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.
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.
Been a long and difficult journey to get here but it’s finally ready to leave.
SamIam wanted to move on, it served it’s purpose and was ready for the next chapter in life. There were plenty on the HAMB who wanted to see the car preserved for the ages, only problem was it needed so much attention to be a useable car. If it were to be preserved, it would have had limited use. Miles and I share the same philosophy on cars, they are cars first and if they don’t work then make them work.
Please don’t think I’m putting down Sam, I’m not. But the car was rough and Miles did his level best to try and make it work for him. But as we all know that no two men have the same vision on practically anything, it applies here. Miles and I sat down and talked about our vision of what to do. The controversy started Miles decided to ditch the cut down 23 T coupe body for a 27 body I had. The frame was shaky and needed some attention other chassis bits too, the rear was broken and needed to be rebuilt, the super cool SamOram intake needed some machine work to get it sealed to the heads and so on. As we took the car apart we laid out a plan to get things sorted out and formed a whole new car using the majority of the components.
Here is the photo album, enjoy the build process over the last few years.
This is #3 of three ever built full custom Helve Hammers.
This started almost two years ago with my desire to build a helve hammer for myself and the need for a power hammer of some sort to speed up work progress on a few projects around the shop. I wasn’t pressed for time so #1 took almost a year for me to complete and start using. Mike Tatum and Jessy Whitener persuaded me to build them each a copy, the persuasion was a good trade for all of us. So near the end of last year, I started the build process on two more machines, Jessy owns #2 and a generous trade was to be made at the completion of #3 to Mike. Since Mikes passing, the trade is off and his survivors pounced on the piece I really wanted and sold it off already. That leaves me with a machine that I would like to keep.
I have over 150 hours in crafting this machine, this is a labor of love for my craft.
However, times as they are and I need funding to push other projects forward in the shop I am offering this machine up for sale.
Machine will include a completed hammer assembly, 3/4 horse DC Servo motor with “dragster style” foot pedal. Several hammer head sets including a die holder for making beads and profiles and instruction on how to adjust the machine to perform heavy blows for rapid shaping or for fast firm blows for planishing action.
$6500.00 and local pickup only.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are the pictures he sent of the finished product.