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Old 11-09-2018, 01:29 PM   #1
Vic1947
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57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

Starting a new build thread for this '57 Chevy 4dr 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 last week to this one. 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 I placed the order today. Lots of stuff to do between now and when it arrives. Hope you'll find it interesting.
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57 Chevy Wagon - California Dreamin'
Crusty Rusty Leaky Squeaky 67 Consigned 4/2019 Shipped somewhere across the pond
Silver Streaker "Mecum'd" 4/2013 Gone to Texas
Maybelline - my '57 Ford 2dr Sedan "Mecum'd" 3/2016 Destination unknown
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Old 11-09-2018, 02:16 PM   #2
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

Nice!!....looks like a solid car....
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Old 11-10-2018, 05:10 PM   #3
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

I love wagons. Looking forward to seeing what you do with this one. I looks pretty solid.
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Old 11-10-2018, 11:38 PM   #4
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

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Nice!!....looks like a solid car....
Thanks! There's a lot to like for a project starter. The door, hood and tailgate gaps are very nice, which would lead me to believe it hasn't seen a lot of trauma.
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I love wagons. Looking forward to seeing what you do with this one. I looks pretty solid.
It really is... just a little rust in a few places. Will know more once it comes back stripped nekkid from the blaster.

Since the RS chassis won't likely be here until the first of May, thought I'd at least post a shot of what it looks like. Only thing extra I ordered was the sway bar. Between now and whenever it's delivered, I'll need to scrounge up brakes, rolling stock and a third member. Hopefully there will be some dealers running specials on crate setups around Christmas. They've gone up since I bought the one for Crusty.

The plan for now is to tinker with the existing setup and get it reliable to drive and then maybe hit a few cruise-in's before blowing it apart. To that end, I pulled all the plugs today and found #8 totally closed up. It was pitch black and wet. Gave it a quick tuneup in the blast cabinet then gapped it along with all the rest. The 305 was originally equipped with a HEI, but it won't fit due to lack of firewall clearance. Someone has replaced it with a point distributor and external coil. Plugs were still setup for the HEI though.

The carb is where it really got nasty. What you see in the photos below is the actual fuel level in the bowl. You can also see when I poured the bowl contents into a paper cup that it was about half water. No wonder it doesn't want to stay running. I'm guessing I'll be chasing crud all the way back to the tank. Also, working the gas pedal to keep it running apparently loosened the throttle linkage and it barely moves so that will need some attention. Fun stuff.
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57 Chevy Wagon - California Dreamin'
Crusty Rusty Leaky Squeaky 67 Consigned 4/2019 Shipped somewhere across the pond
Silver Streaker "Mecum'd" 4/2013 Gone to Texas
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Old 11-11-2018, 12:55 AM   #5
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

Dang carb looked a lot better than I expected!
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Old 11-11-2018, 01:10 AM   #6
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

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Originally Posted by Vic1947 View Post
Starting a new build thread for this '57 Chevy 4dr station wagon originally manufactured in Los Angeles, CA. Hope you'll find it interesting.
Interesting??? I'm glad to be in on the beginning of this build. I tuned in about 3/4 through Crusty and found myself re-reading various stages it at least three times.

I bought my wife Susan a beautiful teal and white 55' 4 door Bel Air sedan when we started having kids, back in 1997. After installing vintage air, power steering and power disc brakes she liked driving it but got tired of the attention and questions asked all the time. Guys would want to stop her and strike up a conversation while she had a baby on her hip loading groceries in the trunk. She wasn't much for the attention that it got so I moved it down the road.

Care to elaborate on your vision?...any color combos that you are thinking about? wheels? Great thread title too.. In my head I sing "...and the sky is gray" when I read it, lol.

