Car Activities

What's this? car stuff? What's that got to do with anything?

Bugger all really, its what Briz gets up to when not doing bikes. Been into old yanks for as long as I can remember.

The Yellow Dodge
This wasn't meant to be another project!
Having sold the Orange truck, I wanted something a bit more usable. I quite like the 2nd gen Dodge Rams, but I couldn't find a single cab long bed one anywhere. They're all bloody crewcabs, no use to me.
Finally one came up, but it had a dead (manual) gearbox. Price was right though so I bought it. It was matt black and had a 3.9V6.
I never really wanted a manual box as they're a pain with a 3-across bench seat. Couldn't find one anyway. Wanted a V8/autobox but again none were forthcoming.
Bit the bullet and bought a Lexus LS400 donor car cheap and transplanted the 4L V8 engine, box & electronics over around xmas 2014.
I also lowered it as it was as high as a 4x4. Tim at T-spray finished stripping the black off and sprayed it yellow. Made a nice job. There is NO rust on this truck!
So, after a lot of work, I have the truck I wanted, set up how I want, and it only cost me what I expected to pay for a standard one in the first place.
Orange truck
October 2011. This came up for sale. I had decided I needed a truck with a long bed - the Elky would only carry an HD with the tailgate down- and this '72 Chevy C10 had an 8 foot bed. Travelled to Montrose in Scotland and drove it home.
Before going North, it had been Si Harris's truck (from Attitude Customs down Portsmouth way)
It turned out to have a 305 under the hood (originally a 350) I was loud and too low, it grounded out all the time on Norfolk roads. I raised it a bit and kept it for 3 years, but there was an awful lot of rust in it and the paint job was a bit crap so I sold it in 2014.

'79 Trans-Am

I fancied having something properly fast again. A good deal came up in Feb '07 on a 502 big-block chevy lump, it was a Volvo Penta boat engine, but thats just the label. I wasn't too sure about what car to put it in, but this Pontiac came up for sale at too good a price to miss. I bought it minus engine from  Bryn Thomas who had prepared it for drag racing and had fitted it with a lot of stuff that I needed, saving me a lot of work. Its one of the few F-bodies I've seen with NO rust.

The 502 proved to have a buggered crank so this was all the excuse I needed to fit a stroker kit to take it out to 540 ( 8.9 litre). I couldn't resist a deal on a pair of ally heads and I got a Crane hydraulic roller cam off ebay. The trans will be a 4L80E with full manual valve body, saving the hassle of a trans computer. The as-fitted rear end is a 3.73 posi build by Geoff Hauser.

Never got it finished. In 2013, Bryn (who I bought it from) contacted me to see if I would sell it back to him. We were up to our eyeballs in the SaltFlash project at the time so I went for it. Meant we could get Dave to make us a billet crank. Bryn sold it on to someone who painted it red, and pulled out the 540 and stuck a shagged 454 in it. Was sold again and the engine replaced with a good one. The new owner painted it yellow & called it 'Thug life'(?) Been on ebay for months....  

'59 El-Camino.

Current ride. Click the pic for the full story.

After 11 years on the road, I sold it to Graham nr Luton in 2016.

'57 Chrysler

Another current project. Always loved the lines of these, in my view, the prettiest of Virgil Exner's 'forward look' designs. Bought it in 2003, its one of only two or three 2-door coupes in this country. Sadly its pretty rusty, as these cars were prone to. I remember seeing it when first imported around 1991. Looked good then, but its been left outside and its rotted  from the top down, the underpinnings are sound. The Chrysler shares its bodyshell with DeSotos and I was lucky to obtain an almost rust free shell from main-mopar-man Ian Rubrey.

Drivetrain is to be the original 354 block with '54 331 hemi heads & a home brewed EFI conversion backed up by a 700R4 tranny. By 2015, I hadn't got anywhere with it and so I sold it on to Dixie Nick in Surrey.

'65 Oldsmobile pickup

The old 'firms truck'. Bought in 1988 for 50. No drivetrain, interior, steering column. Converted into a truck from a Vista Cruiser station wagon. New to car projects, I thought I'd get this on the road in a few weeks. Actually took 5 years!

It had been used as the pace car at a banger track near Bournemouth. The conversion was appalling; all done with wood & filler. The rear window was held in by a piece of box section attached to the body with 3 tiny welds, not much more than tacks. Any sane man would've scrapped it. Not me! I cut all the shite work out and did it properly. The rear doors had been badly welded up and had rotted thru. Gradually, I got it all done, using a '75 Buick Electra as a parts car. I rebuilt the 455 with some fancy hotrod parts from Poston in Alabama. I used the Electra's 12" disc brakes up front and rebuilt the suspension with parts from HO racing in LA, including a 35mm anti roll bar, all of which made for a car that really handled well. I could get it round a roundabout quicker than Bee's VW polo!

Did the paint myself in cellulose, which didn't really last the distance, It was my daily driver for a few years and had to live outside. The woman next door got her house pebbledashed causing a constant rain of stones for about 3 months. That didn't help!

