Camaro Woes

Posted in Motoring by AST on Saturday, May 28th, 2005

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Camaro SSYesterday, my car was due to take the Irish National Car Test (NCT). Prior to this, my friend Aidan and I changed the front & rear brake pads (I hadn’t done this before, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t mess it up), fuel filter, added some power steering fluid, changed the oil & filter, replaced the air filter and rotated the tires. I had been a little lax keeping the service up to date, and I didn’t want it to fail for mechanical reasons. When I had the Yokohama AVS Sport tires installed, the guy fitting them indicated that I was ready for new brake pads. When I got them off, he was certainly correct. I had about 1/8th of an inch of rear pads and about double that on the front. Well past the wear indicators. I wasn’t sure exactly what they did to check the brakes, so I wanted to ensure I had the pads replaced and had checked the rest of the brake system beforehand.

I also had heard all kinds of horror stories about cars failing the NCT for things like headlight alignment and even number plates, so I downloaded the Irish statute for number plates and was pleased to note P20:

In the case of a vehicle which is provided with an indented space to accommodate a registration plate and the size of the space is such that it can accommodate neither a plate of the dimensions prescribed in paragraph 16(a) of this Schedule nor a plate of the dimensions prescribed in paragraph 17(a) of this Schedule, the dimensions prescribed in paragraphs 5, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16 or 17 of this Schedule may be reduced provided that the dimensions as so reduced comply as nearly as possible with the dimensions so prescribed.

I was concerned about this because I specifically had some custom plates made so they would fit in the US-spec license plate holders. Mine aren’t quite as nice as some that I’ve seen, but they do the job. At least I didn’t want to fail for something stupid. For the headlight alignment, I hadn’t ever touched them, so I figured I’d risk it.

Well, the verdict was: she failed. I was not exactly the happiest person in the world because since I’ve finally gotten the car in shape mechanically, I’m well ready to start using it again. The failures were:

  1. Front side lamps color incorrect/different
  2. Rear side lamps color incorrect/different
  3. 58% imbalance on parking brake

For #3, fair enough. I didn’t check that because I really didn’t have a way to do it. I have since called around and discovered that to have it adjusted would be between €100-200, however the diagnosis is free. I figure I can crawl under the car for €100, adjust it based on where it is now and go in for a free diagnosis to see if I’ve gotten it sorted or not. Welcome to Ireland.

So, I also learned a thing or two about the EU lighting regulations. I went looking for them, but what I found (DIRECTIVE 76/756/EEC) didn’t include the images for P3.13 which indicates the “colours of the light emitted by the lamps or reflectors.” Handy, isn’t it?

Euro Camaro rearLooking at my service manual, it is now clear that the marker lights on the US model are relocated rearward and branded “fog lights”. This is clearly shown in the following cropped photos of E. Nigell’s 2000 Euro-spec Camaro Z28. The US model has smaller marker lights and they are located at nearly the same level, but just aft of the rear wheels. According to the guy at NCT, I can just cover the ones I have and that will allow it to pass the test.

Euro Camaro frontThe front is another matter, however. According to what I was told, you can’t have any forward-facing amber lights unless they’re turn signals. They must be white. I think this is just unsafe because the whole reason they’re amber in the US is so you can tell the car isn’t moving, but who am I to argue with the EU government? This picture, again of E. Nigell’s car, shows that they’re certainly amber. I was considering getting some of the “Euro-style” clear ones instead of the stock ones because at least I could control the bulb color. The problem appears to be in the way they’re wired, though. When the parking lights are on, there’s power to the turn indicator bulbs. It’s been a long time since my EE course at Rolla, but I didn’t notice anything obvious from the wiring diagrams in the manual. It does appear that there is a different front harness for export vs. the domestic one, however.

Not really sure where to go from here, I asked Google. The NCT guy asked if I didn’t know some U.S. car clubs around. I said no. I ran into a taxi driver once who had a classic Chevy pickup and mentioned a meet, but I couldn’t go as we were headed away for holidays on the day. I haven’t been successful in searching for either of the reported two here in Ireland. So, going further afield, I found two organizations in the U.K. I sent summary requests to Andy Mc Atamney who is the technical contact for the American & Custom Car Club, Northern Ireland and Steve Shane from the Americian Auto Club International. I contacted Steve because I found a brief article about him importing a 2001 SS from the U.S.

Andy gave me the name of a place which might be able to get the export parts in the U.K., but now I’m not so sure that that will solve the problem. Steve gave me some useful looking links (haven’t checked them out yet) and mentioned that he had amber lights fitted on the front (I’m guessing for indicators) and also had a fog lamp fitted to the rear. From this, I’m guessing that the front parking lights were disconnected completely, but I’m not sure.

From a less modification/hacking point of view, I think I like the idea of the replacement lenses the best, but I’ll still need to figure out how to get around the indicator issue so they’re not on all the time. I have to figure something out pretty shortly because I only have 29 days to get it sorted and take the test again.

If anyone is seriously considering importing an American car into Ireland (especially something like a Camaro SS), you might make sure it’s really going to be worth it. There’s only one company who will insure it, so they’re pretty much able to name their price. Getting parts is a royal pain. There are options, however. I’ve been able to get basic things like oil filters pretty reasonably (if you figure in the cost + shipping from the U.S.) from Vauxhaul dealers in the North, but I haven’t tried for anything else. I bought the rest of the parts for the tune-up from an outfit in Brooklyn and had them shipped, but the shipping + VAT was nearly half the cost of the parts. If you’re in the U.K., things seem to be a bit better. I’ve seen a few classic Corvettes around town, but I haven’t managed to locate any local car clubs. Oh, and I can’t imagine what it would cost to get it serviced if you don’t do your own work. Previously, I was quoted £700 for a lube, oil and filter change at a Vauxhaul dealer. I haven’t asked them about anything else.

Still, when I get in it with the tops off and listen to the rumble from the beast, I tend to forget all of the annoying things about having it here and remember why I really do love the car. It is certainly fun to drive—even in Ireland.

UPDATE: If you’re looking for the complete NCT regulations, you can buy the “National Car Test (NCT) Manual” from the Stationary Office, download the 2004 National Car Test Manual from the Department of Transport, or you can view the 2003 criteria electronically thanks to the folks at MX-5 Ireland. also has some pretty detailed information about the NCT on their site as well. Thanks, guys! Wish I’d have seen this sooner…

The Role of Education?

Posted in Philosophy by AST on Monday, May 16th, 2005