Thursday, February 4, 2010

Throwing in the grease-stained White Towel

After almost a year, I've come to realize that the, what, 7? 8?  Weekends I've spent "working" on this car have amounted to squat.  I have more tools now, which is good.  But the car?  It's sitting next to a friend's barn, doing nothing but staining his soil while I pretend like I'm going to work on it.

It was a nice idea.  I just don't have even remotely enough expertise, the right tools (welder, hello), nor am I obviously willing to invest the time to A) Learn, and B) Do.  I'm not stupid- however, I AM ignorant.  And ignorant don't fix the car.

So...goodbye '56.   I hope you go on to somebody who knows their gasket from a hole in the ground.

It's for sale.  Goodnight Gracie.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Where's There's Movement, There May Be Life

Well, the engine "turns", as in- that big friggin' socket that fits the big friggin' bolt on the flywheel got the crankshaft to crank. It's not frozen up anymore; guess Marvel Mystery Oil and kerosene do the trick.

I've been working on small stuff, trying to get at least something going. Cut out the driver's side floorboard, wire-brushed and then Rustoleum'ed the fan, the fan-pulley-thingy, took apart the water pump (god what a mess), and worked on derusting some chrome.

Yup- Coca-Cola (the fully leaded type) and aluminum foil do a bang-up job getting rust off chrome. Doesn't do squat for the pitting...but nothing does squat for the pitting other than grinding and rechroming. I'm, uh...not up for that. Yet.

Pics are in the camera, at home, not at this computer, so that's all for now.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On the radio (that a Philco tube could pick up!)

Log on here:, and look for the "1956 Plymouth" podcasts.

The guy I talked to on that show, Rick Hunter, was super uber-cool and easy to talk to. He's part of "Hot Rod Express" south of here (online at Rick was very helpful with info, plus his website gives me hope- or at least, goals.

Note: I LOVE the H.A.M.B. at Talk about giving me hope for this basketcase I bought. There are posts from guys who bought basically wads of metal that were once cars.

The H.A.M.B. makes me feel that maybe, just maybe, I can make this mess live.

Floor Pan Blues, and Locked Engine Hijinx

Not much to update here. I was going to create floorpan templates by fitting cardboard to the floorpans.

So, as I was cleaning out the rust powder and mouse/rat poop from the inside of the car, a lot of the floorpan noise reducer/heat shield vulanized (??) rubber goo popped off the floorboards. I tapped it with the plastic end of a hose for a small shop vac. The goo broke apart...and holes APPEARED in the floor pans. Yup, that goo was holding it together. Jeebus please us.

So, I sucked up what I could, then started with the cardboard. What a joke. There are parts under the steering column that are cut and bolted that are NOT just a single sheet. There are several sheets. That floorboard is several different parts. I would have to do the cardboard in ways that overlaps, blah blah blah.

Screw that.

So, I'll be taking my two sheets of steel up to the car shortly, along with a new angle-grinder with a cutting wheel (or three), and I'll cut out what's left of the old floor pans and use them as templates. Do it on site. Not try to fabricate at my house and HOPE they fit when I get them to the car.

Also, I took out the radiator- which still had water in it! It was green, too- not full of rust. Sweet. Then, I checked the fan/water pump. It spins freely. The generator: it spins freely.

The engine? No, not so much. So, after coming home, I bought a 1 & 3/4 inch socket to help turn the motor. My friend Jon, his dad Don (the pater familias gearheadicus of their family) has a breaker bar that fits the 3/4 inch drive hole on the socket. We'll see if the motor will at least turn a little. Preferably, a lot.

If the motor has no future, then the car may not. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Life from the Bench(seat)

So, to at least have done SOMETHING for The Beast, I took a beautiful Sunday afternoon to do 2 things:

1. Make a test-cover for the front seat bench.
2. Remove the nastiness from the back of the bench and get the metal painted.

I got 1 done, and 2 1/2 done.

