Archive for the ‘Classic Cars’ Category

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A friend who lives in California emailed me the other day, inquiring whether I was OK, as he hadn’t heard from me, and hadn’t posted anything here for a while.  I assured him I’m doing fine, in fact, busier than ever, adding to the already crowded project list.  More on that in a bit.

The big news of this past summer is that Kim and I sold our ’48 Pontiac convertible.  This car has been a part of our family since 1974, before we got married.  In fact, Kim was opposed to my buying it, since we were  both in college, and a wedding was on the horizon.  Of course, I bought it anyway.

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Since getting the Diamond T finished, we haven’t been driving the car, it’s been setting in the garage, sort of covered, for three years.  It’s not that we didn’t like it, but I thought it needed some changes, and having built the car three times in over 40 years, I wasn’t enthused about the thought of rebuilding it again.  Our friends Brandon and Liz, fellow Tin Can Tourists members, learned we had the car, and after some conversation and couple of visits, we agreed to sell it to them.  I put a new battery in it, dusted it off, had a sticking front brake caliper replaced, and the car left our driveway with someone else behind the wheel for the first time in 41 years.  They’ve been busy putting their own personal stamp on it, enjoying using it to pull their vintage Trotwood trailer.  We’re happy to see the car being used and loved, not slowly going to seed in the garage.

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Of course, the empty space in the garage, and the sudden positive balance in the checking account was not destined to last very long.  I’d been talking about building a ’27 Highboy roadster for several years, and began now to look for a body and frame.  I talked to several friends, looked again at the beautiful little black ’27, the Frank Mack car, at the Gilmore Museum, and decided a ’27 wasn’t going to work for me in my old age.  I’d seen a ’31 on ’32 rails this summer, and thought maybe a Brookville body on ’32 rails would do, and started adding up the bits.  The totals soon added to more than I’d gotten for the convert, and was getting a little discouraged, when I saw an ad on the HAMB classifieds for a ’34 roadster, pretty complete minus the engine and transmission.  I called the owner, we had a good conversation, I told him I’d get back with him.

Discussing it with Kim, her concern was that I’d suddenly switched gears from the ’27 she’d been hearing (incessantly) about, to this new idea, a bigger, heavier, open car.  I assured her it’d be more suitable for us at this stage in our lives (the stage of needing to be relatively comfortable).  She gave a green light, I called the guy in Connecticut, Bill, back, we made a deal and two days later, by dad Rex, 91 years old, and I were in the Diamond T with the trailer tagging along, on the way to get a roadster.

We drove the 802 miles in one day, leaving at 6 am, arriving at Bill’s house at 10 pm.  Steady construction although Pennsylvania and New York slowed us, but we had no trouble at all.  The next morning we looked over the parts and pieces of the disassembled car, and I was happy with what I saw.  It had been a finished car in the 70’s and 80’s, running a blown flathead, and was featured in Street Rodder magazine in ’83.  Of course I have this issue, and even remembered the feature once I saw the car.  Now wearing a quickie coat of black swap-meet primer over the original burgundy paint, it still has the original lettering “Flying Flathead” on the tail pan.  IMG_6952

imageIncluded in the pile of parts are the original top and upholstery.  The flathead and original chassis are long missing, the cars builder had decided he wanted a coupe, and pulled the glass body, an early Gibbons body I think, and sold it.  Bill had bought it after it changed hands a couple of times, built a new frame, accumulated all the chassis parts to make it a roller, and for some reason, perhaps because like me has three other projects going already, offered it for sale.

