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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all,

I've been doing a lot of research and gathering parts for my big project for quite a while now, so I thought it was finally time to step up to the plate, introduce myself, and show you guys what I've got going on.

History:

I'm a 36 year old guy from Maryland that has been addicted to Tri-Five cars since I can remember. Growing up, my Dad had countless Chevy's come and go through the garage. Sedans, Hard Tops, Wagons, 2 doors, 4 doors, you name it and I grew up cruising around in them. As of now, Dad has thinned the herd down to a 55 2 door Hard Top (6 cyl, 3 speed with something like 65,000 original miles) and a 55 4 door Wagon (same drive train as the Hard Top) that he did a frame off restoration on years ago. The Wagon resides at the family's house on the eastern shore of Maryland and is used as a "beach cruiser" when we go on vacation.

I started out my automotive hobby as a Jeep guy and my 1st big project was a frame up build of an 84' CJ-7. I stuffed a Cummins 4bt turbo diesel/TH475 automatic/Dana 300 transfer case in it, along with a 9" Ford rear end and tons of other goodies. After that, I decided my off-road Jeep needed some attention, so I put a little elbow grease into that as well, and now have "twins".



A few months later, a good friend of mine came to me and said he'd like to re-live his youth as well, and restore a copy of his first car, a VW Beetle. About a year of blood sweat (and probably more tears than I'm afraid to admit) went into nursing his 76' Bug back to life:



All the while, I was trying to give my tow rig a little "update" due to the original Dodge paint doing its best to trade places with the incoming rust, so we wrapped up both of them at the same time:



Present:

Like I said before, I've had Tri-Five in my blood since I can remember "helping" Dad out in the garage as a kid. As luck would have it, Dad ran across a 55 Sedan on Ebay that looked like a decent candidate for a restoration, so we placed a low-ball bid on it, and ended up winning!

The day we picked it up (thats Dad in the picture):



Once we got the car home, it was time for a good cleaning and a once-over to see what we were officially dealing with.

My son Tyler and I happy to have the car home:



Tyler doing the dirty work with my Beetle buddy:



Lots of 55 pieces:





As you can see, someone did a number on the quarter panels around the wheel wells. The outer rockers have some rust coming through as well, but the rest of the car is surprisingly solid. The floors have very little rot and all the "dog legs" for the floors to the inner rockers are all there. There is a little damage under the driver's side tail light, not to mention the giant floor shifter hole someone cut (and hastily repaired) in the trans tunnel. Dad says, "They all come like that!" Haha!
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
So that brings us to today. I made a call to the guys at East Coast Chevy/Ol' 55 and ordered up some sheet metal. As luck would have it, they were going to be setting up at the GM Carlisle Nationals and agreed to bring all of my goodies along with them. While we were there, we ran across a gentleman selling a nearly perfect set of fenders and a matching hood that I decided had to come home with me as well:



In addition to the sheet metal, I have also gathered up some other goodies.

-a 16 circuit Painless wiring harness
-a Uni Steer rack and pinion kit
-an L33 all aluminum LS 5.3 motor w/all the accessories and the wiring harness
-a 2" drop spindle/disc brake conversion kit

The goal for this project is to basically end up with a nice, reliable, fuel injected 55 with an overdrive that I'm not afraid to get in and drive anywhere. I don't really care for the term "resto-mod", but I guess thats what I hope to end up with.

As far as color goes, well I can only assume you guys have sensed the theme that I have going on with my projects, so I guess thats a no brainer!

I'm still researching and reading as much as I possibly can about these cars, but I'm sure I'm going to have tons of "newb" questions for you guys, so please bear with me. I'm lucky enough to have a Dad that is just as passionate about these cars as I am, and he's probably forgotten more about taking these things apart than I'll ever know.

Not to mention, he has lots of parts that he's squirreled away over the years hiding in the attic. Like Father, like Son!

My first plan of attack is to get the body bolted down to the frame securely and get it shimmed up so that the doors fit properly. From there, I think I'm going to start on the floors/transmission hump and work my way out to the rockers and the quarter panels. The learning curve is going to be steep, but I'm looking forward to getting it started. Work will be slow, but I'll try to update this thread as much as I can.

Thanks for reading!
 

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Cool story. I look forward to upcoming chapters.

What your dad said about all these cars coming with giant holes for floor shifters was funny, and probably not far off. My 55's trans tunnel had been cut, welded up, and cut again during the 48 years before I got it.

