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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. LOL its a more door post car but it isn't a convertible.

    I am not going to critique the build or add my normal what I would do. It looks like fun and as long as its fun lets just do it.
    slv63 likes this.
  2. woodbutcher
    Joined: Apr 25, 2012
    Posts: 3,207


    :D Looking good.At the pace James is going his screen name should maybe be'Speedy Gonzales":rolleyes::p.
    Good luck.Have fun.Be safe.
  3. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 6,744

    from Michigan's a 4dr. Just a 305. Street "gasser".
    Looks like some fun, though.
    Maybe a 350 later. Maybe not.
    Maybe a 2dr body too. Hah...just kiddin', James.
    We gotta give ya at least a little shit.
    Critique away, beaner...he deserves that
  4. LOL I can take some ribbing. I have a buddy that owns a Auto Machine shop and has about 50 GM blocks in "stock", some that he said are already bored and ready to hone and assemble with "bits and pieces" and make a killer motor... I help him out cleaning up around the shop, moving stuff, assembling heads and such, so he basically said whatever I need... I can definitely build something better later- Being that it is an "Untested" car and I built a lot of it on the fly and with old re-used parts, I want to make sure it drives straight, steers, and stops before I go throwing a lot of power in it. The 305 does have a Comp 280H Magnum cam in it, 58 cc 305HO heads, and flattop pistons, so I know it will have some good pop and for a light car like this, I bet it will be plenty fun. It's not actually going to be a drag car most likely, more for the looks and fun to drive is all.

    Rib away. I like 305's by the way, I think they are underestimated and got a bad rap from the 80's when GM used crummy cams and oil pumps. a little tuning, and some know how and you can easily get 300hp out of them
    slim38 likes this.
  5. czuch
    Joined: Sep 23, 2008
    Posts: 2,688

    from vail az

    You're doin fine. I Like the plan for the stance.
    Sound like you know what you're doin and are set in your ways already.
    James Barrette likes this.
  6. mrconcdid
    Joined: Aug 31, 2010
    Posts: 1,157

    from Florida

    Its yours enjoy it, life is to short.
    James Barrette likes this.
  7. Very set in my ways lol. As for knowing what I am doing, well... theres a reson I chose "By eye tool and die" for the possible graphics on the door... Measure never, weld once :D JK I'm not that bad, I know enough, and I figure the rest out as I go.
  8. 56sedandelivery
    Joined: Nov 21, 2006
    Posts: 6,437


    Just a FYI; that bellhousing you have, although it may have "came out of" a 70'sish truck, is a 55-57/Tri-Five bellhousing. Same with the side mounts on it. A truck bell mounts with a single bolt on each side and has a "pointed pin" that helps to seat it to it's rubber mount. A truck bellhousing may also have a larger centering hole, or not; it's kind of an odd deal with them. Cast iron truck bellhousing have an angled lower part, as viewed from the transmission side; the Tri-Five bellhousings are flat/straight across, and use two bolts to mount to the rubber mount per side. There's a guy over on ChevyTalk.Org, with a 53 Convertible, that he's installing a BBC in with a manual transmission, and used late 60's Camaro pedals; looks real good how he's done it; it all sits to the left of the steering column and gives him more room. He goes by "40grit" on that site. There used to be a couple of guys that ran a 53 4 door Chevrolet at the drags here; they had installed a 455 Olds, TH400, and later model 10 bolt. Looked like grandma had given them her old, well cared for car; it looked stock on the outside, stock color, steel rims. Keep posting your build.
    I am Butch/56sedandelivery.
  9. 56, you’re right- my buddy that I got the bellhousing from later told me it came from his brothers 57 bel air, as did the shifter I have.
  10. 56sedandelivery
    Joined: Nov 21, 2006
    Posts: 6,437