I used the old seat cover as a template. This is "all" there is to the seat part. It's 5 pieces- the butt section, the part on the rear that goes under the upright part of the seat, and the vinyl that goes all the way around it.

I measured each piece. The vinyl, and the part that goes under the uprights, were really easy to calculate- include the extra 1/2 inch all the way around for the hem/fold. The butt section isn't as easy, because it's all curvy. I don't do curves. So I traced it.

I cut out the pieces from cloth from leftover projects on other stuff, and voila! It fit. Sorry- I don't have a picture of the "finished" version. I forgot to take one, to be honest. That's all right- it was ugly. I'll take taht version apart again, and use it as the template for when I buy the 20 dollars per yard cloth, the foam rubber, and make real seat cushions and pads.

Now, the upright part of the bench. Uhm....eeeeew.

Sure, it looks kind of innocent here, doesn't it? Just old. Stained. Smelly. With hole from, oh, a howitzer shell hit. Maybe a .50 caliber hit it once. Au contraire. I think I smell a rat. For real.

Yup, mighty mouse took up house in the upright part of the seat- you can see the foyer on the far end, leading to a stunning entry hall that steps down- a la a rodentified version of Frank Loyd Wright- into a lower living quarter, also known as the entire bottom of the springs section.

Swine flu? Not for me buddy. Just a great opportunity for hantavirus.


Oh yuck.

Did I mention...yuck.

So I got all this cleaned out, took the springs off, and voila- just a rusty frame to sand a bit.

This was the easy part. As you can see, most of the rust was down around the floorboard. You know, the floorboard that's mostly ferrous oxide now held together by the grace of God and the goo of whatever lived in The Beast for a while.

All that stuff you see on that white table, by the way? Mouse turds.

No wonder my garage was smelling "less than fresh" recently.

So I sanded it, though some of the rust had made the metal kind of lumpy. Used the wet/dry vac to first suck off the dust and the mouse housing still in the tube part of the frame, then shaker-canned it flat black using Krylon paint that converts rust into, uh...not-rust.

I have no clue what I'll use to replace this padding. It was ticking covered with a soft/sparse canvas or cheesecloth. I can do foam rubber, but I'm wondering if I need to encase the foam rubber in cheesecloth/canvas so that it doesn't get rubbed too much and start deteriorating. A question for the folks at Midwest Upholstery. Or maybe the really nice guy at Hot Rod Express.
So, not too thrilling, but my garage smells less bad, and at least I've done something for the car...considering I haven't been out to the Beast in several weeks. I'm a bad car dad.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Much Ado About (accomplishing) Nothing

On Saturday, 4/11, I went up to Jon's to do some more voodoo on the car. What I wanted to get done: remove all the front chrome, pull out the spark plugs, pour in the Marvel Mystery Oil and kerosene.

What I got done: uhhhhh...the oil/kerosene thing.

As for the chrome...can I tell ya right here and in no uncertain terms that I am not nor never will be a friend to rust? Grrrrr.

Let's start with actually doing something. The engine is currently siezed; after investigating recommendations for how to unsieze it, the winner came out to be a mix of Marvel Mystery Oil and kerosene. Note: one suggestion was Coca-Cola. And that came from a pro; not his own suggestion, mind you, but something some of his mechanic friends have used. I decided negatory on the Coke, because I'm on a diet. :) So I dumped in the two bottles of MMO, with a kerosene chaser. The MMO did most of the filling. The kerosene ended up mostly going into the manifold (from the engine block) and from there drizzling on the ground. Ah-ha. The exhaust pipe is rusted too. Super duper.

Next, as the drizzly goo began its weeks-long journey of wonders through my engine block, I began to work on getting the chrome off the grill. This is NOT like my old '55 Plymouth. Nope, they added all kinds of new screws for that jet-age 1956 styling.

Two screws are behind the handle-bar part of the front grill moustache. They go right into the fender well, where the back nut lives. The fender well is a wide open well; there's no protective anything to keep the mud, water, road salt, road kill, all of it from accumulating on the actual metal of the fender, and ergo, on that nut.

