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You don't need fancy tools to pull an engine, just ...Two boys and a Sawzall
By Les "Roadmarks" Parker
It's all about friends
I guess it all started with Stovebolt.com. You see, a friend of mine wanted to replace the engine in an early '50s Chevy pickup with a later engine. He knew I had an old panel truck in the back yard so he asked for my help. I researched the swap on line, and that's how I found Stovebolt.com. That swap went well thanks to the site, but it started me thinking about restoring my 1956 panel which had been a storage shed for about 20 years. The more I read on Stovebolt.com, the more I learned and the more I found I already knew. I was getting “rehooked” on the ’56.
I bought the panel truck in 1972 and until 1984 it was my main daily driver. I drove it all over the country and into Mexico and Canada. A bad engine caused it to be parked.
So, I sat down and wrote out a "plan" for putting the '56 back on the road. I knew it would take a bunch of time and money, but I also knew that I could figure a way to get it done.
I started collecting parts. One of the major things I knew I needed was a "new" engine. The engine is why the truck was parked in the first place.
I should tell you here, that I had a number of other trucks in the last 20 years. One I really liked was a 1975 C-10 Custom with a 250 L6 and a 3 speed. That old truck was tough as nails and I drove it everywhere. Here's an earlier picture of it -- It hauled all the engines that are on the ground, all the "camping stuff, and me and Sarah. On a side note, all the engines in the picture -- three Maytags and a 1 1/2hp Fairbanks Morse "dishpan" -- are running!
Back to the story -- For many reasons, I needed a heavier, closed truck, so I bought a long wheelbase 1 ton van. I have another good friend who’s name is Bill, who wanted the '75, so I sold it to him. He had driven it for several years when another truck pulled out in front of him on the 4-lane. That killed the '75, but no people. He had the remains hauled out to his Uncle's farm. There it sat. From time to time he picked parts off of the '75 for other projects, but mostly, it and my '56 panel just sat.
Jump ahead to the present time.
Based on my experience with the '75, I asked Bill what his plans were for the engine that was still there. He told me, "It's yours and I'll help you get it out." Little did he know...
Our original plan for getting the engine out was to take all the necessary stuff loose and get a neighbor to set the engine on my trailer with his front end loader or tractor. We took some battery tools and some wrenches and went out to the farm for a "look." What we found was that everything was crushed back around the engine. Even the rear cross member bent before the transmission mount broke! "Some" cutting was in order. We sawed out the radiator mount and the radiator in fairly small pieces, only to find the passenger's side frame member wrapped around the front of the engine, too. It really didn't look that bad from the outside.
That stopped us for a bit.
My helpful friend Bill, said, "we're gonna have to go back and get the torch and a bunch of hose so we can put out the fires we start."
Gimmie that saw!
In order to get to the frame member, we would have to get rid of the bumper first.
"Let me try the saw on the bumper first," I told Bill. "The blade is almost shot, anyway."
Bill laughed and shook his head. I picked a useful spot on the bumper and started to cut. 30 seconds later I had cut the bumper, top to bottom! I guess the blade wasn't that bad after all. Bill just stared.
"Gimmie that saw, " he said, and he cut the other side of the bumper just as easily. We both started to laugh. A new "plan" was forming in both our minds.
"Lets just cut all this stuff out of the way and then it, (the engine,) won't have to be lifted much," I said.
"That'll work." Bill said. So we cut away everything back to the frame.
We took a break and looked at what we'd done. We were down to the frame, but it was still wrapped across the front of the engine. "I don't guess there's anything to do now but to try it," I told Bill. I put a new blade in the saw and found a place right in front of the A-arm I could get to. I took a deep breath and pulled the saw trigger.
Just a note here. Neither of us really believed that we were going to cut through the frame without a whole lot of work, if we could cut it at all.
Well, if anything, the frame cut easier than the bumper! The entire right front side of the body hung on the crumpled fender. Switch to a 12" 24T blade, and that, too, was soon cut. There was nothing left on the right hand side almost back to the passengers side A arm. Now that we knew that we could do it, we cut away the driver's side the same way. The pile of crushed and bent truck was growing.
Now we could get to the engine mounts and exhaust, which we unbolted and cut. We unhooked the shift levers at the transmission, cut the wiring at the firewall, and pulled the speedometer cable. The engine was loose! We patted ourselves on the back for a job well done, picked up our tools, and went up to the house to talk to Bill's Uncle Robert about the tractor.
Up at the house, Robert told us that Sammy, the next door neighbor with the tractor, had sold it and his combine when he quit farming.
"What about the back hoe?" I asked.
"I don't know who that belonged to," Robert said, "it wasn't there long."
The operation came to a screeching, tractorless halt right there. Thus ends the first day. Total time, less than four hours.
Bill and I talked to Robert about other options. Robert told us, "You boys (I'm 61 and Bill is 60) will figure it out -- just be careful."
Bill saved the day. The "new plan" was his idea and it worked like a charm. What Bill suggested, and what we did, ran something like this:
It was almost anticlimactic it was so easy. Everything went without a hitch, except I hit the old front end and broke a tail light lens. No biggie, it's my trailer.
End day two at about two hours. We took our time and were careful, mostly. The engine is now on my hoist, waiting for me to build another engine dolly this weekend.
Bill and I have removed engines from vehicles many ways, but this is the first time either of us have cut the vehicle away from the engine.
Not bad for a couple of rednecks, huh?
PARTS IS PARTS . . .
I guess you could say that this is stage 2 of getting a new engine for the 1956 panel truck.
I told my friend Tom, who lives in a small town about 60 miles away, that I needed a conventional head for a Chevy 250 6. Tom told me that he knew a guy that might have a head and he would check and see. About a week later, Tom emailed me to say that he had found not one but two Chevy 194cid heads! WOW! The 194 heads are the most desirable of the late L6 heads because they have the smallest combustion chambers at 54ccs! Tom said that the price was right, too, and the guy was ready to deal. The following weekend, my wife and I made the trip to visit Tom and see the heads. I bought both heads in case one was cracked. Things are coming together.
Back to what’s left of the 1975 C-10 pickup.
Bill and I did a bit of “bench building” on the ’56 panel. I said, “I’m already changing the engine, so it won’t be stock, and I have a 6 lug disc brake set up for the front. What do you think of using the pedals and master, too?”
“You’ll want all the mounts from the firewall and under the dash,” Bill said.
“I guess that means another trip out to Robert’s,” I said.
“Guess so,” was all Bill said.
Gimmie that saw... Again!
Back we went.
This time was easy, though. We cut around the outside of the pedals, unbolted the steering column and brackets inside, and pulled the whole package out as one piece.
I now have a complete power dual brake system. While we were at it, we also cut out all the clutch linkage, the fuse block and plug, and most of the wiring.
We also took the hood springs. I don’t need them for the ’56, but they are great for hanging a porch swing!
Now, all I have to do is put all this stuff together.
This started out to be about getting parts for my 1956 Panel rebuild, but the more I got into the stories, the more I realized that this is about my friends and how lucky I am to have them, my wife, and my family! I couldn’t have done it without you guys!
Thank you all!
Editors' Note: No, thank YOU, Les, for a great story! This is what Stovebolt.com is all about -- friends helping friends. And sometimes, backwoods projects really DO go well!
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