Archive for the ‘Classic Cars’ Category

Really Brian, really?

I won’t rehash the beginning of this story, except to briefly explain this photo.  At left, you’ll see the Pontiac wagon hitched to the car trailer, in a snowy winter scene.   Most guys wouldn’t even pull a car like this out of the garage for picture in weather like this, let alone for a drive to Detroit hauling an enclosed trailer with another car inside, but not me.  No sir, I am not like other guys!

Constant readers will remember that the brakes failed on my aging Chevy pickup, leaving me with two choices.  Either stay home and miss the Autorama at Cobo hall with the ’36 roadster, or get there last Wed. with the only vehicle I have (that I could get out of the garage anyway) that’s capable of towing, our ’51 Pontiac wagon.  I HATED the idea of driving the car in the salt, but I’d been planning on, and looking forward to, participating in the show that I was going to get there regardless.  It was hitch up the wagon, or just set down on a stool in the garage and cry, one or the other, and I’m too big, and too old for that.  I hitched up, after taking the load leveler brackets off the Spartan and headed out.

Finally, after getting lost and ending up in Mexican Town, I rolled into Cobo Hall’s basement.  A quick rinse with a hose washed the travelling crud off the wagon, and it looked surprisingly show worthy.  I had brought a bottle of spray detailer, some towels and other car care stuff, so it wasn’t too big a job.  I have to say it really looked good under the lights.

Thursday morning I was able to detail the roadster, get the spots on the wagon I’d missed the night before, and got my “display” all set up.  Sadly, I couldn’t park the cars next to one another, but it actually worked out better with the wagon where it was.

The wagon ended up with a group of guy’s who’d brought their own 50’s style “living room”, complete with black and white TV, vintage magazines, furniture and a variety of malt beverages.  The TV was  hooked to an inverter and car battery, an MP3 player loaded with vintage cartoons and hot rod movies.  Pretty cool.  Nice bunch of guys, they made me feel welcome.  Thanks Brad and Aaron!

Friday morning, I took some time and went thru the upstairs show, primarily to see this, the “Imperial Speedster”.  A cut down ’59 Chrysler Imperial 4 door sedan.  Amazing, right up my alley.  The down-side is this makes me feel like cutting up another car, when I have several in progress right now!

I took a lot of pictures of this ’64 Riviera, because of the very striking charcoal over bright silver color combination.  This is the color combo I want to put on the ’59 Thunderbird,  I was glad to see a similar car in the colors I want.  I like the color break stripe too, although I think I’ll use dark navy blue and red rather than black and red as seen here.  Beautiful.

I spent all day Saturday in the basement show, talking with people and looking at cars.  Never went upstairs, it was shoulder to shoulder up there.  One of the cars there shocked me when it pulled in, a ’64 Thunderbird that looked VERY familiar…  As it turns out, it was indeed my brother Barry’s old T’Bird, that he and I had driven (lucky us) all the way to Kalamazoo from Manhattan.  As in New York.  Barry’d bought the thing from some slick talking car curbing shyster sight unseen, I’m sure the photos he sent were of another car.  Anyway, this thing had sat 5 years since Barry sold it to the present owner, who decided it was car show material, and had a buddy of his drive it from somewhere in Ohio to Detroit.  With NO BRAKES!  The kid said the emergency brake worked, barely, he thought it was pretty funny.  The car stunk as badly as I remembered from our drive home of rat poop, mildew and oil.  It was displayed with a half-dozen other examples of  cars in a similar state of automotive ruin, looked the Dead End Kids.  Not surprisingly, we saw the car last night in the tunnel under Cobo after the show, hood up, on the shoulder, with the hapless driver and his buddies looking a little concerned.  It was knocking loudly when they pulled out of Cobo, it looked like curtains for the old T’Bird. 

No such problems for us, aside from the fact that as usual I hadn’t bothered to find out when the show actually ended.  Somehow I thought it was all over at 3 pm, but really it ran ’till 8 pm.  This blow was softened somewhat by the fact that we earned a “Major Award”, receiving “Outstanding Wagon” and neat handmade trophy.  That was a surprise and a treat, which took the edge off my bad day on Wednesday getting over to the show.  The wagon was VERY popular with spectators and with other participants alike, so ultimately I wasn’t too disappointed that the truck broke down.  I’m the only guy to ever have gotten a trophy for his tow truck, I’ll bet.

As a treat to myself for the hassle, I had the roadster striped at the show.  I’d always pictured some orange stripes on the car, and the guy who did it was very enthusiastic about putting lines on it.  He helped pick out the right colors, and the results are, I think, the icing on the cake.  Raquel liked it too…

Kim wasn’t as enthusiastic about the striping as Raquel was, but I think she’ll come to like it as much as I do.

