Archive for the ‘Thunderbird’ Category

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Wow.  It’s October 3rd already.  Where did the summer go?  What happened, and why didn’t I get all the things done I thought would be childs play back in April?

To review, as shown above, I got the roadster (sort of) finished, and drove it.  A LOT.  And fixed it a little, but mostly, drove it.

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We went camping.  A LOT,  8 weeks all told, including a great 2 week trip in northern Michigan the past couple of weeks.  It was great to be away.

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We explored lots of new (to us) wineries, brewpubs and distilleries.  Here we are, with Kim’s sister Julie and her husband Ken, at “Glass Creek” Wines in Hastings, right in our backyard.  GREAT Michigan red wines, a nice surprise!

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We went to a couple of cool car shows.  Here at Gilmore Car Museum at the “Relix Riot”, being chauffeured by my grandson Milo.  Time well spent.

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Spent more quality time with Milo, still at Relix Riot, here with his dad’s wagon.  They surprised us by showing up!

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Oh, I did get the wagon painted, and a new exhaust system after it blew out one of the original 10 year old mufflers on the way to Port Crescent.  For more camping.

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Changed the wheels and tires on the ’34, and managed to keep them from falling off.  Which puts a kink in a romantic evening cruise…

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Went to world premier movies and skyped with Hollywood elite.  Originally from Flint.  As part of the crowd, but, hey, it counts.

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Bought lift tickets and rolled down a ski hill on a wheeled cart.  Doing that again!

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Saw beautiful sunsets and mastered the art of being in two places at once.  That’s me, left, and right.

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Got marooned on a deserted island with our best friends, and was rescued in time to go to a dance.

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Got a cat.

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Did manage to (almost) get the T’bird painted.  I did get it blocked, primed, and blocked again, now, one more coat, more sanding, then I think it’s possible I can get at least the dash and door jambs painted.  Or not, doesn’t really matter.

So, that’s where summer goes.  It seems like it’ll never get here in February, but before you know it, it’s October, and winter is closing in again.  The seasons fly, but they’re full of fun, family, and friends, and that’s the most important part of the whole year.

Stay tuned, there’s more to come, it’s early, and it’ll be summer again before we know it!

I think I’ll get a chair so I can set out here and soak it all in.  But, where would I put it?

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Progress on two fronts today! Finished up the floor repair in the Riviera, got that all primed, And, got the Lincoln door buttons in the ’59 T ‘bird too! I’m super stoked about both projects, the ‘bird looks great with the smooth, handle-less Lincoln door buttons and it’s nice to not see the shop floor through the Rvi ‘s floor pans.

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Chip Foose is my hero.

Chip Foose is my hero.

I’ll say it right now, Chip Foose is a hero of mine.  I’ve heard, and read on-line lately, lots of disparaging remarks about his latest creation, the above Impala which took the Ridler award at AutoRama, but I’m not one of those distractors.  This car is a masterpiece, and was in my head all day yesterday while I was in the shop working on my own two customs, Kim’s ’63 Riviera and my long-term ’59 T’bird project.

I don’t have the talent, vision, or admittedly the budget for a car like this, but I take inspiration for my own cars from Chip’s work, and this one spoke to me at a very visceral level.  It’s absolutely stunning.  The proportions are perfect, the car is radically modified but still looks like a Chevy Impala.  Integrated, unified, classic yet modern/  Everything flows, beautifully detailed to a level that boggles my mind.  It’s everything that I like about custom cars, and everything I’d like to be able to do.

I overheard some comments while looking at the car, and read afterwards, comments along the line of “The Ridler is bought, not earned”, “All Foose’s cars look the same.”, “F-ugly.”, and so on.  My thoughts on looking at this (and LOTS of other cars at the show) were more along the “I could do that.”

In that light, while the images of the car are still fresh in my head, I’m going to get out to the shop and try to get the bodywork on my T’bird, and get busy with the Air-Ride system under the Riviera.  Maybe someday a crowd of guys will stand around my car and mutter “It’s all about money”, “He just wrote the checks”, “I hate painted bumpers”, and occasionally, “I could do that.”

Let’s get busy.

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Sanding, sanding, sanding...

Sanding, sanding, sanding…

Feeling a burst of creative energy and ambition, I went out to the shop and actually accomplished quite a bit today on the T’bird. I (almost) finished up work on the lengthened tulip panel (between the trunk lid and backlight), and on the shortened tonneau cover. After I’d gotten most of the sanding done, I put the tonneau cover back on the car, set the top back on in order to check the fit and alignment of the panels, and to get a visual of how the car will look.

The result, I think, is that it looks fantastic. The shortened top and tonneau cover now meet right where the backlight (rear window) will be. The car looks SO good with the top on, with the tonneau cover inside, that may be the primary way I use the car, although it looks KILLER without the top too.

