Posts Tagged ‘Custom Car’

But wait, there’s more…

Posted: November 20, 2018 in Buick, Riviera
Tags: , ,

I was having trouble with the idea of hiding the beautiful headlight nacelle’s behind the (admittedly graceful) front bumper.  I toyed with the idea of cutting the bumper ends off and grafting them to the center, so it “floated” between the fender tips, but that seemed like it’d still hide the lines Bill Mitchell laid out for the car 55 years ago.  What to do?  A little masking paper gave me an idea…

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Why do I even need the bumper?  It’s strictly an ornament, in fact it bolts to not only frame, but the sheet metal fenders, AND, the fragile die cast bottoms of the headlight tower grills. Even a tiny bump would take out the whole front end.  Not only that, the soft curve of the thin bumper clashes with, and mostly hides, the crisp, sharp lines every where else on the front end.  Why not just eliminate it, and let the design of the that front end stand on it’s own?

So, a couple of hours later, the paper pattern turned into:

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The bottom valance panel, the part of the bumper that bolts to the fenders and headlamp tower grills, remains as a “rolled pan”.  I made a simple filler panel, from the valance panel under the grill, that’ll bolt (it’s clamped on for now with Vice-Grips) to that.  It was a very easy panel to make, all straight bends (which I did over the edge of the bench with a couple sticks of 1/4″ 2×2 angle, some Vice-Grips and a rubber mallet as a brake).  That chrome piece will get painted body color, which will let me fix the little dent where one of the original bumper guards got tweaked.  I have some extra door stainless trim pieces that’ll make a nice trim over the little “flat” I added to the valance panel extension were it meets the Riviera’s original part.

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I’m pretty proud (obviously) of my design, which focuses the eye to the headlamp nacelle’s and the wide ’65 grill.  The bright Halogen headlamps will be fine behind the grills and plastic lenses, as the grills are so close the bulbs.  Shining on the shop wall, they look like they’ll be more than adequate for actual night-time driving.

The only drawback to this modification is that now I don’t think the original pale blue color, which I’d decided I’d use, won’t look right with this new, rather sinister look.  Which means, I guess, that the door jambs and cowl will now have to painted some other, suitably menacing, color.  Maybe gunmetal grey, satin?

I can’t believe I just said that, but it would look great with the black leather interior I have for the car…

I’m approaching my 64th birthday in a couple of weeks, Thanksgiving is coming right up, and I’m pretty thankful for my wonderful family,  beautiful grandson, great home with a (semi) warm shop, a collection of some pretty neat cars, a couple of fun projects, time to devote to them, and a wife who supports this obsession of mine.

The Riviera is coming along pretty well, the brake conversion is done.  I got the correct pins, and the spindles and brakes are on the car for good.  Lines are next, and the new master cylinder needs to go in.  I pulled the original gas tank, and have the poly ’93 Cadillac tank that was under our old ’48 Pontiac convertible to replace the original.  A new sending unit and Walbro fuel pump compatible with the pressure requirements of the LS is an easy swap, then lines for that, and the car will be, hopefully, a runner.  It turns over with the key, all the systems are “hot”, so I think I’m getting close.

I’m very happy with the headlight installation behind the parking lamp towers in the fenders, it’s a HUGE improvement of the clunky, last minute botch the factory did with them in the grill.  The ’65 finally got the clamshell lights, and the clean grill (I used a ’65 grill), but this will be a good, low dollar substitute for that one year only, complicated and hard to find conversion.

I used the headlight buckets that came out of the ’59 Thunderbird (which were replaced by ’63 Cadillac units), the were on the shelf, complete with the Halogen bulbs.  I’d originally thought of new projector style bulbs, but they ‘re expensive, they’d be hard to adapt and make the adjusters for, and might look odd behind the lenses.  This seems to be a more sensible approach to what’s going to be a period style car.

Happy Holidays everyone, get out in the shop and make something!

 

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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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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We’ve had 2 weeks of frigid weather, near or below zero every night, and rising only to the low teens during the day, with several days not getting out of single digits.  This makes it awfully hard to heat the shop warm enough to much, especially since the floor has gotten cold, but today, I decided I had to make an effort.

I went out in the morning and build a fire, then took the Riviera’s inner fenders and core support over to “Consolidated Stripping and Derusting” in Plainwell, where for the ridiculously low price of $20 an hour, one can use their huge blasting cabinets.  It took me just an hour to clean up the parts, and when I got home the shop was reasonably warm, and I got busy cleaning the firewall and frame.  Then, I dusted several light coats of Tractor Supply rattle can enamel on everything.

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Now, we wait for spring for the paint tack up!  (Actually, it was warm enough for the paint to be dry to touch in about an hour, so it’ll be fine.)

After that, I pulled the original heat/air unit out and mocked up the new “Southern Air” unit.  I’ll have to relieve the bottom of the dash to allow the unit to slide up in the correct way.  It fit rotated 90 degrees from where it should, but it’s half an inch wider than it is tall, so a little trimming is in order.  No big deal, it’ll fit very nicely once I do that, and be easy to hook up the defrosters, dash vents and floor vent.  I won’t be able to have the rear seat heat vent, (not enough outlets) but other than that, it’ll be stock appearing and supposedly has enough output for a big car like the Riviera.

Still waiting for the Air-Ride system and my pal Crafty B to weld up the modified cast aluminum oil pan, but as soon as that’s done, I can get engine in for the last time, get the air bags in, and get the car back on its wheels.

