Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New Project!

Posted: July 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

The abandoned ’63 Riviera project has left the building! As soon as we bought the ’52 DeSoto wagon I knew I wasn’t going to have time, or interest, to work on it, and sold it early in March. With the pandemic the buyer couldn’t get over here to pick it up until last weekend, but he finally could, it’s gone. Like any hot-rodder worth his salt, I immediately filled the project void with another car.

This is a ’28/’29 Model A roadster body, fiberglass, that has bounced around West Michigan for several years. A buddy of mine offered it to me as a roller on a TCI Model A chassis a couple of months ago, but I passed as I didn’t want the A chassis, but a ’32. In the meantime, he sold the chassis, and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, happily, almost the same time the Riviera left the building.

It’s a ‘glass body with an original steel firewall, and steel inner fender wells, a buck for a Hallock style split windshield, which I’m going to have cast in aluminum at a local foundry, and have a couple more made to sell. The doors are extended, although the jambs on this body are not, inspired by (supposedly) a famous Model A roadster built in the ’50’s.

I have not been able to find any photos or information on that car, but somebody knows or remembers a purple A roadster with extended doors and I’ll have another piece of the puzzle.

I have the fresh 276 DeSoto Hemi that the wagon gave up for it’s 5.7b swap, and will need a late model transmission, probably a 700R4, and an adaptor from “Hot Heads”. At this time I’m thinking to leave the engine completely stock, although Hot Heads does have 4 bbl intakes for this DeSoto engine.

For a chassis I’ve been looking at “builder” ’32 frames, available as a “you-weld” package for less than $1000, buggy spring front and rear suspension with stuff available from Speedway or other vendors. Of course, I now could use the Ford 8 ” rear I sold a year ago, or even the DeSoto rear I just scrapped, but, there’ll be something out there.

So, the latest distraction at Cool McCool’s Garage is on deck!

Musings.

Posted: July 8, 2020 in Uncategorized
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It’s over 90 degrees, I just got back from the local O’Rielley’s with some heater hose, antifreeze and miscellaneous bits for the DeSoto, and putting off going to the shop. It’s 78 inside the shop, not bad, and better than the 92 outside, but not very inviting, so I’m taking a minute and reflecting on my ’52 DeSoto wagon project a bit to kill some time.

A brief recap: Back in August, our beautiful ’51 Pontiac wagon was rear-ended by some brain-dead local yokel in a Ford F150 while we waited for traffic to clear for a left turn, and totaled. We had what I thought was adequate insurance coverage through Hagerty collector car insurance, but, when I started searching for a wagon from the same era, finished to a level we would be happy with both cosmetically and mechanically (we tow a 25′ Spartan Manor trailer), we quickly found that the field was pretty narrow.

Nonexistent really.

I’d have settled for any one of the cars I found, and presented for my wife approval, a ’48 Buick Sedanette, a ’55 Olds Holiday 4 door hardtop, a ’48 Chrysler “Traveller” sedan with a wagon-like roof rack, but she was insistent on a wagon. I of course was trying to come out of the deal with some cash in hand, but it was quickly apparent it was going to take all we got from the insurance, and a lot more to get anything even close to the Pontiac.

Friends quickly started sending me links to wagons for sale on FB marketplace, Craig’s List, Auto-Trader, and I searched the H.A.M.B classifieds every day, to no avail. A couple of mid 50’s Fords that were in the price range on the West Coast, but with original Y-blocks and 3 speeds I passed on, and some really sketchy looking “Street-Roddish” ones, with cosmetics I couldn’t live with were passed over as well.

In December, a friend sent me a Craig’s List ad from New-Ulm MN for this ’52 Desoto. It looked promising, if one looked past the brindle and beige color and spray bomb silver on all the chrome, but the price was appealing, so I called.

