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STEEL CHEVY

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S: STEEL CHEVY THE STORY OF A HOME BREWED HOT ROD

BC: Vendors and Shops | Art Morrison Enterprise Motor State Distributing Pacific Western Design Vintage Air Keyston Bros. Upholstery Eastwood Company Godman Hi-Performance Holly Performance GM Performance Parts K&N Filter Walker Radiator Borgenson Universal Co. Aeromotive, Inc. Hedman Headers Quarter Master Industries Tremec Transmission Lakewood Industries Centerforce Clutch ATL fuel Cells Optima Batteries Ididit Steering Grant Steering Wheels Wilwood Engineering Billet Specialties Wheel Vintiques Martin Senour Paints Alden Eagle Shocks I&I Reproduction Carolina Custom Hot Rod | Hoosier Tires Russell Fittings Edelbrock Corporation Weiand Manifolds MSD Ignition Hagan Street Rod Watson Street Works Street Rod Headquarters Detroit Tru-Trac Pure Choice Motorsports ARP Felpro Gaskets Lokar XRP Fittings Flowmaster Exhaust QA1 Springs Autoloc Welder Series Steele Rubber Products B - D Company Taylor Wire Speedy Metals Autometer Instuments Painless Performance Thermo Tec Hushmat American Autowire Coolflex | Energy Suspension Morroso Spectre Borla Competition Eng. | Buena Vista, Co: NAPA Auto Parts Sutton Radiator Svc Tomken Jeep Spec Plating Specialties Grand Junction,Co Denver, Co: Roadrunner Fabrication #1 Hot Rod Service Front Range Drive Line,Inc.

FC: STEEL CHEVY | THE STORY OF A HOME BREWED HOT ROD | BY BARRY HAYES

1: GO FIGURE- One night during dinner my wife Carolyn said: I've noticed how much fun you and Matthew have had installing a lift kit on his truck (an older Toyota). And that's about the only time you guys spend together. Matthew,sixteen at the time,was excelling at welding in his H.S. metal shop and showing early symptoms of the gear head syndrome. Continuing on, Carolyn said: Why don't you guys do a car project? Didn't you used to build hot rods way back when? Why don't you build a HOTROD? Did I hear that? Was I dozing? Noooway! Yeah, that was me 40 years ago two Deuce Coupes in the garage, small block Chevy, big tires, headers. What happened? Time and money wouldn't come together and a move from Michigan to Colorado necessitated selling both uncompleted projects. What happened? I GOT INTERRUPTED! Thats what happened !!! | Top:Wyandotte,Michigan1965 Bottom: Buena Vista, CO 2004

2: INSPIRATION AND DESIGN: I wanted a coupe and it had to be steel. That left Ford out in the cold due to price. Enter the scene son #1, Michael, insufferable gearhead and internet guru. After a concerted effort, Michael located a 1934 Chevy 3 window coupe in Nebraska. Sold. The cars pictured here were an influence. They have the look.It's called stance. Ride height and rake equals attitude. Stance alone may not make a great car, but get this part wrong and little else will matter. One objective was continuity of line; roof angle was continued by the hood line. This presented some real challenges with overall engine height and radiator slant. Other considerations were independent front suspension and a tubbed rear end.

3: A 2x4 rectangular tube frame kit was purchased from Art Morrison Enterprise. Constructing a frame jig involved welding two steel work bench frames together. The benches were not square, so much time was spent in fabricating mounting points that were level, square and true. Shop Fact: You can drive a teenager totally mad with a Smart Level. Dad-- Isn't 0.03 close enough? C'mon!

4: Several hours of measuring, cross referencing and remeasuring were done before tack welding the front crossmember to the frame. The IFS is a Mustang II design with Wilwood rotors, hubs and calipers. The shocks are Alden Eagle coil-overs. Everything supplied by Art Morrison is top drawer and their post sale support is superb.

5: The Ford 9" rear sports a 3:50 gearset with a Tru-Trac traction lock.The rear is located with a 4 bar set up supplied by AME. Front Range Drive Line (Englewood Co.) narrowed the housing. Nothing like slapping on the rubber for a little inspiration.

