Archive for the ‘Traditional Custom 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.

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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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I was at ALRO Steel yesterday, picking out some steel to make the air bag cups for the Riviera, when my phone rang.  It was my pal Jake Moomey, calling to tell me that he wasn’t going to come out and drop off the plates he makes for the cups, as he had to stay home for his kids to get off the school bus.  He followed that up by saying since he is currently putting an identical Air-Lift system in our friend Destin’s ’63 Riviera, he might as well make a second set of cups and spacers for mine.  Not only that, but he said he’d take photos of the job as he does it, to help me out.

I have my friend Johns bead roller in my shop right now, to make the floor pan patch panels for the car, and the block-off panels for the firewall where the original heater is.  John has lent me this handy tool before, along with his shrinker/stretcher, and Panel-Bond gun, even when it’s inconvenienced him.  He has an 8 foot sheet metal brake, which he lets me use when I need to do something that simply bending sheet metal over the edge of the bench won’t do.

My friend Kirk went to the guy I traded some parts to for a console for the Riviera, and my pal Jay brought it over from  Detroit to our place last weekend when he and his wife came to Kalamazoo for the weekend, saving me a day long road trip.  My buddy Crafty B did some welding on the aluminum oil pan for the engine, as I’m not able to do that at home.

The only reason I have the car is that my friend John sold me the car, and a second, slightly rougher one, for scrap metal prices, and then lent me his trailer to haul them home (which I unknowingly damaged slightly unloading the cars).  He was happy for me when I sold the rough one for more than I paid for the pair, which I had told him I wanted to do when I bought them.  He could have sold them himself, but he knew I liked them and wanted to build one.

We don’t do things in a vacuum.  Help, support and inspiration (and, sometimes tools)  come from our friends and family when we need them, get stuck, or run out of steam.  I hope I’m as generous and supportive to my friends, because I certainly wouldn’t be able to this stuff, or be where I am, without them.

Thanks guys, call me if you need me!

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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The restoration (or “fixing up”) of an old car is a matter of repairing and refurbishing all of the worn out and/or broken parts, making them work like they should, and then, depending on your own taste, making them look like new, or as close to new as makes you happy, again.  It’s one step at a time.  Today I made several big steps forward.

The Riviera I’m building for my wife had an issue with the passenger door glass, it flopped inwards when the door closed, didn’t fit right, and the power window motor was shot.  Happily, I have an extra pair of doors, and robbed the spare door of the parts I needed.  The window motor works fine, but sadly, the die-cast arm on the window regulator that was the cause of this floppy-ness was also broken on the donor door.  Since I had an entire extra regulator, I cut one of the steel arms off it that happen to be exactly the same length as the broken die cast one, managed to save the shouldered rivet that makes the hinge pin that it pivots as the window goes up and down, and put it all back together.  It works fine, and cost ZERO dollars.

I got the new “Southern-Air” A/C-heat unit mounted on the inside of the firewall too, and adapted the shiny new dash vents to the Riviera’s original housings, on each side of the dash, and the long narrow  original one in the center of the console.  The defroster tubes are also mounted temporarily, so I’ve go all done that I can do until I get the new console (sourced from the guy who bought the parts Riviera I sold) and start permanently putting the car together.

Next up, put some butyl duct-insulation (same stuff as “Dyna-Mat” but about a quarter of the price), on the floor and insulation on top of that.  A buddy uses shiny mylar bubble wrap insulation in all his builds, so I’m going to use the same thing, with maybe a second layer of butyl duct insulation on top of that.  I want the car quiet and cool.

After that, I spent some time sorting out the wiring harness, as I need to sort out the switched and constant hot feeds to wire the new ECM for the LS engine, and I got all the windows to go up and down.  The drivers power seat needs some work to free up the mechanism, but the motor runs, so it should be repairable.  The headlight, tail-light and wiper circuits all work, so I won’t have too much wiring to do, as the original wiring is in good shape.

I’m very happy with this afternoons work, I got a lot done, and made progress on several aspects of the build.  As soon as I get my re-shaped oil pan and the air suspension stuff, the car can start going back together and get ready for paint!

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The defroster plenum will get the tubes sealed in with  my second favorite thing, duct tape.

The defroster plenum will get the tubes sealed in with my second favorite thing, duct tape.

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from the firewall

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Yesterday, on a Facebook page devoted to traditional custom cars (we know it’s traditional because they spell it with. “K”), someone posted some photos of several vintage Cadillac customs. Following suit, I posted one of our long gone ’56 convert, a car that really initiated me into the world of “customs”. The car gave me confidence in my abilities and sense of style, I was and still am, proud of it.

Several people then “shared” the photo to their pages, which is flattering. Since I’m a bit of an attention seeker, of course I followed links their pages to see them, and read comments.

Predictably, some of the comments were less than complimentary. “I don’t like the tires”, to “Painted chrome sucks”, and so forth.  Of course my feeling were a little hurt, and I thought, “Really?”  It was the 80’s, and the car was sort of cutting edge at the time.

Several witty and cutting replies came to mind, from “…and the horse you rode in on.”,  to “Let’s see YOUR car”, to some even less refined. I paused for a second before hitting “Return”, which is NOT my usual habit. I must be getting more mature.

This pause made me wonder Why it is that people feel free to express every negative feeling they have in this way? It’s not just the cloak of anonimity of the web, I’ve heard it all in person at car shows and events as well. People seem to think if it’s out in public, their myopic viewpoint needs to be heard, especially in the example of a custom car, by the owner/builder. My wife always cringes when I let these dopes have it car shows, saying it brings me down to their level.

I guess she’s right. From now on, this kind of unconstructive criticism I’ll let slide. It doesn’t matter, I do things for me, not someone else.

And besides, they couldn’t do it anyway…