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Rick Metcalfe is a retired Professional Engineer, with a lifelong love of old vehicles.
A true eclectic, Rick is an inventor, College Professor, welder, accomplished metal sculptor, customizer, etc.
Rick has a handfull of old Chev trucks, vans, Porsches and custom projects.
As builder and racer of a vintage '58 Porsche Speedster, Rick has collected a number of trophies and competition awards.
Living in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, Rick is now an independant appraiser of classic autos and trucks. He can be reached by email.
Toy ducks are crew and mascots for our team: TUBTOY RACING.
Two ducks (Good Luck and Baby Duck) ride in the car when I am on the track in the 1958 Porsche Speedster.
The cars are know as "upside-down bathtubs" so -- what do you take in the tub with you if you are having fun and feel like a kid?
"Most fun you can have in the tub, with your clothes on."
Go big or not at all!
A story about a 1949 MAGNUM Crew Cab in the making
By Rick Metcalfe
Higher, wider, longer, bigger...
It was about 10 years ago, now ... I was driving down a street in London, Ontario. I looked off to the left and there it was calling out me via signage ..." '49 Chevy $300."
Wow, that's my kind of price point! I pulled off smartly and went to look and ask. It was a 4400 with a stake bed. Really rough, windows broken, but not the 5th windows. It had been used as a yard truck in a lockable storage business. The old truck had not been on the road in decades, but most of the stuff was there. Negotiated $50 off and spent the $50 to have it flat deck towed to my place.
Now to get her running
Carb off and cleaned. Starter off and polished. Plugs out, cleaned, distributor points and cap cleaned. Oil topped up, water for the radiator. Small one gallon fuel tank spliced in. A 12 volt battery and jumper wires. It took a lot of rolling over. The compression was quite low.
It did finally start. I drove it up and down our drive, turning around in the field. Driving with no brakes really builds character.
I separated the '49 cab and frame / running gear. Posted the frame and drivetrain in classifieds. Sold for $400. I even threw in the new books from Carter's. Onto my car trailer it went and I delivered it (rear axles and duallies hanging off the back end of the trailer) to the buyer. The die was cast, as it were.
Now, on to the "new" project foundation -- let's try out the donor truck! I added gas, water, electrics and drove it around. NO BRAKES! Good thing I have experience with that. But it did have a band brake on the drive shaft.
Reality sets in
Now to strip the donor truck to the bones. Fenders, doors, windscreen etc. sold $250. Floor on donor cab was good so why not use it for floor on '49? Cut cab down, left firewall and steering. Sold the stake bed to a neighbor for a farm wagon.
Good ole Chevrolet -- they probably didn't change much in 30 years. Or did they? The donor cab was wider and the firewall was 9" further forward. With help from a friend's tractor / bucket, we lifted the cheesy cab onto the donor. The short stroke was the steering wheel now resides 8" into the windscreen. SNAP!
This will be a BIG JOB! The '49 cab was too narrow, too -- by 6" or more.
OK, I can do this (I think!).
The Plasma cutter cometh!
Now you Stovebolt purists look away as I get out the Plasma cutter and quarter (literally) the '49 cab and hood.
Now I can move the quarters to places where they will fit. AND it looks like 6" is the magic number for widening. All the buddies said it would be near impossible to do, because the '49 is a tapered design, smaller at front, wider at back. BUT, if I do an imaginary section down the middle and move the panels (and split hood) 3" to each side, I can just glue it back up.
Anyone scared yet??
Not me! (Six years ago now) Why didn't Chevy make their trucks wide to begin with? Answer: They didn't need to -- life was smaller then! Ha!
Off now to the shop to get dirty. I moved the project inside my shop.
We know the AD trucks have a two-piece hood. I split the seam and ground the edges. I fabricated a 6" strip to widen the hood down the middle. My English Wheel (own design/built) provided the bull nose crown for the front. Welded together, it stiffened the hood.
Fitting the old cab to my '80 donor was complicated. The reference point was the center of the front fenders over the front wheels. With that in mind, it set the location fore / aft for the cab. I used the floor and firewall from my donor truck (C5000) because it was not rusted / gone. It also provided the mount locations for the hanging pedal cluster.
Add new shaped rocker panels to the floor. Outer L/R dogleg cowling panels were spliced onto the '49. Inner cowl panels roughed in. Then the left and right front cab quarters were clamped into place, 6" wider.