Man, I love your garage and lift.:tu
 

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thanks for sharing, cool rides. :tu
 

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Very cool Mike. Looks like the start of a great little project and gotta say, that was a great introduction too. Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well, I managed to get a little bit of work done over the past weekend. Not a lot, but some progress is better than none, right?

I started by getting the body bolted down to the frame. When we picked up the car, the body was just sitting on the frame with nuts/bolts through the front and rear body mounts. No isolators or anything. I started with a new body mount and bolt kit:



I got very lucky in the fact that only 1 of the captured nuts had a broken bolt stuck in it. All the others were fine!



For this one, I patiently step drilled the offending bolt until I was able to run a tap up through there and get the threads cleaned out. Once I was able to get all of the body mount bushings on the "bullhorns" on the frame, I lowered the body back down. What I didn't realize was these bodies are like a wet noodle when they're not bolted to a frame. I had to wiggle the body around a little bit to get everything to line up properly.

I was gently nudging the body around to get all of the bolts lined up, and like an idiot, I stuck a big punch up into one of the body mount holes to try to align the body just that 'little' bit more when the captured nut on the inside broke loose. :argh: Wouldn't you know it, it was the same one I had just spent an hour step drilling/tapping. I guess frustration and impatience got the best of me, and I ended up going in through the top and drilled a hole just big enough to fit a nut/washer down into the "dog leg" on the body.

After that, I decided I was going to cut my teeth on some sheet metal work and attack the mess that is my transmission tunnel. I started by grinding the tack welds off of the patch panel someone had put in there to cover up the floor shifter hole:



Keep in mind, I've never been accused of being a body man and this is my first shot at any sort of meaningful sheet metal work. The idea I came up with was to mask off the offending area with some tape:



Then I cut the hole out and ground the edges down to bare metal:



Next thing I did (which I didn't get a picture of) was to place the new transmission tunnel over the hole in the floor and tack weld it in each corner once I got it to fit as good as I could. My idea was to put the car up in the air, trace the hole out from the bottom onto the new tunnel panel, and cut out what I needed. Well, the panel fits pretty good up until it meets the middle floor section. The radius of the replacement tunnel seems to be a good bit bigger than the stock tunnel. I'm not sure if I'm going to try to "massage" the stock tunnel, or cut out more of the stock tunnel and replace it with the new one.

At this point in the day, it was getting late and I had been working in 85* heat all day, so I decided to pack it in. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to it with a clear head some time this weekend and see what I can make of it. Any advice or criticism is welcome.

On a different note, and the main reason why I haven't been able to get a whole lot done to the car recently, is that my Dad has been having some problems. At the end of last year, he learned that he had a bad valve in his heart. Now, for being 66 years old, he is in amazing physical shape. He eats well, exercises, doesn't smoke/drink, and is very active. Hell, he ran circles around me a few weeks ago up at the Carlisle GM Nationals! The only hint that he had anything wrong was that he would wake up with night sweats about twice a month. Other than that, he could out work guys half his age without a problem.

They discovered an irregular heart beat when he was donating blood. A trip to a cardiologist confirmed that only 1/2 his heart was actually working, so they decided they wanted to do a valve repair/replacement while he was still strong and healthy enough to have the procedure. He went in this past Monday and they didn't find any blockages in any of his arteries, so he didn't need any stints or bypasses. The doctor went in Tuesday and was able to repair his existing heart valve, so a replacement wasn't necessary. It was pretty much the best-case scenario for the whole thing.

He's been having a tough time with his recovery, though, and he seems to be getting pretty frustrated. I guess thats what happens when you go from feeling perfectly healthy to being laid up in a hospital.

I know you guys don't know me from any other stranger on the street, but any positive vibes you could spare would be much appreciated.

This was Dad the day before he went into the hospital to have his heart repaired:

 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Got my first patch panel nearly finished up, and it went better than I expected. The learning curve was definitely a steep one, but I managed to get through it without ruining my new panel or the car! Haha!

My method of tacking the panel in over the hole and tracing it out from the bottom worked out pretty well. I ended up cutting a little more of the factory floor out in an attempt to find the "sweet spot" where the radius of the patch panel matched the radius of the factory floor a bit closer. I cut the floor out right to the sub frame on the body where (I assume) the factory seat mounts.



I traced the hole out onto the panel from the bottom, cut out what I needed, and stuck it in the car. Much to my surprise, my cuts were pretty close to what I needed, so I used some magnets to hold the panel in place, and tacked her in.



I needed to use a floor jack and a piece of wood to "persuade" the new panel to meet up with the factory hump in the floor by the firewall, but other than that it fit well.



