Updated: Dec 14, 2019
(Note: You are reading the progress from a project that began in August of 2014. This post was originally dated from August of 2014.)
I have always been impressed by others who let us into their world of all things Ford by posting their work in the form of words, diagrams, and photos. The craftsmanship and attention to detail is simply amazing. For the past several years, all that I have been able to do is work on sub-assemblies - carburetors, transmissions, engines, etc. Now I have delved into the realm where only the talented and dedicated dwell - an all-out assault on your vehicle, by yourself, to do the mechanical, the body work, the paint, etc. At one time I had visions of grandeur on this scale when I put a 55 Sunliner project in the garage. The need for the family budget finally overwhelmed the whole idea, and alas - it was sold piece by piece. The sum total of its parts was definitely worth much more than its package value, but the old gal helped many a man complete his own Sunliner project in places around the globe. Well, all the while a 55 Ford Fairlane Club Sedan sat idly by waiting her turn for attention. Several years ago this car received a rebuilt 292 that really screamed even though an original Ford-o-matic was weighing her down and robbing her horsepower. Here is the plan... to put her back on the road again with the following changes and facelifts: 1. Remove the 292 and check her out on the portable engine run stand. 2. Remove the original Ford-o-matic and lose it in the garage somewhere. 3. Prep and install an original 3 speed/overdrive manual transmission and all associated parts. 4. Remove the worn out 55 steering gear and wheel so that I can prep and install a 1956 Steering gear, column, wheel, etc. 5. Remove the entire front end sheet metal to begin the prep for paint. The firewall will come first. Paint with the existing color scheme, SS Urethane red over white.
6. Consider A/C to the mix - the wife is requesting it. 7. Finish the interior - the dash and sheet metal garnish are all painted and ready to back into the car. The headliner is 90% installed, but I need to remove the rear glass first.
If you are wondering how I removed the hood by myself, first of all you can see the large blanket there on the cowl. I basically put that all the way across until it bunches up against the rear edge of the hood. Then I put the engine hoist boom up against the front of the hood near the latch. I unscrew all 6 bolts where the hinges attach the hood to the car and then lower the boom up front. Voila! No scratches and the hood is free. I can then pick up the hood from the front, grabbing both sides and then set it aside. (don't worry, I will have help when I reinstall!) Anyhow, this is what I accomplished the first afternoon - the 292 has been removed and has been placed on a run stand. I am going to wire it all up, change the fluids, finish the accessory list, and hopefully fire it up tomorrow. You can see the starter hanging out loose in the Ford-o-matic. I just unbolted it and left it there before I removed the engine.
Day 2 on the 55 is down, and I did not have much time today because of school supply shopping with the wife and taking her out to eat (tax free weekend in Virginia for school related items). We still have 3 kids in school. The oldest will graduate this year. Anyway, I did get the engine all buttoned up on the engine stand. In addition to installing those headers, the 54 radiator and electric fan, I also changed the oil and spun on a new filter. The run stand has an electric fan that I installed last year (operated by a toggle switch), a tray for the battery, its own gas tank, a gauge panel (I added a tachometer and a light for the ignition), and nice polyurethane wheels that I installed to replace the original casters that were too short to put the engine hoist under (go figure). The polyurethane wheels make this thing GLIDE across the concrete floor. The difference is amazing - those wheels make the load to push seem much, much lighter. The engine fired right up and sounded good, but I detected a miss - after checking all 8 spark plugs it looks like a few need to be replaced. Over the past 4 years, the engine has not been run that long, and when it has the engine never really got hot enough to burn off any deposits. The compression is still excellent. No leaks as of yet - well I take that back. The radiator cap needs to be replaced. The 54 radiator I installed has no overflow tube so the corrosion you see is the coolant leaking from there and then dribbling down the front of the radiator. I will take some time over the next few months to tune the engine and get it to where I like it for reinstallation. Tonight on the front end of the 55 I began removing sheet metal. I removed the radiator valance, horns, brackets, hardware, etc, and starting organizing the items I removed. I looked again all over the engine bay and have come to the conclusion that I need to get a steam cleaner to do the best job I can. I remember using Steam Jenny's when I was a teenager and I just loved those things. They cut the grease and grime like butter. I called the only place in town that rented them - $300 a day. That's no typo - $300 a day.
You can see in the photo above what I am doing to store all of the hardware. Instead of throwing everything into a large box, I am using those cheap $ store containers (4 for a buck) and then marking what the hardware goes to, which side, etc. I got in this habit when I rebuilt that 3 speed/overdrive unit this past Spring. I would think this will be a lifesaver (at least something to keep headaches at bay) later on when it is time for reassembly. I did have a problem tonight - one loud "POP!" when I was at the rear of the shop. I had no idea what it was. I searched to see if something fell, something "sparked" (it almost sounded electrical), or what have you. But wouldn't you know it? When I picked up my air ratchet, I found the end had burst a hole. This air hose was one I got from Harbor Freight several years back. It has worked well but I think the rubber is about to give way. I should probably use a whip hose. The hose that burst is attached to a retractable wheel - so I don't relish replacing it anytime soon. I took some time to repair the hose before I left the shop tonight. How long this hose will last... I am not sure. I have a nice GOODYEAR hose but it is a larger diameter than this one. I definitely do want to use one of those PVC hoses on this unit. During the winter months it would be like unwinding solid cable!
I took my time with the sheet metal removal and assessment, identifying and storing hardware and doo-dads as we go along. I figured there would be some rust out, but not in this particular area as I always believed this was the car's strong suit. I was surprised by the fender splash shield (I broke off the tab) and inner fender strength and condition - not much rust at all and the parts are very, very solid. All of the bolts have backed out of their nuts and hardware fairly easily, with the exception of the one of the lower bolts near the rocker panel. I am pretty sure that the front end sheet metal has never been off the car (but I don't know about that washer stack - read below), so the condition and minimal corrosion surprised me. The fender itself is very solid as you can see - especially around the splash shield area near the rocker panel. There is a bad spot about a foot above that - it will need attention. I think the other side has the same issue. I do not know what that is all about. You can also tell that the front lip inside the headlight housing is a little soft (the lip that attaches to the radiator deflector) - it may need some sheet metal welded in there too. So far the worst I have found is that driver's side air deflector, but the sheet metal to the left and right of the rot is very solid. I have already been banging on it with a hammer to find out how solid it is. I can cut that lip off and weld in some metal for a repair without having to take out the whole thing, that way the measurements should be a lot easier to make and the fitment of new metal to the piece should go much easier.
If this is all the rot I find, I would be very happy and count myself blessed. However I am expecting more!
One more item - you see the stack of washers there on the firewall mount for the fender at the rear. I guess that is something Ford did? I will have to check the manual - it seemed like a Mickey Mouse setup. I do have a video recording of a few comments I had at this particular time: