Posts from ‘custom vehicles’
So, the ’79 Chevy custom shorty van is at tom’s place with the running gear off and the process of fabricating the mounting points for the burly upgraded gear has begin. Looks like she is gonna be running leaf springs front and back. . . I’ll post some pics soon.
And, it appears that my brother has come over to the vintage American camp. He liked my Camaro so much that he bought its younger brother — a ’77 Camaro hotrod, with a 4-speed, a very aggressively built 327 engine, and lots of period correct hotrod stuff. . . I want to steal his Centerlines. . . But, it is turning out to be much more of a project than he had at first assumed. . . I’m hoping that the engine can be salvaged, but if not excellent crate engines are amazingly cheap these days. . .
So a bit over a week ago I dropped off my custom ’79 Chevy Shorty Camper van with my buddy Tom down south of the city in wine country.
Story goes like this: Tom has had a serious crush on my late 60′s chopper ever since he first laid eyes on it — something about the vintage custom one-off nature of the thing was highly appealing to a hotrodder/gearhead/fabricator like him. He has always done right by me, and I’m not afraid to stick my neck out for my buddies. So last summer when the weather was beautiful and he was pining for something to ride, I handed him the keys and loaded the chopper into his truck, saying only that I was sure that we would find some way for him to make it a fair deal down the road. No money changed hands. No contract was written out. Just a handshake between friends, and an understanding that one way or the other he would make good.
He played with it all summer: took it to shows, flogged it through the backroads in wine-country, waxed poetic about it, and generally made me happy to have passed it into his keeping. Sometimes, watching a friend having fun with something you made is every bit as good as enjoying it yourself. . .
Well, Tom has some serious skills – he is a skilled mechanic, can build performance engines all day, is a bad-ass custom fabricator, and also is a master of building crazy off road machines. He used to own a custom 4WD shop and did high end conversions and upgrades — everything from mild mannered daily drivers, to hill climbers, to the kind of trucks that can jump, take 10′ of air and land with no troubles. So, when he offered to do a serious 4WD conversion to my camper van (with all freshly rebuilt running gear) as trade for the chopper, I knew it was a more-than-fair offer.
And so for months now he has been collecting parts and planning the conversion, and now she had been handed off to begin the process. It seems that my girl will be getting rebuilt period-correct heavy-duty 6-lug Blazer running gear, a 12-bolt rear, with Eaton positracs front and rear, and a correct transfer case attached to my existing turbo-350 trans. She will lose the A-arms and instead have leaf spring mounted hard axles front and rear, and a set of burly original 6-bolt rally wheels.
The process will take a few weeks. . . and be ready in time for my (hopefully) upcoming roadtrip. I can barely wait.
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P.s. here are pics of the chopper. I found her as a dilapidated, non-running, half-wrecked roller in Idaho, and rebuilt her myself with nothing but vintage period-correct trick parts which I found one at a time in junkyards, ebay, and Craigslist. Now she is the equal of most show bikes, and has that honest patina of age and wear that the ratrod guys try to fake.
As promised, here are some pics of my shorty camper van post remodel.
We reused the original cooler and outlet box, but other than that it was completely new. The cabinet is solid pine, and the sink is stainless steel. The hand- pump faucet is a pre-fab RV/marine unit, plumbed into a small tank in the cabinet, and draining (along with the cooler) out through the floor of the van. Instead of installing a stove unit into the counter-top I decided to go with a portable butane unit, as they are a bit safer for indoor use than the standard propane units, and it makes the space more versatile.
The addition of the sink allowed me to regain my motorhome insurance classification, which should save me over $50 per month on insurance!
Soon the van will be handed off to my buddy Tom to begin 4WD conversion with heavy-duty running gear. Stay tuned!
My old ’76 Camaro has that rarest of things — a 35 year old unmolested stock Small Block Chevrolet engine. The carb is original. The Air filter still has the snorkel on it. Hell, I’m pretty sure the valve covers have never even been removed. Probably because of this she runs amazingly well. . . although the 104k original miles no-doubt help things a bit.
