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Old 04-14-2018, 12:24 AM   #1
caseyjones
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Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Portland, OR
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1955.1 Long Distance Build

Setting expectations: This will be a very slow build. I live in Portland OR, but the truck in in South Dakota. I get back there twice a year so this project is going to be a series of long stretches of research and stockpiling parts with short bursts of progress.

The truck was purchased by my dad about a dozen years ago. The story goes that it was a seed corn salesman's truck. My brother and i got it started for him by putting in a Nova front clip but then nothing much really happened with it from there and it just sat in his shed.


A couple of years ago, my dad offered the truck to me if I promised to do something with it. I have had a 1956 and a 1965 in the past, but I'm currently truck-less and don't really have the space to do the heavy fabrication close to home.




I finally got serious about building the truck last fall and started putting together a plan. First, build the chassis. Second, get it running and driving. Third, road trip it in semi-finished state to wherever I'm living.

This is a budget build, meant to be driver-quality. I want something that will be utilitarian and reliable. I want to do the work myself and with my dad, and I want to gain better understanding of what works and what doesn't.
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1955 Long Distance Build

Last edited by caseyjones; 04-14-2018 at 01:53 AM.
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Old 04-14-2018, 12:52 AM   #2
caseyjones
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Re: 1955 Long Distance Build

My first problem was the frame work / front suspension. We put the Nova clip on the truck without really understanding what we were doing, and it did not turn out well. The clip was set incorrectly relative to the rest of the frame, which was going to make for a higher front ride height than I wanted. That also meant that the steering linkage was not what I wanted. The Nova clip was really rough and needed everything - brakes, bushings, bearings, etc.

I tried to find a way to make it work, and even hooked up the steering column to the Nova box during one visit a couple of years ago, but I could just not get comfortable with the idea of it so I decided to start over. We still had the front part of the original frame, but instead found a complete, uncut frame to start from.

I priced out various Mustang II IFS kits and found that by piecing one together I could significantly beat the price of a complete Speedway kit. Through combination of eBay and rockauto, I was able to save a few hundred dollars over a comparable kit and didn't feel like I was sacrificing quality.

I chose 2" drop spindles, manual rack and tubular a-arms. I purchased everything I'd need to make it a roller, thinking I'd come back to finish the brakes later.

The biggest issue we ran into was a poor fit of the spring hats to the frame - they did not fit to the contour where the frame drops down toward the front. we had to cut plates to fill the gap. The other issue was a complete and total lack of instructions, since everything came from different sources. We used the TCI instructions available online as a reference and checked fit and mocked up the suspension repeatedly. I guess we'll see what happens when we finally get it on an alignment rack.

My dad and I stripped the frame and installed the MII crossmember over a few days in the shop. It may not seem like much, but for me this was a big step toward getting this thing going. I had to make the initial investment in it to commit. I had an awesome time working with my dad and I really look forward to my visit this summer to wrap up the rolling chassis.
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Old 04-14-2018, 01:05 AM   #3
caseyjones
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Re: 1955 Long Distance Build

My next work session is in July this year, and I'll be putting together the rear suspension, assembling the rest of the front suspension and hopefully getting the cab on the new frame. I had been planning on buying the TCI rear leaf spring kit, but it appears that prices on those kits have gone up about $120 since I last checked.

I decided to see what happened if I pieced together a rear end kit myself and found that it might save me a couple hundred dollars. I sourced a pair of Ranger rear leaf springs, and I found a 4x4 shop with leaf spring hangers, shackles, perches and u-bolt plates that look a lot like the TCI parts. I will be installing a Ford 8.8 rear. I'm planning to measure for shocks after I have the truck on the ground with the bed on it.

I was also able to score a garage-sale Speedway brake pedal/master cylinder bracket for a significant discount due to some sort of blemish. I'm on the fence about going under the floor or converting to a firewall mount master cylinder but this was a really good deal.

I can't wait to get back to SD and work on the truck again - with so much time between working sessions, I've been able to really develop a plan and be patient for deals. It's tough not having the truck right there to visualize and measure, but resources like this forum have been huge. Hopefully I have some good pics in July of the progress.
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Old 04-14-2018, 01:53 AM   #4
dsraven
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Re: 1955 Long Distance Build

google the ranger station for info on the ford 8.8. the explorer diff has an offset center, and I don't know what you need for a width, but some guys cut the long side off, shorten the tube and then use a short side axle on both sides. there is a mustang 8.8 that is centered though, mid 90's? some 8.8's have 3.73 gears, posi and disc brakes. I recommend to grab everything from the donor, including the stabilizer bar and links, the rear section of the driveshaft because the u joint flange is a bit different looking and you may need parts to make it fit, the park brake cables and link where they come together, the brake master cylinder, the brake hose from the frame and the end of the steel line that feeds the hose (you may need the nut off the tube for sizing) etc.
heidts has a good write up on understanding independent front suspension. if you call them they will send it to you. I have a copy but it is too large to post here. you should read up on it and basic mustang II geometry, anti dive angles, bump steer, scrub angles etc. then you will be prepared. set up the suspension and cross member to be level with the frame at the rake angle you like. the lower control arms should be level side to side and front to rear, at ride height. the upper control arms should be level or slightly angled down at the inner end. get it right the first time because that is the base for the rest of the truck. spend the time the first time around.
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Old 04-14-2018, 01:55 AM   #5
dsraven
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Re: 1955 Long Distance Build

