Project Pile House

Watch as Matt puts this Rusty woods-find back on the road. This will not be your traditional build!

  • We have a Brake Pedal and The Firewall Becomes Three Dimensional

    In the last update I was working on cutting out metal to make the firewall and mocking up my new brake pedal setup from Speedway. Since then I've been pretty busy making something from nothing. I had to initially tackle how I was going to mount the brake booster and pedal assembly under the cab. The first problem was that where the pedal bracket needed to live the S10 chassis started to pinch in and put the pedal on a weird angle. This kit was made for an earlier frame that's mostly straight/flat and like anything with a custom build, I had to get creative.

    I first used some jack stands to hold the brake assembly in place and eyeball up the position it needed to be in. I then traced out the area that the mounting pad for the pedal bracket needed to sit. I decided I could make a "cheese wedge" shaped mounting box that I could sink into the frame rail so that the pedal bracket would sit straight and everything would jive. I used 1/4" plate and copied the mounting holes to the base plate and welded the mounting bolts to the plate since they'd be hidden once the box was built. I used our Small Magnetic Welding Jig Set to square up the pieces and welded them together with the TIG200 DC Welder. The result was a strong mounting box I could sink into the frame and mount to the pedal box. I made my cuts in the chassis and mounted the box into the frame. Once I was sure it was square, I tack welded it into place with the MIG175 Welder.

    Now that I had the shiny Right Stuff Brake Parts mounted in place I dropped the air suspension and checked my clearance when aired out. The booster sits a couple inches below the chassis, but even when the body is sitting on the ground the booster has 4 inches or more of clearance. I'd probably rip the front end off before the brake parts were touched. That would be a BAD section of road even here on the east coast!

    My celebration of having a brake setup was cut short when I slide the Speedway brake pedal on and found that the brake pedal landed where my throttle pedal should be. I like to heel-toe my brake and throttle when driving.. but this was unacceptable! I decided to cut apart the brake pedal arm, shorten it, brace it and move the pedal over a few inches so that it sat where a brake pedal should. I also had to "clock" the mounting tab for the linkage under the pedal so that the pedal sits up high enough that it won't contact the chassis when I am pushing the pedal. I again used 1/4" steel plate and the TIG200 DC to box and brace the pedal to handle the force of pressing the brake pedal. Don't mind the rough floor in the photos, we just welded that in temporarily to keep the cab from flopping around while we worked on the roof chop and the firewall.

    With the brake parts mounted in place I could finally turn my attention back to the firewall and engine/transmission tunnel. I started by making the back side of the firewall setback. I used one of our Adjustable Profile Gauges to transfer the radius of the top of the TCI Auto Transmission to the panel. After tracing out my pattern I cut the rough shape out of 16 gauge steel with our Electric Metal Shears. Now the electric shears work really great for cutting laser straight lines and gentle curves, but when you need to make a tighter radius cut those shears are out of their element. I decided to mount up one of our Throatless Shears to make the cuts I needed. The nice thing about the "throatless" shear is that you can go as slow or fast as you want so that you can make some really clean, accurate cuts. I cut out the top curves to match the top panel I made on the english wheel, then cut the transmission tunnel radius and I had my second panel of the firewall made.

    Now with the back panel of the firewall channel made, I decided that I wanted to ditch the panel I made on the english wheel and form the panel out of one piece. I decided to use 18 gauge steel and form the piece using our Shrinker Stretcher Kit to make the panel match the radius of the main portion of the firewall we had made already. I cut a piece of 18 gauge a little longer than I needed and broke a 1/2" bend on each side of the panel. These edges will allow me to work them with the stretcher to get the radius I need on the panel. This panel was a little more difficult to make as I had to evenly stretch each side little by little as I went to get the shape the same on the entire panel. I actually went a little far when initially stretching the shape I needed and I had to work backwards with the shrinker in a few spots to get the panel back into shape to match the panel. That's the nice thing with metal is that you can always undo what you've done if you stretched or bent the metal a little too much. Once I got the shape close, I used the hammer and dolly to match the rolled edge we made earlier match with this new panel. Then I used Cleco Clamps to hold the pieces together.

    Now that I have the pieces in place I can start to see everything taking shape. I need to tackle making the wheel tubs for the front wheels and the transmission tunnel next. I'm hoping I'll be able to start melting all of this metal together with an Eastwood Welder shortly! Thanks for watching!

    -Matt/EW

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  • Forming The Firewall and Gathering Steering and Braking Parts

    After getting the old swiss cheese firewall removed from the truck I started making the new firewall for Project Pile House. I started by having one of our tech advisors Sean help me make a cardboard pattern. Once the pattern was made we scribed out the shape onto our metal using a pick from the Eastwood 4 Piece Puller/Scraper/Pick Set. I decided I wanted a smooth firewall for a "cleaned" look. Because of that I won't be running beads in the firewall so I opted for 16 gauge sheet metal.