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Right side.

Right side.

In addition to that, I took a close look at the fit of the rear bumper on the driver’s side, and decided that I did NOT need to cut the bumper apart (again), but that there was enough adjustment in the brackets to take care of the “droop” at the leading edge of the bumper where it meets the body. It’s much better now after adjusting. I also took some time at the right side quarter in back of the wheel opening, where the new character line for the quarter and fender skirt didn’t quite match up. A little tweak here, and a little more ‘glass reinforced filler there, got the line right where it should be. With the car on the ground, there will be a shadow that would have made the little mis-alignment almost unnoticeable, but I know it’s there, and since I’m doing body work, it may as well be “right” before paint.

While filler was setting up on the quarter panel, I started to finesse the seam on the roof where the backlight was moved forward, and on the front bumpers weld seams. A couple more days of filling and blocking will have the car ready for primer, and I can move on to replacing a couple of pieces of rotten fuel line, get the brakes bled, and finish up the wiring behind the dash for the new, original gauges and switches. It’s coming along!

You sexy beast!

You sexy beast!

 

 

 

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After a three week stint on the Tin Can Tourists classifieds board, a dozen calls from persons with moderate to almost desperate interest in the Spartan, it’s sold, and heading across the pond to France to become a vacation cabin in a private campground, with four other vintage American trailers, and a gorgeous stone cottage.

We’re a little sad, but excited to because now we can start on the ’47 Manor that’s been waiting patiently in the wings.  We’ve got big plans for this one, and while it’ll be hard to improve on the ’46, we think we have an interior layout that’ll be a knock-out, and the body has a few less bumps and dings, so it should be a suitable and worthy replacement.  It also means we’ll be roughing it next season in the Tini-Home or the Del-Ray, but Kim says she’s going to re-cover the Del-Ray dinette cushions and make some cool curtains, which is all it needs to be done.  So we’ll have a choice of two nice, but smaller than we’re used to, vintage campers until the ’47 is done.

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This afternoon I painted the three steel 16″ wheels that’ll be going on the Spartan to its new home in France.  New tires will go on next week, and we have to empty it out and clean it.  After that I spent some time hanging the 5.3 Vortec in Kims Riviera.  I’m happy to report that with the transmission mounted, the engine still fits, although I will need to “clearance” the transmission tunnel a bit with a VERY big hammer to let it set exactly where it needs to.  It’s close, but the trans needs to come up about half an inch, which will let the front of the engine nestle into the notched crossmember, which will allow the hood to close without a bulge to clear the intake.  Nice. When that’s done, mounts made and the engine/trans resting where they should, I’ll let it set this winter and work on the T’Bird and the “new” Spartan.

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The original "Cool McCool"

The original “Cool McCool”

Let me start by saying that I’m a sucker for a bargain, so when my friend Butch said, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do with that old motor home, I can’t even give it away for scrap.”, he got my attention. When he elaborated, and said it was on a GMC chassis, had only fourteen thousand miles on the clock, had a 454, and would give it away if someone (me) would get it out of his yard, where it had sat, unused and not driven, for 12 years, he reeled me in.

With my dad riding shotgun, and to follow me home, I went to Butch’s place with a battery and little expectation that it would fire up and run. I figured it wouldn’t start, that the 454 was probably seized, or there was so much damage from the tree he said had fallen on it, that it wouldn’t be worth the effort (of course it wasn’t, but I didn’t see that then!).

To my complete amazement, when we hooked up the battery, it turned over about 5 times and fired right up. Of course with the 12-year-old gas in it didn’t run GOOD, but it ran well enough move under its own power, the trans shifted gear, and it rolled forward and back, on three flat tires no less. The tree that had come down in it during an ice storm last winter had poked a small hole in the fiberglass body over the windshield, and cracked the driver’s side of the huge windshield. True, there was a serious leak even though Butch had tried to patch it up as best he could, but there was a dish pan on the sofa to catch the drip that was overflowing, the cabinets over the sofa were already rotted, and there were mushrooms growing in the carpeting. It smelled like homemade sin, mice and squirrels had moved in, filling drawers and cabinets with walnuts and smelly nests of insulation. Black mold clouded the fabric ceiling, and water dripped from places suspiciously far from the damaged on the roof.

We have a ’47 Spartan Manor trailer project in the wings, and while the motor home was a mess, it was FILLED with stuff we could (I thought) use. A nice 8 cubic foot RV fridge that fired right up on propane, a 3 burner stove and oven, microwave, two roof air conditioners, water and waste tanks, lighting fixtures, and beautiful walnut raised panel cabinets that I thought I could re-purpose and put in my enclosed car trailer, which needs storage. Not to mention the 454 which rumbled to life so quickly after its long slumber, belching skunky exhaust, popping and farting trying to run on varnished fuel.

