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Progress on two fronts today! Finished up the floor repair in the Riviera, got that all primed, And, got the Lincoln door buttons in the ’59 T ‘bird too! I’m super stoked about both projects, the ‘bird looks great with the smooth, handle-less Lincoln door buttons and it’s nice to not see the shop floor through the Rvi ‘s floor pans.

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On not settling.

Posted: March 20, 2015 in Buick, HAMB
Tags: , , , ,

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I came in from the shop day before yesterday, and announced to my wife that the engine was in the Riviera for the last time, a big milestone in this build.  Then, I added somewhat regretfully, that I didn’t use the 5.3 Vortec truck motors original cast aluminum oil pan, sectioned 2 1/2″, because I ran into difficulty likewise shortening the pickup tube for the sump.  I did manage to shorten it the needed amount, but I was having difficulty making the bracket that secured the pickup tube to the windage tray, and wasn’t really happy with how any of it went.  So, in frustration after nearly all day working on this, I put the GM engine swap oil pan on the engine, and put the engine/trans in the car, even though the sump on this pan still hung down below the front crossmember about an inch and half, making the oil pan the lowest part of the chassis.  Not a good thing, on a car with airbag suspension.

She looked at me with an expression of disappointment mixed with irritation (one husbands know well), and said, “I thought that was the point of having the other one shortened?  I thought was the whole point of the air bags, to get the car really low?”  She shook her had and walked away.

I slept on this, and yesterday, pulled the motor back out, took the pan (a GM engine swap pan for LS engines with a slightly shallower, narrow sump to fit these early chassis, to replace the REALLY deep sump truck pans), and with a clear mine, fixed the recalcitrant pickup tube mounts, put it all back together with the modified truck pan, and put the whole thing back in the car.  I also “fixed” the trans crossmember, and made a nice bead rolled panel to blank out the firewalls heater box opening.

I much happier with the modified pan, it’s the same depth as the front crossmember, and I won’t have to hang my head in shame and call a tow truck when I forget to air up the bags and drive off, or catch the pan on a railroad track or manhole cover.

Thanks Kim!

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I was at ALRO Steel yesterday, picking out some steel to make the air bag cups for the Riviera, when my phone rang.  It was my pal Jake Moomey, calling to tell me that he wasn’t going to come out and drop off the plates he makes for the cups, as he had to stay home for his kids to get off the school bus.  He followed that up by saying since he is currently putting an identical Air-Lift system in our friend Destin’s ’63 Riviera, he might as well make a second set of cups and spacers for mine.  Not only that, but he said he’d take photos of the job as he does it, to help me out.

I have my friend Johns bead roller in my shop right now, to make the floor pan patch panels for the car, and the block-off panels for the firewall where the original heater is.  John has lent me this handy tool before, along with his shrinker/stretcher, and Panel-Bond gun, even when it’s inconvenienced him.  He has an 8 foot sheet metal brake, which he lets me use when I need to do something that simply bending sheet metal over the edge of the bench won’t do.

My friend Kirk went to the guy I traded some parts to for a console for the Riviera, and my pal Jay brought it over from  Detroit to our place last weekend when he and his wife came to Kalamazoo for the weekend, saving me a day long road trip.  My buddy Crafty B did some welding on the aluminum oil pan for the engine, as I’m not able to do that at home.

The only reason I have the car is that my friend John sold me the car, and a second, slightly rougher one, for scrap metal prices, and then lent me his trailer to haul them home (which I unknowingly damaged slightly unloading the cars).  He was happy for me when I sold the rough one for more than I paid for the pair, which I had told him I wanted to do when I bought them.  He could have sold them himself, but he knew I liked them and wanted to build one.

We don’t do things in a vacuum.  Help, support and inspiration (and, sometimes tools)  come from our friends and family when we need them, get stuck, or run out of steam.  I hope I’m as generous and supportive to my friends, because I certainly wouldn’t be able to this stuff, or be where I am, without them.

Thanks guys, call me if you need me!

Chip Foose is my hero.

Chip Foose is my hero.

I’ll say it right now, Chip Foose is a hero of mine.  I’ve heard, and read on-line lately, lots of disparaging remarks about his latest creation, the above Impala which took the Ridler award at AutoRama, but I’m not one of those distractors.  This car is a masterpiece, and was in my head all day yesterday while I was in the shop working on my own two customs, Kim’s ’63 Riviera and my long-term ’59 T’bird project.

I don’t have the talent, vision, or admittedly the budget for a car like this, but I take inspiration for my own cars from Chip’s work, and this one spoke to me at a very visceral level.  It’s absolutely stunning.  The proportions are perfect, the car is radically modified but still looks like a Chevy Impala.  Integrated, unified, classic yet modern/  Everything flows, beautifully detailed to a level that boggles my mind.  It’s everything that I like about custom cars, and everything I’d like to be able to do.

