Robert has decided to thin his heard, the truck has to go. He is very firm on $6,500.00
Latest out of the shop is Ray Castor’s 1957 Oldsmobile. Ray brought us this car last year just before we got really deep into the 51 Chevy PU For Metro AA. It initially came in for some front suspension work. As we are to understand this car was purchased from Desert Valley Auto, same guys with the TV Show. It had already been sand blasted, painted and subframed with an early 80’s GM full-size clip. Most likely an Oldsmobile because ray told us it had an Olds 455 in it. He found a 1958 Olds 371 J2 engine and trans, had it rebuilt and installed by yet another shop. The problem came when he went to put his tires on it, they didn’t fit under the fenderwell very well at all. The tires actually stuck outside the fenders by a half inch or so and the front crossmember was less than 2″ off the ground.
So the first thing to determine was what condition the car was in and what we could do to fix the botched front clip installation. On tear down things became very evident that the persons installing the clip made more than a few mistakes besides choosing the wrong clip for the car.
The entire clip besides being mounted very low on the chassis, was off center a bit and the right side spindle was a full inch behind where it should be as well as being a few degrees off, lower on the Left side. You can see just how high the engine was placed in the chassis. So high in fact that the installer trimmed the upper webbing out of the center X member for transmission clearance. The wobbly engine mounts were pretty comical too. It was about at this point we realized just how hard of a hit this car had taken at some point. There was evidence of a fairly severe diagonal in the whole car.
Next move was to get it on the chassis table and square it up, then start the decision making on what to repair this car with. Of all the choices available, one stood out as something new for me to try. The late 70’s to mid 80’s Jaguar XJ sedan. My friend Scott Zekanis did a similar installation on his 1957 Buick sedan a few years back and has had good success with it. I did my research and found that the Oldsmobile is less than 100 pounds heavier than the Jaguar and had very similar weight distribution. Plus the track width was in the range we were looking for. The stock Olds front had to be close to 59″ wide. The rear axle was right on the money at 59″ so it stands to reason at this point in automotive history that the track widths matched, that and a bit of careful tape measuring and internet sleuthing.
A few phone calls and internet searches, I had myself a line on a 1985 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas. Nice enough car and the price was more than good. Time to strip both cars down, Ray made the decision to use both the front and rear suspensions from the Jaguar (good choice!) as the rear axle in this car was also an unknown. It was stock but if the car was wrecked pretty bad, there might be issues with bent axles or what not. Besides, it just made perfect sense to do a fully independent suspension. Brian and Dr Marvelus AirArced the front clip off after locking the car to the table and Brian and I also disassembled the front and rear subframes from the Jag.
Pressure washed clean and time to start figuring out how to make this all work. This was more work that any of us figured. Still not sure if dropping the engine out the bottom was a good choice or not. Regardless, it came apart and the suspension was pretty decent.
Old clip off, Jaguar front mocked into place, I made my measurements and drew up new frame rails in my 3D software. Made the decision to use as much of the stock Jaguar suspension components as possible. This meant also rubber mounting the front and rear suspensions to give the old Olds the best ride quality possible.
One of the things that was going to make this a difficult build was the owners insisting on keeping the Factory AC and heaters in place. If you will notice the large black box where we would normally hang a power booster from, that is the AC Evaporator case. This didn’t cause us problems for the frame and engine placement.
Front end finished to a stopping point, we turned our attention to the rear suspension. It really surprised us how well the whole Jaguar IRS fit while still in it’s cage. I determined that to rubber mount the stock Jaguar rear cage, a section of frame rail would need to be replaced and a bit of the trunk floor coped in for the new bit of frame rail.
The stock Jaguar trailing arms are critical if you intend on rubber mounting the cage like we did here. If you leave them out you will get some serious tire shake or worse. We also installed this rear axle with 3º of pinion up which goes against all the internet experts out there. I am not willing to just follow trends, so actual investigation went into doing this. The three degrees up not only allowed for a better driveline angle for our universal joints, it also gave us a tiny bit of anti-squat! Yeah, traction is cool!
The wrap up was fairly boring stuff, rush to finish meant the camera phone was in my office out of harms way for the most part. We had a custom made radiator done, rebuilt the core support, ran brake lines, installed a hydroboost system with the stock Jaguar master cylinder under the floor, built an exhaust system that snaked it’s way through everything and made engine brackets to hold the air compressor and alternator properly. Didn’t get any final pictures before it left, but if you attend the Goodguys shows, you are likely to run into this car.
The little bit I got to drive the car was pretty darned cool. Very smooth, very controlled. I think once Ray gets the engine and transmission sorted out, he is going to have one hell of a daily driver on his hands. You can say I am a believer in the Jag conversions. Not an easy job compared to other popular choices out there, but for an ambitious home installer or a customer that wants pretty much the best of comfort and good handling this is a solid choice.
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.
The first Oldsmobile overhead valve engines are definitely one of the coolest, vintage engines you could put in your hot rod. The availability and variety of accessories makes the early Olds a winner in our book but mounting them can rack the brains of the novice installer. The stock tricycle mount works fine if you have a stock trans, however, if you don’t want to run a Hydro your engine mounting scheme hits a brick wall.
Ross Racing Engines has provided some stellar adapters to mount manual and modern GM transmissions to these engine. We use one of their adapters in the current ’31 Sedan build using a Tremec TKO 500. The loss of the stock Hydro means the loss of the rear engine/transmission mounts. It makes sense to use the mounting pad on the Tremec and mount the engine more conventionally. This was the idea behind the vintage Hurst mounts, we went a slightly different route. CNC cut from 1/4″ steel plate, formed and TIG welded, we picked up the stock engine mounting holes in the timing cover. The mounts are made from Energy Suspension universal polyurethane mounts, we machined the aluminum cups to restrain the bushing and add a bit of class. These will get polished and the mount will be chromed.
So if you are interested in something like this for your own project, we made a few extra. They are in the E-store in plain or chrome!
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.
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.