Really looking forward to being a fly on your garage wall so please remember to document even the boring stuff, I know that I learn a bunch from you.
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Old 11-11-2018, 09:55 AM   #7
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

I'm in to watch another cool build Vic...
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Old 11-11-2018, 07:18 PM   #8
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

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Dang carb looked a lot better than I expected!
Looks even better now that I got the scum out of the float bowl. Ordered a kit off eBay (low cost + no having to explain to the counterperson what it fits). It should be in later this week and I can put the carb back together. Will do brake work to keep busy while I wait.
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Interesting??? I'm glad to be in on the beginning of this build. I tuned in about 3/4 through Crusty and found myself re-reading various stages it at least three times.

I bought my wife Susan a beautiful teal and white 55' 4 door Bel Air sedan when we started having kids, back in 1997. After installing vintage air, power steering and power disc brakes she liked driving it but got tired of the attention and questions asked all the time. Guys would want to stop her and strike up a conversation while she had a baby on her hip loading groceries in the trunk. She wasn't much for the attention that it got so I moved it down the road.

Care to elaborate on your vision?...any color combos that you are thinking about? wheels? Great thread title too.. In my head I sing "...and the sky is gray" when I read it, lol.

Really looking forward to being a fly on your garage wall so please remember to document even the boring stuff, I know that I learn a bunch from you.
Funny story about your wife, I can sympathize! I'll do my best to keep up with the thread. As for the plans, I'm still in the early stages, so things could change, but other than what I mentioned earlier, I'm thinking stuff like flush mount door handles, hidden wiper motor, smooth firewall, one piece front windows (vent delete), nice stereo w/NAV and etc. As for the colors, I lean toward the silver/grey palette for the exterior. Will probably discard the front bench seat and replace with buckets and hand built console wrapped with something in a buckskin color. That may change over time. I rarely end up with exactly what I envision early on.
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I'm in to watch another cool build Vic...
Thanks, Dale. It may be a little slow due to funding and parts availability but that's okay. At my age, my old body needs more time to recover from rolling around on the floor.


It's always fun to take over someone else's project. Find all kinds of creative engineering. I knew when I pulled the air cleaner and saw the PCV hose plugged into the float bowl vent, I was in for a treat. Then I pulled the "PCV" out of the valve cover and immediately saw why they didn't plug it into the vacuum port on the base of the carb. There was no PCV... just a wad of electrical tape wrapped around the hose to take up the slack.

The throttle linkage had worked loose so when I checked to see what was going on, I found that a PO had welded a small machine screw to the end of the shaft going thru the firewall. The nut that was holding the whole mess together had backed off and the arm was flopping around. That type arm is meant to have a bolt thru the bottom to tighten it around the circumference of the shaft. The nut that had loosened is really only a fail safe. I cut the welded screw off and revised the hardware setup to work as designed. It should last for as long as I need.

I hate to take the car apart at this point and twiddle my thumbs waiting for parts and etc. So for the time being, I'm going to fix it up just enough to go have a little fun before getting down to brass tacks.
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57 Chevy Wagon - California Dreamin'
Crusty Rusty Leaky Squeaky 67 Consigned 4/2019 Shipped somewhere across the pond
Silver Streaker "Mecum'd" 4/2013 Gone to Texas
Maybelline - my '57 Ford 2dr Sedan "Mecum'd" 3/2016 Destination unknown
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Old 11-12-2018, 12:21 AM   #9
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

like your wagon, looks really solid. I have a 57 4 dr wagon also. owned it 39 yrs

keep us posted with pics. thanks, Larry
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Old 11-12-2018, 01:05 AM   #10
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

My wife wants one of these. I'm in to see the build
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Old 11-12-2018, 08:56 AM   #11
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

In at the start! Always fun tipping them upright. As always, any help or assistance I can offer, don't hesitate to call.
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Old 11-12-2018, 03:47 PM   #12
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

Of course I'll be watching this one too! I love your plans, and by the execution of Maybelline and Crusty, this one should be really nice when you're finished, and a load of fun and wealth of information as you build it.
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:06 PM   #13
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

Great plans and parts list so this is gonna be fun! Tagging along for the duration.
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Old 11-13-2018, 10:35 AM   #14
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

Sounds like a great project! I have a 57 four door wagon as well. It is my fair weather daily driver.
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Old 11-15-2018, 08:19 PM   #15
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

