Oh boy.... you just HAD to see another project car of mine, didn't you? Well this page is purely a BEFORE page. I wanted to keep it all to one page for this little guy, so I hope you don't mind all the picture downloads. If you do... well... you know where the BACK button is don't ya?
OK, so what are we looking at here? The first two pictures are the Austin, stripped down, right after I miraculously towed it from Lynchburg, Virginia to Indianapolis. Not the wisest of choices, I must admit. But... all of the body parts you think are missing actually ARE in my possession, but they were "loose" meaning they had to be carried in the back of the pickup. On a side note, I should have taken their pictures, too... they're the only parts that don't have anything wrong with them!
On the left is the body shell with the doors on it. Note the monstrous slicks. Also note the little front tires. Guess what? Those things were tack welded on to the Austin drum brakes! Sheesh. Some people really shouldn't be allowed to have kids OR cars. The right most picture is the horribly butchered front portion of the original Austin chassis. This entire chassis is just too wimpy for a V8 powered hot rod, so I hope some Austin buffs will want those stock suspension pieces.
This is definitely not the stock suspension. What you see here is an attempt at hanging a ladder bar suspension on the back of the Austin frame, which they chopped to make room. If you ask me, they did pretty crappy job all around. If you're wondering what ladder bar suspension is, look the bars that are mounted to the differential. They are connected to a point about two feet in front of the differential housing and kind of look like ladders in a way. They're good racing suspensions but lost favor amongst most custom chassis builders when 4 link suspensions came along. Without going into a long diatribe about 4-links, they have a a key advantage of being infinitely adjustable which for hardcore racers is a mighty big deal. I haven't decided yet what form of suspension I'm going to go with - but I do know EVERY weld and every thing these guys did to this car was substandard. The pictures don't show it close up enough, but even the welds on the ladder bar mounts are miserably poor. I bet the differential housing is bent too.
Let's look at something else.... If you're a budding hot rodder, I have some advice for you. When dealing with a rotting body on a vintage rod, do not, I repeat, do NOT cut the firewall out if you don't have any floor bracing or solid body mounts to hold the body in shape. Arrrrgh! I don't think it will be a huge problem in the long run, but it is going to force me to assemble the front clip (front fenders, hood, and splash panel) and do a lot of test fitting before I install some permanent floor bracing. As you can see in the left picture... they weren't too gentle with the cutting, either. Take a look at the middle picture if you want to see what I mean by the lack of flooring. The bar across the middle where the floor ought to be is a temporary piece I added to hold the body up since the front body mounts gave way on the trip home. Speaking of body mounts... I THINK the back ones (right most picture) are going to hold for now... but I do have to reinforce the entire beltline of the car eventually.
Shown here is another common problem with vintage steel... completely rotted out bottom sides.
In case you didn't notice in the first picture on the first page, the top on this bad boy is already chopped. Of course there are still a couple of problem areas that need to be worked, but my guess is these guys spent their time doing the tough part on the roof and hadn't gotten around to cleaning up the door cuts yet. This is fairly normal,
But this bothers me a bit. This is the passenger side window sill behind the door. The picture doesn't quite show how deep this looks and if you don't know why this is a bad thing.... steel doesn't crack. But lots of plastic body filler does.
More common problems... rotted out areas around the fenderwells.
Finally! A shot that doesn't show trouble. This was just to show the size of the tires and to show that they had done some custom steel work in the back. BUT... the wheel wells (AKA, tubs) they made are crude and crappy and that big box in the middle is to cover their springs which I have no idea why they're mounted so dang high... so that whole mess, while not technically a problem area, is going to be ripped out and redone... AFTER I finish bracing the body properly and finish the new chassis.
And here is also some evidence that they were working through it. This is tough to see in a web picture, but the passenger side fender well area had the same "rot" as the driver side picture from above. Here they had welded in a patch and it was awaiting the final body work.
As a very special person told me once, with these kinds of cars, no matter what you think you're buying, you're always getting a work in progress. I have to keep telling myself that sometimes!
Had enough of the nasty BEFORE pictures? Hang in there. I have to finish tweaking the GTX, then I have a ton of work to do on the '55 before I can really get serious with this one. When I bought this one it was intended that this would be a long term or "future" project that I would do at some point down the road. The way everyone gives me hell about it, they'd think my magic hands can cook, clean, do laundry, maintain the house, the lawn, the pickup, and work on all three hot rods at once.
Don't give up! Keep checking back! You may see a few of the more serious problems tackled when the parents visit this summer!