaded the hole and I've been problem free since. See, car not dead, even though I screwed up.

This is an old car, and there will always be something to deal with. No need for it to bleed your wallet dry.
Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 8:35 PM
Ditto Wayne

I have thoroughly enjoyed the experiences I've had working on, and getting to know my J's over the years. Most everything is daunting in the beginning - but every result provides added confidence and learning. We are all still learning , by the way! I have to replace a head gasket on the '94 myself, and am not the most enthusiastic right now - but I am determined and confidant I will get it done. The painting was very nerve racking in the beginning, but now it is almost like doing a real good wax job mentally nowadays.

Start simple - air filter change , later tackle an oil change, and so on. You have the hard part behind you now - acquiring your very own J-Body. May you have many rewarding years and miles!!


Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Thursday, March 19, 2015 11:06 AM
Orlen, don't worry about the head gasket. Did my mother - laws back about 11 years ago (94 Cavalier 2.2). Basic remove and replace.

Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Friday, March 20, 2015 1:13 PM
i know pictures can be decieving but that hawk looks great. that engine bay looks pretty dam nice and with a little cleaning will look spectacular. you already might have the best skyhawk on the planet and with that kind of budget you most certainly could. i think we would all like to see some more pics, how about the undercarriage and more of that interior. i dont think you are going to need to spend almost another 5 grand on her. you will probably have enough left over to buy another decent condition j-body!

Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Friday, March 20, 2015 4:01 PM
Thanks, John.

WELL... glad I had a big budget. Got a call from the mechanic - and I trust this guy totally - and to get EVERYTHING done, even stuff that you could wait to break or live with it broke, AND all fluids and filters, hoses and whatnot, will come out to...


Oof! HALF of that was replacing a rear oil seal (?). He said as a NEW model - turns out this is really a 1983 Skyhawk - GM put in a system that really stank. To get it out, you have to remove the engine and transmission or something. He is then going to put in the one they began to use the year after - in 1984 - which is much easier and cheaper to change out. He said the car was leaking oil at a worrisome rate on the road and that he really felt this was necessary, and again, I do trust this guy completely and he knows that I'm going for a full-on restoration rather than just keeping it running and legal.

I'll eventually list everything he's doing to it here (so you do-it-yourselfers can feel even better about doing it yourself), but glancing over the list I scribbled down on a popcorn box in my car on the cell today, the repairs/upgrades include:

A new wire for the motor fan
Fuel filter
A rotor of some kind
Transmission fluid flush and replace
Hood strut
Some work on the rear tail light wiring system
Brake work
AC work
Coolant replace
New sparkplugs
Oil change and filter
New front plate holder (required in MO. It's a Kansas car, so it didn't have one)
Inside rear view mirror
Driver's side exterior mirror
Parking cable
Centering of the steering wheel.

This will take a week and a half.

After that:

$650 for rust removal, repair and paint.


Four new tires on 86 Skyhawk wheels. Cost estimate: $750.


Interior, exterior, engine compartment detailing. $325.


Lower body charcoal color, black bezels and black grill for that T-Type look. I have the black stuff. The plasti-dip charcoal should be about $200.

I have ordered and received today heavy-duty floor mats and that company that makes car bras (can remember the name - Car Craft?) is CUSTOM-making a dash protector for the darn thing. That'll all go on last. Total for those: $100.

Then I better get some use out of the darn thing as I'll have the only all-new, $8,000 1983 Skyhawk in the country.

Maybe I can get a grant...
Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Friday, March 20, 2015 8:09 PM
Spending money updating the car is well worth it at the end.I have no idea what amount I have spent on mine and ME doing all of the work.I think if I took my car to a dealer they would have that what is that?What can we do? I am not sure we have a out of date mechanic who remembers how to check and fix those anymore.Reason why I do all my own work and while the guy you use seems to have a pretty good direction and understanding of our dated rides!! Continue on there.

Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Saturday, March 21, 2015 4:53 AM
I might advise caution regarding the transaxle flush - some have reported on here having the clutches slip and eventually burn out after changing the fluid. I know it is a very common procedure on modern vehicles but they were made a lot differently back in the day with different clutch and band materials, plus they don't make the venerable Dexron II transmission fluid no more. It is kinda like tossing a coin on that one. I've tended to be on the cautious side and leave mine in there for now, till at least I get a spare transaxle just in case the worst happens. Every J Owner has their own ideas on that though.

To ease your cost pains I will copy a very recent rant my cousin posted on facebook - of course I will delete the names out of respect. These old cars when fixed up are very dependable and easy to work on!! Not like the new stuff..... :

" #1 One problem after another with my hunk of junk Toyota Rav 4. It has tons of room and LOTS of power but the rest of the car is CRAP!!! Bought it new 2010 and we have replaced the shocks, and now need new struts, the radio is possessed, paint chipping off, it throws you all over the car, bouncing worse than a beat up pulp wood truck! Battery died after only 2 years!!!! Whatever the hell a boot is, it's broken. This pile of crap is only 4 years old!!!!!! I should have bought the Honda Passport or the Nissan Murano I wanted. It's been one headache after another since I bought this @!#$ty car 4 years ago!! What really sucks is I'm stuck with it. Can't afford to get a new one
feeling aggravated.

#2 My radio in my versa is also possessed, lol

#1 does it randomly spit out cd's when you try to change the stations, get all these little Chinese looking symbols on it, won't let you cut it off ? It's even worse when it's really cold or really hot.

#2 Won't let me change stations or cut off. Screen stays blank and when it does come on the clock freezes

#1 Drives you nuts! "

And also you you don't have to worry about being upside down in equity - stuck in a car payment with a bad ride you cannot trade out of!!


Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Saturday, March 21, 2015 5:19 AM
You're spending it all at once, we've all spent it over time...

In the 6 1/2 years I've had my Hawk, I've spent $18,030.29; but that does include everything: gas, insurance, etc. However, that's only 40.3 cents per mile, very comparable to any other car including a new one. If I drove it more, that cost per mile would be less, so that number really shouldn't be used compared to a daily driver.

I spent $1400 on the car, I just spent $800 on rims/tires, I spent $2000 on the quarter panels, I don't know what I'll be spending on the paint job.

Since you've brought up this dip thing for paint, I'm wondering what that's like. I hear it's popular in the south, but wonder if it would hold up to the winters in the north. How long does it last?

I've also heard it doesn't fix anything on the body, it just covers it up, and can also be peeled off. What happens to the car when it's peeled off; and how does it get peeled off?
Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Saturday, March 21, 2015 7:11 AM

You are on par with me. Mine was $3200 back in 1990. Including that, I have $18,929.89 in it. It still needs a top, ac re-install, and passenger side drive shaft/seal so I am not done yet.

It is priceless at car shows now. FINALLY starting to get appreciated.

Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Saturday, March 21, 2015 7:47 PM
Thanks for putting it all in perspective, guys!

Got the wheels off of the 86 and bought the missing center cap. Had a tire shop remove and dispose of the tires, so I'll be doing a lot of cleaning and polishing tomorrow, and the tire guy said they'll still need to super buff it on a machine to make sure nothing gets in under the tires.

As per Plasti-Dip, it doesn't help or hurt the paint under it, supposedly - it's just a less expensive way to change your car's (or rims) color. You can just peel it off with your hands. Here's a website and if you scroll down, a video: https://www.dipyourcar.com/

Oh, Ron - I know what you mean about dealerships. I went to one looking for parts for a previous Skyhawk, and the parts guy was looking on his computer to see what GM dealers had various parts left for it on their shelves, and after a few minutes he said: "I have to get back to work! I don't have time for this!" Oh, funny - I thought I WAS a customer. And they were so stunned at the site of a Skyhawk - this was 10 years ago - that various mechanics and sales men wandered out and brought up their fond memories, but it didn't instill confidence. My mechanic friend is used to my nutty restore projects. He understands that I want as much done now as possible, with as high a quality as I can get.

Oh. Orlen - I'll ask about those flush concerns.

