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Hot Rods Project 1953 Bel Air "barn find dragster" build

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by James Barrette, Aug 9, 2018.

  1. So as kind f an introduction, I have been into cars my whole life, I used to sit in cars my dad was working on when I was a kid. He had a 1971 Custom 10 with a 305 and Muncie 4 speed in it, then a 1981 C10 with a 400 small block that I learned to drive in, and later in my life my first truck was an 89 S10 that I fixed up and put Monte SS wheels and tires on it, then sold that and bought a 1980 Chevy Malibu wagon that a put a 350 from a Chevelle in, later sold that for another S10 (1991) that I redid with racing stripes, Xtreme S10 wheels, and dual exhaust etc. A few years later, I bought my first project truck- a 1980 C10 that I backyard built mostly by myself, a local engine machine shop, and a buddy who could never say no when I needed help. I learned a lot on that truck, and after 9 years of owning it, getting married, buying a house, and having a Kid, I sold it. I bought a 1981 Old Cutlass and redid most of it welding patches in the floor, replacing a tired 350 with a fresh rebuilt 350 from an 80's vette, redid the suspension and put Corvette Rally's on it. I had that for a little over 2 years, then sold it and bought a 1991 K1500 stepside that was too good of a deal to pass up- almost a one owner, the motor was blown but it had every Lund bolt on accessory from 1991, and was in very good shape. I put a 350 from a 1985 Vette in it, converted to throttle body, and that was a decent truck, was a little underpowered with the 33's I put on it, and the 3.08 or whatever gears it had in it.. I sold that so I could buy a new truck because my daily driver Avalanche was in rough shape, so I sold the K1500, traded in the avalanche, and bought a brand new F150 back in 2016.

    After 2 years, I started looking for a project, and I was going to get a 1985 S10, and drop a V8 into it, or maybe get a another C10, but I found a 1953 Chevy Bel-Air sedan 4 door hard top, and it was too good a price to pass up. I walked away with the car for $1000 with no motor, no interior, but it came with a second set of crummy wheels, a pair of VW bucket seats and almost all the trim. Someone had done some good body work on it years ago, and recently someone did some crummy body work with pop rivet and bondo'ed over patch panels, welded trim holes and bondo laid on literally with a spatula (it was in the car)...

    It originally came from Tennessee and I bought it from a guy in NH that drove to TN and hauled it back. The frame and suspension is solid, the body is OK, theres some rust under the body and the trunk was rotted out, but it's mostly solid, and being from new england anything that doesn't have rust growing a foot up from the bottom of the body is a good start.

    My plans for the car are to drop in a 305HO from a Monte Carlo SS that I had, a Powerglide that I picked up, I got a trans am rear end for a 1979, S10 leaf springs, bought all my spring mounts from a 4x4 place on Ebay, got some 15x8 Repro Jegs brand Vette rally's for the rear, got 2 Cragar Eliminator 500 gray wheels for the front, and I plan to patina the body medium blue and rusty, and just make it a cruiser, but paint the sides up like a vintage drag race car from the 60's

    My plan is to have it look like something that a teenager inherited in the early 60's from his parents and turned it into a weekend drag car. So I want to paint something like "Why Not?" or "Barn Burner" on the doors like an old drag car, paint the rear wheels half black and half white or half red and half white like the old school drag Super Stock cars, and have nice wheels on the front. For now I want to keep the stock front suspension in the car- I want the whole car to sit higher than it did from the factory so I have 225/70-15 tires in the front, and by adding the S10 leafs and newer hangers, I am expecting it to be about 3" taller in the rear, maybe more as I plan to run 275/60-15 or 255/70-15 rear tires. Eventually I may put a straight front axle in and make it a gasser, but that will be a ways away IF i do it. I'm not one to slam cars, and while I like airbags and LS motors, I loke old school stuff better.

    I was born in the wrong era I think- love the rat rod culture, love the way the ladies dressed, and I think things of the past need to be preserved and shared with future generations- not only the cars, but also the morals, respect, and work ethics.

    So here is my car. 082.JPG 083.JPG 085.JPG 086.JPG
     

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  2. Here are some more pictures
     

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  3. Here are some more pics... I bought this on July 10th I think, and I have done all the work you see here in 2-3 hour spurts in between being a dad, Husband, and my full time job.

    I stripped out everything that was left in the interior, took the nose off, cut the trunk pan out, and started welding a new one in, removed the entire rear suspension, cleaned up the motor, rebuilt the heads, put all new gaskets in the motor, and have started mocking up the rear suspension. I would like to have that in soon so it's not on jack stands- then I can start setting it up for the motor mounts and dropping the motor in. I have the transdapt motor mounts, and I want to try to keep the factory e-brake in, but we will see if it all fits.

    This build is kinda fun for me, I am re-creating something I wish I found, and my dad was a body man for years, so when I say "I wish t was more rusty" he cringes because he wants to do all the body work and make it "nice" looking... I want people that don't "get it" to scratch their heads, and people who do "get it" to smile and say "it's cool"
     

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  4. Here are some more update pics
     

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  5. and a few more pics... I just realized I have done all this work in one month... Yikes. I guess determination and an understanding family go a long way. The plan is to hopefully have around $3500 in the total build to get it driving. Wheels, Tires, and interior stuff cost probably the most, then the odds and ends.

    I made my own lower spring plates because I needed to have the shock mount on them. I need to weld some gussets on the tab to make it stronger for the shocks, but they'll work.

    I am really liking the way this is coming along, I can't wait to get it running so I can move it around. I want to have it driving and moving before winter so I can move it to the other side of my garage.
     

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  6. wvenfield
    Joined: Nov 23, 2006
    Posts: 5,119

    wvenfield
    Member

    Go for it but it isn't a hardtop.
     
  7. the 305 does have some cool stuff in it, and it it is meant to look like "crap" - again, I want to make the car look like it's been sitting for 40+ years...

    The motor is a 305 HO, so it has flat top pistons, the heads are "601" 58CC heads that I went through and lapped the valves, put new valve springs, keepers, valve stem seals, and locks on them. SO they weren't planed or anything but they are flat. The cam is a Comp Camps Magnum 280H which is a 480 lift with decent duration and 110 degree overlap, so it will be a bit lumpy. The motor actually came out of a buddies 64 Nova SS- he had a small Weiand 142 blower on it which I wanted to get but he wouldn't sell... The intake manifold is Professional Products Crosswind, and I am running a Edelbrock Performer 600 cfm carb. Exhaust I am still working on ideas for- If I run manifolds I may run a single 3" exhaust system with a Magnaflow or Glasspack on it, if not it will have small duals like 2" pipes with glasspacks...

    The Powerglide seems to be in OK shape, it has nice clean fluid in it, so for now I am going to just put a shift kit in it, and clean it- don't know what I am going to do for a shifter yet, if I can get the factory one to work , or if I will need to put a floor shifter in. My trans has a kick down lever on it, so I have to address that... If someone wanted to trade the powerglide for a 3spd, 4spd, or TH350, I would absolutely consider it.
     
  8. Just a little clarification on terminology, "rat rod culture" is definitely not a thing of the past.
     
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  9. What makes it not a hard top? I guess I'm not up on my early chevy history...
     
  10. Well, I mean the culture is reminiscent of "the old days" - the cars, the clothing, etc. I don't mean that Rat Rod culture is non-existent
     
  11. No posts - hardtop.

    hdt.jpg

    Door posts= sedan
    sed.jpg
     
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  12. so there is no such thing as a sedan hard top :) I got it now :D
     
  13. I got my new wheels in today! Super excited!!
     

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  14. Been a few weeks since I last posted- I have gotten a lot done since then.