6: THE BODY: Well, it looked better in the E-mail photos, but it was love at first sight. The body had served duty as a early hot rod and the work was very rough. The sill plates were not connected to the firewall so when the doors opened the firewall (3/16" plate) leaned out 6". The forward portion of the cowl and the firewall were mangled junk with Bondo

7: 3/4" thick in many places. Removal would be easier than repair. Above: Junk steel cut from interior. However, this pales in comparison to the wood removed. | Pictured below is the skeletal wood structure of a '34 Chevy coupe. The door jams and other key parts have brackets that are bolted to the wood, however much of the sheet metal is nailed to the wood using small 1/2" nails. Fisher Body had captive forests that they harvested to supply their huge demand for wood. Most of the joints were mortised or finger joints, and it seems this is where moisture collected and the rotting process began.

8: WIth the exception of the "B" pillars, the remainder of the wood was removed and replaced with steel. The shop is heated with a wood stove, so this worked out fine. | The lower windshield wood member is used as a template to duplicate the arc in steel tubing. | Trunk support with hinges. | Steel member in place.

9: Top photo is original door. The amount of wood is obvious. The correct way to replace wood with steel is place the door in a jig to maintain it's shape. I didn't do this and it created many problems. Utilizing a porta- power to reshape the door openings and heating and bending the door hinges, a proper fit was achieved. The door fit was undoubtedly the biggest challenge on the entire project.

10: A 3/4" square tube frame was fabricated to form the cowl replacement and provide mounting and support for the pedal assembly and steering column. Thank God for Cleco's. | Left: 2" square tubing ladder frames to replace the sill plates.

11: Left: Bear claw latch and door handle assembly installed. Below: Body mounts are welded to the "A" and "B" pillars and to the frame.

12: Bottom edge of trunk had serious decay. This was replaced with a section of steel angle bent to duplicate trunk curvature.

13: A previous owner had begun restoring the trunk lid with new oak pieces. These were replaced with steel. The rear roll pan was fabbed from a piece of 19 gauge steel and would house the tail lights. Many of the tasks taken on with the build were first time attempts. I sincerely enjoyed the learning experience and the challenge. Few things in life can provide this kind of fulfillment.From the onset it was decided that this was to be a Home Brewed Hot Rod. All the work would be done in our home shop, including paint and interior. The only tasks jobbed out were powder coating the frame and narrowing the rear end. There was a lot of learning going on here.

14: The rocker panel bead was completely missing on the body. To duplicate this part, a 1" thin wall round tube was jigged up by welding 90`angles to hold it in place while running it through the band saw. 30% of the radius was cut from the tube and this section was welded to a 1" square tube. Next it was

15: notched and bent to match the compound curve of the rocker. The round tube joined to the square tube was then welded to the bottom of the sill plate. It turned out great. | Above left: Finished sill plate and rocker welded to floor. Above: Trans tunnel meets driveshaft safety loop. It's amazing when you channel the body; everything that's usually below the floor end up on top. | Left: Completed trunk floor, wheel tubs and safety loop cover.

16: Completed interior metalwork with a trial fit for a bucket seat. This seat wasn't used, the bottom was too tall. Ididit tilt steering column with Grant wheel handles the directional duties. | The passenger side door was mangled beyond repair so a new door skin was wheeled by my friend Don Pomke at #1 Hot Rod Service in Englewood Co.

17: Body Mods: Chopping the top and channeling the body are the bread and butter of classic hot rod design. It would be interesting to know who first tried these modifications and how they evolved. The stock appearance of the Chevy coupe, especially in full fender trim, exudes the classic design exemplified by the cars of the early thirties. The straight post turret top and the bulbous flowing fenders generated a design that happened only once. It provided the hot rodder a platform that inspired a generation of automotive art. Que the teenager, fire up the plasma torch, stand clear. | A stepped cut was made to preserve most of the rear window opening and to avoid curved surfaces as much as possible. The interior was cross braced to maintain shape and rigidity. Many thanks to Tex Smith for his fine book on chopping tops.

18: Oh My God!! The top is on the floor! What have I done? Actually, this the moment of truth, but a lot of planning and measuring reduce the stress for first time choppers. To obtain the desired rake, 3" were cut from the front posts and 2" were cut from the rear. | Above: You've got to give Matthew credit. He kept on cutting even after he caught fire. Heck, those coveralls were wore out anyway.

19: Above left: This cut line was chosen to preserve as much as possible of the door opening surround bead. Above: Maintaining the radius from the sail panel to the rear window surround required a relief slot to be cut and filled.

20: The chop process provides two options for windshield post alignment. The first is to make a series of cuts. Then lay the bottom half back and the top half forward. This creates a nice slant for the windshield and a lot of cuts to deal with later. Any change to the door opening requires a corresponding change to the door; a subtlety that should not be overlooked in the planning process.

21: The second option is to make a transverse cut in the roof, align the posts front and rear and add the appropriate strip of metal to the roof cut. During the planning process this second option seemed scary, so we went with option one. However, considering the amount of work involved in post alignment as well as modifications to the upper door frames, the second option would be much easier and cleaner. I am now smarter and braver. | This is all part of the learning process that's comes with a project like this. Research, plan and jump in. Just take your time. Mistakes are part of the | process just like success. For me, these are all components of the recipe of personal reward. Enough philosophy.

22: Top left: Window runner made from light gauge channel; notched, bent and welded to accept the window template. Above: window frame mods complete. | Filling the top: Eastwood's flanging tool made short work of preparing the body top to accept the filler panel. You can butt weld or flange this joint, however flanging provides a good base for the Cleco's and I think a stronger union.

23: Left: Pictured is the donor fill panel which came from a 1976 Dodge Aries station wagon. | Below: Roof panel undergoes final trim and is Cleco'd in place in preparation for welding. Flanging is completed on the roof section.

24: Roof panel secured in place with all the Cleco's I own. | Radiator and grille shell placement were the final components in completing the design objectives. The hood angle had to mirror the roof angle and the radiator slant had

25: to compliment the overall stance. Below left: Radiator support cradle. Leading edge of hood was trimmed to mate up with shell top. Shell was sectioned 3 1/2". Radiator clearance to AC compressor was 1/8". The bottom surround of the shell had been damaged beyond repair so a new piece was fabricated and spliced into place. It seems the the radiator project took a month to complete.

26: Building the grille: 3/16" stainless steel square rod stock was selected for the grille insert. | Walker Radiator supplied the radiator and condenser. Cruising at 75 MPH in 95 degrees and switching on the A/C creates no increase in water temp. Also, I live at 9000' altitude and have no heat problems here either.

27: Above: Spring loaded rods sliding inside of steel ferrules welded to the hood edges provide the hood latches. Pinching together the two rubber tips releases the latch from the cowl and radiator support. Below: Stainless rods provide support and fine tuning for locating the radiator. | Left: Billet receptacle for hood latch is mounted on cowl up under hood edge.

28: Adding a bit of nostalgia: The rectangular tubing frame horns were begging for modification. Copying the boxing and lightning technique of the old school guys was the ticket. | Right: A/C and heater plumbing enters through the floor and resides behind the kick panel. Vintage Air provided the A/C system.

29: Engine accessories and front runner serpentine system is from Billet Specialties | It's almost a shame to hide all this aluminum art work with a radiator.

30: Hedman headers dump into 2 1/2" stainless steel exhaust. The billet engine mounts didn't fit when they arrived, so I reversed the engine mounting pad and that fit fine. So far nothing big has fallen off. | Above: Custom exhaust hangers were fabbed from aluminum flat stock and a rubber shock bushing. Right: Aircraft flair was added by hole punching the firewall trim piece.

31: Noise management is handled by Flowmaster Exhaust. This was my first attempt at TIG welding stainless, but it wasn't any more difficult than regular steel. There is a wealth of information available in video format and on the internet dealing with every topic of interest to the rod builder. Many thanks to Ron Covell, and The Tin Man, Kent White for their instructional videos. | The blue plumbing connects the power steering to the resevoir. The ignition and wires are MSD. A Holly 750 CFM carb sits atop a Weiand Stealth manifold. The engine is a 350/385 HP ZZ4 crate motor coupled to a Tremec TKO 5 speed.

32: A 15 gallon ATL fuel cell is secured to both the floor frame and the rear surround tubing member. Not only is this good insurance, but ample peace of mind when cruising down the highway.

33: Body Work: As often said: it's all in the prep. If you've been there you know what I'm talking about. Long hours, uncounted long hours, block sanding, wiping, filling and more block sanding. After a while you get into a funky zone where the sanding block becomes an interface between you and the body metal. Your free hand caresses the surface, feeling for imperfections and then with satisfaction finds it right, or is it? Should I block some more or try the guide coat again. It's tough being a novice but then everybody is one at some point. That's why it's great to have a friend like David Close, local body shop owner and accomplished painter. He rubbed his hand on the metal and told me what to do: finer grit, more sanding.

34: Above: This is David fine tuning some of my work. Show me a guy who smiles while he's sanding and I'll show you a great paint job.

