After work and on many weekends, Mr. Bryant can be found in his garage. He is super comfy there, and has a big project that gives him great pleasure and takes his mind off any stresses from the week. What is that project? Rebuilding an old pick up truck.
Mr. Bryant and the Old Truck
I asked him some questions to understand what is going on, what he is thinking, and to get some real details about this effort. Press on, dear reader, to learn something Very Different from other information on this blog - something quite creative, surprisingly complex, and fascinating.
1) What was the inspiration to do the truck?
To be honest this started with wanting to build a purpose-built track car from a 1932 Ford (small block V8 powered, full roll cage, trick suspension, huge brakes, something that would be one of the fastest cars out there). The 32 Ford parts were so expensive that plan was abandoned.
The basis was to have a unique one-of-a-kind cool vehicle (“hot rod”). Something old and simple as well. Since classic car prices are outrageous (not just 32’s), it led to classic trucks, which are relatively a bargain. Specific inspiration was a 1955 Ford truck Dad had and a 66 or so Ford truck my brother Lannie had when I was a kid. A kicker was the truck Clint Eastwood drove in those “Every which way but loose” movies (1955 Chevy). I googled pictures of old trucks and decided I liked the 58-59 Chevys.
A '59 Chevy Truck2) Exactly what make and model is it again?
It is a 1959 Chevrolet 3100 (1/2 ton) Apache Fleetside Big Window Shortbed. It was manufactured in Atlanta, the original color was “Dawn Blue” (light blue) and it had a 6 cylinder motor and 3 speed column mounted transmission. The 6 cylinder blew up on the previous owner, who started a 283 V8 and Powerglide transmission upgrade, but lost interest due to heart trouble. I found the truck in Belton, SC, loaded it on the trailer and pulled it home. I didn’t even ask for the keys…
Mr. Martin and the old blue truck, Feb 2007
The Blue Truck Arrives at Home
And has to be pushed into the garage
3) What are the biggest parts of the project?
The most important part of the project is the design phase. What do you want it to look like when it is done? That drives a lot of what happens after that. Second thing is gaining the overall knowledge about the project. I had to learn and re-evaluate what I got after I hauled it home. At first I was going to use what was there, but decided that with the uncertainty of the running gear, I could be throwing good money and time at a fundamentally flawed infrastructure. Everything I have seen so far has supported that I would have been. As I have disassembled the truck, I found things that were flawed at each step on the way. For example, the cab and bed were not even well bolted to the frame. The original suspension, steering, and braking system was archaic and would be borderline dangerous in modern traffic. The engine and transmission, if they had worked at all, would have been gas hogs.
Removing the "front clip"
This has led me to basically re-building from “scratch”, and putting on all new mechanical components. This is referred to as “frame-off” (I am taking the body off the frame), or taking the vehicle completely apart down to fundamental components. So I have removed: bumpers, the front “clip” (grill, grill support, inner and outer front fenders, and hood—all the body work in front of the cab) front suspension, steering gear, brake system, hood, engine, transmission, cab, and bed. What is left is the bare frame (and rear axle), and a bunch of parts.
"Front clip" removed, 283 engine
I decided to modernize the mechanical systems (called “resto-mod”) rather than replace with new original systems (“restoration”). The first part of this is upgrading the front suspension for handling (steering and braking). This results in totally replacement of the original front axle with a modern independent front suspension, which includes new power-assist rack and pinion steering and power assist disc brakes. Part of doing this is customizing the frame itself, including how the engine and transmission will mount to the frame, which will be completely re-done. The engine/transmission must be hard-mounted such that the original radiator mounting is used (since the bodywork alignment is dependent on the radiator core mount). The engine fan must be the right distance from the radiator, and not interfere with the new steering shaft, or the new brake system (mounted under the cab). The engine can’t hit the cowl of the cab, and the exhaust can’t hit the frame or brake master cylinder. Also, the engine and transmission angle must align properly with the differential and rear axle.
This brings me to the rear suspension which is my current design project. Part of this, strangely enough, is re-doing the fuel system. Originally, the gas tank is mounted inside the cab. This results in gas fumes and lack of passenger room, and some people (mostly smokers) think there is a safety issue. So I am re-locating a new gas tank under the bed of the truck and making a completely new fuel system (tank, pump, filter, fuel lines). Two factors can determine where the gas tank will go—the crossmembers of the frame and the fill spout for the gas tank itself.
Esthetically I want the gas fill to be on the driver’s side behind a fill door. Such things do not exist in the original bed, so I will have to cut a hole in the side of the bed and weld in such a fill door, making sure the fill neck of the gas tank matches. The real problem is the original crossmembers, which are in position to support the rear suspension (leaf spring mounts), but are too close together (or far apart, depending on your “frame” of reference) for a gas tank. Not to complicate things, but the crossmembers also are not in a good position to put a K-member or X-member on the original frame itself. (A K or X-member is modern structurally brace which prevents the frame from excessive torsional flexing.) So removing the original crossmembers on the frame will allow for a new gas tank and X-member. However, that negates the crossmember support for the original Hotchkiss-designed live axle rear suspension. So I am currently designing a custom built 4-link rear suspension that I will build myself. The kits on the market not sturdy (designed for “hot rod” trucks that don’t haul or tow stuff) and are expensive. This new rear suspension will allow for both updating the frame with an X-member and a under the bed gas tank.
Once the frame is refurbished, the following mechanical systems can be added to it: braking system, fuel system, electrical system (includes a chassis wiring harness (for lighting) and an engine and transmission control computer and wiring), drivetrain (engine, transmission, rear drive axle).
Add new wheels and tires, then the body components (bed, cab, front clip) can be put back on. Unfortunately some structural work will have to be done (bed floor and cross sills and cab floor and door hinges) to these before putting back on. After that, we drive it. (That's where I come in. :)
I will continue the Recycle and Reuse theme next Tursday, with Mr. Bryant's Project - Overview, Part Two