The purpose of this Blog

This blog is to detail my 46 years (1973 - 2019) with a 1928 Chevrolet tourer, affectionately called "The Red Chev".

The acquisition, restoration, improvements and my experiences over the years are covered in as much detail as I can remember.

Some of the later postings include car club outings and other vintage car items that I hope will be of interest to people.

If you have the time, scroll back to where it all began in 1973 and follow the journey so far.

Thanks for dropping by.

Regards Ray Dean

See my new section "The Red Chev - Repairs, Improvements, Maintenance and Technical Details" located on the left hand side of the screen.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

1974 - At Last The Upholstery

I think we are getting up to around 1974 now, and at last I am almost ready for upholstery. I had little or no idea of what to do, so at the time one of the committee of the VDC was Gill Taylor, an absolute expert on 28 Chevs. I had previously gone down to Werribee to see Gill as once I cracked the fitting of the top of the vac tank, thinking it was the end of the world, rang Gill, he says come on down, had it fixed in 15 minutes and I was on my way back to Melbourne. I noticed at the time that Gill was just finishing a 28 Chev Tourer which later won the VDC concourse, a beautiful car. The next time I saw Gill was when I had no windscreen frame, just uprights, and in those days before eBay, things like this were almost impossible to find unless you knew someone. Luckily for me Gill had a NOS surround he was going to put on his 28, so he gave me his old rusty one, which I can proudly say that with a lot of bronzing by Les Francis and a fair chunk of filler by me is still serving me well and is only now 35 years later showing its age.

Getting back on track I mentioned to Gill that I was ready for the upholstery, did he know anyone. Did he indeed. His concourse upholstery was done by a couple of very old guys out at Maidstone, called Dove and Carmichael. But before you do that said Gill, you better come down to my place and do a template of the side curtains. I said what, Gill said you need steel frames for the upholsterers to make the side curtains. So it was off to Werribee again with lots of paper and pencils. Took a sample of the four side curtains, came home and made the frames. Next problem was in those days no one was making the fitting pins or brackets that hold the curtain to the door. Several weeks of fabrication, welding, bending, lots of hand filing, and then chrome plated.

In the meantime I had purchased the hood bows from a dealer in Sydney, only to find on arrival they were slightly under bent. So it was a bath tub full of boiling water, each bow soaked until it started to unbend, and the forced into a jig with the right profile.

So at last the car is on a Tandem trailer ready for the trip from Boronia to Maidstone, the side curtain frames are held in, and the hood bows are fitted and held up by rope. I arrive at Dove and Carmichael's, unload the car, and start to talk to both the guys wondering how they could still be doing such tedious work in their advanced years. Anyway all I had to do was say "I want my upholstery, side curtains, hood and carpets just like what you did for Gill Taylor". End of story, did not have to explain anything else. Would you believe that either one or the both of them were on the production line in Adelaide at General Motors Holden, doing 28 Chevs, when they were new. As a comparison to modern prices, for the whole job, seats, hood, carpets and side curtains, the grand total was approx $850. A lot of money then, but now very cheap. The only sour point was the car was delivered to them with no windscreen, and motor not running. It seems that when they finished it was left outside during a very heavy rain storm. They had the sense to remove the front carpet, but when I got home I found the front door inner trim panels were severely buckled and warped. So after calling a few wise heads the suggestion was to soak in a bath of boiling water (sound familiar ?) then place under a very heavy flat weight. By this time my wife was used to my stupid antics and probably thought, here he goes again. All was well that ended well, and the upholstery was finished.

That's about all I can think of in relation to the upholstery, and the next posting will be on the final assembly and getting the beast ready for registration.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

1973 - Engine Reconditioning / Paint Job / Hot Rod Wheels / Timber Eating Possums?

Not exactly sure of the date, but around 1973, decided to tackle the engine before the paint job. Came across a night school class Vintage Engine Reconditioning class at Richmond Tech. One of the best things I did, as the two years were spent reconditioning heads, blocks and other drive line parts. Had access after training to surface grinders, boring machines, honing machines, pouring bearings, and other implements of destruction.

All the class was from the Vintage Driver's Club and we had a common bond, and plenty of time was spent talking rubbish over the coffee machine.