The move out went pretty well.  We drove the wagon down to pick up the trailer, then back inside to load the ’36.  That took just long enough to let all the driven cars leave, we were like the fourth of fifth trailer to load inside.  Happily, the ’36 fired right up and it rumbled into the trailer with no worries. 

We drove through some torrential rain, with lightning and thunder, but the Rain-X did a great job.  The car actually looked pretty good this morning, but I took it to the car wash to wash the salt off anyway.  The sun was out, and I’m not planning on any more road trips untill May when the Tin Can Tourist’s meet in Milford at Camp Dearborn.   Note to self:  fix massive leak at windshield wiper towers and trim, and put electric wipers in the car!


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

Which means it’s cold in the shop as well.   While the woodstove warms up, a little update on the progress on the truck.   Yesterday, with the sun shining in the windows and the stove almost glowing cherry red, I got a couple things done.   I made a little cover for the main fuse panel, from a scrap of polished diamond plate.  I think it works well, fits the theme and matches the diamond plate in the box as well.

It’s nice seeing the dash (almost) as it will look finished, without a tangle mess of wiring hanging from beneath it.  There are a few loose ends, but those are steadily getting sorted out, wrapped in looms and connected to the appropriate componants.  It’s time consuming, but I think it’s coming along.

I also spent some time getting the turn signal switch mounted to the column.  This is a Guide unit, which was originally in our ’48 Pontiac convert, a dealer installed accessory.  I’d had it mounted on the ’68 Cadillac tilt/tele column that used to be in the Pontiac, and had lost along the way the original mounting clamp.   A stainless hose clamp from the hardware store worked perfectly, and the switch looks right at home on the DT column.  Very period corrrect, and looks perfect ahead of the engine turned dash.  I replaced the burned out indicator bulb too, so it should be good to go.   In addtion to that, I made a bracket to mount the ECM, which is welded to the brake pedal hanger.  Simple, the ECM just sets in it, and a tarp strap clamps it in place.

The seat is “done”, although I may end up splitting the center arm-rest in two.  It’s pretty wide, with it down, there’s little room between it and the steering wheel, which, unfortunately, doesn’t tilt.  If only…    With the armrest split, it’ll be a little more comfrotable and useable.  Gotta have cupholders, don’t we?  The piece of Masonite on the door jamb will be covered with matching leather.

I finally ordered the fuel pump, an in tank one from Auto-Zone, which looks like it’ll easily adapt to my tank fitting.  The one now is for a TBI, and isn’t high enough pressure.   The LS motor requires MUCH more pressure, like 90 psi.   Then I have to figure out fuel line fittings for the return line.  I also ordered a courtesy light kit, so lights will come on all over the interior when the doors are opened, and I have some very pretty stainless steel 34 Ford reproduction tailights, stainless stands and wire covers for the back of the truck.  They should look appropriate.

I drilled holes in the fenders to mount the head lights too.  When I widened them, the lights were too far outboard in the original holes, but when I moved them in, the newly widened inner fender brace was in the wrong spot, so a compromise puts them an inch and a half further out than original.   I’m tape measure challenged, and it took a LONG time for me to get them centered and equal side to side, but I’m happy with the result.  The front looked a little “pinched” originally, with them out a little, on the wider fenders, the proportions a little better.

So, waiting for parts, then fuel lines, brake lines, get the driveshaft made and start on the exhaust.  These little things are so time consuming, it’s hard to comprehend, but it all needs to get done.  It’ll be nice to get through this fabrication stage, and on to the painting and assembly part, where I’ll be able to see progress.

Last day of 2010, and I’m not particularly motivated, but I did get out and finish up the seat in the Diamond T.  It’s now mounted, rather than just propped roughly up in the cab, and I’m very happy with how it looks, fits, and most of all, how comfortable it is.

The top of the seat back has four wire hooks, which drop into slots cut into a ledger mounted to the cab, and bottom simply rests against the 2×4 you can see the edge of  behind it.  That’ll be covered with carpet or leather, to match the seat, and there’ll be a filler panel mounted to the door jamb to cover the gap which will look like a seat frame. 

The center armrest has a rear panel, which folds forward and will allow access to the storage area behind the seat.  It won’t show and there’s a surprising amount of room in behind.  Good to hide a purse or little stuff.  The armrest is rather wide, but there is room for my leg between it, the steering wheel and shifter.  It’s tight, but we won’t be driving with it down very often. 