Meanwhile, I expect Babe the Blue Ox and Paul Bunyon to come strolling up the drive any day now…

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I was working on the Riviera today, had the wood stove cranked up, it was nice and warm, and I had spent the morning doing the unsung but necessary chores to make it a car, when a buddy rolled up.  He came inside, we talked a little, and he looked at the Vortec engine setting in the car, and asked what engine it was.

When I told him it was a 5.3 Vortec, a Chevrolet truck engine and a 4L60E transmission, he asked if I was “…keeping all the computer shit?”

I told him of course I was, that it’s possible to run a carb but one still needs an ignition system, and besides, I like these engines, they’re powerful, reliable, and much less expensive than tracking down an original 401 or 425 and the one year only Buick Turbo Hydro transmission for these cars.  It makes sense to me, as the car had no engine/trans when I got it.

“Well”, he replied, “You’ll be stuck when the gub’ment throws the switch.  All these cars with all this computer shit are gonna be useless when that happens.”   He went on to explain that (probably according to some goofy, anti-government blog or website), the government is likely any day now to disable every car and truck in North America.  For what purpose he didn’t divulge, and I didn’t press him or argue, as that kind of “logic” is impossible to argue.

After he left, I continued to work on the car, despite the imminent electronic failure at the hands of our current, or some shadowy future government conspiracy (“Well, it may not happen it OUR lifetime, but it’s coming”, he said.)  I pulled the engine and transmission, separated them and replaced the deep truck oil pan with a slightly shallower GM engine swap pan I’d bought earlier.  I then put the transmission back up against the engine and bolted the flex plate to the torque converter, reinstalled the starter (three times, it turned out because I forgot to plug-in some sensor behind the starter, and the little plastic dust shield.

With the engine back in the car, I cut the center of the steering center link out, rotated it 180 degrees (plus or minus a little), tacked it place and checked to make sure it cleared the oil pan.  After making sure it did, I pulled it out, and welded it up solid.  I’ll grind the welds down and gusset the bend, but I’m happy with how it looks, and that it clears the pan.

Now, after all this work I hope the gub’ment doesn’t throw the switch when we’re very far from home..

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IMG_4173Building a custom car is not just building a giant model car kit, nor even like restoring a car back to original.  It’s taking each and every little part of the car, modifying it to suit ones own taste, and then modifying the parts so that they’ll fit back together in the form of a car.  Every little change impacts something else, or SEVERAL somethings, and every part has to be modified to work and/or look proper.  The dashboard of my ’59 T’bird is a case in point.

The windshield of the car is chopped, not by cutting the glass, but by sinking the entire windshield and it’s steel frame, down into the cowl as far as I could, a fraction shy of 2 inches. The dash mounts to a lip on the windshield frame, which moved down a like amount.  That meant that the dash was too low in the cockpit, both to see the gauges behind the steering wheel, or to get ones legs under the edge comfortably.  To remedy those ills, and to have it not look goofy, I cut the gauge and glove box pods out of the dash, moved them up and forward.  This accentuated the aircraft design of the dash, makes the pods more pronounced, the end result being that the dash still looks like a ’59 T’Bird dash, and makes it echo the design of the tonneau covers twin headrest pods.

It also meant a LOT of work.  For the past week, it seems I’ve done nothing but work on the dash.  First, I cut out some previous work I”d done that I wasn’t happy with, then hours of grinding welds.  After that, I spent hours spreading and sanding filler on the dash, spreading more filler, sand, spread, sand, ad infinitum.  I finally got the dash to the point that it looks good, and have the “eyebrows”(made of squirt can foam on the dash pads original steel morning lips) shaped and fitted to the dash.  It’s been a long, tedious project, I’m tired of working on it, and was excited to get the dash mocked up in the car.

It was at that point that I realized the original gauge pod, which fit as it was supposed to in the dash while it was out of the car, wouldn’t fit over the steering column when mounted in the body. The reason for this was two-fold.  First, while I’d raised the gauge pod, it was a little lower still in relation the steering column, which did not move in the w/s chop.  The second problem was that I inadvertently moved the pod over to the right about 3/8”, which meant the gauge panel was no longer exactly centered over the steering column, which meant the nice cut out at the bottom of the panel for the column to nestle into, was too far to the right, and too low to let the column snuggle up where it should.

I still have a little “finesse” work to do on the dash, and none of the new switches or gauges are wired.  When I built the car originally, I used the complete wiring harness from the donor ’87 Mustang GT, including the gauges and switches, and decided all this had to go, along with the crappy looking Mustang steering column and wheel.  I have a nice new stainless column, had a steering wheel custom-made, and have the wiring sorted out and labeled for light switches, turn signals, and the cruise control.  I DO have the new, old style ignition switch wired in and started the car and let it run long enough to discover that all the pieces of rubber fuel line in the fuel system to 5.0 HO engine are brittle, cracked and leak.

Once I get all that sorted out and the finish work on the dash done for paint (it’ll be body color), I still have to cut down the original vent window frames to fit the new lower windshield frame, and extend the cowl panels between the hood and windshield, because the windshield not only went down 2 inches, but back almost 2 inches as well, leaving a big gap between the glass and these panels.

Other than that, it’s almost done!

Sand, fill, sand, fill, sand some more...

Sand, fill, sand, fill, sand some more…

Aircraft inspired dash.

Aircraft inspired dash.

The gauge panel now fits around the new column.

The gauge panel now fits around the new column.