Saturday, December 3, 2016

Parts Coming and Going

My new friend Jim took the Bel Air engine to its new home in New York last Saturday. It was a pleasure chatting and doing business with him. Loved hearing about his sizable collection of vehicles and various projects. He checked out the '49 chassis while he was here, then emailed on Sunday to say he wants that too. Figured I better get busy removing the body, and managed to get the front clip off the truck today. It was easier than I thought and not difficult to move. The bed and hopefully the cab will come off tomorrow, along with the bumpers and brackets.

When the Fed Ex man rolled into the driveway while I was wrenching today, I figured it was something for Meg. I certainly wasn't expecting the S10 parts I ordered from Rock Auto on Thursday night with the cheapest shipping option, but there they were. I'd call that pretty good service! It was a welcome surprise that added a nice touch to the day.

No luck yet finding a temporary indoor space to pull the S10 body parts (which will be sold - they're in great shape) and get the chassis cleaned up for the swap. I guess I could put it here with the '49 chassis out of the way, but I'd really rather not have to count on good weather to be able to get work done. Maybe Santa will finally bring me that garage I've been asking for every year... ;-)

Thanks for stopping by! See y'all down the road!


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bel Air Engine Goes Down the Road

The '53 Bel Air engine has been sold and will be picked up today, as preparation for the chassis swap continues. Some have expressed concern that swapping in the '91 S10 chassis will devalue the truck. I would agree if we were talking about an all original '49, but this is not the case. Mine wasn't even original when my brother bought it in Missouri and drove it home to Connecticut in 1981. The original blue had been painted over, it was on its second engine and Pete swapped in a different '49 chassis that was in better shape.

For as long as I live the truck will never be for sale for any price anyway. The real value for me is in the story, and how it's all dedicated to Mom's memory. When the swap is done we'll have a comfortable, dependable driver that will get me not only down to the Sycamore and other nearby events with ease, but also across the country and back, allowing me to cross the epic road trip off the top of my bucket list.

Looking forward to working with and learning from Jason Woodage at Custom Conversions in New Milford, as we write the next chapter in the history of this old beauty.

Thanks for stopping by! See y'all down the road!


Monday, October 31, 2016

Dream Trip First Look

Time and circumstances will tell whether or not it actually happens, but I figured I better start planning just in case. So let it henceforth be remembered that on Halloween 2016, the overgrown boy posted a rough draft of the epic, top of the bucket list road trip he hopes to take in the old truck in the summer of 2018. I'm thinking Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, CT would make a good starting point...

(click photo for larger version)

Some of the numbers you see are just waypoints to mark the route, but there are several that do actually mark planned stops. There will certainly be more added before the route is final, but for now here we go... #2 is Sawdust, Tennessee, where the fine folks at Possum Holler Garage have provided immeasurable inspiration for my truck project with perfect restorations of trucks like mine. #3 is East Adams Street in Chicago, where Historic Route 66 begins. The Mother Road was decommissioned as a highway in the 80's, but about 85% of the route remains driveable. This trip will follow it from beginning to end. Along the way, stop #7 is the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Definitely gonna bust out the spray paint and leave my mark there.

Slight detour northward for #9, Grand Canyon. Flew over it once and was blown away. Can't imagine what it will be like standing on the rim...

#12 is the Santa Monica Pier, where the trip west will be complete and we'll splash the truck with Pacific Ocean water. Then it's a short run south to Huntington Beach for #13, a stop at Foose Design and hopefully a meet and greet with Chip Foose (who you may know from the show Overhaulin'), another huge inspiration for the old truck dream.

A cruise up the Pacific Coast Highway is next, with a right turn at San Francisco to start headin' back east... #14 is Kindig It Design in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Dave Kindig and his crew have been doing killer custom and restoration work for a long time. Their show on Velocity is called Bitchin' Rides, and every one they do fits the show name perfectly. Hope to meet Dave as well, another huge inspiration.

#15 is Eagle, Colorado, where my friends Bob and Laura live. I've been saying for a long time that one day my truck will sit in their driveway and we'll do some cruisin' through the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Really looking forward to that.

#16 is the big one, and the whole reason I want this trip to happen in 2018. The goal is to roll into our 50th family reunion that August in New Matamoras, Ohio, finally returning my '49 Chevy to the place where I saw it for the very first time in the summer of 1981.

I certainly understand that the whole thing represents a pretty tall order, but I figure screw it, if you're gonna dream you might as well dream big. It won't be the end of the world if it doesn't happen, but it will mean the world if it does. And it will all be for Mom. If you're not familiar with the whole story, please check out the link to it on the right of the page here.

Thanks for stopping by! See y'all down the road!


Friday, October 28, 2016

Still Looking for Space

I might be eating cheese and peanut butter crackers for lunch for a few weeks, but when my part time radio station pay hits the bank on Monday, I'll have the money to pay for the '91 S10 and actually take it into my possession. This is a very solid, running, driving truck - a pretty amazing find, actually - and a perfect candidate for the chassis swap. There will be some fabrication involved to make it all work, but we will basically be simply swapping out the S10 body and replacing it with the '49 body on the S10 chassis. This will give us the modern suspension, power steering, power brakes, 5 speed manual transmission and highway friendly gearing we've been looking for all in one shot. The cost of adding all those things piece by piece to the existing chassis would easily run into the thousands, several multiples of what I'll be paying for the S10. The existing V6 will supply the power while I save up for the 350 that will eventually replace it. It's a fantastic deal, and I'm thankful for the patience of Joe, the current owner, while I raised the money to complete it.

The problem now, however, is I have no place to put the S10. We have no garage here at the house, and already two extra vehicles in the driveway. No room. I've been cruising the classifieds, making calls and sending messages trying to find either an enclosed spot with enough room to remove the S10 body and clean up the chassis, or simply store the truck safely outside while I continue the search. And of course the fact that this is a low budget show doesn't help.

If you happen to be local to the Danbury, CT area and know of something around here that might work, please feel free to contact me directly anytime via the email link on the right side of this page.

Thanks! See y'all down the road!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Slight Change in Direction

Thanks to an exciting and unexpected opportunity, I've decided to alter the approach of the GoFundMe campaign. Those who have been to the page previously will notice that the goal amount has been drastically reduced. This is mainly because I have managed to acquire a running, driving 1991 Chevy S10 at a very reasonable cost. Those familiar with late 40's - early 50's GM truck projects like mine will know that the chassis of this S10 is really what we're after, and it is in fantastic shape. Having all the necessary parts already in place (5 speed manual transmission, drive shaft, rear end, and modern suspension front and rear) greatly reduces overall project cost.

The S10 wheelbase is the same as the existing '49 chassis, so with some minor fabrication we will be able to simply remove the 90's truck body and replace it with the '49. When the chassis swap is finished the truck will look exactly the same as it does today.

We'll still need a complete interior (including all gauges, heat, & ac) rewiring from end to end and a complete rebuild of the planned 350 GM engine that will get us across the country and back (which currently sits in pieces on a shelf at Custom Conversions in New Milford, CT). I will be able to do some of the work myself, but most will be well beyond my skill level, so labor costs will be significant. And of course there's also the overall expense of the trip itself. I'm fairly sure 10k will cover it all. If not, I suppose we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

I have to say that I struggled with the idea of a chassis swap for a long time, because it obviously removes a major part of the truck that I fell in love with 35 years ago. But the natural way this opportunity presented itself leads me to believe that Mom would approve. Those familiar with the story of this truck in our family know that the project and road trip dream have always been a tribute to her memory.

If you're not familiar with the full story, please visit the GoFundMe page to read it in its entirety. And of course if you would like to help the cause with a contribution or a simple share of the GoFundMe link I would truly appreciate it. Please feel free to email me directly anytime via the link on the right here with any questions.

Thanks very much and we'll see y'all down the road!


Monday, September 26, 2016

Johnny's Carburetor Lesson

And the education continues... This weekend I learned that the carburetor should remain upright at all times while detached from the motor. Because mine didn't after I picked it up from being rebuilt on Friday, the needle that controls fuel flow into the carb became dislodged and it was literally overflowing. Thankfully, Jason from Custom Conversions in New Milford (who rebuilt the carb) was able to stop by and help us out. I'm sure it's the last place his wife and son wanted to be while they were out and about on Saturday, and I'm very appreciative of their patience while Jason took the time to figure out our problem.

So the carburetor is now good to go, but we also discovered this weekend that the water pump is definitely bad. It had been leaking when we first got the new motor running and I was hoping the new gasket install would do the trick, but the leak is still there. Ordered up the new pump, which should be here by Thursday or Friday. Hopefully we'll be taking a drive next weekend, as we welcome in October.

Thanks for stopping by! See y'all down the road!


Sunday, September 4, 2016

When Problems Lead to a Good Day

I really wanted to hit the last cruise of the season at the Sycamore yesterday, but it wasn't in the cards. Would have been nice, but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things that we couldn't get there.

As she sat yesterday morning

Here's the upside: The issue that revealed itself on Friday may be keeping us off the road just a little longer, but it led to a great new connection yesterday. Funny how these things happen...