Dad and I took two days to drive home after loading (almost) all the parts into the enclosed trailer.  We stopped halfway in Pennsylvania, and headed out early the next day, getting home at 2:30.  I was a little worried about the long drive in the cramped cab of the truck, but dad enjoyed the drive, and even though he’s never been a “car guy” seems enthusiastic and supportive of the project.  He remembers ’34 Fords as being sporty looking cars of his youth, so that may be part of it.

imageTwo weeks later, I haven’t yet unloaded, or even fully inventoried what all I have, mainly because I know if I get it out of the trailer, I’ll be drawn to work on it rather than the T’bird and the Spartan trailer, so, it’s still in the trailer.  I’m excited though, and have located a 700R transmission for the (tired) 350 Chevy I have in the garage, decorated with vintage Cal Custom finned aluminum valve covers and an Offy dual quad intake with two new Edelbrock carbs.  Aside from wiring, I have, I think, everything I need to put the car together.  The dropped front axle we’d left under Bill’s bench, I remembered it in the middle of the night on the way home, he shipped to me.  We’d kicked it out of the way rolling the body and chassis out.

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In other news, I’ve started stripping the interior of the ’47 Spartan Manor in the back yard.  From Brandon and Liz we have some vintage 9×9 floor tiles in a nice gray/green, and some black and red to sprinkle in at random.  I want to get the floor repaired, there a couple of soft spots under windows in the rear, and flooring down before cold weather.  Once the floor is in, and the new front windows in, the trailer becomes its own workshop, and the goal is to have the wiring, plumbing, walls and cabinetry in by spring.  Once that’s done, finishing the interior and polishing can be done by next summers camping season.

We had the boat out this summer, and found its leaking so badly that the pumps can no longer keep up.  In fact, in a two-day period in the water without being used, the battery had run down and it wouldn’t start.  Underway, the rear pump was overwhelmed, and water filled the bilge to the floor.  The problem turns out to be a loose rudder post, due to decades of over tightening the bolts and pulling them into the wood, and a bad chine plank, which I’d short planked 26 years ago.  It’s so soft I could push my finger through it (I could, but didn’t).  So, it needs to have a new bottom, which is going to have to wait until other things get done.IMG_6951

Speaking of getting things done, I finally have primer on the Thunderbird.  I had planned on having it in color by now, but summer came and went working on the car at all.  It really looks good all one color, even grey primer, and I’m enthused again.  Now the tedious job of block sanding, re-priming, blocking, guide coating, re-priming before color goes on.  And, what colors to pick?  We’ll see, we’ll see…eblackdesign_1_13 IMG_6953 IMG_6954Kim’s Riviera may be on hiatus, but we have big plans for it as too, so, keep checking in, and keep reminding me to keep up with the blog so you’ll know I’m OK!

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With help from my friend Jake who made spring spacers for another ‘ 63 Riviera he was bagging, I got started on the air suspension for Kim ‘a Riviera today.

Front is together, I hope to get the rear done tomorrow and get lines run . The goal is infinitely adjustable suspension for ride height, static display and trailer towing duty.

When the big boxes of goodies from Air-Ride came, and I had to explain how much these parts cost to my wife, she asked, ” Why do we need that?”
Here’s why, Kim:

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'47 Spartan Manor

’47 Spartan Manor

I moved the ’47 Spartan up from its hiding place way back in the woods, next to the temporary garage the Tini-Home is taking its long winter nap in.  Here, it’s possible to run extension cords from the shop to start pulling the panels out (I’ll save the corner panels for patterns), and it’s close to a brush pile, to dispose of said panels.  It’s exciting planning the work and the new interior.

Continuing the planning and getting ready for work, I moved the T’Bird over in the shop to the opposite side, where I can work on the driver’s side, as opposed to it being up against the junk covered bench on the other side.  In doing so, I was painfully aware of a major styling gaff I was overlooking before.  The newly shortened roof exposes what had been the old package shelf area.  This is about 6 inches now outside the rear window, and while it looks natural with the roof off, it looks wrong with the top on.  So, I think I’ll have to pull the tonneau cover off, shorten it, weld the cut off rear section the body, and create a new lip for the back edge.  I sort of hate to cut into this finished panel,  but I think it’s going to make a big difference in the look of the car when it’s painted and done.