After several attempts, I finally got of the guy who owned it, who was as vague on the phone as his print ad, and TERRIBLE photos were. He didn’t seem to know anything about it, despite having owned for 10 years, he didn’t know if ran or not, though MAYBE the brakes were up, couldn’t say anything about the condition of the body under the hideous paint was, so I gave up on it, being 7 hours away.

Several weeks later, after finding NOTHING, I called him again, wrung a little more information from him, and decided we’d take a chance and drive to scenic western central Minnesota at the end of January to look it over. If it was what he said, I’d load it on the U-Haul trailer I received in the little town there, and if not, we’d turn right around and head home with the cashiers check for $1500 less than he was asking in my wallet and keep looking.

Turned out, when we got there (he never showed up from his home in Milwaukee but had his brothers who live on the property help us), it was much better in some most ways, the chrome was terrible, but the body was rust free, mostly intact original interior and a 276 Hemi and Fluid Drive. We loaded it up, handed over the check and headed home.

He said he’d never been able to get it running, and added another gem of information when he called the Saturday morning we were to meet him to say he wasn’t coming, and oh-by-the-way the engine was missing the exhaust manifolds.

Really?

I wasn’t going to use the original engine anyway, so that was no big deal. When we got home, and the car was unloaded in my garage, I had it running in about 20 minutes. The dual points in the distributor weren’t set properly. And, it DID have exhaust manifolds, they are invisible from the topside, and the brakes were up, with all new lines, and hoses. The engine appeared to have fresh gaskets, carb, distributor and generator look new, there was a new Rhode Island Wiring harness in the back seat in a box with a receipt for $900 and a better steering wheel and column from a ’53 with an automatic instead of the “Gyro-Matic” this car had, and a complete ’53 dash.

It was getting better, and in fact, was REALLY good when I looked underneath. The body had been off, the frame cleaned and painted, and underside undercoated, which was now peeling off from setting on concrete, but no rust anywhere. The spots that looked sketchy were plastic filler applied poorly over some dents with no prep, the original beige paint was still shiny under the plastic when I popped it off.

So, here I am 6 months later. I have a 2018 Chrysler 5.7 Hemi in it that starts and runs great. Stainless exhaust all the way back, 2 1/4″ mandrel bends I did myself. Mustang II style front suspension with GM rotors and calipers, a Ford 8.8, 3.73 limited slip rear, disc brakes at all 4 corners. Right now the left front fender is back off as I discovered the engine’s A/C compressor, a variable displacement one, wasn’t compatible with the Vintage Air system I bought, and had to remove it for access.

The new one is in, which of course has slightly different locations for the hose ports, which meant I had to get a couple of different fittings with service ports, which means I can’t finish the lines until they get here, but the system is done other than that.

The brakes need to be bled (I’m waiting for a pressure bleeder so I can do that by myself), the dash has to be painted and wood grained, then it can go back in, the newly painted steering column can go back in and the car should be able to move under it’s own power for the first time in over a decade.

It feels good to flex my muscles a bit as a builder, and it’s nice to have the funds available to be able to build it exactly how we want, although I admit it’s daunting for me to accept that I’m spending as much money as I have on it so far. I feel sort of guilty about it, since I’ve always built cars on a shoestring budget, scrimped and scrounged and (usually) settled for something less than what I really wanted because of that.

This one is different. I had a conversation with a friend in Oregon who just bought a beautiful ’55 Ford wagon, all restored, to replace his ’55 Ford sedan, totaled, like our Pontiac, in a traffic mishap. I was a bit jealous at first, since he’s driving his, but I know that in the end, if I’d bought one like his, I’d now have it spread all over the garage just like the DeSoto is, because it wouldn’t have been quite what we wanted, and one thing leads to another.

And, they buy-in would have 4 times where we started. We’ll end up with a car done to our wants and needs, for the same or less money, minus of course the labor, but, I’m retired, so…

So, I’ve waited long enough, back out the shop now to get the heater hoses on, maybe the brake bleeder and A/C fittings will come yet today and I can get those at least started as well. Or not, it’s pretty hot outside…

We’ve almost completed our spring cleanup and makeover here at HQ. And couldn’t be happier!

