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Projects Build Thread - Olds Rocket Powered 1938 Ford Deluxe Coupe

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Steve 38, Sep 3, 2012.

  1. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    Sorry for the wall of text, I realise this is a bit of a novel, I didn’t mean to write my entire life story, but for anyone with a few spare hours and who gives a rats-arse, here is the story of my ’38 Ford Deluxe coupe build.

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    This is a project that began about 35 years ago, back in the late 1970s, when I was about 5 or 6 years old. My Father, a mechanic by trade, and self-confessed Ford freak, decided he wanted to restore an old car. We were living in a town called Palmerston North, here in NZ, and he found a ’38 Ford Deluxe four door sedan that was complete, but had lived a pretty hard life. Everything was there, including the Flathead, plus a few spares etc. It had been driven regularly until the late ‘60s. Then someone started a basic restoration on it and lost interest. They slapped red oxide primer everywhere, and bogged up the front right mudguard (fender) where it’d had some damage at some stage. The ’38 was up for tender, and the old man won the tender.

    Anyway, once he got it home, he ripped into it, he got the Flatty fired up pretty quick, ran it for a few seconds, then shut it down again, because the radiator was shot. That’s the last time it ran. He built a concrete pad out in our backyard, and started constructing a garage around the car. He pulled the motor and put it in another shed. Then he removed the front sheetmetal and rear mudguards, and then he just sort of lost interest in the project.

    So I basically grew up with that ’38 sitting in the backyard. Me and my buddies used to play car chase scenes in it, cops and robbers etc, I must have spent half my childhood sat in that shitty old bench seat and gripping that big Banjo steering wheel. I did my bit to help with the restoration, by removing all the glue someone had applied around the front windscreen. My handywork made that bastard leak like a sieve every time it rained, as the old man never finished building the garage around it.

    Anyway, I grew up and left home, did my OE to England, and returned to NZ to live in another part of the country. Eventually my folks had a new house built in another part of Palmerston North, and a bunch of parts went with them, but the old man removed the body from the chassis and put the body in storage. It sat in storage for ten years. His storage fees were about ten times what he originally paid for the car. Basically, he’d come to the conclusion it would have cost him a lot more to restore this car than it would have cost him to have bought a similar car already restored. He knew he was never going to do anything with it.

    I should say, that I haven’t always been interested in hot rodding. When I was a kid I really loved hot rodding. But the types of hot rods I was into weren’t the types that were around when I was growing up in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. The old man still had a few old late ‘50s/early ‘60s American hot rod magazines laying about from when he was a teenager, and I used to thumb through these all the time, and I really loved the late ‘50s and early ‘60s styles. But the cars I saw on the roads in the early ‘80s didn’t appeal to me so much, and my interest in hot rodding waned as I became more interested in motorsport, in particular, circuit racing (what Americans call road racing).

    My real interest since I was in my early 20s is motorsport history. I’ve been writing historical motorsport articles for various NZ and Australian car magazines for over ten years now, mainly tracing the histories of old NZ racing cars. I also run a website and forum called The Roaring Season www.theroaringseason.com about motorsport history and current day historic racing. I just have a passion for motorsport and motoring history.

    Anyway, about six or seven years ago, I’d organised to do a magazine article on an NZ hot rod company called Magoo’s Street Rods for one of the magazines I write for. It was while standing in their retail shop I started thumbing through magazines, and started to notice some of the traditional style hot rods just like the ones that were in my old mans magazines I’d grown up with. I was quite fascinated by these, because they were cars I could really relate to, not just because they had so much more character and soul than the modern high-tech hot rods, but because I have a passion for motoring history. I guess that day sparked something in me and I began thinking about building a traditional style hot rod.

    I started thinking about the various options available to me. Because of my passion for history, and my love of anything historical, I could only ever build something from original steel, using as many original, period parts as possible. My favourite hot rod style is that of the late ‘50s, so I decided that as much as I could, I’d use period correct original parts from this era. Every old car part that is original, and was sourced from another car, has its own story to tell. To cobble together many parts from different cars into one car is fascinating to me. It gives the car character, and character isn’t something that can be bought. I know its not for everyone, but this is just my personal preference.

    The artist Robert Williams summed it up best for me when interviewed for the tv show Rides, where he was visiting the Burbank Choppers car club, talking about the T Coupe the club were building for Aaron Kahan. “A car that is made up of many, many old parts, has a soul, it has a karma. Its like a Frankenstein, everything has been ferreted off something else. And the guy that built it knows exactly what it is. Theres a lot of people get into this thing and they do it very superficially, and they want all the new reproduction parts and what-not. And to me I don’t see those ghosts rising off of it. I don’t see it at those hot rod meets in the ‘40s and ‘50s. I don’t see that girlfriend riding in it that hated every moment of being in it. I don’t see the policeman with his foot on the bumper writing tickets on that thing. Theres a very, very romantic aspect to this thing”.

