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Old 10-07-2014, 07:12 PM   #1
Green427 OP
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Location: Cooch's Bridge Battlefield
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Restoring a '38 Chevy

I was about 12 years old when my Dad bought this in '77. I still recall seeing it for the first time when we arrived to tow it home. History is not confirmed, but all service stickers and old receipts found under the seat all point to the car being in the upstate NY area its entire life. No rust anywhere except on some surfaces indicates that it was not driven during the brutal winters.

My Dad's goal was to restore it back to its original Gunmetal color and showroom condition, so he accumulated several parts over the years. Never got around to restoring it, but had to have the engine rebuilt in '93 due to a broken piston. Life got in the way, so it sat in storage since the late '90's.

Due to health reasons, Dad had to give it up, and I had a choice....take it or let him sell it to a stranger, who most likely would turn it into a hot I took it home.

Since the engine hasn't run in many years, and there is a coolant leak, I took the front end apart to manually open each valve before attempting to crank the engine.

Luckily none of the valves were sticking. Had to drain the tank and manually pump new fuel through the lines, took the carb apart to clean the sticky film, and lubricate all moving parts. Good thing fuel stabilizer was used in the 12 year old gas.

Took awhile, but finally got it started. Adjusted the timing and set the new points per spec.

I was not sure where the coolant leak came from, so removed the radiator and checked the water pump, found a cracked lower hose. Cleaned the radiator, painted it, put in new hoses & thermostat. As expected, all rubber parts are dry rotted and/or cracked, so will have to replace just about everything.

Brakes & bearings are still new, but the rear brakes are leaking. Knee action shocks leak badly, will not hold any fluid. Trans & axle not leaking too badly.

Drove her around the neighborhood to make sure things worked well. Guess I made a few jaws drop when they saw this contraption driving around:

Next step: Stem the leaking knee actions, and put an end to the bouncy front-end. Started on the driver's side:

Got a replacement seal kit, but unfortunately the needle bearings left some serious grooves and cannot be re-used:

To make matters worse, the steering arm is frozen to the shock body, and even though I used a 20 ton shop press, PB Blaster, & lots of heat....ended up damaging the threads, stupid thing would not budge:

Using a shop press did not help either. Screw it, I found a NOS replacement for $40.

Did the right side, which was in better shape, needle bearings are still in new condition, but grooves were still present:

My Dad had a set of remanufactured knee action shocks, got them in '78, and they sat on the shelf since. I still had to take them apart to put new seals in. Luckily they have been machined to use bushings instead.

Got the right & left shocks back on, voila, no leaks now:

New control arms under the shocks

When I lowered the front end, it was so stiff, I thought I had done something wrong...but that is the way it should be. Knee actions are notorious for leaking no matter what you did, and in order to work properly, they have to be filled with hydraulic fluid.

After aligning the front end, lubing all grease fittings, I took it out for a short spin...which was cut very short due to brakes not working. Even though I bled them, they still had air in the to be expected when using silicone fluid.

To be continued....
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Old 10-07-2014, 07:21 PM   #2
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This is great!!!! thank you for sharing!
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Old 10-07-2014, 07:25 PM   #3
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Beautiful! Glad to hear your going to keep it stock.
I like hotrods but I also like to see old cars as they rolled of the assembly line back in the day.
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Old 10-07-2014, 08:07 PM   #4
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Great pictures.

I'm sure your father will be thrilled to see it completed.
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Old 10-08-2014, 02:37 AM   #5
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I had a '38 Chev Coupe when I was 18 (1971) living the dream, I had always wanted one. In the late '90's I used to maintain a '38 4 door sedan for a customer - he comuted a long way every day in it. He said, ''I'm a director in the company, and can have any car I like...I could have a new Jag or BMW, but I want to drive this.'' We did a lot to it over the years, and he finally did in the bottom end over revving it...the cast iron pistons aren't kind to the splash lubed bigends doing that. We had it converted to shell bigend bearings, and he kind of lost interest in it after that....was driving an old VW instead.

We didn't get the knee action in NZ, only beam axles....although we got knee action Vauxhalls late '40's, early '50's. I remember really soft suspension (almost scaping sills on corners) and oil leaks.

Thanks for the memories.
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Old 10-08-2014, 03:53 AM   #6
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N. Texas
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Old 10-08-2014, 05:53 AM   #7
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Man...that is one clean car.
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Old 10-08-2014, 06:47 AM   #8
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Looks like a very fun project. Very nicely preserved car as well. I know you said you wanted to paint it but I bet that paint would buff out really nicely.
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Old 10-08-2014, 06:48 AM   #9
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No, that's not a clean car. THAT'S AN UNFREAKINBELIEVABLE CLEAN CAR!!!

Especially for your area. You're doing the right thing. Don't let anyone tell you different. Examples such as that are quite rare. If it was already rusted shit, turn it into a hot rod. I don't ever think I've seen a car that old, from the northeast, that complete and in that good of condition. My hat's off to you. Good luck on your progress.
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Old 10-08-2014, 09:49 AM   #10
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Good for you in taking it and not letting some shit for brains cut it to bits for some hot rod. That car is far FAR too nice for that.

I am so glad to see you following your dad's direction with this car.

Keep the thread going....I need to get started on my own stalled project.
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Old 10-08-2014, 10:18 AM   #11
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Cut it off, drill it out. Heat the surrounding area, put some ice in the drilling.
Should release.

"I don't really know, I've been too busy falling down."
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Old 10-08-2014, 05:58 PM   #12
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Amazingly clean car, drive it like your dad couldnt. Theres enough hot rods around, just keep it nice and original.
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Old 10-08-2014, 06:20 PM   #13
Green427 OP
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Thanks to all for the positive comments...I agree, nice, clean cars should stay original.

Originally Posted by motu View Post
We didn't get the knee action in NZ, only beam axles....although we got knee action Vauxhalls late '40's, early '50's. I remember really soft suspension (almost scaping sills on corners) and oil leaks
In some ways, you are lucky...Chevrolet offered a leaf spring/beam axle conversion kit for those that wanted to get rid of the knee actions...even today, hot rodders get rid of 'em. They are nice when they are working correctly. Most of them have turned to shit as hydraulic fluid was not cheap, so many put used motor oil in them. Mine had grease fittings inserted in the fill plug caps, so people were pumping grease in them, did not help much...and was a pain in the ass to clean up.

Knee actions were developed in '34 and finally scrapped in '39 for a normal wishbone-like setup. GM made a cool video on how it forward to 6:00:
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Old 10-08-2014, 06:59 PM   #14
Green427 OP
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Rear shocks were not leaking at all until I touched I have to put new gaskets on. These were made during one of the Delco partnership name changes:

Interior is all original except for the front floor mat and the banjo steering wheel has been restored. The passenger side and rear seat area look new, so the P.O. must have been single.

Eventually I will be asking around for ideas on how to restore the lettering in the gauges & clock. They can be taken apart easily.

Found these two under the front seat. Wonder how old they are....

I took this picture on the day that my Dad got it registered and took us for a spin. Even the tires on it today are the same ones that were already on it when we got it 37 years ago, and they were not new:

Check out the condition of the seat and rocker lip moulding on the passenger side:

Not too long after I got the shocks put on and painted, the water pump started leaking, so took the front end off and wirebrushed the rusted areas. Water pump will arrive in about a week. Ordered new gaskets for other parts, not expensive, and i don't want to take the front end apart again. I plan to get the correct paint and do the grey parts before putting it back together.

The guy who rebuilt the engine back in '93 painted the firewall to make his work look good, but he used a Chrysler grey, which is a different shade, so I will paint over that.
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Old 10-08-2014, 09:51 PM   #15
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Watch your shocks being built:

Fast-forward to 15:44.
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