    Got my new rear tires in, 295/50-15 Hankook's

    I got my rear end mocked up under the car, then got it bolted in, and welded my perches to the frame.

    I decided that since I only have a 305 in the car, and the rear end is a 3.08 ratio, and since it's a bel air I wanted a little more fun out of it than the Powerglide. Also, since the powerglide I have most likely would need to be rebuilt, and I didn't have a shifter or linkage for it, so instead I started looking for a manual transmission. I was looking for a 3 speed or 4 speed, and ended up picking up a saginaw 4 speed from a 70 ish Chevelle. It was supposedly rebuilt with low miles on it, but I can't be sure- it's very clean and came with the factory shifter, but I got a hurst shifter from a 57 Bel Air as well, so I will probably use that instead of the factory one.

    I got the bell housing from a 79 C10 (cast Iron one) and I ordered a clutch master and slave from a 1991 C1500 (hydraulic but uses a standard fork for the throughout bearing)- I am going to make a custom clutch pedal that either pivots off the floor or somewhere under the dash.


    Then I started looking for a disk brake conversion kit for the car because the drums are warped, and they have rivets to hold the drum to the hub that make it hard to use my aftermarket cragar wheels and the wheel studs are much too short - well, in the process of looking for that, my buddy sent me a link for a straight axle from a 1952 Chevy pickup with leaf springs and, steering linkage, and a sway bar. The deal was too good to pass up, and since the disk brake kit for the truck front end was cheaper than for my car (no idea why) I bought the chevy front end.

    So in a few short weeks time, I got the rear end in the car, decided on a 4 speed, and got a straight axle so my gasser dream is coming true very quickly.

    I need a flywheel, and a clutch for the car, making a custom trans cross member too, and I will probably weld up my own headers so I can have fenderwell headers and sidepipes

    I'm giddy beyond giddy.
     

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  15. Here are the bellhousing and shifter too
     

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  16. I got a ton of work done on my car over the weekend -
    I scored a whole bucket of steering parts and some random stuff free from a yard sale Saturday- Guy bought a house that had a custom auto shop running out of the basement for years and had stockpiled stuff like a Saginaw manual steering box from a GM, several steering stub shafts with u joints, a couple different clutch pedals, a greenline tachometer, a ton of brake lines, and a ton of auto paint and prep stuff-
    So the guy basically told me I can scrounge and grab whatever I want from the basement for free cause it keeps him from having to get rid of it. So I grabbed all the steering stuff, two clutch pedals, a whole bunch of lug nuts, a bunch of brake lines, and gallon of lacquer thinner.

    I messed around with my Hurst shifter on my transmission, thinking I would need an install kit, and after about 5 minutes, I realized it will bolt on exactly the same as the ITM factory shifter I had on it... So I figured the linkage wouldn't work.. BUT it did! So with very minor adjustments, and two washers to shim the shifter away from the bracket on the trans, everything moved freely, and looks great- I may want a different handle for it, but i'm not sure what I can find cause it isn't one that has two bolts to hold the shifter on, it has a 1/4" carriage bolt going front to back to hold it in... So I have to see what I can find for a handle- this is a 57 bel air bench seat shifter...

    Pulled the whole front end out of the car- amazingly only about 14 3/8" non-graded bolts holding the whole front cradle in the car...

    I took out the whole steering box and steering column which required me to dis-assemble the gear box, and cut the steering column. The steering column was pressed into the gear box, so in order to get it apart I had to cut it, and I was looking at the inner diameter of the column, it's pretty darn close to the same size as the bearings I have for my snowblower stub shaft, and I had a spare bearing plate from my snowblower, so I cut the bearing cup out of the snowblower part, and I will be able to weld it right into the end of the column and give me sealed bearings that I can replace at the bottom of the column, and then I can cut down my steering shaft and grind a flat spot into it so I can use it with a standard GM steering part and mate my one of my new free U joints into it so I can mate that to my new free steering gear box.

