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This idiot bought a 53 Ford Customline.

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by teamthirteen, Aug 26, 2012.

  1. teamthirteen
    Joined: Aug 21, 2012
    Posts: 22

    from SLC, UT

    I know it's not too smart to buy a car about sixty years old with no mechanical experience, but I've certainly done dumber things in my life. So if you guys don't mind, I'd appreciate any help as I will have some questions as a newbie.

    First off, someone restored it 10-15-20? years ago. They put in a 1968 203, c6 transmission, and a 9" rear end. Interior was redone, it was converted to 12v, new radiator (I think) and not sure what else they did. They bondo'd some stuff, not sure yet how much. Then it sat for five years. Another guy bought it and flushed the tranny and radiator, hoses, new exhaust, sparks, oil, wheels, and some electrical thing-a-ma-jigs. Basically was on his way to get it running again. Tank was drained before storage.

    View attachment 1724378

    View attachment 1724379

    View attachment 1724380

    The last guy couldn't finish it so I bought it yesterday for $3k. Pretty happy but intimidated. I think I picked an easy 'first' car, I hope? It runs but I can't take it far until I do a few important things. My overal goal is to make this into a daily driver. What I need to do, correct me if I'm wrong or add what I don't know:

    PHASE ONE: Get it running better
    1) 2 barrel carb needs to be rebuilt so instead of a new one I'm going to get a 4 barrel and new intake manifold to match. Not sure what but probably an Edelbrock? Or should I stick with a 2 barrel?
    2) Brakes are redone by last owner except for one. Fix brake and bleed.
    3) Nothing on the dash works so I need to install aftermarket gauges to see if the engine is overheating mainly.
    4) replace spark plug wires

    PHASE TWO: Mainly safety stuff
    1) Figure out how much rust there is: I signed up for a beginner auto body class that starts in 2 weeks. The instructor should set me straight.
    2) Seatbelts installed with help from instructor
    3) get turn lights working, fix side mirrors, fix wipers, etc.
    4) clean up wiring, try to get some or all things in dashboard working. Try not set the car on fire.
    5) Install dipstick. There is no dipstick right now!

    1) New shocks, lower it a bit
    2) take out rear seat and make a wooden slat floor going from the trunk to the back of the front seat. I need more carrying room.
    3) lotsa little boring things
    4) think about painting it
    5) consider installing disc front brakes

    A more realistic view of the paint job:

    Did the original cars come with a rope like this on the back of the front seat?

    Interior is in good shape:

    So what am I missing on my to-do list? Or even a check-it-over list for a purchase like this? Any advice is awesome, and any cracks at my inability are deserved! Thanks again, here goes nothing...and sorry about the pics I'll do better next time. Can't fix them for some reason.

    Attached Files:

  2. 62rebel
    Joined: Sep 1, 2008
    Posts: 2,773


    first of all; don't jump into trying to remedy everything at once. that's probably what killed it for the LAST guy!
    and, what you're calling a restoration is NOT what they did to it. it might be called more properly resto-rodding, or street cruiser in those days.

    it's good to have a list of areas/things you want to address; but keep your bites small and chewable. tackle one thing at a time.

    BTW, that's called a robe rope and it was intended to hold a "car robe" or blanket in cold weather. most cars didn't have stock heaters in those days. good luck with your new toy and keep us up to date!
  3. teamthirteen
    Joined: Aug 21, 2012
    Posts: 22

    from SLC, UT

    'Street cruiser', I like it! Funny to hear the rope is for blankets. I thought it was an 'Oh Sh*t Rope'. And thanks for the advice on small chunks, I'll keep that in mind.
  4. lippy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2006
    Posts: 5,002

    from Ks

    Tell us a little about yourself. Lippy:)

  5. Looks like a good start. Like others have said, try to start and finish one thing at a time. You'll have a feeling of accomplishment that will keep the motivation flowing.
  6. O.Hove
    Joined: Feb 12, 2006
    Posts: 771

    Member Emeritus
    from S.D.

    The rope is where you hung your lap robe.
  7. teamthirteen
    Joined: Aug 21, 2012
    Posts: 22

    from SLC, UT

    Well, I've owned a couple AWD cars as I live in the mountains. To get up the canyons around here it's required by law to have AWD/4WD and snow tires. But I am sick of practical cars and was recently facing the fact of getting another boring subaru. Sure, they are fun to go sideways in the snow and dirt, but I'm past that phase...or that's what I tell myself.

    So I'm getting a practical subaru soon, yes. But owning this car as well is my compromise. I've always wanted an older car so I figured I just had to jump in and figure it out as I go. My mom has been a big influence, as she has been into motorcycles and cars forever...but she is not into repairing them anymore. She's British so all her vehicles have been English btw.

