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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've had the car home for a couple weeks now, have been using it as my daily driver. Now, I don't mean daily driver as in 'we take it out for ice cream a couple times a week when it's nice', I mean daily driver as in 'parked outside, driven every day, rain or shine' and my only running vehicle here in CA.

As you'd expect out of a 65 year old car that hasn't been daily driven in probably 40+ years, it needs some love and there are more things that don't work than things that do. That said, it made the ~1600mi drive home so I really have nothing to gripe about. I probably should have created this thread a couple weeks ago, but I'll get caught up shortly. After that, I'd expect updates to be slow as I source parts and make minor improvements.

Better start the thread with a picture. Here's the car freshly arrived in CA, likely as clean and shiny as it will ever be. I even spent the dollar on the 'wax' spray at the car wash, like some sort of high roller concours car show guy. Yeah, you've seen this pic before, deal with it.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Okay, problem #1 showed up the day after the drive with a nice little lake of oil under the car. I'd previously made a deal with the car that if it didn't break down on the road trip home, it could have any failure it liked once we arrived. It chose the rear seal on the transmission, I can live with that.

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I live in a respectable neighborhood with nice older people who don't tend to do things like take their cars apart in their driveway at night. I'm always the first one to offer help or tools though, so neighbors tend to be cool about my hobby. Why not fix it in the garage? Good question, that's full of the real project, a disassembled CJ-7 I'm replacing half the body tub on. See, this isn't even my project car, this is my 'reliable' daily driver.

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Dropped the driveshaft. I promise there are jackstands just ahead of where the pic was taken, I might make dumb decisions like leaving my reliable pickup in Canada and making this my only car, but even I'm not dumb enough to get under a car supported by only a Harbor Freight jack.

Break for a safety announcement: If you have Harbor Freight jackstands, check and see if they're the defective ones and take them back to Harbor Freight for a full refund. Here's the info on that: NHTSA, Harbor Freight . I thought everyone knew this by now and had returned theirs, but the guys down at the local HF say they're still getting a bunch in, so some of you are still hanging on to them. I replaced mine with these. Note the safety pins, that's the important part. With those, the casting folks can do as terrible a job as they want and the pin will save you from having to chest-press a car.

Okay, back to repair stuff. Yep, it leaks. Free undercoating though.

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The old seal has been in there for probably a dozen presidents and was fairly certain it was one piece with the tailshaft. I didn't know the innards of this transmission well enough to know if I'd get away with my usual tactic of heating it to cherry red and soaking it with PB blaster so I spent a couple hours prying, air hammering (the next day, in daylight, like a semi-civilized neighbor) and working with the HF seal puller tool with no luck. My generous wife offered to make a Harbor Freight run since I was covered in gear oil and sawdust (natural floor dry) and pick up the HF Slide Hammer seal puller kit. It looks a little cheesy, but was well worth 26 of your freedom dollars as another half hour of slide-hammering and cursing got the old seal out, piece by piece.

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The old seal apparently looked like this once upon a time, a nice deep metal housing with an inner oil seal and an outer felt dust seal (see the fuzz at the bottom of the pic above).

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These old style seals (left) are apparently better than the modern ones (right), for reasons we'll cover shortly but you can't just buy them at the local parts stores (I tried). Corvette Central has them for $24, but as this is a daily driver, we aren't waiting for parts to be shipped. The local O'Reillys had this one in stock for about $6, since it's apparently the same one used on TH350s and most GM transmissions made over a 50+ year span.

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See how much narrower the new seal is than the old one, and those nifty cut-outs on the tailshaft to make seal removal "easy"? Some googling revealed people griping about them leaking around the outside, and you can see how that could be a problem. I scraped off the thickest of the free oil-based undercoating to make a few less drips on the driveway, revealing some of the original red oxide finish. Concours judges should appreciate that, has to be a tenth of a point right there (I might have no idea how the points thing works).

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I figured the best course of action was a light coating of good oil resistant RTV around the outside of the seal, then making sure to pound it all the way in so there's no gap at the cut-out.

