What type of “ride” are you
interested in building?
Over the years many different names have been
used to describe the art of rebuilding, restoring and modifying
automobiles. It probably started with the term “Hot Rod”.
In the 40’s, 50’s and even the 60’s, thanks to Mr. Ford and his mass
production ideas, Model T’s and A’s were plentiful and cheap. It
was not too difficult to find an old “A” for $50.00 - $100.00 and then
add mechanical parts from a current day car. Do a little engine work
and one had a fun ride for little money.
In 1964, as a high school senior, I purchased the 1931 Model A Ford
Coupe pictured here. During college I restored the car to
original condition. The car was purchased for $500.00 and I
probably spent another $1,000.00 to restore it to original
condition. I still own this car today.
A natural extension of the hot rod was the Pro Street or Street
Rod. This involves doing some of the same
modifications that were done to the Model A or Model B but using a
car of the 40’s or 50’s. At this time this is not something that
I have been involved with, but I am interested in experimenting with a
pick up truck body that I have located.
The reality of this business today is that the kind of car you
build is a function of the condition of the car or car parts that
you start with. If you are lucky enough to find a complete car
then you should give serious consideration to building a Classic,
that is restore it to its original condition.
Currently we are restoring a 1964 Corvair Monza Convertible. The
car was purchased complete for $800.00. The floor pan was rusted
but the rest of the car was solid and all the parts were included
except for the driver side outside door handle. Corvair’s are
to restore, the cost is reasonable, parts are readily available, and a
complete car can still be found at a fair price. Given the
uni-body construction and the general design of the car there is not a
lot that can be done to the car except restore it to original condition.
Cost should also be considered in the decision on what to build.
Restoring a car to classic condition where large portions of the car
are missing can be very time consuming and expensive. If you are
doing the work yourself it might not be too bad, but trying to work
with a good shop is next to impossible. Image getting daily calls
about approving the cost of endless parts. A Custom car
is your only logical choice. The result is a car that “mostly”
“looks like” the classic but drives and has many of the “creature
comforts” of a modern day automobiles.
We are currently working on a 1958 Corvette; actually all that we have
is a fiberglass body from the firewall back. No matter how
much I might want to restore this car it just is not in the cards,
however, we have an interesting game plan. A custom frame has
been built that will accept a C-4 generation Corvette drive
transmission. Think about it, four-wheel independent suspension,
four-wheel power disc brakes, power steering and a LT1 engine.
And we can add accessories like, air conditioning, power locks, and a
modern sound system.
Closely related to the custom is the Lead Sled. The real
difference with these cars is that you can express your own creative
styling flare. The car still resembles the original car but may
also share parts of other cars. Bodies have been lowered, tops have
been "chopped," and chrome or stainless steel has been removed or
added. Paint and interior become an extension of the owner or
Again money (cost), or in this case resale value, is a factor
in the decision on what to do with a particular car. One reality
of this business is that once you stray too far away from basic muscle
cars the value of the finished product goes down. You should face
reality that a Classic 1957 Buick is just not going to have the same
as a Classic 1957 Chevy if for no other reason than the size of the
market. I am sorry, but you will find a whole lot more people
interested in a “Tri-Five” than a Buick. Even if you go the
Custom route the value of the finished product might not justify the
expense of building the car. Of course, personal preference, past
experiences should always be considered, and remember this is suppose
to be fun, which is why I own a 1958 Buick..
After you purchase a car, develop an overall game plan. Start with your
own personal prferences, consider resale value, and don't forget safety
and reliability. When I purchased my 1953 Buick 2-door Sedan, someone
had already taken the original straight eight
out and inserted an LT1 engine with an R-700 transmission. An
aftermarket computer had been purchased. Their game plan was to
leave the original front end, rear end and factory brakes. Can
you imagine trying to steer this thing without power steering not to
bringing it to a stop. We are scraping the front end in favor of
an off the shelf Mustang II unit that will allow us to add power
power front disc brakes, and just for fun air ride. A rear end
of Chevelle is being used that will give us a favorable gear ratio and
drum brakes. We will strip off some the stainless steel, chrome,
and add a great
interior with lots of air conditioning. 20-inch custom wheels in
front and 22-inch in the back should make this quite a ride.
Another reality of this business is that it does not cost much more to
restore a hardtop or a convertible than it does to work on a
sedan. So, if your choice is to purchase a sedan for $1,000 or a
for $8,000 the best “money” decision is probably the convertible.
Of course, that assumes you have the extra $7,000 and both cars are in
the same general condition; just look at the advertisements for a 1957
Chevrolet. If you assume equal cars and compare the asking price
for a Sedan, a Hardtop, and a Convertible, the results
will be something on the order of $20,000 for the sedan, $35,000
for the hardtop, and $50-60,000 for the convertible. We are
currently working on two 1957 Chevrolets: a 2 door and a 4 door
hardtop. The 2 door required a lot of bodywork, new top
($400.00), complete new floor
pan ($2,400.00), front clip ($600.00), and a trunk lid ($150.00).
With other assorted body parts and labor, we should have a solid car
for about $7,000.00. The 4-door hardtop was originally purchased
($2,500) as a parts car for the 2 door. As we tore it apart we
realized that it was a solid car that would make a nice Saturday Night
should have a solid car for less than $4,000 to start our restoration
from and a four-door hardtop should have better value than a “post” car.
Enjoy your visit to my web site, but most of all enjoy the
Classic Cars and Hot Rods
1611 Peachleaf Street · Houston, TX