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  • Sidewalk Surfin’ — Shades of Gray

    West Coast Report - Sixth Edition: By John Gilbert

    Welcome to the 6.5th edition of West Coast Eastwood, and in particular the West Coast Report. First I’d like to say thanks to the 40 folks that took the time to leave a comment regarding the fourth edition’s content — I read every one. There were 43 in all, but three posts were comments made by me commenting on comments, and if you think that sounded dumb, just keep reading.

    Actually maybe what’s to follow isn’t all that dumb. It’s no secret I’m a guy that grew up in Southern California, during the 50’s and 60s in a household that customized, restored, or hopped-up anything that used wheels to roll forward. Maybe even a few things that didn’t have wheels. I just remembered as a kid we used to drag big sheets of cardboard up Maplegrove street where it dead-ended into the San Jose hills, and then slide down “cardboard hill”. That was in the late 50s, by the early 60s Maplegrove was continued further up the hill, and luxurious split-level homes were built. The hill’s new name was “Maplegrove hill” and the challenge was for us skateboarder types to make it all the way down on a steel-wheeled Roller Derby without wiping-out. Nobody ever made it all the way down on steel wheels, it was a real hairy grade. We always ended up running off the nose scrambling to make it to someone’s front lawn before having to hit the ground knees first. In mid-‘64, the automobile industry finally got the clue wider tires were better for going around curves, and Firestone introduced Tiger Paws. The next improvement in skateboard technology was wider wheels made out of clay. The clay wheels were a vast improvement, but they still wouldn’t roll very good over asphalt, and a tiny pebble could stop you dead in your tracks. I stopped skateboarding when my dad bought us a ‘64 Bug Super Flea minibike with a Hodaka Ace 80 motor, I still have it today. I think the sport of skateboarding ground to a stop around 1965 because too many little hodads (dorks) were getting hurt.

    A decade later, it was on a major scale the second wave of skateboarding hit. I couldn’t believe it, the new style of skateboards had these red urethane wheels that were totally unaffected by asphalt streets, or pebbles. The new technology was absolutely amazing. In 1975 I was already six years into a custom painting career. When I started in ’69 the way to primer bare steel was to begin with a green colored metal prep that smelled like acid-laced cider, and then spray it with acrylic lacquer primer. Acrylic lacquer primer wasn’t bad stuff, you could leave it in a dedicated gun, plus it smelled good like model airplane glue. The problem was acrylic lacquer primer used a talc (chalk) base that was porous and wouldn’t seal out moisture. Left exposed to the elements it wouldn’t be too long before millions of little rust pimples rose to the surface. A distant second choice to shooting primer from a gun was the aerosol spray can. The convenience of a spray can was superior to having to deal with cleaning a spray gun with thinner, but the quality of spray bomb primer wasn’t so hot. For example the primer remained soft, and gummed up sandpaper faster than you could grab a new sheet. The hardness test, pressing a few fingernails into the surface always left tiny crescent shaped grooves. In short spray bomb primers weren’t anything a professional would dare use.

                                                                           — John Gilbert


    Quick & Easy Pro-Quality Primer: By John Gilbert

    Gee, I really didn’t intend to write so many words for the West Coast Report, which consequently it turned it into a tech feature. But since we’re already on the subject here’s a quick couple of tech tips starting with Eastwood’s Self-Etching Primer available in aerosol, or can. When I started writing about my skateboarding days in the mid-60s I wasn’t thinking about the parallels between primer and skateboard technology, and how much it has improved in the last 50 years… It just kind of worked out that way.

    The test subject is my ’76 Ford F-250 Camper Special. There’s not one dent to be found anywhere, but there is rust coming through the original paint, plus a couple of major rust holes on the roof.

    Look how rust has worked its way through the hood’s original thinning paint to the surface. This a perfect test bed for Eastwood’s California legal, High Build Self-Etching Primer.

    I used Eastwood Pre before and after stripping this small area down to bare metal with an abrasive stripping disc. Oil, or silicone contamination can abbreviate the life of paint not appearing sometime until years later.

    Just for the heck of it I’m conducting a rust test on my ’76 F-250 to see how long it takes for Eastwood’s Self-Etching Primer to rust through, or even if it will.

    A billion years better than the old days, I was absolutely amazed how hard Eastwood’s Self-Etching Primer set up in such a very short time. A couple of hours later my fingernails couldn’t dent the surface, plus it sanded great.

    Somewhere in the near future I’m going to have to repair this heavily rusted area on the roof. It’s the strangest thing, this the only area that has rusted out.

    All of my adult life I’ve wanted a retractable hose reel for my shop, but never got around to getting one. Now that I’ve mounted an Eastwood retractable reel in my garage, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. This thing really saves a lot of time not having to roll up hoses, and the floor looks much better without hoses laying around… not to mention not tripping.


    Cliff’s ’55, Where’d it Go?: By John Gilbert

    The instrumental hits of Buck Owens, and the Fenders he played them on… Sorry, I think I just had an out-of-body experience, must be the lacquer thinner. Deviating slightly from Rustin’ Gold’s premise, but still a question of what this car’s future is going to be here’s a ’55 Chevy I’ve known since January 1979. I had just moved shop from the San Gabriel Valley, to Westminster, California. One of the first cars I noticed always seen driving around town was this ’55 Chevy Bel-Air.

    In 1980, I learned one of my customers coming into Auto Exotics was engaged to the daughter of the guy that owned the ’55. The years passed the two got married, and we became lifelong friends.

    Black plates, and optioned with every available bumper guard. The amber turn signal lens were aftermarket add-ons. Somewhere along the line someone installed a 6-cyclinder radiator core support. V-8 radiators were mounted behind and 6-cylinders in front to clear the stovebolts’s length.

