Posts Tagged ‘Street Rods’

This afternoon I started tucking the rear bumper. An inch and an eighth off each side of the lower pan, and 5/8 of an inch off each of the upper bumperettes. The result is that the bumper fits tight into it’s cut out in the rear quarter, and follows the new character line in the quarter.

I’m still debating whether to chrome the bumperettes, or just the “dagmars” that flank the license plate in the center. A little chrome would be OK, but I think too much will detract from the lines. I know it’s considered “passé” to have painted bumpers now, but lots of early customs used rolled pans front and rear, which I think the stock bumpers on this car really are, and it’ll still look fresh and contemporary, and pay homage to traditional customs. We’ll see what the critics say.

The first cut is the deepest...

The first cut is the deepest…

No going back now.

No going back now.

Mock up.

Mock up.

Tightened up.

Tightened up.

To chrome, or not to chrome, that is the question.

To chrome, or not to chrome, that is the question.

Another day of progress here at Cool McCool’s Garage. I got the right side quarter done, and the skirt almost done. Only have to put a lip on the bottom edge. I used barrel bolts from the hardware store as mounting clips, very simple, clean, and secure.

Now, a couple of days off and next week I’ll get the other side done. It should go faster, now that I’ve done the right side.

It’s exciting to pull these touches (the Caddy headlights and sculpted rear fenders), It me a fresh outlook on the car. Rather than being an old project that I feel I have to get finished, it’s now something new and interesting.

Barrel bolt for a latch.

Barrel bolt for a latch.

Skirt mounted, inner fender done.

Skirt mounted, inner fender done.

New profile.

New profile.

Garage full of coolness.

Garage full of coolness.

DSC05585My fiend Ric mentioned today that he and some other local rodders had arranged to meet for a photo shoot at the Park Theater in Augusta.  The theater has been closed since 1996, but owner, who opened it in ’49, and is now 84 years old, was going to light the neon marquee lights, and the local fire department would be there to hose the street down.  Would we like to be part of it?

You bet!

At 7:30, we met half a dozen other local hot rodders in front of the theater, and waited for the “right” light.  This was tricky, because that lasts only for a minute or so, and we had to jockey the cars around so everybody could a shot of their own car if they wanted.  With the help of the Augusta Fire Department and their bank of halogen lights on the pumper, we made the “right” light last much longer than just that instant at dusk.

It was lots of fun, we all got some great shots, and most of them are going back tomorrow to do it again.

DSC05608Kim and went to the movies there many times when we were dating, and continued to the the shows until the theater closed in ’96.  The last movie I specifically remember seeing was “Billy Jack”, but I know we saw others after that.  The theater lobby is very mid-century hip, the long, thin brick fireplace was always going, and the owner, always in a black tuxedo with a red bow tie, was the usher.  His wife sold tickets, and the rest of the family sold popcorn and sodas.  It was a great place.

Come along as we go back to the movies…


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This is the LAST time.  I mean it.  5 years ago we towed our ’48 Manor to Milford behind the (then new) ’51 Pontiac wagon, which had previously only been to the muffler shop, and brake shop to repair the seized up right front brake caliper.

On Thursday, we hitched the ’46 Spartan to the Diamond T, and once again headed out into the great wide open.   True, we’d towed the little “Tini-Home” canned ham trailer to Pinckney a week ago, but that hardly counted.  The truck had less than 300 miles on it, had spent the previous three weeks in body rehab and the shop (once again, my friend Ron Penny’s shop, who always seems to be able to bail me out) to make it actually run, before we hitched a 25 foot long travel trailer to it and  hit the road.

No more last-minute, down to the wire thrashing.

It performed flawlessly.  Effortlessly towing the trailer at traffic speed, and delivering, as near as I can figure, almost 16 mpg with the trailer on the hitch.

Confident of my inability fix anything that might possibly to wrong, I packed only a spare tire and lug wrench, figuring anything that happened I couldn’t fix with those things would need a roll-back, we headed out on Thursday afternoon, cell phone in my pocket and credit card in my wallet.

Which I left home in my work pants back pocket…

My eye was glued to the temp gauge, and ear to non-existent noises that would bring us to a grinding, screeching, halt, but none of the above happened.  The truck performed exactly as it should, keeping up with traffic, immune to cross-winds, bow-wake from passing semi tractor trailers, garnering “thumbs-up” from passing cars and delivering us to Milford without a single hiccup.

The truck was a big  hit at the TCT gathering, and at the Bakers Restaurant “Cruise-In” on Sunday.  Several people asked me if it had been “…some sort of fire truck…”, and more than one person asked “What did people do with them?”

Really?  What do people do with pick-up trucks nowadays?

