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Old 09-05-2006, 04:50 PM
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It's all in the details...

Its all in the details when building a car
Often times there are cars that catch our eyes, and as we give them the once over there are a few items that nag us, donít look right, or just look awkward on the car. Little things such as battery placement or pitted chrome can often ruin a whole car and wont gain the builder and the car the respect it should. Looking at the Monte thread started by Shnitz and observing some of the replies I got to think about that when building a hot rods, its not the big picture that counts, but all the little details that make up the big picture. One often wonders why the builder didnít take a little bit more time spending to fix some things. One hour of remounting the headlights at a better position on an early rod doesnít cost anything and can make a huge impact on the overall look of the car. Here are a few things that often bother me when looking at quality built cars where the owner didnít put in the extra effortÖ

-Battery Placement; you might wonder why this is such a big issue. Well in a lot of cases it isnít, but in those that it is it makes a world of a difference whether the battery is mounted under the hood or in the trunk. Batteries usually look right at home under the hood of a 60ís muscle car or a 50ís daily driver, but when building an early rod like a T bucket, Model A, Deuce or anything from the 30ís and 40ís, the batter looks clunky and out of place. The main focus in an engine compartment should be the engine (its called engine compartment not battery compartment). In early cars there wasnít a whole lot of space to begin with under the hood, and the engines residing in there were usually smaller or narrower than the V8 blocks rodders shove in them now. Placing the battery in the engine compartment draws a lot of attention to the big black plastic brick with red caps on top. You sacrifice a clean simple look by mounting your battery there. Hoodless cars or cars with no hoodsides should definitely place their batteries in the trunk. You can easily loose a few thousand dollars in resale value if placing the battery beside the engine. By mounting the battery under your floorboards or in the trunk you get better weight distribution, and its still just as easily to access. It doesnít cost a whole bunch of money to move your battery to a hidden spot, but itíll sure cost you a lot more money if you donít (when its time to sell).

-Headlight placement; this particular one only pertains to early rods where the headlights were not moulded into the body already. If you have a rod with a suicide front end or a simple spring-over-axel straight axel up front, and if you hopefully painted or chromed the spring/axel/drums you want to show it off a little. Thereís nothing cooler than a clean mean looking front end (after all, thatís what the people will see in their rear-view mirrors before you blow by them). By placing the headlights low you bring the attention towards your slick looking axel setup. The trick here is, not too low, not too high. I saw a model A coupe with the headlights practically scraping the ground, as they were mounted ON the axel. Obviously going that route is nothing short of radical and you might look like a fool. Some people mount their headlights way high, so that they almost level off with the top of their grille shell. This looks rather goofy unless youíre building a 4x4 with plenty of fog lights and high beam headlights. Headlights look the best mounted between the bottom of the grille shell and the middle of the grille shell. Play around a little before you make your headlight brackets, get someone to hold them on at different heights before you settle on the look youíre after. And even if you change your mind after theyíre all mounted, building new brackets is just a matter or shortening the ones you have or making new ones out of scrap steel. Spending one hour more redoing the headlights can completely change the look of your car and keep your resale value.

-Grille Shell placement; this is a tough one. From what Iíve seen, grille shells look best if theyíre mounted no further out than your front axel. This one only applies to early rods once again. Iíve seen model Aís with the shell mounted a good 4 inches further out than the axe. It looks like you slammed on the front brakes so hard that the whole car shifter forwards on the frame and your axel stayed behind. Flashy 80ís T-buckets had a problem with this one. Their suicide front end was so far out and their engine stayed back, that they mounted their radiator close to the engine, or halfway between engine and axel. The close to the engine look worked fine, while the other look ended up kind of goofy. The radiator hose was usually rather long to reach the engine far back and the grille shell looks out of place and lonely. People have tried sitting Model Aís and Tís on S10 frames, ending up with the grille shell way out past the wheels. Can you say ugly? However, if independent front suspension is used, or an Indy car style setup is made, the grille shell should be place right in front of the wheel centerline to hide the whole mess.
Another important aspect of mounting the shell is the height. The top of the shell should be no higher than the highest point on your cowl (usually in the center). Either by sectioning the shell or simply mounting it lower, a very goofy look can be avoided. Again, sectioning costs free and it isnít too hard to do. Neither is mounting it lower and making new brackets.

