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Discussion Starter #1
Starting a new build thread for this '57 Chevy 4dr Townsman six passenger station wagon originally manufactured in Los Angeles, CA. I've been looking for one for awhile now that my '67 C10 is finished, and a friend sent me a link to this one on FB marketplace. It looked like it might be a good candidate for a build, so I contacted the owner and was able to close the deal on it.

Just to be clear, I wanted a 4 latcher and I took a pass on several 2 door 210's (and even more 2 door 150 handyman wagons) until I ran across this one. I did my very first custom paint job on a wagon just like it back in the early 70's. I also painted another one bright red for a racing buddy. It had a 375 HP 396 transplanted into it and was wicked fast. He used it to haul his race car to the track and it easily fit two big! and three regular guys in it. I always loved that car, so when I got on the hunt, I had a vision of it in my head.

My plan is pretty straightforward... Roadster Shop chassis, LS crate, Dakota Digital, Vintage Air, wheels, nice paint and interior. The lead time on the chassis is 22-24 weeks, so there's lots of stuff to do between now and when it arrives. Hope you'll find it interesting.
 

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I'm going to skip over the maintenance stuff I did to get the wagon safe for the road. If you're interested in additional background, you can follow the California Dreamin' link in my signature as it has a few more details.

The parts hunt is on and several acquisitions have already arrived. Ringbrothers door handles, Wilwood 6 piston front, 4 piston rear disk kits with slotted / drilled rotors, Aeromotive EFI fuel components and a new front windshield. Side glass kit with one piece front windows is on order as are a set of 90 degree suicide door hinges. Black Friday worked out pretty good for me.

Meanwhile, in keeping with my goal of maintaining road worthiness until the frame arrives, the first mod I'm tackling is the rear hatch. I want to get rid of the ugly tailgate hinges (yellow arrow) and it seems the most practical way to go about it is to weld up the seam between the tailgate and the liftgate (black arrow). This will convert the rear hatch to a single door like most modern SUV's. The door will be supported by gas struts instead of the mechanical latches. I also plan to remove the tailgate t-handle and replace it with a recessed, flush mounted lever. It will activate a "pull" solenoid to electrically open the hatch. On the inside, I'll have a flush mounted mechanical t-handle as a fail safe.

Today, after removing the rusted tailgate trim and the carpet covering, I cut two windows into the inner panel to see what condition the metal was in. Not too bad, actually. After cleaning out the sound deadener and metal shavings, the tailgate seems a lot lighter than when I started. Note the picture of the "bondo weenies" on the inside of the rear skin. Never fill a hole like this boys and girls... you're only asking for a rusted mess down the road.

So next up will be to remove the beltline stainless on the liftgate and align all the gaps as best possible. Once it's all fixtured, I'll run the parts over to Eagle and have George media blast them. They'll be ready for welding and primer. More to come...
 

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cool project Victor, thanks for sharing. :anim_25:
 

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Looks like you have some neat mods planned for that old wagon. Cant wait to see the progress.
 

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Speciality Power Windows in Ga. has a nice power window kit configured for one pc. door glass. Even shows you exactly where to drill regulator mounting holes & has a template for the glass
 

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Discussion Starter #9
cool project Victor, thanks for sharing. :anim_25:
Thanks, Carl. May have some "more door" questions for you down the road.
Looks like this is going to be a fun project!
I hope so, Eldon.
Looks like you have some neat mods planned for that old wagon. Cant wait to see the progress.
Hopefully the progress will be steady. I'm not very fast but I usually make it to the end.
Keep up the progress :tu
Will do.
Looks like a really solid car!:shakehands:
It is, Jim. Makes me glad I passed on a few others, the wait was worth it.
Speciality Power Windows in Ga. has a nice power window kit configured for one pc. door glass. Even shows you exactly where to drill regulator mounting holes & has a template for the glass
Thanks for the tip! I checked out their website and have requested a catalog. I previously found a site for Nu Relics power windows. They make a kit for all four doors, but don't mention whether it can be adapted to a one-piece front window. SPW doesn't mention the rear doors on their site but perhaps there's some additional info in their catalog.

I've been focused on the tailgate mods. I've pretty much gutted the tailgate and adjusted the liftgate to get the gaps and stainless trim fitment a little better. Of the 12 screws holding the hinges, only one came out willingly with the impact driver. The others had to be drilled out, but that's okay. I've ordered a 50# pull solenoid for the latch release. I'll use some sheetmetal tabs and clecos to position the tailgate/liftgate for welding, then disassemble the parts and haul them to the media blasters. Meanwhile, I need to get busy on the CAD program and figure out a vertical, curved and recessed handle that will activate the latch solenoid and serve to lift the one piece hatch.
 

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Got the tailgate and liftgate positioned for welding using sheetmetal tabs and clecos. Then disassembled everything to make it all ready for media blasting. The liftgate has some rotted areas that will need to be repaired but all things considered, it's in pretty good condition for an original part. It appears that along the way, a PO ran a couple of beads of a sealant in place of the upper gasket. Luckily, the metal under it was intact and the retaining holes were in good shape. I scraped as much of the pookie off the frame as I could after removing the rear window. Will make for a better job at the blaster.