Working in 3D space with a curved cab is very complex -- Up/down, fore/aft, left/right, same dimensions top and bottom. It helped that I took cab dimensions as found and marked them on the '49 cab with a yellow paint pen. Then I took digital pics. These pics proved invaluable when I needed to establish new +6" cab dimensions.
A flexi-cab like these quarters moves like your hand when you hold your opposable thumb opposite your four fingers. Picture your thumb is the window pillar and fingers are the back of the cab. It takes seconds to move your hand and thumb, many hours to fit the door opening to a door and get a ~3/16" gap.
Everything had to be clamped and tacked 10-15-20 times to get to the location and dimension I needed. Keeping in mind the door opening in 3D. Doors went on / off as many times each. The door hinge post as rusted was missing from the lower hinge down and the cab rear corners also gone. I used another AD cab to provide the pointed cowling at front / center. Cut / fitted to provide the net 6" wider. Same on roof and windshield framing.
Also adding to the 'fun' is that there aren't many straight / flat lines to work with -- everything is curved / tapered / wedge shaped, etc. AH, the beauty of the old trucks!
The second cab donated a good rear window section that I spliced into my 5-window cab between the rear windows (so rear window is stock size). At this point, the roof is still wide open!
The project expands
As time passed, I realized that for all my troubles, I still have only turned a two-seater into a three seat truck. Not enough to put anything else into my truck (cab).
WHY NOT STRETCH THE CAB and make it longer? A Crew Cab! (maybe I should have had a Suburban / Panel truck.)
More roughing again -- hanging / clamping the other cab back-back-back, 54" sounds / looks right.
Wait a minute. These cabs are tapered, wider at the back! If it's 6" wider at the front, it is not right at the back. Lots of eye-balling and measuring and 9" is the magic number for wider at the back panel.
At this point, I split my original cab again between the lock post and the 5th windows. Again, I re-cut the back panel and re-spliced it for +4.5" per side. Clamp and tack, eye-ball/measure again.
That's it. Easy, eh?
So then I had a front section and a very floppy rear section in 3D space. Again I go up/down, fore/aft, in/out, clamping / tacking / bracing, etc. More than 30 vice grips and a dozen C-Clamps in play, with tubing, angle iron, tape, threaded rods (adjustable), string and almost bubblegum to get stuff located. I must be nuts! But I'm not scared!
Fabed up some 1.5" shaped channels for floor frames, making a grid and braces. Extended the rockers back under the big cab.
Welded up some 1/8 heavy perches for the main frame channels to hold body cushions. Found some new multi-piece GM body cushions at a swap meet. Mount new extended cab on 6 new cushions, weld floor frames to extended rockers.
Now for the bones! I made a 1/4 template for the roof curves, bent up some (racecar) tubing to make roll bars. The rear gets a double, fitted just ahead of the 5th windows. Tacked welded to the body and welded down to the floor framing it stiffens the cab rear. The second pair of rollbars go behind the door lock post in the B pillar.
Now some fabing of a 48" curbside door frame (from extra cabs left/right) lock posts. Fab curbside door from two donor doors L/R. Design and fab hinges for curbside door, hinge suicide style. Fit and adjust big door, 90 degree opening, hinge bases attach to corner bones.
Bear claw latches in front / side doors, pins on the doors, claws in the posts. Repair front door bottoms inside / out. Shave door handles, remove window hardware, chem dip and epoxy prime doors, etc. Fit GM power window motors and arms to '49 Chevy window mechanicals. Test fire and adjust bear claw latches. Test wire and fire windows with plexi panels. Dangerous! I now have enough window torque, I think I could cut a ripe apple in half. Fab custom window lift for big door.
This is a BIG BOLT for sure, and a BIG project.
On any big project you burn out from time to time, so I laid off of it for the best part of a year. About 99.8% of this work I accomplished SOLO! -- even the heavy cab / frame work. When my lovely and patient wife Mary or daughter Jackie come out to inspect, I always try to have them hold something or sit in the truck to comment. After all they are my racecar crew and could ride in this BIG BOLT (if they approve).
The big job yet to come is THE ROOF! I need to run a large panel thru "Mrs. Peel" (the English Wheel, painted British Racing Green). That project may take from 4-6 hours with the help of a friend or two.
More in a couple of months as work progresses.
Also, on the horizon is an opportunity to get a 1945 2-on Art Deco farm truck (rough) from an old friend ($100). Stay tuned.
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