-Messy Wiring; Iíve seen many nice rods where I have been impressed with until I looked at the interior and saw wires hanging down from underneath the dash. This gives the impression that the job was rushed and not very well thought out, and it practically ruins the whole flow of the interior. And guess what, it costs nothing to fix. Organizing the wiring or using tape to aid in running the wires along the body rather than from the controls directly through the firewall with 3 feet of slack in between takes very little time but will save you lots of nasty comments from fellow rodders and lots of money when it comes to resale.

-Unorganized Plug wires; I cant believe how many times Iíve seen a nice car with a total mess under the hood when it came to the plug wires. It really only takes 5 minutes and a few bucks to buy one of them fancy plug wire holder that bolts on with your valve cover and keep the wires running straight to their plug. And if you cant afford that, even zip ties will do. Anything but 8 wires laying all over your engine that you spent so much time rebuilding and painting that youíd like to show off.
-Mismatched steering wheels; Seems like lately Iíve seen a lot of cars with modern steering columns stolen out of 80ís vans and cars. This is fine and dandy, however many people keep the steering wheels that came on them. Definitely a smack in the face when admiring a nicely built rod. A new steering wheel runs for about $60, or even cheaper if you get a simple 3 spoke design, which is still a heck of a lot classier and better than a cheesy 80ís wheel. Also, when picking a steering wheel make sure if fits the car you built. If the car is rather simple with not a lot of billet or flash appeal, of built with a very traditional flare, then the original steering wheel painted to match the body color will do just fine, rather than getting a billet flame cut-out wheel. Remember, you want to keep your hot rod flowing with one theme, youíre not building a Zoo with lots of different breeds. Keep one theme throughout the car and try to keep a consistent flow. Often times something such small as a steering wheel can ruin the flow.

-Modern stereos; theyíre handy when building a hot rod, specially when built for everyday driving or long cruises. However, CD players, modern radios, or satellite radio devices are often incorporated in anything but a smooth fashion. Sometimes a bulky new stereo will stick out from a nicely painted dashboard, and totally ruin the nice flow of the dash board. Newer stereos often have funky bright colours on display and just donít look right in an old time hot rod. There are plenty ways of mounting these stereos while still keeping the hot rod feel to the car, and not look like a goofy Lincoln with all the bells and whistles (unless thatís what youíre going for). Mounting the stereo in the glove box is a great idea, or getting an under-dash Stereo bracket for $5 works great too. This way you donít have to cut up the vintage dashboard and its not in plain sight as much. Some people have mounted them under their seat, using the remote controller that comes with many new stereos to change tracks, volume etc. Others have frenched them into the dashboard with a neat panel covering them that can be flipped up to access the stereo. Some have mounted them overhead on the headliner (by fabbing up a console of some sort), this works nicely too. Some old cars have a ďgrilleĒ on the dashboard too, or a heater grill as well. Modern speakers can be hidden behind these, as well as behind the seat in a coupe or truck cab, and even behind the kick panels or door panels. Too much new flash doesnít look right on a hot rod. Again, mounting a stereo in a different position doesnít cost too much money (if any) or time, and itíll sure help when it comes to reselling your creation.

-Wheel Backspacing; I know what youíre thinking, minimal detail right? Many cars have the wrong backspacing, and it shows. It makes the whole car look off somehow. Ordering the right backspacing costs just as much as ordering the wrong one. There should be no excuse for this one.


Itís all in the details when selling a car
No matter how awesome or mind blowing, or ingenious your car is, it wont sell for the amount it should if you donít put your part in. Hereís a few details sellers often overlookÖ

-Polishing; go the extra mile and polish all your chrome and wheels on your rod before you have a potential seller take a look at it, or before taking pictures for an add. This is not cheating, just freshening up the car. Youíre not hiding anything.

-Washing; same as above. Wash your car before you put it on the market. You wanna show your best.