Despite the constant temptation to cheaply bolt on more power, I have resisted the urge and left it stock — maybe I’m getting old. But, she definitely aint broke — and I am enjoying getting well-over 20 MPG on the freeway. Moreover, it would feel somewhat like heresy to tear into a perfect stock engine as old as this — like making a custom cafe racer out of a perfectly preserved 40-year-old stocker, it just wouldn’t be right.
That said, I have been systematically replacing worn out engine peripherals — spark plugs, distributor, plug wires, belts, hoses, and bigger pieces like the radiator, and yesterday, the alternator. The nearest new Bosch unit in NAPA’s system was in Massachusetts, and I wanted the benefit of Second Saturday pricing. So I settled for an absurdly cheap remanufactured Delco with a lifetime warrantee. I’m sure it will be adequate.
As usual, more time was spent drinking, bullshitting and smoking cigars than it took to actually do car surgery. Gotta love simple old American vehicles.
So over the past week or so I have a couple of extended work sessions with a carpenter buddy who is helping me remodel and expand the kitchen/galley in the ’79 shorty camper van.
To date, we have ripped out the old galley (salvaging the built in cooler), and fabricated a new larger galley which will house not only the old cooler but also a sink, faucet, and freshwater tanks, with a power outlet extension and extra storage. The bare minimum necessary for extended camping, and to fall into a different insurance category.
Upon careful consideration, I decided not to install a propane stove, due to concerns re venting and high flames in a wood-lined box. However, I have sourced some small modular countertop butane stoves which have far fewer issues in terms of fumes, and excessive heat. They dont get quite as hot, but are more than adequate for boiling water for the morning coffee which, honestly, will 90% of the interior cooking I expect to do.
I hope to finish it next week. Here are some pics of what we have done so far.
I have really been enjoying driving the Camaro, and as a result have done so a lot. She is running fantastically well, but a couple weeks back I started noticing some drips on the floor of the garage, and upon investigating discovered a leak in the radiator, which so far as I can tell is the original 35 year old unit, so no surprises there. . .
At first I had some hope that it was merely a cracked hose, but upon removing the hose is question, I discovered a crack in the radiator itself right at the join between the pipe that the upper hose clamps to and the body of the radiator itself. . . to add insult to injury, there was evidence that is had cracked some time ago, and had been patched up with JB Weld or some similar product, which is a pretty kludgy fix for a radiator. . . oh well.
It was however a slow leak, so, I bided my time, avoided long trips, and kept an eye on the levels until the Second Saturday, when NAPA extends employee pricing to the general public.
On that magic day, I bought a nice new aluminum radiator, new hoses, clamps and fresh fluids — all for $200! That’s about half as much as I would have paid for them today. Then, Dale and I put some nice downtempo on the garage stereo, and proceeded to tear into the old beastie.
Honestly, I probably spent a good five times the amount of time thinking about the project than it took us to complete it. Working on these old cars is so damn easy. . . Dale, who is a die-hard BMW guy, was shocked at the simplicity of the process and the shocking cheapness of the parts. . .
I spent more on the radiator hoses for my e30 than your entire radiator replacement
Yeah, well God Bless America, buddy.
The celebratory bourbon and cigars in the garage afterwards probably lasted as long as car surgery. God Bless America.
So, I have been watching Craigslist like a hawk, looking for (among other things) perfect wheels for the ’76 Camaro. She is nice enough at this point that I am determined to find just the right set. . . something polished alloy to match the bumpers, period correct for the mid 70s, and ideally something different than the Craiger SS and AR Torque Thrust that everyone else has.
I have been set on a nice set of Hurricane/Vector/Turbine wheels. . . but then I saw what looked like a perfect set of Appliance snowflake wheels on CL at a giveaway price. . . So, after a short call during which I was assured that there was no curb rash and no damage to the lug holes, I got some cash and drove way out into the burbs. As you can see in the pic below, they looked pretty darn nice. . .