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like your wagon, looks really solid. I have a 57 4 dr wagon also. owned it 39 yrs keep us posted with pics. thanks, Larry
Will do, Larry. 39 years... wow! I owned my 57 Ford for over 25 years which is my record by a long shot.
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My wife wants one of these. I'm in to see the build
My wife wanted me to build a '69 GTO Judge clone, but I couldn't find anything reasonable. She's cool with this one, though. Our deal is that I'm not allowed to croak unless all my projects are finished.
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In at the start! Always fun tipping them upright. As always, any help or assistance I can offer, don't hesitate to call.
Thanks, Chip. I'm sure I'll be calling you as this thing proceeds. The RS frame will have to be transported from the trucking terminal to the house, so a trailer will be necessary.
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Great plans and parts list so this is gonna be fun! Tagging along for the duration.
Thanks! I'm slow but I typically finish projects.
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Sounds like a great project! I have a 57 four door wagon as well. It is my fair weather daily driver.
Way cool, Monte! According to the cowl tag, this one was painted the same exact colors as yours until someone squirted it red. Mine runs, but a DD it's not.

I've been working to get the wagon to where it will pass safety inspection. If you don't have that, you can't get tabs. My next door neighbor (a KC policeman) moved last year so there went my inspection workaround. The lights worked with the exception of the left turn signal and the right high beam. Fixed the turn signal with some contact cleaner and found a bad splice in the wire to the headlight, so both were fairly easy. The steering column has been gutted of the canceling mechanism and the horn. The original steering wheel is long gone, replaced by a SS wheel off something.

The horn button is now under the dash. It didn't work either. I disassembled the button and carefully cleaned it in the blast cabinet. It works fine now, but still had no horn. Moved downstream to the relay and it was shot. AutoZone had one for eight bucks and it now works, but still no horn. It arcs when you hit it with 12V, so something ain't right. I'll do some digging around to see if it's fixable.

The front brakes are much better now that I adjusted them, but I need to do the same to the rear as well. Brake shoes looked clean and fairly new when I removed the drums. The wheel bearing on the LF was looser than I liked, but tightening the castle nut one notch took care of it.

The carb kit showed up in the mail this afternoon, so I reassembled the mighty 2bbl and the engine runs like a little sewing machine now. The point dwell was sitting on 15 degrees, so I adjusted it but it kills the engine when you get up around 25 degrees. I left it on 20 and will just run it like that for now. If I get really desperate for something to do, I'll yank the cap and pull the points to see if they're burnt or some other problem.

There was a box in the back with some extra parts. Decided after fixing the headlight I'd reinstall the bezels. Had a good laugh when I saw how someone had used super glue to attach the rubber gasket to the front of the bezel (red arrow) instead of the rear (blue arrow). That took a lot of patience... and all for naught.
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57 Chevy Wagon - California Dreamin'
Crusty Rusty Leaky Squeaky 67 Consigned 4/2019 Shipped somewhere across the pond
Silver Streaker "Mecum'd" 4/2013 Gone to Texas
Maybelline - my '57 Ford 2dr Sedan "Mecum'd" 3/2016 Destination unknown
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Old 11-16-2018, 09:05 AM   #16
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

For inspection: R&S automotive on 24 highway in Independence. Just east of William Chrisman High School. Very hot rod friendly.
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Old 11-27-2018, 07:16 PM   #17
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

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For inspection: R&S automotive on 24 highway in Independence. Just east of William Chrisman High School. Very hot rod friendly.
Thanks, Chip. I've decided to take the easy (and cheap) way out and get a historic vehicle tag. No inspection required... just send them the paperwork and they send you a plate. The only downside is you're required to keep a log of all personal mileage. However, they exclude car related events and trips to repair shops which covers me almost completely.