    And it's my first American-made car ever, so that's cool.
  8. I bought my '56 Ford Customline with no mechanical experience, and well still don't much experience and am by far no expert:eek:

    You can do it!
  9. dad-bud
    Joined: Aug 22, 2009
    Posts: 3,884


    62rebel has given you some sage advice - don't try to do too much at once, just focus on getting it running and reliable, then update bits as you go.
    It ain't ever going to drive like a new car, but that's not what you bought it for. Enjoy driving it and just having fun with it.
    Welcome to the HAMB by the way.
  10. heaters were an option until 64/65, the rope was for the kids standing in the back to hold on to. keep it simple do what's needed to turn it into a driver safety first then upgrade from there.
  11. budd
    Joined: Oct 31, 2006
    Posts: 3,478


    did you have this car up on a hoist before you bought it? that should always be rule #1, my first step is always clean it, pressure wash and clean it inside and out and the trunk, look it all over, do not spend any money till you have made everything work that you can, sounds to me like $100 and a weekend and you would be on the road, then start making plans for what comes next.
  12. 35desoto
    Joined: Oct 6, 2009
    Posts: 760


    I agree with all that has been said before
    I would add - take the lack iof dipstick off your no.2 list and put it on the no.1 list - evern if it is at the bottom of that one. An engine can throw/pump out a heck of lot of oil out of that small hole and you need to know how much oil lis in that sucker before doing any damage.
    I'd rebuild the 2 barrel carb and enjoy the beast forst before worrying about a 4 barrel - keep it simple in the first instance and then grow as you get to know the car and mechanicals better
  13. retiredblue
    Joined: Mar 1, 2010
    Posts: 272

    from california

    looks like a fun project- get a test light, a wire brush and take pictures A LOT of pictures in case you take something off and don't remember how it goes back on(believe me on this one hahaha) and get a can of patience too- comes in handy
  14. 48fordor
    Joined: Jan 16, 2009
    Posts: 141

    from York, PA

    You have to learn somehow! Knowing what you _don't know_ is most important. Stop and think, so you make slow progress without breaking things or making problems worse.

    1. Start a notebook to use as you work for sketches when you take things apart as well as notes on parts used. You won't be able to walk into a parts store and do the year\make\model deal to get parts.
    2. Test lights can do some things, but you would be ahead to learn to use a meter. They are simple, buy an inexpensive one and read on the web how to use it.
    More electrical - if you are working alone, have a little electric buzzer with clip leads. This is the most useful thing to fight loose connections. You can "wiggle test" without having to see the meter!
    3. Get good painter's tape, not cheap masking tape, and a marker and label everything you remove.
    4. For little things, get a box of ziplock sandwich bags with the white stripe to write on. Label everyting.
    5. Assume that you have no memory and write it down/photograph it/take notes!
  15. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 10,265

    Atwater Mike

    I used to pass a house on my way home from work (Santa Cruz, CA.; 1975) that had a NICE '53 Ford Victoria parked in front. One day, I noticed a 'for sale' sign on the windshield.
    I stopped to inquire, the elder lady said "$300 cash, that's what I want."
    I asked her if I could look it over, she asked if I worked for the Busenhart Bros. I said yes, I did... she gave me the keys, said "Take it for a ride, then. If you want it, I'll take less. I just want to sell it."
    I drove it up past the Marina, along the East Cliff drive. v8 stick, no and heater worked, car had an Earl Scheib paint job, 4 years back: powder blue.

    I went past County bank, they were about to close. Turned in, walked in the door and saw my friend Sandy, (attractive surfer-girl-teller-type) and told her to please cash a check from my checking acc't. I got $280, all in 10s and 20s, and split.
    Back at Mrs. Robinson's house, I said, "I love the car, anything wrong and I'll fix it, I'm a mechanic with lots of aptitude and good friends. I must have this car."
    Mrs. Robinson said, "I think I'll give you the car for $250, but no less."
    I got her up to $280, and she was happy. I drove that Vicky back and forth from San Jose to Santa Cruz, changed jobs and commuted daily to Sunnyvale...
    Had a beach house in Aptos, right above the Cement Boat...('Seacliff')

    Two years later, I went to work on the Vicky: '55 DeSoto grille, frenched headlights (steel rings) and frenched '55 Olds taillights...shaved nose, deck, door handles. Foxcraft skirts, Ford swap meet: $40! Flare skirts!
    Put tires on it, '55 Olds Fiestas, new whitewalls. Dual exhausts from Babe's Mufflers, with flat oval tips. It was the cat's ass!

