Wow, after nearly 20 months in the making the truck is suddenly done!
Rudy & Jasper at Fullerton Fabrication made a final push to get the pickup ready for the Grand National Roadster show & it made it's public debut at the end of January.
Since the show, I spent about two weeks driving the truck & shaking it down. Needed to make a final list of tweaks & requests for Rudy to call the truck done-done. I've driven it about 200 miles & amazingly enough, there's very little on the checklist. It really is remarkable that a truck built from the ground-up has so little in the way of adjustments needed. Hats off to Fullerton Fabrication, this build turned out to be completely turn key upon delivery.
Just dropped the truck off to Rudy yesterday & I hope to have it back in two weeks for good.
Thanks for following along with this build thread & your support. Been an amazing journey & I'm already planning the next build for Fullerton Fabrication (don't tell my wife).
Final assembly has begun. Killer to see the body back on the frame again. Rudy & Jasper at Fullerton Fabrication are pouring it on now to get the truck ready for it's official debut at the Grand National Roadster Show at the end of January.
To all the frequent visitors, sorry for the lack of updates. The past five or six weeks the cab & bed have been in Riverside getting the full treatment of bodywork & paint. I'm told that's a pretty quick turnaround for a project like this but admittedly, this seemed like an eternity where we've made seemingly little progress on the build. Once I got a chance to see the end result however, I couldn't be more pleased. Good things come to those who wait.
Special thanks for "Merc John" who handled all the bodywork and custom paint. Also to Rudy Rodriguez yet again for persuading me to spend extra time & money on a proper paint job. In the end, this little truck is turning out much nicer than I ever expected it would.
Here's a little photo essay of the various steps the build went through before arriving at the end result.
It's been ages since I've provided an update. Rest assured, progress continues.
The last couple weeks Fullerton Fabrication has been finishing off the last of the rust repair on the cab. More recently, the cab and bed were sent off to be body worked and painted.
Next update should come in about two weeks time when final assembly begins.
Progress is a bit slow at the moment while we wait for the distributor & radiator to come back from being reconditioned. Additionally, it looks like we're going to need to put a stall converter on the transmission & change the gears on the rear end. Better now while the cab & bed are off the truck I guess.
In the meantime, Rudy has installed a new linkage on the carbs as well as the fuel lines. Looks good.
With all of the major fabrication work complete we recently turned our attention to taking the whole truck apart for paint, powder coating & chrome. Fast forward a couple weeks & parts have come back surprisingly fast. Fullerton Fabrication has begun final assembly. We're getting close to having a driver!
Hey everyone, sorry for the lack of updates. About a week back the truck got completely taken apart so that various parts could be sent to the powdercoater, chrome shop & various mechanics. Should have a rebuilt radiator, new distributor & shiny odds & ends soon for the final assembly. Will be another quiet week or so - perhaps by next weekend the chassis will be reassembled for the final time.
Wanted to send a special thanks out to Buena Park Chrome for doing such a nice job on the first batch of parts Rudy sent over.
Most of the engine pieces are done but I still have a few odds & ends from the suspension to send over. Really nice work, I couldn't be happier with the end result.
Like most things on this project, I find the chrome process fascinating.
A week or two ago I promised a look at the near final engine. This 1949 mill has turned out real nice in my opinion. So nice, that I'd like to think GM's then chief engineer Charles Kettering would have been proud.
If you'd like a refresher on why I chose the Rocket engine, be sure to check out my earlier post.
Without further ado, here's an update on my hopped up engine.
I don't have a time for a full update today but you can expect something more substantial next week. The engine assembly is nearing completion & I'll be posting some great pictures of the end result (spoiler: it looks amazing). For now, how about a few pics of the odds & ends that have been getting attention over the last two months?
Seems every little detail of this truck requires fabrication in one way or another. If it were easy, everyone would be building one.
Though I'm going to run a 1949 Oldsmobile 303 engine I don't want to run the stock valve covers on it. They're really cool looking but you can buy replicas to run on your small block Chevy & I want to install something that has an authentic look. So, in steps a set of vintage 1953 Oldmobile Rocket valve covers.
Regardless, I need to install some sort of spacer between the heads & the valve covers. I'm running a big Clay Smith cam in this engine & the adjustable rockers would bang up against the inside of the stock covers.
Whenever there's a problem, Fullerton Fabrication seems to have the solution.
