This journey started in February this past year and I am thrilled to be able to document my progress and share it with my fellow “Stovebolters. I grew up riding in my grandfathers 50’ Chevy Suburban, so this seed was planted over 60 years ago. I want to thank John and Peggy for allowing me this opportunity to take you all along for the ride.
Some of this journey has already happened, so some of what I documented has already taken place and was written when it happened. I have some catching up to do, so I am going to present this journal in chronological order until I catch up, then it will be in real time. I hope I don’t disappoint!
A Little Background: In High School during my Junior and Senior year, I attended a trade school in the morning then regular classes in the afternoon, to learn autobody. For me it was an easily way to get my diploma. I wasn’t the scholarly type, so working with my hands seemed to be my only viable option. Looking back, it was the first class in school that I really loved to attend. This program also helped place me in my first job, a “Mom and Pop” autobody shop in a little affluent town in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City. This opportunity allowed me to work on various vehicles including a model A Ford, Bentley and some other high dollar automobiles. My love for the industry started to bloom. However, this being a “Mom and Pop” shop, the “Mom” who was the bookkeeper, would show up usually about 10 or 11 am. Every time she entered the shop she would stop me in the middle of whatever job I was doing and instruct me to clean various areas of the shop. I got tired of this real quick and only lasted the summer. I landed another autobody job in a little less affluent town in another “Mom and Pop” shop and this didn’t work out much better. During this time I was making $2.50 an hour and if I wanted to, I could work a half day on Saturday and work “off the books” for $10 cash.
One of my best friends worked at a nearby Nuclear power plant as a janitor, a union position with full benefits paying $2.76 an hour with more overtime then he could handle. They were looking for people to hire, so to make a long story short, thus started my 41 year career in the “Nuc” industry. I remember my Mom questioning me why I would even consider a janitorial position vs being a prestigious Autobody repairman.
I had quite a few automobiles in my lifetime. My first car that I put on the road was a Covair. I replaced a few gaskets and O-rings to stop the fumes of oil coming in the car every time I used the heater, repaired some rust and dents, then painted it with some left over paint from previous jobs I had painted for other people as I couldn’t afford to buy paint. As I recall, grabber blue with a white top and two flat black hood and trunk stripes similar to that on a SS Camaro and a set of “thrush” mufflers to round out the sceme. I laugh today over what I, an 18 year old found appealing.
I followed that with a 1961 Chevy 2 door Impala bubble top in which I replaced the old tired oil burning stovebolt 6 cylinder with a 307 V8 from a 1968 Impala. Not that that motor was such a powerhouse but I quickly blew 2 transmissions and a rear end.
My new job afforded me the opportunity to buy a 1967 GTO, a HiPo 360 HP with a 4 speed and 3.90 gears, a true muscle car, from a colleague for $800. This was in 1971 and I loved that car. I got married in 1972 and was expecting my first child in 1973. Add the oil crisis in the fall of 73 that limited you to 10 gallons every other day and the fact she only got about 10 miles per gallon, the GTO had to go. I sold that car in 1974 in near perfect condition for $1,000, a fair price at the time to a serviceman who just returned home from overseas. I only wish I had the means to hold on to that car, but that’s life.
In 1976 after a divorce, I bought a 2 year old 1974 Chevy work van with a 350 automatic to get into the custom van scene. I customized the interior and the exterior including a new paint job, Keystone custom rims, BF Goodrich TA radials, fiberglass fender flairs and a front spoiler. I joined a local van club and traveled for two years with the club attending rallies from Englishtown New Jersey to Watkins Glen In New York. In 1980, I met my present wife and we continued to use that van for camping for several more years. We sold it in the mid 80’s as it no longer fit our needs.
Between the 1985 and 2012, I was not into the auto scene. Life got way too busy with the responsibility of 4 children and a couple of homes that needed allot of TLC, knowing all along that one day I would return to that scene.
I have always been a DIY type of guy. This is due to the fact that I am very meticulous, sometimes to the point of being borderline OCD and I can’t see paying for a job that I could do myself. A good portion of the work that I have hired out, I was not happy with. Doing it myself was the only way I could assure to get the job done right. I used to kid my wife that I could do brain surgery if I had the instruction book. I have since matured realizing I’m not an expert in every field. This realization was aided by the occasional “getting in over my head” and breaking a few things while trying to fix them. Additionally, as I became more financially secure, some jobs I just don’t want to do anymore.
I retired in 2012 after a 41 year career in the “Nuc” industry. During which time I worked as a janitor, operator, a mechanic, a machinist and finally as a Maintenance Planner writing work packages and procedures for the nuclear mechanics and technicians. From 1975 thru 2002 I honed my skills in metal working in the machine shop and welding shop.
All during my down time in the custom/resto car scene, I was busy acquiring some of the tools necessary to restore a vehicle. A mig welder, HVLP spray guns, engine stand etc., all in preparation of my new retirement job, restoring old vehicles. 2012 thru 2016 slipped away prepping our house to be sold and bringing our new home up to spec. In 2017 I bought a 2008 Honda Civic SI from our son who was moving across the country. Mechanically the vehicle was sound but suffered with a few dents and the typical clear coat de-lamination for a Honda from this era. I figured that this was a good opportunity to get back into resto scene utilizing the new paints and products vs what I used some 40 years ago. I did underestimate how much work was involved as it went from repairing a few dents, and repairing the clear coat on the top of the car to a full paint job. I did learn allot about the new (to me) 2k paints and primers along the way. I also made a few dollars, enough for seed money for my first restoration.
