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Cow Island Express, 1952 Studebaker truck

This old truck came to us as a “street rodded” finished truck. Decent maroon metallic paint and gray vinyl interior. Didn’t drive worth keeping.

Braking was wishful and the steering was about as good as guiding the truck down the road with the same rope steering you used on your first go-kart. The new owner really liked the truck but wanted to actually drive it, he also wanted to make a few changes like a Tremec TKO five speed and a correct dash instead of the street rod billet affair the truck had. It had to come apart after our initial inspection. It had a very poorly installed Mustang II kit from Speedway. The best we could determine was the kit was actually for a 1935-1940 Ford. Not even close enough to work with the Studebaker. The wheels were inset too far and just looked goofy, the anti-dive was backward, the caster and camber settings were not good  and the frame wasn’t even boxed, everything flexed and popped.

Poorly installed Speedway kit, no boxing plates and FUBAR geometry
Proper alignment wasn't possible so the slotted it to death
Looked even worse after Kelly pressurewashed it down

So “off with it’s head” we chopped out everything and cleaned it back to the bare frame rails. There was a bit of minor repair work to be done but fortunately the stock frame was salvageable. I drew up some boxing plates and a new crossmember system that was two inches wider than a stock Mustang II and adjusted the upper and lower control arm connection points to put the instant center where we needed it and to correct the camber curve for the 1″ longer control arms we were going to build and use.  You can also see the tubular frame support and adjustable transmission mount Court bent up and the new Flaming River steering column Kelly installed.

Newly fabricated crossmember and boxing plates installed.
If you spot the tube crossmember was custom fit to preserve the stock gas tank

David (the customer) wanted a manual trans, a Tremec TKO ! The stock below floor brake assembly was butchered beyond use and David likes swing pedals better anyway. Kelly fabricated a new sheet metal box to accommodate the odd Studebaker firewall/dash board arrangement. Then he modified an aftermarket brake and clutch assembly provided by the customer to fit.

Brake and clutch pedal box
Brake and clutch pedal with new Flaming River steering column and drop

The rear got some attention too. The truck came to us with a GM Corporate 10 bolt that was a touch too wide, 5 on 5″ bolt pattern and 2.56:1 gears that just wouldn’t work with the overdrive five speed. The springs themselves were shot, so they came out and got rebuilt over at Valley Spring service. New spring mounts were also in order to eliminate the lowering blocks. We also boxed the frame and installed a 2″ deep C-notch.

Rear frame boxed, rebuilt springs and new shackles and hardware.

In the meantime we got the new control arms fabricated and installed. We used a Dodge Dakota front anti-roll bar also. Bilstein shocks and stainless steel brake lines and a bit of clean up on the frame. We shot it with catalyzed enamel paint. The new Currie rear axle got stuffed in as well as a set of fresh Bilstein shocks. New stainless steel brake lines and the fuel system got treated and reinstalled.

Assembled front suspension
Currie rear axle, Bilstein shocks and Stainless brake lines

Interior wise the street rod dash had to go. Horrid rust sandwich with a gallon of bondo frosting. These are integrated pretty well into the cab. We acquired a donor cab and Kelly cut it out, then carefully trimmed out the offending piece to install the donor dash. While he was busy doing that I designed and built a plenum box to mount under the dash and distribute the cool air from the air conditioning. We also made provisions for the AC unit to draw air in from the cabin instead of hot underhood air. All this got covered up by a nicely fabricated aluminum panel on the engine side.The engine and new transmission got stuffed back in, new through the floor gas pedal from Lokar, the battery box got fabbed, wiring panels got mounted. The cab got undercoated with multiple layers of Second Skin spray on Damplifier. In fact so did the bed and all four fenders.

Engine and accessories
New dash panel and underdash

We buttoned up the remaining pieces as soon as the undercoating dried and delivered it to Scott of Steel Dreamz  where the paint was attended to and and interior got redone. We hadn’t seen it in a while but were surprised when it showed up at the Studebaker International Drivers Club show. Here is the letter we got from David:

All,Below you will find photos of our 1952 Studebaker PU  aka “The Cow Island Express”  nearly finished (but shown anyway) in time for the Studebaker International Meet held last week in Glendale, Arizona.  The PU was built with loving care by Scott Cawley of Chandler Arizona for Lori and me.

The pickup is entirely modified beginning with a Mustang II/Dodge Dakota style custom front end and suspension (built by Steve Szymanski at Industrial Chassis), GM 383 stroker motor (Tony Sanchez), Tremek TKO 5-speed, 4-wheel discs, Currie  9″ rear end and a custom interior by Doug Stinson at All American Upholstery that includes massive amounts of dynamatt insulation.  Scott did the flawless body work and the stunning 2-tone paint which is tweeked current Cadillac CTS-V red metalic and champagne.  The gold leaf pin stripes and lettering was applied by Tony Perez as was the freehand lettering.  Chuck at Metro Plating did the chrome.  Particular note should be made of what I consider the signature piece on the truck; the gold and chrome Studebaker hood piece that Chuck spent rediculous time on.   Blow it up and take a good look at it.