This was a FAST car; not off the line so much - it still had the stock Electra torque converter- but the top-end charge was phenomenal! won a race against a Sierra Cosworth on one occasion.

After we moved to Norfolk, it got a bit neglected, there had been a few minor shunts, and rust re-appeared in places. When the Hooker headers rusted thru, and replacement looked costly, this seemed to be the moment to swap out the big-block in favour of something less 'gassy' (the 455 got about 11mpg). the plan was to build a frugal but fast small block, and to lose some weight -  

with the big block it weighed 4200 lbs.

I did a deal for a 305 chevy short block, another good deal on a pair of corvette ally heads.I used a mild Comp 'xtreme' cam and zero-decked the block to get good 'squish'. I already had a 700R4 that I had rebuilt for the El Camino. All this along with replacing the steel pickup bed with ally, meant a weight saving of 500 lbs. Mileage was more like 20mpg now.

I drove it for a couple of years like this. the dilapidated appearance (see photo 2) was beginning to look quite attractive, to me, anyway! But with the El Camino now on the road, it got put to one side until Dunk from Carlisle came by and mentioned that he was looking for a truck. Unfortunately, an incident involving a truck and a bit of flying debris had broken the drivers door glass. 

Nobody had one over here, but there was another plan...... Back in '96 whilst on a stateside junkyard crawl, I had scored a pair of doors from a 64 Olds 2-door hardtop coupe and a pair of side windows from a 65 El-Camino (all GM 'A' body stuff) with a view to someday modifying the car with these to make it look more authentically 'camino' like and to lose the huge blind spot. This was obviously the moment so I spent a month doing the work & fixing all the rust again (photo-3)

'59 Ford Ranchero.

Bought this in '91 on the same LA trip as buying the El Camino. This car was in much better shape, the only thing wrong was the engine, a 352, was a bit smoky, which is a big no-no in LA. I knew  a bloke with a FE ford lump, a 360 truck motor, so I gave him 60 for it & had it rebuilt by the time the container got  here. Pretty much a completely stock car; no power options, wasn't fast, but I quite liked it.. The '92 recession meant it took a 18 months to sell. So I just has to use it. Terrible, really. Eventually sold to a bloke from Belguim

'57 Ford Fairlane

This one was a 'grower'. Bought in 1990 from a mexican kid in east LA who had brought it in from Mexico & restored it a bit with his dad. ( Does it run OK? I asked, 'sure' he said 'you could drive it all the way back to England')

It had a 292 Y block with 3 on the tree. The interior had good seats but no carpet or headlliner. The 292 couldn't be persuaded to run on all 8 very consistently. No power options; a bit yawn -inspiring.

The first things to go were those horrible hubcaps. Baby moons made a big difference to the looks. Nobody seemed interested in it, so I decided to do a bit of upgrading.

Next to go in the bin was the 292 & the 3 speed. An Aussie Fairmont parts car was acquired which donated its 302C & C4 combo, and its brake booster. While the engine bay was vacant, I added power steering using a 65 T-bird steering box, which needed a bit of fabrication work to fit, but worked well. Altered the column to auto shift mode..Redid the interior with some added chrome, carpet & headliner.

All this only took a couple of months, and the car was transformed, It drove brilliantly, and the 302 was a gem. Sold it in '91. Only seen it once since.

'58 Chrysler Windsor

Bought on the same trip as the Fairlane from a nice couple in Redondo Beach. Slightly bizarre circumstances; They planned to quit their jobs & spend time touring the US in a 64 Dodge truck-camper until they found the place they really wanted to live in. Only thing was, the trucks 361 was buggered, so they set about having the engine from this restored Chrysler taken out and installed in their truck. A local hot rod shop was engaged to do the work.

Why bizarre? well this is far from a straightforward conversion, due to the push-button tranny, so it wouldn't be cheap, and they'd halve the resale value of the Chrysler, whereas, a rebuilt 361 or 383, which would  

 be a straight bolt-in for their truck would be far less costly, and they'd be able to leave the Chrysler alone.

Whatever, they did it anyway and we got the engineless Chrysler for $1000. We looked thru the small ads & found a bloke in Watts with a 383 & tranny for $300. (turned out to be a 400 out of a 78 Dodge van). Once here, I had it running in a week or so. It ran well. Had to sacrifice the push button gear change to do it, but I grabbed a chromed shifter out of a mustang which worked fine.

The guy who bought it was later involved in a mysterious accident in it. Believed to be restored again now.

'76 Ford T-Bird

We called this car Donna (german for thunder) Bought it from a dealer in Sheppey for whom rust was invisible! Oh yeah - and the 'long MOT' turned out to be 3 weeks!
Never mind, we liked it anyway.
Spent a week touring NE England in it. Got 16 MPG - pretty decent for a 460.
Although this was way past its best, these huge T-Birds were great cars. As a friend in LA put it- "Ford did something right when they built these"
Apparently they're banned from the US equivalent of banger racing because they just destroy everything else!