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Old 04-13-2004, 10:18 AM
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New project? Before turning a wrench, get organized!

This is going to be a bit long but it seems we have several new people that may need some help getting properly started on a building project. As we all know these projects can be difficult enough as is but success depends on getting off to a good start. What follows is not necessarily the “best” or even the “only” way, but it is one way that works pretty well and will keep you on track and organized throughout the entire process. Getting off to a good start can be summed up by the following: Planning, Organization and Execution. I’m going to talk about the first two here. The actual building process (the execution) is the result of doing the first two properly.

So you finally bought that project car. Great! But what do you do now? The first thing you need to do is come up with a plan. How do you plan to use the car? What do you want to do with it? What is the budget? Are your fabricating skills up to the task? Do you own or have access to the tools necessary to do the modifications you are thinking about? These are all questions you need to answer before you turn a single wrench.

For the purposes of this exercise we’ll assume that you purchased a late 30’s sedan and you would like to build a nice cruiser but an occasional trip to the strip is not out of the question. Lets also assume you have about $5000 to spend start to finish. This may seem like a lot but trust me, it’s definitely not much and anyone who has built a street rod can tell you this amount would be considered a shoestring budget. It means you’ll have to look for good used parts and probably won’t be able to spend a lot of money on “performance” upgrades. It also means you’ll have to do most of the work yourself. With this in mind, most of your parts will have to come from a donor car. In many cases this is the cheapest way to go simply because you can adapt the entire driveline, sometimes the suspension, and usually many other parts such as power brakes, steering column and seats. There are always loads of adds in the paper for older cars that have rusted out bodies but are still in good operating condition. A careful choice here may save you a lot of money.

Part of the planning process is research. Do a lot of it. Read everything and anything related to your build. Know what aftermarket parts are available and which vendors have a good record. Attend as many shows as you can and ask a lot of questions. Don’t always assume that something that may be popular at the moment is what’s going to be the best choice for you. Only after doing a lot of research can you decide, with confidence, on an overall plan for your project. Lets say that after reading every street rod related magazine you can lay your hands on and talking to several owners at shows that you’ve learned that most people go with a small block Chevy and TH- 350 trans in these cars, but you have never really been a “Chevy” kind of guy. Since the plan is for the occasional trip down strip and you don’t have the money to build a healthy small block, you’ll probably be looking for a big block. Most stock big blocks will have respectable performance so one of these should suit your purpose. Also you have the advantage of wanting something other than a Chevy. What you say???? Chevys are a dime a dozen and cheap to build. Yes they are, if your talking about a small block but Chevy big blocks are expensive. You can pick up a Buick, Olds, Caddy or even a Mopar big block for less almost anywhere. You’ve also decided that you want air-conditioning an automatic trans and at a minimum disk brakes up front. You want a better handling car with a comfortable ride so that old front suspension should probably be replaced as well. Since you like the overall looks of the car you don’t plan to do too many body mods, maybe shave the door handles but nothing big. You considered going Pro-Street but after looking at a few of these cars at shows and talking to their owners you’ve decided that route is a little to “race oriented” and way too expensive for you so you’re just going to stick with bigs and littles with some nice rims. Now we know in general what components we’re going to replace so we can be on the look out for “affordable” parts. We now know what the budget is, what you want to do with the car, and what kind of parts you’ll be looking for to complete this project. In short terms, you now have a plan. So, what’s next?

At this point you can do one of two things. You can either start the disassembly process or you can start hunting up parts. Most people do both to some extent. It really depends on the amount of room you have to store “stuff”. Keep in mind that you’re going to need a lot of space to store the parts you’re going to remove from your car so don’t buy a bunch of replacement parts too early. You’ll just wind up having to store them outside. Wait till you have the room inside. You’re neighbors will appreciate your hobby a lot more if you don’t fill up your yard with what they may consider useless junk.