Did I mention it also sound terrific.  It had Flowmaster 50s on it that sounded too motorboatish.  We went to Scottsdale Muffler and had them put on some Flowmaster Hushpower mufflers that are small and look kind of like glasspacks.  With the new tips, the sound is deep and throaty.

It drives at least as good as it looks.  Nuff said.

Besides Scott and the others above, Eric, Big John, Johnny, John the audio guy, Ty and many others worked on the “Cow Island Express”.  If you don’t get the significance of the name, ask Scott or Pam Contes and they’ll tell you.

I mentioned that it’s almost done; it still has a few minor issues and needs like a dead speedometer, door handle, cruise control and the console with stereo and the critical two cupholders.

This unit has a date with Lori and me for Biloxi and “Cruising the Coast” in October.

Oh, yeah, it won First Place in the Modified Trucks category at Glendale.

Dave

Here are the pictures he sent of the finished product.

Thanks David!

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Machine building service

Our background is in fabricating. This reaches beyond just building cars, but to industrial equipment as well. From building simple fixtures to short run low tonnage stamping and forming and as far out as full machine building of a complex nature.

Recently we built new movable stands for our shrinker/stretcher machines. Their modular design allows for reconfiguration for different styles of head units to stave off obsolescence. Designed in our 3D solid modeling software, cut on the CNC plasma and press brake formed the 1/4″ steel body is fully TIG welded. Future machines will be welded with Dual Shield MIG to save time. The pedal arms are cut from 3/8″ steel and are bronze bushed with 3/4″ CR axles and all high quality hardware was used. This is meant to last.

3D solid model of the shrinker/stretcher stand
Using the new shrinker stand

And we are now in process of building a new Helve Hammer/Planishing hammer hybrid. This hammer will be modular and reconfigurable also.  This machines primary function is for sheet metal forming. Traditional Helve hammers are very large and hit very hard. Mostly used by armorers and for roughing in compound curves in heavy gauge sheet metal, our needs require a softer touch. The purpose of this machine is for the rapid forming of automotive body panel and trim. It will have multiple hammer arms and drive linkage to tailor the style of hit from a heavy fall of a Helve to a rapid plannishing action.

The body is made fro 3/8″ and 1/2″ HR A36 steel and will be welded with Dual Shield. The stabilizing legs are 1 1/4″ 0.125″ DOM tube and will be gusseted. The body assembly will be mounted to the floor with anchors and high density polyurethane mounts and machine feet for leveling. This will absorb some of the vibration and dampen the machine for slightly better user comfort.

Helve Hammer hybrid base and arm

Helve hammer drive system detail
Helve Hybrid base tack welded together

Earlier this week we produced a simple stamping die to press a design into 18 gauge sheet metal for a firewall on the ongoing 1931 Model A sedan build. This die and punch was made from 3/16″ HRPO A36 steel and will actually last on a short production run.

Die and punch set for firewall design
First pressing test

These are just a few recent examples of what we can do for you.  Feel free to contact us about your project, fixture table, art design, structure or small machine. We have the experience in metal fabrication and forming , tube bending, notching and pneumatic power, hydraulic power, plumbing and and mechanical power transmission to meet your goals. We can build from your spec or if you need our design services to turn your napkin sketch into a reality, we are here to service your needs.

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1931 Model A build up: Front Suspension

Last left off with the frame fab, we have done a ton since.

This HAMB thread covers quite a bit of the progress: http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=404411

This is one of those things that gets overlooked in the details. The aftermarket has come up with some stellar components and some not so stellar. But when you use high volume production parts, your car will look just like everyone elses. This car does use SoCal hair pins and a SoCal forged heavy beam axle but that’s about where it all ends.

This car runs the spring behind the axle, what is commonly known as “suicide” and requires special batwings or hair pins to mount the spring and carry the entire load of the front of the car. Not one to skimp out we cut and machined a nice pair for this car. Our initial mock up was using the supplied SoCal stainless steel pieces. Very nice with a shock mount integrated. Just not the parts we really wanted.

With a way to attach the spring to the axle, we needed to attach the hair pins to the frame. The shape of the frame plus the location gave us a few different options. Most people would weld a tube or bung into the frame to attach a HEIM or bushing to. We opted for stainless steel tie rod ends from So Cal and fabricated this nifty little plate that cancels the angle between the frame and hair pin.