I’m still basking the afterglow, ears ringing a little from the (glorious) exhaust note, but had to share a little of the weekend.


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A friend of ours in Las Vegas emailed the other day to ask if I’d seen the ’36 was listed on eBay again.  I didn’t, so I followed the link he sent to the ad.Sg_800

It’s listed by an  exotic car dealership in KY, for the staggering price of $44,900.  I’m not sure if a guy browsing a showroom of Lambo’s is going to be attracted to my chopped down old Ford, but good luck to them.  The car looks the same as it did, with the exception of a cheesy “street-rod-y” Dolphin tach in the dash waterfall (that doesn’t go with any of the rest of the dash) and the addition of LOTS of over-wrought  pinstriping.  I have to say that the wheels do look better, with the center spiders and striping, but the rest of it is a little overdone.  It’s supposed to be simple.

The sparse description, mostly “Runs and Drives GREAT”, while maybe not an outright lie, is wildly optimistic at best.  It DOES look stunning, and it runs like scalded cat, but “…Drives GREAT!”, uh, no.

More apt would be, “This car could KILL you in a heartbeat!”, but, why spoil their fun?

But, it’s not mine any more, so what do I know.

My friend Bill McGuire, who was responsible for it getting published in Hot Rod, offered that the extra embellishments just distract from the car, and that it was “complete”, as I’d built it.

Thanks Bill.

I’d add that while it’d have been nice to have gotten more for when I sold it, my feeling is that whoever buys it, for whatever amount, isn’t going to enjoy it as much as I did.  Either in planning, building, or driving it.  The statement that the car makes, and I humbly submit it’s a car that NO ONE has ever done anything like before, will be an influence in the Hot Rodding scene for years to come.  Buying it isn’t the same as building it.

I had a great time with the car, I tripled my money on it, got a little notoriety with it, and let it move on.  It’s a Win/Win, as far as I can see.

And like my buddy John said,  “Brian, that’s always going to be YOUR car.”

True that, John.

DSC04455 (1024x768)…but not here at Cool McCool’s Garage! We do it INSIDE!

A combination of human error, and a Lokar shifter neutral safety switch that turns out not to be all that safe, resulted in this.  A front bumper mangled and sprung, two bumper brackets bent into pretzel-like shapes, chips in the paint on the hood, cowl, and grill shell, and a right front fender that was jammed up against the tire, sprung and buckled out of shape.

Pretty disheartening after 4 years of work, to crash it before it’s even licensed.

Happily, the truck is insured with “Hagerty” classic car insurance, and they assure me (insure me?) that the truck will be red, shiney and wrinkle free soon, and totally covered.

All of this when I leaned inside the cab from the passenger side to turn the ignition to “On” after fixing the gas gauge.  I’d taken it out of park to move the gear shift back to pull the screws that hold the gauge panel in, and before buttoning everything back up after I found the bad ground that was causing the gauge to not work, I thought, “I’d better check that before I bolt everything back together.”

I leaned in the truck, turned the key, which I thought was “Off”, but was really “On”.  Turning the key resulted in the truck instantly starting,  and since the Lokar shifter was in “Drive”, the truck jumped ahead, and crashed into a 4″ heavy wall steel pipe set in concrete in the garage floor.

If there’s a silver lining in this fiasco, it’s that the pipe was there, otherwise the truck would have hit the ’48 Pontiac parked at the back of the shop dead center over the right front wheel.   I didn’t get caught on the door handle, or the bed rail and dragged, or run over.  It really could have been MUCH worse.

So, I pulled the bumper off, and tugged the front fender off the tire by hand, and am driving it to Muffler Man tomorrow morning for an exhaust system.  I set the tow-in on the front wheels to  1/8″, and will get it aligned next week.  Then, hopefully, I can get the fender fixed and re-painted before May 17th.  If not, I’m getting a bumper sticker to put on the front thanking Lokar for their unreliable neutral safety switch.

And I will never, ever, turn a key on car I’m not behind the wheel of again…

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DSC04427 (1024x768)It’s official.  The Diamond T is a driver.  After a VERY frustrating couple of days, isolating what turned out to be an incredibly simple oversight, all is well.  I backed it out of the shop, washed it, and drove it up to my parents house without a hiccup.

It drives GREAT!  It doesn’t rattle or squeak, the steering is light and crisp despite the huge 17″ wheels and 8 ply rated Michelons, and it goes like a striped ape.  Whatever that is.  The transmission shifts properly, it goes into overdrive and at 45 mph, is idling along at 800 rpm.  Hopefully tomorrow I can get it a muffler shop for an exhaust system, and then get the front end aligned.