    Eventually I decided to ask the old man what he was planning to do with the ’38 Deluxe, and he was very keen for me to take it, not least so he didn’t have to pay storage costs for the body anymore!
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2012
  2. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    My plans started out pretty straight forward. I’d reassemble the ’38, lower the suspension, hop up the Flathead. Then, I decided I didn’t want a four door hot rod. I considered just briefly having the more-door converted to a Tudor, but the costs for doing that were pretty astronomical. I knew of a guy called Steve Woodfine who was selling a ’39 Deluxe coupe body in rough condition. This thing had been to hell and back. In the ‘60s it got cut up by someone planning to mount it on a stockcar chassis, and go speedway racing with it. Thankfully, they lost interest long before it was ever finished.

    Steve Woodfine had bought it, and had a panelbeater start to reassemble it, but when I got it there was no floor from the firewall through to the rear kick-up where the trunk floor meets the main floor, plus there were no rocker panels, and the bottom couple of inches had also been gas-axed off the quarter panels when the floor was cut out. Plus, it had no drip rails. Steve strongly recommended I come take a look at the body before committing, but I already decided I wanted it, and besides, these old coupe bodies aren’t exactly common in NZ. There are very few here. I part-traded my more-door ’38 body for the ’39 coupe body.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Then, I decided I didn’t want to use the Flathead. I wanted something with more power. I love small block Chevys, but I didn’t really want to use one of these. Ideally, I would have liked either a Buick Nailhead or Oldsmobile Rocket, but again, these rarely come up for sale in NZ. Then, one day, a guy called Paul Stitchbury put one up for sale on Trademe (a sort of NZ version of Ebay) and I contacted him about buying it. I’m in the middle of renovating a house, and had little spare cash, so Paul was kind enough to take payments from me and hold the motor. I also got a Hydramatic trans off him.

    So this project that started out as a simple rebuild of a ’38 Deluxe more-door with Flathead, had morphed into a coupe with Olds Rocket power. My new coupe body was in bad shape, and the Olds motor hadn’t run in years. Whats more, all my front sheetmetal is ’38 Deluxe, and my coupe body is ’39 Deluxe, and they don’t mate up to each other. So my nice simple build has become much more complex than I originally intended.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2012
  3. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    [​IMG]

    There was one car in particular that inspired my build, Bob Licks ’40 Std coupe. This car to me is as good as it gets. Bobs ’40 runs 15” Mercury wheels, and these are as rare as rocking-horse shit in NZ, but after searching a while I eventually found a real nice set on Ebay, and shipped them to NZ. These old fat fendered Ford coupes are pretty good looking cars straight out of the factory. I won’t be doing anything to the body, except fix it.

    I’d been having nightmares about how to sort the issues with the mis-matching firewall and side-cowls, getting the ’38 sheetmetal to work with the ’39 coupe body. Then, while looking through a thread on the HAMB started by Kiwi Kev on his Nasty Habit Willys, I finally got the answer. Find a cheap ’38 more-door body, cut through the A-pillars, and replace the firewall on my ’39 coupe body. Then while I’m at it, I could also use the floor from the donor body, as my coupe body doesn’t have a floor. This would kill two birds with one stone!

    So, if any Kiwis reading this have a shitty old ‘37/38 body, or ’39 Std going cheap, please pm me!
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2012
  4. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    I want to do as much work on this car as I can, but I decided to get Magoo’s Street Rods to do the fabrication work on the chassis. The Olds motor doesn’t quite fit without cutting the firewall, but the real issue is the massive Hydro trans. So Magoo’s cut the centre section from my x-member, and fabbed up a complete new centre section to house the Hydro, plus attachment points for the rear locator bars. They’ve done a beautiful job with this, and now my chassis looks like it was designed originally to fit a Hydro. They’ve also made/modified new motor and trans mounts, and split the wishbones. The fabrication work here is so nice it seems a shame to cover it all up.

    I bought some main leaf springs with the eyes reversed, which are actually original leaves that have been reversed, not new ones. I’ve removed four of the twelve leaves from both the front and rear, and gone with a 4” Magnum drop axle.

    Here are some pics of the beautiful fabrication work done by Neville at Magoo’s Street Rods.

    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2012

  5. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

  6. Dago 88
    Joined: Mar 4, 2006
    Posts: 2,212

    Dago 88
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Hi Steve, love what your doing. It brings back memories of my '36 I did a . few years ago,those hydros are big heavy MF's but i'm sure you will be happy with the results. where do you find Rocket motors in NZ, are they common there? They are pretty thin on the ground here in Oz.
    Good luck with the build, I will be keeping an eye out for this build. :)
    Cheers Charlie.
    My Olds powered '36 in 1979 & more recently my olds powered A roadster.
     