Rob came over on Friday, we got the linkage figured out after a little trial and error, and now she shifts like butter. The problem comes when we get to 3rd gear. The motor bogs down big time, like we're not getting enough gas and she's getting ready to stall. Also seemed to be running rough, like the timing is off. Of course, my limited mechanical knowledge had me scratching my head, not sure what to do next.

A couple hours later, my better half and I are out having dinner and watching friends play music when I get a text from Rob. He explained the issue to a custom/restoration/repair pro he knows, whose shop just happens to be a mile or so down the road. He agreed to take a look, and I figured even if I've only got two gears that will get me there and back, so off I went yesterday morning.

Jason was speaking with a client when I walked into his shop, so I took a couple minutes to enjoy the scenery. Among the projects he has going are a '69 Firebird, an early Mustang coupe he's turning into a fastback, and a gorgeous '40 Chevy truck. The high quality of his work was evident immediately. I knew right away that beyond taking care of my current issue, he will be working on my truck whenever I can spare the cha-ching. As everyone with a project like mine knows, there's always something to be done.

Jason spent probably a half hour with me, going over the truck and making recommendations. Biggest thing is a carb rebuild, which makes sense because the engine sat for so long. As he explained, things go bad with long periods of inactivity. Jason will do the rebuild, which is above my skill level. He also pointed out some things that I can handle myself, like different plugs, new gaskets for the water pump and thermostat and changing to the 40-50 weight oil that these engines originally ran on, with a zinc additive.

For those who do social media, here is the Facebook page for Jason's business. Check out the pics, give the page a like and share with friends. It's good stuff!

And for the old schoolers, here's the business card:

For the record, these mentions of Jason's business are completely unsolicited by him. I just think he's a nice guy who does great work that more people should know about. Looking forward to working with him. Can't believe I've lived in this town for 16 years and just met him yesterday!

Now, about that ride home...

Everything was fine until I came to our hill. About a third of the way up, the engine sputtered to a stop like she was out of gas and wouldn't restart. Managed to roll backwards into someone's driveway, got going back down the hill and popped the clutch to get it running again. Since both ends of our hill connect to the lake road, I figured I'd try the other side, which isn't quite as steep. On the way there she stalled again, on another slight uphill. Wasn't looking good for the other side, but got running again and tried anyway. Same result. Then it hit me: What about going up in reverse? So there I was with the truck, exactly as it appears in the picture above, going up Carmen Hill in reverse. It seemed to be working and I was pretty proud of myself, until she quit again. Luckily, a nice stranger named Joe rolled up just then in his truck, and got me the last half mile or so home with the heavy duty chain he happened to have with him. Pretty cool that he just happens to be another Steelers fan. Thanks again, Joe!

Now sitting on the level driveway, the truck started up again and got parked. I figured that was enough excitement for one day. It may not have been perfect, but ultimately it was a good one.

Thanks for stopping by. See y'all down the road!


Monday, August 29, 2016

Sweet Redemption

When I knew we'd be making the attempt on Sunday, I decided that it would be a great subject for my first ever Facebook live video. For the sake of authenticity, I also decided that there would be no test fire before we went live. Good or bad, I wanted my friends to experience it with me. Thankfully, aside from a manifold exhaust leak, a missing accelerator spring that caused the engine to fire up wide open and a whacked out shifter, the end result was good. We'll get those issues fixed and be on the road this week.

This project has always been a tribute to Mom, and I'm sure she was smiling.

Thanks for stopping by. See y'all down the road!


Friday, August 26, 2016

New Power in Place

It took a lot of trying, but we finally got the new engine in place yesterday. Many thanks to my friend and coworker Rob for his invaluable help. Now we just need to get everything reconnected and hopefully we'll be firing up the '53 Bel Air motor this weekend.

And the story continues...

Thanks for stopping by! See y'all down the road!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Engine Free

Got the old motor pulled yesterday. Today I'll clean up the engine bay and start the process of swapping our existing transmission, bell housing and flywheel to the new 235. We'll be going with a new clutch, pressure plate and throwout bearing, and I'll have the flywheel resurfaced before it goes in.

Empty engine bay waiting for a cleaning

New engine ('53) is actually older than the old one ('61)

Hoping to have the new engine in place by the end of the day tomorrow, then off to Ohio for our 48th family reunion this weekend. Doing the epic road trip and having this thing at the 50th in two years would be another dream come true...

Thanks for stopping. See y'all down the road!


Sunday, August 7, 2016

New Power in the House

As a friend said the other day, "Wow! That was fast." Indeed. I got very lucky and found a great replacement engine almost immediately, which is now sitting next to the truck waiting to be installed. Hopefully we'll at least have 'er in place before I head out to Ohio for next weekend's family reunion. It's a Chevy 235, just like the engine that's coming out, only it's a few years older, from a car, is in much better shape and has its own great story.