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On what may have one of happiest days of my life, the Starcraft motor home left our driveway in a shower of sparks and cloud of debris for it’s new home in Climax. (Yes, Climax, MI, the town.). Fitting, since I was so glad to see it go. I did manage to salvage engine and trans, traded for a set of beautiful Dayto knock off wire wheels, the complete stainless exhaust system which can be altered easily to fit under the GMC, and a couple hundred feet of automotive wiring.

It was not a profitable venture.

Once that was gone, and cash in my pocket, I moved the Riviera into the shop, after a day of cleaning. Initial trials look like the engine will fit after notching the crossmember, modifying both exhaust manifolds, moving the AC compressor without swapping the Vortec intake for an LS. Which saves a bunch of work and cash. The oil pan needs to be sectioned (or replaced) for ground clearance, but either way that’s easy.

What wasn’t easy was removing the cars front fenders. I have new respect for the guys on the assembly line who hung these things on moving cars. What a job. After the passenger side, the drivers came off easily. Happily all of the fasteners came out easily, thanks to its former life spent Oklahoma.

Now that the sheet metal is off I can get the motor and trans mounts made, the steering modified and connected, and the crossmember notch boxed in. Then it can lie dormant while work on the T’Bird.

It’ll be busy winter!

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Plans change.

Plans change.

When I bought the Rivera home, I’d initially planned on using it as a home for the 454 from the motorhome which I’d drug home, getting the car running and driving, and then flip it, letting the happy new owner finish it. That plan changed when Kim surprised me by saying she liked the car (actually, she was looking at the parts car, which I’ve already sold) and wanted me to build it for her.

I got excited about that, and the rush then to pull the motorhomes engine/trans seemed not so urgent, and I immediately decided an LS engine and 4L60 would make the car much more enjoyable if we were going to actually DRIVE it, so the plan morphed again. My pal Brad at Morris Rose Auto Parts here in Kalamazoo scored a 5.3 from an ’04 Avalanche for the cause, and it’ll be united with a 4L60 trans, along with the complete under hood wiring harness, fuse panel and PCM from the Avalanche. With a minimum of effort, that gets us a stand-alone harness to make the engine/trans work in the Riviera, with money left over from the parts car sale.

I also decided right away that the car would get a ’65 grill and hidden headlights. The ’63, with its clunky headlights plunked in the grill were a stop-gap design from Buick originally, and since the car is a custom, I didn’t care to use ’65 clamshell lights, which means a complete front sheet metal swap, or tons of work. I saved the headlamp buckets from the Thunderbird, which is now wearing ’63 Caddy lights and bezels, and these fit perfectly in the Rivi fenders, simply stood on end. The lights are visible behind the grill and lens, but no more so than the original park lamp reflectors, so it’s a natural.

Headlamp behind the park lamp grill/lens.

Headlamp behind the park lamp grill/lens.

The ’65 grill, which I got from the guy who bought the other car as a direct swap for an extra ’63 grill/headlamp assembly, doesn’t quite fit in the ’63 front, but a few minutes with a cut off tool to open up the fenders, and some whittling on the lower corner of the new grill with a flap disk (it hit the core support) let it slide right into place. I have to make a new lip on the fenders to fit the grill, but it won’t take long at all, and the difference is dramatic.

This is what the Riv SHOULD have looked like to begin with.

This is what the Riv SHOULD have looked like to begin with.

To say I’m enthused about the project is an understatement, I’m excited, and eager to get going. The ‘bird again has taken a back seat, but I’ll make myself do the little remaining body work on that along with the Riv. It’ll be fine, I’ll get them both done, and, what’s the rush, anyway?

The only drawback thus far is that now that we have the car, every event I now go, there are ’63 Riveras! Why is it that I never noticed them before we had one?

Dear readers,

A longtime follower of “Cool McCool’s Garage” recently posted a comment here, which consisted solely of a link to her Craigslist ad for her vintage trailer.

I am all for entrepreneurship, free enterprise, the American way, and flattered that this person believes our blog is widely read enough to help sell her trailer, but…

My blog is my “Happy Place”, not a place to link ads, post stuff for sale, or try make a buck. If it were, I would be doing it.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled nonsense….