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Restoration Basics?

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Joined: 12 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 5:03 am    Post subject: Restoration Basics? Reply to specific post Reply with quote

I am about to revieve a 1950 or 1951 Chevy pickup which has been in my father in-laws barn for the last 30+ years. I am not mechanically inclined but am eager to take this project on. Any thoughts on where to start?
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Buck in WV
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 6:41 am    Post subject: Re: Restoration Basics? Reply to specific post Reply with quote

Wow, guy! That is sooo super!!!! I owned a 51 many years ago. Am now restoring a 74 ford pick up, and its loads of fun.

Just clean the truck up really well and see if you can determine what parts need restored. Whats rusted, what works and what doesn't. Find out if the motor will turn over, and if it might run.

LMCtruck.com will send you a catalogue that covers that truck. It will show and list all of the parts. That will be a great help.

Then you will have fun going to car shows, swap meets, etc to find parts and get ideas. Take your time because ideas will come to you as you start working on it and seeing what other guys have done. Somewhere you will make a decision as to wether or not you want to keep everything original or if you want to customize it in any way. One that old would be good to keep original, but it's up to the one doing the hobby. I chose to go the street rod way one my truck. Any way, this can be the beginning of a several year project and loads of fun. You can spend lots of money, but you can do the swap meet circuit, talk to guys on various truck forums, etc, and find out you can get by on a limited budget. Just take your time. The more time you take the more your interest will develop and the more information you will come in to. You will learn loads and it will all be fun.

Hope this helps! Take care, and enjoy!!!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 9:17 am    Post subject: Re: Restoration Basics? Reply to specific post Reply with quote

Best site for your project is www.stovebolt.com
Check it out!
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Hal (WA)

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 5:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Restoration Basics? Reply to specific post Reply with quote

First thing is to decide what YOU mean by restoration. Does it mean returning every part to looking and performing as it did when it was brand new? There are folks that work very hard and spend lots and lots of money doing that, although that level of work is usually done on rare and valuable machines. I have a friend that does such restorations--he has a Packard that is probably worth $250K and several other cars that might well be worth over $50K. These extremely valuable vehicles don't see the road very much, since it takes a couple of days to reclean them after they are out, and it would be a huge financial hit if they were damaged. I also hate to think how much money he has invested in his restored vehicles. But they are show-winning, perfect total restorations of rare, valuable vehicles. Your Chevy is not very rare, and if perfectly restored, would probably not go much over $20K. It would be very easy to spend lots more than that "restoring" it.

Someone else might consider a vehicle restored if it gets nice new paint, has a nice interior, gets new tires and all the mechanicals are working OK. Lots of the vehicles guys I know have are "20 foot cars", which look fine from 20 feet away, but when you get close, you see that they have far from perfect bodywork and really needed lots more work before the paint was applied. Lots of these vehicles are driven regularly. The guy with all the perfect cars drives a nice, but far from perfect 56 Pontiac during the summers.

Some people think that a vehicle should never be altered at all from what the manufacturer built. And others like to "restify" older vehicles, by making them look fairly close to stock, but maybe changing engines and transmissions to more modern ones and upgrading other systems for better performance or reliability.

If you don't know much about old vehicles, I would suggest that you get a manual (maybe a factory shop manual) that explains the truck you are interested in. You also might want to look at some of the "classic truck" magazines to learn things about the vehicles and to get ideas about what you want to do with yours. If you don't have them already, you want to get some tools. I think one of the best deals is buying a medium size mechanics set from Sears. But there are lots of other companies.

If your truck hasn't been used in many years, it almost certainly will need attention before you can do much to it. You will need a new battery and a battery charger to use while you are working on it. If the truck was parked because the engine was worn out, it still is in poor condition. I usually start by removing the spark plugs from an engine and then squirt a small amount of light oil into each spark plug hole. With the transmission out of gear, I have sometimes been able to get the engine to turn over by pulling on the fan, or by using a wrench on the bolt in the end of the crankshaft. If it won't turn over with reasonable force, I spray a bunch of penetrating oil in each cylinder and let it sit for a few days. If the engine will turn over, usually I can get them to start, eventually. Usually there will be some old icky gasoline or its residue in the gas tank. That needs to be removed, which usually means removing the tank from the vehicle. I have had pretty good luck with having tanks steam cleaned. Then you need to make sure fuel can go through the fuel line. I replace the rubber hoses and once I get the engine turning over, make sure that the fuel pump works. The carb usually needs to be cleaned out because of the fuel residue in the float bowl. The next step is to get the distributor working. I have had better luck using new points than trying to file old one. At any rate, you need to have good spark at the end of each spark plug wire. I also have had best luck with new spark plugs. I always drain out the old engine oil, partly to see what the old junk looks like. Since the old oil might have been non-detergent, you might want to start with some new, straight weight non-detergent when you replace it.

Once you have spark, fuel and compression, you are ready to try to start the truck. Make sure it is out of gear before you try!!!! Be prepared for it to be loud and to smoke very badly. If it knocks badly, or grinds or otherwise sounds real bad, shut it down immediately. You could do more damage by continuing to run the engine. But if it sounds OK, you might see if the clutch is free. With the engine running, try pushing the clutch pedal to the floor and then try to put the gear shifter into gear. If it just grinds and won't go into gear, your clutch plate is probably rusted to the clutch and/or flywheel. If so, you may end up needing to take the clutch apart.

In my experience, usually the brakes in long unused vehicles need a bunch of attention. Your Chevy should be easy to get parts for, but you well may need a new master cylinder and wheel cylinders. Be careful with this one: no brakes is a really scary experience!

Old tires may still hold the truck up, but probably are not safe to drive any distance on. If they are flat, I always try just pumping them up. But usually I replace the tires with more modern ones. 15" wheels from a later Chevy pickup should bolt to your brake drums, if you want to get cheaper, tubeless tires that will work.

Once you get the truck movable, hopefully partly under its own power, you might want to start deciding on how much bodywork is necessary. Beware of rust! It is expensive to repair and the repair is essential. Luckily, your Chevy is very well supported by the aftermarket and most parts are available.

If the existing engine is too far gone, you might want to consider replacement with a newer engine. It probably has a 216, with babbit bearings, a very old design. I would consider a Chevy V8 or a Chevy 6 from the late 50's or 60's. With the later engines, I would plan to change out the entire driveline, using either a 350Turbo automatic or maybe a later 4 or 5 speed.

Another thought: before you do much at all with it, have the title changed to your name. I knew a guy once that put about $2000 into an old GMC that he thought had been abandoned. When the actual owner saw that he was using the truck, he claimed it. The guy was out all the money he had spent getting the truck on the road. Live and learn: make sure the paperwork is clear before you invest any time or money.

IT WILL TAKE SOME MONEY to get the pickup on the road, and a bunch of time. Also, if you plan to make it perfect, it will take a lot of money and a whole lot of time. But this is a good, fun hobby. I wish you luck!
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