    I wanted to make clean cuts in the metal so I decided to put our Electric Metal Shears to the test and make the majority of the cuts with them. I know we only rate them to 18 gauge, but I had heard rumors that these were actually tested up to 16 gauge with no issues. I was pleasantly surprised that the shears (with well-used blades even!) cut right through the 16 gauge with no issues. I can't say how pleased I was to make those long cuts quickly with the shears. I then fired up the Versa Cut 40 Plasma Cutter to make the cuts for the radii on the tunnel notch and top outer corners. I made the cuts in a single pass with the machine on 110V at around 18 Amps and 60 PSI.

    Now that I had the basic shape of the firewall cut out I did some minor trimming to make space around the headers and the valve covers for engine movement. I next made some "witness" marks in the firewall and the truck to have a quick way to match up the firewall each time I fit it. I want to make the transition into the firewall tunnel as smooth as possible so it gave me a chance to try out some new prototype tools we've been testing. We're currently working on a set of universal vice-mount T-dollies that I thought would be perfect to tip the edges of the firewall where transitions into the tunnel. The trick with these is to allow the metal to hang just over the edge of the dolly and use your body hammer to form the metal around the radius of the dolly. The result is a smooth bend in the sheet metal. Look for these to be out sometime in May or June!

    By tipping and rolling the edges on the transmission tunnel transition I also added some additional rigidity to the panel that I could feel instantly after I was done hammering. I decided to test fit the panel again so I could mock up the top panel of the tunnel next. The top panel needed to have the same contour as the opening we cut in the firewall and the only good way to make that was by using an english wheel to roll the contour into a piece of sheet metal. I began by making a pattern to match the cutout in the firewall so that I could check my progress as I went. I used our new prototype Eastwood English Wheel to roll the mild curve into the panel and after a few a minutes I had a piece shaped appropriately.

    I then used a couple clecos to hold the top panel in place. The fitment is pretty good and it should all blend together pretty nicely once it's welded. I still need to tackle the rest of the tunnel and begin mocking up the steering column and brake pedal before I can finally weld the firewall in place.

    Just today I got some steering column parts and a frame mounted brake pedal assembly from Speedway Motors, so I should be able to steer the truck from inside the cab shortly. I've already got a nice chrome Right Stuff Detailing GM mini brake booster and master cylinder sitting on the sidelines ready to mount up once the fabrication is done so I can make Pile House stop too! Stay tuned, things are getting interesting!

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  • Firewall Fabrication and Some Packard Donor Parts

    Now that we're starting to settle into our new workshop and photo/video studio here at the Eastwood headquarters, I've been able to turn my attention back to making progress on Project Pile House. At this point the truck has the silhouette that I've been envisioning, but it just needs a lot more rust repair and final finishing of the body mods, and some more associated work I've got on my to-do list. I've decided I want to take a break from some of the visual enhancements and get back to making the truck closer to being roadworthy. This includes making a new firewall that fits around the Chevy 350 crate engine from Pace Performance and the Chevy TH-350 transmission from TCI Transmissions.

    Our new tech-help guy Mike was eager to help me extract the old firewall. Mike has years of body shop experience and knows his way around a grinder and jumped right on board with chopping up the truck to make it better! Make sure you welcome Mike if you call or email and speak with him, he's a great addition to the Eastwood family.

    Now with the firewall cut out I can start making some templates to make a new smooth firewall for the truck. I'm still undecided if I want to run some beads around the perimeter from 18 gauge or if I want to use some thicker 16 gauge and make the firewall completely smooth. Like a lot of things with custom cars, it'll take some standin' around and eyeballin' things to figure out what looks best. Once I've got a template made up, I'll move on to the real thing out of steel and I'll be sure to post the process here on the blog as I progress!

    I also hit up my favorite local junkyard to rummage around their classic car section and see what sort of goodies I could find for Pile House. I'm not a fan of billet accessories on this build and I wanted a steering column housing and steering wheel that I could customize and keep it looking period correct. I settled on a late 40's Packard column housing that has a cool oval housing and intergrated turn signal switch. I plan to shave the shifter hole (I'm running a floor shifter) and smooth it out before mounting it up. I think I can make a custom steering shaft that fits the S10 steering joint and box on the chassis and integrate it to fit the Packard housing. I've started by gutting the surround and now I can start modifying it to fit into the new firewall. I'm still on the hunt for a steering wheel that grabs me, I feel like I've looked at just about every steering wheel from the 30's-60's at this point!

    Stay tuned, with the weather warming up I'm itching to get Pile House on the road this summer!

    -Matt/EW

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  • Moving Shop, A New Drivetrain and A Lot of Inspiration.

    It's been a while since I last updated everyone on the status of Project Pile House. Unfortunately things have been stalled a little because of some major construction going on inside of the Eastwood headquarters. About a month ago we started building a new photo/video studio and also a separate "dirty work" area. This meant that Pile House has been trapped in limbo as we built the new shop. Previously we had our video and photo guys and myself sharing a space. Anyone that knows anything about expensive video and photography equipment knows that they do NOT like dirt, dust, paint, or sparks.. all of which I was producing regularly (go figure!). We've been stalled a bit working on our projects, but this new move will be great and allow us to bring you better quality and more frequent technical videos and pictures. I snapped a few pictures along the way and soon you'll notice the new surroundings in our pictures and videos!

