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Street Rod Secrets

  •  - 0
  • Old cars may look cool, but beauty is often only skin deep. Check out the chassis on this ’57 Olds convertible. Not your typical project, so aftermarket resto/mod parts are not in great abundance. Moreover, that frame and suspension setup looks positively primeval, what with two pairs of shocks in the rear, and leaf springs as well to handle all that weight. - 1
  • D&P wisely convinced the owner of the car to scrap the old framework and underpinnings in favor of a modern chassis from Art Morrison, with stronger boxed frame rails and adjustable coil-overs. With a stiffer frame, the suspension geometry will hold this big boat on course, with no risk of seasickness from excessive body sway. - 2
  • For reasons of cost, most factory control arms are made of stamped steel. They might have been okay in their day, since we didn’t know any better back then, but tubular control arms, like these from Heidt’s, are lighter and stronger. The also are adjustable in camber and caster for improved handling and tracking. - 3
  • Notice anything different between these two engine installs? Both look pretty clean, with lots of shiny parts, but one is way easier to work on than the other. Keeping your accessory components as far apart as possible really simplifies maintenance chores (and also looks better in large engine bay). Unfortunately, older street rods usually don’t have all that much width in the engine bay, but wherever possible, give those pumps and alternators lots of room to breathe. - 4
  •  - 5
  • you’ve gotta have a hot mill, then you’ll need a way to keep it running cool. But there’s not always space for a really big radiator. Here’s a few ways to get the most of out of your heat exchanger. Use as efficient a core as possible (four to five rows for copper, 1.5-inch tubes max for aluminum, and baffled tanks). Install dual electric fans with a shroud on the engine side. - 6
  • The owner of this basket-case pickup truck couldn’t be deterred from restoring it. The only point in its favor is that classic trucks are often less expensive at the outset than the more popular car body. But that’s only a small part of the overall expense. - 7
  • Rusty panels like these require many hours of repair and reshaping to become usable, and a good metalworker runs nearly $70 per hour or more. Plan on cost overruns when working with original tin. - 8
  • Typically a rod builder won’t quote a price without seeing it. Nance says that when somebody says the body has just a few spots, that usually means spots of sheetmetal, and the rest is rust. - 9
  • Often as not D&P has to fix somebody else’s idea of resto job. On this ’48 Sedan Delivery, it turned out that the rocker panels were rotted, both inside and out. “I have to use media blasting to check out the condition of the sheetmetal,” Nance says. “Especially on any cars from east of the Rockies.” - 10
  • He also recommends hiring a vehicle inspector/appraiser before purchasing any project car, particularly if you can’t see it firsthand. Photos can cover up a multitude of sins. - 11
  • Even if the sheetmetal has been repaired, that doesn’t mean it has the latest in welding technology. Originally brazing with brass filler was the norm, but that method just doesn’t hold together as well as TIG and MIG welding, which actually penetrate the metal and creates a stronger bond. So if the weld seam has brass in it (look for gold-colored metal), better to redo it before prepping and painting, to prevent the part from busting loose. - 12
  • Another common technique for repairing panel was to use rivets, but the filler surrounding them tends to absorb moisture and create an uneven surface. Replace those rivets with a fresh, clean weld. - 13
  • Swapping out those old leaf springs or coil and shock setups for a modern coil-over really makes a difference in the ride. Not only does it let you adjust the ride height for either a lowered show stance or a more road clearance, you’ll find the handling is usually better as well, especially if you plan on doing any dragstrip runs. However, if you’re just cruisin’ in your rod, coil-overs can feel bit stiff, so air bags might be a better way to go. - 14
  • If the main rails of the frame are still good, consider adding just a front clip or stub frame instead. The advantages of this approach include not only saving money, but also makes it easier to change the engine mounts for a different type of powerplant. - 15
  • In this case, a ’57 Chevy pickup is now outfitted with a LS-1. The stub frame also makes it easier to modernize the suspension  with late-model components. - 16
  • Most older cars used for street rod projects have questionable wiring at best. Not only is the voltage often too low (six instead of 12 volts), there usually isn’t a fuse panel. Nance also says that in order to prevent short circuits, don’t take any shortcuts (As an example, he admits to frying a harness once when he tried to fix the dash clock without disconnecting the battery.) For a new harness, he recommends using American Auto Wire, which makes aftermarket wiring kits. - 17
  • A good chrome job is a cool thing to have on a street rod, but there are a few things to keep in mind before sending of those old bumpers for replating. First you’ll need to figure out which pieces are worth saving, by a careful inspection, both inside and out. In addition to any dents or dings, look for corrosion and poor welds. - 18
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by Steve Temple  More from Author

Insider Tips From A Pro Builder

If it hasn’t already happened to you, you’ve probably seen it on somebody else’s rod project. The buildup starts out with high hopes and big dreams, but they come crashing to earth when the cost of restoring and modifying old, original tin rapidly spirals upward. Or even if your street rod project uses late-model components, things just don’t go together as quickly or simply as expected. And so it sits, gathering dust in the garage, awaiting an infusion of time and money.