    Cliff was a hot-rodder for life. The ‘55’s engine is a 327-inch Corvette. This was his one and only for many decades. Notice factory power-brake booster.

    Kind of like an overstuffed couch with shag carpet, and avocado refrigerator, that’s an 80’s custom interior if I ever saw one.

    Kept in a Huntington Beach, California garage all its life the ‘55’s trunk floor was absolutely rust free.

    Sadly, the ‘55’s owner passed away. Here’s the last shot I took of the ’55 Chevy before my friend sold the car for $17,000. It was kind of strange, the chiseler that bought the car pretended like he was going to restore it. It was pretty clear this dude was fresh off the boat and he had a buyer waiting back in some such far-away foreign land.

    The question is where, or if this car will ever surface again. We haven’t seen it in town and that’s where the buyer claimed he was from.  I hope the ‘55 hasn’t been turned into a chicken coop, with room for goats in the back.

  • West Coast Report – Sixth Edition: Wild Card By John Gilbert

    Stormin’ Norman’s ’52 F-1

    Text by John Gilbert from the March 2008 edition of Custom Classic Trucks…I think it was March.

    Photos by John Gilbert recently discovered turning dark on an old CDF card… Who knew there was a shelf life?

    I don’t think it’s plagiarism if you authored the story in the first place. I wrote this feature about my buddy Norm Marshall’s ’52 F-1 Ford pickup back in 2008 while I was the editor of Custom Classic Trucks. The photos shown here are outtakes from a photo shoot where I decided the background wasn’t good enough for publication in CCT. Norm brought the ’52 to another location the week after, and that’s what appeared in the magazine. Google Custom Classic Trucks Norm John Gilbert, and you can see the original story archived on Custom Classic Trucks’ web.

    Not necessarily in this order, but it's a good bet when the subject comes to some of the lifelong relationships held dear by classic truck owners the list will include family, friends, guns, dogs, country, and of course old trucks. A good example is Norm Marshall and his '52 Ford F-1 pickup built by Ron Scheussler of Oakhurst, California. Norm's known Ron's wife, Ann, since the two lived on the same street in Redondo Beach, California, and attended grade school on up to graduating from high school. In the years after high school Ron and Ann married and lived on the same street as Norm and his wife, Sally. Blasting past Ron's years of racing at Ascot in Gardena, California and fast-forwarding to the '80s Ron and Ann moved north to Oakhurst, California, where Ron built the ultimate home dream shop, complete with three bays. It wasn't long before Ron became known as the hot rod building guru of the Yosemite outskirts community.

    It was in 2001 when Ron started on the '52 F-1, and true to his "get out of the way, I'm going to get it done" reputation the '52 was completed by 2002. Suspension grafts was one of the areas where Ron specialized, and hanging a Pontiac Firebird front clip (same as Camaro) on the shortened nose of the '52 F-1 'rails was one of the first modifications the truck's original chassis underwent. For brakes, Ron retained the stock Firebird front discs, along with the stock drum brakes attached to the Ford 9-inch rearend Ron suspended from parallel leaf springs. Ron's intentions were to use the F-1 as a shop truck, so a set of airbags were hung in place between the frame and leaf springs to help the old truck out with a heavy load if need be. For rolling stock on the rear Ron used a pair of 15-inch Cragar chrome reverse wheels shod with P235/75R15 Bridgestone tires, and up front the Cragar/Bridgestone combo was downsized to P185/75R14. Under the hood, propulsion comes from a 350-inch Chevy punched out to 355 inches. For induction an Edelbrock carb and intake manifold combo rests between a pair of billet aluminum valve covers. The automatic overdrive transmission is a 700-R4, and the ignition is based around a GM HEI distributor, famous for its simple one-wire hook-up.

    When one takes a close look at the extensive customizing Ron did to the '52's body the one-year completion period takes on an increased appreciation. Starting from the F-1's radical nose where Ron flipped the front sheet metal robbed from another '52 F-1 upside down and then created a grille cavity and roll pan things get kind of serious. The next steps were to channel the cab 2 1/2 inches, and bob the front and rear fenders. In the rear, Ron fabricated a roll pan from scratch and then welded up every body seam and molded them in. When the time came for the '52 to get shot in a champagne metallic derived from some kind of Mopar, Ron's nephew Larry Klecka drove up from Las Vegas and sprayed it on. The striping over Larry's paintwork was done by Dale "Sogy" Oftedal of Fresno, California. Sogy is known for his extremely intricate work where he loads his brush with two colors and then blends it into one color to form a very thin line.

    It's on the '52's interior where Ron's old-time hot rodder ways match what he did on the outside. For power windows, power door locks, and air conditioning Ron scavenged parts from newer GM automobiles and made things work. From the GM air compressor to the rear of an unknown aftermarket head unit the air conditioning and power options are true mongrel hybrids. The seat frame used is one glommed from a Monte Carlo, and then Ron sectioned out the middle and welded it back together to fit within the F-1's notoriously narrow cab. With all of the interior amenities handled the next move was for the F-1 to be transported to Rick Struck's Auto Upholstery in nearby Ahwahnee, California. A good friend of Ron's, Rick stitched a combination of tan fabric and leather to provide the old truck with luxurious appointments and that good cowhide smell.

    If you've noticed we've been referring to Ron in the past tense, that's because he passed away in mid-2005, it was in September of 2007 when Norm acquired the '52 from Ann. Norm told us "that old truck is a part of the family, and a tribute to one of the great hot rod builders. There's no way I could have let it slip away from us." The only changes Norm has made to the truck since he got it was to install a Grant wood-rimmed, banjo-style steering wheel and rack up a bunch of miles on the odometer.

                                                                          — John Gilbert

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