Archive for the ‘backyard builder’ Category

A good friend of of mine just bought a service station. Not a functional, operating garage, but the kind of place that had once been an actual business, where people bought gas, got their tires rotated, chassis lubed, brakes done or a transmission rebuilt things got really bad, but now was a place fir the elderly owner and his even more elderly buddies to come hang out and drink coffee all day. Built in the 40’s, it’s the typical two bay shop with a separate office place that stood on every city corner . Now, a place for its owner to hang out, a place to keep that car that, if it were in good nick, would be desirable and have some value, but mostly a place to disappear for a few hours, to watch “I Love Lucy” reruns, and tell lies.

He bought it for a song, maybe because it’s in a “ depressed” neighborhood, or maybe because it was weeks away from a back taxes sale, but it came with all the contents, some of which are very collectible, tools and equipment. He spent a week or so lately scraping and painting, cleaning out trash, and finding a home for the shop cat that kept coming back after being relocated,not realizing his home had been sold and he had to find somewhere else to go. Much like the former owners 50-something year old, never-employed son, who, when my buddy showed me the place, like the cat, had come back, and was just hanging out, oblivious to the fact that the place was no longer theirs.

Happily, the tanks have been pulled, documented, and there’s a gas station across the street that’s open 24 a hours a day, who’s owners my buddy has befriended. They assured him they’ll continue to keep an eye out, like they did for the previous owner. There’s a house across the street, that has what seems to be a 24 hour a day party going on, but they too assured my buddy they’d be on g TV he lookout for the place too.

While I was there, a guy pulled up in a new Lincoln, and the driver asked my buddy if he would do some work on his truck, which he said his kids had let go to seed while he was incarcerated.

“Money ain’t no problem”. The guy said, and also offered to keep an eye on the place, and seemed to appreciate it when my buddy told him he wasn’t going to open a repair facility, but was going to store his cars there.

The strip club down the street offers a lunch buffet and discreet parking in the rear, so there’s a place to go for entertainment for gentlemen nearby when hanging out at the garage gets old, and we get thirsty and hungry.

It’s the kind of place that lots of guys my age would love to have. A place to keep our toys, a place our friends can come and hang out, a place to keep our stuff. a garage, a museum, a gathering place.

I admit, I’m bit jealous.

Well, this wasn't supposed to happen.

Well, this wasn’t supposed to happen

Or so I’ve heard.  Yesterday I decided it was a good to remove the slimline roof A/C units from the derelict “Luxury Traveller” motor home I dragged home earlier this summer.  (Ah, those heady, dream filled days…)  That soon lead to the thought that since I was tearing into it, I might as well keep going, and so, 7 hours later, this was the result.

As it turns out, the thing was built both much worse than I thought motor home construction was done, and much better at the same time.  I thought the thing was stick and staple framed, and simply cut through the body in what I though would be manageable chunks, leaving the roof intact to cut up once it was all down.

Great plan.  But…

The “but” is that the framing (?) of the coach was very thin wall aluminum tubing,  every 2 feet, around the windows, roof vents, down the center of the roof and at the tops of the walls/roof joint where were two stacked together.  Sturdy, and yet flimsy, all at the same time.  Between the framing is 2″ blue foam board, bonded to luan with a vinyl face on the inside, and luan bonded to very thin fiberglass sheeting (brand name, “Filon”) on the outside.  A leaky roof had led to water running down the left front corner and right rear, to the point that the luan inside and out, was completely rotted away, along with a few scraps of lumber where it was evidently too difficult to cut and from aluminum for structure, and a colony of carpenter ants had turned about a third of the wall at the right rear to a giant ant farm.  It was awful.

The Sawzall, with new demo blades, didn’t notice much difference in resistance to the very thin aluminum (I thought I was cutting through 2×2’s), and at the top, behind and above the driver seat, my roof cut and upward wall cuts didn’t quite meet.

I thought this would simply tear apart, not knowing it was really aluminum I was cutting though, and when I tugged on the pull strap with the GMC to pull down the house, the cab, still attached to the roof, came with it.  The  “welds” (if you want to call them that) on the aluminum tubing “studs” were so poor where they met the one laying down at the floor, that they simply popped off, and the cab pulled completely loose all the way to the front.

This complicates the rest of the destruction a bit in that now I have to  work under the partially collapsed cab to remove the gauges and enough of  the wiring loose in order to keep it operable (it still starts up and runs) so I can get it moved close to the shop (where the tools are) in order to pull the engine/trans and strip the rest of the stuff off it I can use.  Like  the “Onan” generator, air suspension, and leveling jack system.