Whatever the scenario, there are ways to avoid these problems. Drawing on the hard-earned experience of a pro builder, we spent some time with Darryl Nance of D&P Chevy. This company is known for the impressive quality of classic its “Tri-Five” Chevys, but it also builds and restores a number of street rods and muscle cars. So the following tech tips can apply to a wide range of projects, whatever you have in mind.

Since so much of a project car is visual and spatial, it’s simpler to dig into this subject with lots of photos and descriptive captions in order to illustrate most of these hands-on tips from the Nance family and his skilled crew. Obviously, a whole book couldn’t be written on this subject, so we’ve focused on the more typical problems encountered, and how to avoid them on your next project.

Old cars may look cool, but beauty is often only skin deep. Check out the chassis on this ’57 Olds convertible. Not your typical project, so aftermarket resto/mod parts are not in great abundance. Moreover, that frame and suspension setup looks positively primeval, what with two pairs of shocks in the rear, and leaf springs as well to handle all that weight.

D&P wisely convinced the owner of the car to scrap the old framework and underpinnings in favor of a modern chassis from Art Morrison, with stronger boxed frame rails and adjustable coil-overs. With a stiffer frame, the suspension geometry will hold this big boat on course, with no risk of seasickness from excessive body sway.

For reasons of cost, most factory control arms are made of stamped steel. They might have been okay in their day, since we didn’t know any better back then, but tubular control arms, like these from Heidt’s, are lighter and stronger. The also are adjustable in camber and caster for improved handling and tracking. Less weight on control arms also means reduced unsprung weight. And there’s one more reason street rodders prefer tubular arms: they look really bitchin’!

Notice anything different between these two engine installs? Both look pretty clean, with lots of shiny parts, but one is way easier to work on than the other. Keeping your accessory components as far apart as possible really simplifies maintenance chores (and also looks better in large engine bay). Unfortunately, older street rods usually don’t have all that much width in the engine bay, but wherever possible, give those pumps and alternators lots of room to breathe.

If you’ve gotta have a hot mill, then you’ll need a way to keep it running cool. But there’s not always space for a really big radiator. Here’s a few ways to get the most of out of your heat exchanger. Use as efficient a core as possible (four to five rows for copper, 1.5-inch tubes max for aluminum, and baffled tanks). Install dual electric fans with a shroud on the engine side. These items can greatly increase the efficiency of your radiator, and be sure to use the type of coolant specified by the manufacturer.

The owner of this basket-case pickup truck couldn’t be deterred from restoring it. The only point in its favor is that classic trucks are often less expensive at the outset than the more popular car body. But that’s only a small part of the overall expense. Rusty panels like these require many hours of repair and reshaping to become usable, and a good metalworker runs nearly $70 per hour or more. Plan on cost overruns when working with original tin.

Typically a rod builder won’t quote a price without seeing it. Nance says that when somebody says the body has just a few spots, that usually means spots of sheetmetal, and the rest is rust.

Often as not D&P has to fix somebody else’s idea of resto job. On this ’48 Sedan Delivery, it turned out that the rocker panels were rotted, both inside and out. “I have to use media blasting to check out the condition of the sheetmetal,” Nance says. “Especially on any cars from east of the Rockies.” He also recommends hiring a vehicle inspector/appraiser before purchasing any project car, particularly if you can’t see it firsthand. Photos can cover up a multitude of sins.

Even if the sheetmetal has been repaired, that doesn’t mean it has the latest in welding technology. Originally brazing with brass filler was the norm, but that method just doesn’t hold together as well as TIG and MIG welding, which actually penetrate the metal and creates a stronger bond. So if the weld seam has brass in it (look for gold-colored metal), better to redo it before prepping and painting, to prevent the part from busting loose. Another common technique for repairing panel was to use rivets, but the filler surrounding them tends to absorb moisture and create an uneven surface. Replace those rivets with a fresh, clean weld.

Swapping out those old leaf springs or coil and shock setups for a modern coil-over really makes a difference in the ride. Not only does it let you adjust the ride height for either a lowered show stance or a more road clearance, you’ll find the handling is usually better as well, especially if you plan on doing any dragstrip runs. However, if you’re just cruisin’ in your rod, coil-overs can feel bit stiff, so air bags might be a better way to go.

If the main rails of the frame are still good, consider adding just a front clip or stub frame instead. The advantages of this approach include not only saving money, but also makes it easier to change the engine mounts for a different type of powerplant. In this case, a ’57 Chevy pickup is now outfitted with a LS-1. The stub frame also makes it easier to modernize the suspension with late-model components.