For the new seal being so different than the old one, it seems to work fine. The car made a couple hundred miles the next day with no leaking.
 

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Love the daily driver route you are going with this. I would consider my 73 Camaro and the '55 daily drivers as well, i just dont take them to work since i have a company truck. The Camaro is the tried and true reliable vehicle, although it leaks. Once i get some more miles, front rims and tires straightened out, and an alignment, the '55 will be making some ~200 mile weekend trips. The '55 past the leak test pretty well......lol.
 

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good read, I'm enjoying your adventure in life. they all mark their spots.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Next problem. My homemade shifter bushing had got me home (thanks to @dream66 / @f.i.57chevynut for the hose idea, it worked well), but the wiggle dance to find first gear was getting a bit old. Now that I'm back in the states, I can actually get parts in a reasonable time-frame so it's time to get rid of the temporary fix and do the job right. $9.95 on eBay got me a pair of the proper bushings with new steel inserts.

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They're just a little nicer than my homemade 'whittled chunk of hose' bushing (homemade bushing on the left, as if you can't tell).

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Easy repair, maybe 10 minutes and 7 of those are fiddling with the adjustment since the '55 doesn't seem to have the alignment slot the later cars have. That, or I'm missing something. I'd love to know as shifter alignment is one of my biggest challenges to try and get absolutely perfect.

For those of you cool enough to still be running a 3-on-the-tree, if your bushings are even a little bit old and worn, I highly recommend parting with the $10 and 10 minutes to put the new bushings in. It made it shift 100% better. I'd say 'like a new car', but I wasn't born until this car was already 27 years old, so what do I know about how well a new '55 shifted?
 

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To get perfect alignment of the arms, you need to make yourself a small insert that can be slide up into the notch in the end metal bushing and the arms. This will perfectly align them. Then adjust the tranny
arms on the tranny so they are in the proper location for each shift location. Then adjust the arm on the special bolt/clamp use where the bushings are. A used hack saw blade cut down works.

In these photos you can see the notch cut out of the end plate. This notch is the same size as the opening in the arms that the inner shift tube moves to select the gear you want. There is just enough room
to slip in the thin alignment tool so it aligns the end plate and the arms all.

Mikey
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks. So that's hidden inside the outer collar then? So I'd have to go up between the steering shaft and outer cover? I looked at the assembly manual and it seemed straightforward on '56 and '57 columns, but I didn't see the same notches on my '55 arms.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
More parts arrived, time for another easy quality-of-life improvement. My hood springs work, but the hood sits lower than it should so I hit my head on it unless I used this piece of dowel to hold it up. I was tired of carrying wood in my car, so I parted with the $12.98 each for two new hood springs (OER brand from Classic Industries, P/N TF400297).

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I've heard some people curse this job, but with a couple tricks, it's an easy sub-15 minute job including scrounging the parts for the 'tool'.

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Here's the custom 'tool'. You really just need the washers, but I don't like chasing dropped washers so I ran some wire through them. Washers twice this size and twice as many would have made a most excellent tool, but this is what I had on hand.

And here's the technique that makes it easy. Close the hood most of the way which stretches out the spring, and reach in and slip the washers in the gaps. When you open the hood, the washers keep the spring stretched out. Lift the hood as far past 'open' as you can without bending anything or touching your fenders, and the stretched spring will darn near fall out. Bend the spring to retrieve your washers.

To put the passenger side on, I put the spring on the rear hook, then started stretching it with the screwdriver with the intent of putting the washers in, but found that if you have the spring turned just right and your screwdriver in the exact right spot, the spring just falls on to the front hook when you stretch it. Here's what worked for me. Again, open the hood a little past 'open' to close the distance between the two hooks.

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And done.

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The passenger side was a bit more trouble, so I used the washers for installation. Just hook the back side of the spring, use your screwdriver on the front side against the hinge to stretch the spring enough to put the washers in. Open the hood as far as you can, then pop the spring on. Very little force or fighting involved.