Be sure to check out the July issue of Rod & Custom magazine. There's a nice write up in there on the radical firewall that Fullerton Fabrication installed.
UPDATED: Here's a link to the article in case you can't get your hands on the July issue.
I haven't posted many updates these past couple weeks as the car took a bit of a fieldtrip over to Circle City Hot Rods in Orange California. Shop founder Jimmy White was kind enough to fit the truck in to fabricate exhaust headers and it turned out great in my opinion. It was nice to meet another hot rodder who's also a genuinely good guy.
What's that saying? If at first you don't succeed, try & try again? Seems that's been the story of finding the right grille for this project.
In earlier posts you'll recall that we initially tried a 1935 Ford grille on the truck. Problem was it made the front of the truck feel too stubby. Then I picked up at 1934 for a classic look. It fit the truck pretty well but to really take it to the next level a 1933 Ford grille would be the ultimate choice. Problem is, those grilles can set you back $2,000+ on any given day & I've been unwilling to pay that much.
After a year of eBay searches though I did find a '33 grille for a reasonable price. Seems it was affordable because it was painted & you just never know what things look like once that paint is stripped off. Still, it looked straight enough so I gave it a shot.
Good news is the '33 is straight & servicable given a little TLC to address the rust issues.
Better news, I don't have to buy any more grilles. I've gotten sick of the pricey things sitting around the garage. Off to a new home via eBay for the '34 & '35 grilles.
Progress update from Fullerton Fabrication.
With renewed focus on finishing the major fabrication work Rudy has been getting the dash sorted out.
At one point early in the project I had considered using restored 1935 Ford gauges but Rudy suggested period correct Stewart-Warner gauges. I think it was a much better idea. Check out some pics...
Coming soon, progress on the floor and transmission tunnel.
During the first month & a half of 2014 progress has been slow. I needed a bit of time off from the project & Rudy's been focusing on other customer builds in the meantime. Good news though, we're back at it on the '35 with the goal of finishing all the remaining fabrication in the next six to ten weeks.
Before the break Rudy was able to get the steering sorted out. Here's a couple pics of the unique setup.
When choosing carburetors it only made sense to select something of similar vintage to pair with the Edelbrock manifold. Why Stromberg 97's? Along with being one of the more nostalgic choices for a modern day hot rodder they also lend themselves to multi-carb setups. Interesting fact - according to Rod & Custom Magazine, when Vic Edelbrock started manufacturing aftermarket speed equipment in the early '40s his first product was the 180-degree "Slingshot" manifold, built for dual 97s.
In choosing headlights for this project we eventually turned to vintage Guide headlamps. These OE replacements were a popular choice in the 1950's largely due to the fact that the parking/clearance light could be converted to a turn signal. For that same reason, the Guide 682C's are a sensible choice today.
Trivia of note - Guide was one of the first companies to produce electric headlamps in 1908. They also introduced the first dual-filament high/low beam headlight (1924) & the first autotronic headlight dimmers. Guide introduced the sealed beam headlight in 1940.
Early on in this project Rudy & I had a conversation about grille selection. Now-a-days everyone runs a 1933 or 1934 Ford grille it seems, and with good reason - they look awesome! To me, a '33 Ford grille screams "hot rod" nearly as loudly as chrome hairpins do but the problem is, a vintage '33 grille in good shape will set you back about $2,000.
I scoured eBay for a month or so looking for a '33 or '34 grille & wasn't having much luck. Around this time I found a nice 1935 Ford passenger grille in good condition & I bought it. Imagine Rudy's surprise when I showed up at Fullerton Fabrication & explained that the '35 grille might be preferable to the '33 or '34 given this is a 1935 Ford pickup build. Rudy agreed in principle, we stored the grille upstairs for another day & moved onto other projects.
Only recently did Rudy & I talk about the grille again. Neither he nor I have seen a '35 grille on this style of truck before & we agreed it might be neat to give the project some unique character. As Rudy noted, "it'll be hero or zero" and the modifications began.
Though Rudy has only completed the preliminary fabrication work, in my humble opinion the results thus far look awesome. By the time Rudy is done this grille will look like it came from the factory purpose built for this truck. My hope is that people will see the grille in its finished form, stop & look at the subtle modifications & appreciate the craftsmanship that has gone into its design.
