It's been awhile since my last entry. My wife and I had a discussion about me working solidly on this project for the last two years and she still has a kitchen from the '70's. Needless to say, I've been putting in a new kitchen for the last 6 months. Meanwhile, when I do get a break, I've been mostly doing bodywork on the cab. I had the bright idea of mounting the box on the chassis, rolling it outside, and covering it with a blue tarp so that I'd have more room in the shop and so that it wouldn't get damaged. Not a good idea. The tarp trapped moisture and the steel is rusty, aluminum has bloomed and, worst of all, the paint has bubbled. Now I have to disassemble everything and clean it up. I've also got to sand the paint down to zero and start all over again.
One small victory I can claim is a major safety improvement. Back in the old days manufacturers didn't want to install seat belts as that would imply that their vehicles were unsafe. I remember riding in a '64 galaxy and the mom driving it wanted to demonstrate how well they worked. She slammed on the brakes. I hadn't buckled mine completely and crashed into the seat back proving a point, I guess. Been a big fan ever since. With all of the hard, sharp metal inside proper restraint was determined necessary. I rolled and hammered a piece of 3/16" plate (a bit overkill) to match the cab contour then welded it to the rear window frame and the door opening. This will be the main anchoring point for the shoulder belt.
Box. I'm going to break down the body into separate parts as there's going to be a lot of detail and it's taking a really long time to do. I did the box first as I figured that if I did the cab, I'd be so anxious to get it on the road that I wouldn't do such a good job. As anyone can tell you, trucks get beaten up. First up was to straighten the bed. I took 2 lengths of 16 inch I-beam and put one on top of the other. I then flipped it upside down and wailed the bejezzus out of it. got it mostly straightened. Being double wall. I wasn't able to pound out all the dents from the side panels so I did Bondo it somewhat. This will be a daily driver and I will haul things occasionally so a perfect box isn't going to happen. I decided to paint it with box liner coating. Wicked stuff but I think that it will do the job and not look too bad. Since the gas tank is located in the back, I needed to figure out how to fill it. To this end I made a trap door in the box by cutting out a 6x6 piece in the center rear, This is hinged and held open or closed with magnets The fenders were pretty wavy from the original tooling marks so it took a long time to get them straight. When I bolted them up, there were huge gaps that the bolts wouldn't take out. I taped up the mating edge of the fender then Bondoed the box to match. I then got the front (or back) edge perfect and worked the section in between to transition. The right rear corner had gotten crunched but fortunately I was able to get another wrecked box where that was good. By cutting the original welds it was grafted on. The only thing that maintains the side's perpendicularity is a piece of tube and the lower valence. Both were crunched and rusted. These were replaced with a piece of 2x3 tube and a sheet of 1/8 inch steel. Maybe overkill but the sides don't move. I wanted to fabricate an aluminum tailgate with the original 1909 script on it but time and the expense of the graphic killed that. Instead the stock tailgate was resurrected. As it turns out, a piece of 3/4 inch pipe will hammer into the top and bottom rolls and will straighten them out removing the bow. I got some 5/8 X 13/16 nylon bushings from McMaster-Carr which fit fairly tight. I needed to wrap a piece of Coke can around a couple for an even better fit. The lower pivots were fabricated from stainless steel. I went with a 5/8 stainless spring loaded pin on the top. The top captures were difficult as there was virtually no room to fit them. Tail lights evolved over time. I ran some ovals from a '59 Ford for a while. I then found that with a little modification, '59 Chevy lights would work. Originally I just screwed them on and ran 3 bulbs to a '67 cougar sequential turn signal flasher. I have since fabricated an aluminum plate that fills the end piece and houses the lens. There are 3 distinct chambers so I can still do the sequentials though they'll be electronic. Some original front turn signal lenses mounted over 50w PAR 15 lights serve as the back-ups. Shot it with '73 Ford blue glow paint and it's done.
I am not impressed when I go to car shows and see a sign thanking everyone who helped build the vehicle. From Bob's engines to Joe's interiors to Mike's paint. So what did you do, pick out the key fob and sign the check? That's not what Hot-Rodding is about. Where's your talent and skills? Now I understand that not everyone can do everything nor may have the equipment to do so, but still, If you're going to call it your car, then it should be you doing the most work on it.