Did I MENTION I don't like RUST?

Sure enough, my poor dilapidated baby's nuts were rusted pretty good. Never thought I'd write THAT in a complete sentence. I used liquid wrench- but the nut is screwed on a bolt that's got a nut-like head that's welded to a flat little metal tablet onto which no friggin' vice grip/monkey wrench/protestant prayer will find purchase. So, they just spin until I get dizzy and want to puke. Or curse. Or both.

As you can see, SOME bolts came out easy- like the ones connecting the middle-grill brace to the radiator wall. Easy, that one. The other two in the fender wells NEVER came out. I'll have to cut'em like Mick. Make my Rocky Savoy bleed to win the fight. Or something.

I did end up taking out the passenger side chrome and headlight. Wanted to see the top of that @#$@% bolt, plus take at least ONE piece of chrome home. Success, beeeeeyotch. Lame, but I'll take it.

So, my goggle-eyed rusted hulk sits uncovered in the rain now. Even the tarp I bought failed me (curse you Wally-World!). I'll have to shell out the 40 bucks for a decently sized cheapie to cover The Beast.

Un autre note: many thanks to Rick Hunter at Hot Rods Express for some valuable insight, and some invaluable "sure, you can do that". He's seen cars with less metal than mine brought back to life. Listen for him on KMBZ's "Rides that Rock" series. You'll also hear me on it, asking him about floor pans and siezed engines and interiors. I should have asked him about common sense...but we ran out of time. ;) You'll find his stuff at

As a consolation prize for my almost total lack of useful accomplishment on Saturday, I screwed around with one of my car pics in photoshop. This was a success.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Lies Beneath...your tuchas.

Since the rain/snow keeps cyclically dumping on us, I've started some of the work at home instead of out on the car. When it's rainy, The Beast sits in a sea of mud. Good sticky farm mud. QUALITY mud, I'm tellin' ya. I ain't complaining; if it weren't for the kindness of Jon, this car wouldn't be mine. However, the weather has been uncooperative, and since I can't find a virgin in Johnson County to sacrifice to the gods...I'll make do elsewise.

In the comfort of my driveway and garage, I peeled the front seat cushion to begin the process of reupholstery.

There were actually 2 seat covers on it (on all the seats, for that matter); apparently an owner sometime in the past had already had the seats done. It was an inexpensive job. Might have been one of the model-specific packages that apparently used to be available through Monkey Ward.

I dug down to this...

Isn't it beautiful?...

Kind of makes you wonder....what did the original owner do to make that kind of...uh...damage, right there in the...uh...emplacement du buttocks? Eh well- it's history.

The orangy foam rubber was now foam plaster of paris. It crumbled easily, with lots of orange dust. Yes, I wore an airmask to keep from breathing that crap. Surprisingly, the (straw? coconut husk?) fiber mat under the orange goo was in great shape.

The "F" is for front, "B" is for back, lest I forget. Which I will. Ask my wife about my memory.

Also, as Jon had predicted- the springs are salvageable. Sure, they're rusty here and there, but not rusted through. I'll find a can (or 10) of that rust-stopping paint, and wail on this thing.
As for the seat cover, I've saved it as a pattern. Yup, I'll be cutting and sewing my own. That's part of the "fun" of this- being as creative and cost-saving as possible. It won't be mint, it won't be perfect...but it'll be mine. Kind of like they way Jon will be able to look at my engine and either say "Mine," or perhaps "No Way In Hell." S'all good.
OH- a gold mine of help and information for redoing just about everything is at They have what they call the "Hokey Ass Message Board", or H.A.M.B. Lots of people who've rebuilt worse disasters than this, from folks who like it mint to drag racers to hot rods to rat rods and every wild-painted chop-shopped low-ridin' design in between. Plus a classified section for parts. I visit there frequently now, for inspiration, hope, and advice.
Shopping list: rust-stopping paint, heavy-duty foam rubber, and upholstery cloth that's on sale. Rock on roll.