|My pride is the truck. It is a 1940 Hudson/Chevy. The cab and frame are 40 Hudson. The hood and front fenders are one piece and tilt forward. The bed is hand-fabricated. The front suspension is early 70s GM, the rear is a ’55 Chevy with stock gears. The engine is a ’74 Chevy small block 400 with a TH350 auto-trans. Someone put a lot of time and love into it before I got it. It must have been done in the 70’s-80’s but it is not as bad as the rods of that period. The cab has bee smoothed into the Chevy hood, the bed was hand-made, the running board have meticulous drain holes. It came with a Weiand single-plane manifold, a Holley 4-barrel, and 202 heads. I love it, but it has not run for more than 20 minutes at a time since I bought it.
It seemed too good to be true when I test-drove it over a year ago. It ran pretty strong and looked pretty smooth (I don’t know much about body work, but I knew it was a Bondo-buggy, and I didn’t care). When I got it home and drove it around the block, I noticed a lot of smoke coming off the headers. The trans cooler fittings were leaking: easy fix. Trans leaking was still a problem, but I noticed that the speedo cable was disconnected, so I hooked it up. The leak went away and I got the original Hudson speedo to work. I still had a lot of oil burning off the headers. I noticed that the rear seal on the intake manifold was pushed out. This is not a hard fix, just kind of a pain in the ***. To make it worse, one of the bolts seized. I went through a lot of money on an impact wrench and air compressor (which I probably needed anyway), but the runners were too big to get an impact socket on it. I ended up drilling it off.
Then the carb started in on me. I hate Holleys and this one was a shiny (why would you make a carb shiny?) 750 Vac. Secondary that just dumped way too much fuel. I had a 650 double pumper on the shelf that I rebuilt years ago. I had it on my old Nova, and an idiot at a shop over-torquesd it and broke off a corner of the throttle plate. They charged me $60/hr. for him to destroy my carb (This is Jeff’s Automotive in New Carlisle, OH if you wondered.) Anyway I had a guy at a boat repair place that was good at welding aluminum and they fixed it. When I put it on, it was still dumping fuel, and I couldn’t get the adjustment right (did I mention that I hate Holleys). Around this time I also noticed that the intake had a leak on one of the intake runners.
I decided that as long as I was pulling the intake I would ditch the single-plane (which is for sale), since I plan to dive this thing on the street, and they aren’t so great at lower RPMs. My brothers ’71 Malibu felt a lot more powerful when he put an Edelbrock Performer RPM on his 350, so I went with one of those off ebay. When I got it I was pissed. It looked kind of bright on the listing, but I figured that the flash just washed it out. No, the guy spray-painted it. He painted an aluminum intake silver. He claimed it was a “high-temp sealing enamel” and that he had done this on several intakes that he sold and no one else had complained. My rat-rodding sensibilities were outraged. Spray-paint is for bodies, not parts. It is made of a metal that doesn’t rust, just let it look like metal. By the time I paid to get that crap sandblasted off and took shipping into account, I could have bought the intake new.
As long as I was pulling the intake, I decided to replace the carb as well. I am a fan of Cater AFBs, since I messed with muscle cars for so long. I had one on my Nova and my brother had one on his Malibu and they were both very fast cars. The unfortunate part is that I had a lot of trouble locating one. I guess Carter was bought by Federal Mogul, and they don’t make it easy to buy them. I compromised and got an Edelbrock 600 (manual choke of course). While I was at it I put in an MSD 6AL box that I ebayed a few years ago and never put in the Nova.
This car/intake swap/ignition upgrade put the truck out for a long time. When I got it done, it wouldn’t start. I ended up replacing the starter (not the problem, but I regret nothing) and the battery. Problem fixed, it ran, which caused another problem. I was a little surprised when I saw blue sparks under the dash, but I knew that the wiring job was patchy. Some of it was 60 years old and it had been converted to 12V and reworked several times. I knew it looked bad, but did not know that there wasn’t a single fuse in the whole system. When the black smoke billowed out from under the dash, I knew I was in trouble. I managed to shut it down and pull the battery terminals, but it was pretty bad. I knew that I needed to replace the electrical system at some point, but I did not know that it had to be that soon.
I spent several weeks running a whole new system. I still can’t believe how much I dropped on random pieces as I went through, but I replaced every wire, socket and bulb. It gave me a chance to make the truck mine. I ditched all the multi-switches, like ignition and headlights and put in a switch panel with several single throw switches and a push-button starter (tough). I also discovered that I really like working on it every day. It felt purposeful and it is a good way to hide from people. I did a really clean job on everything until I got to the dash. I may have gotten too excited & sloppy. I may fix it later, but maybe it is impossible, since there is so much stuff in there.
It started right up at the moment of truth (It also helped that I manually, dialed in the timing, since I screwed it up when I had the distributor out during the intake swaps. It died about 5 minutes in. It turns out the positive terminal was routed too close to a header and it grounded out. Easy fix, but it put me back another day.
After I fixed that, I noticed a new problem. At some point, the dipstick tube broke off in the block and the guy siliconed it back on. I decided to fix it right. Unfortunately this meant dropping the pan to pull the broken piece out of the block. This went OK, but I had to decide between 2 front seals for the pan. I chose right, the guy before me chose wrong, so he distorted the pan with a thicker seal. When I put it back together there was a regular drip at the front, so I had to get a new pan. I got a plain one (I need to rant about how ugly chrome is later) and painted it flat red, the accent color I chose while doing the wiring.
Putting it back on went pretty bad. I haven’t lost my temper in a long time, but I did while I was under the car, holding the pan up with my chin, and trying to start the corner bolts (the tabs were thicker than the other pan, so it was a pretty hard feat). I managed to get it back up after cursing everyone and everything I knew. There are no leaks now.
Now I am putting the seats in. They were bolted to the floor when I got it, which looks cool, but makes it impossible to see over the hood. I am raising them 4” with some steel stock, but I have been running into some snags with making them fit. I finally decided to mount them on the stock rail on the floorpan as well as the holes where they were mounted to the floor.
The first testdrive revealed some flaws in my seat placement. The seats are too high, so I have to stoop most of the time to see. I guess I need to lower them again, and the pedal is a pain. It is on the firewall, so it is easier to push with my hand than my foot.
(click photo to enlarge)