My first task was to repair a cracked 28 Chev head, with a 1 inch crack right in the middle of the head gasket area. I was amazed at the process, which was drill and plug, drill and plug, one after the other, then surface grind and ready for valves. Now that was a challenge as in those days valves were not common and if they were it would involve new valve guides. The instructor, a great bloke by the name of Roger Calvert I think suggested we use Bedford Truck valves, which were over size and could be machined to fit. So I drilled out the valve guides to suit the valves, and even machined the valves to accept Holden red motor collets and caps and valve springs. Do you know that that same head has given me 35 years of good service, even though I boiled it dry on one occasion when leading a Xmas parade in Boronia. Had the Mayor and his wife in the back, my kids in the front, and there was no way I could stop. Three K's down the road, engine was beyond steaming, left it about 90 minutes, filled up the radiator, no dramas. Geez these Chev 4 donks are tough. Did another 3 Xmas parades but that's for another time.

The next task at night school was to bore out 2 blocks, 1 is in my car still, and the other in my spares collection, with another 2 spare reconditioned heads. Never got around to grinding the crank, actually was a bit scared of the process and subied it out, but more about that later also.

The only drama at night school, which could have put me in the emergency room or worse, was when I tried pouring my bearings. Did not know that you don't drop cold white metal into molten metal. Bang, molten metal flies up into the air, and thank god by the time it hit my T shirt covered body it was cooled sufficiently to only give me nasty looking skin burns. Don't know why, but I never tried pouring bearing again.
I often reflect back on those two years as the transition of Ray from a wood worker to gaining basic mechanical knowledge.

Some short time later, at a VDC meeting meet George Russell an engine reconditioner who lived 2 streets behind me in the Basin. After a chat over a coffee, and an estimate from George of $250 to finish of my short engine, I said yeah, and a few days later he had the parts. I supplied the pistons, bought from the original Vanguard Spares in Elizabeth Street. George poured and machined bearings, ground the crank, fitted the pistons, camshaft and new welsh plug in the water jacket. Not bad for $250, but that was a few bob in the 70's.

A lot of my friends from that time were not big fans of George's work in later years over price and quality issues, but 39 years later I am happy, no complaints from me.

Getting the short engine done professionally put me ahead, so a few weeks later I had assembled the engine in a test stand and what do you know, it started. Cost me a fortune in Freddo Frogs at the time, as I had told all the guys in the warehouse where I worked plus every truckie that came in, that when I got it started I would shout Feddos for everyone. Why Freddos I still don't know. But I bought 2 boxes of the little buggers. I actually only originally ran the engine for a short time as I discovered that with the Holden collets and caps the valve springs were bottoming out on the top of the valve guides and there were a few parts flexing here and there. Off came the head, attacked it with an angle grinder, taking about 3/8 inch of the top of the valve guides. Back together and again no problems 35 years later. The other thing I should mention was that the Bedford valves were about 10 mm longer that the original, and when I replaced the push rods just last year, I wondered why they were fouling and remembered that I had shortened the originals.

Time to think about the paint job, as my dear wife had agreed to keep working for a couple of more years before starting a family so I could get the job finished. Dropped the engine and tranny back in the car, once again with the undertaker approved overhead crane in the garage, you remember, two bits of 4 x 2 propped under the angle iron rafter etc. Boy am I glad I have grown beyond that, and survived to talk about it.

Had no idea who was going to paint the beast, but was working towards it, welding Chev hubs into some Toyota Corolla rims, looked like a weird hot rod.

Somehow came across a guy called Lew from guess what, Les Custom Panels, just 400 metres over the road and down the street. His only claim to fame was he was Paula Duncans brother in law or her husband John, cant entirely remember. The deal was that he would take the car back to bare metal, and evbery night after work I would call in to see the bare panels and then give the ok to continue.
These days you would say I was a pain in the arse, but what the heck, it was my pride and joy, and only another job for Lew.

The original quote for the job was $800, and midway through I agreed to another $200.

In some ways a few years later I was not really happy with the paint job, but it has stood the test of time and still looks reasonable. If I did a car again I might try my hand at painting myself.

Car came home, looked pretty good, but still needed wheels and upholstery.

Wheels ------ This is a bit out of sequence but as I mentioned when I got the car from South Australia it had good original front wooden spoke wheels and absolute crap reproduction spokes in the back. These were dumped, and I set about reconditioning an average set of original rear wheels that came over with the car. They looked pretty far gone, but I had a brain wave, I would soak them in pure linseed oil for a month or so to preserve what was left.

Warning, big mistake to follow.