Upon reading about my engine trouble in a Facebook group for '47-'54 GM truck enthusiasts, my new friend Matt commented about having a good 235 for sale. We started messaging back and forth, spoke on the phone in the middle of the week, and today I made the hour drive and purchased the motor.

The car is a 1953 Chevy Bel Air that has spent most of its life to this point in New York City, including many years just sitting in a parking garage. After the owner passed away, a maintenance man did the research and tracked down the family. They live far away and were not interested in the car, so they just signed it over to him. He got it running and was trying to sell it when he saw Matt's Ford Ranger pickup and loved it. They ended up doing a straight swap, Matt drove the car for a bit and it ran great, but he decided he wanted more power and pulled the 235 in favor of a V8, which he is currently building.

I'm not sure of the exact elapsed time, but this is pretty much where I come in. In the midst of our messaging, Matt says the odometer reads 110030, then quickly adds that "The 0 is the tenths, so 11,003 miles."

Yup. A 1953 engine with 11,000 miles on it, at a very fair price, and some nice little extras thrown in. The decision was easy. We'll have to swap in my bell housing, flywheel and clutch, but thankfully Chevy made the parts interchangeable, so it should be a fairly smooth swap-in. Looking forward to that first fire-up.

Donor '53 Bel Air in the parking garage where it sat for years

Bel Air motor came home with me this morning

Sitting next to the truck waiting to supply the power

And now we're that much closer.

Thanks for stopping. See y'all down the road!


Monday, August 1, 2016

Six Cylinder Paperweight

I'm certainly no trained mechanic, but even I could tell that what I saw when I pulled the head off the engine on Saturday wasn't good. And when the actual mechanic I bought the new transmission from came by to take a look yesterday, the worst was confirmed.

Don leaned over the radiator, took one look at the exposed pistons and immediately said "Yeah, you're gonna have to pull this engine completely."

Two of those pistons are cracked, with the tiny hex nut that got inside spread across the entire top of one of them like a pancake. That piston is also at the top of the cylinder, so we can't see the wall to see if it's scored. A full rebuild might be possible, but the cost would be pushing a couple grand, which is far beyond my budget. And to be honest, I'm not sure that completely rebuilding a 55 year old engine makes sense anyway. Maybe, if you have the original engine and you're restoring the truck to 100% original. This engine is not the original one from this truck, so even if I could afford it I don't think we'd do it.

Yeah, not lookin' good

And at least a couple bent valves in the head

A lot of old cars and trucks have been parked for decades for far smaller problems, but believe me when I tell you that this truck will not sit for long. This project has come too far and means too much to me to let that happen. By late yesterday afternoon I had two possible replacement engines lined up, both of which are within easy driving distance and within my budget. Just waiting for some details on both and we'll make a decision. In the meantime I'll get the engine bay cleaned up and maybe we'll end up leaving the hood open like everyone else on cruise night... ;-)

Thanks for stopping. We WILL see y'all down the road!


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Engine Trouble

I can hear all the more experienced gear heads groaning in unison now, and I will readily accept every ounce of scorn and ridicule. I should have known better.

It was a seemingly simple little task, but because I wasn't as careful as I should have been it could end up keeping the truck off the road for a long time. While trying to tighten up the the loose air cleaner stud, the nut that had been holding it in place fell into the carburetor. I removed the top of the carb in an effort to retrieve it, but it was nowhere to be found. I hoped that it was sitting harmlessly where I simply couldn't see it, but the sound of the previously very smooth running engine has proven otherwise. I'm not a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination, but even I can tell that this could be disastrous.

To make matters worse, I've got the Saginaw 4 speed transmission, a new shifter and a new clutch package all ready to go at considerable expense for the planned drivetrain upgrade. Of course, it's all wasted if I've destroyed this engine. At the very least, if it's fixable, the cost of doing so will delay the drivetrain upgrade until next year's tax refund comes around. If it's not fixable, looks like I'm pretty much out of luck unless some lottery numbers come in.

Thanks for stopping. See y'all down the road (hopefully)...


Saturday, July 16, 2016

New Drivetrain Coming Together

I figured finding a decent 4 speed manual transmission would be easier than my fruitless search for an 80's S10 five speed, but I didn't expect it to happen quite so fast. I started looking, fairly quickly came up with a Saginaw 4 speed from the New Haven area Craigslist and was messaging back and forth with the seller. Not far from us, easy drive to go pick it up. I was close to making an offer when I decided to do one more quick search Monday afternoon, just to see if anything else had become available. Sure enough, posted about two hours before my search, there was a Saginaw just up the road right here in New Milford. Twenty-four hours later I was on the way home with it, crossing a major piece of the drivetrain puzzle off the shopping list.