I figured to obtain my ultimate vehicle, a late forty’s or early fifty’s Chevy or Ford pickup, I would need somewhere around 12 grand to buy something that wasn’t a total rust bucket, wasn’t hot rodded and was mechanically intact. I didn’t have that much money saved so my plan was to do another flip. I was looking for a early to mid 60 pickup, one that was unmolested and mechanically sound so it would not require allot of money to flip. New paint, fix any mechanical issues then sell it.
I’ve been looking in Craig’s List for the last six months and on 2/11/19 I saw an ad for a 1952 Chevrolet 3100 and she just reached out to me. The price was in the ballpark of the 1960’s pickup I was looking to flip and the condition seem to be too good.
She was over three hours away and the thought of the logistics of driving there, getting cash out of the bank, renting a U-Haul trailer almost stopped me but after talking with my wife, she got me back on track and the rest just fell into place. The owner already had several full price offers when I got there but gave me first shot since I was the first one to call. We bought the truck that same day and after a very long day and 5 hour journey home, she was now parked in our yard by 11 PM.
I woke up the next morning, glanced out the window and saw our new 52’ still sitting on the trailer, still in disbelief that we were able to score such a beauty as this. When I went outside to look her over I noticed that a headlight bezel was missing. I thought that it was there when I left North Carolina but was not sure. I had taken some pictures before we left so I went inside and grabbed my phone to look. Sure enough the bezel was there when we had left and must have fallen off during the trip. I checked the other one and that one could have fallen off too. The clip on the bottom that holds the retaining screw had rusted out. The passenger side was pretty beat up, so It was no big loss as I needed to buy new one’s anyway.
This was the start to my new project...
My immediate plan is to get her road worthy, enjoy her for the first summer then off to a full frame off restoration.
2/12/19: After doing research, mostly on this forum, I have found that a rebuilt 59’ 235 with hydraulic lifters from a car was installed by a previous owner, which is both good news and bad. The good news is, I have a bigger, rebuilt, full pressure, engine with 838 heads. The bad, the truck engine was not original and the modification was more of a butcher job. To compensate for the 235’s longer water pump, the radiator was moved forward, cutting the upper radiator support out, cutting the lower splash pan and cutting the hood latch pan. I am a bit disappointed that the motor isn’t original, but as I have found out on this forum, many of these swaps have been done after the old 216 gets a bit tired.
I’m recouping from yesterday’s adventure (yeah it’s great to be retired), so research is on the agenda today.
2/13/19: Today I noticed the alternator is not aligned properly with the water pump and the balancing damper pulley. The existing generator bracket (mount to the engine) was utilized to mount the alternator by using a threaded rod and a few more nuts. The rod is too small and is bending under the strain of the tightened belt. In addition, the bracket to tighten the alternator was too short and extended by adding 2 additional pieces to the bracket to extend it.
The existing generator bracket looks like it could be modified to make a proper mount for the alternator. This could be accomplished by cutting the right side mount and welding it back in the proper position. I think the only solution for the tensioning bracket is to replace it.
Another solution is to buy a prefabricated mount and belt tightening bracket especially made just for this conversion. This kit sells for about $60. This sounds like the way to go.
2/15/19: I noticed that the resister mounted to the coil was not hooked up. One of the previous owners did a 6 to 12v conversion. 12v systems with a set of points usually run a resistor on the battery side of the coil to reduce the voltage down about 4 volts to keep it from burning up the points too quickly. This arrangement should have a bypass wire that supplies full voltage while the starter is engaged enabling better starts. This sets off a bunch of red flags for me. I don’t know if the 12v conversion was properly installed. This requires further research.
First to address, is the ballast resistor. I found and ordered a starter switch on ebay that has a side mounted terminal that supply’s full voltage while the foot switch is engaged. A wire from that terminal to the coil will enable full voltage to the coil, bypassing the resistor. The other issues require more investigation.
2/16/19: Today I noticed the following: * The parking lights are not hooked up * The wiring going to the tail lights although updated, the connections look questionable * The passenger side headlight is not hooked up * The brake light switch is sticking and the brake pedal is not retracting fully leaving the switch in the on position * A kit to install signal lights was sloppily installed with wire nuts and all of the wires are dangling under the dash.
I removed the hood latch panel and discovered none of the wires for the parking lights, right side head light and horn were connected nor were the ends taped to prevent shorts. Basically the old wiring is disintegrating and any of the repairs or additions were not done correctly.
The installation of a new wiring harness is required. I plan on doing this after the truck is painted during the reassembly. In the meantime, the wiring needs to be identified and restored to a safe condition prior to me even thinking of firing this old gal up.
I see we kind of do things the same way. When doing my 53 I found much work done 1/2 @ssed or completely wrong. The biggest being the fact that the clutch disc was installed backwards and the hardened springs on the disc ground down the flywheel bolt heads, making it a complete whore to tear apart. Basic rule is the deeper you look the more you find. I purchased a 66 GMC a couple days ago and headlight dimmer switch doesnt work, nor the front parking lights, no tail lights, heater motor does not work, neither the radio or dome light/backup lights. So bad I unhooked the battery in fear of it burning down the garage and my restored 53. To be expected, old wiring and bad grounds, worn out headlight switch etc. etc. None of this upsets me because I am going through it all anyways. Enjoy the ride, it is so much fun. The sound of those solid lifters on that V6 bigblock is better than a Mozart symphony though, so it is all good.