Category Archives: Tools and Stuff

Rebel Wire 9+3 Kit

The 1956 Chevrolet 3600 “Farm Truck” is the third truck we have built at the barn, and in all three we have used the Rebel Wire 9+3 kit. The first to get the Rebel Wire treatment was Lance’s 1948 3100. We  approached that initial job with a little trepidation, but Jeremy White at Rebel Wire held our hands the whole way and answered all of our questions. Having worked with many vendors in our builds, I can testify that customer service just doesn’t get any better than what Jeremy delivers.

1948 Chevy truck with lights on after we installed harness.
Milestone for the ’48 wiring job… the lights work!

At $204.95, the 9+3 kit is a good bargain. In the Farm Truck, we have a full complement of electrical equipment, including the radio, electric wipers, heater, cigarette lighter, a couple after-market gauges, turn signals (an option in 1956) and emergency flashers, single wire alternator, and the electric overdrive unit. We’ve still never used the 3 extra circuits.

Rebel Wire 9+3 kit contents.
Rebel Wire 9+3 kit contents.

The wires are grouped for front, rear, dash, etc., and each individual wire is labeled every six inches or so along its entire length. The instructions are thorough and straightforward. This is about as foolproof as it gets.

Fuse box above driver-side kick panel.
Fuse box in the ’56 was installed above driver-side kick panel. Accessible but out of the way.
wires sorted out for the dashboard section
Sorting out the wiring for the dash… easy.

We salvaged the original dash lights and a few inches of the old wires, then spliced them into blade connectors to hook up with the new wiring harness. Later, we added lights for the turn signal indicators.

original dash lights were utilized
We utilized the original dash lights and a few inches of old wiring.

We used the Lineman’s Splice to connect old to new. Here’s a link to a YouTube video showing how to do it:  NASA approved Linesman Splice

Dash lights spliced into blade connectors.
And spliced into blades for connection to new harness.
Split "braided" wire insulation was utilized.
Split “braided” wire insulation was utilized.

We didn’t go crazy trying to hide wires, just picked the appropriate holes in the firewall and then used split “braided” wire insulation. In the San Diego area, we found it in bulk at Marshall’s Hardware off of Miramar Road, and packaged (i.e., pricier) at the Off Road Warehouse in Escondido.

Since the mandate from Lewie was to make this truck just like he remembered it back in the 60’s when his dad bought it, we wanted to utilize the original gauges. It would have been easy, and tidy under the dash.

Ammeter wiring with a single wire alternator.
Ammeter wiring could have been this simple.

But I could imagine a cold, foggy night in San Diego after Lewie has been partying, external speakers blaring his tunes. Time to go home:  get in truck, 300 watt radio playing, headlights on, heater on, wipers on, alternator trying to charge the battery, and then pushing in the lighter to smoke his fifth cigar of the evening. Poof.

dashboard completed on our 1956 Chevy truck
Voltmeter and electric oil pressure gauges under dash.

After discussing all this with Jeremy at Rebel Wire (and Lewie), we opted for an after market voltmeter, and an electric oil pressure gauge. It looks fine, but does add  7 or 8 wires under the dash, which isn’t quite as tidy. The oil line to the original gauge certainly wouldn’t have been ideal, either. So, a bit of a trade-off, but safety was foremost in our minds.

There’s nothing better in a restoration project than ripping out the nasty old, frayed wiring and replacing it with a new harness. Rebel Wire has really taken the difficulty out of the equation, with great pricing and invaluable customer service… big thanks to Jeremy and Rebel Wire from the crew in the Barn.

Mounting the GM 235 Six on an Engine Stand

One of the peculiarities of the 235 c.i. six from our 1956 3/4 ton “Farm Truck” is that the bell housing is installed before the flywheel. Couple that with our desire to clean up, paint, and re-install the oil pan, and it became obvious that we should put the monster on an engine stand so we could rotate it.

All dressed up, the six weighs around 630 pounds, and it’s longer and taller than the Chevy small block V8. So we had concerns about putting it on a stand. We didn’t trust our own stand so a friend’s more stout-looking stand (1000 lb. rating) was borrowed.

Two inch square tube extension added to engine stand.
Two inch square tube extension with wheels, added for stability.

Still, we had concerns about the length of the engine with bell housing installed, and could imagine it tipping over as we rotated it or moved it around the shop. To ease our minds, we added a 2 inch square tube “T” extension, with wheels, to the front of the stand for stability. We had the wheels in the shop, and the 5 foot long square tube set us back $6.50, so it was cheap insurance.

Fixture attached so axis is near vertical center of gravity.
Fixture attached so axis is near vertical center of gravity

Since the bell housing sits considerably below the vertical center of gravity of the six, we attached the stand’s fixture such that round tube axis was much higher than bolts attaching it to the bell housing. It looked odd, but with grade 8 bolts holding it all together, there was no problem. We also backed up the upper bell housing bolts with nuts instead of relying on the bell housing’s internal threads.