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The washers can be removed easily by closing the hood most of the way to open up the spring and grabbing the wire.

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And now the hood sits all the way up on its own, no more carrying a wood dowel or bumping my head. If your springs are worn at all, this is a pretty good value at $25 total and 10-15 minutes work.
 

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Best way to make a classic car reliable is to drive it everyday. You tend to fix problems rather than put up with them the way you do when they’re seldom driven.
Great work and nice trick with the hood springs.
 

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I've used the washer trick before, but never thought of running a wire thru them. That keeps them from all taking off in different directions. Nice touch!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The trans in the car seems to be fine knock on wood, but I came across this ad on Craigslist and temptation got the better of me. More gears, faster Interstate driving without the engine screaming, and a cool period correct option, available from the factory. Okay, I'm interested. Plus, you don't see them for sale every day, can't afford NOT to buy it.

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I didn't see any for sale to compare it to, no idea what it's worth but it sounded like a fair price considering what I'd probably pay for a used one, the rebuilding stuff, and all the kit to install it. So, I ignored the actual problems that I planned on fixing today and drove up to Seal Beach to pick up an overdrive transmission instead.

The seller had the side cover just loose so I could inspect the gears, which looked great and had changed it out for the correct side cover for my car. Came with a new cable, wiring harness, relay, kickdown switch, and some paperwork on installation and operation. Apparently he does lots of work on old cars, specializes in Tri-fives (has a couple nice ones himself), and has a bit of a side gig in finding and rebuilding these overdrive transmissions.

If anyone is cool enough to be still driving a '3 on the tree' and wants an extra gear, give the guy a shout. He has another one ready to go and apparently can get more. He said it was fine to post his contact info here.

Fred Schlumpf
Old Auto & Truck Specialties
[email protected]
562-225-5869
Seal Beach, CA.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I'd borrowed my wifes truck to go get the transmission, though it turns out the tiny 3 speeds in these things are light enough for one guy to handle easily and would have fit in the trunk of the '55 just fine. The car apparently wasn't thrilled about me spending my day driving around and talking about old cars instead of pulling wrenches and I got home to find a brand new leak underneath.

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Looks like the steering box decided to just start leaking, while the car was parked and cold. Not sure how that happens, but sure, why not.

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I guess this is now next on my list to fix. I've got to figure out if I want to try to reseal this and fill it with grease, just replace the box, or switch to power steering. I know the rules about questions in project update threads, so I started a new one for that problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Haven't updated this in a while. Got my steering box filled with grease instead of replacing it as per the advice here, and so far so good, no leaks and seems to work the same as before. Having some intermittent carb problems, and carb kits are cheap enough so I figured I'd tear it down and rebuild. Nice easy job, totally not going to take my only car here off the road for a while, right?

Dumped the carb in my ultrasonic cleaner. If you're still cleaning carbs with just solvent and wires, brushes etc. you really need to look at how cheap these are on eBay and consider it. It takes all the gunk off with just hot water and pine sol, and leaves no fuel smell so I can rebuild the carb in the air conditioned comfort of the house instead of the 100 degree garage.

Video - Ultrasonic cleaner in action


Ultrasonic cleaning done, new kit from QuadrajetParts.com (would not buy the same kit again).

Sleeve Wood Bag Machine Fashion accessory



Sure are a lot of parts in one of these.

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I put the disassembled casting chunks in for a second round of ultrasonic cleaning to make sure all the little passages were just perfect. Blew canned air through each one to confirm.

Here's my problem with the QuadrajetParts.com kit. The new gasket (bottom) is just a hair too big and would not fit in the housing. As it's surrounded by the carb body on 3 sides, it way too much time to carefully shave this down just right so all the little holes still lined up perfectly.

Close-up Wood Auto part Tool Carmine


My casting is pretty rough, not sure if this is casting or corrosion from acidic exhaust gases coming up the hot air choke tube. It all being on the bottom makes me think the latter.

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And an actual hole. Nice. If I correctly understand the way the choke works, this shouldn't a problem, but I'll fix it anyways.

