Tag Archives: Pilot house
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!
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!