Friday, July 6, 2012

Catching up

This is the story of the restoration of a 1949 chevy truck.

I've restored a bunch of cars over the years including:
1968 VW beetle
1962 Buick LeSabre Coupe
1953 Chevy 210 Business Coupe
1963 Corvair convert
1967 Impala SS convert
1957 Chevy 210 4 dr station wagon

Now comes the restoration of the '49.

After doing a few cars in high school, my dad and I bought this '49 to restore. The trouble was that it was right at the point I was getting really busy with college and other interests(girls). Suffice to say I was a bit distracted. The truck was partially disassembled, and then shelved.
Since that time, my brother picked up the torch, moved the truck, disassembled some more, and then gave up again.
We all had the intention of getting back to it, so when we saw a good part available here or there, we'd grab it and stick it somewhere for later. Later didn't come for 28 years.
Fast forward to now. I have five kids, no money, a little time, but not much space. Was driving around my dad's farm when I noticed this truck, and it's brother, sitting in the woods, waiting patiently. It occurred to me that there are now a lot of restoration parts available now that weren't back then, and since I now also have a welder, this project doesn't look as daunting. It's just spread out across 60 acres like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.
My mom passed away earlier this Spring, and my dad is 81, so if I'm going to do something like this with him, I'd better get on it. I presented the idea to him, and of course, he was all in.
I inventory what we have, and the list is funny, to say the least. I have four front bumpers, one rear bumper, three chrome grills(none of which is useable), one painted grill, a 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton chassis', one three window cab - trashed, one five windoe cab - rough, etc. I have one set of long box running boards that are decent, but the short box ones are trash.

Holy cow, I find a nice painted 235 motor under a tarp in the garage. My brother had bought it for a different project that never occurred. In the rafters of the barn I find fresh chromed front and rear bumpers. No rear bumper brackets anywhere.

In building my budget, I identify at least $400 in sheet metal, $450 in running boards, 350 for a new grill, and so on. Better make sure my dad is on board with all this.
The Plan
In order to do this quietly, without making too much trouble at home, I decided to bring the truck home, sand, repair, and paint, one panel at a time. When that panel is done, I'll return it to the farm for storage. When I have enough of everything done, I'll bring the chassis home and start putting stuff together. I'll choose a low-buck plain jane enamel paint for it, one with no metallic, that won't vary with temp or humidity. So far, so good.

Dad's design queues

The truck is aimed to be stock, or at least stock looking.
I attended the Des Moines GoodGuys show this year, and counted 30+ chevy trucks of this era. None of them were stock looking. All were lowered and jazzed up in some form. Dad prefers stock. I prefer to be different than everyone else. Stock looking it is. Dad had just a few requirements on the project: Original looking wheels and hubcaps, high mounted spare, and oak bed with chrome bedstrips. he didn't care what color.

Since that time, I've added a couple of my own. I want to run a 235 6 cylinder, but upgrade the brakes and gearing to make it more driveable by today's standards.

Blue Comes Home

So I'm watching Craigslist for parts, and a whole '49 chevy truck appears. It's a whole truck, somewhat disassembled, and somewhat hot rodded. Looks like a Mustang II front suspension welded in. Not my interest, but the running boards look good, and I see a sun visor.

My dad's on his way back from Canada, so I make the decision on my own to go for it. I buy the truck, and my brother and I load it up that evening and bring it back to the farm. My dad was home by the time we got there, so we called to warn him of our booty. "Dad, guess what? We got some running boards for that truck! Bad news is they're still attached. Bye!"

Actually, the whole truck is virtually rust free, has an extra set of rear fenders, and an almost flawless grill. Great deal. I figured I saved $1,700 in parts already. Anything I don't use will be headed for the swap meet.

The New Plan

Use my old chassis, but everything else from the blue truck. Heck, even paint it that color blue, which was some sort of special order. So my plan is to remove the cab from the red truck, transfer the cab from the blue truck to that chassis, and start building.
One thing always leads to another.
There are a couple roads to getting the truck drivable in today's traffic: upgrade the rear axle, replace the rear axle, replace the transmission. Since the existing axle uses the old inefficient Huck style brakes, I decided to upgrade to an open driveline. This also lets me upgrade the tranmission, too. A popular swap right now is to put a chevy S10 pickup 5 speed in place of the original 3 speed. I was unable to find a six lug rear axle with a decent gear ratio (better than 3:73), so I have to use a 5 lug of some kind. this will also force me to swap out the front hubs to 5 lug, which is fine, since I'm going to use disk brakes anyway.

The blue truck has a newer 5 lug axle under it already. turns out it's 3:34, which is perfect. Problem solved. I just need to start wrenching away.
Short term plan
1. Get the trucks located side by side
2. Remove the red cab from the good chassis and place on dollys
3. Move the blue cab over to that chassis, maybe restoring and painting it first.
4. put the red cab back on the modified chassis for sale.
5. swap out the rear axles.
6. install the motor
The transmission saga
So, there is a ton of information on the web about how to install a T5 transmission, and it seems focused on a two different approaches. The input shaft on the T5 is longer than the old transmission, so you either trim it, or build a spacer plate. Stay tuned on that one.
I picked up an appropriate transmission last night, which is still connected to the motor, but is also old enough that it uses a speedo cable instead of electronics. Good score.