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Rough Drafts & Lessons Learned

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Ryan, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. Ryan
    Joined: Jan 2, 1995
    Posts: 17,714

    from Austin, TX
    Staff Member

  2. SUHRsc
    Joined: Sep 27, 2005
    Posts: 5,075


    i first went out an bought a sport coupe...i was all excited that i could make it a roadster....
    my biggest mistake was.....IT WASN'T A ROADSTER.....and was never going to be!!
    i learned real quick to get what you want and dont settle for whats available

    a local old hot rodder gave me his entire collection of hot rod magazines....i already had a few books on the subject
    so i read and read and studied and studied (still do)

    you can see that i tried chopping it...then tried roadsterizing it.....nothing worked

    so i completely cut it up and made something out of it that i could sell
    I learned an awful lot on this car but the biggest thing was to build what you REALLY want.....

    I'm on to my 3rd car right now with ALOT more knowledge, ideas, and experience

    hopefully each one is improving over the last
  3. Bluto
    Joined: Feb 15, 2005
    Posts: 4,851


    I guess I was lucky. Starting at 14

    I NEVER had the money for what I wanted so I had to buy it broken.

    Learned quickly that it had to be pretty complete. Or lots more money and time would be required

    Had to learn to do it right the first time ........ if it broke I couldn't afford to pay for a 'second chance' So study became very important

    I also learned that I wasn't lucky enough to get away with doing stuff halfway on a dirt floor like many of my buddys. Any 'corner cuttin' resulted in more $$$ spent in the long run

    Forty-six years later still have to do things right the first time :)
  4. lrs30
    Joined: Jan 30, 2007
    Posts: 2,130

    from Kentucky

    Blowing up a fresh built 383 in my dream car, I was 26 just starting a family, making zilch and bought a solid 1966 Chevy II. After getting it running from its 10 year slumber, I bought a set of Hooker Super Comp Fenderwell Headers and a dual oil filter relocation set-up. Get everything done, cruise it up and down Dixie Highway here in KY, then the motor starts knocking like mad (did'nt take long). Limped it home pulled off the hood, started listening for the area of the knock, it was everywhere!Upon further inspection I leaned up against the oil filters and they were cool as a cucumber, not good! I removed the inlet and outlet lines, switched them and what do you know the filters were to hot to touch in seconds. Moral of the story, never trust a half blind man whe installing key parts, and always, always, always double check your work! I killed the motor, sold the car, and learned an expensive valuable lesson, the arrow pointing in is the inlet,the one pointing the other direction is the outlet...Thank's half blind man (dad)....Still love him.
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  5. hillbillyhellcat
    Joined: Aug 26, 2002
    Posts: 595


    I was dumb enough to use "engine flush" in a sludged engine...plugged up the oil pump screen, starved the engine of oil and broke a couple of distributors... The first engine in the car had a worn timing chain.... I never did figure that out until after replacing the motor... I had to adjust the timing almost daily....

    I guess that's what happens when your 17 with no autmotive experience.
  6. 1950ChevySuburban
    Joined: Dec 20, 2006
    Posts: 6,210

    Member Emeritus
    from Tucson AZ

    Not really a screw-up per se, but my first couple of cars were "bodyworked" with Bondo over rust, window screen, etc... anything but welded. Typical kids crap. I thought I did fine at the time.
  7. I was educated by a shoebox also. I was 15 when I bought a 50 2 dr. from an older friend. It had a Studebaker Golden Hawk engine in it. I started it up in the dead of winter, sounded good, shut it off (no antifreeze) gave him the $25.00 and towed it home. First nice day, filled it up with water, lit it off and let it warm up. It sounded like every rod in it was knocking once it got up to temp.
    Shut it off, sold it for $50.00 (full disclosure) to another friend who only cared about the body. Lesson: if you're buying something because of a feature, take the time to make sure you're getting something usable.
  8. von Dyck
    Joined: Apr 12, 2007
    Posts: 678

    von Dyck

    Bang on, Bluto! In the end you should have learned what not to do.
  9. G V Gordon
    Joined: Oct 29, 2002
    Posts: 5,467

    G V Gordon
    from Enid OK

    It's amazing how many of us from different generations still started out with a shoebox Ford.