The patch panel wasn't quite big enough to cover the hole in the floor you see closer to the driver's side, but it looks like I'll be able to re purpose a piece that I trimmed from the other side to patch that hole and keep the factory ribbing in the floor.

I was running out of time in the evening, and I didn't get to tackle the rear part of the transmission hump. The fit of the patch panel is about as good as its going to get back there, so the plan is to drill a small hole in each corner from the bottom, and play "connect the dots" with my cut off wheel to trim the rest of the panel off from the top. I'm thinking I may need to pie cut the panel a little to make it meet up with the radius of the factory transmission tunnel, but it shouldn't be too bad.



At this point, its nice to look in the car and not see the floor of the garage staring back at me! I know its not a whole lot of progress, but its enough to keep me excited and motivated. If there were only 30 hours in a day........



On another note, we got my Dad back from the hospital this past Sunday. His recovery is coming along much better and he says he feels like he's getting better with each day. He also says that seeing pics of the progress on the 55 is motivation for him to get healed up and over to my place to get his hands on it, and as you can see, I need all the help I can get! :sign0020:

I'd also like to say thanks for all the positive comments about my previous projects and the garage. The wife calls the garage my "Happy Place", and I have to agree. As sad as it might be, theres not a whole lot of other places I'd like to spend my time on the weekends. My son tends to agree as well :):

 

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Mike,

Good luck with the project. I live on the Eastern Shore, right near Ocean City. I hope I'm able to see this car at Ocean City's Classic Car Week next year! (Not trying to rush you).

Again, best of luck, and let me know if you need any help. I'm a "newb" like you, but would love to learn and help if possible.

Your dad's in my thoughts and prayers. I hope he has a continued healthy and safe recovery.

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
"Mickey"- I am very lucky to have a little guy that likes to get out in the garage and "help" his Dad work on the car. Whenever we pass a classic car, hot rod, or any other vintage car on the road he says, "Daddy! Look at that 55 Chevy!!" Ha!!

Dave - Thanks for the vote of confidence! My Dad keeps one of his cars at his house down on Fenwick Island. If you see someone cruising a stocker, **** brown 55 4 door station wagon around, make sure to flag us down!! Thanks for the kind words for Dad too. I can't wait to get him back out in the garage so he can get his hands dirty too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Back to the top!

Well, its been a little over a year since my last update, and the status of this project has changed pretty dramatically!

Story time (this is gonna be another long story, so you can skip to the bottom for pics if you don't want to hear my ramblings): After the birth of my twin girls in January, and some other family stuff going on, progress on the car had slowed to a crawl. I would get a couple hours in here and there, but I didn't really have any big updates worth posting about.

Back in the middle of July, we packed up the whole family and made a trip out to northern California to visit my Wife's Aunt and Uncle (yeah, a 5 year old, and twin baby girls on a 6 hour airplane ride, not fun! :sign0020:). We get off the plane, grab the rental truck, and off we go. As we're pulling into their neighborhood, the first thing that catches my eye is a beautiful blue/white 55 Sedan in a carport with a "for sale" sign in the window. I didn't think much about it, but I couldn't resist making a comment every time we drove by. The last day that we were there, I took a trip to the hardware store with my Wife's Uncle. On our way back to his house, I made my usual comment about the 55. At that point, my Wife's Uncle slams on the brakes, looks over at me, and says, "I'm getting sick of you talking about that car, get out and look at the damn thing already!!".

I walked up to the house and struck up a conversation with the owner. He was an awesome guy, and I made it very clear that I was from Maryland, and it seemed impossible that I could purchase the car from him. He didn't seem to care about that, and was excited to show it off. After telling him he'd be wasting his fuel, I agreed to go for a ride with him. Let me tell you, tearing down highway 101 in a V8 55 Chevy is an east coast guy's dream come true! We were discussing the price of the car, and when he mentioned what he would be comfortable taking for the car, my jaw hit the floor. Once we got back to his house, I thanked him profusely for the ride, and wished him well with his sale.

At dinner that evening, my Wife's Uncle taps me on the shoulder and whispers in my ear, "I'm willing to lend you the cash to buy that car. I know you're good for it". My eyes got huge, and I thought to myself, "This is actually going to happen!".

On our way back to the house, I knock on the owner's door again, and he answers with a funny/snide, "Hellooo Mike!" as if to say, "I knew you'd be back for her!".