A new clutch package is now in house as well. The Saginaw will bolt right up to the existing bell housing and work with the existing clutch, which has been working fine, but is 35-plus years old. Replacing it was really a no-brainer. A used Hurst-style shifter and all the connecting bits are also on the way, which leaves us needing only a driveshaft to complete the puzzle.

There will be maybe a couple weeks of down time because Alex is always busy with other projects, but I'm sure the wait will be quite worth it. Stay tuned...

The 70's Saginaw 4 speed that will soon be movin' us along

Thanks for stopping. See y'all down the road!

If you like it, I hope you'll also consider donating whatever
you would pay for a similar short story. Thank you!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Still On the Back Roads - For Now

I've said it before and I'll say it again: If there's one thing you can absolutely count on with projects like this, it's that things will never go as you plan them. We started out this year with plans for a total drivetrain upgrade, to make the truck more highway friendly and finally give us five lugs all the way around (the front disc brake kit has been in place since before we took the first drive last year). Unfortunately, it turned out that the centerpiece, the transmission we had an amazing deal on, was not the T-5 we needed and wouldn't work. I searched extensively online and made many calls to junkyards and used parts dealers, but nobody could even locate the T-5 we needed. You can find them on eBay, but not within my tight budget, with which we also have to consider the rear end, new driveshaft, additional parts to complete the swap and labor. This old amateur can help, but I wouldn't be able to do it myself.

A new 3.55 ring and pinion kit for the existing rear end would have gotten us up to a good highway cruising speed, but I think that $400 to $450 would be much better spent on a decent transmission, especially when we already have a complete Firebird rear end available with 3.55 gears that measures up perfectly for my truck. And as it turns out, that decent transmission might still be within reach. As I continued my research and sought advice from other '47 to '54 GM truck owners online, I learned that almost any GM 4 speed transmission from the mid 50's to 1987 will also bolt right up to the existing bell housing on our 235 straight 6 motor. Those would certainly be more plentiful and less expensive than the '82 to '87 5 speed S10 tranny I had been looking for. I don't mind giving up the overdrive if it means I'll be able to hop on the highway when I need to without feeling like I'm in the way.

It might take a little longer than anticipated to put all the planned drivetrain pieces together, but the wait will ultimately be nothing compared to the 34 years I waited to drive this truck. And until it happens, I'll still have a blast taking the back way to cruise night and enjoying the scenery on my Sunday drives...

Thanks for stopping. See y'all down the road!

If you like it, I hope you'll also consider donating
whatever you would pay for a similar short story. Thank you!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Saturday in the Life

Perfect driving weather yesterday. After a quick run down the hill to gas up and grab some feed for our chickens, it was a 40-45 minute cruise over the back roads to Brewster to say hi to my friend and main mechanical man Alex. I was telling him what a hard time I was having trying to find an 80's S-10 pickup transmission for the planned drivetrain swap, and we talked about possible alternatives to getting 5 lug wheels on the rear and achieving the decent highway cruising speed I want for this old farm truck. Turns out that we can keep the 3 speed transmission and probably just swap in new gears and custom axles for the existing rear end to get where we want to be. He gave me some homework, though. I need to open up that rear end to find out exactly what gears are in there, which will be a little after work project in the coming week. The learning process continues. In the meantime, some photos from yesterday's travels...

Chicken feed stop

Quick Candlewood Lake photo op

Alex had the Firebird out yesterday

Rt. 37 in Sherman, on the way back to New Milford

Saturday fave: John and dad Larry saying hi at the Sycamore

When the sun gets low, almost time to go

All in all, a great Saturday. Thanks for stopping to take a look. See y'all down the road!


Monday, June 20, 2016

A Sunday Drive and the Full Story

I knew when I got out the door with the dogs first thing yesterday morning that it was going to be a gorgeous day for a drive here in Connecticut. Our immediate area has some beautiful scenery, so it's easy to get some nice views without going far from home. Cruised around locally for an hour or so in the morning, then another short drive in the afternoon before heading in for my usual Sunday afternoon shift at the radio station.

roadside stop on Rt 67

quick photo op at the bridge on Rt 133

The search goes on for the transmission we need for the drive train upgrade, and it's proving to be difficult. We need a 5 speed manual (T-5) from an 80's S10 truck, 2 wheel drive, 6 cylinder, with a mechanical speedometer connection. They can be found on eBay but the prices I'm seeing there so far are beyond my budget, especially when shipping and core charges are factored in. I compiled a list of ten different CT used parts sources yesterday, and will be making calls this week.

