My Full Custom – The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

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gutted2I had set a goal when I bought this car. It was to drive it to my college graduation. I actually graduated in December of ’02, but I wasn’t scheduled to walk until May. I had gotten the Chevy running over the winter. I was still playing with the Twistin’ Tarantulas at the time, and planned to have a killer ummer cruising my ride to shows and generally just being very hip. I had brought this car back from the grave, was in a great band and was graduating from The College forCreative Studies. I was flushed with my success, which meant that the odds were overwhelming that something was going to go wrong.

Remember Jeffro from a few pages ago? Well he builds hot rods and muscle cars, and he’s a Big Block freak. He has this S-10 with a blown 454 in it that will blow your mind. It’s got so much power that he can’t even floor it for fear of just shooting straight up into the stratosphere. By a stroke of luck, I had traded my way into a barely used G4 Quicksilver Mac. Now I had a year old Gateway, loaded, that I wasn’t using. I was going to sell it, but then Jeffro mentioned that he needed a new computer. We struck a deal. I would give him the computer, a monitor, and a bunch of peripheral stuff, and he would build me a wicked 350 smallblock.

Actually, things didn’t go wrong. It’s just that Lady Luck, in her bizarre little way, sometimes makes things go right, inside-out. In the hot rod mags I would always read something like “…and he built this car himself in only five years.” Five years? What was wrong with these guys? I need to be on the road yesterday, man!

Out came the old stovebolt, and plans were made to pack the old Chevy chock full of V8 goodness. My wife, Jen, grabbed the impact gun and got to work on the front end. Gotta love that! I would just slap in the 350 and cruise this baby all summer. Right?

Well, that Powerglide that someone told me you could bolt a 350 to had to go, too. While it’s true that you can bolt some Powerglides to a 350, they are the ones that Chevy started making about ten years after this car was built.

guttedfirewallThrough the process of elimination, it was becoming apparent that I was going to have to replace every inch of the drive train. There was no way to attach the 350 to the old Powerglide, so that meant finding a Turbo 350 trans. Once I tore out the ‘Glide I had to go with an open drive train, which meant that I would need a different rear end. A different rear end meant I needed different springs. I saved up (or “…just took it right out of our savings…”)  and got a spring kit from Chassis engineering that you can hang a Nova rear end on.

A friend of a friend mentioned that he had a ’74 Nova rear end up at his Dad’s place. What luck! I told him I’d buy it as soon as he could get it to me. John showed up with the axle in the back of his pickup at about 9:00 at night. I wish I had a picture of that thing to show you. His Dad must have lived on a house boat, because this thing looked like it had spend hard time at the bottom of the ocean! My wife even said “That guy is selling you junk.” I had to break the drums off with a sledge hammer! Not just break them loose, but shatter the cast iron. Of course the backing plates were complete turds, and so I had to take the whole thing apart. I did get to see how a 10 bolt GM rear end is put together though. This is what I call “The price of an Education.”

The chrome and stainless trim was in rough shape from the belt line down, so piece by piece it’s coming off in favor of a smoother look. The next thing to go is the old cloth-wrapped wires, and all hope of cruising this thing any time soon.

Next Week: Collateral Damage