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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a friend who’s watched over me for 20 years. He’s a patrol officer for the Township my shop is in. For 19 years he’s always stopped if I have a car outside. Over the last year he’s volunteered to assist me in just about any task I ask of him. Fortunately, I have a next door neighbor in FH just like that. Now that I’m nearing 70, I can still do everything but pay dearly for days or weeks afterwards. I appreciate the help. I wanted to pay him for his work, but he asked to take it in trade for work on the car his father left him. His father was a street-racer, one of the guys I probably idolized a little too much. I would ride my Schwinn Continental to the corner of 13-mile and Woodward, the epicenter of street racing in Detroit. I would watch the thinly disguised factory trucks roll cars off of ramps and light them up. The smell and sounds were very enticing for a 12 year old gear head.

This car could have been plying the roads in that era. It could have still been out there years later when I stole my mother’s Tempest and hit a curb making a Michigan left on Woodward when I was 14. I could have been chasing it down in my 350 ’68 Firebird out there, when I got it at 18. This was a street icon. It was ordered new in 1958. A one-year-only design. It was ordered as a street racer. It has no heater, power brakes, working wipers or washers. The holes for the heater and wiper motor are boarded up with factory closure panels. It has holes in the firewall that are just left open. There are wiper towers and arms, but no washer bottle or wiper motor. This was done as a weight-saving move.

It was ordered as a 348-auto and his father put in a built 409, tri-power with a 4-speed with a floor shifter. I need to check out how he handled the third pedal. It has gauges, galore, on a real nice dash. Tastefully done. Not always so. His dad put a big gash on both sides of the car to install slicks to turn it into a quarter-miler. When he tired of that he decided to have the body restored with some new rear quarters. The paint is pretty spectacular. Even made streetable, it’s dual 3” pipes give it away before it gets there. I remember that sound. It gave me goosebumps.

It was originally passed to his brother who hated it and passed it to my friend. While his father was a builder and a fixer, he never passed any of his knowledge to his sons. My father didn’t have the knowledge to pass to me. I got my start working at my uncle's Standard Station. Milt and Moe’s Standard, on 8 Mile near Meyers in Detroit. I don’t understand why some people would hold back on that kind of knowledge. Scott did his own brake job after getting the car. Technically, he replaced the brake shoes with new shoes on worn drums and ended up burning he new brake shoes as they “wore-in”. New shoes were meant to go in new drums only. The different diameter of worn drums and stock shoes means they touch the inside of the drum in a very small area that overheats and burns. When the whole shoe makes contact, the best braking happens. In the old days, gas stations had shoe grinders that ground shoe arcs to match the worn drum. No wear-in period. Good brakes from the first stop. That was the first thing I learned. No wonder nothing grew under that vent.

As he drove the thunderous monster in, he reminded me that the car had a X-chassis, a short-lived design. We had to push the car 3 feet forward before I could get the rear pads under a wide enough section of the frame. I just passed Greg’s inspection on placing the lift pads. However, I gave it the shake test and it passed; so I raised things up to my level and had Scott remove the wheel covers. I spun the driver’s side front wheel and expected the slight grind of properly adjusted brakes, but was greeted with the sound of worn, dry, ball bearings. What terrible sound. The right front made no sound at all when I spun it. I later found that the cylinders on that side were frozen, and there was no fluid in the rubber brake line when I cut it. The shoes had never moved. It pulled a bit.

There were metal flakes all over everything from the deteriorated bearings. They had been tightened until they ran out of threads. He is searching for wheel cylinders, spring kits, bearings, and seals. The shoes are OK now. After removing the glaze, they fit the drums perfectly. The drums are lightly worn. I assured him that when we were done he could drive it anywhere he liked. However, he would need new tires and wheels.The wheels have lug nuts that have nearly worn through the holes in the wheels. The tires are badly dry rotted--so old, they don’t have a date code.

I think I wore him out. In my shop, you learn by doing. Scott came prepared.
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Just before the Pandemic hit in 2020 the Eyes on Design Concours held it's annual fundraiser for a vision health research charity. My wife declined. They cancelled the show. This year things were still rough and they bumped the show until September's Grandparent's Day. My wife had little interest in attending any event where people are largely unmasked. The show went on, even though our 1933 Continental Flyer barely ran. The lack of original parts led to a mis-match of float seat and stopper and it constantly flooded.

Poor Scott agreed to drive the car 24.8 miles on 8-mile, separating Detroit from the suburbs. It was running ok, from my perspective, except that it started backfiring through the tail pipe at every traffic light. Fortunately, he made most of the lights. We got there with no problem.

I drove the car in and it ran fine. It was Scott's first Concours event. He was in car-guy heaven. The car was judged. I talked with a few people and another group of judges showed up, guided by a volunteer. They were all blind. Their handler would take their canes as they caressed the old cars. I had hoped to have a car judged that way, but they only do a few.