I am SO relieved to gotten it driving, and having all the complex electronics working as they should.  The only issue I can see is the speedometer, which simply needs to be calibrated, as it reads 1/2 speed.  That’s just a matter of following the directions to calibrate it and pushing a button.  I think I can do that.  And, the clock needs to be set, which may be the most challenging thing to do for me.

Now, just wait until it’s polished!

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DSC04422 (1024x768)Yesterday, I was walking along, minding my own damn business, carrying a 5 gallon can of gas to the shop to dump in the Diamond T, when, out of no where…

WHAMMO! I walked smack into the (very pointy) end of the steerhorns on the GMC dually. I should have known this was a bad omen, but I kept right on, bruised pectorals or not.  Almost dropped the gas can, but happily, didn’t hurt the horns one bit.

DSC04425 (1024x768)The resultant bruise is not as spectacular as the impact would have lead one to imagine, but it’s still sore.

I should have just stopped right there, bad omen and all, but NOOOO, I continued on, maybe partially stunned by the impact.

I dumped the gas in the truck, about 3 gallons, and proceeded to fill the cooling system with antifreeze.  These LS engines are notoriously hard to fill, they air-lock, and that’s what happened.  I ended up working on it almost all day, after much hassle and frustration, and got it warmed up.

The engine ran OK at first, but then seemed to “stumble” and finally died.  This went on for quite a while.  It would start, run until it got warm, then quit.  I got it started again, and it ran OK, so I headed down the street.  Got a mile, to the church parking lot on the corner where I turned around, and it died, right in the road, taking up both lanes.

Happily, a manure hauling tanker truck driver stopped and helped me push it back into the parking lot.  He had to, as he couldn’t get around me.

It started right up, and I headed home.  Made it, although it was miss-firing and stumbling.

When I turned in the drive, it seemed to run OK, and I decided to try it again.

Same thing.  Ran rough, finally stalled, and restarted after a few minutes.

Very frustrated, and feeling sort of down about all the hard work and the disappointing, and very difficult to diagnose and fix, problem, I posted my problem on an LS engine performance site, and emailed the guy who had re-programmed the computer for the truck.

Lots of good advice. I went out to the shop this morning to try my newly found knowledge and diagnostic skills, all to no avail.  It wouldn’t start AT ALL today.  Fire, and die.  Fire, and die.  I ended up going up to the Prairieville Garage (the same place I had the Millusion towed when it made a horrible clanking noise that turned out to be loose lug nuts), where they very graciously lent me a fuel line pressure tester.

Instead of 60 lbs of fuel pressure, I had 5.  This is not good.  It did however, run perfectly when I put some gas in the testers canister, pressurized it to the magic 60 lbs, and hit the key.  Bingo.  Problem solved.

So, I jumped in, confident I’d identified the problem as the replacement fuel pump in the tank from AutoZone.  The floor of the box was pulled, the tank dropped, the pump removed and replaced, after some modification, by an extra one I had saved from the wagon.

I buttoned it all back up, hit the key, and…

THE SAME THING!!!  No fuel pressure.  Plus, this one howled, as if there were no gas in the tank (this is a glaring hint, if you haven’t figured it out already, where this story is heading).

I dropped the tank again, pulled the pump, thinking maybe I had it too high on the bracket to reach the (known low) level of gas in the tank.  The pickup sock was dry.

Shining a light in the tank immediately revealed the TRUE problem.

There’s only about half an inch of fuel on the bottom of the tank.


Evidently, 4 gallons of gas in the bottom of a 30+ gallon tank isn’t enough, no matter WHAT fuel pump is in the tank.

DSC04417 (1024x768)Now, I’ve modified the tanks bracket and wiring so the original, undoubtedly good, pump I’d bought will no longer fit, and the pump I have in it has a pick-up sock that doesn’t lay against the bottom of the tank at all.  Maybe not a real problem, as the other one didn’t either, evidently, but I do feel pretty dumb about the whole thing.  The  AutoZone replacement on the right, the GM one, on the ’93 van bracket, with the sock pointing up, on the left.

On the plus side, I did figure out how to modify the gas filler so it doesn’t drizzle fuel back out when filling up, and the rubber line on the fuel pump itself was punky, so that’s replace too.  Maybe prevent a problem down the road, far from home.

So, that’s it.  Two days, I’m still not ready to drive it, and my chest hurts.  I guess it wasn’t a total wash, because it was nice to be outside the first really nice days we’ve had, but I do smell kinda like gas…

DSC04404 (1024x768)In life, be it in art, work, or leisure, we all have to have a source of inspiration and influence.  We need exposure to someone, or something, that drives us to take the  next step, to better ourselves, to increase our skill, our knowledge, and expand our limits.  I’m fortunate, perhaps even blessed, to have friends who inspire me, who have vision, who have talent, who give me drive to see beyond my own frame of reference, and step out of my comfort zone.