I overheard some comments while looking at the car, and read afterwards, comments along the line of “The Ridler is bought, not earned”, “All Foose’s cars look the same.”, “F-ugly.”, and so on.  My thoughts on looking at this (and LOTS of other cars at the show) were more along the “I could do that.”

In that light, while the images of the car are still fresh in my head, I’m going to get out to the shop and try to get the bodywork on my T’bird, and get busy with the Air-Ride system under the Riviera.  Maybe someday a crowd of guys will stand around my car and mutter “It’s all about money”, “He just wrote the checks”, “I hate painted bumpers”, and occasionally, “I could do that.”

Let’s get busy.

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When the big boxes of goodies from Air-Ride came, and I had to explain how much these parts cost to my wife, she asked, ” Why do we need that?”
Here’s why, Kim:

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The restoration (or “fixing up”) of an old car is a matter of repairing and refurbishing all of the worn out and/or broken parts, making them work like they should, and then, depending on your own taste, making them look like new, or as close to new as makes you happy, again.  It’s one step at a time.  Today I made several big steps forward.

The Riviera I’m building for my wife had an issue with the passenger door glass, it flopped inwards when the door closed, didn’t fit right, and the power window motor was shot.  Happily, I have an extra pair of doors, and robbed the spare door of the parts I needed.  The window motor works fine, but sadly, the die-cast arm on the window regulator that was the cause of this floppy-ness was also broken on the donor door.  Since I had an entire extra regulator, I cut one of the steel arms off it that happen to be exactly the same length as the broken die cast one, managed to save the shouldered rivet that makes the hinge pin that it pivots as the window goes up and down, and put it all back together.  It works fine, and cost ZERO dollars.

I got the new “Southern-Air” A/C-heat unit mounted on the inside of the firewall too, and adapted the shiny new dash vents to the Riviera’s original housings, on each side of the dash, and the long narrow  original one in the center of the console.  The defroster tubes are also mounted temporarily, so I’ve go all done that I can do until I get the new console (sourced from the guy who bought the parts Riviera I sold) and start permanently putting the car together.

Next up, put some butyl duct-insulation (same stuff as “Dyna-Mat” but about a quarter of the price), on the floor and insulation on top of that.  A buddy uses shiny mylar bubble wrap insulation in all his builds, so I’m going to use the same thing, with maybe a second layer of butyl duct insulation on top of that.  I want the car quiet and cool.

After that, I spent some time sorting out the wiring harness, as I need to sort out the switched and constant hot feeds to wire the new ECM for the LS engine, and I got all the windows to go up and down.  The drivers power seat needs some work to free up the mechanism, but the motor runs, so it should be repairable.  The headlight, tail-light and wiper circuits all work, so I won’t have too much wiring to do, as the original wiring is in good shape.

I’m very happy with this afternoons work, I got a lot done, and made progress on several aspects of the build.  As soon as I get my re-shaped oil pan and the air suspension stuff, the car can start going back together and get ready for paint!

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The defroster plenum will get the tubes sealed in with  my second favorite thing, duct tape.

The defroster plenum will get the tubes sealed in with my second favorite thing, duct tape.

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from the firewall

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Yesterday, on a Facebook page devoted to traditional custom cars (we know it’s traditional because they spell it with. “K”), someone posted some photos of several vintage Cadillac customs. Following suit, I posted one of our long gone ’56 convert, a car that really initiated me into the world of “customs”. The car gave me confidence in my abilities and sense of style, I was and still am, proud of it.

Several people then “shared” the photo to their pages, which is flattering. Since I’m a bit of an attention seeker, of course I followed links their pages to see them, and read comments.

Predictably, some of the comments were less than complimentary. “I don’t like the tires”, to “Painted chrome sucks”, and so forth.  Of course my feeling were a little hurt, and I thought, “Really?”  It was the 80’s, and the car was sort of cutting edge at the time.

Several witty and cutting replies came to mind, from “…and the horse you rode in on.”,  to “Let’s see YOUR car”, to some even less refined. I paused for a second before hitting “Return”, which is NOT my usual habit. I must be getting more mature.

This pause made me wonder Why it is that people feel free to express every negative feeling they have in this way? It’s not just the cloak of anonimity of the web, I’ve heard it all in person at car shows and events as well. People seem to think if it’s out in public, their myopic viewpoint needs to be heard, especially in the example of a custom car, by the owner/builder. My wife always cringes when I let these dopes have it car shows, saying it brings me down to their level.

I guess she’s right. From now on, this kind of unconstructive criticism I’ll let slide. It doesn’t matter, I do things for me, not someone else.

And besides, they couldn’t do it anyway…