Our '33 Flyer is so low to the ground that one reached up and felt the vinyl top insert and asked if it was a sliding top. I explained that cars didn't have full steel roof as there were no presses that size. I explained the wood framed insert was sealed to the metal perimeter on the outside and the wood ribs were mounting spots for the headliner in the cabin. I explained it was not meant to stand on, although people traveled with luggage up there. I had done my good deed for the day.

Scott and I took advantage of the terrific box lunch and sat around until 4:00pm. Scott commented on how "everyday" the owners and spectators were. He had heard different. We quickly got out of the show and started heading back. It would do 30, then 14, then 40mph. He chugged to a stop in a parking lot in a less ritzy part of town. Well. I'm a giant and he's a cop, so we were OK. My friend Greg, who tried to save the carb, told me to take a set of spark plugs with me. They were badly carboned-up. 15 minutes later we were on he road again, but it quickly got worse. It got so bad tat ge made a cop-left across a boulevard, and I followed him in my SUV. It started chugging. It stalled at a light 100 yards from my shop. I pulled over into the left-turn lane and tookhisb direction and hopped in to the old car. he started pushing me and I could see he was struggling so I hopped out and pedaled the car like a skateboard and costed to my shop door. My legs were wasted, so I sent Scott back to retrieve my vehicle. We were both breathless, but we made it.

Old car experience exposed Scott as a real trouper.

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Outstanding, Barry. Love that 58, too, sounds like a great story behind it. Are the carb parts for the Continental available, just not at the time you needed them?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
It's a Marvel carb. No kits for that model. It has an externally adjustable jet that appears to have been drilled out, The new carb is slightly different. I'm having a custom adapter made. The adapter is exactly the height difference so the original air cleaner and crankcase ventilation tube line up. I have no idea if the Marvel is the original carb, or not. I can find no service manual.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Kudos to whomever came up with the car show and judging for the blind. What a great event.

Looking forward to more on the '58!
The founder is the Director of the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology. Almost all Concours are fundraisers. Sponsors typically pick up the tab for putting on the show and the gate goes to the charity. Blind judging, as far as I know, is unique to his show. While being blind would be a severe handicap, I personally would be more disabled by the loss of touch. I have no mind's-eye, so touch becomes more important.

Scott has parts on order, so I'll turn this into a tutorial, of sorts. Since few cars have drum brakes I'll use a typical parking brake, which is actually a drum brake built into a disc hub. The operation is the same. With a parking brake you're jamming friction material into an iron or steel drum. The friction is what stops you, or holds you still. If you use your parking brake as an emergency brake you will wear out the inside of the drum as you wear the friction material. When doing the parking brake show replacement you'll notice that the shoes rock against the drum. You're trying to fit normal new brakes into worn drums and the curves don't line up. Put a nickel on a quarter and line up one edge. The small contact patch produced literally burns off brand new brake material, glazing the surface, dramatically reducing braking capacity.

This is all avoided by arcing new shoes to old drums. In effect, his "wear in" eventually shaped themselves to the shape of the worn drum, but he had lousy brakes. Glazing makes both the drum and the shoe as smooth as glass. I just media blast off the glaze and the shoes work like new.

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The front bearings would have knocked him off the road. The bearing was so worn that the large, keyed, washer bottomed out in the key-way.
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There wasn't a single sign of corrosion as this looks like rust pits on the ball bearings, but I think some of the metal melted off. There was virtually no grease, but was that from the heat, or was the lack of grease the cause? Doesn't matter.

Take a close look at the bearing surfaces. :(

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Nice! Love the '58

I think I still have an old drum brake caliper in my tool box. I'll see if I can find it tomorrow and post a picture.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
This car is really clean. I would never peg it as a Michigan car, if I didn't know it's history.
 

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Great thread as always, Barry!

There wasn't a single sign of corrosion as this looks like rust pits on the ball bearings, but I think some of the metal melted off. There was virtually no grease, but was that from the heat, or was the lack of grease the cause? Doesn't matter.

Take a close look at the bearing surfaces. :(

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Woof. That's about as bad as I've seen. I had some that didn't look that bad, but were pretty bad nonetheless. I was dismantling the front end to work on the link pins and when I removed the wheel the bearing cage came out in 3 pieces and the balls fell out. I didn't see spalling like that, though.

It never made a sound, either. I was shocked. I put the bearing in a plastic bag and hung it on the wall for many years to remind me to do my due diligence when it comes to maintenance/safety.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Great thread as always, Barry!



Woof. That's about as bad as I've seen. I had some that didn't look that bad, but were pretty bad nonetheless. I was dismantling the front end to work on the link pins and when I removed the wheel the bearing cage came out in 3 pieces and the balls fell out. I didn't see spalling like that, though.

It never made a sound, either. I was shocked. I put the bearing in a plastic bag and hung it on the wall for many years to remind me to do my due diligence when it comes to maintenance/safety.

I can't believe I wanted to drive my car home from Philadelphia to Michigan. It's really folly to drive any old car any distance before doing proper maintenance. It's so tempting, but so dumb.
 