    My first car was a 1951 tudor that I took as pay from a local farmer whom I had worked for for three days. Amounted to about $35.

    Some of us were coming back from a basketball tourney one January night, colder than hell and the old flattie overheated. I pulled into a station and topped it off with water, You see where this is going right? Cooled down for a little while so we headed off again, temp soared again, back to the station, more water. this scenerio repeated itself about five or six times till I finally decided screw it and drove it home.

    Since I was late Dad was waiting up for me, told him the story and we went out to look. The presure had ruptured several radiator tubes and there was a block of ice on the back of the radiator that had stopped the fan. We opened the petcocks on the side of the engine and only steam came out.

    After telling me what an idiot I was and how I had ruined my car we turned in for the night. Next day I surveyed the damage in the daylight. After some silver seal and fresh antifreeze, I proceeded to drive the old girl for another year and a half. sometimes ya get lucky. I am still a stickler for cooling system upkeep.

    Another time I'll tell ya about how a buddy and I found out that using what is on hand isn't always the best idea. It involves a straight 8 Buick in a '49 Ford. I still chuckle when I hear someone say, " You can't do that" or "it won't fit".

    Sometimes just 'cause you can, doesn't make it a good idea.

  10. SinisterCustom
    Joined: Feb 18, 2004
    Posts: 8,252


    Mistakes........can be the greatest learning tools..........
  11. SanDiegoJoe
    Joined: Apr 18, 2004
    Posts: 3,520


    I have learned not to buy the wrong car. In the end you will end up dumping the same amount of $$ into a 4 door that you will into a 2 door. You will spend the same amount hopping up the engine, changing the brakes, upgrading the wheels on a '63 Valiant as you would a '52 Chevy (if not more).

    that being said.. do it for love man.

    - Joe
  12. oldguy829
    Joined: Sep 19, 2005
    Posts: 376


    Mine was a "people" lesson. Had a buddy offer to help rebuild an Olds engine for my 32 pickup (Back in 1961). We did a good job and I learned a lot (first build). When it was over, he "billed" me for $30 bucks. I paid him (nearly a weeks pay back then) but was really steamed. Eventually I realized it was a fair price, and I would have paid it gladly, if we had discussed it up front. Since then I always ask up front, and if it is "free" help I make sure I repay in kind. Sometimes I insist on paying, if I feel I won't be able to reciprocate.
    I just don't take anyones help for granted, it is always appreciated and repaid. Broken relationships are a hell of a lot harder to fix than bronken parts.
  13. belair
    Joined: Jul 10, 2006
    Posts: 7,011

    1. H.A.M.B. Chapel

    I've learned you don't learn anything when everything goes right. That's why I have learned soooo much. And I too had a 49 ford tudor that was a little above my skill level.
  14. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,205

