My Next Very Last Project

It is now time to start my third “very last project.”  So there will be no misunderstanding, let me define how these projects came about and how they are numbered. The need for the numbering system is due to my age. At age ninety, long term planning can mean “next year” not “next decade,” so project planning has to be done with that time frame in mind. I am optimistic concerning my general health, so I feel I can take on a restoration project with some confidence that it will end up in my garage and not in the junk yard as a pile of unrelated parts.

I determined that the restoration (with some modifications) of the Chrysler 300G would be my “very last project.” At the time of that determination, I was in my early 80s and had good confidence that I had enough time left to build a runner – and a great runner it was. I should have kept it, but the “Beautiful Brute” needed to be free to roam the open highway, so I sold it. I do not want trophy cars cluttering my garage. They either get driven or get sold. When it comes to selling cars, I do not hold out for top dollar. I judge a good market price, and then sell the car at that price. It did bring a good price, and now I had a substantial pool of money that could fund another project.

So I made the decision to do a “second very last project.” I developed an itch to do a restomod as I wanted a great looking, but reliable, high performance street car that would be totally inappropriate for an old duffer like me. Therefore, I bought a rust free 62 Pontiac Catalina, which made a good platform for building an LS3 based very high performance vehicle that would be fast, reliable, comfortable, and beautifully styled. In each of my projects, I seek to do something new and challenging. I am not interested in doing something again, even though repeats are more cost effective and easier to do. I want to learn something new. At my age, I have enough of “old.”

The Pontiac has morphed into the “Bluebird,” which I have frequently written about. It has been a challenge in strange ways that tries my patience and drains a stack of Benjamins.  But now it is at the point where I feel I can drive it safely and return it home dent free. What remains to be done is easily manageable (I hope).  I am still upright and can manage, but not muscle, another project.

Here is my plan for my third “very last project.” It will hopefully fit my time frame, and my goal is to retain the necessary energy to get it done and find enough help to provide the muscle that I can no longer provide. I do have the shop, tools, parts, and management skills to make it feasible. Thanks to the Bluebird, the Benjamin stack is low, so frugality is in order.

What is this project that brings a new challenge? If you read my April 1st blog, you have a clue. That was mostly a big fudge story, (remember, it was April Fools Day), but the fact is I have a 1954 rust-free, four-door Chrysler Windsor, the world’s most uncollectable car, and a built 1955 genuine 331 cubic inch Chrysler 300 engine, which are the main ingredients for the project.

About the only network TV program that I watch other than the entertainment that passes for news is the Motor Trend channel. It is good sport to watch the Road Kill episodes where an ex-Hot Rod magazine editor, whose head is full of wrenches and sockets, and his too-late-to-the-scene hippy sidekick take crusher-ready, rust-bucket cars, get them running, and then go on road trips after first destroying a set of tires doing juvenile “burn outs.” Fifty miles without a breakdown is considered an accomplishment. It is all good fun because like most reality shows it is “panambic” in execution. (“Please pardon the man behind the curtain”). They have a chase team following them, and I am sure they have a decent production budget.

In the spirit of Road Kill, I plan to implement a very modest expense budget to make a sleeper out of the tired old Windsor. The straight six old reliable flathead has been pulled and motor mounts installed for the hemi, which could very well make it a 125mph car. The challenge is not to also make it a death trap. This means brake, tire, and wheel upgrades, and the addition of seatbelts. Since I do not have a chase car to follow me, it will have to be made reliable. That means conversion from 6 volt electrical to 12 volts, an electronic ignition system and a modern gear driven starter. If I can manage it, I want to make a conversion to a hydroboost brake system using brand new 1961 C300 drum brakes and speed rated radial tires on new custom steel wheels. The rear end will have to be upgraded for the brakes and, of course, new headlights must be installed. What is not in the plan is body work, paint, and upholstery beyond what is necessary to make it presentable. No AC or sound system. It will get all necessary new wiring as that is essential for reliability. Where the old wiring is sound, it will be left in place.

A huge budget item is paint and body work. This can easily run up to 20K. The same is true for upholstery, which can also run around 20K, which turns a fun project into a non-liquid asset. The hot rod community has met this cost challenge by resorting to “rat rods” and “patina.” To make a rat rod out of the lovely old Chrysler grand dame is grounds for severe reprimand, so it is not in the cards. Patina is another matter. Cleaning her up and making a sassy lady out of her is appropriate. Straighten up and polish the trim and chrome plus cover the worn original paint with clear coat should make her less shabby and appeal to her lost youth.

With the hot weather ending, I can now get out in the tent beside the shop and start on the really fun job of getting rid of rust and dirt. The front is the only part that gets this treatment as the grunge towards the rear will be considered “patina,” and thus too valuable to remove.

The front clip will have to wait patiently until the engine and transmission are installed and new brakes fitted.

Stay tuned in for progress and wish me a mild winter.

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