I'm off my soap box now. Not having won the lottery, yet again, I have had to make do with tools and parts as I find them. To accomplish what I need to do, I have fabricated a few tools out of pieces that I have salvaged, gotten from swap meets, or lastly, purchased. Here are some of the ones that I fabricated for this project.
Bridge crane. 17 x 17 foot. From looking at others, I'd guess a 15 ton capacity. I have a 1 ton hoist so plenty of safety factor. It tractors on a # 50 chain using a DC motor. The trolley rides on 8- 1 1/2 inch cam followers rated at 8000 lbs each. I understand that few people will have one of these but I got the 16 inch I-beam as scrap when I worked construction and a salvaged hoist when I worked for that kind of company. This has made maneuvering the frame, cab, and box much easier.
Band saw. Made my own using 2 pinto flywheels, a gear box, and some linear bearings. The hydraulic lift is done with a cylinder, gear pump, and a drill motor. I cut the entire frame with it and it works great.
Welding. First is my Victor torch. My first real tool bought in 1971. I have my grandfather's "San Francisco" gauges but those are family heirlooms so are not in use. Next is a Lincoln 225 tig welder. Finally was able to purchase one in 1992. Even though I have been certified to weld nuclear components since 1977, I never had enough money to buy this type of machine. Up until then I used my trusty Airco AC cracker box. I finally bought a wire feed 2 years ago. Wasn't always a fan as you spent 1/2 of the time fiddling with it and 1/2 of the time cleaning off dingleberrys. Another complaint is lack of penetration. A lot of guys will but a 110 volt 90 amp machine and expect to be able to weld the propeller on the Queen Mary. Sure, you can get it to stick, but it isn't fused and will snap right off. I've used a 465 amp machine running 3/32 inch wire that put a weld 1 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch deep but you won't find that in your home shop. I finally decided on a HF unit. The biggest they had (220 v). I figured that it would be sufficient for the frame as that is only .020 wall. Using .035 wire and setting it 50% higher than recommended, it worked great. I've also found it fantastic at the other end. I'm using .023 wire and "no" amps to fill the numerous holes in the body. I used the tig to weld the 26 gauge gas tank. Paper thin and warp city. This was a piece that I had salvaged so there were a few holes to fill. It holds 16 gal. and doesn't leak.
Powder coating. I am such a big fan of this. Got into it when I worked as an exhibits engineer at our local science museum. We had a problem with finish durability. With thousands of grubby kid's hands manhandling everything, paint would soon be gone. Solid color plastics or stainless steel would last but not everything could be made from them. We started sending parts out but there was a $50 minimum charge and that started adding up. I finally talked them into buying a cheap HF unit and we already had an oven. There are a pair of push buttons that have been in continual use for 10 years and still look good. I bought one for myself. I needed a sand blast cabinet to prep the parts so I acquired an old chemical cabinet with a window and arm holes. A tin funnel, Kirby vac and salvaged dust collector rounds it out. The oven I got from a recycling center for 10 dollars. I welded a 55 gal. drum on the back so I could do long pieces. I took the two elements and mounted them separately so they would work independently. I can divide it into a smaller chamber using a sheet of asbestos so I don't have to heat the entire unit for small parts.
Press brake. Built from salvaged parts and materials. The main uprights are 9 inch heavy channel with the table being 2 pieces of 12 inch channel and the top is 8 inch I-beam. I made a cable winch to raise the table as it weighs a ton. Hydraulics are performed by a self contained hydraulic unit that has quick release couplings on the hoses so it can be used for applications. Two 5 inch cylinders provide 60 tons of force. This will come in handy for bending the inner fender sheet metal. I have also used a center cylinder for presing things like ball joints.
