We have started offering the caliper brackets that allow you to use the Wilwood D52 Dual Piston caliper bracket and the larger rotor from the ’73-’93 Full size trucks on your Dodge Dakota based front end. Have a look CLICK HERE
We left off the last post with a completed rolling chassis, HERE and it all happened since then. The guys at Metro Auto Auctions asked us to step on the gas and finish this truck for the Barrett Jackson Auction. I have to admit that we did not make the deadline, we missed it by three weeks. Consider this, Dr Marvelus and I took this from a rolling chassis in early July to a completed, painted and upholstered truck at the first of February. Quite a lot of work for the two of us! We did have help though, Doug Stinson of All American Upholstery did the leather work inside the cab and Nessie’s Autocenter did the pink-metal and paint.
So here is what happened in the meantime.
The cab was blocked into place and the floor repairs were assessed. The previous shop did some pretty poor patchwork and did not provide the new body mount holes. All four corners of the cab were either in need of repair or were done improperly leaving rusty substructure in place. Once positioned and attached to the frame, Dr Marvelus mounted up the doors to see how out of square the body was and did the required pushing and pulling to get the new Dynacorn doors to fit somewhat properly. Both the body and the doors were in pretty poor shape but the good Dr kept at it until things lined up correctly. At that point the guys at Metro wanted a custom firewall with a polished aluminum panel. It was my idea to make that panel open up so you have access to the brake system hidden behind and the electrical panel. While I was dropping off Anthony’s 32 3W at the Lone Star Round Up last year, the guys in the booth next to us had a ’55 Chevy dash in pretty good condition. Since the Metro Guys already had the dash and bezel from Dakota Digital for a stock ’55 Chevy it just made sense that we use the entire dash. To make it fit, I cut four inches from the center of the dash and the good Dr cut off the remainder of ’55 that we didn’t need and added new material to the leading edge of the dash to match up to the ’51 Chevy truck windshield.
Cab fabrication under control we updated the engine compartment to showcase the engine a bit better than the stock fenderwells could. We started with a Direct Sheetmetal kit and to be honest, we would have been better starting without. Dr Marvelus had to do quite a bit of modification to get the panels to fit the radiator support and with the firewall pushed back, the back edges of the inner fenders didn’t reach far enough.
Things got pretty hurried and I didn’t shoot too many pictures as we went, but most of it was fairly routine work. At one point we made the decision that the previous shop’s work welding up the seam in the middle of the stock hood pretty much ruined it. Instead of cutting out the recessed joint and flanges, they MIG welded the entire seam and started filling the 1/16″ deep channel for the stock trim with weld. This really distorted the hood and was going to require more work than we or the customers really wanted to get involved with. Metro bought a Dynacorn replacement hood, we regret doing so now. It took more work to get it to fit than the stock hood would have been to repair. I do not recommend anyone purchase one of these hoods unless you are very desperate for one. The hood was short and curled under at the front which required Dr Marvelus to cut the structure out and flatten out the nose more than 1 1/2″. The next problem was the location and shape of the hood hinges and bracing. It had to be cut apart and reshaped. And after two solid weeks of work the hood is taller on the driver side and longer on the passenger side forcing us to move the entire front clip over to the left side of the truck to get the hood gap at the cowl to even be close.
The bed, rear fenders, running boards et-al required countless hours of cutting and shaping to get close, it honestly was all a blur to push the sheet metal work fast enough to get out for paint. The guys at Metro AA wanted to accelerate an already hurried pace, the front clip and body went to paint before we even started the bed work. We proposed some changes along the way but they didn’t want to spend the time so style wise, what the other shop had already started was our job to finish and push to paint. As the last piece of sheet metal left our shop it was Thanksgiving time.
With the sheet metal off, the exhaust system and final chassis details got attended to, steering supports, anti-roll bar, threaded bungs for accessories etc. This is when we blew apart the chassis for chrome, polish and powdercoat. Russel’s Custom Polishing did an absolute amazing job and some seriously personal service. I HIGHLY recommend these guys! Kerr West did the chrome on rush job and Desert Powder Coating knocked out the frame, parts and even re-coated the headers. It was nice to get a break and catch up on a few of the other projects that got shelved for this build. But as the parts started trickling back in, we jumped in with both feet on the reassembly. All Stainless Steel brake and fuel lines, body color painted engine, trans and rear axle housing. This chassis looks fantastic.