When it comes to the disassembly process be very meticulous. Document everything and organize everything. Start by purchasing a body manual for your car. A service manual would be useful as well but not an absolutely necessity like the body manual. When you finally begin disassembly start with the major body components. Hood, doors, trunk lid, and fenders. Check the body manual to make sure you understand how it’s supposed to come apart. You don’t want to inadvertently damage a part because there was a bolt somewhere you didn’t know about. It only takes a minute to check so do it. Store these large parts in a location where you won’t be constantly tripping over them. You’re not going to do any work on the hood, trunk, and doors for a while so rather than disassembling these individual parts just make sure they’re stored out of the way and protected from the elements. As you take something off the car take a picture of it on the car and then another when you get it off the car. If it has mounts or hinges make sure you take a picture of them as well. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to forget how something came apart when its time to put it back together. The pictures will help remind you of this. Also take copious notes. And don’t just throw those bolts in a pile either. Get a generous supply of zip lock bags and when you take a part off the car put the bolts and nuts in a bag, label it and stick the bags in a cardboard box for easy storage. You may not reuse those parts but at least you’ll be able to purchase the right size nuts and bolts when the time comes simply because you kept the originals. Being organized will take a little more time but it will save you a lot of time when it comes to reassembly so do it right the first time. Organize your storage space too. You will see before the disassembly process proceeds very far that you’ll rapidly start running out of storage space so be selective as to how and where you put stuff. If you have the room you may even want to build some shelving to keep this stuff out of your way.

Once the major components have been removed and stored, you need to get the body off the frame. You also need a place to put it. I’m not going to go into the specifics of removing a body from the frame but I will say that if you are hurting for storage space it is relatively easy to put the body up on supports that will allow you to roll the chassis out from underneath it and then back under the body when you’re not working on the car. This way you can work on the chassis or the under side of the body (replacing floors etc) without the other being in the way. If you have the room you may want to build a body dolly so you can easily move it around and keep it out of your way while you’re working on the chassis.

So now a couple of years have passed and you’re finally ready to start reassembly of the car. Yes, I said a couple years. Anyone who thinks building a street rod can be done in a few months or even a year is dreaming. If you have a shop with a half dozen employees maybe, but when you and possibly a buddy are working on a car it’s going to take time. Rule #1: Building a street rod is a LONG TERM project. If you don’t want to make that kind of commitment, don’t even start. The papers are loaded with people selling half built projects, and they’ll all loose money in the process. My first street rod only took 6 years and I’ve been working on my current project for two years with another year or so to go. Don’t be fooled… these things take time.

During reassembly refer to your notes often. Also use the pictures you took and the body manual to remind yourself how things are supposed to go back together. Unpack the bolts and nuts and if you can’t reuse them buy new ones. Overall the reassembly process takes time but if you have kept yourself organized along the way things will go back together a lot easier and faster.

From start to finish you need to check what you’re doing against your overall plan. This doesn’t mean that plan can’t change as you go along either. Just make sure any changes are thoroughly thought through before you make them. If you go haphazardly making changes on a whim, you definitely won’t like the results. Remember that changing one part of the plan may have a profound effect on several component choices you’ll have to make so think any change through and make sure that’s what you want to do before you commit to it. If you make a good overall plan and take the time to organize yourself, your chances of success will be an order of magnitude better than someone who just starts tearing stuff to pieces and throwing parts all over the garage. Stay focused and stay organized but most of all, have fun.


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Old 04-13-2004, 12:43 PM
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Great post!

Another thing to look for is one of those 'abandoned projects'. That's how I picked up my '65 Tempest. So far, the only work I have had to do to the car is alternator, starter and battery and I had a totally driveable car for under $2,200. The previous owner had run true duals, bought nice mags, redid the interior, sealed up a leaky rear window and had a cheap paint job put on the car. I think he got tired of messing with the car and I got a great deal on a '20 footer'.
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Old 04-13-2004, 06:28 PM
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Very good post Centerline. My budget rod has followed your advice almost to the word. The cost of my build and time span are following right along those same lines too. I's say you've been there and done that!
I am guilty of throwing all my bolts in a pile though. Doooh! (Slaps head) I'm using mostly new ones anyway.
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Old 04-14-2004, 10:21 AM
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^^ ^

This thread should stay at the top at all times.

