Road Tour Build Up Part 2
Part 2: Adventures in polyester and electrons... Our roadster gets bodied and wired
From the February, 2009 issue of Street Rodder
By Jay Storer
When viewed in a few magazine installments, the construction of a complete street rod like our 2003 PPG/STREET RODDER Road Tour '33 Ford Wescott-bodied roadster goes by in a blink, while the reality is that nothing is as quick or as easy as it seems. A few dozen photos may illustrate the big steps graphically, but what photos can't convey is time. Installation of the body is one of those milestones that takes only a day in the mounting, but may take months to fully complete. As some would say, "God is in the details."
We left you in the last installment with our chassis up on wheels and the injected Ford Racing Performance Parts (Dearborn, MI) 302 and TCI Automotive (Ashland, MS) AOD trans and driveline in place. As practiced by pro rod shops like Barry White's Street Rod Repair Company (Placentia, CA), the builders of our roadster, the timeline is: assemble in the raw; fit the major pieces; do any welding or fabrication; blow the whole thing apart; paint and plate; then reassemble and detail. That sums up in a few words what it may take a shop months to accomplish, but that's the progress road map at least.
This time around we're looking at the installation of the Wescott's Auto Restyling (Boring, OR) fiberglass Model 40 roadster body with matching fenders, and running boards from Bob Drake Reproductions (Grants Pass, OR), who also supplied the headlights, taillights, bumpers, and other choice trim pieces. Once the body parts were installed and fitted, attention was directed to some of the fitment issues, such as modifying the front fender braces to clear the Heidt's Hot Rod Shop (Wauconda, IL) IFS, and welding in a cross-cowl brace for mounting things behind the dash. Any items that pass through the floorpan were taken care of at this time, too, like mounting the steering column from Borgeson Universal Company (Torrington, CT), and the shifter, brake pedal, and E-brake handle from Lokar Inc. (Knoxville, TN).
Wescott's has made the fitting of these components easier by making the transmission tunnel and front floorboard a separate piece of fiberglass. You can take it in and out as you go through the "measure twice, cut once" process to make clearance around the shifter, brake pedal, and E-brake handle. It can also be taken out while the correct angle and positioning of the steering column is determined, and then measured. With the floor back in, it's a simple matter to use a hole saw on the floorboard in the right place, then slip the column down through the hole to connect to the rest of the steering gear. After all the mods, the floorboard can be screwed down to the body.
One of the aspects of this year's Road Tour car that is not off the shelf is the hood. There are fine steel hoods available for a project like ours, either smooth or louvered, four-piece or three-piece, but the original drawing of this car by artist Joshua Shaw had a traditional yet refined sense of style, so a made-to-fit aluminum hood was in order. When you see the car in person, you'll see how the smooth panels, tight gaps, and crisp edges give our engine compartment a hand-tailored three-piece aluminum "suit."
Once the body fitting was completed, the SRRC group disassembled, tagged, and sorted everything. Various parts were sent out for plating, polishing or high-temperature coating (the full exhaust system), and parts that were already shiny were wrapped and put away. The body panels were trucked for a thorough massage, blocking, and painting with some of PPG's finest.
When the chassis came back from being painted black, that's when the fur started to fly. The chassis and drivetrain were assembled again, the main body was reinstalled with the shim packs developed during the first install, and it was looking like a real car, yet there was still many a task to complete to meet the summer's Road Tour schedule. There was wiring, interior, top, climate-control, and a myriad of smaller details to address.
Pros like to do their electrical work after the car is painted, because the car is easier to disassemble in the early stages when there are no wires or looms in place, and there's also no chance of paint overspray on their neatly organized and routed harnesses. If you had a chance to look under the dash or carpeting on the '33, you'd see a very tidy wiring job by Barry White, using a Power Plus 16 Modular Fuse Panel System from American Autowire Systems (Bellmawr, NJ). Modern modular wiring kits like this have greatly simplified a phase of street rod construction many of us "electron-challenged" enthusiasts used to farm out.