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I can't believe I wanted to drive my car home from Philadelphia to Michigan. It's really folly to drive any old car any distance before doing proper maintenance. It's so tempting, but so dumb.
I drove my Bug home from Indianapolis, which was about 2 hours. The guy had been driving it around a lot and did lots of good maintenance to it, but wasn't as thorough as I am.

I stopped 15 or 20 minutes into the drive to make sure that the wheel bearings weren't hot, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
This is why arcing of the brake shoes is so important. If you let them "wear in" the shape will be perfect, but they will have no grip. The glazed shoe reflect light meaning that it is so smooth it can't grip the drum. Media blasting or sanding removed the glaze exposing the sacrificial surface. In one of the shoes I found melted iron where it had come off the drum and seared its way into the shoe material.

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When a drum is turned it's left with a cutting pattern (like honing a cylinder) that's intended aid in initial braking. While the car only came two miles to my shop the drum should show no signs of heat or a glazed pattern. These brake shows and drums were operating at 50% capacity, if that.
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Looks like this may turn into a front suspension re-do, too. Project creep is real.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
This really turns into another project creep story, but it's nearly done.

1. All new brakes, excluding the new drums that were on it and the brake lines, all in fine shape, as is the rest of this car.
a. 3 rubber hoses
b. 8 brake shoes
c. 12 shoe springs
d. 8 shoe retention springs
e. front bearing and seals
f. emergency brake cables
g. master cylinder

2. Steering.
a. remanufactured steering box.
b. drag link
c. idler arm
d. tie rod assemblies
e. upper and lower ball joints
f. sway bar bushings

3. Suspension
a. upper and lower control arm torsion fittings
b. front springs
c. gas shocks, front and rear.

4. Drive shaft
a. shortened 1/2"
b. balanced
c. center carrier bearing
d. 3 universals
e. drive shaft seal

5. Exhaust manifold repair and gaskets.

6. Wiper motor
a. never had one
b. no spritzer, either.
c. wiper towers were there, but no vacuum motor or transmission.

7. Bench seat mechanism rebuilt.
a. use 8 bolts to reinstall instead or the 4 used before.
b. repaired a broken bench seat mount.

8. Gas tank replacement
a. There was nothing wrong with the tank, the odd hourglass-shaped screw socket broke the heads off with every tool used.
b. sending unit replaced.
c. Still waiting for the sending unit seal and screws.

All removed and reused parts were stripped to bare metal with great attention to matching factory viscosity tests.

To do list:

Add the factory splash shields in the engine bay and front and rear bumpers.
Install front bumper
Install tires
Test drive.

Although this is far more than I signed on for, I instigated the vast majority of the repairs as problems presented themselves. I never touched the engine or cooling, but we made this safe to drive. This has been a terrific experience for both of us. I brought a lot of people up in the electrical trade in 40 years in business, but I've always done this kind of work alone. Scott's a quick study. He's also much neater than I am. He's kinda like the apprentice/son I never had and I'm kinda like unlike the father he had.

We've had a number of discussions about why his father would have Scott hold the flashlight he never understood why his father never explained anything to him. It turns out he may have not known what he was doing. Scott's realizing his dad talked a good game. he knew everybody and everyone knew him as a street-racer that built his cars when he bought them, or had them built. Nothing wrong with that, but give credit where due.

I find that I have about 5 hours a day to play, and I'm having the time of my life being a teacher. He's having the time of his life learning everything about his car. When he departs he always thanks me, eager to know what's next.
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How gratifying it must be to pass on the passion and lore of these cars down to someone so eager and passionate.

I used to work at the California branch of a well known Tri-5 restoration parts outfit based out of Michigan, and it was neat to see that there seems to be a certain type and generation of old dude who found this general configuration to be a real sweet spot: '58 - '62 models, almost always Bel Air trim (not Impala) and a 348 or 409 with a 4 on the floor. A bubble top in this configuration is certainly a sweet ride, but 58's are great too since they were a one year body.

Thanks for keeping up a high quality thread in here. 🍺
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
The flexible brake line change has now made me touch every part of this car. I believe we've made it more reliable than when new. He'll just have to drive it in the manner it was built for. I would trust it to run cross-country on the byways.

I've worked on a number of cars and I'm most familial with the Continental Mark II. I've busted all the myths, but it struck me today how similar the basic Bel Air is to the Continental, at 4 times the price. The doors are simple hollow shells. The Continental has 2 electric motors where the Chevy has none. The Chevy door is heavier, by a bit.
What I do see is very traditional mass-produced engineering with 98% of the rest being virtually identical. More features, much better finishes, but I see no real structural differences to justify the hype. I think if we told the truth about the Mark II more would be drawn to them.

Am I missing some engineering difference?

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Rear seat belts.

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Sturdy mounting pads.

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Front seat belts finished.

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While I had the back seat out I just assumed that Scott would want his quarter windows to work. It took two hands to move them, one hand on the crank and the other to tug on the window.

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It drops to this position and then the front nose-dives into the body. It's quite a set of curved tracks.

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Note the feet decal. It's staying.
 
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