'Bolters helping 'Bolters is a beautiful thing!
1938 Chevy with a Corvette Upgrade
This is my first attempt at building a hot rod. Before you start a project, you need to know the following: :
My first thought for this project was to run open wheel but the sheetmetal on the truck was too good to have the fenders and running boards in storage. I had been wanting to build a rod for quite a while before I came across a '38 Chevy pickup on the 'Net.
I was originally searching for a '39 or '40 Chevy, but the advert mentioned California -- I thought the truck was there. Turns out the truck was located just outside London.
The first problem was that three vehicles don't fit in a two-car garage. So out with the '71 'Vette (which was to become a donor for the project) and in with the '38. De-construction could begin.
My plans now were to run with the fenders and running boards, the rebuilt small block from the 'Vette, 700r4 overdrive transmission, independent front suspension, disc brakes all round, power steering, and Corvette IRS -- keeping the truck traditional looking with original features where possible.
The first step was to disassemble the truck and remove the original leaf spring suspension. This was easily done except for a few seized nuts and bolts. The suspension components are attached by cast brackets and rivets ... a lot of rivets.
I drilled the heads off the rivets and punched the body of the rivet through. This took a lot longer than I had bargained for. I was going to be left with a lot of holes in the chassis.
To keep track of the holes for reassembly, I marked them with paint.
I made a few calls in relation to the front suspension and decided to order from FAT MAN in the States. I ordered a kit for the '38 with stainless arms, coilover shocks, power steering, disc brakes based on a Mustang II with uprated brakes and two-inch drop spindles.
I had no problems dealing with FAT MAN -- the parts arrived promptly. The kit lowered the front of the truck 4", changing the original 27" wheels for 26" wheels lowered it 1/2" and the drop spindles lowered it 2" for a total of 6 1/2".
Before I could weld in the kit, I had to make a jig to hold the chassis. The floor in my garage is very straight and level. I bolted three sheets of 3/4 MDF to the floor. I drew a centreline down the middle then sat the frame on timber tressels. When I had the whole thing centred on the centreline, I bolted the tressels to the floor and I bolted the chassis to the tressels at ride height. Things were looking good.
<< click on images for larger view >>
I re-assembled the truck on the chassis fitting the fenders to determine where the wheels would look best in the fender wells. I marked the axle centreline on the floor and, using simple geometry on the floor and transferring the lines up on the chassis using a level, I was on my way.
I disassembled the truck again. I took the cab off again and made a simple timber dolly to mount the cab on. There were some cracks in the floor of the cab so I made the dolly to carry the cab in two positions -- normal and nose down so I could repair the floor. I used four front wheels from two wheelchairs that came my way.
I repaired the floor of the cab, ground off the old plates and welded in more substantial ones. I also made up some new oak mounting blocks which were wider than the originals. I also intend using rubber under the cab in an effort to reduced vibration. Bolted the cab back on and refitted the doors, everything lined up and the doors closed very well. That was one job done.
Boxing The Frame
Anywhere I needed, I welded captive nuts to the inside of the frame. I made templates from 1/8" plywood and cut them with a jigsaw. Then I transferred the sizes onto 1/8" steel plate and cut them out with a jigsaw, with a hacksaw blade fitted. My Makita jigsaw will cut 1/4" plate no problem, just take your time and lubricate the blade occasionally.
I used 1/2" round bar to cut spacers, each 1 7/8" long and welded these to the inside of the frame. These kept the boxing plates straight and parallel. I spot welded the boxing plates at 3" intervals. The boxing plates were made in 3 sections each side.
UPS arrived with eight boxes from FATMAN -- my front suspensions had arrived! I made a cradle out of 4 x 2 to hold the cross member with adjustable legs so I could hold it in position to weld it. Using the axle centrelines and the chassis centrelines, it was easy to locate the crossmember which was quiet heavy. We welded what was easy to get at and would finish welding it when we could flip the frame upside down.
The setup that arrived was front steer rack and pin -- that is the rack mounts on the front of the crossmember. I had to trim the original crossmember to make room for the steering rack, but 90% of it still remains. The rad mounts to the original crossmember so it was important to leave as much strength in it as possible.
I made up a jig to hold the plates for the front coilovers while they were being welded. The instructions were very clear and easy to follow but the plates had to be trimmed slightly to fit the chassis.
With everything checked and double checked, we tack welded the plates in place. Checked again and then welded the whole lot, alternating from side to side and taking plenty of breaks so as not to overheat the pieces. When it was cooled we removed the jig and everything was A OK.
I had been giving the gearbox a lot of thought. I originally intended using the Muncie out of the 'Vette but an auto / overdrive was starting to make sense. If the Corvette was doing 14 miles to the gallon on a good day, the same engine gearbox combination was going to drink petrol in something with the aerodynamics of a brick! My C5 with a four speed overdrive often achieves over 30 miles to the gallon. With the price of petrol going through the roof, I decided on a 700R4 overdrive box from Gearstar in the States, uprated to 450 bhp, incase I ever up-rated to a 383 stroker. Gearstar was great to deal with and thanks to Patrick who rebuilt the gearbox. The box arrived promptly in a crate and came with a 3 year warranty.
To be continued ...
If you want to go directly to Chris' site, check this out.
I don't suffer from Stovebolt insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.