Most older cars used for street rod projects have questionable wiring at best. Not only is the voltage often too low (six instead of 12 volts), there usually isn’t a fuse panel. Nance also says that in order to prevent short circuits, don’t take any shortcuts (As an example, he admits to frying a harness once when he tried to fix the dash clock without disconnecting the battery.) For a new harness, he recommends using American Auto Wire, which makes aftermarket wiring kits.

A good chrome job is a cool thing to have on a street rod, but there are a few things to keep in mind before sending of those old bumpers for replating. First you’ll need to figure out which pieces are worth saving, by a careful inspection, both inside and out. In addition to any dents or dings, look for corrosion and poor welds. Minor pitting on the surface is not usually a problem, but if rust is starting to eat away at the metal, the part may need to be replaced. The problem is that if the metal is too thin, during grinding and polishing the friction produces heat that can distort the surface and create ripples.

If the base metal is pitted it must be welded up or ground down until smooth. Chrome does not act as a filler material and even tiny pits or scratches will be visible through the new plating job. Do the buffing and repair work yourself, and you will save money at the platers. Much like a paint shop, the cost of materials is small compared to the labor involved.

With a hotter mill under the hood, you need some insulation against heat and sound. Not only will foil-backed foam keep things cozier in the cockpit, it can also cut down on road noise and give your rod that vault-like quality and quietness. Nance recommends using as much high-quality insulation as possible. He feels the spray-on stuff can be a problem if you need to go back in and do a repair.

While street rodding is all about personal expression and doing things your way, Nance tempers that with the following advice: “If you choose a rare, low-production design, one that doesn’t have many resto or aftermarket replacement parts, be prepared for a lot more challenges.” (That’s a polite way of saying that if you dare to be different, you can expect some extra headaches and expenses.)

Another point he makes when starting a project is to start with a clear concept. “A rendering of what you have in mind really helps,” he says. “Try to avoid making changes in midstream, because re-doing work really adds to the time and cost of the build.”

Your planning should include a general timeline with “milestones,” and also a realistic budget, so you don’t get upside down in the project, spending more money on a car than it will ever be worth.

Speaking of value, Nance also says to make sure the car is adequately insured with a reputable company that’s familiar with issues involving classic cars. As one example, Ford Heacock of Parish Heacock (which insures classic cars and street rods) points out that adding a rod to a family auto insurance policy can be a costly mistake in two ways: One, since most auto-insurance companies don’t know what to charge for a street rod, they’ll put your car in the highest rate category. Secondly, if the rod is damaged, it’ll be treated like any other commuter vehicle when it comes to repairs. Do you want Earl Scheib to mend that $10,000 paint job?


SOURCE:


D&P Classic Chevy
8331 Enterprise Lane
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
714/375-0889
www.dpchevy.com




Framing Your Objective

Old cars may look cool, but beauty is often only skin deep. Check out the chassis on this ’57 Olds convertible. Not your typical project, so aftermarket resto/mod parts are not in great abundance. Moreover, that frame and suspension setup looks positively primeval, what with two pairs of shocks in the rear, and leaf springs as well to handle all that weight.



D&P wisely convinced the owner of the car to scrap the old framework and underpinnings in favor of a modern chassis from Art Morrison, with stronger boxed frame rails and adjustable coil-overs. With a stiffer frame, the suspension geometry will hold this big boat on course, with no risk of seasickness from excessive body sway.


Arms Control

For reasons of cost, most factory control arms are made of stamped steel. They might have been okay in their day, since we didn’t know any better back then, but tubular control arms, like these from Heidt’s, are lighter and stronger. The also are adjustable in camber and caster for improved handling and tracking. Less weight on control arms also means reduced unsprung weight. And there’s one more reason street rodders prefer tubular arms: they look really bitchin’!


Access to Accessories


Notice anything different between these two engine installs? Both look pretty clean, with lots of shiny parts, but one is way easier to work on than the other. Keeping your accessory components as far apart as possible really simplifies maintenance chores (and also looks better in large engine bay). Unfortunately, older street rods usually don’t have all that much width in the engine bay, but wherever possible, give those pumps and alternators lots of room to breathe.


Cool, Dude

If you’ve gotta have a hot mill, then you’ll need a way to keep it running cool. But there’s not always space for a really big radiator. Here’s a few ways to get the most of out of your heat exchanger. Use as efficient a core as possible (four to five rows for copper, 1.5-inch tubes max for aluminum, and baffled tanks). Install dual electric fans with a shroud on the engine side. These items can greatly increase the efficiency of your radiator, and be sure to use the type of coolant specified by the manufacturer.


