Friday, May 18, 2012

For the First Time, A Full Set of Seat Belts

Wow! Last night was a huge milestone in my project! I have both sets of seat belts in the project for the first time since the previous owner had the car!

If you want a little background, I found and procured my 1977 fifteen years ago (about a year or two after I joined the VetteNet). I was ecstatic at the time it showed up. The car barely ran (had to let it warm up for 5 minutes before you could shift into drive or it would die). There was no interior in the car (lots of the original , broken panels), and sometimes, it wouldn't even crank when trying to start it. The body had stress fractures, and the previous owner (who had it for two years) had painted primer over the top of the original lacquer paint. He said he got the car out of a field in Ohio. From my experiences with this car, I believe it sat in that field for 10 years (a literal rat nest in the air cleaner, weeds growing IN the frame, and the frame itself collapsing under its own weight from when I tried to jack it up because of corrosion). It had the original block and TH350 (I still have those) , and the infamous "lazy eye" headlights because of a leak in the reservoir.

It has been a long, hard, educational experience. In the spring of 1995, I saw a gorgeous, victory red '74-'77, and knew I wanted one. I was not a car guy - at the time, I knew they had engines, and wheels, and when you pushed the throttle, a car went. Being in college, the only one I could afford (and I could find) was a "project" that someone was getting rid of. I bought it over the Internet, sight unseen (it supposedly "ran"). I received the car in Dec 1997, and started trying to get it road worthy. For two years, it was the only car I had.

I know many don't appreciate the "Haynes" manuals - I found the manual invaluable with my lack of knowledge. I later picked up an AIM (which I still use). I dismantled the engine twice trying to figure out problems, and realized I had to get this car back into a full, beautiful state if I wanted to drive it. That was in '00 - and the start of a complete rebuild (including removing the frame, rebuilding chunks of the frame and shipping it off to a local company who could spray finishes inside the frame, and putting in a stroker with a Tremec TKO II). Basically, after getting the frame back, I spent the time building a brand new car right beside the pile of parts formerly known as the old one. If I couldn't find a part that I wanted, I rebuilt what I had. Sent it off to the painter in '06 and got it back in '09 (expensive learning experience there - we can leave that out of this conversation though) in non-perfect state, and began to finish putting the thing together. Married in '09, my wife has never seen it run. Prior to me having the car, it's never had both seats in it at the same time.

It is definitely not going to be a top-flighter - I've installed rack and pinion, and a series of other aftermarket parts that make this just the way I like it. It's taken me such a long time, but I am getting closer and closer. There is still a lot of work to do (I want to put in electric, pop-up headlights, and some other goodies for the engine [18*, super, etc]), but I also want to get it on the road. It seems that (once a month) I get an hour to turn a wrench on it, and I make just a little bit of progress. Carpets have been installed for the first time I've had the car, and with the seat belts, I can install quarter panels (still figuring out how they fit into the car - I don't know since I didn't remove them).

But, I'll get it figured out. I'm not even sure I have all of the interior panels - but I'll find out. Has it been a good experience? You bet - I wouldn't trade what I learned for anything. The real problem is that my wife now has things in the queue - the original 1973 Dodge Power Wagon her parents bought new (and she drove to high school), and later she wants me to help her build her own Co*ra kit car. The bug even transferred to my father who purchased a 1959 Pontiac Star Chief to rebuild. Now that I am getting close, I can taste victory, and it is tasting sweet!