Some of you will remember the story about my “55 Barn Find” from a nearly a few years ago, some of you won’t. I’ll catch everyone up now. I bought a 55 Chevrolet 2dr. Delray that I referred to as a “Barn Find.” It have been languishing in a “Barn” for some thirteen years under the ownership of the guy I bought it from. That dated back to 1999. Prior to that the car likely sat unused for a minimum of another 12 or 13 years. The last license date was 1987.
The car appeared to be in “OK” condition, even if unused for a lengthy slumber. I found only minor rust, really, considering the car’s age. A few dents, cracked windows, stuck latches, locks, flat tires etc. and it didn’t run, heck it barely rolled. The brakes were gone, battery dead and yet to me it was a beauty.
When trailered my treasure home from miles north of Seattle back to Oregon and I got the chance to look it over better I decided it looked like it would maybe run if I just woke it up. decided to try and rebuilt the carb, the generator, replaced the distributor, repaired and replaced as necessary, the exhaust, the fuel lines, the fuel pump, the gas tank, the battery, the fan belt, the spark plugs, the oil and filter.
The engine turned over and eventually it even started, but it ran on about 3 of the 6 cylinders. The valves were stuck so I literally used a pri-bar to close the valves each time they stuck open and I kept doing that until eventually they began to open and close on their own. Once it got it to where it would run I addressed the brakes, repairing and replacing as needed to get the car to stop.
The maiden voyage was a sight to behold. Simply breathtaking! What an accomplishment. I was proud, until I actually got the car all the way up to 25 MPH. It was truly freightening. I think my comments included, “isn’t it cool?”
“Wow I’ve wanted another one of these for 40 plus years? “What a pile.” “I don’t remember the one I used to have being so bad.” This thing was awful, worn out, even dangerous. I had never intended to “restore” it back to stock, I just wanted to get it running and mobile so that I could drive it occasionally as I set about collecting the many parts I needed to create the car of my dreams. I had to laugh at myself, “car of my dreams?” it was a nightmare.
Fast forward some time now from then to 2016. The car sat around waiting while I bought parts, restored another frame for it, pulled the engine and transmission from a wrecked Chevy Suburban, built a narrowed 9in. posi-traction differential, relocated the rear springs to allow for wider wheels and tires, installed tubular A-arm, new springs etc. etc.
As it often happens one runs out of money before the run out of things to buy. That dilemma post-pones everything for a while and that brings me up to date.
After collecting parts and pieces as I could afford them, I’m now able to get back to work. I cleared away the moth balls, charged the low battery, hand choked it and fired it up a few weeks back. I pulled it out of the shop and drove it around the yard a little and then put it on the 2 post. It was at last the time to take the car apart enough to get it off its original frame. I disconnected the steering gear box from the frame, discovered I didn’t have a pitman arm puller or a socket big enough to remove the nut holding the pitman arm on the steering shaft, so I called a “real” mechanic, my friend Jim and he said yes he had both and yes I could borrow them. You know it’s amazing how easy the right tools make some jobs. I mean it, it took every bit of 2 minutes to get the nut off and then pull the pitman arm. Thanks Jim. There are 14 bolts that actually bolt the body to the frame through the rubber mounting bushings, floors and body mount brackets. Surprisingly all of them came out without much fuss… except that one. Of course the one that was rusted/stuck badly had to be one that you couldn’t get to both ends of. After several different attempts to loosen it I decided I’d just drag out the plasma cutter and cut the nut off, easy huh?
I’m never surprised at my lack of patience. I can usually plod along on most jobs because I’m aware that it’s a process. Many steps have to be taken to get the work done. There just isn’t any fast way or a short cut one can use to significantly shorten the process, but I always have to try. I bet you do to. Back to the plasma cutter. The car is on the rack, up in the air (above me) so I can get to the bolt under the rear splash apron. It’s the bolt that’s right in a little “pocket” that you can get to but there, is a 90 degree closed corner behind the bolt. I figured it would be simple and my lack of patience convinced me I was right. I didn’t need to put on my welding jacket, I wasn’t “welding,” I was just going to cut the end off one little bolt. I didn’t think about the fact that there would be “sparks and molten metal, being splattered by the high pressure air from the plasma torch, into a corner where the only way out was right back at ME! The molten slag that went down my open coveralls only burned for a minute. Now three weeks later, I’ve healed almost completely, all except my pride.
The core support has 2 bolts that bolt it to the frame in front so those bolts had to come out. All the shift linkage, gas pedal linkage, brake lines at the master cylinder, wires from the firewall to the engine, emergency brake cable connections, battery cables, fuel line at the gas tank and the speedo cable were all disconnected. I set the car down on its tires again and using some 2X4’s under the rocker panels, I set the lift arms and slowly raise the body from the frame. On the 55 there is a small “L” bracket on each side of the frame at the bottom of front fender splash apron where the splash apron is bolted with a sheet metal screw. Though I took the bolts out, the apron flange and the frame bracket interfere with each other and require a little finesse to get them to clear each other as the body is lifted, and ‘VIOLA’ the body is off!
Remembering back to the patience I don’t have, I had to get the “new” frame rolled up under the body to attempt a test fit. Well that couldn’t work because I’ve installed an oversized frame mounted gas tank and the spare tire well won’t clear it and the steering column has to come out before I can attempt to put the body on the frame.
Well now we are kinda up to date on the “55 Barn Find.” I’ll put together another installment for a future issue. It is getting exciting for me. See you next time. ED.