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  7. Drivinford
    Joined: Aug 24, 2012
    Posts: 758

    Drivinford
    Member

    I love that yellow 40 coupe
     
  8. Drivinford
    Joined: Aug 24, 2012
    Posts: 758

    Drivinford
    Member

    Steve, nice build you have goin. Keep postin
     
  9. pinkynoegg
    Joined: Dec 11, 2011
    Posts: 1,136

    pinkynoegg
    Member

    Wow this thing is going to be great!
     
  10. That was a good read Steve. If it comes out anything like the yellow one it will all be worth while. The family connection makes it very special.
     
  11. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    Hey guys, thanks heaps for the great feedback.

    Dago 88, yeah the Olds motors are super rare here too. Mine is a 1955 324ci. I don't know how it found its way to NZ. Very few Oldsmobiles were imported to NZ when new, so this one would have come out more recently. Its possible someone imported an original car, and decided to update to a newer motor. Or maybe it just came out on its own. Either way, they don't come up for sale often here. I know I made this build a whole lot more difficult going this way, if I'd done a small block Chevy and Muncie I could have saved myself a lot of hassle, but this car I'll keep forever, I won't part with it, so I didn't really want to make any compromises.

    By the way, I love your two Olds powered cars. What rear ends do they have?
     
  12. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    Thanks heaps Kev, I appreciate that mate. Sorry for all the text, I just started out writing a few details, and it turned into a marathon.
     
  13. Dago 88
    Joined: Mar 4, 2006
    Posts: 2,212

    Dago 88
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Yeah, the motors I have came from guys who updated their Oldsmobiles to small block chevs, (I love those guys lol) The '36 had a '55 chev rear & the model A has a '55 Olds rear with a '48 side shift open drive, column shifted g/box adapted to the rocket.
    Here's two more rocket powered cars i've had.
     

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  14. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    Wow, that F100 is incredible! Do you still have it?
     
  15. Dago 88
    Joined: Mar 4, 2006
    Posts: 2,212

    Dago 88
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    No, I sold it about 3 years ago. ended up getting a 351 cleveland & 22" billets :eek:
     
  16. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    Really? Thats criminal!
     
  17. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    This is the beautiful engine mount Magoo's made from scratch.

    [​IMG]
     
  18. hillbilly428
    Joined: Aug 11, 2010
    Posts: 3

    hillbilly428
    Member
    from NZ

    I'll be following your build. Kinda cool finishing off what your old man started, and great that its an old time build i'm sure he will approve.
    That Hydro is one fat f**#er, are you using the stock banjo rear?
     
  19. HotRodMicky
    Joined: Oct 14, 2001
    Posts: 1,783

    HotRodMicky
    Member

    Cool story/build
     
  20. Great to see another Rocket powered Hotrod being built right here in NZ !

    great build/story so far Steve , keep at it . Rod .




    .
     
  21. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    Hey you guys, thanks heaps for that.
     
  22. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    Paul, the diff will be a Banjo. My original closed Banjo won't work, so need to use a newer open Banjo centre section.
     
  23. KustomCars
    Joined: Jul 31, 2011
    Posts: 3,457

    KustomCars
    Member
    from Minnesota

  24. TexasSpeed
    Joined: Nov 2, 2009
    Posts: 4,629

    TexasSpeed
    Member

    I'm loving this thread. Bob Lick's '40 is flat-out awesome and this one will be too!
     
  25. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    Time for another update. Magoo's have split the front wishbones, and fabbed up new locator points. The front cross-member where the front spring attaches to was found to be quite badly damaged so Nev at Magoo's created a new centre section which has further lowered the front by another 1/2 - 1".

    Front and rear suspension is now mostly in, with my reverse-eye main leaves etc. U-bolts are now fitted up front, but as of these pics, not at the rear yet.

    New steering arms will be fitted next week, and the tie-rods shortened, then nail it all together, and she's ready to come home.

    Its a bit surreal to see it on its wheels for the first time. I've become so used to it being an assortment of pieces. Its actually starting to look like a car.

    Pics:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  26. draider
    Joined: Jul 12, 2004
    Posts: 461

    draider
    Member
    from Texas

    Great story and good looking coupe!
     
  27. 55olds88
    Joined: Jul 23, 2001
    Posts: 2,386

    55olds88
    Member

    It came here in a big crate all the way from Florida...... good to see its making its way to its new home.
     
  28. Steve 38
    Joined: Jan 5, 2007
    Posts: 491

    Steve 38
    Member

    Paul, thanks for that!
     
  29. neilswheels
    Joined: Aug 26, 2006
    Posts: 1,026

    neilswheels
    Member
    from England

    Ooh, another 38-40 build! I would subscribe but that doesn't work for me anymore, so its bookmarked! I'll be checking back, cool build
     
  30. hillbilly428
    Joined: Aug 11, 2010
    Posts: 3

    hillbilly428
    Member
    from NZ

    Great stuff Steve, since its comin home now all the pressure's back on you!
     

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