    Your Saginaw 4 speed is also a Vega/Monza unit, and will have 3.11 or 3.50 first gear ratios. The gears in these are "narrower", so not as strong. Just another FYI. I am Butch/56sedandelivery.
  11. I believe I looked up the ratio on my trans, and I am pretty sure it was 3.11 first gear. I think it had 2 grooves on the input shaft. I don't really plan on racing this car, more of a cruiser, but I am sure i'll burn the tires once in a while... If it blows up, swapping a manual is way easier than a auto- another reason I wanted one :)

    How can you tell it's from a vega/monza? I'm not sure what it first came from, I bought it from a guy that pulled it from a 69 chevelle with a 350, and he "said" he had it rebuilt, and only pulled it to put a muncie in because he swapped the motor to a 454 and was told the saginaw couldn't handle the power...
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
  12. IMG_0674.JPG IMG_0675.JPG IMG_0677.JPG IMG_0679.JPG IMG_0663.jpg IMG_0664.jpg I finally got my tach in the mail, and I modded my gauge cluster a little more "massaging" the outer trim so the tach would slip in, and built a new backer plate, and drilled out new holes for the gauges to fit.

    hoping to test fit them in the car this week, and maybe work on wiring a couple things so when I start the car, I will have a tach and gauges. I got a used 18 gallon fuel cell this week off a old school hot rodder who had a nice collection consisting of a ford coupe, a lead sled mercury with all copper trim, a 30's chevy sedan, 56 chevy gasser, 50's ford f100 pickup, another ford coupe, and a few cars I didn't see while I was there. The 56 gasser "Middle child" was my favorite- he started it up for me while I was there :)

    I am not sure what the ohm range on this sending unit is, but I will test it and if it's wrong I will buy the right one- for $50 with the straps I couldn't turn this down.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
  13. one quick (crummy) photo edit to show what my dash gauges should look like
  14. So it has been a LOOONG time since I posted.. I have been busy this spring.

    I have gotten so much done recently, I will mostly just list it, then work on the issues I have been having.

    Motor in the car, buttoned up, running (OK), transmission in, driveshaft in, brake lines in, all new brake hoses, all new wheel cylinders, clutch master and slave plumbed and working, I got some plastic racing seats, I have to get the braked bled, I have to run fuel line to the trunk for the fuel cell, patch some floor panels, need seatbelts, and maybe a shoulder bar for the belts...

    So, some of the issues I have been having:

    1) the tach died. I got a replacement, and the new one died. I was using an old MSD digital ignition control module, and maybe the tach didn't like the signal? I don;t know. I bought this tach for the way it matched the other gauges, and for the price I figured it should have been good quality... I haven't heard back from the company on a second replacement, or if they'll reimburse me, but I am not happy... I swapped out my ignition control module for a stock GM one, and added an extra ground strap in case they send me another tach, I will try the stock parts...

    2) I cannot get the carb set right on this motor. It is an Edelbrock 1406 that I put a mechanical choke on, and rebuilt with new gaskets, new needle and seats, new floats, set the floats correctly for drop and height, have a pressure regulator set to 5.5 psi at idle, tried a 1/2" open wood spacer, and a 1" 4 hole spacer, and it tunes better with the 4 hole... the issue I am having is that I cannot seem to lean it out enough at idle, and it has a stumble off idle.
    I have tried screwing in the idle/air screws as far as I can without it stalling, then backing them out till it smoothes out, which helps, but the exhaust is still very rich and burns my eyes and nose. I changed the step up springs to make them heavier to try to correct the off idle bog, and also moved the squirter linkage to make it richer and leaner, and nothing helped really- It's better, but just not right.
    I have historically had good luck with edelbrock 600's on 350's with stock and very mild cams, but never used one on a 305. So I am thinking it is probably too big as I can't lean it out enough, and I know I can change the jets and metering rods, but it's like black magic unlike a Holley... I may just put a Holley 600 on it, because I know how to tune those better.

    If I do go with a holley, I was curious if a vacuum secondary would be ok on this. I have no idea what the car will weigh, I am running a manual trans, 3.08 gears.

