The advent of the modern aftermarket parts industry turned amateurs into craftsmen. As the industry addressed its needs the market only clamored for more, resulting in a rich catalog of problem-solving parts. Forget updating a car; you can build one entirely from scratch using all aftermarket or reproduction goodies.
But the industry isn’t without flaw. Of course there are poorly designed parts to blame but even the best designed and built ones don’t fit all cars the same. Loose manufacturing tolerances were the rule and not the exception when our cars were made and more than one properly designed part has been blamed for not fitting a sloppily built car.
And sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. Whether someone didn’t know to specify or another to ask, a seemingly insignificant detail about the ’39 Chevy at Thun Field Rod & Custom went overlooked, specifically whether it came with a beam axle or independent front suspension. And as Marshall Woolery found out after he’d removed the stock front suspension there really is a difference in the frame, albeit minor. Sal Solorzano at Total Cost Involved Engineering confirmed it, and even though he said beam-axle ’39s, like Woolery’s customers aren’t exactly common, he said someone should’ve still confirmed it. We didn’t know where the mix-up was but Solorzano still offered to correct the issue. Fortunately it was easier to make the part fit than it was to return it for the correct one.
That wasn’t the extent of the problems either. Even though the beam axle and IFS frames share the same general shape two more critical parts didn’t fit the way the instructions specified. We chalked it up to the frame’s manufacturing tolerances. Then Woolery realized that we could save a ton of work down the line simply if we retained a chunk of a part that the instructions said to remove entirely.
An opportunity arose within these issues: we can learn from the ways that Woolery used to address them and the opportunities he encountered in this car’s transformation. It underscores the frequently overlooked idea that the difference between a good car and a great one are not necessarily in the parts but in the way they’re put together. In other words, details matter. And over the next few months we’ll show just how they do.