you may want to throw the cab and front fenders on with a set of tires of the size you will be using. you wouldn't want to weld that MII front end in and find the wheels don't look right in the fender openings. thats a common mistake actually.
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Old 04-14-2018, 02:19 AM   #6
caseyjones
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Re: 1955.1 Long Distance Build

Raven, all good suggestions on the MII crossmember, and exactly what we did when we welded it in back in December. I just was so excited that I didn't stop to take any photos of it mocked up with front sheetmetal.

Right now the plan is to use an Explorer rear end. Once I have it mocked up, I may have to use your trick to shorten it.
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Old 05-12-2018, 01:12 AM   #7
caseyjones
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Re: 1955 Long Distance Build

Parts are accumulating for the July thrash. I found someone selling their leftover parts on a Vette forum and got some early LS manifolds for a fair deal.

Also sourced a 3.73 limited slip Explorer rear end from a local yard. Pretty crusty but a good price and really complete. Big thanks to my Dad-he's doing all the running and storing of these parts for me.

Ranger springs, shackles, hangers, and all else to bolt it together are waiting too. Once it's all set up I can measure for wheels. I'm really set on the "hot rod" wheels that take the stock-style hubcaps. Can't wait for July.
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Old 07-29-2018, 12:49 AM   #8
caseyjones
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Re: 1955 Long Distance Build

I spent a few days back in South Dakota last week, working on the truck and hanging out with family.

Remember that poor fit of the upper a-arm mount? Uh yeah, that should have been a warning. It is totally the wrong mount. That's what I get for trying to piece a kit together to save some money. After I put together the front end components, my brother said something didn't look right, and he was right. And I was very angry.

He called Speedway to see if we can order just the upper mounts, and they referred him to their supplier. Sounds like they'll help us out and we'll hopefully just have to zip off these and mount the new ones. But it put a stop to progress on getting the engine mounted on this trip.

However, we got the rear suspension mocked up and the body transferred to the new frame. The 4x4 shackles and hangers worked out great, the Ranger leaf springs seem like they'll work too. I'll probably go with shorter shackles and/or some short blocks under the axle to dial in ride height once we have it all weighted down. The new crossmember will be cleaned up, I will close off the open ends of the square tubing and wrap an L-shaped plate from the top of the crossmember down along the sides of the frame to spread the loads back there. The booger welds are mine - i'm so out of practice.

My dad has a Bobcat skid-steer and that made transferring the cab and box from the old frame so much easier. We just ran a wooden fence post through the side window openings and used a couple of heavy duty tow straps to lift the cab. No damage to the cab or anyone's lower back. No pics of that process...I'm bad at stopping and documenting this stuff.

The junkyard rear end needs all new brakes but the guts look good and it does indeed have the limited slip differential.

Planning for the next trip in December is starting. It's been really fun working on this with my dad and brother, as much as I really wish it was in my own back yard. The steering / exhaust puzzle is the next big hurdle, I want to avoid using a third joint. I have a bunch of old threads and photos saved of others' solutions, hopefully I can make one of them work!
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Old 08-03-2018, 12:46 PM   #9
Purcell69
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Re: 1955 Long Distance Build

Looks like you made some decent progress despite the setback. Keep up the good work when you can

-Joe
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Old 08-07-2018, 10:59 PM   #10
caseyjones
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Re: 1955 Long Distance Build

Quote:
Originally Posted by Purcell69 View Post
Looks like you made some decent progress despite the setback. Keep up the good work when you can

-Joe
Thanks! New upper mounts have already been delivered so one less thing to worry about.
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Old 08-08-2018, 02:33 PM   #11
Purcell69
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Re: 1955 Long Distance Build

Quote:
Originally Posted by caseyjones View Post
Thanks! New upper mounts have already been delivered so one less thing to worry about.
Good deal!

The thread title reminded me of troubleshooting a miss on my pickup truck while I was deployed to Japan in the late 1980s, before Internet. Just before I deployed, my Power Wagon developed a miss on one cylinder. It even overheated on me on my way home to store it. For six months, I had to sit on my hands, running all the symptoms through in my head and troubleshooting it in my mind. By the time we returned to the States, I was certain it was a burnt exhaust valve.

I took a few days of leave when we got home, sourced a set of heads, and commenced to tear things down in Mom and Dad's garage. Four hours later, the truck was running like a top again. The number 5 exhaust valve had a pie slice burn through the head of the valve, problem solved.

Time and distance isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes being further away from the project brings clarity.

-Joe
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