Fixture attachment to bell housing, up close.
Engine stand attachment, up close.

We employed a four-foot long bar to rotate the engine once it was mounted to the stand, and we left the chain hoist attached for the first 90 degrees of rotation until we felt the balance was, indeed, going to be acceptable. With the long bar helping matters, it was easy for one person to rotate the engine with complete control. We pinned our “T” addition to the original stand with a spare bolt so that it would stay in place as we moved the engine around the shop.

Chevrolet 235 six on our engine stand.
Chevrolet 235 six mounted on our engine stand, ready for final assembly.

All in all, it turned out to be no problem at all mounting the 235 six to our stand.

1956 Chevrolet 3600: Brake Boost for the Farm Truck

Although the 1956 Chevy 3600 flat bed is going to be restored to “as original” for the most part, Lewie did insist on a few upgrades for safety and drivability. At the top of the list was adding a power booster system so that the four drum brakes could haul the 3/4 ton truck to a stop more effectively and with less effort.

CPP Brake booster kit for 1955 - 1959 Chevy trucks
The CPP 5559BBD kit and our original brake lever.

Classic Performance Products had the perfect product for the job – their frame mount brake booster kit for drum brakes (part number 5559BBD, accessible at classicperform.com). We purchased it through Summit Racing to take advantage of their pricing and free shipping.

Though we were a little concerned with the lack of documentation, it turned out that the installation was straightforward and simple. From start to finish it took us three hours to complete the installation. not including new brake lines, which haven’t been made up yet.

Relocation of hand brake pulley to make room for brake booster kit
The handbrake pulley had to be moved rearward a few inches to clear the diaphragm housing.

In addition to the brake line replacement, which shouldn’t take more than an hour to install, we had to make two other modifications. First, we had to move the handbrake cable pulley rearward on the frame a few inches to clear the large diaphragm housing. These were the only new holes in the frame, since the new master cylinder and booster utilize the same mounting holes as the original.

The second modification required for this kit is to create a new access hole in the floor of the cab, since the original master cylinder is several inches forward from the CPP unit.

Master cylinder access hole relocated for CPP 5559BBD brake booster
New master cylinder access on the cab floor.

We didn’t want to cut into the transverse rib on the cab floor, nor the strengthening grooves in the floor, so the access hole is not directly over the master cylinder reservoirs. But we made the access opening large enough to fit your hand through to remove the cap and perform fluid maintenance.

The CPP 5559BBD kit utilizes the original brake lever to operate the master cylinder
The original brake lever is used, and fit perfectly.

At around $300 plus the cost of new or modified brake lines, the kit is a bargain, especially when the ease of installation is factored into the equation. We will utilize braided stainless steel lines if we can get those made up economically, otherwise we will opt for hard lines like the original setup.

CPP 5559BBD brake booster installed
CPP 5559BBD installed except for new brake lines. The access hole drawn here above the MC would have cut through strength structures of the cab.

Summing it up, we’re very pleased with the CPP kit and we are looking forward to a little more stopping power. After all, Lewie, Lance, and I all live in Hidden Meadows in northeast San Diego county, and leaving the ‘hood requires dropping several hundred feet in elevation down a steep grade to access I-15 and the rest of the world. If this kit performs as well as it looks and installs, it will be making an appearance on the ’59 Apache soon.

 

1956 Chevrolet 3600: Blasting the Farm Truck

After assessing the efficacy of our own blasting equipment, we decided professional help was needed. Fortunately, just down the street in Fallbrook we had driven hundreds of times past a sign advertising sandblasting by a company called Tronier Sandblasting. We phoned the number – 760.645.3180 – and asked Tronier, father and son, to come out and take a look at our project. The rate to blast the entire truck seemed reasonable, so we set a date.

1956 Chevrolet 3600 flat bed truck stripped for sandblasting
The ’56, stripped of glass, hood, engine, and the flatbed, ready for blasting.

They agreed to do the job at our site, but first we had to figure out if we could get the truck back into the barn if we rolled it out. We had a 2000 lb. rated, 24 volt winch in the shop so we rigged it up in between our two post lift using a stout piece of rectangular tubing. Rather than just a straight pull, we felt using a pulley on the load would be safer, reducing the tension on the rope by half.

Winch on our two-post lift arms to haul truck into barn
Winch setup.
testing the winch setup used to haul truck into the barn
Testing it out, with blankets and towels draped on the line to dampen the snap if the line should break.

Satisfied we could get it done, we proceeded. In between rain storms, we found two clear days to do the job.