    Bruce Lancaster

    Learning to wire a car in the '60's...darkness, smoke, and sparks!!
    Here's my learning curve from looong ago, resembling to a startling degree the learning curve of an amoeba in a maze bashing into the wall til it finds an opening...
    I was maybe 14, and in the process of taking over our faithful family '48 Ford, which was a few months older than me.
    I had begun some formal education on the subject, buying and reading all the rod magazines I could afford, and devouring the WONDERFUL little Spotlite books, including some on electrical issues. I read everything I could find, which wasn't much, and a lot of that was beyond me; I read it anyway, and the words stuck in my head until I could grasp the meaning, often years later. My human resources for education were nearly nil... suburban Virginia was all high level Government and Military people with clean fingers, junkyards were distant and could only be reached with parental cooperation, friends who were into cars knew far less than I did. No one in my world knew anything much about early Fords, and car books in the library were pretty much of the coffee-table sort.
    My agenda was clear...any idiot could see the big chunks ot petrified insulation falling off the original witing in the car.
    The first rod wiring kit, I believe, appeared in the magazines! Tom Senter, later a very influential rodder indeed, had packaged a wiring kit with actual instructions and supposedly everything needed in one box! I don't remember price, but likely it was around $20...
    That was about my life savings for the next three lifetimes, but my father could see the need and swung the bill, also getting me a decent soldering gun and my new best friend, a little battery powered continuity tester from Hong Kong.
    The box arrived from was startlingly small, about like the current $5.00 flat rate box from the Post Office, and contained several spools of wire, a pint of terminals, and some really cheap terminal strips and fuse holders. Instructions were a bad copy of a skimpy single page of typescript. Kinda like the little semi-instruction sheets you find stuck into Mr. Gasket blister packs nowadays...
    No problemo! I was hot to trot, and of course started by ripping the original harnesses out by the roots, eliminating all hope of tracing anything...
    I began to note a systematic lack of correspondence between the instructions and the electrical geography of an early Ford. Fortunately, I was smart enough to base my efforts on the original hard parts, and not switch to the dismal little connector strips, and I had a not-quite-the-right-one, but close enough to think from, diagram from some little reproduced Floyd Clymer Ford book. Using that, a good bit of creative building on the Spotlite manuals, and dumb luck I was able to connect most of the electrical bits of the car to electricity, and soon had a car that would start, run, and illuminate many of its bulbs.
    The problems were just beginning...Ford was six volts. Kit was twelve, with wires on the skimpy side for that. This was not discussed in the instructions...and then, there was the turn signal situation, the most complex thing in an early car. The instructions and I were equally clueless about that, and what seemed logical wasn't...bad interactions between brake and signal functions!
    Road trip...after dark. Half a mile out headlights began to flash on and off rhythmically as the circuit breakers tried to stave off fireworks. I had begun a force-fed education in amperage requirements!
    A looong thrash with every book I had eventually led me to understand the wire-size clues in the Ford diagram, and my first adaptations to the awful kit began. Trips to the store, studying numbers on reels, finding decent terminals, eventually replacing practically all of the kit into a fairly workable but extremely messy harness.
    Pretty much exhausted, I left that mess alone til I was on my own in college.
    I had gathered a bit of sophistication on wiring, including a blinding flash of an intellectual leap that tamed the brakelight--turn signal system. I spent an entire night with my turn signal switch and circuit tester, mapping out connections between the 7 terminals in every position til the truth dawned...
    I began to patch, now routinely using wires a gauge UP in size from original instead of three sizes down. My crude bundling and routing remained, untill one day the clutch pedal ate the entire rear harness, nearly choking me in smoke before I got off the road.
    Time to do it right!!
    Olde Ford parts places were beginning to pop up all over, and there were huge stashes of original NOS parts, very cheap. Hmmmm...Ford did it better than Tom and I didit, for sure...I shelled out a few books for NOS cowl, front, and rear harnesses.
    I happily went to work installing the perfectly wrapped, smartly designed harness, all still bearing original Ford part number tags. Perfection seemed only a few hours away... til I noticed the plink-plink-plink sound of bits of petrified insulation hitting the bottom lip of the dash as I bent each wire to its terminal.
    New lesson...coupled to awful realization...a harness that had been sitting on a shelf since 1948 was exactly as deteriorated as one that had been sitting under my dash since 1948!
    NOS wasn't going to save my ass here...I was back on my own, with only my soldering iron and a bit of experience on my side.
    I grimly marshalled my cumulated lessons:
    Figgerout wiring size requirement, go UP from there for the important stuff.
    Good terminals, crimp--solder...sleeve.
    Copy original bundling and pathways...Ford done reeeal good there.
    Get dimensions RIGHT, as making things overlength to ensure adequate fit led to violations of the good routing lesson and SMOKE.
    I bought the right stuff, ran individual single wires over each pathway to become length standards for each bundle, I drew easy-to-follow diagrams of individual circuits to replace the hideous everything on one page diagram.
    Garage was unlit and without electricity, so I took my length wires and chunks of car like the instrument cluster to the dorm for the actual work. I even ran and bundled in extra wires for potential additions like backup light. Assembled my harness and everything installed and worked perfectly on the first try...after only about 4 years of grim electrical failures and bloodshed.
    Nowadays, it would have been easier...I could probably purchase an actually workable kit, or fairly easily find my way to good diagrams and parts sources from a vastly bigger aftermarket. I could even buy brand new repro harness, made with modern insulation, if I wanted too. And of course there's the HAMB, so I would not have been isolated from people with actual knowledge...
    But I wouldn't have learned nearly as much as I did through 4 years of darkness and fire...
    And I bet I can still sit down and draw out a complete and workable wiring diagram for a fully functional old style circuit..breaker harness for any early Ford...or dictate accurate trouble-shooting instructions for the same
  15. FoMoCoPower
    Joined: Feb 2, 2007
    Posts: 2,490


