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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Front end on, car rolling

Finally, the car rolls.
It's been a while since I have updated, but the car is coming along nicely now. Early on, the work was slow and I stockpiled parts, now the parts have almost all been used and now the goal is to get the car together without dipping into our 3-year-old's college fund.
The car actually is beginning to look like, well, a car again. For several weeks it sat with the front end of the car chopped off, but my Dad was able to weld the frame and cross members back together, and it looks like everything is lined up, which is a miracle in and of itself. Everybody has heard the expression, measure twice and cut once, well, that's not always the case. It was measured, measured, and measured, cut, trimmed, measured, fitted, trimmed, cut and measured again.
In the end, we ended up with a frame where the control arms fit, the steering linkage replaced and everything put in its place. The entire front suspension is new, so hopefully there won't be any problems.
Nothing has been torqued yet, as that won't be done until the engine is installed in the car.
Next up on the list is floor pan and back quarterpanel replacements. The front fenders have been patched and primed, and I must say, they look pretty good.
A couple of weeks ago Christina and I made a trip to Amarillo to get a new driver's side door as the one on the car suffered some extensive rot after being left open to collect pine needles and plenty of other debris for 30 years.
With the door came a couple of front fenders, a hood and 15-inch rims. The car originally came out with 14-inch rims, but we decided to go with the larger size used on the Thunderbird to make a transition to disc brakes in the future much easier.
We will be adding some photos of the car soon. It has traveled around the yard some and is now being housed in a garage Christina and I made for it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Work Progressing

My dad finished welding the front end up around the last week of June. I have a few more parts set to come in that will allow me to put the suspension together on the car and finally get it rolling. That will be exciting.
Working on getting a driver-side front door for the car. Once that's in the body will be in pretty good shape except for a couple of patching jobs. The floor pans need to be replaced, once that's done much of the interior work can be accomplished along with a new wiring harness.
On the motor front, I was planning on rebuilding the original Y-block 272, but after doing a lot of soul searching have decided to probably go with a 302 turn-key crate engine. The 302 will provide more horsepower and be more efficient. We plan on coupling it with an automatic overdrive, which should boost gas mileage to about 20-24 miles per gallon. That would be welcome, especially with gasoline creeping back up to near $4 per gallon.
Will add some more pictures soon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Doing My Best

There is a reason I do what I do for a living.
If I could weld better, then I would weld. If I could design bridges then I would be a mechanical engineer, but I am willing to try anything, even brain surgery if anyone wants a go at it.
That's kind of the situation I am in with the frame on the 1955 ford. Seventy-five percent of it is in excellent shape, but the front end is far from it. My Dad has worked as a carman for Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific, before the merger in the early 1980s, for 37 or 38 years, I really can't remember quite how long.
Anyway, his welding skills are far superior to mine, so he came and helped me weld a patch piece into the frame to replace the old crossmember that was cut out with a cold chisel nearly 40 years ago. It has been a long process, one that really isn't finished but we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel for this Phase I of the car rebuild.
It really hasn't been the welding that has been difficult, but the aligning of the frame. The way the car will travel down the road once it is finished will rest largely on how we do our jobs now. Endless measurements have been taken and seeming endless adjustments made to make everything fit and line up as it should.
Hopefully the end result will be a car that will be able to be aligned properly and get a few thousand miles on a set of tires. If we mess up now, though, that dream will not be realized and the old car will travel like a dog down the highway.
To make a short story a little longer, I did a little tack welding on the second of three main section repairs on the front of the frame. It's not perfect, but it's not too bad. Before anybody panics, Dad will be by later to check my work and finish up the welds.
Also, to make sure everything holds and not come apart somewhere down the road, plates  will be placed over each seam with Grade 8 bolts holding everything together and taking any undue stress off the welded parts. They will be the last part of the repair and we will share photos of the work.
And please, if anybody has any advice to offer I will be more than happy to take it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Real work begins

My Dad, Wayne Stewart Sr., came over on Saturday and we (meaning he) began welding the frame back together.
For those who haven't been following, the original frame was nearly cut in half when the engine was removed about 40 years ago.
Through the modern marvel of eBay, I was able to purchase the necessary pieces to put it back together, but I lacked one thing — the necessary welding skills. The car is parked at a new shop/shed and it took us a while to get electricity to it, but once we did Dad came on out and started working on it.
We're about a third of the way through with putting it back together, once the welding is done I'll be able to put the suspension back on the car and get it rolling again.
Then the real restoration can begin.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Engine taken apart

After battling with snakes, rain, a leaky headgasket and other problems, I just decided to tear the engine down and do an overhaul. It only took a few hours to take it apart. I have always enjoyed tearing engines down, I just wish they went back together a little more easily. We had to be careful to put all the parts where they could be found and they are in many different boxes. Hopefully they will all be there when the rebuilding occurs.

Anyway, everything looked in good shape. No pitting, no scoring, just 40 years worth of dirt and gunk. A rebuild kit from Kanter, a classic car specialty shop, should fix the engine up nicely. Just purchased a set of rebuilt heads off of eBay, as there are not many machine shops around East Texas any more willing to redo a set of heads. Hopefully we'll have it up and rumbling again before Independence Day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Snakes in an engine

It's fun to be oblivious, but when reality sets in it can be quite frightening.
While working on the 272 V8 engine I was oblivious. A couple of weeks ago I had tried to crank the engine but the starter was shot, after getting it back from JKs Starter & Alternator in Palestine, who did a beautiful job on repairing and restoring the starter. While putting the starter in the bell housing I noticed there was something funny looking inside of it. After closer inspection I found it was a snake.
After running around for a few minutes I settled down and like any brave man would do, I called my wife to come help.
She tried poking the snake out with a wire and managed to get its tail out, but that was about it. After thinking for a few minutes we decided we had two options: We could stick our hands in there and pull the serpent out, or we could spray something in there and see if the snake would come out on its own.
Naturally, we opted for option two, as the though of touching a snake makes me light headed and have heart palpitations.
So, we tried spray. You have to be careful when spraying stuff around a bell housing, as not everything mixes with clutch components, but I did have a can of brake parts cleaner and it works well with clutch parts. So, armed with a can of brake parts cleaner I boldly sprayed it into the starter hole and then bravely ran backwards about 20 feet to see what would happen.
After waiting about 5 seconds the snake made its way out of the engine and ran straight toward the chicken pen. A garden hoe finished the job and in an ironic act of vengeance, the chickens began to eat the snake.
Needless to say the motor work will wait for another day — just another day on the farm.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

June edition at printer

The June edition is currently at the printer.
Subscribers should expect to receive magazines through the mail late the week of May 16.
It is an eclectic array of stories covering a wood carver from Lufkin, a lavender and olive farm in Austin County, near the Central Texas town of Chappell Hill and a look at the Fort Worth Stockyards and Sundance Square.
In our recipes we featured ice cream and other summer favorites. There's a lot more in there. So look for it in newsstands starting next week.