    After I got that all figured out, I stripped all the wiring out of the interior that was left, pulled out the factory gas pedal since I got one that bolts onto the firewall, cleaned as much grease off the frame I can, and started mocking up my motor.

    The motor mounts I got are trans dapt brand and are supposed to slip right over the frame rails, but they weren't quite as wide as they should be, so I had to hammer them over a little to get them where I wanted them- I had t move them back about 3/8" further than the instructions said to get it lined up where I wanted it, and I quickly realized that I did have to trim the support braces on the firewall. I am trying to make it stay as clean as possible, so I found a good spot on both sides to trim it so it would look symmetric, and trimmed them, ground the seams so they look decent, and re-fit the motor. Now I have tons of room. I think I have just enough room to use my long water pump on my motor, but I may need to make a new mount for my radiator, and also for my fender supports... The factory radiator support I think will be too close to the motor for the radiator to clear... One piece at a time.

    I set the new solid axle under the car to mock it up, and measured a few things- Ironically, the pickup axle I got is the same width backing plate to backing plate as my old front end setup so it won't look funny.
    I have front leaf springs and mounts coming in today so I can mock up the front axle, and get that mounted up, and then I need to figure out what to do with the steering. I know the gear box will work fine, I just need to make a mount for it, and I will need to change up the pitman arm, and probably buy front steering parts for the spindles, and drag links but I will find out once I get the front end dropped in.

    Once I get the steering ironed out, I plan to put the motor and trans in for a fitup, and make some fender well headers or something funky like shorty headers coming straight off the heads, with 3" exhaust going over and behind the tires, and down under the doors, exiting in front of the rear wheels. I will probably run stainless glassbacks or small round mufflers (not race bullets though)

    I will probably change my mind 5 times as I find cheap or free parts to run..
     

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  17. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 7,121

    jimmy six
    Member

    1956-up started up 4 door Hardtops for the most part even thou there many earlier ones. GM and FOMOCO saw a need but they were never big sellers. Mercury's in 56 were called Phaetons and actually had a lower windows on the sides. Very rare today...
     
  18. I got the whole front suspension set up this weekend, at least pretty close. I made some spring spacers to lift it more because I wasn't happy with the height yet- I may need to put an actual straight axle in later if it rides weird due to my lift, but I won't know for a whole.. The spacers I made shove the axle back 1 1/4" so it is better centered in the fender (still sits quite a bit forward though)

    I have shocks coming, I have some inexpensive fenderwell headers coming, and a pair of old school Turbo Tube mufflers which are basically round turbo mufflers, they look like glasspacks, but have two perforated flow tubes with no packing.

    I got the car up on my trailer so I can move it around the yard, and hopefully get the motor and trans mocked up so I can finalize my motor mounts, and make a trans mount. 077.JPG 078.JPG
     
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  19. 082.JPG 085.JPG 082.JPG 084.JPG 086.JPG Here are a few more pics
     
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  20. 31hotrodguy
    Joined: Oct 29, 2013
    Posts: 1,979

    31hotrodguy
    Member

    Wow, you've made a lot of progress in a short time! A lot faster than me!

    Sent from my SM-G550T using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
     
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  21. I test fit my new headers this weekend, trimmed metal, test fit again, took the fenders back off, drilled and bolted my motor mounts on the frame, mounted my front shocks (I am not sure they will have enough travel, may need shorter ones or re-mount the lower mount), took out the heater core and blower motor, took out vents, painted the firewall with bedliner, and painted the front half of the frame with rustoleum black.

    I am almost to the point of putting the motor and trans in- I need to mock up my trans crossmember, and bolt the flywheel, clutch, pressure plate, and transmission onto the motor, then bolt them in the car. I'm getting really excited. the steering is going to be a challenge as the column points directly at the header...
     

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  22. Heres a couple pics of my mufflers- I got Jones Turbo tubes... They look like glasspacks, but have two perforated tubes inside, and no packing. I like the vintage sound.
     