So, that’s what happened yesterday.  Today I’m going to try to cut up the big chunks of wall and roof so I can stack them up, and so they won’t kill the grass in the back yard, and get ready to attend the “Relix Riot” this weekend.

Stay tuned for more progress on the motor home demo, and on the (hopeful) sale of the yellow Riv today…

Mural cut out of the left side.

Mural cut out of the left side.













This'll look real good framed and hung over the couch in the living room!

This’ll look real good framed and hung over the couch in the living room!

That looks like...

That looks like…

A huge ant farm!

A huge ant farm!

1, 2, 3, now PULL!

1, 2, 3, now PULL!

Oh my.  That wasn't supposed to happen.

Oh my. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

Might as well keep pulling...

Might as well keep pulling…

And,she's down.

And,she’s down.


September was spent getting ready for Nats North, the TCT Fall Rally, and selling the ’36 Special.  I put a heat/air/defrost underdash unit in the Pontiac wagon, and installed electric wipers, a long overdue job.  Then, from the end of September thru the middle of October,  we were  traveling to those events, our vacation to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then a long weekend to Las Vegas to visit Craig.  

In between that, we took time to take a couple of rides on our new bike, and lately, getting the plow fixed up and ready for winter, as my last entry detailed.  Now, finally, I’m back on DT!

I’d bought a really nice electric fan/shroud combo in Kalamazoo at Nats North for the truck, along with individual windshield wiper motors and a couple of other little trinket items.  I figured today I’d be able to get the fan installed, get the two windshields in, and maybe even the wipers mounted. 


The fan almost, but not quite, would drop in under the hood, so, off with the hood.   With the hood off, I was able to drop the fan down in and get it up against the radiator,  and it fit perfectly against the radiator, with plenty of room to drill mounting holes through the shroud into the radiator frame.  Unfortunately, there was no way to get a drill in any further than the very top, and about three inches down.  That wasn’t going to work, so I started in to remove the radiator.

That requires unbolting the grill shell from the front fenders, dropping the sway bar, and then carefully tipping the grill shell out while wiggling the radiator up and out around the front crossmember.  This is a crossflow from the ’93 GMC van that was the donor for the front suspension, and original filler neck is at the bottom, and has to be very carefully maneuvered around various obstacles in order to let the radiator up and out.  If I had a lift, I could just drop it straight down and out the bottom, but I’ve no way to get the front up high enough here at home.

This little job ended up taking all day, and while it was time-consuming, it worked out pretty well.  While the radiator was out, I mounted the fan, and trimmed the front crossmember, which serves now only to mount the radiator horse collar (core support), to give a little more clearance for the radiator.  The radiator drops down between this and the front sway bar, and I had very little clearance before.  Now, half an inch between the tender aluminum core, the sway bar in front and the crossmember behind.  Much better.

I didn’t get the hood back on, but I’ll need help with that anyway.  I did manage to get everything else back together without scratching the paint, which is good.  The engine oil cooler, the big black thing in front of the radiator, had to be re-mounted, but that was a good thing too.  Originally, I’d mounted it with the zip-tie like things it came with through the radiator core, which I didn’t like.  Now, it hangs from the grill shell frame about an inch ahead of the radiator core.  I feel better about that, and the extra clearance around the radiator.   Please excuse the heavy coat of dust on the engine.  I also now have to make a new mount for the air filter, as it now hits the back of the fan housing and won’t fit where it did before.  No problem.








A couple of days ago I made the little brackets that attach the crank push rods and had them on the w/s frames.  The originals were pot metal, and had broken.  The new ones are 1/8″ steel flat stock, 1/2″ wide, painted “Cast Coat” silver, they look enough like the pot metal originals to be fine.  I have the gaskets on the frames, which I polished up on the buffer, so that will all go together now.  I’m excited to see it with the windshields in, that’ll be a big step.




I spent a few minutes setting on the running board trying to figure out how to upholster the fire wall and kick panels.  At first, due to the rather complex shape of the engine box,  I thought I’d have to make a fiberglass panel, laid up in place against the firewall, pull it out and upholster it out of the truck.  After thinking about it for a while, I see now how to make a fitted carpet panel, that I can bond another layer of insulation to, and fit it.  Much simpler.  Sometimes I have to let things set,  and come back to them with a fresh outlook.  This is one of those things.

It felt good to get at least part of the things I wanted to do today completed.   The  next big thing, after getting the windshields in and the cranks working, will be color sanding and polishing the paint.  I fired the truck up this afternoon, so if we get a couple relatively warm days, I can cut (wet-sand) the paint outside and keep some of the mess out of the shop. 