At first I wasn’t very enthused about the high back, built-in headrest look of the modern seat, but setting in the cab quickly revealed that it’ll be much more comfortable, and safer than the original, low back seat.  The cab has a flange which joins the center panel to the side panels,  which is right behind the driver and passengers heads, which would be great for fracturing a skull in the event of even a minor rear end collision.  This is much better.  It’s a Hot Rod anyway, right?

Neptunes Net. We ate raw oysters and watched people surfing across the street.

Every so often, things happen which make us  take stock of  things, what’s important, and what’s memorable.  That’s happening to me right now, and it seems appropriate to relate one of the best weekends of my life here.  Of course, as with every story, there’s more than just this one moment, so bear with me, and we’ll take a little trip up the California coast, via Michigan.

Our son Craig lives in Las Vegas.  When he moved out there, he packed up all the stuff he cared about, four guitars, some clothes, a Farberware rotisserie, loaded it all up in his ’68 Mustang GT convert and headed west.  The car doesn’t have air, and after a summer of living in a skillet, he thought A/C would be nice.  OK, neccessary.

The next spring, I was at my buddy John’s shop, and he had a really cherry looking ’62 Impala Sport Sedan in front.  The thing was straight, had a really nice interior, a 283 that ran like a watch, was all freshened up underneath, and sported a probably 40 year old used car lot enamel paint job.  John had cut the coils, it sat nice, and, best of all, it had factory A/C.    

I called Craig, asked if he’d like a ’62  Impala, with A/C, and his response was, “Yeah!  What’s a 4 door hardtop?”  He’d never seen one!  I sent some pics, he loved it, and I bought the thing for exactly what John was asking.  Which may have been a little much, but it looked like a winner, and I’m of the opinion that you can pay too little for a used car, but you can’t pay too much for a good one.

I liked the “patina’d” look of the car, but Craig said, “It’s ‘Vegas.  It should be shiney.”   I had to agree, and so I spent the next two weeks prepping it for paint.  I did find a little rust in the right front fender, fixed a couple of old dings,  and was finally ready for paint.  I picked a two-tone, Fruehauf cream on the roof, and a light sea-foam green metallic for the bottom, a new Toyota color.  It was pretty close to the original.

John had told me the heater didn’t work due to a faulty valve, and the A/C turned out to not blow cold.  The A/C was easy, a loose fitting and an aluminum line with a hole in it, but the heater turned out to be a major job.  I got it all together and ready to go by the first week of September, when Craig was planning coming home.  

He loved the car, and as I had two weeks of vacation coming,  the day he left, I headed for Las Vegas with in the Impala.  Pretty trusting, since I’d only driven it into town twice, and to a car show, about 100 miles total.  With the A/C blowing cold, all the windows up, a full tank of gas, a Tom Tom and cell phone, I headed west on 1-94.

The little old Chevy with who-knows how many miles on it performed flawlessly, and I made to Vegas in 2 1/2 days of driving, not counting a side trip to Santa-Fe to visit my friend Dave, from whom I’d bought the Diamond T.  After two days with him, the Impala and I hit the road again, west on 1-40, doing some Rt. 66 tourist type sightseeing along the way.  

In Tucumcari NM, the very nice guy who own’s the Blue Swallow motel pointed me to a buddy of his who had a tire store, where I borrowed a jack and installed some rubber coil spring spacers in the front.  1500 miles of having the lowered suspension bottom out was getting old!  I got them in, put another 10 lbs of air in the air shocks out back, and it was much better.  Other than that, and an oil leak that required a quart dumped in every 500 miles I had no trouble at all.  At least, I didn’t THINK I had any trouble untill…

Driving down the grade towards the Hoover Dam in AZ, it was getting hot again, so I rolled up the windows and turned on the A/C.  And waited, and waited, and waited for the car to cool off.  It didn’t.  Evidently, it had leaked somewhere else, and the A/C, which was ice-cold the day before, was no more.  The whole reason to buy the car now was on the ozone somewhere between Kalamazoo and Arizona, and it was back into skillet! 

An hour later, I was in Vegas at Craig’s office, and we were cruising the strip. He didn’t seem to mind that the A/C had given up the ghost, and was thrilled to have the car there.  Lots more room than the Mustang for golf clubs, friends, and I have to admit the car looked right at home on the strip in Vegas.  It fit.  Valet parking attendants loved it and always parked the car in a prominent spot to show it off.  It turned more heads than a rented Lambo, for sure.

I spent several days with him in town, and when it came time to go home, I decided to fly back rather than drive the Mustang.  In retrospect, that was a good decision, but we’ll leave that story for the next chapter, along with the road trip up the California coast to Monterey the next spring. 

See you for the next installment!