As noted previously, the engine mock-up highlighted two problems. First, shoehorning the Oldsmobile Rocket mill into the shortened wheelbase meant that two of the four carburetors failed to clear the cowl, & second, the steering column failed to clear the engine. More on the steering workaround in a future post. Today, I wanted to highlight some of the work that's gone into modifying the cowl for the carbs.
As usual, Rudy & Jasper down at Fullerton Fabrication have done some amazing work not only making everything fit but doing so in an aesthetically pleasing manner (read: the intake is looking completely wicked).
Yup, looking more like a proper hot rod each day.
With the chop & channel completed its time to begin mock up of the engine & transmission.
Since the engine will be in & out of the truck a number of times while the motor mounts are sorted, Fullerton Fabrication mocked up my junk Oldsmobile 371 motor as a placeholder for the Rocket 303 I'm in the process of restoring (no sense banging the final engine up). With the intake manifold & carbs in place we not only get a feel for the engine height & overall aesthetics but also identify any unforeseen problems.
Compared to small block Chevys & Ford Flatheads people normally use in this style of truck the thing that's immediately apparent is that the Olds Rocket is a BIG engine. So big in fact that only two of the four carbs fit under the cowl & the steering column is intersecting the engine's heads. Though we weren't anticipating these minor hurdles Rudy already has a backup plan & he's beginning to make the necessary modifications.
All said and done it looks really great in my humble opinion. I like the way the Rocket completely fills the engine bay & the choice of four two-barrel carbs on top should make quite a statement.
I've learned over the past couple weeks that mocking the project up can be a both exciting & confusing stage of the build. One one hand you have the frame, cab & bed all tacked together & you get a good feel for what the truck is turning out like. On the other hand, the mockup can be misleading. It's natural to conclude that the truck is nearly done when in fact a bunch of hard work is only just beginning.
For example, setting the cab on the frame is a far cry from completing the channel job properly. Chopping the roof doesn't mean there still isn't a ton of work left to do to finish the doors & chop the windshield.
Long story short, Rudy has worked his ass off in October getting the chop & channel finished - & finished properly I might add. As I'm finding is typical with Rudy's work he doesn't cut corners, and while the results mean this truck will look like it rolled off a Ford production line this way, attention to detail doesn't come overnight.
The hard work has paid off though & the chop & channel are finally complete. Not only that, but the firewall has been cut out & the steering column has been installed.
It's been nice to get the truck off jack stands. The project looks downright nasty when the tires hit the pavement & you get a feel for the slammed profile & killer rake.
In case you're wondering about the lack of updates recently, things are still progressing quite nicely. That said, the build is in one of those periods where there just isn't a lot of new stuff to show. Since Rudy & I reviewed the mockup of the cab, bed & frame he moved onto a couple other clients hot rods in the shop. While it'd be cool to have my '35 be the only thing Fullerton Fabrication worked on day in and day out I don't think my checkbook could support that kind of ongoing effort. The wife is quite certain it wouldn't.
After a short hiatus Rudy & Jasper are back to the pickup & work continues on completing the channel. From there, they'll likely finish off the doors & windshield before moving onto the engine & transmission mockup & firewall modifications.
On another note, I just visited L&R Engine and the '49 Olds motor is coming along quite nicely. Not a lot of interesting pics to show though I did find the crankshaft balancing process fascinating.
I realize the majority of this site's audience doesn't get nearly as excited as I do over valve cover selection or glass pack mufflers. To many, I'm sure this project has more closely resembled a random pile of parts than a hot rod. I have some good news though loyal readers - the '35 is finally starting to look like a truck!
Check out the recent progress at Fullerton Fabrication. Rudy has nearly finished the chop (doors & windshield still to be completed) & we just reviewed the final mock-up of the channel.
Man, this truck is looking radical. Stance & rake are as aggressive as I envisioned & the overall proportions are perfect (a common failing of this build style). I couldn't be happier to hit this milestone.
Yup, it's been a while since I provided a proper update. With luck this post will more than make up for it. Grab a coffee, this one might take a few minutes. You've been warned.
I took a lot of pictures of recent progress as in my opinion chopping a roof is one of those old school art forms that sets vintage speedsters apart from their modern day counterparts. Chopping a roof with this many angles is complicated for Rudy, but for me it's been a rewarding couple weeks as I've watched the transformation from vintage farm truck to radical hot rod. Rudy and his son Jasper made quick work of the task & their experience with this sort of thing is worth every penny. Seriously, I don't know how people tackle this sort of thing in their home garage & still get half decent results.