35: Body prep products were Evercoat brand sourced from Eastwood. Martin Senour Paints supplied the platinum and candy red colors. A primer sealer was applied after blocking the primer. Left: I wouldn't suggest this for a first time paint job. Mixing, flash times and cure can be somewhat intimidating, even when all goes right. | Epoxy high build primer was laid down as a base: Flat Black and Nasty.

36: A small room in the shop made for an ideal paint booth. A squirrel cage fan mounted in the door and furnace filters in the window handled the air management. A coat of platinum is laid down, then followed by five coats of candy red below the belt line. This gave the red just the right amount of pop. This sure is an inspirational time for the builder. You can really see it all coming together. There is still a lot to do but it's down to a few months; a manageable amount of time compared to the seven years already invested.

38: On goes the candy. David operates a body and paint shop in our small town of Buena Vista, Colorado. The name of his shop is "Body by Too Sweet". At first I thought this an odd name until I saw what he does with the Candy. Corny, yes, but you had to be there.

40: Here are five good friends who teamed up to move the body from the adjacent paint room to the main shop and set it on the chassis. | Above: Finished door handle is cut from 5/16" aluminum stock and drilled to reduce the overall vehicle weight. Below: Plastic panels from the upholstery shop were used for door and interior panels.

41: Outtakes: Above is a beach towel that's been in my shop for decades, no one will own up to it. It is only used to cover a finished motor, it's a religious thing. | Above; Good friend and neighbor, Paul Thompson, spent many days being that other set of hands that are always needed. Paul was into Hot Rodding before it was called Hot Rodding. | Left: I had to include this picture of myself as evidence of sanding to all my doubting friends.

42: I wanted to keep the dash as clean as possible, so A/C, heater and assorted switches were located above the windshield. Ultra Leather was used to wrap the header panel and also covers | the seats and door panels. Gauges are Autometer. A Painless Wiring dash harness disconnects with only two plugs.

43: This was my first foray into interior work, but I wanted to learn. A local auction offered up a Singer industrial sewing machine model 111w152. At the time I was reading a book, Automotive Upholstery Handbook by Don Taylor. It mentioned this model as one of the best for auto upholstery. My high bid of $125 closed the deal. A little TLC and a few new parts and I was ready to practice. Below left: Grey tweed carpet goes down over Hushmat and hemp pad. Below right: Stitching up the windlace.

44: Left: Carpet section for rear of trans tunnel. The seat back pad used a curved wood slat with 2" high density foam wrapped in Ultra Leather. Each slat has two threaded insert rivets installed and is fastened with screws through the bomber seat back. The goal was to build some comfort while not hiding the artwork of the bomber seat.

45: Singer Machine | This is the original '34 dash panel. Painting the insets turned out just right. When driving, my left knee is sandwiched between the door and the steering wheel. To get more room I rotated the tilt column clockwise and tilted the wheel to the right. It worked. Is it done? Are they ever done? After a summer of shake down cruising, I redid the rear shocks and coils to soften the ride. After a 250 mile cruise my wife said it was like driving a forklift to Chicago. I told her being "cool" ain't for sissy's. She didn't buy it. The ride is now much better. Also, the front of the body was raised 1 1/2" to improve visibility. I still can't see the overhead traffic lights. Fortunately we have only one traffic light in our little town. | Above: Singer Model 111W152

47: Well it's been quite a journey, seven years in all. Some part time, some full time, but fun every minute. It's a wonderful obsession. To call it a hobby would be a gross understatement. You live and breath it! Driving this Rod is a blast. Lots of thumbs up. Driving a creation of your own design and built with your own hands is fulfillment without a price. A lot of skills were learned, mistakes were made and challenges overcome. Yeah, 40 years ago I got interrupted, but now at long last I got 'er done. Oh that's right, Thanks Carolyn.

48: Pilgrimage to Hot Rod Mecca: That may sound odd to those who haven't been there, but to those who have you know I speak the truth. Not the birthplace of hotrodding, but an early catalyst in the development of the sport. I think I was planning this trip when I was in the eighth grade, it just took a while to work out the details. This was our 2nd trip to the Salt Flats, but the first time with the finished Rod. | This is not like a car show, everyone there is a gearhead. Most there are crew or racers. This is our peer group. Having these guys come up and admire the work and ask questions was indeed an honor. Pictured below is Salty Bottoms Pit Crew. From left: | Son Michael, Grandsons Trey, Colin Drew, Marcus, Liam,and author Barry. The smaller people voted and Speed Week is definitely an annual event. That's just fine with me.

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  • By: Barry H.
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