New tempered, tinted glass in the doors, a dumpster load of junk gone, and the coup de gras’, new steel siding to match the new storage barn. That will be getting a 10×16 overhead door and a service door, I quickly realized having the front open was a mistake. Probably wait for next year for cement, the renovation budget is strained.

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When I dropped the original radiator in the DeSoto last week, I wasn’t surprised to find that it wouldn’t work.  The lower hose outlet was smack in front of the A/C compressor pulley.   A quick trip to eBay with the dimensions revealed that a ’47 Chevy truck radiator is almost exactly the same size, and, bonus, the outlets are the correct size and in the correct location, i.e., not in front of an engine driven accessory.

This was $300, it came with a beautifully fabricated aluminum shroud and electric fan, with the temp sending unit and relay kit.  It turned out I had to trim the bottom of the core support, as this has squared corners and the original had radiused corners, but it’s a good fit.  I’ll have to weld some tabs on the core support to mount it, as it’s an inch narrower, but otherwise, perfect.  I calculated, looking at the photos on the eBay sellers ad, that it’d just barely clear the water pump pulley, and, I was right.  Half an inch.

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The past couple of days I’ve been working on the exhaust system.  I’ve always taken my projects to “Maxi-Muffler” in Kalamazoo and had them bend pipes for me, but this car I wanted to try my hand at it myself.  I ordered from “Summit Racing” a U-weld-it dual exhaust kit, hangers, clams, and mufflers.  When I called the order in, the sales rep asked if I would like to upgrade to stainless steel pipes.  In the catalogue that kit was almost twice as much, but he said for just $30 more I could get stainless 2 1/4″ pipe.  I didn’t hesitate.

I was disappointed when the parts arrived that the Thrush stainless glass pack mufflers I’d ordered came in the familiar red powder coat.  I called, and that rep told me they weren’t available in stainless, despite the catalogue listing them.  Rather than send back two $28 mufflers for $30 shipping, I kept them and found stainless “Turbo” style mufflers from Jegs very inexpensively, and ordered them.  I’ll use the glass packs some day, maybe behind the Hemi that came out of the wagon…

The kit came with 4 each of 90 degree bends, 45’s, some tight “U” bends, and 4 48″ straight sections.  Because the car is so long, had ordered 2 extra 4′ straight pipes, and it’s a good thing I did.  I had a hard time figuring out how to get the pipes over the axle and around the gas tank, but I managed, and today have it all pretty much wrapped up.  I did have to lose the Explorer rear ends factory sway bar, and the massive counter weight on the right side, but the pipes are tucked neatly around all the obstacles, and look pretty good.

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After I got started, it wasn’t as difficult as I first thought to mount the hanger rods and insulators to keep the system from wiggling around.  For some reason, Summit sent some 5/15″ diameter hanger rods, which weren’t usable with the rubber insulators I’d ordered.  I do remember the rep saying that some of the ones I wanted were out of stock, these may have been the substitutes.  No big deal, I had saved a couple of 3/8″ stainless rod sections that Kim’s dad Bob had brought home from Kellogg’s when he worked there.  I cut them up and made the hangers I needed from them, they are actually better than the ones I bought.

I’d have gotten finished up today, but ran out of .024 welding wire, but it’s done enough to set it back on the floor on it’s wheels and admire my work.  The pipes look cool exiting the back of the car under the bumper, they’re straight and symmetrical, I’m proud of the job I did.

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Next week I hope to be able to wire it up enough to fire the Hemi.  I’m going to send the dashboard gauges out to be converted to electronic sending units, so we’re getting close. The A/C system from “Vintage Air” is here, the evaporator is mounted under and behind the dash, running the hoses and wiring it up will be the next project after firing the engine.

It’s coming along.