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  23. 41rodderz
    Joined: Sep 27, 2010
    Posts: 5,198

    41rodderz
    Member
    from Oregon

    Nobody can complain about no pics with this young gun.:D
     
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  24. question for you all- the front drums i have are held to the hub with like 3 rivets I think... the rivets are fine with a stock steel wheel that has dimples in the back, but I cannot get my front wheels flat on the drum because those rivets interfere with the flat rear face of my wheel. Also, the studs are too short because those rivets are there. Can I simply grind those off and still be fine with the studs centering and holding the drum on? I am assuming those may be a a factory thing to put the cars together faster...

    I may wait a while to do the disk brake swap on my car as I would need to do proportioning and other stuff since my master cyl is I assume for a drum car since both reservoirs are the same size...
     
  25. well, I got a lot done since my last post. life has been busy, and I don't frequent all of my forums LOL.

    SO in the past months, I have finished the transmission crossmember, installed the motor and trans, welded my exhaust system up and installed that, started working on buttoning up the motor- got the distributor in, carb on, got a free radator and hoses, got the plug wires (need to put ends on then), and I started working on custom gauges for the dash too.

    I am hoping to have it running in the next couple weeks. I have only had a few minutes here and there to work on it, so it's going slow.

    getting the collectors welded to the mild steel pipe was a bit difficult because they are stainless... I got them plenty hot, but because I was welding with mild steel wire, it was basically bubbling the welds and popping air bubbles out of them. I had to keep grinding and re-welding till it was satisfactory (although ugly) to get it sealed up. The drivers side was no problem to weld at all though, only the passenger side. luckily the welds are mostly covered by the body mount supports. I was going to slash cut the pipes so they match close to the body angle, but I may just leave it - again, as I am trying to keep this old school, I have seen several very old 60's builds with pipes that look exactly like what I have on my car.

    Carb installed, air filter sitting on, distributor installed, alternator test fit with serp belt setup. The serp belt is from an 06 Nissan Maxima for the AC compressor. I am a pretty good detective, can find just about anything based on dimensions

    and some pics of the factory gauges, and what I am doing with the gauge cluster, and the under-dash gauges.

    I made a backer plate to replace the factory oil,water, fuel, and ammeter, and put a fuel gauge in, and a vacuum gauge, and I am waiting on the Tachometer (i edited it in [poorly] till I get it)

    The Oil, water, and volt gauges will be mounted under the dash in front of the shifter.

    I wanted gauges installed when I started the car to make sure everything is good when I break in the cam and lifters.

    I am picking up a fuel cell today too, used one for a great price, so I will get pics of that once I get it. I am debating sinking it into the trunk or just bolting it in the trunk. not sure yet.

    Also, here is a possible paint job for the car... I'm still debating paint schemes... Blue and white, red oxide and white, satin black, etc etc...
     

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  26. more pics...
     

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    • 162.JPG
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    • 163.JPG
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    • 009.JPG
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    slim38 likes this.
  27. and dash and gauges pics-
     

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    • 004.JPG
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  28. and a "rendering" of what the car could look like...
     

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    slim38 likes this.
  29. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 6,617

    Rickybop
    Member
    from Michigan

    Holy COW, James...you're on FIRE!!! :eek: :D
    You got a lot done these last few months. Shows what a guy can do when he's nothin' but elbows and assholes. Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing and keep going. Can't wait to see it finished!
    I don't see many replies. Sorry, James...I didn't see your thread 'till just now. Maybe others didn't either. Sometimes they get buried by other threads and people miss 'em.
    C'mon, guys...James deserves some attaboys! :D
     
    slv63 and czuch like this.
  30. flatheadpete
    Joined: Oct 29, 2003
    Posts: 9,873

    flatheadpete
    Member
    from Burton, MI

    Lookin' good! Great to see a young man with an interest in hot rods...
     
    slim38 likes this.

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