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Projects 1957 Chrysler Mild Custom

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by Gotgas, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    With the looming ten-year anniversary of the day I bought this car, I thought it's time to start a build thread. :)

    I always wanted to make a mild custom out of a '57-58 Mopar coupe. Those Christine clones are good looking cars but you see a ton of 'em. I wanted something a little more unusual, and Hemi powered. So I started looking for a '57-58 Desoto or Chrysler. I found a '57 Desoto Firedome and bought it sight unseen. Hey, it was pretty cheap!

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    Dad was not impressed. He said try again, and this time find a rust free car if I could. Some of you may be aware that Chrysler had a reputation-destroying rust problem with the 1957 cars.

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  2. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    So I kept looking. I had want ads, and ebay and craigslist searches all over the place. But one day I did a search on my local craigslist for '1957' and it turned up an ad for a 1957 chyrsler (sic). It didn't have any pictures, but it did say it was a 2dr. I drove out there that day to check it out. Here's what I found.

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  3. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    I did that mental calculus we all do.
    Pros:
    It's arrow-straight and all the trim is there
    Glass is good
    It's complete
    Zero rust (a miracle)
    It's a real Hemi car, with all the parts
    It's the right make and body style I've been dying to find
    It's loaded with power everything and A/C
    It's 10 miles from home

    Cons:
    Half the engine is in the trunk
    It's been off the road for 30 years and apparently baking in the sun that whole time
    The interior is completely useless
    Price is a little high for a 4500lb paper weight

    So of course I bought it.

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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
  4. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    What's the first thing I did? The first thing you would do, too. Washed it, put some fancy wheels on it, and lowered it.



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  5. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    Then I started thinking about what to actually build out of it. I wanted to keep it really sharp looking, kind of like something the factory would do if they were building a near-production concept car. Mostly just clean up what was already an amazing design. Get rid of badges and handles, lower it, and because I love that jet age stuff, let's add an open bumper/grille from a Desoto and a small integrated scoop on the hood. The restorers on the FL site had pitchforks out for me, and some still do. :) Full speed ahead, they can fix it after I'm dead.

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  6. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    I then promptly sat on my ass for 7-8 years. Career, houses, moves, family, a marriage, and all the other real-life stuff had to be a priority. The car was never forgotten and I did a lot of parts gathering in that time.

    One of the biggest hurdles was figuring out what to do with the engine. More than just the fact that it was in a million pieces, it also has a broken mounting ear. When you figure the cost of a Hemi rebuild, having this half-ass mounting was a non-starter for me. I just had to share the pic of cobwebs in the crankcase.

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  7. Minor and perhaps standard set backs, so keep going forward. It will be a great ride...keep at it.
     
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  8. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    I searched for anyone that could repair that chunk of cast iron, and came up empty. I bought a good running 331 from a '55 Imperial, thinking I could use it. But something never did sit right with me on that. No matter how you slice it, losing 60 cubes and 100hp is going the wrong way. Maybe drop a 440 in it and keep the hood shut? Man that sucks too.

    Then I found something interesting. A '57 4dr New Yorker turned up. I contacted the guy about it, and he told me the car runs pretty well. That got my attention. We hemmed and hawed about a price, then I mentioned my '55 Imperial Hemi and then HE lit up. Turns out he is restoring a '55 New Yorker convertible and needs an engine for it. A deal is struck and I head to Indiana to buy one of the ugliest cars I have ever seen.

    What I was not prepared for is that this rust bucket is a 42k mile car with a 392 that starts and runs better than my new cars. The interior is MINT. And a previous owner had been collecting parts to "restore" it with, so the trunk and seats are loaded with extra parts. The stars are starting to align!

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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
  9. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 7,749

    Atwater Mike
    Member

    That 'ear' can be easily fixed, if carefully 'templated' with stiff paper, then carefully cut straight off parallel with the line of 'origin'. Cut a piece of cast iron from a discarded engine block or iron transmission case, shape & drill to template and have a local certified welder join the piece onto your block. As 392 blocks are 'pricey', this fix is most practical.
    (I've done this very fix on mid-'50s Cad blocks)

    This car is beautiful, and the wheels and tires the BEST possible choice!
    My pal, Bud 'Flathead Jones' had a '57 Chrysler 'letter' car. 2 X 4 intake, factory coral paint...(flat towed a matching paint '27 T roadster, full racecar nose to Fremont drags religiously for 3 years, roadster turned 106 with a warmed-over flathead.)
    One morning a hopped up '56 Chevy on the Nimitz Freeway wasn't going to let us change lanes to get to the strip,
    so Flathead licked the big Chrysler into passing gear, and we walked all over that Chevy...with the roadster in tow!
    Bud's wife and my wife were with us, but the 392 didn't seem to notice the extra weight!
     
