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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
Satisfied we could get it done, we proceeded. In between rain storms, we found two clear days to do 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.
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.
The flat face on the driver side fender has been pushed under, creating a knife edge look. This is what it should look like.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All in all, it turned out to be no problem at all mounting the 235 six to our stand.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.