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Customs Thinking of building a mid-late 50's daily driver

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Gas Giant, Jun 28, 2014.

  1. derbydad276
    Joined: May 29, 2011
    Posts: 1,328


    this is really the way to go go with something like this
    by doing so you will have a GM computer with a custom chip for engine management and it can control a 4L80 with adjustable shift points so your not limited to finding a 700r4 they also make retro kits for inline engines also
  2. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,792

    Member Emeritus

    I've been checking prices on '50-'54 coupes, among other things, for a daily driver. Funny, I told a co-worker I wanted an old car for a daily and he said, "Dude, you already drive a '79 Cutlass. Isn't THAT old enough?":D
  3. 4 pedals
    Joined: Oct 8, 2009
    Posts: 802

    4 pedals
    from Nor Cal

    I'm in the same boat, but my car's a few years newer, 64. I've had it for over 20 years, haven't been able to drove it regularly since about 1995 due to bigger, more powerful engines and deeper gears. I miss driving it, so I decided to do something about it.

    I am swapping out the full race 427 for a mileage conscious 327. I have intentionally built this motor for mileage purposes, and would have done a 283 if I had one. My static compression is 11:1 measured, I used aluminum heads to help with compression on today's pump gas, but I sought out small intake ports to keep the flow and velocity up. My heads have 160cc intakes, just a tad smaller than the Fuelie heads but much better than power packs. I also looked at cams for a long long long time and finally made a decision to run one just slightly bigger than the 327/300hp cam (the old 929 cam.) Carters were the traditional carb for performance Chevys, but I've not had good success with their replacements, Edelbrocks. I have a few carbs to try, including, but not limited to an Economaster, Qjets, Holley 600s and a few Edes, although I don't like them. My intake will definitely be a dual plane aluminum, which one I choose is still up in the air.

    I already have a TKO600, but if I were starting fresh I would definitely be on the hunt for a 3 spd O/D. Used effectively, they are really 6 speed transmissions. That combined with a rear gear and tire size that will put you between 2000 and 2500 rpm on the highway will likely yield the best fuel economy. Any less rpm and a carb'd engine is going to be ineffective, not getting enough airflow for decent atomization of the fuel, and more is excessive for economy.

    Of course, anything of this era is as aerodynamic as a brick, so the slower you go, the less it fights that, regardless of rpm.

    aussie57wag likes this.
  4. Gas Giant
    Joined: May 14, 2008
    Posts: 402

    Gas Giant

    All great info! I'm sort of on hold until early next year as far as getting another car goes, but in the meantime I may attempt putting a passenger side rocker on my '56. If that goes well it may change the direction of the project in that I use what I've got to build a daily. If it goes badly, well....
  5. Keep your existing car. You know all it's problems and shortcomings. Buy another car and you will be buying a new set of problem that will hit you in the head unexpectedly. ...and cost a lot to fix.

    Just tackle one problem at a time and drive the car as much as you can while you are doing it. Going slow, or as fast as your finances will allow might be easier on the budget than buying a new project. The more miles you keep driving the car, the easier it will be to prioritize what to tackle next.

    I did my '51 pretty much this way over a ten year period. I had a few down times, but mostly kept it driveable. My commute is very short as I am mostly retired and my shop is only five miles away. But I still seem to go through nearly a tank of gas a week now. I still have a lot of things that "need" to be done, but mostly, they can all wait. I would rather just keep driving it, and work on another project. A driver does not need to be great, it just needs to be safe and reliable.
    aussie57wag likes this.
  6. Gerry Moe
    Joined: Jan 29, 2006
    Posts: 498

    Gerry Moe

    You say 6-8 grand for a 4 door, why not invest 3-4 grand on a reputable body man for your panel repairs. Use the 350, 336 gears and a 700r-4 or the 200 r. A good frame shop can bring your frame straight, than rebuild like said above using swaybars and updated brakes. Add power steering. Shroud is a must for AC. On the expensive side but Vintage air makes a kit for the tri-fives, but I am sure there are others.
  7. aussie57wag
    Joined: Jul 13, 2011
    Posts: 233

    from australia

    Sounds like a great plan. The 3spd column shift with o/d is very cool. You don't see many around these days as most old people put autos in as they can no longer manage a stick shift. I had a 57 wagon for years as a daily driver in QLD Australia it had a 235 and 3spd column shift. I didn't see the need for power steer or air con'. The drums brakes worked fine as it was no race car but a booster would of been good when towing a trailer and a duel circuit master cylinder would of also been a sensible mod'. I think a 283 with the o/d gearbox would have acceptable fuel economy. But if fuel economy was that important we'd all be driving little 4 cyl imports. You don't want it to drive like a modern car. Modern cars are boring to drive. If you want modern save the work and car and buy modern. Don't go the 350 and auto combo, you may as well paint it red and put mags on the,. you will lose the uniqueness as so many are done that way.
  8. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 9,608

    Rusty O'Toole

    Keep your eyes open for a good deal on a late 50s - early 60s Chev that is already done, with a 305 or 350, overdrive, air, nice paint, etc.

    No matter how much it costs it will be easier and cheaper than fixing up your heap.
  9. The Continental
    Joined: Aug 23, 2011
    Posts: 363

    The Continental
    from Texas

    I've thought about this before too, and was thinking of something a little bit later and lighter such as a Chevy II.
  10. Shaggy
    Joined: Mar 6, 2003
    Posts: 5,207

    from Sultan, WA

    I'd driving a '65 el camino daily, limp 350, Pg, soon to be 10.5to1 L79 m-20 powered, do it!

    As mileage goes, I was getting 25ish highway with my 1980's el camino with a warm 283 and t400
  11. indyjps
    Joined: Feb 21, 2007
    Posts: 4,544


    350 with vortex heads and 450 lift cam, 700r4, 320-330 gear. 4.8 late model engine with a carb would be excellent, but not traditional. A/c and disc brakes, you're building a driver, not a period correct weekend car.
  12. Gas Giant
    Joined: May 14, 2008
    Posts: 402

    Gas Giant

    Bringing a thread back from the dead. I have been working on a different '56 Chevy (long story, sold my old one and bought a different one with a better body and an interior....well i guess that was a short story). Put some disc brakes on it for dealing with traffic and Orlando idiots, and rebuilt the front end, and replaced the rear springs and shocks.

    Right now it has a 350 and a cast iron powerglide....yes, weird I know, but its what I had in the garage and I'm still on a tight budget. I plan to put it on the road and use it for puttering around for fun while saving for an OD trans swap. Can't really use it as a daily with the PG as the 80 mile round trip commute would likely bankrupt me. So its progressing, just slower than I'd like.
  13. Thanks for the update. The OD trans is what makes it work a lot better for a DD. Keep at it, you will get there. A/C sure is nice in the summer, and the old 60's style underdash units can look somewhat traditional. Have those underdash units in both my 49 Ford COE and the 52 GMC pickup. Both use R-134a and swap meet condensers with custom hoses.

    I have driven old cars as DD for many years, up until a few years ago. still drive my old cars to work a lot, but now with location being winter snow and ice it limits some. So I have an OT 2004 Ford Ranger beater as my DD and drive the hot rods few times per month in winter, more in nice weather.

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