  10. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    About that same time, I rented some shop space so I could actually work on the car. I moved it from the garage at home and started getting dirty on this thing.

    I want to give a huge shout of THANKS to my dad (Verne). :D He works on it with me all the time and has dedicated himself to making sure it turns out "pretty."

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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
  11. VonWegener
    Joined: Nov 19, 2009
    Posts: 715

    VonWegener
    Member

  12. ^^^^^what he said. Fix the broken piece. Good score on the "ugly Chrysler". UR moving in the right direction....
     
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  13. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    Years ago, I got a good deal on a rebuilt Tremec trans at a swap meet. I bought a Wilcap adapter to mount a Ford-spec manual trans to a Hemi. Now, I like the pushbutton Torqueflites and I have three good ones. They are quintessential '50s space age cool shit. But I love rowing my own gears.

    Before committing to anything, let's mock that up and see if it even fits in the car.

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    The Verdict:
    It fits. The only cutting and welding was to convert a set of manual trans pedals from a '58 Plymouth to cable operation, a hole in the floor for the shifter and another in the firewall for the cable, and a gusseted lip welded to the transmission / torsion bar crossmember for the mount. Admittedly the shifter opening is further back than normal, but it's comfortable for me with the seat all the way forward. If I'm still not happy with it, I can convert it to mid-shift to move the shifter base up another six inches.

    Of course all of this stick shift business made it a huge pain in the ass for the oil filter and starter in a torsion bar chassis. Exhaust on these cars was already a huge pain in the ass - so no change there. A horizontal oil filter mount and a high dollar clockable starter have addressed the fitment issues.

    If I hate it, I'll just stuff a TF back in it and be done.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  14. Fitty Toomuch
    Joined: Jun 29, 2010
    Posts: 168

    Fitty Toomuch
    Member
    from WVa

    Watching...I have a feeling this car is finished, and is in your avatar?
    If so, sweet.
     
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  15. zeph4057k
    Joined: Nov 28, 2011
    Posts: 419

    zeph4057k
    Member

    wow that is really awesome! I love those cars, you found a good one !!!
     
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  16. zeph4057k
    Joined: Nov 28, 2011
    Posts: 419

    zeph4057k
    Member

    you were lucky to get that car. you just cant find them anymore.
     
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  17. Your car is gorgeous. Period.
    Shave a few things off here and there, smooth everything out and dipped in black paint.
    Gorgeous.
     
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  18. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    On these cars, you have to think about the transmission and rear end holistically. There is no provision for an e-brake at the rear axle (stock, it uses a dedicated drum mounted to the tail of the Torqueflite). When you swap to a transmission without a parking brake, you have to game plan how to get it back - especially if you're running a stick.

    I put on my thinking cap and started taking measurements. A '90s Mustang 8.8 is an inch narrower, but has the right bolt pattern and is pretty strong. A friend had this one with 31-spline axles, 4.10s, and recently rebuilt diff and 10" drum brakes, so I started with that. I cut off the four-link mounts, set up the pinion angle, and welded leaf spring pads. A trip to the junkyard and I got all the e-brake cables from a Ranger because they are designed to work with leaf springs and run along the left side of the car instead down the middle like a Mustang. It all kind of dropped into place really.

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    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
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  19. j hansen
    Joined: Dec 22, 2012
    Posts: 379

    j hansen
    Member
    from sweden

    Subscribed....
     
  20. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    Now it's time to yank that nasty Hemi out of the green car and get it looking better. It's always nerve wracking to hoist 1000+ lbs of iron, so I took off the front clip to minimize how high we had to lift this big sucker. :D

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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
  21. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    Then we scrubbed, and we cleaned, and we cleaned, and we scrubbed and cleaned again. Then we painted it. The stock engine color was a bright silver, but I wanted something that would be a little more interesting, at least to me - a similar bright gold. It kind of follows that pseudo concept car thing I was talking about. Or at the very least I hope it will look good in a black engine compartment. :rolleyes:

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  22. We talked about this car, way back when I met you in D/FW. I'm glad to see you on it. Go, Danny, Go!
     