    Since I haven't been doing much work on the truck, I've been trying to gather some key parts and also figure out my goals for the truck for this summer. Anyone that remotely knows me will know that I have trouble sitting still and especially if I have an unfinished project. It's been tough not making on progress on the truck, but it's allowed me to wind back some of my plans for the truck in order to get it rolling for this summer. I want to be able to drive this thing at some point in the summer, even if it's late in the summer. I've decided to try and get the major rust, rot, and mechanical portions of the truck taken care of , finish all the current body mods I've made thus far, and get the truck in primer for the summer. Then next winter I can get the truck where I want it for paint. I recently learned that our Urethane Primers can be tinted with our Single Stage Urethane paints to get away from boring gray. This is great because I was already thinking about doing some sort of custom satin paint job using our Rat Rod Satin Clear, so it will give me an idea if I really like the look.

    With trying to get the truck on the road this summer, I had to sort out what I'm doing for a drivetrain. In a previous post I had shown a small block chevy V8 I had scored from a local hot rod shop. Turns out they were less than truthful about what the engine was and its condition. Once I dug in I realized I had been bamboozled. So after some angry phone calls I got rid of the boat anchor and got my cash back. I decided I didn't have time for dealing with unknown used engines and we started making some calls to some of or friends in the industry to see if they could help. Our friends over at Pace Performance just so happened to have an engine that had been "roughed up" by a delivery driver and was returned. After some discussion, it turns out the engine was only damaged superficially and it just needed some bolt-on parts replaced and I'd be in business. We struck a deal and it arrived so quick I didn't even have time to give our warehouse workers a heads up that there was a "Big Box" coming for me. They were less than impressed to say the least (sorry guys!), but we got it moved into the shop with the truck. I ended up with a GM Performance 602 (SEALED) CIRCLE TRACK RACE ENGINE, 350CID 350HP with some light bumps and bruises. Turns out this engine was destined for Rusty Wallace racing before it was roughed up by the delivery driver. After I ordered a couple parts, I had the damaged parts replaced and the engine on the stand ready to be built up.

    With the engine sorted out we called our friends over at TCI Auto and had them build us one of their "Street Rodder" TH350 Automatic Transmissions with a "Street Rodder" Torque Converter. Again these items arrived extremely quick and I was surprised how well it all was packed! This drivetrain combo should be extremely streetable with the room for improvement if I get bored with it. I plan to use the truck for a cruiser and do some light towing with it, so I should be more than ok with this combo.

    In the near future I want to mount the TCI transmission to the "mockup" foam block and get my old firewall and floor cut out. From there I can fabricate new rust-free panels to replace them. Once we get the cab solid we can move on to media blasting the inside of the front sheet metal and treating and sealing it. Then I can turn my attention back to the bed. I want to have Pile House moving under it's own power for the Eastwood Summer Classic this July, so I have a lot of work to do. Expect regular updates again here soon! Thanks to all that have been following along or given suggestions, we appreciate it!

    -Matt/EW

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  • Building Door Frames to Match the Chop

    It's been a while since we talked about the roof chop on Pilehouse, but I've been doing a lot of boring work on the smashed up old roof getting it satisfactory. Since then I decided to finally finish building the doors to match the roof. I took some pictures as I did the drivers side to show one way to do it, and I did the passenger side an alternative way to show another way you can tackle this project. We shot the video on the passenger side, but in the photos here you can see the other way to go about it.

    Just like chopping the roof down, we needed to take out some height from the top of the door, split it in half, and add some width to it. That's why it's extremely handy to keep original metal that you cut off of the truck. I started by splitting the top of the door in half so we could mock up the two pieces so that they sat where we wanted them to in the door jamb.

    I started with the rear portion and held it in place in the door opening and closed the door until the post met the top of the door I was holding in place. From there I made a mark on the pillar where the 2 parts overlapped. From there I could cut the excess off of the door. In the front of the door I needed to take the extra material out of the top of the door since that was the straightest part of the upper front portion of the door. If at all possibly you always want to take material out of the pillars, doors, etc where the pieces are straight and the most uniform. Cutting them on a curve makes it VERY difficult to piece things back together smoothly and get your angles correct.

    Once the pieces were cut I temporarily tack welded them to the edge of the roof to get them sitting about where I wanted. With the tack welds I could still adjust the parts without them being permanently mounted. This way I could shut the door and line everything up how I wanted.

    Once the front and rear sections of the door were about where I wanted them I grabbed the piece of the door I cut out of the front. This portion of the door was very close in size to the center and only required minor tweaking to get the backside contours to match up.

    From there I was able to tack weld and adjust everything how I wanted and I could weld the seams all together. On the drivers side I hadn't fully cut and ground the drip rail off so I went about mocking up the door pieces. Either one will work, just be sure to use paint stir sticks or similar as spacers to leave room for seals in the door jam. With the doors welded back together the full effect of chopping the roof is visible. I think this mild chop really made Pilehouse look better. My next plans are to customize the hood and build a custom tailgate, so stay tuned for more updates.

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