Took out the front and rear spokes from the linseed oil bath and placed them on a rack to drain and dry. At around the same time I needed to have an ear operation, so I was out of action for about 3 months, and did not step foot into the garage for that period, another mistake. It seems that either rats or possums like, or should I say love, linseed oil. When I came back into the garage I was horrified. The vermin had got in and eaten and stripped the rear spokes back to solid timber about half thickness. Looked like fat tooth picks. In hindsight they were too far gone anyway, but never or less a shock. Vermin droppings inches thick on the bench. Luckily for me the front spokes were still solid hard timber, so apart from the odd scratch here and there they were intact, thank god. Those rodents or possums or whatever must have thought it was heaven, a warm and dry spot over winter to each their fill of linseed oil soaked 50 year old timber.

In hindsight the linseed oil idea was a stuff up anyway, as even now the front spokes still seep linseed oil through the clear coat every year or so. Last time I redid them, about 4 years ago, I sanded, scrubbed, soaked in thinners etc etc  etc, but the bloody stuff still comes through, though not in the same quantity as before.

I ended up getting a guy in Old to redo the back wheels, and even though they looked ok, I have had to repair loose rear wheel spokes 3 or 4 times since. But last time 2010, did a job that I believe will last longer than me. Has not even cracked the clear coat between the spokes after about 1500 miles, success at last.

Here is the car just back from the paint shop and ready to go to for upholstery.

I think that's about it for the moment, next posting I will tell you about the upholstery

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

1973 - The Restoration begins in earnest

So this is what I had to work with

1. The remains of a paddock bomb that still ran, don't know how, but only good for parts.

2. A mechanically shot but body complete car that had been attacked by trade apprentices at an Adelaide Holden Dealer. Primer had been sprayed over the original paint and rust, and anything else that did not move out of the way of the gun. Most of the wood work was stuffed, but still good enough for templates. The engine was seized and when I pulled off the head, those kids in Adelaide would have heard my cussing. Water in the bores, shims made out of jam tins etc etc etc. The front wooden spoke wheels were serviceable, but the rear, well lets say Fred Flintstone could have made better reproduction spokes than these. Chucked in the bin as soon as they were pulled of the car, and put on a spare set, but very average condition.

3. The remains of a 27 Tourer pulled from the creek, pistons rusted into the open bores, gearbox and differential  full of water.

At this stage as a young man of 20, I did not have the faintest clue on what to do mechanically, so pulled all the mechanicals off the car, covered with tarps, and thought I would worry about this later. As a carpenter in a previous and short lived life, I decided to tackle the wood work, as I might be able to learn as I go. The main timber rails on the chassis had been replaced so I was able to lift the body off the chassis to a height just enough to work under. I should say that at this stage in my tender years I had no idea of safety, so to me a couple of ropes hanging from the steel trusses in a tin and timber framed kit garage seemed ok to suspend the body. How many times did it fall? Can't remember. How many times was I under it when it fell? Can't remember, and more importantly, how many times did I escape? Obviously just enough to still be here.

Cleaned up the chassis, fitted the reconditioned front and rear ends I had done for the paddock bomb, and presto, I had a rolling chassis. I discovered 30 years later that a wire brush in a Skill Sher power drill is no where near good enough to clean dirt rust and grime from a front or rear axle, and will talk about this more later.

Dropped the body back on the chassis, bolted it down with 6, that's right, just 6 5/16 coach bolts. Then set about replacing bits of the wood work that were not up to scratch. At this stage I discovered that the body had been set onto the rails by those kids in Adelaide out or square, longer on one side by about 1 inch. Scratched my head, swore a bit more, wondered why I had ever started this stupid hobby in the first place, then set about trying to rectify the problem. Managed to get the difference between the 2 sides down to 3/8 of an inch, and decided to leave it at that. No one will ever know except the few that read this blog, and 37 years later it is still the same.

Basically the lower wood was ok, with the tops in all areas plus the sides on the rear doors needing replacing. Bit by bit, panel by panel, lesson by educational lesson I replaced many pieces and eventually ended up with a body the was acceptable to my eyes. If I had my time again I would have purchased a full wood kit from a guy in ACT named Wally who I think went to God a few years later.

So where do I go from here I said to myself, and that's a good place to finish this posting.

On the next posting I will tell you about:

1. The 2 years of night school for engine reconditioning
2. The spray painter who grew tired of the job that he really wanted to get.
3. The hot rod Wheels
4. My tribe of timber machining possums

Any more.......... It's a good time to say my biggest regret was that I did not use a camera enough and don't have those frozen moments in time, but more importantly I know that if I do not get all this documented, the memories that are even now a bit fuzzy around the edges, will become blurry and fade away.