    3) I am still messing with the timing. It likes a lot more timing at idle than it should (like 30 degrees). I used to run my distributor locked out, and have it at 35 degrees in anothe rmotor, and had a toggle switch to turn on the ignition once the motor got spinning up, but I prefer not to do that. I have stock advance weights, and a meedium spring, with no vac advance yet- I may need to run vac advance. Timing is set about 15 at idle, and 32 maybe at full rpm, but it may come in too late. The timing I know I will get right, the carb is bugging me though. I love Edelbrocks, except when they need to be tuned.

    Other than all that, just a million small things to do. Bleed brakes, install steering which I think I am doing a Vega gear box, with 2 u joints, and a short heim joint drag link. I am getting parts in for that this week.

    Here is a short video of it currently

    IMG_2193.JPG IMG_2185.JPG IMG_2187.JPG IMG_2163.JPG
  15. Oh, and the 57 bellhousing did not work as I planned. I ended up getting an SM465 truck bellhousing which worked great since I have a truck master/slave, and the truck bellhousing has the mount for the slave already.

    Attached Files:

  16. 56sedandelivery
    Joined: Nov 21, 2006
    Posts: 6,437


    As far as how to "tell" how to I.D. a Monza/Vega Saginaw 4 speed, just look at the extension housing. That extra mount with the 3 bolts is where the vibration weight bolts to the trans; that is't on any other GM car besides the Monza/Vega platform. # 601 heads are also 53 CC chambers, so that's a little extra boost in your C.R. Interesting clutch/brake pedals, but whatever works to get you there. Who's yellow 56 is that? I am Butch/56sedandelivery.
  17. The 56 is the guy I got the fuel cell from.
    middle child.jpg
    its a sweet car.

    The pedals were what I could do with the parts I had. This is the ultimate budget build. Radiator support brackets are angle iron from a bed frame, as are the clutch brackets, and some random flat stock from garden tractors, etc.

    The transmission supposedly was rebuilt, and was previsouly behind a 350 in a 69 chevelle, so hopefully it will be ok in my little 305. At least the hard part is done if I need to swap it cause it blows up :)
  18. I did spend some time working on it over the last week and while I got it better it's still not fixed.

    So I started out putting everything back to a baseline so I can start fresh and hopefully get the tune done. I put a 350 timing tab on the motor so I can get my timing correct (the 305 timing tab is behind the water pump and I couldn't see it). I pulled all the plugs, got the motor to top dead center by looking at the piston in through the plug hole, set the dwell on the piston right in the center, and painted a line on the balancer for the TDC. So that was a start.


    Pulled the distributor, and was about to set it to cyl number one as it should be (had previsouly set it one tooth off just to clear the intake by the vacuum advance can), and I realized I had my advance weights on backwards. So they would advance at complete random... Allow me to explain...


    ^^^This is how the weights should be on a chevy distributor.^^^


    ^^^this is how the weights on mine were installed^^^
    Before you ask me if I am an idiot, I was not using these weights. It is very obvious that these weights are on backwards as the shiny spots are from wearing on the distributor as the weight fling out. My weights are clean, shiny new weights, and they can be put on incorrectly if you're not looking at a stock distributor. So that was problem #1. Problem #2 with this distributor is that the factory shape weights only allow for about 11 degrees of advance, and my engine builder buddy says I should have about 10 degrees initial timing, and about 30-36 degrees total advamce. I am learning so much about distributors that I used to ignore for so long. This is why I previsouly put screws in the advance in the distributor and locked it out in my old motor. So I have to pull the cap off the distrubutor again, put the aftermarket weights in which allow about a 20 degree advance so I can get about 10-12 degrees initial advance and about 30-32 total. This will be ok. Right now, I can get 36 total, but I only go back to about 24 or 25 degrees initial, and I am told thats too much at idle.

    Anyway, after baselining my timing mark, and setting my distributor back to mostly normal, I dropped the 500 cfm edelbrock on, with no carb spacer, and set to tuning it.