Turns out, all the owner wanted was a hand written bill of sale and a handshake to agree to the sale. Class act all the way. I flew back into Maryland on a Tuesday, had a cashier's check in the mail on Wednesday, and had paperwork in my hand the following Monday. I got the shipping squared away and 11 days later, my California born and bred, rust free, turn key, 55 Chevy showed up in Maryland!!

On to the good stuff:

The car getting loaded in Ukiah, California:


The car showing up in Maryland 11 days later:


The car safely home in front of the garage:




Dad and I (I think he was just as excited as I was!):




And the best one. One of my goals when I started my original project was to have my Dad take me for a ride in my own 55. Mission accomplished!:


So, now instead of having to use my garage time doing body work and rust removal, I can spend time making the ol' girl mine! I have a bunch of parts I've accumulated over the last couple of years that will fit the bill nicely. First up is going to be a power/disc brake conversion for the front end. I also have a Uni-steer rack and pinion kit that I can get on there in the future as well. I have a complete Painless wiring harness if I find the wiring to be too much of a problem. I still have my complete L33 LS motor, but the small block 350/TH 350 combo in the car now runs so well, I have a hard time talking myself into replacing it.

Hopefully now the updates will be a little more timely and more exciting than watching me fumble my way through panel repair and body work!
 

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Very nice story with a happy ending Congrats, Nice car . Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Bringing this one back from the dead again!

I got a few small things done to the new car in the past few months. First thing on the agenda was to get the brakes squared away. The car came to me with manual drum brakes all the way around, with a bad master cylinder that kept getting worse the more I drove the car. To remedy this, I ordered up a power brake conversion from Danchuk. I had scored a nearly brand new disc brake conversion/dropped spindle kit for my old project car a few years ago, so I figured that would be a nice addition as well. The install was pretty straight forward, and I got the new brakes setup over a weekends time.

The new stance in the front was just what I was after, and to compliment that I added a 1.5" block to the rear. (The block was a leftover from a 1/2 ton Chevy pickup a buddy of mine had put a lift kit on, so that was a freebie).

Here she is after the brake upgrade:


New booster/master cylinder:


With that work done, the car was much more fun to drive, and I got to enjoy cruising it for the rest of the warmer months. Closer to the end of the season, I noticed the car would start to get warm if I was sitting at at traffic light, or going slow. This problem got worse as time went on, so I decided to park the car for the year since the weather was getting worse right along with the overheating issue. As luck would have it, I came across a guy selling a 3 core radiator with electric fan setup on the local Craigslist.

When the time came to install the new radiator/fan setup, I wandered out to the garage, popped the hood on the car, popped the top on a beer, and surveyed the situation. The first thing that always came to mind when looking under the hood was, "Damn, it sure is ugly under here", and this time was no different. So, in the same way I'm sure most of you justify the work you do to your car, I decided some changes were in order. A couple hours later, this is where I was:



The next weekend brought this:



The plan 1:
-strip and repaint under the hood, inner fender wells, splash pan, core support, and firewall body color

The reason/justification 1:
-all of these parts were rattle-canned black, and its starting to show its age, and was ugly. The previous owner included a left over pint of the original blue the car was painted. I have the paint code, so I think I'm going to have some new paint mixed up to paint the stuff under the hood, and keep the original pint for touch-ups.

The plan 2:
-get a gasket kit for the motor, a new water pump and thermostat, along with some nicer "dress up" parts like valve covers and air cleaner. Install the throttle body fuel injection kit I have on the workbench.

The reason/justification 2:
-the car was doing a pretty good job of marking its territory in the garage, and I want to completely re-do the cooling system for peace of mind anyway. I got the throttle body fuel injection from a buddy of mine for a song when he took it off of his rock crawler.

The plan 3:
-replace the TH350 with a fresh 700R4

The reason/justification 3:
-I really want an overdrive transmission, and it goes right along with number 4.

The plan 4:
-re-gear the rear axle to a 3:73 ratio and install a limited slip diff.

The reason/justification 4:
-1 wheel peels are not cool, and the new gear ration should compliment the new transmission nicely.

The plan 5:
-install the Painless Wiring harness I had bought for my other project car.

The reason/justification 5:
-the stock wiring for the car has been hacked on pretty good over the years. I have the wiring harness on the shelf, and I've got a mild case of OCD when it comes to wiring. It will also make life easier when I go to install the stereo system later down the road.


Well, thats where I'm at for now. Hopefully I'll start making some progress on this thing in the next couple of weeks and I'll have some more pics to share. Like the Wife told me when she saw the car in a million pieces on the garage floor:
"This is why you can't have nice things!". :sign0020:
 
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