-Take lots of pictures; and by that I mean LOTS. Pay the extra fee on eBay for additional pictures and give the buyer details. At least one clear shot of the front, back, interior, side, engine, trunk and underside should be provided. In addition to that, any more close-ups of parts used and neat features will go a long way when selling a car.

-Be Honest; honesty is always the best policy. If you have rust spots, state them and take close-up pictures. If you have leaks, do the same. Provide the buyer with receipts of repair or build materials/parts. If you lie in your add, and then someone comes to check out your car and notices that your add played up your car to be something its not, heíll more than likely leave even though he likes your car. If you like about small things like ďcar has no rustĒ, who knows if youíre lying about the inner components of your engine and the tranny rebuild.

-Stick to the important stuff when placing an add. Nobody cares if you used a high-nickel content block, or if you used Summit Chrome accessories. The pictures will tell them that the engine has chrome valve covers and a chrome air cleaner. Rather, state the important parts that make up your car. Nobody cares what brand the aftermarket headliner is, or what kind of shift knob it has. If you have to rely on the valve covers and shifter to save your butt, donít expect too much $$$.


Now I mightíve missed lots of things, but these are my thoughts and observations. Obviously this doesnít apply to every car or rod. I'm not saying thatís the way you should build it. I'm saying build it the way you want to, but donít complain when it doesnít bring in as much money as it cost to build. These are all very little details that cost little (if any at all) money and time and make or break your rod. Feel free to correct me, as anything is relative and subjective. These are mere thoughts and observations, and nothingís set in stone.


Mike

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Last edited by Nightfire; 09-05-2006 at 10:06 PM.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 09-05-2006, 05:47 PM
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Mike, you are wise beyond cboy's years. I tip my hat. You have stated everything I've ever thought about any and all show cars, with one minor exception. I've always tried to make a "quick view" tour at shows, make a mental note of ones that interested me so I could return later for a better look, and then look try to see the rest of the tour of art. On those return trips, I really enjoy seeing those minor things that I missed on the same car that tripped my interest earlier.

Sometimes it's a bad thing that I notice (cracks in cowl paint or overspray on the backside of chrome trim), sometimes it's a pleasant treat (a modern HEI under a faded-out look-alike points cap or a hidden nitrous system). I just love looking at the same car a half dozen times and noticing some small detail that I've missed along the way on a subsequent visit. A clean firewall with a hidden cove for the retractable wipers (wish I'd gotten a pic ), and a TPI 'Vette engine in a late 60's Chevy truck were just two such examples. The truck had just mint paint, and I just wanted a second look. On the third trip, I noticed the 'Vette axle setup. Too much to see unless you step back and look again.

BTW, the exhaust on that Monte exited all wrong for me. I would've personally run it to exit about foot back of the rear wheels on each side at about a 45* angle. That was the only real "miss" on the build of that car for me.


In a while, Chet.



In a while, Chet.
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Old 09-05-2006, 07:19 PM
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I especially agree with the plug wires and electrical wiring part. That part is probably the hardest to get right and the easiest to neglect just because you can't see it when the hood is closed. And just because it's tucked under the dash doesn't mean it's safe and correct either... I hate having to wire something, very time consuming. As far as battery placement in OLDer cars goes, I think it would depend what you're doing with the car. If you're taking a Model A and sticking a modern engine in it then yes the battery would look out of place. But if you're using the original engine and other original equipment under the hood then I think the CORRECT battery would be right at home and be out of place if it weren't there. Now if it were a cheap NAPA battery then it would look out of place.

Well said...
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Old 09-05-2006, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by schnitz
Mike, you are wise beyond cboy's years.
Mike's grasp of this hobby is downright scary at times. And I'd be the first to admint I've learned a great deal from reading his posts and learning from his youthful outlook. I tip MY hat as well.

P.S. to schnitz - I may be old, but I believe I STILL have more hair than you!!!!
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Old 09-05-2006, 10:21 PM
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Something that has always bugged me about wiring is the practice of pulling everything together into one big, miscellaneous bundle. That big wad then snakes around with branches forking off as needed. Open it up and it's just an unorganized rainbow of wires. There are logical groups, so why not organize them that way?
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Old 09-06-2006, 02:12 AM
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Quote:
Another important aspect of mounting the shell is the height. The top of the shell should be no higher than the highest point on your cowl (usually in the center).
Maybe your wording was not descriptive enough for me, but
I can't even imagine what that would look like if the grill was leveled with the center of the cowl.