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Well, it’s over.  The search for an early 50’s station wagon to replace the wrecked ’51 Pontiac wagon ended with this ’52 DeSoto.  A friend in Windsor sent me the link to an old CraigsList ad from Wisconsin for this car.  Several fruitless attempts to get a responses finally ended up with a phone call from the owner.  A deal was struck, and this weekend Kim and I are going to New Ulm, Minnesota (not exactly in the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from there) to pick it up.

We’ll decide what the mechanical upgrades will be for sure once it’s here, but at this time the (tentative) plan is for a late mode 5.7 or, if I can justify the extra money, a 6.4 Chrysler Hemi and transmission, disk front brake conversion, and modern rear axle, probably a Ford Explorer.  That would give me disk brakes all around, the same 5 on 4 1/2 bolt pattern so we can keep it looking original on the outside, and all new under the skin.  The little 276, while it’s nostalgic and very, very cool, would be great to display with the hood up at car shows and cruise nights, but now what we want to be traveling with towing our Spartan.  Maybe a new roadster…

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The car has its original 276 “Firedome” Hemi, which, according to the owner, hasn’t been started in the 10 years he’s had it, but was purported to be a “good runner” when he got it.  (I dunno, I think I’d have gotten it running, but that’s just me)  It does turn over and, he says, has compression.  The brakes he said he had rebuilt and replaced all the lines, so it at least has brakes to help load it safely.

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He has the missing headlight rings, the only missing bit is that right park lamp housing.  The chrome is unknown, having been painted over with silver paint by the previous owner, but we can see original chrome under the paint on the grill teeth and bumper guards, so I’m throwing caution and common sense out the window and hoping for the best on the big heavy bumpers.  The paint is also claimed to be original, with no body work evident aside from some uncomfortably vague reference to “some work” having been done to the pan under the tailgate, but it raises and lowers with out issue (he says) and the crank-down rear window works.

I guess I’ll go with all that for now.

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I am not crazy about the dark mustard-brown color, but it’s supposed to be the original finish, and it looks intact and pretty good, at least in blurry photos.  I do like the tu-tone treatment, the ivory roof and window frame panels both Kim and I like.  She’d like it done in a Honduras Maroon, so that can be done as we’re going to hot-rod the car anyway.

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These cars, and slightly fancier cousins the Chrysler wagons, have really lovely interiors with ribbon grain mahogany rear panels and floors, accented by polished stainless rub rails.  We both really like that treatment, which I’d copied in our own Pontiac wagon.  This is the car as it sets now, it’s worn and you can se the panels need replacement, but that’s simple.  I think I’d like to do the door panels to match, with a vinyl insert for accent as opposed to all upholstered.  The seats I vision in an alligator print vinyl, in a tobacco color, which is how the Chrysler wagons were done.  Should be pretty.

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I found this NOS “Car-Pac” wood and aluminum roof rack.  They’re still made, and I’ve talked to the company that builds them.  I can buy this one for half the cost of new, including the clamps and pads, but I have to get the car here to measure, because these are NOT universal fit, but a tailored to the specific car they will be used on.  I’ll get dimensions of the roof when it’s here, contact the company, see if this one will fit, and if it does, buy it, if not, probably buy one new, as these guys have been so helpful with information.  It’d look great on the car, and match the interior perfectly.

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The Riviera project, which I was working every day on, suddenly became a chore.  I put some feelers out, and the guy who bought the other Riviera I got with mine stepped up and is buying it as a project.  He has a restored but wrecked one that needs a frame, so his plan is to pull that body, put on the chassis under mine with the Air Lift suspension and LS drivetrain, and probably the nice under dash A/C unit as well.  I offered it at less than I had in those components.  If I’d finished it, I’d still lose money, and more of it, so now is the time to let that go and clear the decks.

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I also sold my ’76 GMC Dually pickup, to some friends from Finland who have a vacation home in the states.  After I got the Ram done, there’s no need for it, and I don’t want to see it just set around.  They’re happy, I’m happy.  Everybody wins.