I could have slapped a chevy engine in. Everybody does; cheap and easy. But then it wouldn't be unique. I could have been a chevy guy but my grand dad sold his '57 instead of giving it to 14 year old me and we had the Merc. The 390 had an ungodly amount of torque but weighed a ton and got 12 mpg. Somewhere along the way it got sold. I then went with a 289 from the mustang after it got wrecked (not my fault). It was hot but pretty raced out and was smoking badly. For whatever reason, I started investigating the 300 inch six. About the same weight as a small block but huge cylinders. If there were 8 of them it would be 400 cu. in. Tons of torque, stone axe reliable and decent mileage. My research revealed that I could run 390 pistons by boring it .050 over. The only problem was that it gave 10.7 compression. I ran 15% methanol and retarded the timing 5* atdc. I eventually machined the tops of the pistons and brought it to 9.4. 1.94 intakes and a bunch of porting. 500 cfm Holley and an Offenhauser and headers. Comp cams H-268. Very cool motor. Sold that when I thought that I was going to go with the 4x4. That's when it sat for 20 years. When I decided to finish it as a street rod, going with the 300 was an easy choice. This one is bored .060 over with silv-o-lite pistons and decked to 0.0. This should bump it to 9.4 cr. This is a truck engine so high flow volumes are not a priority. I spent close to a month porting the head. Stock valves but way better flow. I'm still running the same Comp-cam but with an Offenhauser dual port manifold and a 465 cfm Holley from a '68 390. Very healthy engine and will knock birds out of the trees with open headers. I bolted it to a '77 E-300 small block C-6. I would have loved to run an AOD but now they're $250 from the junkyard and probably shot. Besides, that would mean that I would have to change gears which would be nice but more work and expense. I'm using a 4x4 rear sump pan so the engine nestles low on the CV X-mbr. Mounts were fabricated out of 3 inch and bolted to the CV perches. Exhaust is 2.5 inch all the way. I siamesed the two together as it's a good diameter and I'm not running high revs. I installed a flex section to lessen stress. It looked better before I moved it outside. Even under a tarp, our wonderful humidity rusts everything.
It took a number of years to finally come up with a suitable chassis. I had acquired a '92 T-bird rear suspension early on so that was set. A live axle would have worked but I wanted the trick set-up. I installed a jag unit in a friend's car but it seemed weak tea. Corvette was too expensive. While the T-bird's lower cast iron arms weigh a ton, the rest of the unit looks indestructible. 8.8 locker w/3.27 gears. With normal offset wheels, the track comes to 62 inches; just what I need.
The front end was more problematic. Mustang would be trick but uses a strut necessitating the fabrication of an upper arm. Aerostar has the world's ugliest upper arm and some pretty small brakes. The last choice was the '03 - '06 crown vic. I avoided it because of the wide track which meant that I would have to use the backwards wheels that are on everything now. The more I researched it, though, the better it seemed. I finally bit the bullet and got a set of 17 x 9 5 spokes from an '08 mustang. This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it required me to use spacers in the rear. The T-bird has a 4.25 inch BC so I got some 1 1/4 inch adapters that went to the 4.5 inch BC. Now I don't have to drill the rotors when I replace them.
After more research, I went with 2 x 6 x.120 tubing. I used almost 60 feet weighing about 350 lbs.
Most of the old ladder frames are real flexi-flyers so an X was mandatory. The factory Studebaker frame starts at 29 inches and ends at 38 with it being about 34 under the cab. There are 10inch long cab mounts riveted to it. I had some rubber biscuit mounts from an '92 F-350 that are 5 inches to the center. I kicked the frame out 5 inches behind the lower control arm mount to make up the difference. This additional width just happened to line up with the T-bird front suspension mount. By welding it to the outside edge of a piece of 3 inch square, the mount holes in the center lines up perfectly. By welding the rear frame to the inside edge of the 3 incher I'm able to pick up the rear mounts. I put a big X across the middle and am pretty proud of the rear fitment. The center section is is a piece of 6 x 6 with a removable plate. This has already proved invaluable as when I repaired the rear trans seal, all I had to do was remove the plate and drop the drive shaft.
The only glitch was that I made the front too short and the radiator wouldn't fit. I fixed it by cutting out the corner and reversing it making a pocket. The CV crossmember acts as the major anchoring point so structural integrity isn't compromised.
I made a rotisserie with a piece of all-thread and a wood block on a stool for the front and a couple of tabs bolted to an engine stand for the rear. I drilled 3/4 inch holes in various places and using a siphon gun and a gallon of WD-40, sprayed the hell out of the inside as a rust preventative. Plastic plugs fill the holes. I painted it with black acrylic w/ a catalyst. It should last for a while.