23 March 2020

Project thoughts continue. One contender is the Chevy 3100 pickup truck, for no other reason that it looks okay and is available. Authentic steel ones are still around, but they, like most old trucks, are utilitarian vehicles with very upright seating and short cabs. Hot rodders demanded more leg room so it’s common that aftermarket fiberglass shells are about 6″ longer than stock. Also, the cab is typically chopped (the roof lowered) about 4-6″ for looks. Price wise, a very used steel 3100 is a fair bit cheaper than a fiberglass shell, and you get “everything” (much of which is useless to me), but they also have all the expected issues that go with a 70-year old vehicle. The question is, is starting with that better or worse than starting with a fiberglass shell?

That said, I haven’t really made a final decision on the overall envelope, so letting the issue sit for a while usually helps focus in on a solution.

20 March 2020

Contacted a couple more hot rod shops and they’ve been more responsive. While doing so is a bit premature, it’s necessary to see whose out there and still in business. Some are a little sketchy, with websites looking like they were made 25 years ago (you know the ones: varying text sizes and fonts, flashing text, a total pallet of only eight colors, dead product links, etc). I suppose that could be spun to mean that they’ve been around a long time and haven’t updated their site, but when there’s no contact info other than a phone number, it makes one wonder.

Typing out loud, some time is needed to let this stew. The concern is whether I’d be okay with a cookie-cutter hot rod, regardless of performance. I’m not sure. On the one hand, I like to pretend that I don’t care. On the other hand, I’m not sure that I’ll be happy doing anything other than going my own way. What’s testing that creativity is having a weather-tight cab as a top requirement, which for me means starting with something preexisting (don’t get me started on dealing with doors and weatherstripping, see the Kimini blog for that). Technically I could start with a metal truck cab and go from there—modifying composite is undesirable for many reasons listed elsewhere. I have a couple design ideas about how I want it to look, but am I prepared for the years of work to do a full custom project again?

There are other factors too, such as whether the windshield is flat or curved. If the car is used on-track, the windshield is going to get pitted and cracked fairly quickly. If the glass is flat, it’s easy to have another made up. If it’s some old oddball OEM curved glass, there’s always the possibility of hearing “sorry, those aren’t available anymore” (and then what do you do?). One negative regarding flat windshields is that, depending upon angle, it can reflect whatever the driver’s wearing. This may not seem like a big deal until you’re driving into the sun and wearing a white shirt! (Midlana’s flat windscreen doesn’t have this problem because it’s angled back at a steep 45°.)

Speaking of oddball, I learned of a car I’d never heard of before, a Henry J, which was an economy car sold in the US in the early 1950s. It’s quirky and unusual enough to get my attention, but with a 100″ wheelbase (Corvette is 106″), it means shortening the torque tube, something I want to avoid if possible. Overall length is 178″, oddly close to the 15-ft length that keeps popping up.

My garage has a vertical clearance of 8-ft. If final ground clearance of the car is 4″, and the shell is (total guess) 48″ tall, then that leaves 96 – 48 – 4 – 2 (chassis tubing), for a working space between the two of 42″. Not great, but probably workable. There could be an issue as the roll cage is fabricated because it’ll extend up into the shell even with it up against the rafters. Whether that becomes a problem at some point needs some thought. The point of bringing this up is that a multi-piece shell is both a help and a hindrance, as in, where are they stored? Starting with just the passenger compartment (like a truck… again) keeps the clutter down. It does mean potentially paying a shipping fee twice if the nose is decided on later, though as discussed earlier, it’s highly likely that where I’d place the cab wouldn’t be where the manufacturer intended.

Anyway, around and around the process goes!

18 March 2020

A hot rod manufacturer that I requested information from called, pushing to know if I was ready to make a decision. I asked if they’d read my email, which they hadn’t, so I read it and things kinda went downhill from there. He (and I understand why) seemed to think that I didn’t know what I was doing, it wouldn’t work, and that I shouldn’t buy their shell. I tried to explain that I’m familiar with making things work, which only made him flip to the opposite extreme, which, paraphrasing, was, “okay, fine, I’ll sell you whatever you want, you’ll find out.” Neither sales strategy worked.

I suspect that he doesn’t know what a late model Corvette “rollerskate” is. I tried explaining, but he had already decided that it wouldn’t work. He said, “the cab’s not nearly wide enough.” Not true. The Corvette envelope is 6 feet wide, and their cab is 4 feet wide. That leaves 12″ on each side for the wide tires.

He said that the hood assembly wouldn’t possibly fit, and I said there’s no way to know because they don’t supply dimensions (I left out the part about probably not using the front anyway).

I can understand where he’s coming from. If I sold hot rod shells to the general public, I’d probably be pretty cynical myself based upon what people say they can accomplish, versus what actually gets done.

I tried explaining how all I need are the cab and doors but, being a salesman, he kept pushing to sell the whole set (with nose and bed), saying it would cost more to ship them separately, and seemed puzzled that anyone would want just part of it (how do they not know about rat rods?). The conversation ended with him never saying what the cab and doors would cost, but he did say that he would talk to the experts. Okay, though I’m not sure what’s to discuss.

There are other manufacturers out there so I’ll try them. If that fails, there’s always starting with a mid-60s OEM steel cab. Heavier, but more easily available, cheaper, and with no unhappy sales people. I have time on my side (assuming viruses stay away!).