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  23. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    On to the exhaust. The stock manifolds have the puniest little outlets you ever saw - maybe 1.75", I'm not kidding. Plus they're ugly. There are some cheap street rodderish headers out there but there is exactly a 0% chance of them clearing the stock steering box and I wasn't going to run mismatched parts anyway. I have a friend in Kerrville that years ago had a local school cast a run of reproduction 300D manifolds. These are the high performance versions, with 2.5" outlets and a flattened ram horn for steering and suspension clearance. They are a ridiculously tight fit in the engine compartment, and the four-bolt flange pattern they used hasn't been available for years. So I'm on my own for the exhaust flange and stub.

    Rare, expensive, AND a huge pain in the butt? I'll take em.

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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  24. 392
    Joined: Feb 27, 2007
    Posts: 330

    392
    Member

    Beautiful looking ride. Solid and has a Hemi. Win win
     
  25. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    As you can tell I did the suspension and brakes already. Out back are the stock leaf springs and a pair of lowering blocks. Up front is all just rebuilt stock torsion bar stuff. I'm looking for a pair of 300C heavy duty 964/5 torsion bars, so let me know if you have some! For the brakes, I used an AAJ front disc brake "kit" which amounts to a pair of spacers you slip over the spindle to run later 11" b-body bearings and rotors, and a caliper bracket to hold '70s GM calipers. I'm running a manual disc/drum '70 B-body master cylinder. I made all of the lines with Nicopp tube and used a '77 Caprice distribution block.

    A lot of people have problems with running the AAJ kit on these cars because the off-the-shelf master cylinders do not push enough fluid for the stock '50s Chrysler rear brakes. To compound the problem, you get a severe fluid volume mismatch using GM calipers up front. I did the math and determined I could use the Ford rear drum brakes, GM calipers, and a Mopar master. :eek: I haven't driven it yet but pedal feel in the car is actually pretty good. We'll see how it is on the street.

    Another option is a full '70s Diplomat front brake swap including spindles and steering knuckles. A lot of people have been happy with this setup. It requires some ball joint changes and a modification to the strut rods, and would impose some weird Ackermann issues that I'd rather not deal with. But it's an option if I don't like the brakes I have.

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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  26. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    I've made a few changes to the body, but not many. The first one we wanted to tackle was the hood scoop. The green car came with a perfect hood, so no penalty if we couldn't get this to look good. I bought a '52 Mercury hood years ago because that's kinda what you "do" when putting a scoop on some other car. But I kept looking at it, and it was just too round and narrow to look good. I started eyeing other options.

    I found a '70s Jeep Golden Eagle in a yard that had a scoop I liked. Dad hated it! Said it was all wrong. So I cut it up.

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    Hmm, starting to look like something maybe. Let's see what we can do with that. After a little more trimming, some welding, some dynaglass, and some primer...

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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  27. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    I wanted to shave the gas door. A little measurement showed that a '65 Mustang tank will fit just fine under the floor and between the frame rails. I cleaned up the trunk and was just amazed at how clean and rust free it was. Then I cut a big ass hole in the middle of it. I am still cringing about doing this!

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    I filled that big hole with a polished stainless marine flush mount fuel door. It is sealed, so there won't be any fumes in the trunk. Once the trunk is upholstered, all that will be visible is the fill.

    By eliminating the Mustang's vented cap, I had to come up with a way to vent the tank. I welded a bung onto the tank and put a rollover tank vent in it and routed the line to a spot above the rear axle. I don't have a picture of that, apparently.

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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  28. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    I needed to do a shop reorg a little while back, so we wheeled both cars outside to have a look.

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  29. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    Which promptly pissed off my dad, who is in charge of "pretty" as you will remember. He just could not handle that ugly calico look the car has sported for all these years. So we brought it back in and he started sanding the roof.

    I was kind of laughing at first, but I have to admit it does make it look a lot nicer. :D

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  30. Gotgas
    Joined: Jul 22, 2004
    Posts: 6,337

    Gotgas
    Member
    from DFW USA

    I hate to disappoint, but that actually brings the project up to current. You all know there are a million other little time consuming tasks I never even mentioned. Like in that last photo, you can see the door glass is stuck out because the new roof rail weatherstrip is being a pain. My Wilcap pilot adapter just showed up in the mail, so maybe I can get the drivetrain back in it this weekend. I will have owned the car ten years on Saturday, Jan 20. :) I'm trying to get it drivable in time to take it to LSRU this year. It's a pretty ambitious goal, wish me luck.
     

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