If you’ve ever built (or re-built) a car, you know that one thing always leads to another: you rebuild the engine, then ’cause the new engine likely has more power than the old one you should really upgrade the brakes to avoid crumpling your vintage sheetmetal. The wiring is moderately petrified. And then there’s that worn, grungy interior…
It never really ends, does it?
One step at a time. So after putting a few thousand miles on my old Chevy II over the course of several seasons, it was time for an upgrade. Although the 6 ran great, I had a hankering for a little more so out it came.
The empty engine room just cried out for a V-8, so what could I do but respond? I had Sturdy Engines put together a mild, street-friendly 305 short block, bored .040 and a cam spec’d for a little more torque from idle – 4500 rpm. I bolted on a dual plane Edelbrock intake with 500 cfm carb, refreshed heads and a Dave Ray HEI electronic ignition conversion to an original V-8 point type distributor.
The trans is a TH350, again a mild build by Bobby Z. using a shift kit just to firm things up a bit. The new convertor is stock stall-speed; no need for hard launches on this car.
Cosmetic upgrades are also in the works. Thanks to upholsterer Ed Duncan, the ripped up blue tweed is history. Both the front and rear seats are now firmed up, re-padded, re-covered in factory-style black, looking good and feeling comfy. Me likey!
And in the process of pulling the front sheet metal off, I discovered that the side of the cowl displays some original white paint which rubbed out and polished up nicely. Now, I’m forced to re-think my plans for painting the car. That creamy white looks pretty good!
So before the V-8 found its new home, the engine bay should be more presentable. (remember that “one thing leads to another” deal??!)
So I patched corrosion holes under the battery tray, stripped paint, sanded, epoxy-primed and painted.A few weekends later, we were ready for an engine.
It was showtime. The engine was chained to the hoist, raised skyward and carefully lowered into place.
And here it is… securely bolted in. I know, you’re thinking the engine should be painted Chevy orange. But while my chosen color might look like way too much dark pigment between the fenders, I subscribe to the long-time mechanics’ adage that we paint our stuff black because the oil leaks don’t show up as badly against black! Then too, the underhood scenery will eventually be enhanced by all the other mechanical details that help to make an engine room, an engine room.
Those details included additions like plug wires, fuel line, bracketry and other things that will make this thing run. Not much eye-candy here; the goal is a strictly functional street driver. The engine’s in, next we need to add a radiator.
And the under-hood scene is looking a little better now:
You’ll note in this photo, the alternator is now in a non-stock position. The reason is that the higher stock mounting would only allow a small portion of the water pump pulley to contact the drive belt. I’m not running air or a power steering pump. With just the single belt I had concerns about drive belt slippage causing poor coolant circulation. So I tracked down mid-mount alternator hardware from Alan Grove Components. But, like any project involving a non-stock melding of pieces, some modification was needed. The lower portion of the bracket made contact with the water pump inlet.
So I had to do some minor clearancing along the edge. I used a flat file to simply “round” the sharp edge that had made contact:
It should be noted that the water pump is an all-new aftermarket casting. With a factory casting, this modification would likely not be needed. The new alternator and mount are in place and you can see the now-improved belt-to-pulley contact.
Next up: exhaust. I really did not want to have to haul this car somewhere to have that done. Knowing that a friend of mine had ordered a factory style dual system for his ’58 Chevy from American Muffler in Wichita KS and installed it himself, I gave them a call. It wasn’t listed in the applications on their website, but could they supply a system for my car? Yes, they could. Pipes, turbo mufflers, clamps, hangers, the whole enchilada… done, packed, shipped and at my door in less than a week.
Even with shipping cost, the price was substantially less than what I paid for the last custom-bent system I had done and I was able to do the install in my own garage. So in my case, the availability of a complete pre-bent system was a great option and I’m well satisfied.
So while installing the new pipes, working under the car, I found a leak. Not really a surprise, ’cause every one of my cars has had one. Or more. But this one came from the fuel tank. So, I drained what was in it and pulled it out.
Calling on friend Randy at Lake City Rod & Custom, a few days later I had the new tank in my garage. Take a look at the old sending unit. You’ll note it’s just a wee bit rusty, but what’s worse – where’s the float?! M.I.A.! Maybe rattling around inside the old tank somewhere?
Yes, the gauge did work at one time.. but that was then and this is now. My “go-to” Nova parts source Chevy 2 Only supplied a new sender, along with the cushioning material that goes between the trunk floor and the top of the fuel tank. New sending unit, new tank, installed.
So there’s been progress all right… enough that I’m now going on to “Part 2”. You can move on to that segment here, and be sure to drop by again when you’re in the neighborhood. In the meantime, safe travels!