Of all the ways to start a project, finishing what someone else started usually ranks about the worst. But the siren's call of another's idea is as irresistible as a stray puppy to a little boy.
Big-hearted souls inquired about buying and finishing the sectioned Chevy sedan perched atop the spray booth at a Coquitlam, British Columbia, shop. And for 26 years the answer remained the same: No. No, they wouldn't sell the project born as a means for an old hand to pass his torch to the next generation.
The answer should've been the same the day John Foxley asked about it. But the booth's sagging roof and recently discovered cracks indicated that the abandoned project, the metaphorical elephant in the living room, threatened to crush the chamber like a fat kid on a Big Wheel. It had to go. And here was that little boy, starry-eyed for the dog they no longer wanted.
Like a puppy with Parvo, John's newfound pal revealed itself as far from perfect upon delivery. Perched 10 feet aloft, the body looked one way, but the perspective his garage floor offered gave John pause to reflect. "It was sectioned really heavy," he recalls. "And it looked really odd." If there was a silver lining to this rapidly darkening cloud, it was the car's chassis and floors-specifically the lack of them-that gave John an opportunity to fib to himself. "It was basically a full-sized model car body," John reasons.
More self-fibbing followed. "I got this idea from a guy who had a sedan delivery to do a floorpan swap," John says. Measurements indicated that G-body GM cars had a narrower and more desirable track width. Never mind that the G-body's wheelbase is a 1/2 foot shorter; John bought a minty '78 Malibu wagon anyway.
Mom warned that two wrongs don't make a right, but John actually had a plan: "To chop the top the way I wanted, I'd have to lengthen it by 6 inches," he says, referencing how the top's trapezoidal shape influences its finished shape. But rather than making the chassis and top fit the body, he took advantage of the chassis' shorter length and removed a 6-inch vertical band just behind the doors to make the body fit the top and frame. "It went really easy," John admits.
But that was just the start. John then cut the rear window frame from the top, lowered the A-pillars 4 3/4 inches, and let the back of the top fall inside the body when he set it back on. With the A-pillars tacked, he jacked the roof up and down until the profile looked right, which in his estimation happened about 6 or so inches lower than the original top height. "When I cut off the roof I'd left about a 1/2 inch above the beltline, so when I liked the way the roof looked I just welded that lip up and cut off all the roof skin that hung down below that line," he explains. Naturally, the back window frame went up into the roof 6 or so inches higher.
"A lot of people lengthen the roof, which is a big undertaking. But it was a fluke the way it all worked out; I'd never done one before but I was looking to minimize whatever work that I could." The gods smiled that day.
John then addressed the donor chassis. After chopping the Malibu body to the rockers, he established the chassis' ride-height potential with a set of air springs and S-10 dropped spindles. "Once I got it down, I started hacking the Malibu and the '52 until I could make the two cars fit together", he says. "Then one day, my in-laws (mother-, father-, and brother-in-law) came over and the four of us lifted that body and dropped it on the chassis," John recalls. "It sat cockeyed at first, but from that point I could jack it up, trim it, and try it out.