    I`ve finally learned that you have to be patient...from start to finish.

    and BTW....if you have never made any mistakes in life,then you don`t know what your missing!
  16. oaktree
    Joined: Mar 6, 2006
    Posts: 71


    Of all the piece of shit cars that Ryan ever drug home, this old Ford was absolutely the WORSE. Of all the piece of shit cars he drug home, he was more excited and animated about this one. It reminds me of an old
    scottish saying by the poetic Robert Burns: "the best laid plans of mice and men oftimes go astray". This car was a great learning experience for a very young hot rodder. It taught him what was possible without indepth knowledge and experience. It also demonstrated that a man has to have the right tools to do a job right.
  17. ALindustrial
    Joined: Aug 7, 2007
    Posts: 852


    thats why i am yet to get my hands dirty... anyone can restore a car... but it takes a real man to cut one up... im scared to ruin the things i own by the smallest mistake, i hope when i am ready to take on a challenge like that - i hope i have the support of like 15 of you guys...
  18. panheadguy
    Joined: Jan 8, 2005
    Posts: 865

    from S.E. WI

    Nobody likes to admit the screw ups, but they are part of the learning curve.
    My first Hot Rod attemp involved a '55 pontiac engine and trans and a '36 Plymouth body and chassis. I started the project with an image inspired by the "little books" I collected as a preteen. I was 14 and it was 1962. With much dissaproval from my parents I proceeded to rip both the victems apart and figure out how to merge the two. With no mentor,no welding skills, and not much for tools, I was headed for disaster and didn't realise it.
    It was during the engine extraction that my folks made a crutial decision for me, "get that shit out of the yard". Just because the swingset came crashing down and the weight of the engine almost crushed me they got a little excited. I then moved to a sturdy boxelder tree and hung my trusty cable ratchet hoist and started anew. I did finally get the engine resting between the Plymouth frame rails, listing a bit, but in there. I finally decided that the project was beyond me until I could learn to weld and buy some tools. The last I knew of the Plymouth was some guy made the frame into a trailer. Don't recall what happened to the engine.
    It was the first of many Hot Rod projects.
    It was the only one that ended in disaster but it did show me the reason to learn skills and life lessons I use every day.
  19. Its better to screw up than to never try.
  20. FritzTownFord
    Joined: Apr 7, 2007
    Posts: 1,019


    My first cool car was a '49 Club Coupe too. (actually the third, but the others were total POS drivers). Anyway, my dad found the coupe from a preacher for $165 in 1967. I bought it with paper route money. Flathead/stick and in like-new condition. Immediately put a fenton floor shifter in it, cut a coil up front and it was so fine.

    In few months I discoverd that if I pulled the choke knob out to almost closed, it would idle like it had a BIG cam! So naturally the next thing was to drill holes in the perectly good muffler. Then remove the perfect front bumper. Then add ridiculous long shackles out back. Then, (I can't believe I'm confessing this) I bought some paper-thin huge M&H slicks from a local racer. Sooo, to get them on the back - yep! - I took a saber saw and cut the perfect quarter panels open in a nice giant arch to clear'em! Added all the right decals to the windows and it was a gasser! Right :-/

    First time I rev'd her up a dropped the clutch I spit the whole gearbox and driveshaft on the ground. As the tow truck drove away my dad slapped me on the back and said "Well, your bike is still in the shed, kid." Aaackkk!
  21. Ah, grasshopper,

    Lesson #1
    It will take twice as long to finish as you think it will.

    Lesson #2
    It will be three times more expensive than your budget.

    Lesson #3
    Don't listen to what anyone else says, do it because YOU want to.

    Make sure your house and contents insurance is paid up. Read carefully the sections entitled damage by fire and flying objects. Oh and while your at it make sure you have ambulance cover and extras hospital cover. Get the name of a good micro-surgeon.

    Enjoy the ride.
  22. VonMoldy
    Joined: May 23, 2005
    Posts: 1,550

    from UTARRGH!