Stay tuned for more progress, as I get the fan actually wired up, the radiator filled with coolant, get some headlight bulbs in it, and get the glass in.  Then, there’s lots of stainless to polish, lots of paint to be sanded and polished, and the interior to complete.  Hopefully, winter will be long enough to get all that done!


Well, it had to happen sooner or later, I hope this is the only error I make (not likely) with the wiring.  The brake lights didn’t work when I hooked up the turn signal switch, nor, it turned out, did the blinkers.  They blinked ALL the time when I put the lights on and wired ’em up.
Turns out, I’d mis-labeled the leads out of the turn signal switch for the brake light feed and the flasher.  I went out in the cold yesterday and thought about the problem, pulled the turn signal switch off the column and took it a part.  Only took a minute to figure out the error, and it all works fine now.  Except of course the part where I ordered the wrong tail light for the other side, and have to order the correct (mid 40’s Ford pickup) one.  Oh well.  The polished stands and wire gaurds look slick though! 

lit up

I really like the interior lighting.  I used little licence plate lights for the dome lights on the overhead console, and a Painless courtesy light kit for the ones under the dash.   There’s also a dome light mounted over the tiny rear window inside, which I’m going to wire separately from the courtesy lighting.  I want a cargo light outside to illuminate the box, so these can come on together. 

Just one more shot of the interior lights on.  It’s starting to look like it may all work out!

Warm glow

Faithful readers will recall the ’06 Mercury Milan I bought as a total, and repaired using Ford Fusion front sheet metal because it was 1/3 the price.  The paint store had mixed the wrong paint, resulting in the worlds worst two-tone paint scheme.  I could have simply picked a metallic red at random and been closer.  This weekend, I prepped the car and repainted the front end with the new paint they’d mixed, free of charge.  I’m happy to say, as you can see here, that it’s now a uniform brick red color. 

Untill today, the front end had been about 4 shades darker than the rest of the body, it was a totally different color.  So much so, that Kim wouldn’t ride in it with me, people made fun of it at my work, and I was embarrassed to admit I’d painted it.  Really, it was bad, although admittedly it wasn’t my fault.  The guy at the paint store had initially insisted it was my spraying technique, or the temp, but when I walked him out the door of his shop to look  at the car, he said, “Oh man, we must have mixed that wrong.”  Really. 

Also seen relaxing in the photos is Frankie, our dog, who’s recovering from her latest near death experience.  She’d been hit by a car a week ago, and is slowly getting back to her normal self.  She’s a little stiff and sore acting, and still reluctant to go up steps, but we have our dog back. 

I reconfigured Kim’s sewing table today to accommodate her new Pfaff quilting machine, and also got a little time on the Diamond T, fitting running board braces and mounted the fuse panel in the cab.  I’d like to have gotten some of the sheet metal in color, but, there’s still warm days ahead, and it all has to get done anyway.   I split and stacked a pickup load of wood today too, so it was a busy day.

Next weekend is the “Relix Riot” show at the Gilmore Museum, we’re looking forward to a weekend of camping and Hot Rods!

That’s all for now, more news as it happens here in Milo, at the edge of the cornfield.

Wow!  It’s taken almost 3 months to do this, but I FINALLY got paint on the frame of the truck.  After I fixed the rusty cowl and door, I had all afternoon, so I cleaned up the shop (a little)  and mixed up some paint.

I used enamel primer, let it tack up for about 20 minutes, then shot the color “hot”.  It’s a frame, I don’t care if there are some flaws.  I also didn’t want to take the cab off, as the frame is accessable inside the cab.  The floorboards are removable, so the only thing that didn’t get paint is about 2″ of the top of the frame under the cab mounts, and what little “floor” of the cab is at those points.  No worries.

I also primed the cowl and firewall, so now we have to pick just the right shade of red to paint it before the engine can go in.  I’m leaning towards a 2010 Chev truck color, a bright red with no orange cast to it.  Should be perfect.  This is high build urethane primer, compatible with the BC/CC topcoat I plan to use.  NO tractor paint on the exterior of this, it ain’t no Rat Rod.

I’m excited to get this part finally done, it should go pretty fast from here on out.  Right…


So, it’s hot out, and I’m putting off painting the frame of the truck untill the weather and my ambition level are in sync.  There’s plenty of things to get done on the truck anyway, so here’s what I did this morning.  (Why this seems easier than painting I’m not sure.)

When I’d blasted the cab, I was surprised to find this hole in the cowl on the driver’s side, and the same “swiss cheese” along the bottom of the driver’s door.  The paint wasn’t blistered, but the blasting found this little rusty spot.   So, it’s gotta be fixed.