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Old 04-14-2004, 09:58 PM
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I'll stick it for a while. Definately a good one.

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Old 06-15-2004, 12:48 PM
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Thanks for the post. I bought a 46 chevy truck last year at this time and had delusions that it would take a few months to a year. I now know the real deal and feel comforted by the idea that it will take longer and I am not a big looser for taking so long.
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Old 06-24-2004, 11:57 AM
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Great post. I've been working on my Chrysler for 2 1/2 years now and I still feel like a newbee. I'm learning new skills as I go along and the fantastic guys on this site have taught me a great deal.

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Old 06-24-2004, 11:39 PM
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Great job. I have been working on mine on and off for 20 years. Its great when i have time to work on it. Im still focused on finishing it some day. thanks for the info.
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Old 09-07-2004, 05:34 PM
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Just finished reading this. Great advice and well put. Something else to consider, if a custom chassis or modifications are going to happen, rear end narrowing, new front end etc. Buy the wheels and tires you plan on using when the car is done. That way they FIT when you are ready for that first drive. Besides, staring at those purdy wheels will help keep the motivation up.

I second the motion, don't be quick to turn down someone else's half started project, you can save a BUNCH of money and have a great big head start on it.

I wanted an Anglia (upwards of $5k+ for a decent car to START to Rod out, found a 1948 Hillman and fell in love with it because its a little different but similar size and lines to an Anglia. Saved $3.5K which is better spent on other parts of the project....

Mesa, AZ
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Old 10-11-2005, 06:46 PM
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Two things I've always done because I'm mindless on the big projects is put all the nuts and bolts in marked freezer bags where they came from. It makes it so much easier to put everything back together even if you leave the project for months. Make a list of everything you have to do or buy and you can check it off as you progress. That way it's not so over whelming. Try to stay with a couple of areas of work not just bounce around all over the place and get nothing done. Now the experienced builders can do their projects blind folded (with the occasional peek). If you get frustrated take some time away from the project and come back later.
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Old 11-04-2005, 09:51 PM
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great thread .. i have been working on my 32 for 14 months and am close to closeing the deal on this one ..will start a 32 3 window coupe next ...boyd is great but i havent seen to many regular guys total rebuild a rod in a couple of weeks ..and yes the tools are a must ...i wish $5,000 was all ... i have about $15,000 in mine and did it all my self ... i guess it's all in what you want and what your gonna do with it ...thats the great thing about building your own its personalized ... keep in mind my car was purchased in 1968 and parts have been bought over the years and stored ...if i had to buy some of them now i would need another job ..most parts now are more than the $400 paid for the car in 68 ...remember if your gonna restore a oldie learn to weld or find someone who can and become their friend ...and take advise from the older rod heads they really do know a lot
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Old 11-26-2005, 04:44 PM
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This has been a great help like this places
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Old 11-27-2005, 10:08 AM
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“Basics of Basics” disassembly and reassemble tips.
By Brian Martin

It is common in the body shop to have three or four or more cars disassembled at once. Sometimes they could be disassembled for weeks waiting on parts, insurance, etc. When doing a restoration they could be disassembled for years!

I use a very straight forward process on every single car. That is one of the tricks, to do exactly the same on every car.

First off, I have a stack of those trays with a handle on top used for cleaning house. You can get them at the supermarket and are made by Rubbermaid and others. I usually only need one per car but on bigger projects more are needed. They are not that good for restoration, boxes would be better.

I have a roll of ¾ inch and 2 inch masking tape at all times for marking items. Put a strip of tape on the tray you are using and right the job number on it. It is also advisable to put the job number on the windshield of the car. You can get markers that have a watercolor in them for this use. When the car gets washed when done, it simply washes off.

