How we got to work on the car

Matt and I have a friend we met decades ago where we all worked together. Our friend bought this 1963 Chevy II some time ago and began his project to make it one sweet ride. Over the years he had a number of frustrations, delays and setbacks. Matt had already helped out on the project a number of times at various milestones and late last summer the owner decided he’d had about enough of the frustration; he just wanted the car done so he can drive and enjoy it. We said we’d love to help and in October 2017 we were able to begin buttoning up the beast.

Before Pics

We managed to dig up some before pics of the Chevy II

Let’s Get Started

When we started work the car was painted and suspension, brakes and drive train were installed. Seats were upholstered but the interior was not installed. We thought we’d just need to finish installing the interior, complete wiring and run through all the systems to make sure everything was tightened to spec and not leaking any fluids. For sure we’d be done by the end of 2017, right?

Rear-end woe’s right out of the gate

Our first and biggest problem turned out to be the rear-end. Everything was installed but the owner couldn’t get the width tire he wanted to fit in the non-tubbed wheel wells. Only some narrow pizza cutters were gonna work. After much measuring we found it was less expensive to shorten the rear axles an inch to improve the offset available rather than buying a set of custom offset wheels.

We worked with a local differential specialist shop to complete the work. They’d initially rebuilt the rear end for the owner years before so it made sense to use them again. They said the work would be completed in two weeks but it ended up taking six, with the owner repeatedly going to their shop only to discover it wasn’t completed as promised. When it finally came back, it had drum brakes on it. We dropped it off without brakes so not sure where they came from. Once back in the car we discovered … it was the same width. When we called they said they shortened it to stock width. But it came back the same width it went out. so WTF?

When we took it back, we had them open it up and noticed the axles looked used, there was scoring where the bearings support the axles, but this was a rebuilt rear with new axles purchased at rebuild time and it had never been used, how can that be?

After another two week delay and new, shortened axles we got it back and installed and everything eventually fit; a tight squeeze, but fit. So, we’re already way behind schedule, but pushing hard to finish in 2017…

Firing the engine

We did a bunch of work to wire-up the brand new crate RamJet 350. We really wanted it to be as tidy as possible so we replaced the crunchy plastic factory wire loom with black mesh and made sure all the hoses were a nice tight run. We even shortened up the plug wires; we’re pretty happy with the engine bay.

When the day came to fire the engine, we were a bit nervous. The engine had been purchased about three years before so it was past warranty, hopefully nothing was angry about sitting for a while. We followed the GM instructions and it fired right up. We hadn’t installed the exhaust yet so it pretty much scared the crap out of us … those long tube headers were louder than we’d expected.

Here’s two munchkins who decided to test the horn while Papa was polishing the bumper. So funny to make me deaf, hahaha

So much to do to button-up a build

Matt and I can only work on cars on Sundays, we have real jobs that get in the way and five children between the two of us ranging from 14 years to 8 months so there’s a lot of family commitments as well. In mid-January 2018 we’d finish up each Sunday and think, “well one more week should do it.” But there’s just so many details; all easy, but tedious and time consuming. I won’t bore you with a list of everything we did but some of the highlights were:

  • Install subframe connectors
  • Install 2″ drop multi-leaf rear springs
  • Install new brake master cylinder, the new one already installed became our old old from sitting around and getting gummed up; parts just couldn’t be found
  • Interior – everything from sound deadener to headliner to door cards to seats to carpet. We installed a RetroSound stereo and all the shiny trim peices as well
  • Lots and lots of tightening and adjusting, suspension, TCI subframe and panels
  • Lots of tracking down drips and drabs of fluid leaks

Bell Auto Upholstery rebuilt the front and rear bench seats. We could not have asked for a better job. They were fast, affordable and high quality, thanks guys!

All done

We gave it a nice wash, polished the chrome then took it for a test ride. It has great power even with the engine in break-in mode. The four wheel discs work great. Everywhere we went people waved as we drove by and people stopped to chat with us about the car anywhere we stopped, even while we were taking these pics.

This was a beautiful car to work on. The owner has great taste and we loved the interior and exterior color choices; we love the fabrics and trim selections. The car came out beautifully and we were lucky we got to be a part of the build.