Posts Tagged ‘Hemi’

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Update on the DeSoto wagon project:  The front suspension is DONE.  The 5.7 and 8 speed transmission are bolted down, and the car is setting on wheels.  The stance is PERFECT, everything clears, there’s plenty of room for steering, exhaust and all the bits that’ll make it a car.

I found a guy in Washington state, “Sound German Automotive”, who makes a controller for the Benz built 8 speed automatic, a stand alone system, which will work perfectly with the MOPAR crate Hemi engine management system and wiring harness I bought.  It will be here tomorrow, and, once I get a fuel pump, which I will order tomorrow as well, we’ll have smoke and noise.

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The engine and transmission came from “Morris Rose Auto Parts” in Kalamazoo, from my pal Brad Rose, from a 2018 Challenger R/T with only 19,000 miles on them.  These cars have a keyless entry and ignition system, which doesn’t lend itself well to swapping into an older vehicle, hence the need for the stand alone systems.  On the plus side, the milage is so low that they’re brand new, so, it’s a wash money wise.

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The front end was fun to build.  I bought a complete set up from “Speedway”, which uses a “Heidt’s” crossmember patterned after the venerable Mustang II design, with tubular control arms and GM 11″ disk brakes.  It was a little scary cutting the frame, but I took careful measurements, and everything went well.  I also purchased a new power brake booster and master cylinder from them, and had to modify the firewall to make it fit, but it’s mounted, and the pedal assembly is hanging in the cabin.

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One of the things I wasn’t aware of, and didn’t even notice after getting the engine, is that there was no power steering pump.  These cars have electric boosted power steering, built into the rack, with torque sensors on the steering column, that talk to the PCM, that talks to the servo motor on the rack, that gives varying levels of assist depending on vehicle speed.  Not having any of that stuff, and not wanting a bulky steering column booster (which Toyota uses), I bought a pump from a RAM pickup and made a spacer to bolt it to the engine.  The spacer is needed because this engine is a VVT (variable valve timing) engine and has a different, deeper, front drive and timing cover than the older ones like the pump came from.

Nothing is easy…

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I bought, hoping they’d work by just looking a photos, a set of beautiful polished stainless steel exhaust headers on eBay, designed for a RAM pickup.  The Challenger engine’s stock cast iron ones dumped out directly on top of the frame rails,  My hunch was correct, they fit perfectly, although it was difficult to install them on the engine, even with it setting on the shop floor!  They’re never coming off though, so no worries.  The engine mounts I had to fabricate, as the original cast aluminum ones and huge vibration insulators just wouldn’t work in the relatively narrow DeSoto frame.  These use early Ford flathead rubber biscuits, same principle just not as refined, but we will accept a level of NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) in this car as opposed to a 2018 Challenger.

 

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The car has been here exactly one month  now, I’m happy with the progress so far.  It feels good to stretch my muscles as a designer and fabricator, and to reassure myself that I still have the chops to take on a big project like this.  The body is by far the nicest one I’ve ever started with, aside from the HORRIBLE brindle brown repaint, but that is just a few sheets of DA paper away from gone.  This DeSoto will be a vey worthy replacement of the Pontiac wagon.

As an added bonus, the original 276 Hemi (peeking out from under the bench) will be a good foundation for another hot rod project down the road.  I’ve got a couple of cars left in me, this will be a good base for another uncomfortable, noisy, leaky, cramped car that only I can fit in.

Retirement is great so far!

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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!