I’m also fortunate that those people are willing to lend me their time, and their tools, to bail me out of jams when I box myself into a corner! 

One of those people is my good friend, Kirk Brown, of  “Crafty B Nostalgic Speed”.  Kirk’s shop is just a half an hour from me, and every Friday he has an open house, where hot rodders, car guys, and the occasional curious by-passer can stop, check out the latest project, have coffee and cookies, and draw inspiration from each other, and what Kirk is doing.

This past Friday, I went up with 16 lug nuts for my Diamond T project, that I hoped Kirk could help me re-drill and re-tap to fit the wheel studs on the Dana axle.  I could have taken the axle out, gotten new studs, but I had the correct (for the Dodge wheels I’m using) lug nuts, and it looked to me like I could make it work with the right drill and a 5/8×18 tap. 

We made magic, and metal shavings happen, and I got to use a REAL drill press, wear a machinists apron, and for a few minutes, feel like I knew what I was doing.

Best of all, I got to check out the progress on Kirk’s latest project, a ’32 Ford Roadster, a former 60’s drag strip veteran he salvaged, and added his own “Crafty B” touch to. 

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A cast aluminum grill shell, tilting side hood louvers, cowl steering, cast dash, licence plate holder, exhaust port, shifter, headlights, tailights, shocks, radius bar mounts, trademark gas filler and more, all from Kirk’s catalogue of hand crafted, sand casted, parts.

Add other innovative features like raised wheel openings, a totally re-worked deck lid, smoothed cowl, and one-off, Hallock style windshield, and you’ve got a ’32 Ford that’ll be like no other one out there.   

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In this day and age, it’s REALLY hard to come up with something that’s different, that’s already been thousands of times before.  This build should stand out from a sea of ’32 Ford Hot Rods as something just different enough to get noticed, but not stray off into “cartoon” category. 


And, if that, or the ’32 3 window also under construction, or the ’57 Stude wagon getting four-wheel disc brakes, and bagged, wasn’t enough to get imaginations going, how about a ’51 Ford F-6 heavy-duty truck?

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Trucks aren’t Hot Rods, you say?  How about if they’re chopped, bagged,  fitted with a monster big block Ford engine, and all riding on a cantilevered suspension that’s also Kirk’s design? 

This thing is innovative, provocative, and will surely assault the sense and sensibilities of Hot Rodders wherever it’s seen.  And it will be seen, as it’s planned use is as a tow vehicle for its owners trailer.  It’ll be bed-less, fitted with a 5th wheel to show off the deeply dropped frame and suspension arms. 

So, it’s back to reality, and my own dingy, cramped, clutter shop to get my own stuff done.  I do that though with the knowledge that I CAN do whatever I can imagine, with a little help, inspiration, and support from my friends!

DSC04377 (1024x768)I’ve spent the last two days on the couch, another cold, which seemed worse than it probably was because it got cold and snowed again.   Todays project,  after a morning in front of the window soaking up sunshine, get the front blinker/park lights wired up on the Diamond T.  This required a trip to Auto-Zone to get some replacement bulb sockets for dual element bulbs, as the originals were the tiny, single element lights.  The lights BARELY fit under the lenses, but I got ’em in.  I’m still deciding if I want cab marker lights, now’s the time to get them if I’m going to run them, as the windshield header panel I hope to paint next week or the week after, which will totally wrap up the big stuff.

Todays other progress was getting the engine mounts bolted in.   If you think I should have done that earlier, you’re right.  These are Corvette mounts, a big rubber biscuit on an aluminum strut that bolts to the engine.  Sort of like a flathead Ford mount, only instead of a through bolt, the biscuit has a stud on each side.  These of course are metric, which required a trip to the hardware store to find the right thread.  Turns out 12mmx1.75, which is close enough to 1/2″ coarse that I ran a tap through nuts from my bolt drawer and used them.

So, lights, DONE.  Engine mounts, DONE.  Next project, go around and make sure every nut and bolt underneath is tightened, as I have a tendency to just put things together finger tight, thinking I’ll remember to go back to tighten them later, which sometimes doesn’t happen.  And put grease zerks on the lower ball joints, which somehow got missed on the front end assembly.  Then, the nerve-wracking and tedious job of polishing the paint.  It’s easy to ruin a paint job with a buffer, I’m going to get a lesson from my friend Dave Griffoen, who knows a thing or two about paint.  Then, I guess there’s nothing left to do but put antifreeze and gas in it, and drive it to “Muffler Man”, for an exhaust system and shakedown run.

For now however, setting in a lawn chair in the shop in front of the stove with a beer, admiring my work was my reward!

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How many guys use a chopped T’Bird as work bench?