The day after Christmas, we got the call the cab was painted. Chassis on the trailer and picked up the cab. Then the rush was, wiring was top priority because there was so much of it. Inside the dash there is an Ididit Keyless Ignition (more on that later) Dakota Digital climate control, Dakota Digital automatic headlight and timed dome light module and the Dakota Digital VHX module and a few relays plus a compass and outside temp module, the Haywire Inc E-series fuse panel and a half dozen more relays, line lock, coil, MSD 6al, wiper motor and a Vintage Air Gen II three vent AC/Heat-Defrost unit all snuggled around the brake booster and cylinder.
And here is where the fun started. The quality of the components was less than fantastic. The Keyless Ignition gave us nothing but fits. I recommend everyone not use this. The wire leads were less than generous as advertised and literally fell out of the connectors. The functionality of this unit also leaves a bit to be desired. I see no convenience to using this over a traditional ignition switch. Plus, in an emergency the shut down time seems like an eternity and if for some reason you lose your brake lights through an electrical problem or if you have a brake light switch failure or if you use a hydraulic brake light switch and happen to lose the brake system, you cannot shut the engine off. There is no failsafe.
Just as we were wrapping up the wiring the painted parts for the front sheet metal started showing up and we could get out of the cab and let Doug do his thing. But first we had to install the power windows. This is where things really started to fall off the tracks. The Dynacorn doors are decent, but not exact reproductions. An the New Relics power window regulators did not fit as advertised. Dr Marvelus had to cut away the landing ledge inside the door just to be able to install the regulator, then there was no tail mount to keep it from moving around once bolted in to the stock three holes of the original regulator. When the glass went in, the regulators hit themselves and the windows would not go up or down. Many frustrating hours clicked by before deciding to grind and round off everything on the regulators so that if they did hit, they wouldn’t hang up on each other.
That problem solved, the next one popped up. We built the dash extensions onto the original door window moldings. The truck is a ’51 and have a vent window and frameless glass. The doors and windows we got are for an earlier truck with framed glass. The window channels are 1/4″ thicker than the door moldings were designed for. This caused a major problem that required stepping back a few steps. We made a new template for glass without the frame and used the narrower felts to get the door frames to fit properly and this also gave us extra clearance for the mechanisms, HOORAY!
All sorts of things were going together, AC and heater lines, inner fenders and such, the radiator and gear went in and I started fabrication of the aluminum shroud and mount for the Lincoln Mark VIII electric fan.
The time was running out on us and we were still missing parts to put on. The week before the dead line my good friend Tom brought in the bed wood but we still didn’t have a bed or front fenders. But we had the dash so that went and got wired up.
Just a few days before our deadline the bed and front fenders showed up. Doug had the headliner and door panels in and the carpets done. Seat was MIA but it didn’t matter. The deadline came and we had way too much to get done. So we took a solid weekend off for the first time in three or so weeks. The following Monday the push was back on. I had to make headlight mounts as the one we needed were long gone. Tail gate supports, hood supports, stereo system, glove box and fabricated trims to finish off the dash around the steering column. We were still plagued with weird issues like the fan coming on if you had the driver side door closed but the passenger side open. Broken glass from a stray broken drill bit and a fuel sending unit that didn’t work with the gauge system. It is all sorted out now and I have to say, this is one of the best driving cars/trucks to come out of my shop. It’s a blast to drive, handles incredibly well and is very well manner even on rough pavement.
Here are the final pictures.
As started by yet another shop in town and resultant failure to build a sound foundation, this 1951 Chevrolet 1ton was altered, shortened and modified into a mess of a chassis. Way past budget and nearly two years after it was commissioned the truck ended up on my doorstep. What showed up was powdercoated in a grey and black hammered finish. The weld porosity was clearly visible through the coating, the rails were not straight and every hole to attach the body, bed and running boards was welded up and boxed to prohibit future attachment.
Not only was the frame not square or true, the front end was un-alignable, no mounts for the coil overs on the lower control arms, the rack was offset to the passenger side over an inch. It took 5/8″ shim to get the left side to align and no shims in the right I still got over 1/2º positive Camber and only 1º positive Caster. Because of the offset of the rack and it’s misplacement, the front end had a pretty severe bumpsteer on the left side and a proper connection between the rack and the spindle on the right was not possible without inches of toe out.