Stay tuned, in the coming week I should have some new shots of the cab as it's recently been channeled & mounted on the frame. It's starting to feel like a real hot rod rather than a collection of parts.
My apologies to those of you who've been checking in for an update. I'll admit, the new posts have been slow coming since Rudy started working on the chop. Even though I have some great pictures of the progress I'm hesitant to post them until the work is completed. Should be another week or so but rest assured, Fullerton Fabrication is cranking away.
Speaking of cranks, here's a shot of mine from the '49 Oldsmobile Rocket over at L&R Engine in Santa Fe Springs. For whatever reason I thought this was a really cool pic.
One of the more common questions people ask about the build is, “When will it be done?”
It’s tricky to answer. There’s no schedule we’re working toward but I’d say the project is steaming along nicely. Having started in April with a bare frame we’ve already got a rolling chassis, the pickup bed is modified & the machine work on the engine should be done in a few weeks. In absence of a hard deadline I figure the truck will be roadworthy by the end of this year & mostly finished by Spring of 2014 if we maintain current pace.
So what’s next?
Starting in September Rudy at Fullerton Fabrication is moving onto one of the more interesting & time consuming (read: expensive) steps of the project – chopping & channeling the cab.
“Chopping the top" goes back to the early days of hot rodding and is an attempt to reduce the frontal profile of a car and increase its speed potential. To chop a roof, the pillars and windows are cut down, lowering the overall roofline. Some racers on the dry lakes chopped the tops of their cars so severely the windows were only a few inches tall. These were sometimes referred to as "mail slot" windows.
To channel a car the body is lowered over the frame by removing the floor and refastening it higher inside the body, causing the body to rest closer to the ground without altering the suspension. The overall effect is to give the car's body a more massive appearance. Each automobile would have its own engineering challenges as far as modifying the various components of the chassis.
As the chop & channel approaches Rudy & I have been discussing how to handle the process as economically as possible. The original cab I bought in April has no floor & the back of the cab was cut as a result of an earlier channel job. It has some dents to be hammered out, most of the interior accessories are missing & when Rudy starts the chop he’s going to need a few extra inches of roof & drip channel (not easy to come by). All this can be handled one way or the other but fabrication hours & replacement parts get expensive.
We decided that buying an additional 1935 Ford cab might make sense as the missing pieces it’d provide might potentially be cheaper than fabrication. So, out comes the checkbook & in comes ‘35 Ford #2 that I recently located in West Virginia. Two cabs are better than one? Sorta makes sense – or at least as much as the rest of this project does.
The previous owner had cab #2 in his shop for the past ten years as the foundation of his own hot rod project that never commenced (happens all too much). After getting it shipped out here in a 53’ freightliner I have a new toy.
Like most vintage steel the second cab is rough around the edges. Still, Rudy & I agree this one’s in good enough shape to become the primary cab that’ll be chopped & channeled.
More updates on the chop & channel soon, but for now – pics…
I wanted to provide a brief engine update. The Olds 303 is over at L&R Engine & is progressing quite nicely. A handful of parts needed to be located but we're full steam ahead with new pistons, push rods, bearings & a freshly ground cam. Looks like it'll be bored 0.080 over which leaves some room for another rebuild down the road if so desired (can bore these stout Rocket engines up to 0.125). All said and done this 303 should be good for about 324ci. All the major work should be completed in about three weeks time.
When someone decides to build a hot rod a major thing that's often taken for granted is the time spent finding & restoring vintage parts. In the case of this build, I'm using pre-1955 parts wherever possible & that means I spend a ton of time online doing research & a bunch more scouring eBay and Craigslist for desirable parts.
When Rudy & I initially discussed this build we decided that the 1940 Ford bed was the one we were after. A 1935 would have made more sense with the overall build theme but we both felt the side & tailgate styling was more interesting on the '40 as opposed to 1935 or '37 options. As mentioned in a previous post, the early Ford pickups were mainly used as commercial vehicles & the beds you find today are in pretty rough shape. It's not easy to find Henry Ford steel in decent shape but fortunately one of Rudy's connections had a '40 bed. For sale, yes. Decent shape? I think that's debatable.
