I finished up a writing project Friday, posted a new draft of a movie script with 18 trusted readers. This is the one I call “the Key West script.” Not because it’s about Key West but because I wrote it while riding the iron piggy there and back in 2008. Michael Corrente’s option on it expired so I’ve de-Corrente-d it. I don’t mean that in a negative way, just that if he’s not involved anymore, the changes he wanted to see no longer need to be there.
Anyway, with that job finished for now, I’ve launched another non-writing project of the mechanical kind. With the iron piggy in pieces in the basement, I started taking the old truck apart yesterday for some long-overdue rust repair. Had a helpful assist from long-time comrade Larry Stanley, who kindly took time off from reading papers scribbled by his students at Brown.
I did a full frame-off restoration on the truck 15 years ago and have used it hard ever since. It had minimal rust after 46 years in Alabama but the subsequent 15 winters in New England have really done a job on the sheet metal. I’ll be a pretty good welder when I get done this time.
The nose comes off with 18 fasteners. The six through the radiator saddle were easy; I had greased them on installation. Should have done all 18! I had to use a cutting wheel on the 12 that connect up to the running boards and the cab. Did lots of cutting and grinding to take the nose apart, too, once it was off. Next week the running boards and the box come off.
And in the wheel well, near the top, where the upper and lower front fenders meet. You can see the outline of the heavy steel braces behind the skin. In winter, lots of sand and salt get trapped in there.
Bottom of the cowl, also typical. I can buy stamped patch panels to weld in here, 16 inches high. Not so the other spots you’ve seen. I need to fabricate them from scratch out of flat sheet metal. The cab needs a new floor pan, too. I can buy that stamped out. I think I’ll hire the installation done at Conntech in Warwick. Unlike fenders, where you can futz your way around mistakes, the cab geometry has to be right. The proprietor, my friend Mike Connelly, is a crackerjack welder. He can build a whole car out of flat stock between ordering a burger and collecting it at the drive-up window.
Grease, the best rust-inhibitor ever! There’s surface rust all over the chassis, except near the spring shackles. In 1995 I had the chassis up on saw horses in the backyard, spent weeks cleaning, sand blasting, priming, painting… This time I’ll clean up the rust with a wire brush then switch to a paint brush and apply a coat of grease from stem to stern.
The truck was out of service for 17 months last time. Below, see my plan for keeping the truck on the road during this so-called “second restoration.”
I’ll bolt on the inner fenders and the grille, put the hood back on, see if Johnny Law considers it street legal. Open rear wheels might be a problem once I pull the box off. If so, I’ll build a quick & dirty flatbed out of lumber and put cheapo trailer fenders over the rear-wheel cutouts.
The nose without the grille and inner fenders. The brace and sheet metal at the bottom fell off the left fender when I removed it.
Fabricating a new one is going to take more welding skill than I currently possess. Will just have to acquire it as I go along. I don’t expect to start welding on the fenders and the box until late next summer. Then I’ll break out the paint gun, shoot a fresh coat of red on the truck and be good to go. Watch this space.
Tony DePaul, Cranston, Rhode Island, October 22, 2011