The rear suspension was so poorly installed that the bars could not be installed without forcing things into place and the coil overs were in a serious bind if the rear was adjusted for proper pinion angle. The panhard rod was also too long and so far out of alignment that it couldn’t even be forced into place. Even the rear axle housing was warped so bad that the axles didn’t fit properly and would have caused some premature wear issues.
The center tubular crossmember was insufficiently installed and triangulated. It provided no resistance for vertical support of itself nor for twist or beam resistance. Not even the forethought to support the transmission, it just took up space and added weight.
The decision was made to pretty much scrap the whole frame. We sent the frame over to our powdercoater to have them bake the coating off and sand blast back down to good metal. I don’t know if anyone has ever done it, but welding on anything with powdercoating is nasty stuff. What we got back shocked us even more, there were sections of boxing plate and front suspension crossmember that were not welded at all, others so poorly welded they were doomed to fail. No choice but to cut it apart.
Once down to bare rails Dr Marvelus and I commenced building some fixturing to hold the rails in place. This is where we spent far too much time on this build but we have some solid frame building gear to build the next one of these frames that come through the door. This also helped us get the frame rails straight and true, I believe the Dr spend nearly a week stripping and straightening to get to this point.
This was a 1Ton frame, so the shape is slightly different and the arch over the rear axle was much lower and didn’t allow for sufficient axle travel at the ride height we wanted. After a mockup of the body, bed, fenders and running boards we determined how much more arch over the axle we could use. We documented the important stuff and I drew up some new frame parts, cut and the good Dr MIG stitched them together and finished them to a stamped clean finish before grafting the new arches into the frame. Meanwhile I went about the front end, the stock front horns of the frame rails were absolute trash. Bent, welded and twisted out of working condition I decided to build new rails, but make them parallel from the firewall forward. I did similar on other trucks like the one we did for the Dynacorn Corporation, it gives you quite a bit more room for engine mounts and accessories as well as steering and so on.
I’m trying something a bit different with my boxing plates these days. Instead of the traditional plate or stepped-in boxing plates, these are C-shaped and thicken the frame rails to 3″ wide. The thicker frame rail will be much stronger and because of the lap joint, bowing after welding should be kept to a minimum, stronger weld and almost no finish grinding is necessary.
Next up was getting the front suspension in place and the center tubular crossmember. The front end is late C4 Corvette, fully polished and has Global West Del-A-lum bushings installed otherwise stock. The rack is FOX platform stuff and I had to render everything in my software to determine the geometry. The goal wasn’t ultimate handling but a good compromise between good handling and ride comfort. I think I found a good mix that keeps the roll center near ground level, has reasonable camber change and of course near zero bumpsteer. I could not dial it all out because of the FOX tie rod ends. Then I could go about designing the crossmember to hold it all in place.
The tube center X-member and integrated transmission mount got bent up, coped and TIG welded together. Note the lower two tubes of the X-member are parallel. This makes transmission swaps possible without having to fabricate new mounts. The trans mount itself has an offset to it so that a slight tap and twist counter clockwise lets it drop right out of the structure. If it didn’t, it would be very difficult to remove it.
The rear is a triangulated four link, designed to be close to the 100% anti squat and adjustable somewhat for pinion angle and centering. Nothing too special, just repurposed TCI parallel four links in stainless. We used the lower bars as is but shortened the upper bars to 17″. I fabricated a new crossmember to transition the frame rails at the front attachment point of the four bars. additional crossmembering for the four link to attach and to stiffen the frame rails.
The old narrowed housing was out of alignment and was in sad condition that we were asked to retube it. The rear axle housing was completely TIG welded and I made custom brackets to hold the lower bars and coil overs. Dr Marvelus made the upper bar tabs. The last bits were fabricating motor mounts, upper control arm mounts and coil over mounts then we went in in a flurry of activity. Then two intense days of TIG welding to finalize everything as it came out of the frame fixutring and became a roller.
If you would like to see all the details I took photos of, click here
The rolling chassis complete, we are moving forward with the build. Right now we are adding exhaust, fuel tank and fitting the cab to the frame. Stay tuned for more updates!