In the meantime, I've decided to post the full short story - "John's Old Truck - Living the Dream and Honoring Mom" - on a GoFundMe page, to give readers the additional option of donating any amount they like after reading it. The story has been available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords for several months for $2.99. Of course, this new option means some will read it and donate nothing, but that's okay. Hopefully, everyone who sees it will at least be inclined to share. The goal is simply to get the story in front of as many eyes as possible, thereby increasing the chances of reaching the goal of full restoration and the epic cross country road trip that I've been dreaming about since my teen years. What's also very important to me is the preservation of the truck for many generations to come in our family.

As of this posting, the e-book has only sold a few copies. Not a lot of eyes there. I figured giving it away to some in return for the chance of far greater overall distribution would be a good trade-off. As the old saying goes, gotta give something to get something.

Here are the various links for the full short story:


Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble


If you read the story and like it, I really hope you'll share it with friends and family. And as always, please feel free to contact me directly via email anytime if you have any questions.

Thank you! See y'all down the road!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cruisin' and Showin'

I don't take the truck out during the week very often, but Thursday was an exception. Drove it to work in Danbury, then to the Wooster Hollow Diner in Ridgefield to be part of their new Thursday evening cruise. Not a huge turnout (about a dozen), but I think smaller events can provide a better opportunity to connect with other enthusiasts. Instead of wandering around a parking lot packed with classics, you're spending more time chatting and getting the stories behind the rides.

Like the beautiful '70 Olds 442 that I had seen at least a couple times previously at other events. Karen's husband had lovingly restored it for her, with impeccable attention to detail. Sadly, he passed away last year. She now shows it in his honor.

And Tom's '66 Mustang, which he rescued about ten years ago, rebuilt (including a ton of metal work), then rebuilt again after a reckless driver spun him around on the highway and he t-boned a Cadillac.

Everyone has a story, and I love to hear them.

Thursday at Wooster Hollow

Second time out this week came yesterday, with the Steel & Wheels show at the Danbury Railway Museum. It was pretty cool driving in and parking among all the old train cars. A nice variety of gorgeous classic rides as well. My favorite was the '59 Impala. A nice turnout despite the clouds, and we did have a brief shower, but still a great time overall.

My fave from yesterday - '59 Impala

Just hangin' at the train yard

Turns out that the transmission we thought we were going to use is not the right one and won't work, so the search is back on for an 80's S-10 two wheel drive 6 cylinder 5 speed (T-5). Hoping to find one within a reasonable driving distance of the Danbury, CT area. We're doing the rear end/tranny swap to make the truck more highway friendly (right now she struggles to reach 50 mph and screams like crazy at top speed), to enable longer drives and going to events outside our immediate area. Please feel free to email me directly if you have or know of a T-5 that would work for my truck.

Thanks as always for stopping by. See y'all down the road!


Monday, May 30, 2016

Year One on the Road

When we finally got this truck on the road again one year ago today, I hadn't planned for it to coincide with another pretty big anniversary. I just picked a date that I hoped would be good for everyone in the family. I knew the other event happened at some point over the last few days of May, but wasn't sure until I looked at a 1981 calendar on Saturday. Turns out that my first ever drive in the old truck last year and the race of my life 35 years ago happened on the same day. The truck project has always been a tribute to Mom's memory, because we lost her just as the truck was entering the family. And that race 35 years ago today is forever seared in my memory because Mom was there.

Here's an excerpt from "John's Old Truck - Living the Dream and Honoring Mom" (links in sidebar) that details the events of My 30th, 1981:

I will forever be thankful for all the great memories from my 17 years with Mom, but there is one that really stands out. In late May of 1981, she was there to see me run in the 110 meter hurdle final at the Connecticut Class M track meet at Middletown High School. It was a very hot, humid day, the kind of weather that seems to just suck all the energy right out of you. I settled into the blocks for that state championship run and rose to the set position on the starter's command. When the gun went off, it seemed like I had been launched into another dimension. Everything was a blur. The heat and humidity meant nothing. The cheering crowd became a sort of low level hum. My focus could not have been stronger. These days I guess it would be described as being "in the zone." But through it all, clear as a bell three or four hurdles from the finish, I could hear my mother cheering for me. I won that race in 14.7 seconds, a full half second faster than my previous personal best, setting the Bethel High School record that stands to this day. It was without question the greatest athletic achievement of my life, and I'll always be glad that Mom was there to witness it. We lost her three months later.

photo taken by Mom just after the race. I'm in the white shorts

and the fresh 5/30/15 video edit, combining two cameras

The first year on the road has been a total blast. Looking forward to many more, and remembering Mom the whole way...