    Hearing about others screw ups is soothing. Seeing all of other peoples screw up on cars I have owned has made me pretty nervous to screw up something. I think the worst screw up of mine is cutting the hole in the pan tunnel of my VW with a big dull drill bit surprise it was super ugly and too big and having to weld in patches so the mangled up part I cut out would fit in again.
    And cutting the old rusty floors out of my Olds bigger than the replacement pans. These are all things that aren't visible and can be fixed just like before But man I need to learn to measure twice and cut once!
  23. Geez Ryan, that really hits home. When I think back to when I first drug the 51 home, I had zero experience with a full build. Sure I owned a few cars over the year that aside from screwing on a new doo dad or just keeping it running, I didn't do much. Who the hell did I think I was thinking I was going to actually build a car? I remember shuttering when some of my more car savvy friends suggested a full frame off build; how overwhelming. If I was to tackle a similar project, I wouldn't do it any other way.

    Some of the folks around here have amazing talent, unfortunately for me I have to rely on sheer determination. It might take me awhile, more money than the next guy might spend, and several attempts to get it right, but I'm too stubborn to give up now (not to mention, cheaper to finish than to sell an unfinished project).
  24. Gerg
    Joined: Feb 27, 2006
    Posts: 1,827


    I bought my 53 bel air and realized after i had it torn apart ripped all the wiring out started the nova stub that really i should have turned it into a driver to start with now i have a car in a million peices that will likely be sold because it needs so much rust repair. only time will tell at this point what i will do with the car. I can find something that is a driver for 2000 is it cheaper then starting with a rotten body?
  25. Wildfire
    Joined: Apr 23, 2006
    Posts: 826


    My tub started as a tudor with a small chop, then a big chop, then I didn't fit anymore. Figured it was easier to take it all the way than try to weld some back in. This one is still teaching me and probably will be for a few more years....
  26. RJP
    Joined: Oct 5, 2005
    Posts: 978

    from PNW

    best compliment I ever recieved was from one of my buddies. "Much as you fuck up, you were bound to get it right sometime." I'm still at it, and still fucking up.
  27. elcajon64
    Joined: Apr 23, 2007
    Posts: 70

    from Dixon, CA

    I see a few of my mistakes here. I'm sure they aren't unique by any means.
    The first car I ever did my own work on was my 64 T-bird. I bought it almost 15 years ago for 1350.00. I could've gotten a convertible in the same shape for only a little more back then. After all the effort and money that went into it over the last decade or so, an extra couple thousand bucks for the drop top would seem like a drop in the bucket, and the car would be worth twice what I have in it instead of half.
    The worse part was that I didn't learn shit. Putting together an old Thunderbird is like building a model. There's a slew of new parts, tons of used parts, clubs, lots of guys who know the cars inside and out, and many original owners and service techs are still around. There's also loads of them still on the road, in all conditions. Any mod you can think of has been tried, and there's a healthy aftermarket for performance and safety equipment for these cars. And here's the big one: Thunderbirds are all the same. There are virtually no meaningful variations in a given year, so everything fits.
    So I wrapped up that experience with a greatly over-inflated sense of accomplishment, and went straight into my next project (a 1960 Merc Commuter Amblewagon mild custom). It wasn't until after I had the whole car apart and painted that I realized there was practically no support network for what I was working on. It's been over nine years since I bought it, and it should be on the road in a month or two.
    Here's the worst of it. After wrapping up this project, I once again feel like I've met the challenges successfully. No doubt I'll take that to the next project.
  28. Thats what I love about this place , we all have the same thing wrong with us!

    I bought an overpriced 49 f1 when I was 16, It had been a hot rod for a long time, lots of people had molested it, but I loved it!

    I worked on it all the time but I didnt really make it better, just messed it up my own way.

    I eventually sold it for next to nothing , That truck taught me alot, I hope its still out there, every time I start a new project I think of that truck, My plans for it, and my skills at the time.
  29. Itchy
    Joined: Mar 15, 2006
    Posts: 151


    I think I'm about too make that very same mistake with my very first shoebox. Never chopped a top before but what the hell, looks easy enough, right???
  30. Hmmm bought a '64 GTO in 1986 for $1450 and had $50 left over to fix all the things wrong with it. Car sat a lot.

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