I pulled the points out of the distributor to see why I was having trouble setting the dwell. Looks like the ignition was left on sometime in the past and the contact pad that's supposed to be on the wiper arm has welded itself to the base. Ordered a new one off eBay and should be back up and running in a day or two. Maybe by then the roads will be clear enough for a test drive. Had 5.3" of snow the other day and we've been staying in. Back in the day I couldn't wait to get out and do donuts. Now we just peer out the window and go, "Will ya look at that crap!"

Kathy has started decorating for Christmas and as I wheeled into the head for some relief yesterday, there was a new snowman sculpture on the tank. Finally had to turn it 180 degrees... couldn't go with them staring at me.
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57 Chevy Wagon - California Dreamin'
Crusty Rusty Leaky Squeaky 67 Consigned 4/2019 Shipped somewhere across the pond
Silver Streaker "Mecum'd" 4/2013 Gone to Texas
Maybelline - my '57 Ford 2dr Sedan "Mecum'd" 3/2016 Destination unknown
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Old 11-28-2018, 09:00 AM   #18
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

They do seem a bit too.... happy about the situation.
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Old 12-05-2018, 07:38 PM   #19
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

Time for an update...

The parts hunt is on and several acquisitions have 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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57 Chevy Wagon - California Dreamin'
Crusty Rusty Leaky Squeaky 67 Consigned 4/2019 Shipped somewhere across the pond
Silver Streaker "Mecum'd" 4/2013 Gone to Texas
Maybelline - my '57 Ford 2dr Sedan "Mecum'd" 3/2016 Destination unknown
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Old 12-07-2018, 05:39 PM   #20
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

So how's that puppy running now?
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Old 12-07-2018, 06:22 PM   #21
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

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So how's that puppy running now?
Well, honestly it still has a fuel delivery issue. I think either the tank / fuel line is crapped up or the fuel pump is full of junk and not working too well. It fires right up and idles pretty good now but has a hesitation when you crack the throttle. I'd almost bet the pump is barely putting enough fuel in the bowl to keep it going. However, it cruises just fine and will do for me until time for the complete teardown. Not that the #%*^ing weather is any good for cruising!

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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57 Chevy Wagon - California Dreamin'
Crusty Rusty Leaky Squeaky 67 Consigned 4/2019 Shipped somewhere across the pond
Silver Streaker "Mecum'd" 4/2013 Gone to Texas
Maybelline - my '57 Ford 2dr Sedan "Mecum'd" 3/2016 Destination unknown
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Old 12-09-2018, 04:15 PM   #22
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

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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57 Chevy Wagon - California Dreamin'
Crusty Rusty Leaky Squeaky 67 Consigned 4/2019 Shipped somewhere across the pond
Silver Streaker "Mecum'd" 4/2013 Gone to Texas
Maybelline - my '57 Ford 2dr Sedan "Mecum'd" 3/2016 Destination unknown
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Old 12-09-2018, 09:08 PM   #23
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

So hows the tailgate gonna work?...will it open to the side or the top?...
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Old 12-10-2018, 12:14 AM   #24
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

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So hows the tailgate gonna work?...will it open to the side or the top?...
It will open to the top using the liftgate hinges. I'll replace the mechanical sliders with gas struts to help lift and hold it in place. Not sure yet how well the latches will work. The stock tailgate rotates up from the bottom but now it will approach from a downward arc. I doubt it will be an issue, but if it is, I'll deal with it when it happens.

Doing a swing out door would be an order of magnitude more difficult, I think. As usual, I'm taking the lazy way out.
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57 Chevy Wagon - California Dreamin'
Crusty Rusty Leaky Squeaky 67 Consigned 4/2019 Shipped somewhere across the pond
Silver Streaker "Mecum'd" 4/2013 Gone to Texas
Maybelline - my '57 Ford 2dr Sedan "Mecum'd" 3/2016 Destination unknown
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Old 12-10-2018, 10:58 AM   #25
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Re: 57 Chevy Wagon - Californa Dreamin'

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Doing a swing out door would be an order of magnitude more difficult, I think. As usual, I'm taking the lazy way out.
It may not be too bad if you can rob some parts from a Hearse or an old ambulance. But then again, there are a lot more large SUVs that use liftgates.
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