See y'all down the road!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

More Dreaming on a Rainy Sunday

As regular readers here would guess, I follow several different online sites that feature pictures of old pickups. It's great to see what others do with their projects and I've picked up some great ideas for my own, but the main reason I enjoy looking at all the photos is because I know there's a story behind every single truck. I love to hear these stories. I love to see the patina of a decades old pickup and imagine the original owner driving the shiny new beauty off the showroom floor, where it went, all the different things it's hauled over the years, etc...

Last spring, 34 years after my brother drove it home from Missouri to Connecticut and into our family, I finally lived the dream of driving my truck for the first time. My story is a tribute to Mom, who died tragically while my brother was making his way home with the truck in 1981. It's impossible to look at or think about this old Chevy without also thinking of her.

My mother always loved the idea of an epic road trip, which is something I've also been dreaming about since my teen years. I can recall a specific conversation where she talked about her desire to drive the entire Alaska Highway, and I said how I would totally want to ride along. My dream is a coast to coast run, including Route 66 end to end and rolling into Ohio for our annual family reunion on the way back, where I saw this truck for the first time.

We're obviously a long way from being ready for such a tremendous jaunt, and getting there will not be cheap. As I'm sure all the working people with similar dreams understand, the day job alone won't get it done. So I decided to put my story out there for three bucks a pop, hoping to bring in enough extra cha-ching to make the road trip dream happen. It's definitely a long shot, but the ideal scenario would have it happening in the summer of 2018, with the truck cruising into our 50th family reunion that August.

It's my kind of e-book: A short story with lots of photos. Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. I would be honored and very appreciative if you would like to help this overgrown boy live his dream. And of course please feel free to share with friends... ;-)

Thank you! See y'all down the road!


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Update from the Tranny Back...

Turns out we won't be able to use the S-10 drivetrain in its entirety, since it's too long and the rear end is way too narrow. We will use the transmission and maybe the drive shaft (depending on the cost of cutting it down vs having a new one made), and we still have the '69 Firebird rear end that measures up perfectly. Looking at tweaking the springs as well, to lower the stance slightly - not more than a couple inches. Hoping to have it all wrapped up sometime in the next few weeks.

Feeling a little nostalgic as we approach the one year anniversary of my first ever drive in the dream ride next month. Here's the first photo taken the day we pulled her out of my brother's garage and she became mine...

See y'all down the road!


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Drivetrain Drama

Funny how projects like this can take their little twists and turns. This latest phase started with my desire to swap out the original rear end for one that will get us up to a decent cruising speed on the highway. Could have kept the original and just gone with a new gear kit, but I also want to match up the five lug disc brake kit we already have up front with five lugs in back, and the easiest way to do that is just go with a whole new rear end.

As it turns out, my friend and main mechanical man Alex (the "adult supervision" I often refer to in my online posts and comments) has a '69 Firebird rear end that he thought would work well. I stopped by his place one afternoon to measure it up, then came home to measure the truck. Couldn't believe it when the truck rear end measured up exactly the same - 56" between the backing plates and 42.5" from center to center of the spring mounts. Good to go!


While getting ready to clean up and prep the Firebird rear, which was in pieces, we discovered one of the axles was missing. Alex thought he might have sold it off, but wasn't sure. I made a couple stops on the way home that day and ended up with another friend, Lew, who thought he had a line on a Nova rear end that would work. Just had to wait for his connection to get back to him.

A week or so later, while waiting for word on the Nova, I got a text from Alex:

"Found the other axle."

Suddenly the Firebird rear was back in the mix. I called Lew immediately to let him know so he wouldn't keep searching. Turns out the entire Nova had just been dropped off at his shop and he was getting ready to call me. "No problem," he said. "If anything happens and you end up needing another rear end, it's here. Just come get it." Great big thank you to Lew. Can't say how much I appreciate his willingness to jump right in and lend a hand. Check out his business here. They do pretty much everything, including incredible custom and restoration work.

So we were finally good to go with the Firebird rear end but we also need a drive shaft, because the truck still sports the original enclosed shaft that won't work. And from what I understand there's a way to make the original 3 speed transmission work with this new configuration, but we figured if you're going to swap in a new rear and drive shaft, you might as well also go with a T-5 transmission (5 speed manual) from an 80's S-10, which will bolt right up to our original bell housing. The biggest challenge would be finding a T-5 that wouldn't break my limited bank. As I started my search I discovered this could be a problem. Those things ain't cheap.

After a couple days of searching and wondering, along comes another seemingly magical text from Alex:

"Found your tranny."

"Whaaat?! You did not," I said out loud to myself as I read it.