Unless you want your hood to look sway back, you want the top of grill to be level with the forward edge of the cowl, at the hood/cowl junction, or lower. The sloping angle of the cowl AND the theme of the car sometimes will dictate a lower grill shell position.

The messy wiring thing- I'll bet that alot of guys wire their own cars so they can say they did it themselves. That the car starts and the lights work is what is important to them. The resale value isn't considered. The electricity finds its way, whether the wires are routed like the space shuttle or a scrap bin. It doesn't make it easy for YOU to find the wire you may want, but if I wired the car over a period of several years as I added electrical components, I would know where each and every wire started and ended. I was always one to say that "form followed function". That is if it works, it looks good.

Most guys who buy a harness don't do as I do though. When I wire a car in my shop the harness gets bundled and routed with branches leaving the main bundle as necessary. some of the aftermarket "pre wired" fuse blocks give you no choice in the matter. Use an American Auto Rewire kit sometime. those things have stupid connectors so you can do your wiring job in "modules". The factory puts them in the dumbest places. I have to bust open the main harness and spend time to make a Painless harness look good also. The factory branches are put in some strange places.

Headlights are like hair, some wear them up, some wear them down. It is a personality thing.


I think that unless the car is unsafe, all those little "details" that can nag a picky guy are ok. They all tell a story, like a scar on someones cheek or a crooked finger. I have a small blob of mayonaisse on the inside of the window of my old yeller ford truck that I will never wash off. (at this point I can't, it is petrified) It has been there since 1989. There is a story and a memory behind it. If you saw it, all you would see is what you percieve to be a lack of pride, not anything sentimental.

Those little scrapes and mishaps and mismatched parts and poorly executed fabrications are part of what gives a car character, and hints of its soul. I think of it like hand writing. You can tell alot from the way a person builds a car as well as his writing. (sometimes I will disqualify a prospective customer partially by the way he writes and dresses and the way he keeps his car) Neat freaks and O.C.D. sufferers need not apply.

I would agree with you also that if I were selling a car that I should make things appeal to a prospective buyer, by washing and tidying up wires etc.

But not every car has to have all of its parts laid out just so in order for it to be fun for the owner.
I personally will probably never build something with the intention to sell it. I still have my first car. Bulding cars to sell with the highest resale value has always seemed a contradiction. You rarely get your labor money out of a car that you build to suit yourself.

I would also reconsider some of the details that you would list in an ad. A high nickel block is somewhat rare and desirable. I'd include something like that in my description. Pictures can't tell the whole story.

I will say that you seem to be steadfast in your opinions. And fairly astute at observation .
As you get older you will accumulate the working knowledge to back your opinions up as good ones.
Don't take this post as a bash, It's just me voicing my opinions..

Later, mikey
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Old 09-06-2006, 07:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by powerrodsmike
......I have a small blob of mayonaisse on the inside of the window of my old yeller ford truck that I will never wash off.......
Later, mikey

mayo my hiney.....
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Old 09-06-2006, 07:30 AM
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Well,........ whatever the origin that material may have, it adds character to that ol yeller truck.

Later, mikey
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Old 09-06-2006, 08:20 AM
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"Now I mightíve missed lots of things, but these are my thoughts and observations. Obviously this doesnít apply to every car or rod. I'm not saying thatís the way you should build it. I'm saying build it the way you want to, but donít complain when it doesnít bring in as much money as it cost to build. These are all very little details that cost little (if any at all) money and time and make or break your rod. Feel free to correct me, as anything is relative and subjective. These are mere thoughts and observations, and nothingís set in stone."

Mike, you are brilliant well beyond your years. What you have done here is laid out the difference between the "nice" car and the "outstanding" car. The difference between what the big boys do (and get noticed with) and what the home builder does, and money has very little to do with it. Some of it is simply having the "eye", I am sorry, few of us will every see like Bill Mitchell did (the designer of the 63 Vette) but we can at the very least stop and spend some time to look at what we are doing and see if there is a more pleasing way to do it.