So, everything changes, retirement marches on.  Winter is more than half over, we’re excited for the changes and new adventures.  Stay tuned, there’s lots more to come!

Barn Raising.

Posted: November 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

With a little, well, a LOT, of help from my friends, we’re getting our new barn raised. This will let us keep the Spartan, a car or two, our lawn equipment under cover and out of the weather.

My pal Butch Starner, a retired builder and finish carpenter, had his hands full keeping us monkeys on task, my son Craig, friends Phil and David and I managed to get the trusses set and building braced without falloff or nailing ourselves to anything.

I’ve got the new truck straightened out, and getting ready to do the little bit of bodywork it needs in between pretending to be a carpenter.

So far, retirement has been busy!

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“What are you going to do with your time when you retire?”, was a question I heard over, and over, and OVER from my co-workers and friends before I retired, 12 days ago.

What indeed?

So far, there hasn’t been a dull moment.  I literally now do not have time for a job.  The first project was starting a storage building, a 24 x 40 foot pole building with 12 foot eves that we can store our Spartan trailer in.  My pal and fellow retiree Butch Starner, a builder in his working career, is helping.  Actually, I’m the helper, since he’s the one who knows what he’s doing.  I am good at handing him tools and following directions.  We’ve got the poles set and most of the framing done, waiting now on the trusses to be delivered and the snow and cold (which arrived early yesterday).

It’ll be great to get the Spartan in under cover, there’s room for a couple of cars and the lawn equipment, we’ve wanted this for a long time.

Speaking of cars, there’s been a big change in our car collection as well.  Just before I retired, I laid awake at 3 AM and thought, “What do I need the roadster for?”  I got up and put an ad on the H.A.M.B. classifieds, and had a deal on the car by 8 AM.  That one ultimately fell through (a funny story in itself), but one of the guys who was interested came through, and bought the car.

74479442_10214728859951523_6434928828472098816_oWe delivered it to him last weekend, to Lexington Kentucky, and made it our first “retirement trip.”  I had loaded the car in the trailer as soon as the guy bought it, we hitched up the Diamond T and headed south.  We had a great weekend, the guy is super happy with the car, and is building a ‘glass bodied ’34 5 window, so our car has a great home and stablemate.

We did some bourbon tasting, touring Woodford Reserve distillery…

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…we drank some bourbon…73341307_10221380868613816_5245163685650890752_n.jpg

…we did some driving…

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…we did some dining out, which I don’t have a photo of.  You get the idea though.

Knowing that my ’06 Mercury Milan is on it’s last legs, I also was thinking that I was going to have to buy another car.  We’d (well, I) had been shopping for a late ’40’s through late 50’s wagon to replace the recently deceased ’51 Pontiac.  That was getting to frustrating, everything I found was too much money, too far away, too original or didn’t appeal to Kim.

I ended up buying a wrecked (lightly but still totaled) 2019 Dodge Ram 4×4.  It had been rear ended, bending the rear bumper, tailgate, and last foot or so of the frame horns.  Go-Go Auto Parts had a section frame, box, bumper and tailgate for it, and the price was right.  In addition, it has only been driven 5,000 miles and still smells brand new.

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I was hooked.

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Yesterday I pulled the bent bumper and box, sectioned the frame and got the “new” frame section tack welded in.  It’s going fine so far, and I found I can heat the shop with the new pellet stove (another retirement present to myself) enough to paint.  Which is good because all the parts are different colors.

The truck will be a good investment for us.  I paid exactly 1/3 the retail price, which I priced on the Dodge website, so it was affordable.   Back when I was rebuilding wrecks, I figured getting in a current or one year old car for half or retail was good deal.  Since I’d just sold the ’34, I was able to buy it without getting into our “cushion” money or financing it.  We can pull the Spartan comfortably.  It drives great, and with the 400 HP Hemi under the hood, it’s fun and fast.  Stupid fast. I don’t really care for the black wheels, but since it has chrome otherwise anywhere, it does make a statement.  I had a ’94 Ram pickup that I bought new, so it’s a bit nostalgic in that way too.