I headed for home with it, actually excited, head full of dreams and all the fun it would be tearing into it. I’ve always used complete cars or trucks for donor vehicles for hot rods, and this would be just a little bigger, but with more useable stuff. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, this wasn't supposed to happen.

Well, this wasn’t supposed to happen.

The first thing to wrong was that only one of the A/C units worked. No big deal, we only need one. The second, and what has really killed this thing was that the fiberglass and foam body was, and is, not recyclable, and not easy nor cheap to dispose of. Kim decreed that she doesn’t want modern looking appliances, we don’t need a big microwave/convection oven, and the fridge, which did work on propane, didn’t on the electric side, and was deemed by an RV fridge service guy, who fixed the faulty relay and got it working fine for only $40, to be leaking ammonia, and fixing it would cost as much as a new fridge.

Rats.

In addition, in my excitement to find a use for the 454, which runs really well on fresh gas, I initially thought I’d build a cool COE transport truck, based on our friend Diana’s awesome ’39 Diamond T 509 she had built to haul her restored orchard tractors to shows. Kim was against this idea, despite her going with me to see the Diamond T COE cab I found, and while I discounted her lack of enthusiasm, when all my hot rodder pals said they thought it was a dumb idea (“But Brian, what are you gonna DO with it?”, was the universal response), I eventually gave up on that plan, and conceived good plan (or, Bad Idea #2) to put the 454 to good use. I bought not one, but two ’63 Buick Rivera’s, to have one be a home for the engine. My plan was to sell one immediately to recoup the purchase price, then drop the 454 between the frame rails, get it running and driving, and sell it as a “rat” semi-custom, and let the happy new owner do the cosmetics, or not.

Bare naked lady.

Bare naked lady.

The Riviera, patiently waiting for it's new heart.

The Riviera, patiently waiting for its new heart.

Anybody see a problem here?

So here we are. It’s mid October, there’s a Riviera project car that Kim is actually enthused about, and wants as her own. Great, except we all know a late 80’s carb’d 454 in today’s world is a poor choice for economy or power, so I spent all the money I got for the 2nd Riviera on an LS 5.3 and 4L60E to put in Kim’s car. Since we’re keeping it, that means bodywork, paint, interior, and having it nice, with A/C, cruise, all the stuff that makes a car comfortable to drive, and expensive to build. Sigh…

The Rivieras new power plant!  5.3 LS and 4L60.

The Rivera’s new power plant! 5.3 LS and 4L60.

The motor home chassis is STILL here, I haven’t been enthused enough about tearing into it to get the engine out. I did move it yesterday from the side yard (where everyone driving down our busy rural road could see it, and probably soon start complaining to the township), to the front of the garage where I’m slowly getting ready to disembowel it. I salvaged a couple hundred feet of stranded 12 and 14 gauge wire for future projects, miles of black plastic wire loom, and whatever else I could.

I’m going to drive it over to my dad’s shop this morning, 34 feet of bare chassis and motor home floor, and pull the engine there (it’s too wide to nose into my shop and use my cherry picker) with the overhead crane. Then, I’ll drag the chassis to the metal recycler, where all that cool stuff that would make a killer ramp truck (hydraulic level system, air bag suspension, A/C that still blows cold, cruise that works, 19.5 wheels and tires etc) and recoup a little for the labor involved. The body I’m cutting up into little pieces and putting in our garbage can a few at a time, we’re about a third of the way to getting rid of all of it, and the walnut cabinetry, which turned out to be not useable either, is on the brush pile.   At least we’ll get an evening’s entertainment later this fall on a chilly night as a bonfire.

The 454 a buddy wants for his ’55 Chevy gasser project, and is going to swap a set of beautiful 15″ Dayton knock-off wire wheels and tires for it, which of course means I will have to build a car around them.  They will be perfect for the car I’ve been planning and building in my head for a while, a ’27 highboy roadster, track style, dropped floor, fenderless, track nosed.  At least with the 454 gone, I’ll be forced to use a sensible engine for that!

Maybe something like this?

Maybe something like this?

In my youth, I’m sure I’d still be enthused about the entire deal, and it has been sort of fun, although I admit the amount of work was, and still is, sort of daunting. Now, my 60th birthday is right around the corner, and it’s a bit more difficult to keep the enthusiasm up, even though we’ll come out OK, and have a really cool Riviera for Kim to park beside my chopped T’bird (OK, two if count the ’27 highboy modified style roadster those Dayton’s are the foundation for…).

It never ends!