Rudy told me not to worry though & just like always he & Jasper are doing fine work on the restoration. Sure, it'd probably be easier to buy a remanufactured bed from the Mac's catalog (and cheaper) but what fun would that be?
I never expected that we'd have a rolling chassis so quickly but honestly things are moving along at a pretty good clip down at Fullerton Fabrication.
I just visited the shop & was pleased to see that we've hit a major miletone. The suspension is all mocked up & you can steer the chassis around the garage. More work to be done such as shortening the rear of the frame & installing the shocks, but still, this is a really nice change from seeing the frame up on sawhorses these past months.
Starting to feel like a hod rod!
From previous posts you'll recall I've been really particular about engine selection for this build. After evaluating all the options I chose the Oldsmobile Rocket which led to the larger problem of finding a 60 year old motor in good enough shape to restore. The first engine candidate didn't work out so well but fortunately, another was located.
Perserverance paid off & the chosen powerplant will be a 303 cubic-inch 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket.
I'm really stoked to have this motor not only because it fits into my overall build theme but also due to the significance of the '49 Rocket 303.
After it's introduction in 1932 the Ford Flathead dominated (some argue facilitated) the hot rod scene. It was the rodders engine of choice until 1949 when Oldsmobile & Cadillac launched the first OHV production V8's. Given their modern engineering & 35% greater horsepower over the Flathead, the introduction of the Olds Rocket signaled the end of the venerable Ford motor. The Rocket engines went on to build a reputation for an excellent power-to-weight ratio, fuel economy & smooth, strong, reliable running.
Long story short, I'm looking forward to dropping this historic engine into my '35 Ford pickup.
As for the specifics of this engine build, I'm aiming for a traditional restoration with mild performance upgrades. It's already sporting 1957 Olds 371 heads & the camshaft will be ground in the coming weeks. The resulting stroker motor will produce more horsepower but we'll still optimize it for torque over top speed.
How about some pics?
With much of the front end frame modifications complete Rudy turned his attention to the rear of the pickup. To achieve the super-slammed look we're after the frame needs to be notched to accomodate rear suspension travel. Looks pretty awesome. Another step toward getting the project on its wheels in the next month or so.
An Oldsmobile 371 was recently located & it seemed to be a promising engine candidate. After tearing it down though we found that a couple cylinders in the block were compromised & needed to be sleeved. We discussed repair but further inspection of the block showed cracks that ruled this one out as a viable powerplant.
I'm not too torn up over this one to be honest. The Olds 371 was produced between 1957 & 1960 and while I would have fudged my build guidelines in exchange for more horsepower, I think I'll be happiest with a Rocket 303 or 324 in this build. The early Olds engines produced between 1949 & 1956 will be period correct & still offer a measurable horsepower increase over a stock Ford Flathead.
Seems everyone nowadays is putting blackwall tires on their rides. I could probably get away with that & still be period correct but I'll be honest; they just don't speak to me. A week after giving Coker Tires a call I've taken delivery of a fresh set of Firestone Deluxe Champion whitewalls. These will look beefier once they're mounted and inflated. Admit it; these already look awesome fresh off the delivery truck.
Take it from me, choosing an engine for a hot rod is more difficult than one might imagine. I suppose this doesn't have to be the case as anyone can drop a small block Chevy crate motor onto a frame & end up with an inexpensive & reliable mill with modern performance. That said, I decided not to take the easy way out with this decision.
For me, the engine choice is far too important. The chosen power plant will be the heart of the performance, the center of attention given the open engine bay & validate the overall theme of the build.
If you reference the build theme bullet-points in an earlier post you'll quickly agree that a Chevy crate engine isn't the right choice. A sensible compromise perhaps, but I'd hate myself for doing it.
After ruling out the crate motor I've examined a couple of vintage options. I won't bore you with my list of pros and cons of each, but suffice to say I thought very seriously about the Ford Flathead, Buick Nailhead, DeSoto Firedome & Cadillac 331. Each would have been awesome choices in their own way, but I ultimately ruled each out for one reason or another.
Which leads to my answer for the engine question...
The Oldsmobile "Rocket" engine makes sense for a couple reasons, not the least of which is that it was a common choice for a hot rodder in 1955.
After the difficult job of choosing an engine its time to turn attention toward an even more difficult task - finding a serviceable 60 year old motor to restore.