So, retirement thus far has been a blur of activity.  One of my friends pointed out that I don’t have to get everything done in the first week, a good reminder.  I’m enjoying myself so far, and looking forward to being able to relax sometime in the next 20 or 25 years.

At the base of the sunken windshield the resulting gap had me in a quandary. Honestly I was kind of nervous that I wouldn’t able to make these precise pieces, but with new confidence in my sheet metal skills after doing my son’s wagon, I set to it.

I made some fancy cardboard patterns from a handy Amazon shipping box…

Cut some 20 gauge pieces, clamped them to the wood stove, bent the flange…

…and welded them to the existing valance panels.

A skim coat of reinforced filler over the welds is waitto be blocked down and a final coat of light filler will finish the job.

Having that two inch gap filled visually extends the hood, the windshield moved back shortens the cockpit and helps balance out the tonneau cover and deck lid.

I like it.

Ranch Wagon DONE!

Posted: May 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

Back in January, on a day when the ground was snow free and frozen, I decided to pull our son’s ’65 Ford Wagon out of the ShelterLogic tent and into the shop to start the bodywork. I’d be able to leisurely get it ready for paint and ready by mid May.

Good thing I started early.

It’s finally done, although some of the things I thought I’d have time to do, like replace the too long squealing alternator belt didn’t get done.

It looks great, we didn’t paint the roof to safe on material and time, the color match is good. I’m happy to have gotten it done for them, they’ve got a summer of camping fun booked using it.

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I’ve been busy this past month and half working on our son Craig and his wife Kathleen’s ’65 Ford Ranch Wagon.  Craig bought this car a year ago in Detroit, from a Craigslist ad.  It was an unfinished, apparently abandoned project, the 352 supposedly freshened up, ran great but no brakes and typical rust on the bottom edges.  The body had been off and frame repaired, very well done.  They drove the car all summer after having the brakes gone through by our friend Baron, pulling their canned ham camper,  trips to the UP, camping throughout lower Michigan, and evening runs to the A&W.  Mechanically great but definitely needing some bodywork.

56945981706__5bf62540-be6e-4d9d-855b-3f0427f3cb4eI got it in the shop in January, and started working on the body.  It’d been the victim of a “used car lot” type “repair” years ago, plastic about an inch thick that was letting go around the wheels, the dog-legs were gone, and the bottom 4″ of the tailgate were AWOL.  In fact, the left side hinge had torn loose, causing the right side hinge (die-cast) to break from the extra load.  I bought a shrinker/stretcher set from Harbor Freight,  made my own sheet metal brake from scraps of steel I had, and set to work making the dog-legs, lower quarter panels and wheel openings, and bottom of the tailgate.

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I knew how much work it was going to be, the only surprise was the top of the right front fender, which had some blistered paint that turned out to be cancerous.  I’m pretty proud of the repair to that, and the wheel opening flare and dog-leg panels, all complicated compound curves and beads which I was able to make accurately with my limited tools and a sheet of 20 gauge.  From there it was a matter of grinding down what seemed to be miles of weld (which Kim helped with, holding the dolly in back of the weld while I hammer welded the joints.  Thanks Kim!) and then the rather tedious job of filling and then sanding, filling, sanding, filling, and sanding until the panels were perfect.

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I wrapped up the bodywork today.  There’ll be some little spots I’m sure that will need a tiny bit of finessing that we’ll find as we prep for paint, but it looks really, really good.  I’m proud of the job, it was fun expanding my skill set, and very gratifying to do something for Craig and Kathleen.  The deadline for paint is the first part of May, they’ve got reservations for the Tin Can Tourist Spring Rally with us the third weekend of May, and plans for lots of fun this summer with the wagon, which will now look as good as it runs.