Tronier Sandblasting trailer which holds all of their equipment
Tronier’s custom made trailer holding their power, compressor, ladders, and 400 feet of high volume hose.
Jim Tronier getting to work sandblasting the 1956 Chevrolet truck frame.
Jim Tronier at work on the frame.
Sandblasting the underside of the 1956 Chevrolet truck frame
Sometimes laying down on the job.

What Jim estimated could be a one day job, turned into two days plus, but the price remained the same even though we offered to sweeten the deal. I can’t say enough good things about Tronier; for sure we will have them back to blast the ’58 GMC, seen sitting in the backround.

Interior of 1956 Chevrolet truck sandblasted
Interior blasted.
Engine bay of the 1956 Chevrolet truck sandblasted
Engine bay done.
1956 Chevrolet truck cab, frame, and wheels sandblasted.
All done but for the bits removed: hood, flatbed frame, etc
1956 Chevrolet truck back inside after sandblasting.
Back in the barn before the next rain. Bare metal will rust if you just drop a bead of sweat on it.

The Farm Truck was really in excellent shape, with only the steps on both sides and one corner of the hood needing any rust repair. But blasting away any body filler will reveal all – including some damage to the left front fender, and a couple ripples in the right front fender.  All in all, though, it is in fine shape for a sixty year old truck.

Sandblasting has revealed damage to our 1956 Chevy truck fender
Damage revealed.

The flat face on the driver side fender has been pushed under, creating a knife edge look. This is what it should look like.

1956 Chevrolet truck right front fender will be our model for repairs
The correct look.

Lance and I thought we’d be able to get the sand wedges out and hone our bunker shots, but the kids were quick to claim the beach as their own.

Sandblasting has created a new play area for the kids
Tommy, Lucia, and Tugger stake their claim to the new play area.

How About Them Seats

Sometimes you just get lucky. As you can see below, the interior of the ’48 was destined for the trash bin. So, after taking some measurements we headed for local wrecking yards to see what we could find. We knew we were looking for gray leather, so armed with measuring tape and a few tools, we started our hunt.

Our first stop was a yard in Oceanside where you pay a couple bucks to enter, and pull the parts yourself. As we neared the end of our walk-through, a relatively pristine 2002 Pontiac Aztek was dropped off. Eureka! Everything about the second row seat shouted “take me home.” Dimensions – check; color – check. And the seat was removed by simply pulling up on a release bar at the front. Best of all… the price:  we took it home for less than fifty bucks!

The original seats would have cost a small fortune to repair.
Aztek split bench seat installed in the ’48.
The back folds down.
Another lever lets you tilt the seat forward.

By just pulling up on a bar at the front of the seat, the entire assembly lifts out of the truck. A good find for a grand total of $47.50 plus our time to install in the truck. The Pontiac Azteks weren’t pretty, but they are interesting cars, especially with camping accessories.

Engine Test Stand

We rebuilt the 350 for the ’59 Apache, including:  main and rod bearings; rings; camshaft; lifters; pushrods; oil pump; fuel pump; water pump; harmonic balancer; Edelbrock Performer manifold; Edelbrock 1406 carburetor; small chamber heads; timing chain set; valve covers; oil pan; and new freeze plugs and gaskets.

An important part of the rebuild was knocking out all the water jacket plugs (aka freeze plugs) and using our high pressure washer and compressed air to remove the chunks of rusty metal that are detrimental to cooling efficiency.

After putting it all together, there was no way I was going to stick it back in the truck without testing it first. We happened to have two heavy duty metal tables, one with a metal top that serves as our welding table. The other had a wood top and it became the temporary engine test bed. A little surgery removed the angle iron on which the wood top rested, allowing us to drop an engine into the middle. Here’s what it looked like…

Keeping it simple.
Adding the necessities.
The most important (only) gauge… oil pressure.
Have starter button, will travel.
Ready to go. On/off toggle in the tray, which holds gauge, pistol-grip starter button, and coffee. Might have been whiskey.
And it’s a table again, waiting for next rebuild. Bolt-in rails along the side replaced the welded originals, so the wood top is still supported lengthwise.

Stuff We Like: Tools, Equipment, Sites

During the process of working on our old cars and trucks, we have developed lots of favorite things:  tools, equipment, websites, stores, and ideas. Even dumb ideas… why should you go down the same dead end that cost us time and money.

We don’t waste money, because it’s hard earned. We really prefer getting a good value for our money… if it’s a tool or equipment we think we’ll be using on most projects, we buy it. If it’s a one time problem we’re trying to solve then borrow it. No doubt it helps to live in Southern California because we are never far from resources.

One of the best resources anyone can find – no matter the endeavor – is a smart, experienced guy. Whether that’s your local owner/operator transmission shop or exhaust shop or machine shop, or just a friendly hot rodder who’s been doing it longer than you, these relationships will save you headaches and time and money.