The window has some very light scratches that should polish out with cerium oxide compound. I dug out my polishing kit, but may wait a few days for a little nicer weather so I can do it outside. Meanwhile, I need to get the rear doors off and gutted so I can take them to Eagle Stripping also. That should make it a little easier to do the fab work for the suicide hinges.
 

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I removed the rear doors today and plan to deliver them and the tailgate parts to the blaster tomorrow. I called ahead and found that the shop I've used in the past has changed hands, so I found another one very close to the house. Owned by a couple of car guys so I'm going to give them a try.

After removing the rear doors and scooting the front seat all the way forward, I found a few items left behind by previous owners (or passengers), sort of like a little time capsule. There was a checkbook from the Marine Credit Union at Camp Pendelton, CA with a couple of checks made out. The marine that it belonged to must have misplaced it before he had a chance to pay the recipients. It also had a receipt in it for a short term lending outfit. Man did that ever hit home. When I was stationed out in CA in the late '60's, we lived hand to mouth.

The bottle of Pepto was a hoot as well. It was empty and all dried out. Hope it isn't a harbinger of how much heartburn lies ahead. ;)
 

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the wagon

Good Luck --looks like the wagon has good bones --from experience the pepto may come in handy --a new bottle of course. Enjoy -looks like you're doing it the right way. not alot of T=men out there.
Mflo
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Good Luck --looks like the wagon has good bones --from experience the pepto may come in handy --a new bottle of course. Enjoy -looks like you're doing it the right way. not alot of T=men out there.
Mflo
Thanks! Every time I do something to it, I find more reasons to thank my lucky stars. Most of my previous projects had hidden issues of one sort or another and so far, I'm off to the best start in recent memory... knock on wood. The spare tire carrier is a great example. I drilled the spotwelds today and removed it and it's solid as can be. Normally they're eaten up by tinworms. Not that I need it, I plan to replace the spare tire well with a large capacity EFI fuel tank. The retrofit ones from Tanks, Inc. are only about 15.5 gallons. So I'm on the lookout for something bigger I can adapt.

Took the doors and tailgate/liftgate to the blaster today and should have them back by the first of the week if not sooner.
 

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I picked up the liftgate/tailgate, rear doors and etc. from the media blaster. He did a great job, so now I'm able to forge ahead with rot repair. It's a shame they don't reproduce much of anything for the liftgate. It seems to have suffered the worst tinworm infestation of all the parts so far. The tailgate and doors should be relatively easy to patch, which is certainly a good thing.

While the parts were off at Blast Monkey, I cut out a section of the tailpan support brace that was rotted. I'm rebuilding it with a length of square tubing, a 1/2" x 1/8" flat strip and some sheetmetal. Since I needed to cover the original hinge plate area, it seemed best to just do this as opposed to going with a replacement support.
 

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I've been forging ahead little by little on the metal work. Both the liftgate and the tailgate require quite a bit of rust repair before they can be welded together. Right now I'm working on the tailgate because it's in a little better shape and I need to get reacquainted with the MIG before jumping on the liftgate. Most of the rot is located on the lower edge of the tailgate, so I cut out enough material to (hopefully) get past the weakened areas and reduce the amount of burn thru that occurs when you hit rust. I've cleaned out the bondo peanuts and have the patches tacked in. Now comes the really hard part... welding all this up and using the hammer and dolly to keep the warping to a minimum. I figure I easily have several weeks of welding, hammering, grinding and assorted vocabulary exercises ahead.

I also finished making the patches for the tailpan support and have them tacked in. Punched some metal discs to fill the holes in the tailgate where the hinges used to bolt up. I want remove all vestiges of how the tailgate operated previously.
 

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Moving right along.

For what its worth, the tailgate is now reproduced.
You can also get just the skin.
 

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Moving right along.

For what its worth, the tailgate is now reproduced.
You can also get just the skin.
Thanks! I took a pass on the reproduction tailgate due to the expense. The skin would have been more in line with what I'm doing, but still had a lot of holes to fill. So in the end, I cheap'd out and decided to repair mine. Being an old retired fart, I have more time than money anyway. ;)

Since I last posted, I made some headway with the tailgate. Still slowly stitching up the patches, but took some time to install and test the electric popper for the latch release. Works pretty good. Much of the OEM manual release mechanism is cast out of pot metal. I was afraid the sudden action of the solenoid might be too much for it so I built a sleeve and lever out of 4130 chromoly material. It fits over the pot metal socket that originally attached to the external handle. I drilled and tapped a couple of 6-32 holes into a meaty area so I feel it will be a lot less likely to fracture when activated. At the same time, I machined a stainless spud for the other side and tapped it for a 7/16-20 LH thread. This will allow me to attach a handle on the inside as an emergency release. Posted a video demonstration on YouTube.

The suicide door hinges showed up yesterday from Canada. They look hell for stout. The instruction manual was very generic, but gives a good overview of the process. They also have some photos on a host site, but none that are specific to a 57 Chevy. I texted them a photo of my door jamb and asked if they could perhaps give me an idea of where to make the initial cuts. Hope they have some suggestions. It will probably be a few weeks before I get going on that particular mod. Need to finish the tailgate first.

 

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