Auto part Gas Automotive tire Metal Machine


Nothing some JB Weld (ok it was JB Kwik) can't fix.

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And it's all back together, looking like a carb again. Spent a bunch of time doing stuff that doesn't matter like painting the base plate, brass brushing all the castings etc. and a bunch more time getting all the float adjustments, rod adjustments etc. just right.

Tire Motor vehicle Automotive tire Wheel Automotive lighting


So, does it work? No. Turns out I've got 2 stripped screws on the top cover. I thought I might get away with it as it didn't leak before and the fuel level should be below the gasket, but it just pours gas out.

I think the casting is too skinny to drill, tap, and helicoil, so started exploring my options.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I'm still going to find a way to fix my 2GC to get my car back on the road as it's my only car in CA right now. Might weld/braze up and re-tap the bolt holes, and I'm not going to lie I've considered using sealant on the top gasket just to get the car running. Not really looking to burn the thing down though.

The options as I see it are:

1) Another 2GC core for ~$100, hope it's in better shape, get another rebuild kit from a better vendor, and try again (probably the sensible move).
2) A rebuilt 2GC, presumably with no leaks, for ~$500, but I can't seem to find one actually in stock anywhere.
3) A correct factory 4 barrel manifold, 4GC, 4bbl air cleaner like someone here recently did (can't find the thread at the moment). I really like the idea of the original look, but not sure I want to take the time to track down every little piece, and it makes less sense with the later 283 in there.
4) This is probably what most here would do, get an aftermarket aluminum manifold (~$300), a new 4 barrel carb (~$500) and some aftermarket 4bbl air cleaner. This is probably the next most sensible move, so of course also not the one I picked. The thought of messing with jets and power valves and rods, and potentially having to tinker with it when I commute between here at 60 feet elevation to my other home at 3600 feet, that's not my kind of fun for a car that's supposed to be a driver.

5) The most complicated and expensive route to get my 'totally not a project car daily driver' on the road again is to switch to fuel injection, so of course that's the one I picked. I think it's the best technical solution for a daily driver.

With that decided, the challenge is I want to retain as much of an original/vintage look as practical (period look, not nuts and bolts correct, obviously). I don't have any aftermarket chrome or billet on the car now and I'm not looking to change that. Modern port fuel injection is superior, but it's not the look I'm going for, so that leaves TBI.
 

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I am going to the edlbrock manifold (modified) and edelbrock carb 600 4 barrel.Keep up the thread on the tbi--baylor
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
The good folks at Speedway seemed to have everything I needed at competitive prices and more importantly had the base kit on sale for a good price, so they got my business. Good customer service on the phone too.

Holley Sniper Master Kit w/ Sniper ignition system. Holley wants $1400 for the master kit, but Speedway has a package deal with the Sniper distributor/ignition box as well for $1598. I was happy enough with my stock distributor and Pertronix, but an extra couple hundred to upgrade to CDI that's plug and play with my EFI seemed like the way to go.

Edelbrock EPS manifold w/Oil Fill. This was the only manifold I could find with the oil fill provision, and the EPS dual plane should be a good choice for a stock 283. The TBI may have trouble with the divider, but that can be remedied with a quick milling and/or a spacer. I figure if I paint it Chevy red/orange, it won't stick out too badly.

Retro Air Cleaner - '51-'56 Olds / Cadillac. - I've always liked the look of these, and I like the original better than the 7/8 scaled down version. According to posts on this site, the full sized one can hit the wiper motor, so grabbed an offset base as well to move it forward a bit.

Speedway finned aluminum fuel block off plate - Doesn't look completely stock, but neither does the flat plate. Besides, I liked the look of it.

I'm grabbing other odds and ends like fasteners, fuel pump and intake gaskets, a carb spacer I want to play with modifying etc. Feel free to point out anything you see me missing or any gotchas I've overlooked.

Edit: One big one is that it doesn't look like the Holley EFI/Distributor kit comes with the CDI box after all, not sure if I can run it as-is or need to pick up their ignition box too.
 
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