Along with the trays I use two different “Zip lock” bags small “sandwich” size and then large “gallon” size. I use a LOT of these bags. I don’t put all the bolts for the front end in a bag, I break it way down to much smaller groups.

I will even go down to right headlamp in one bag and left headlamp in another. If it is a particularly complex car like a Mitsubishi Eclipse for instance I will definitely break it way down. Heck the front bumper on one of these cars has about 50 bolts! So, I break it down to “left side”, “right side” and “under” maybe something like that.

I put as much as possible in these bags. The large ones will usually hold all the parts to a door for instance. Handles, trim pieces off the trim panel, etc.

Then EVERY SINGLE bag is labeled with a Sharpie felt pin. “Left front door”, “right fender” and so on. Also on EVERY bag is the work order number in case the bag gets separated from the car.

I also will wrap a piece of tape around screws and put a little note on it to aid in assembly.

On parts where a wiring harness is going to be removed and then reinstalled on the part or a new part I mark where it attaches with that Sharpie pen BEFORE it is removed. On the metal next to the clip I put a “W” for “wire” on the clips that are on a plug I put “P”. On the wiring that is clipped on the inside I put a “WI” for wire inside. On Cables I put a “C”. I will also put arrows where a wire or cable will go into a hole or write a note on the metal or a piece of tape. All it takes is a little time and a few notes, arrows, etc. and you can easily put it back together. You don’t have to mark every single thing.

A little note written on the inside of a door like for instance Dodge caravans have little metal brackets on the inside of the side doors that are held on with the nuts from the glass. I put a number “1” on the front bracket and a number “1” next to it on the metal. An arrow showing direction the thing bolts in is useful too.

I have found one thing is for certain, you can’t remember everything. Another very important point is YOU may not be the guy putting the thing back together. If there is one thing that burns me up is having to put together someone else’s project only to find a big box of nuts and bolts and brackets with no idea where they go. The time you spend on this “cataloging” of the parts is VERY well spent. It is much less time than standing there scratching your head when you are putting it back together.

Have a nice “table” of some sort to lay out all the nuts and bolts for each part AS you bolt it on. Do not open more than one bag at a time.

If you have some guys in the shop giving you a hard time because you do this, ignore them, they are the ignorant ones. I know that I have had guys make comments. They were the ones who did the worst work and always had a huge bucket or something filled with nuts and bolts (gee, I wonder where those came from) . Many of these guys would start doing what I do I have noticed.

When I am done with a car, no matter how big a job, I rarely have a single nut or bolt unaccounted for.
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Old 12-27-2005, 02:17 AM
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I just picked up a 66 chev truck that was some farmers abandoned project, alot of the work is straight butcher and needs to be redone and the truck is already 3/4 disasembled, now i know where the body parts go, but I have none of the origianal fastners. How would i go about knowing what kind of nuts and bolts i need for where? Should i just get an assortment of bolts and see what fits, then make notes?....any ideas would be much appreciated?
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Old 02-13-2006, 11:27 AM
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I was able to pick up my six six Impala for $800.00. Hot Rodding does not have to be expensive if you are not going for the show car look. Look how my car has turned out with $30.00 of John Deere Blitz Black Paint...... And that was $30.00 including thinner and paint......

My cost so far is:

$800.00 for the car
$2500.00 for air ride
$1300.00 for five rims and five tires
$0.00 for 530 HP/ 585 TQ small block chevy....
$400.00 for new seats front and rear
$500.00 for all new door panels and carpet kit
Sprayed the original headliner with black uphostery paint. Looks brand new..!!!! $4.00 for one can
$400.00 on all new electrical
$800.00 for front disc brakes
$300.00 for front drop spindles
Dual Exhaust system with X Pipe and magna flow mufflers $300.00

Figure out your game plan and stick to it.....!!!!

I have the money to do a compete frame off restore but I do not want a show car. I want a car that I can drive and not worry about scratching. Like centerline posted, knowing what you want before you start will you save you a lot of money and headaches.....

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