I first became interested in old cars when my husband, Larry, and I began dating. He owns a '57 Pontiac Super Chief and is the founder of a local car club called the Road Rebels. After being exposed to this hobby, I just had to have one of my own. I started looking around at car shows and I'd ask Larry what it was when I found one I liked. I kept picking '49-52 Chevys.
I found this Chevy in the swap meet area at the 2004 Columbus Goodguys event. The asking price was $3,500 and it appeared to be in decent condition, although it had a cracked block, which didn't bother me, as I was planning to drop a 350 engine into it. I spent a lot of time going back and forth looking at the car. I left the show and took the phone number.
The next week I was at another car show with Larry and his family, and I decided to call and see if the car had been sold yet. I was glad to find out that the owner still had it. I made him an offer of $3,000 if he was willing to deliver the car to me. He agreed and then told me he also had a rebuilt 350 small-block, Turbo 350, and '91 S-10 4x4 rearend for an extra $1,000. Larry and I agreed that it was a good price for all the items we were looking for, and everything was delivered in July 2004.
Over the next couple of weeks, we tore apart the car and I stripped the paint and body filler (well over an inch think in some places) to see what shape it was truly in. We found that we had a lot of sheetmetal work to do, as the inner and outer structures of both the rear pan and rocker panels were gone. The front and rear floorpans, trunk floor, both rear quarters and the lower portion of both front fenders all needed to be replaced. At this point, the car was put on hold while we made preparations for our wedding that was to take place in June 2005.
We started on the chassis when we got back on the Chevy, installing a Fatman IFS with the help of Roger Hardesty at H&H Auto Body (also a member of our Road Rebels car club). Once that was done, Larry started cutting out all the bad panels and we bought new patch panels. Unfortunately, there were no reproductions at the time for either the pan or the rocker boxes, so Larry had to produce these himself. It took us the whole first winter to get the floors and most of the right side of the body back into shape and patched.
After taking a few months off, we started the repair work on the left side of the car. We also had some extensive work to do on the front grille area, as I was set on having the '53 Buick grille. With the exception of a couple weeks of support from fellow car club member Jeff Casady, Larry and I completed all the work ourselves. Three spools of welding wire, and several tanks of gas later, the majority of the welding was completed and we could move ahead with all the blocking and sanding that had to be done. No one could have prepared me for the amount of block-sanding that was required for a great paint job! Every time I would think it felt good and ready, Larry would take a look at it and suggest maybe some more sanding here and here and ... ugh, that's a long process.
Larry started the paint job on Memorial Day 2007. It was hot in our garage, and to top it off, the window fan decided to quit, so we had to go buy a box fan and hope that it would blow the fumes out of the garage. To compound the problems, we had all the parts laid out so Larry could paint them separately so there wouldn't be any tapelines, and he accidentally knocked the left door off its stand when he was backing up. It hit the floor and was dinged and dented up. So it was back to filler, primer, and sanding until the door was once again ready for paint. We had already put up the plastic sheeting in the garage to lay out our painting area. The painting commenced and, with several eyes peeking through the windows from time to time (both his uncles, Gary and Jim, and his dad, Dean, were watching our every move), we had to take a few breathers even with our masks and paint suits on; the box fan was just not keeping up with all the vapors like the old fan did. Once the painting was done, I thought all the hard work was complete. I didn't realize the amount of work that needed to be done to put this car together. It was now Memorial Day and we only had six weeks until the 2007 Goodguys event in Columbus. I was not letting up on that deadline date. I wanted this to be the first car show to which I took my car.
It was crunch time, so we would both go to the garage and work until dark every day after work. We did this every day but Thursday-that day was reserved for my granddaughter, McKenzie, who comes over to see us. Every weekend we would get up early, go to the garage, and work until late.
We were so glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as we were hitting overkill come July 1. I had the exhaust installed and was driving it home when Larry noticed as he was driving behind me that my back wheel was wobbling. We took it to the garage, put it up on jackstands, and found out that I had a bent axle. We had to order the part for delivery that Friday, the 6th.
Larry kept telling me these types of things happen when you're building a car, but you actually have to experience that to truly understand what car builders mean when they say those things. I thought I understood, but I didn't, and now I do.
We only got to drive the car about 100 miles before we packed it up for the drive to Columbus on Thursday, July 12. I finally had my car on the road thanks to my kids-Tonya, Tyler, and Ashley-my granddaughter, McKenzie-who didn't give me too much grief for being gone all the time-and to Dean Bechtel, Gary Bechtel, and Chuck McClurg for helping out with problems when they arose.