Well, when I got there, I discovered that the spokes near the lug holes were covered with enormous gouges from some dumbass beating them half-to-death with a tire iron.
He hadn’t lied about the lack of curb rash, and the Lug holes were solid. . . but I wish he had mentioned the other damage before I spent an hour driving in the rain.
Well, I guess I’m still looking. Anyone got a nice set of hurricanes they are using?
So, I replaced the old, ugly, rusty, barely-functional, “custom” Ford style truck mirrors some dumbass mounted on my beautiful ’79 Chevy shorty van back in the 70s with a nice set of GM style van mirrors. In addition to being a visual blight on the old girl, I could barely see anything out of the old mirrors, and every time I hit a bump they went out of adjustment. And they rattled. A lot. The new ones actually allow me to see behind me. . . and aesthetics have been greatly enhanced. It was easy — took about an hour. . . should have done this ages ago. . .
And, I took the ’76 Camaro on her first roadtrip up to Seattle last weekend. She did great on the freeway! 3rd gear is exceptionally tall. Cruising at 60mph you are at about 2100 RPM, 70mph is about 2500 RPM, and 80 is about 2800 RPM which keeps the engine nice and relaxed. I pushed her to 100 a few times, and there was a lot left — I have no doubt she would peg the 130mph speedo if I asked it of her. . . and I might one of these days. . .
Best all, the nice tall freeway gear gave me 22 MPG on my trip up to Seattle, and that included half an hour of 0-5 MPH Seattle traffic. Not bad for a stock un-rebuilt 35 year old 5 liter engine. Im guessing that is literally twice the MPG I would have gotten from the ’69 Mustang. . . perhaps more. That thing could pass anything but a gas station.
Well, she was a little rough around the edges when I got her, mostly due to 35 year old original paint. But, no longer!
My favorite hotrod shop (Marshall’s) stripped her to bare metal, removed the emblems and unnecessary trim, shaved the unfortunate marker lights, and cured 35 years worth of small parking lot dings. And, they put her in coat of fresh paint — matte black epoxy, of course. They did a great job for me, and at a rate that is too low to post on the interweb. . . Seriously. This is the third hotrod they have done for me and I highly recommend them.
Now comes the fun part:
- Which type of vintage mag wheels does she get?
- Do I keep the original interior or put in race buckets?
- Should I keep the great-running stock numbers match engine, or go all out and drop in a modern fuel-injected 350 with twice the HP and better fuel economy to boot?
- Do I replace the 3-speed with a 4 or 5-speed?
- How loud should I make the exhaust?
- Should I put on a billet grille?
We will see. . . If you have an opinion, feel free to chime in.
So, Saturday was perhaps the last good riding day of the Oregon season — 82 degrees, clear and sunny, and nigh-well perfect. A far cry from the cold and rainy afternoon that I have been enjoying today. That is not to say that I won’t be riding this winter, but. . . well, there is riding and there is riding. . .
Anyway, in an attempt to suck the joy out of every last ounce of the summer, I went on a nice long ride. NW PDX to Mount Hood and back just under 180 miles, and about 4 hours of riding. I went with Mr. Z and another older gentleman, both experienced riders in the 60s on late model sport tourers.
Wee pretty much took it easy with only a few WOT moments. . . hell, I spent half the trip in 4th gear. Good thing too — lots of cops out looking for speeders. . . we had a couple close calls. . . Fun times.
In other news, the Camaro was dropped off at the hotrod shop yesterday where she will be made beautiful — and matte black. . . and, then the fun starts: tuning, wheels, exhaust, upholstery. . . maybe even some race buckets and a billet grille. . . its gonna be a fun winter. Stay tuned.
Here is a map of our route: departing from coffee on NW 23rd, lunch in Stevenson ,Wa across the toll bridge (motorcycles are only $0.50) and into the Mt Hood National Forrest, around the foothills and back on the 26,to 23rd st for more coffee.