I've included some pics of the JUNKED T-type (it's NOT the one I'm trying to restore). Warning - not for weak stomachs! I think I've pulled everything off it I want. Do you all think I need to pull the glass, too? Anything I'm overlooking? See anything you all MUST have? Let me know!
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Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Saturday, March 21, 2015 8:41 PM
Pull EVERYTHING. I'm Not kidding. If anything ever happens to yours, good luck finding parts.

I Have spares of every piece of glass, doors, fenders, trunk and hood. Ive been looking for another nose and rear bumper.
Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Saturday, March 21, 2015 8:44 PM
Get the plastic under the hood as well. Overflow bottle, pisser bottle, power steering fluid bottle.
Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Saturday, March 21, 2015 8:56 PM
Agree with Wayne.... Pull EVERYTHING and send the shell to to scrap yard. Especially the 5 speed trans and all associated parts.

Don't let the T-type end up like this....

Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Saturday, March 21, 2015 10:22 PM
84conv - you mean don't let it go to the junk yard with plenty left to lift?

I think I will take the hood and any plastic I can find under the hood... Maybe the plastic strip around the body... Tail light... How DO I get the tail light off? I undid the screws on "top" of it and the plastic screws inside the trunk, but they don't budge...

Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Saturday, March 21, 2015 11:00 PM
Hugh for example the things I have.I have a spare 2.0 complete engine everything and a 4spd manual trans.I have the entire engine bay harness IN tact and hood props, washer bottle,coolant tank overflow.I have a spare trunklid, complete rear tail lights,plastic liners for the fenders,extra tbi,front and rear seats and buckles.I could spend 30 minutes with my list.In short work on one area of the car at a time.Take anything you can't go buy or even find today and that includes ALL the hardware and label everything in zip lock bags.Take everything in the interior maybe except the carpet if it is toast.Get the headliner too it can be recovered.Take the doors if not rusted beyond true metal repair.Remove the side windows,(leave the door glass in the doors if you keep the doors).The rear glass is a real pain as I tried last year to save one with a true re defogger and my gah the glue holding it was crazy.I almost had it out and then on almost my last cut thru the sealant and lifting it shattered(ERRRRRRR).Just save everything that can be unbolted and placed in a good dry place out of the weather and keep it.The only thing left should be the body hull minus all the good stuff.Take the entire front clip off nose,and all backing metal it bolts too.Same for the rear bumper cover.I know I left off somethings but so you see pretty much a rolling body with nothing on it period.

Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Saturday, March 21, 2015 11:25 PM
http://www.j-body.org/forums/read.php?f=28&i=12204&t=12204 Just go page by page and check the pics I still have up and you can see the items of importance.I have parts from various j bodies but,this should give you some insight.Page 10 I think has where I removed literally a entire dash just to get 1 item a instrument cluster out of a 87 Skyhawk.I have a video on photobucket and it does still work.I save everything and I recently this year gobbled up a crap load of sunbird parts for orlen and have all the screws,bolts,nuts for all the items I have from the parts he wanted.Idk if you checked my post on the parts thread but,it takes some time if you read every post,I just look at the pics for reference now.Oh keep the fenders too!!!! One more thought even though I am tired as idk what after a 12hr day.R

Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Sunday, March 22, 2015 9:51 AM
Thanks, Ron and everyone. Wow - this is quite an education for me. I thought I was something else for holding on to three center caps!

I can't believe I'm so mechanically inept as to not even be able to take PARTS off an old car. I've had my friend who owns the field the car is in do most of the work, but I paid him $500 for it, so he should (and I GAVE him that car and expected payment that never arrived!).

I'm going to get the radio next.

I'm curious - do you all have a good online resource for searching salvage yards? I find one where you sort of email what you need and they run it by various yards, but I wonder if there's anything online that shows who has a Skyhawk handy.

It's almost tempting to buy a second, fully or mostly functioning Skyhawk and raid it continually.
Re: Upgrading an '84 'Hawk to the T-Type look
Sunday, March 22, 2015 10:14 AM
ummm, does that t-type still have its turbo hiding under there? I am seeing oil lines and what looks like the tip of the charged air pipe. You want that and the exhaust manifold for sure.

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