Mounting the fuse/relay panel is the first step. Ours was feature-packed (relays on board, labeled connections, etc...) yet compact enough to go under our cowl and still be reachable for fuse checking. The modular style kit starts with the panel in place, then all the color-coded and ID-imprinted wires are run from the various electrical components around the car and terminated at the fuse panel. There was still enough room in that under-the-cowl/behind-the-dash space to also install the engine-management EFI harness and computer from Ford Racing Performance Parts (Dearborn, MI), which required only three or four wires to be connected to our American Autowire panel.
Also packaged into that area, close to the passenger side of the firewall, was the mounting point for the Vintage Air (San Antonio, TX) Compac Gen II heat and air conditioning package. The SRRC crew added a few steel-tubing braces from the cross-cowl tube that secured the unit and left just enough room for the hot water and R-134A refrigerant hose connections. Sometimes, putting all the conveniences of our modern everyday cars into the confines of an almost-70-year-old car design can be a trick!
Future installments on the 2003 PPG/STREET RODDER Road Tour car buildup will cover the work that went into the stunning top and interior, and all those time-consuming little details that both complete and define this stylish runner.
Even for pros like the SRRC...
Even for pros like the SRRC crew, the body drop is an exciting phase in any street rod's development. If you're doing this at home, give the guys pizza and beer after the body is mounted correctly! Our Wescott's body was aligned to the threaded holes in our Pete & Jake's chassis.
Shimming the body correctly...
Shimming the body correctly to achieve the best door fit can take four hours or more, but hopefully only needs to be done once. A variety pack of assorted shim sizes is available at your auto parts store on the "HELP" rack.
Once the main body was mounted...
Once the main body was mounted and shimmed, the boys at Barry White's Street Rod Repair Company wasted no time in fitting the Bob Drake running boards and Wescott's fenders, then the '34 commercial headlights, '37 sedan taillights, and other exterior pieces.
A cross-cowl brace was added...
A cross-cowl brace was added to the body's steel inner structure to hang the steering column and wheel from Borgeson Universal. The bracing also served to carry the dash, hang "hidden" switches, and mount the Vintage Air Gen II heat and cool unit. When a roadster has A/C, that's really traveling cross-country in style and comfort!
Once the assembly of the Lokar...
Once the assembly of the Lokar shifter was completed, the floorboard of the '33 was carefully trimmed to fit around it, and later also trimmed for the Lokar handbrake. A RodDoors console later covered the area and mounted the A/C controls and radio.
A smooth, three-piece aluminum...
A smooth, three-piece aluminum hood finishes off the front of our roadster in elegant fashion. The one-piece top hinges at the right side, while the smooth side panels can be easily removed for more engine access.
There's nothing like a tailored...
There's nothing like a tailored fit with body panels. Check the perfect shape and micrometer-even gaps at the front of the hood top near the grille shell. Reveals and gaps were right-on at both ends of the hood.
Our Wescott's Model 40 body...
Our Wescott's Model 40 body had the doors removed while inner supports were added to maintain the dimensions of the door openings during the process of blocking, priming, and reblocking.
Much transpired between the...
Much transpired between the last photo and this one, but once the chassis was painted and reassembled, the drivetrain went in, the sleek body finished in PPG Mercedes silver was reinstalled, and such details as wiring and air-conditioning could be addressed.
The Power Plus 16 modular...
The Power Plus 16 modular fuse/relay panel from American Autowire Systems came with instructions and wiring diagrams in color, plus destination-stamped wires, switches, a jam-packed fuse/relay board, and extra fuse positions for future needs.
With a modular design wiring...
With a modular design wiring system, you mount the fuse panel, and then run all the coded wires from the various electrical components back to the panel. As Barry White proceeded, circuits and bundles were gathered, taped, and neatly routed, using self-stick tabs to secure the bundles.
Our American Autowire kit...
Our American Autowire kit came with a GM headlight switch, dimmer switch, and ignition switch, each with factory-style connectors and plugs for a very clean installation.
With our spill-proof battery...
With our spill-proof battery mounted securely to the floor just to the rear of the behind-the-seat paneling, it's more accessible than under-floor mounting would provide, doesn't interfere much with trunk space, and the cables are kept to a reasonable length.
Pro shops like SRRC know how...
Pro shops like SRRC know how to work around fresh paint without mishaps. You and I should cover everything with towels or blankets while completing the wiring phase of construction. Externally, our '33 is really shaping up here, with only the top, interior, and detailing left!