I cut the rusty section away with a cutoff wheel in my die grinder.  The cowl was solid along the edges.  I had done the same thing with the rusty bottom section of the door, the forward edge of the patch can be seen in the photo.  The patch for this was already cut, and I used it as a pattern to cut away the rusty area.  You can see the cause of the rust, a brace which ends against the sheet metal, and no weep hole to let moisture out.

Here’s the patch, held up in the hole.  I tacked this in place, and then welded it in solid.  Or, would have if I hadn’t run out of shielding gas.    

Here it is tacked in place.

And here is the (almost) finished patch.  I ground the weld down with the cutoff wheel, and ran and then roughed up the area with the grinder.  A little filler over it will cover the grinder marks and small divet where the weld bead is.   On the door, which warped a little and pulled the weld in, it’ll take a little more filler and blocking, but it came out well. 

Now, I think I’ll get the ’48 Pontiac out, give it a bath so we can tow the boat to the lake with it later this evening.  Don’t want to work too hard…

Well, I’m pretty happy with this.  Since we didn’t spend three days dragging the “free” Peerless trailer out of it’s tomb, I got busy and worked on the Interstate car hauler. 

I took the inner plywood paneling out of the damaged front end, and was able to push the sprung steel “bows” that form the body structure back into place.  The wrinkled 2′ gravel shield came off, the new 4′ piece went on, covering all the wrinkled aluminum skin.

There’s a little “wow” in the gravel guard, but new ones we’ve seen are worse, so I’m not going to worry about it.  I also straightened up both aluminum fenders (they hung below the body and had caught on things) and trimmed them flush with the bottom of the body.   Some new vinyl center for edge trim, and it’ll be good as new.

I’d still like to add a small A/C, a bunk in front, and insulate and panel the ceiling so we can “camp” in it if we haul, or WHEN we haul a car somewhere, but for now, it’s useable and doesn’t hurt my eyes to look at it.

FREE, FREE, FREE!  What could possibly go wrong with a deal like that?  All I have to do is tear down the (admittedly poorly built) addition, clean up the sight, haul away the rubble, and then haul away the 28 foot 1950 trailer.  Scream’n deal right? 

A couple we are acquainted who are retired and “manage” a small campground called to ask if we’d be interested in rescuing this 1950 Peerless coach.  Old lady owner dies, daughter inherits the thing, doesn’t want it, lot is sold, has to go.  Get it out, clean up the mess, and it’s “free”, even has a title.  Parked in ’63 and not moved since, stayed in every summer.

Of course, I was excited, as the photos look pretty good, and I’m hopelessly optimistic.  Kim and I headed over last night, about a 45 minute drive, to see our new acquisition, to assess what might be involved in moving this brute.  I’d already talked to an unemployed neighbor with a dump trailer, 3/4 ton pickup and Bobcat to assist, I wanted to let him know what we were in for.

Turns out, more than I bargained for.  The ceiling is totally loose from whatever little bit is left of the framing, the walls are likewise free, and the sagging Homosote board underbelly covering revealed wood frame stringers and the beginnings of a black hole.  And poison ivy…

I was still relatively interested, but Kim was able to talk some sense into me on the way home.  Realistically it’d take two ambitious guys at least three days to dismantle the shed, and get the trailer out intact.  After that, the trailer is on 195o tires, the structure is so bad that moving it even 5 miles, let alone 25 or 30, might well result in it simply falling apart on the road.   Then, what I do with the debris from the shed, which is 12×25, no nearby landfill, and what would I tow it with? 

After all that, assuming it would stay together and not kill somebody on the way  home, it’d cost 10’s of thousands to make it even remotely useable (by our standards), and take up years of spare time.   Not to mention the likelihood of getting hurt, or the neighbor guy getting hurt, trying to get it, and the fact that I don’t really like working in the humid summer heat.

Did I mention that they really wanted it gone by today?

So, like the first guy they had lined up to move it, I called and backed out.  I felt kinda bad, but sometimes free is just too much money…

It’s home!  I took a break from vacationing and picked up the trailer today.  Hauls easily, if it weren’t for the fact that I need to dial my brake controller down (slides the tires on the trailer with the least brake applied in the car) you wouldn’t know it was back there. 

I have a new 4′ aluminum gravel shield for the front, so that should be an easy project to pull the wrinkled one, knock the dented body skin back out close, and put the new one on.  There are a couple small dings in each fender, and it’s dirty, but otherwise, good to go.  I think I’ll wire the interior for 110, put some lights in, a window A/C,  figure out how to add a bunk up front and a small fridge, so we could camp in it if we haul somewhere. 

Another project, what fun!