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Econoline Master Cylinder Adapter

By request, I made a short run of these adapters for you Econoline guys. This keeps the stock pedal and bushing arrangement, no cutting or drilling should be necessary. You will have to provide or lengthen your master cylinder push rod for the master cylinder you intend on using.

UPDATE AS OF 04/16/21

I am no longer going to produce these. They were always slow movers. I am trying to concentrate on other products that fit with our recent move and redirection product wise. Thank you for understanding.

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1950 Ford F1 Hydro-Boost Brakes

We usually prefer to mount a vacuum brake power booster on the firewall but it doesn’t work in all instances. This is one of those situations, we have a  customer who brought us his Ford F1 frame and cab. His plans with this build are to use a Ford Powerstroke 7.4L diesel engine and a reasonably heavy duty suspension. The frame supplied was pretty bent up and required some extensive frame rail straightening. Once within spec, we boxed the rails and added a 1.75″ DOM tubular crossmember with enough room for the rather large automatic transmission and a crossmember kit to accept the Dodge Dakota components. The owner has been doing some research into using Dodge Van brake rotors to give him a 12″ X 1″ rotor with a 5 on 5.5 bolt pattern to stop this very heavy power plant.

To round out the upgraded brakes we need the rest of the system to be just as serious. Given that diesels do not have manifold vacuum our choice is to use an electric pump or the Hydro-boost system that uses power steering pump pressure to give you some serious assist. The tubular structure under the cab restricts pretty much any braking system to be installed between the frame rails. So our option is to utilize the unused space outside of the frame rail. We did this same trick on the Dynacorn build in the summer of 2008 and it works extremely well.  We used the stock brake pedal arm and location to retain the original look. This put the pivot through the middle of the body mount. It was much easier to measure it up and replace it.

Body mount and booster mount

Actual part

Making the stock pedal work for us in this situation we used a 3/4″ X 36 spline steering shaft and coupler housed in a tube with bronze bushings for long life and durability. The splined shaft also gives us the ability to service the system and make it easier to remove the cab if ever need be. Or just to make putting it all together when painted less of a chore. The old clevis mount was band sawed off and the bushing hole drilled out to 1″ to accept the steering coupler and TIG welded into place. A bit of machine work on the shafting for bushing clearance was need also. With all the components mocked into the proper positions a bell crank arm was fabricated from 3/8″ Cold Rolled Steel and welded to the shaft.

The final connection was from the bell crank arm to the Hydro-Boost pushrod. I used a shoulder bolt, spring wave washer and a bronze washer along with machining a small bushing to compensate for the differing sizes. In the end we have a very durable and serviceable braking system that should be more than up to the task.

Modified arm and splined adapter

Splined shaft and bell crank

Bolt, washers and bushing

Bushing and washers assembled

Factory location, plenty of clearance

If you’re interested in having this sort of work done, drop us a line!

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1931 Model A Sedan build

This build has been in the works for a few months now.  A 1931 Ford Model A that has made it’s way here from Bakersfield California passing through many promising hands before our customer got it. Now we are working for a classic hot rod look in the lineage of Doane Spencer 1932 Ford Roadster.

Starting off with two lengths of 2X4 inch pickled and oiled box tube, we capped the ends and filled them with packed sand. Using a process called bump bending in a hydraulic press we are able to curve the frame rail sections to conform to the outer profile of the body.  Once the basic profiles were created using a simple drawing on the floor we were able to transfer these dimensions into Alibre’, our solid modeling software. This allows me to make design decisions before committing our customers cash in wasted labor. We can also take this data and export it into the CNC plasma to make one off parts for each build.

Perimiter frame mockup

The center crossmember is fabricated from 1 3/4″ tubing, the frame rails got a series of 2 1/2″ holes on the inside and the rear kick-up is fabricated from 2X3 P&O steel tube. The front spring crossmember is a generic hot rod Model A part. we did several mock ups with the front and rear suspension parts in place to confirm our measurements and to make sure we had the “look” down tight.

Perimiter frame and mocked up suspension parts

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Studebaker stampeede


Howdy folks! Been busy as all get out with Studebakers last week. We had a 1955 Commander post coupe in for a suspension upgrade and rare 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo in for an engine swap that may turn out to be a fairly serious build.

The 55 was really straightforward. We had previously build a clip for Mr. Desenberg’s 1960 Hawk and realized we had made a mistake in pushing the suspension too far up int the chassis causing problems installing the engine. A problem with the GT I will get to in a minute. I pulled up all my Alibre’ drawings and revised them to not only correct this issue but also refined the design and now we have a production capable clip. The installation took us about 14 hours in total from remove the front sheet metal, saw off the original suspension and install the new suspension. We included a set of our tubular control arms, Granada brake upgrade and power steering rack all for $4000.00.