At the very least, temporaraly mount the headlamps, axle location, rad shell, windshield or what ever, roll the car outside and take a look to get a good idea if it is "saying" all it can. Move them a little and take another look. This is FREE guys. Adding chrome, zillion dollar wheels or motors doesn't do magic, it takes DETAIL to set a car apart.

Funny you should post this I have a "Basics" of detailing in the works that I started a year or so ago and stuck aside. It truely is the difference between making just a car and making a stand out work of art.

VERY VERY good stuff Mike,

Brian
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Old 09-06-2006, 08:40 AM
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Nightfire -- will you consider adding this to the wiki? Here's a link: Our Wiki.
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Old 09-06-2006, 09:05 AM
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Great thread mike.

I've always thought of hotrods as nicely done cars with conservative styling... the beauty in the simplicity. What do you think Mike?

K
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Old 09-06-2006, 06:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by powerrodsmike
But not every car has to have all of its parts laid out just so in order for it to be fun for the owner.
I personally will probably never build something with the intention to sell it. I still have my first car. Bulding cars to sell with the highest resale value has always seemed a contradiction. You rarely get your labor money out of a car that you build to suit yourself.
Knowing and deliberately breaking the rules is what adds character, just like poets and songwriters do with language. One person might think, 'it stops and steers, I just want to make it ~go~ better' while another might agonize over what color wire loom to use.

During all of my commuting years, I didn't care what the body looked like. Couldn't see it when driving, anyway. Now I want to build one with attention to details that I've complained about manufacturers ignoring.
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Old 09-06-2006, 06:43 PM
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Powerods, I understand what you mean and I didnt take it as a bashing. If you want your car to pop, to be great and not good, then some of the details I've pionted out should definitely be taken into consideration. Going through old and new rodding mags, I have yet to find a feature car that wears the headlights higher than halfway up the shell. Im sure there's plenty good looking cars that wear them up, but specially on model A's and T's and early tubs I think it looks rather goofy. Like I said, at the end of the day it only comes down to what you like or dont. Dont build it for others, but for yourself. Dont complain though when another car that has just as much work and money put into as yours gets way more money at resale then yours. Chances are it'll have put way more thought into simple detail.


Quote:
Originally Posted by killerformula
I've always thought of hotrods as nicely done cars with conservative styling... the beauty in the simplicity.
I totally agree with you. The nicest rods you'll see are built simple, not cluttered or "busy" and they'll have a flow from bumper to bumper. Many people rely on adding tons of bling and accesories to make their ride stand out, and if thats the case you're at a bad spot to be. Keep things simple, use the KISS method (keep it simple stupid).

Jon, I will add this to the wiki as soon as I have enough time.

Mike
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Old 09-06-2006, 06:45 PM
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[QUOTE=grouch]Knowing and deliberately breaking the rules is what adds character, just like poets and songwriters do with language. One person might think, 'it stops and steers, I just want to make it ~go~ better' while another might agonize over what color wire loom to use.

QUOTE]

Disregarding the "Rules" is what made this hobby great.


Without deviaton from the norm, progress is impossible.
Frank Zappa.

Later. mikey

Edit:
Quote:
. Dont complain though when another car that has just as much work and money put into as yours gets way more money at resale then yours.
It's not about money.
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Old 09-06-2006, 07:02 PM
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[QUOTE=powerrodsmike]
Quote:
Originally Posted by grouch
Knowing and deliberately breaking the rules is what adds character, just like poets and songwriters do with language. One person might think, 'it stops and steers, I just want to make it ~go~ better' while another might agonize over what color wire loom to use.

QUOTE]

Disregarding the "Rules" is what made this hobby great.


Without deviaton from the norm, progress is impossible.
Frank Zappa.

Later. mikey

Edit:

It's not about money.
Mikey...you and Grouch nailed it! And like Mikey...Re-sale value has never entered my mind. And Nightfire your right attention to detail is the name of the game....most of the time it does not cost much either....just a little sweat.

Last edited by Henry Highrise; 09-06-2006 at 07:08 PM.
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