    When I rented my first shop, girlfriend overheated it, cracked the block. Installed a 429, with C6...never got it running, customer needed the engine...Then a nice 260 with early Cruiso...never got that running, either.
    Got a rebuilt flathead from Ron Dunn, drove Vicky another few months...finally she sat, sold her when I found my '40 Merc.
    I now have a '54 Ford Coupe, but miss my Vicky!
  16. teamthirteen
    Joined: Aug 21, 2012
    Posts: 22

    from SLC, UT

    Thanks for all the advice everyone. Marking stuff and labeling will be really important for me; no doubt. Mike, I lived in Aptos for a summer but not on the beach unfortunately. My neighbor just came over and said his first car was the exact same as mine, and he bought for $300 in 1974. Seems like I'm going to hear a lot of cool stories from people about it.
  17. kyvetteman
    Joined: May 13, 2012
    Posts: 760


    Welcome from Kentucky & Tennessee! Cool ride. Keep us posted on progress.
  18. Graham M
    Joined: Apr 17, 2011
    Posts: 406

    Graham M
    from Calgary AB

    WTF, in Utah? wow. We have it *way* worse here with the snow in the winter, and its not even nearly as bad as some places in the northern Rockies, yet there are absolutely NO laws governing what you can and cannot buy, same with the choice in tires. Frankly if people cant drive, thanks to their choices in cars or tires, thats their problem entirely, to which they'll have to live with the consequences of their actions. Those "laws" are fucking retarded. :confused:

    Cool project though, just listen to what everybody on here has to say, the wealth of knowledge is unworldly here.
    Best wishes! -Graham
  19. 1pickup
    Joined: Feb 20, 2011
    Posts: 923


    I've never seen a "203" engine. Maybe some photos of that would be interesting...
  20. hotrodtom
    Joined: Apr 14, 2005
    Posts: 231


    Here's another: My first car was a '53 Customline Tudor we paid $495 for in 1958. I put on a set of duals with glasspacks, added Offy heads, and cut the coils in front to lower it and thought we were hot stuff, until I went to the drags and found out about smallblock Chebbies. The heads were pitted on the mating surface, and I got really good at changing head gaskets. Had a lot of great times in it, though. Column shift + no console = great big wide front seat (use your imagination!). Have fun and keep us posted. [​IMG]
  21. Cortney
    Joined: Aug 11, 2008
    Posts: 371


    Great story!!!
  22. Welcome from So Cal. Congratulations on your new old car. Good luck with the build. I have a 302 in my 56 Fairlane. When you put a SBF in the older Fords, you have to change from a rear sump to front sump and move the dipstick. Mine is in the timing cover. Join the 52-59 Ford group here. Anything you want to do, someone there has already done.
  23. lippy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2006
    Posts: 5,002

    from Ks

    There is a ton of good guys here. You are in good hands. :D
  24. teamthirteen
    Joined: Aug 21, 2012
    Posts: 22

    from SLC, UT

    Graham, the canyons are steep and the steepest part is about a 12-13% grade. When it snows it is super dangerous so that's why there is requirements. If you don't have the right vehicle you can take the bus instead.

    1pickup, it's really similar to a 302. Hotrodtom, I like the way you think. The Stig, just about to join thank you.
  25. 40StudeDude
    Joined: Sep 19, 2002
    Posts: 9,430


    Team13...get to know some of the rodders around SLC...most will be happy to answer your might even meet some guys that are willing to help...

    SLC has a great wealth of hot rodders, street rodders, et al around there...go to some of the local cruises and hang out (if you drive your Subie to them, park a couple block away and wear a rod t-shirt...not an I love Subarus's t-shirt...!!!) Ask around for advice, ask some guys that have '52-'54 Fords...those are all the same body style...

    FWIW, this guy- JC Hackett ( puts out a electronic newsletter of all the events around him...he's also on the radio around there at noon...does most all of the car shows/cruises...tell him "Jetter" sent you...

    Anyway, congrats on the purchase...each journey starts with the smallest of steps...

  26. teamthirteen
    Joined: Aug 21, 2012
    Posts: 22

    from SLC, UT

    Thanks man, I'll get on that! Anyone go to 'Cars and Coffee' around here? Any good?
  27. harleyjohn45
    Joined: Aug 27, 2012
    Posts: 190


    Is this car a 2 door hardtop??
  28. teamthirteen
    Joined: Aug 21, 2012
    Posts: 22

    from SLC, UT

    No, four door hardtop.
  29. lordairgtar
    Joined: Oct 11, 2009
    Posts: 416


    That would be a four door sedan, I think. A hard top would not have metal window frames. When I was a kid, my dad had a 54 mainline tudor with a flat head six in it.
  30. I was waitin for that to happen...^

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