Corrosion Complications



The owner of this basket-case pickup truck couldn’t be deterred from restoring it. The only point in its favor is that classic trucks are often less expensive at the outset than the more popular car body. But that’s only a small part of the overall expense. Rusty panels like these require many hours of repair and reshaping to become usable, and a good metalworker runs nearly $70 per hour or more. Plan on cost overruns when working with original tin.

Typically a rod builder won’t quote a price without seeing it. Nance says that when somebody says the body has just a few spots, that usually means spots of sheetmetal, and the rest is rust.


Surprise, Surprise


Often as not D&P has to fix somebody else’s idea of resto job. On this ’48 Sedan Delivery, it turned out that the rocker panels were rotted, both inside and out. “I have to use media blasting to check out the condition of the sheetmetal,” Nance says. “Especially on any cars from east of the Rockies.” He also recommends hiring a vehicle inspector/appraiser before purchasing any project car, particularly if you can’t see it firsthand. Photos can cover up a multitude of sins.


Old-School Welding


Even if the sheetmetal has been repaired, that doesn’t mean it has the latest in welding technology. Originally brazing with brass filler was the norm, but that method just doesn’t hold together as well as TIG and MIG welding, which actually penetrate the metal and creates a stronger bond. So if the weld seam has brass in it (look for gold-colored metal), better to redo it before prepping and painting, to prevent the part from busting loose. Another common technique for repairing panel was to use rivets, but the filler surrounding them tends to absorb moisture and create an uneven surface. Replace those rivets with a fresh, clean weld.

Shocking Developments

Swapping out those old leaf springs or coil and shock setups for a modern coil-over really makes a difference in the ride. Not only does it let you adjust the ride height for either a lowered show stance or a more road clearance, you’ll find the handling is usually better as well, especially if you plan on doing any dragstrip runs. However, if you’re just cruisin’ in your rod, coil-overs can feel bit stiff, so air bags might be a better way to go.


Getting Clipped


If the main rails of the frame are still good, consider adding just a front clip or stub frame instead. The advantages of this approach include not only saving money, but also makes it easier to change the engine mounts for a different type of powerplant. In this case, a ’57 Chevy pickup is now outfitted with a LS-1. The stub frame also makes it easier to modernize the suspension with late-model components.


Wiring Woes

Most older cars used for street rod projects have questionable wiring at best. Not only is the voltage often too low (six instead of 12 volts), there usually isn’t a fuse panel. Nance also says that in order to prevent short circuits, don’t take any shortcuts (As an example, he admits to frying a harness once when he tried to fix the dash clock without disconnecting the battery.) For a new harness, he recommends using American Auto Wire, which makes aftermarket wiring kits.


Super Shine

A good chrome job is a cool thing to have on a street rod, but there are a few things to keep in mind before sending of those old bumpers for replating. First you’ll need to figure out which pieces are worth saving, by a careful inspection, both inside and out. In addition to any dents or dings, look for corrosion and poor welds. Minor pitting on the surface is not usually a problem, but if rust is starting to eat away at the metal, the part may need to be replaced. The problem is that if the metal is too thin, during grinding and polishing the friction produces heat that can distort the surface and create ripples.

If the base metal is pitted it must be welded up or ground down until smooth. Chrome does not act as a filler material and even tiny pits or scratches will be visible through the new plating job. Do the buffing and repair work yourself, and you will save money at the platers. Much like a paint shop, the cost of materials is small compared to the labor involved.


Cover Me

With a hotter mill under the hood, you need some insulation against heat and sound. Not only will foil-backed foam keep things cozier in the cockpit, it can also cut down on road noise and give your rod that vault-like quality and quietness. Nance recommends using as much high-quality insulation as possible. He feels the spray-on stuff can be a problem if you need to go back in and do a repair.


OffBeat Buildups

While street rodding is all about personal expression and doing things your way, Nance tempers that with the following advice: “If you choose a rare, low-production design, one that doesn’t have many resto or aftermarket replacement parts, be prepared for a lot more challenges.” (That’s a polite way of saying that if you dare to be different, you can expect some extra headaches and expenses.)

Another point he makes when starting a project is to start with a clear concept. “A rendering of what you have in mind really helps,” he says. “Try to avoid making changes in midstream, because re-doing work really adds to the time and cost of the build.”

Your planning should include a general timeline with “milestones,” and also a realistic budget, so you don’t get upside down in the project, spending more money on a car than it will ever be worth.

Speaking of value, Nance also says to make sure the car is adequately insured with a reputable company that’s familiar with issues involving classic cars. As one example, Ford Heacock of Parish Heacock (which insures classic cars and street rods) points out that adding a rod to a family auto insurance policy can be a costly mistake in two ways: One, since most auto-insurance companies don’t know what to charge for a street rod, they’ll put your car in the highest rate category. Secondly, if the rod is damaged, it’ll be treated like any other commuter vehicle when it comes to repairs. Do you want Earl Scheib to mend that $10,000 paint job?

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