He remembered that a friend had wrecked his S-10 truck, bought another for parts and is going to make one whole truck out of the two, so he made a call. Sure enough, the friend is willing to sell the spare T-5, drive shaft and rear end. I'm not sure if the whole package will measure up with my truck, but we're going to give it a shot. Worst case, we go with the T-5, the Firebird rear end and different shaft. One way or another, we'll be rockin' 5 on the floor and hittin' the highway with ease this spring.

Here's some great info on the T-5 tranny swap, for any fellow Advance Design Chevy truck owners who might be considering it.

And check out the Facebook page where Alex posts pictures of his projects just for fun.

Grabbed this shot yesterday (3/26/16) after taking some measurements underneath

See y'all down the road!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

2016 First Start

Other than getting the battery cable order reversed (positive should actually go on first and off last), it went well... And the 2016 season has officially begun!

See y'all down the road!


Monday, March 14, 2016

On the Brink of Season #2

We're now less than a week away from Spring 2016, which arrives Sunday at 12:30am, and the preparation continues. The new battery tray is in place on the firewall, and power will be restored in the early hours of the new season on Sunday morning. We're also now sporting new driver's door glass, replacing the 67 year old original, which was inadvertently broken by yours truly last summer. All the original un-tempered glass will be eventually replaced anyway, just did the door a little ahead of schedule...

New battery tray in place

Still waiting on a rear end solution. Due to unforeseen circumstance we won't be able to use Alex's 69 Firebird rear end, but looks like we'll have one from a Camaro or Nova sometime in the next few days. Of course, with the new rear we'll need a new drive shaft and might go with a different transmission as well. Still exploring those options, but to minimize downtime we'll have everything in place before we start with the work.

See y'all down the road!


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Movin' the Power

The battery was easy enough to install in the original location, under the cab on the passenger side. Just dropped it in and hooked it up. The problem came when I tried to remove it for the winter. The space is so tight that I couldn't get my hands around it. Had to snake a little strap through to lift it out. Which pretty much cemented the idea of relocation, which Alex and I had already been talking about anyway. Moving the battery to the firewall would not just provide easier access, but also an easier way to secure it for driving.

Lower right - Original battery access cover

Went with a shiny new battery tray for the '76-'86 Jeep CJ7. About $30 plus shipping. And with 21 days to go before Spring arrives, the hood will go up today for the first time in 2016...

New battery tray has arrived

See y'all down the road!


Sunday, January 31, 2016

2016 Wish List

With 49 days to go until spring, I figured it would be a good idea to set some project goals for this year. First thing is replacing the original rear end, for a couple reasons: Right now our top speed is 50, and that's really pushing it. I want to make the truck a little more highway friendly. Having 5 lugs all the way around is another desire (these trucks originally came with six lug wheels), so I can snag the other two rally wheels that my friend Steve has for me. The first two are on the front now, with the disc brake kit. When the rear end is taken care of, I'll just need to order the rally center caps to have the exact wheel setup I've wanted for a while now. I'd also like to lower the stance of the truck slightly (two inches or so), and thinking rear end replacement is the perfect opportunity to do it.

Of course, as happens with all amateur projects, I'm still learning as we go. Turns out that if I want to replace the rear, I'll also need a new drive shaft and transmission, and we'll have to do a new shifting setup as well. Thankfully my friend and main mechanical man Alex has a compatible GM rear end available, and we should be able to find the right transmission with a trip or two to the salvage yard. What I'm not sure of yet is whether we can find an existing open drive shaft that will work or have to have one made, and whether helping Alex do the work will actually save me money or cost me more.

Alex in the driver's seat as we prepared the for the first drive last spring

Other plans this year include the battery being relocated to the firewall from under the cab for easier access, and some interior work. Right now the floor and inside firewall are completely bare, which can make for some extra-warm rides on a hot summer day. Gotta get that thing covered up.

Thanks for stopping by! Please see the right column here for more info on the story behind this dream ride.

See y'all down the road!


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Officially Down for the Winter

With single digit low temperatures in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday night, I figured I better finally get out there and pull the battery today, which now sits on my work bench in the basement. Fired 'er up one more time first, and let it run for a few minutes while I walked to the shed to get the ratchet set so I could remove the cables. No problem disconnecting but had a hard time actually pulling the battery out, because it's below the floor on the passenger side of the cab and there was not enough room to get my hands around it. Had to lift it out with a strap. Alex and I had been talking about moving the battery to the firewall to make it easier to access and hold down, and trying to remove it today affirmed the idea, so that's where it will be when we go down the road in the spring. Which, by the way, arrives in only 78 days... ;-)