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Studebaker clip

Mr. Metivier picked up his car just after we took in the rare Gran Turismo. Nice car on the outside. Someone had swapped the stock front sheetmetal for the older and cooler IMHO 53-54 sheetmetal. Brought in by our good customer, www.steeldreamz.com they were looking to swap out the really low mile small block Chevrolet engine and transmission for a more modern LS series and four speed automatic. As is our normal practice to do such a thing we removed the front sheet metal to get better access to the frame. This gives us more room to work and perform a more professional job. Doing this uncovered the previous owners work. They had installed a Fatman Fabrications front subframe. Due to design of this suspension clip, engine installation is nearly impossible without cutting the floor out and building a new trans tunnel and rebuilding the firewall. Sure it gets the car really low without dropped spindles but if it were designed with more forethought, similar results could have been achieved and made engine installation much easier.

This shows just how much of the inner fender needed to be cut away just to clear the upper control arms.

suspension into the right side inner fender

Rather than cut into the body further the installer decided to modify the suspension. Path of least resistance for him I am sure. However this created an entirely new problem, bumpsteer. Not only was the crossmember cut and dropped the rack and pinion was mounted lower off thick straps. Dangerous and crude, very nice combination.

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We are still waiting for input from the customer on this one. He want’s to replace his Mercedes Benz daily driver with this car. This is something we can do for him, just not with this mess of a front end.

What is desired is a car that will drive very well, handle and brake and last as a new car would. What we would very much like to do is replace the Fatman clip with our kit. Our tubular control arms which are not only stronger but upgrade the ball joints and use OEM rubber control arm bushings for a much better ride without the polyurethane squeak and harshness. A set of Bilstein shocks and matched springs. A Flaming River variable assist rack and pinion would definitely set off the steering feel. And if there is any budget left, we would really like to rebuild the rear suspension with a torque arm system and Bilstein coil overs in the rear.

Here’s the links to the pictures:

http://s206.photobucket.com/albums/bb93/ELpolacko/1953-1962%20Studebaker%20Hawk/1955%20Commander%20Metivier/

http://s206.photobucket.com/albums/bb93/ELpolacko/1953-1962%20Studebaker%20Hawk/1962%20Studebaker%20GT%20Fatman%20Fab%20repair/

I am going to try and make this blog a weekly thing, so, until then. Adios!

Steve

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The Next few months

With the economy the way it is, most businesses are lucky to be in business right now. We are very fortunate to be one of those that is doing as well as could be expected.

To get this blog rolling, I wanted to state some of the things that have happened and what is to come. In 2007, Adam Young Fabrication became a partner and added his dropped axle service to our corporation. His intent was to expand the product line and push forward our Dodge Dakota based suspension kits leaving me to do more product development and custom fabrication. We did produce prototypes of our new Gen III coil over suspension kit and got two of them on the road. First up was a complete chassis under the Dynacorn 53 Chevrolet pickup. Second was a local car, 1941 Packard Sedan and both were able to push beyond our customers expectations in drive, comfort and handling.

Due to unforeseen circumstances Adam relocated to Seattle Washington at the end of 2008, this put a huge dampener on the business and product development. We came to the solution of splitting the business this year. Adam has been slow to get his new fabrication shop running but the end goal is for him to produce the current product line and start in on the new complete coil over Gen III suspension. With a completion date of September 09 for his new shop, he will also produce the standard frames and chassis for 1948-1956 Ford and 1947-1959 GM trucks from his location as (tbd) Adam Young Fabrication by the fall of this year.

Currently we have parred down the product line to match sales. We only offer the basic crossmember kits for 1948-1964 Ford trucks and 1955-1959 GM trucks. But our focus here at Industrial Chassis has changed.

Our new focus is centered around custom fabrication and suspension tuning. There are far too many hot rods and customs that have been on the road that do not perform as the owners prefer, and it is our goal to step in and resolve these issues. Drawing on my nearly 20 years of experience building, maintaining and repairing pre1965 cars and trucks, I can pinpoint a solution and perform the necessary repair or re-engineering needed.

Of course we will continue to offer our services for custom chassis fabrication. We will add to our services, suspension design and installation, custom frames and crossmembers, custom exhaust, turbo charging, fuel and brake line installation, custom fuel tanks and engine bracketry, brake pedal and steering setups. Anything that you as a hot rod or custom owner don’t feel comfortable doing yourself or if you just happen to like our mechanical style, we are here for you, our customer.

Apperance wise we are going to do some remodeling of the shop. The re-installation of a showroom and customers lounge. A service bay where you can bring your nicely finished vehicles and keep them out of the heavy fabrication area. New equipment and software to not only diagnose an issue but to speed up the process to repair or fabricate. Also look for new apparel and other merchandise to support your local hot rod shop.

Our reputation was built on quality parts and knowledgeable service, something that will not change.

Steve