    I started it up, set the timing to 36 total, and again, this is where I noticed I only have 11 degrees advance... And with the heavy factory weight, it advances super fast, at like 2000 rpm. That is an easy fix. I set to tuning the carb, and it was running WAYYY richer than the 600 cfm! WTH??? turns out it had a sunk float. So I fixed that, and it was much better, but still really rich. I dropped the 1" 4 hole spacer back on it, because it seemed to run better

    So after all that, it seemed to run better, but it was still way too rich at idle. Even with a smaller carb, new plugs, and baseining everything, it still isn't "right" but it is much better.
    I tested compression in cyl 1 and 3 and I got 90 and 95, but I was using a handheld unit that is hard to hold in the plug hole, so I can't put stock in those numbers... I borrowed a screw in compression tester, and im gonna check all the cylinders to see if the compression is down, and if it is, that may be a good reason why I am having so many issues on this thing. could be it is injured from running a blower on it without re-gapping the rings, and overrevving it to 7000+ a few times when it was in my buddies nova... if it turns out to have low compression, and it has to come out of the car, I am gonna swap a 350 in it. In the long run it will be cheaper, and better, as well as I have a line on a 350 that my machine shop buddy built, stuck in a customers car, and they pulled out to go bigger, and I can get it for $500- I believe it is 30 over, has the Camel hump heads, roller tip rockers, screw in studs, and a medium cam... So for me it's a no brainer... Just needs my intake, carb, and I think oil pan and valve covers.

    So with the motor better than it was, but getting frustrated on it, I set to the brakes. I had all the brake lines run, and had bled the rear lines, but had no pressure at all, and the pedal woudn't pump up. Long story short, I was missing a spacer between the brake rod, and the piston in the master. Took me a while to figure that out, but I got it done.

    I got my fuel lines run from the rear of the car to the front, hard lines plumbed with a fuel filter in the middle of the run, easily located for future service. I set about setting up my fuel cell in the trunk, and I had ordered the correct OHM range sender for my fuel cell, and as I was replacing it, I had the foresight to test it, and lo and behold, the box it shipped in was a 240-33 ohm box, but it was a 10-70 ohm sender. I emailed the guy I bought it from and told him it was the wrong unit, and he acknowledged it was his shop it came from, but when I said I had an issue with it, he never responded. Don't know if he was being intentionally dishonest, but I told him they need to check the output of these to make sure they're right. People stink... So I had to order another one, this time from Speedway motors so I can return it if I have an issue, and I have to list the wrong one for sale on ebay and try to recoup some of my money. So the new sender is coming in today, I should be able to button up the fuel system at least for now till I need to finish welding my trunk up. I may wait a few more days to put the fuel system together just to get the trunk welded so I don't have to pull out the cell later. That's the prudent thing to do.

    I started on the steering, put the column back in to mock it up, and welded up my lower bearing mount. Mocked up the steering box, and I was dissappointed to find not much lines up... I may end up needing to do a full cross-steering gasser setup which I didn't want to do, it will cost more and thus make the project take longer... As it is, I wanted to be driving this thing already, but looks like it's gonna be fall before I can really get it moving. Maybe I'll register it this year, maybe wait till spring... Not sure at this point.


    Also, I got a new tachometer replacement, since Autometer owns Equus, they sent me a much more expensive Autometer Street tach, and even though it has a orange needle and doesn't match the rest of the dash, I put it in anyway. I won't look a gifthorse in the mouth- they really didn't need to replace it again after two broke, but they came through and I am very happy they did.


    couple steps forward, couple steps back... I'm slowly getting there though.
  19. So quick update, the new tachometer I put in works great, no issues with it. The motor I have been working on tuning better, had to go to a edelbrock 500 cfm carb, the 600 I had even though I cleaned and rebuilt it was making the motor way too rich. The 500 is way better, when I initially put it on one of the floats had a pinhole in it, so I swapped it out with one from the 600, and it runs much better.

    I ordered the correct fuel level sender, ended up reselling the wrong one, and the one that was in my tank when I bought it. I haven't installed the cell yet as I haven't finished welding the trunk, but that will most likely wait till spring.

    here's my latest update video

    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
    Grabis likes this.

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