Archive for the ‘1950 Dodge Pickup Project’ Category

Custom Bomber Seat Fabrication

To be honest, I picked just about the worst possible project vehicle I could when starting Project Pile House. It didn’t have much going for it, the body was dented and rusty, the drivetrain was seized and trashed, and the interior was equally as dilapidated. My goal is to show what can be done on a budget with some key tools and a little bit of creative thinking.

This part of the project is no different than the rest. The original seat was trashed beyond belief and seemed almost unusable, but I was sure I wanted to do something custom with it. I know the easy way out is to use a modern minivan or car bench seat, but that look isn’t for me. I decided to reuse the original seat frame as it had some cool beadwork in the sides and corner braces that actually matched the running boards I had built previously. I started by sketching out some rough designs on some chipboard and cutting the main panels out first.

Once I came up with a design I liked I cut out 18 gauge sheet metal to match the shape of the original seat frame with the Electric Metal Shears. I then lined the panels up, drilled holes, and installed Cleco Panel Clamps around the perimeter of the panels to hold them in place throughout the build. I knew I would be taking the panels on and off quite a bit so using clecos helped make lining the panels back up each time a breeze.

With the rear and bottom panels made up I moved on to making the back support panels and center console for the seat. I measured out two inch flanges and put just under a 45 degree angle on the braces to get them to contact both main panels. I then doubled up the metal thickness in the Versa-Bend Sheet Metal Brake to give a nice rounded bend on the front of the center console. I again used clecos to mount everything in place. Once all of the panels were cut I carefully drew out my design on each panel. Accurate measurements is a must when laying out a pattern for rolling beads as it will become your guide to roll the mandrels over.

With my patterns all laid out on my panels I used the 1/2″ mandrels in the Bead Roller to run the beads. I then drilled and punched holes in the support panels and center console and used clecos to put everything back together.

At this point the seat was really starting to take shape and I was ready to start permanently attaching each panel to the seat frame. The air and space industry have been using rivets to hold panels together since the beginning and they are the key to making your “industrial” or “bomber inspired” car or accessory look the part. Some guys are using fake rivets or spot welds to simulate the effect, but we’ve recently been working on a DIY-priced kit to install solid aircraft rivets. I decided to test the kit and installed the rivets in the braces. The key when installing the rivets is to make sure you are square on the head with the air hammer. Otherwise the hammer can jump or contact the edge of the rivet and leave “smiley faces”. These are unacceptable in the air industry and to anyone in the “know” they look unprofessional. I admit the first few rivets I ran I had to drill out and redo, but after I got into the groove of things it went pretty smoothly without too many do-overs.

I then slowly worked around the perimeter of the seat and used the TIG 200 AC/DC to weld the seat pans to the frame. The clecos help keep the panel clamped tight to the frame, but some areas I needed to use Locking C-Clamp Pliers to hold the panel tight against the frame.

With all of the panels riveted and welded in place I moved on to assembling the center console. I decided to butt weld the top and side panels together so I could metal finish the surface to make it all look like one. I’ve found it’s easier blend and work a weld on a flat instead of a corner or curve. For this reason I decided to tip and round the edges of the top of the console down with a Straight T Dolly so that my weld seam was on a flat area. I then clamped and welded everything together using the MIG 175 . I did have to put some relief cuts in the top panel and use the a hammer and dolly to work the panel smooth, but after blending the welds with a flap disc and scuff pad the console blends smoothly into the seat frame.

Now that the fabrication is done on the seat I was able to bolt it back into the truck and I can continue to work on setting up the rest of the interior. My only problem now is that the seat outshines the rest of the interior and I need to step up my game on the interior.. it’s a never-ending battle! Check out the video above for action shots of the seat build process and be sure to subscribe to the blog to get notified of updates on Pile House in the future.


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Building a Fuel Cell Cradle and Feeding Pile House with Fuel

Lately I’ve changed gears on Pile House and I’ve decided to start working on getting Pile House moving under its own power. I decided to order up a plastic fuel cell from Jegs first. Once I began test fitting it at a few different spots on the chassis it was obvious that the only place I could fit it under the bed was behind the rear axle. The original tank on the S10 chassis was just behind the cab, but with how much I’ve lowered the truck the driveshaft would hit the fuel cell now. This meant I needed to make my own mounts for the fuel cell.

I’ve been trying to think ahead more on my builds as I go along and keep in mind that I may need to service the vehicle down the line. For that reason I decided to make a removable “cradle” for the fuel delivery system. I wanted to make something the fuel cell could sit in, the electric fuel pump could bolt to, and I could easily take out by removing a few bolts. I started by taking some 1″x1″ angle steel and welding up a square base that the fuel cell would slip into using the Eastwood TIG 200 AC/DC. I then took some 16 gauge sheet metal and made straps that fit into the grooves in the top of the fuel cell and would bolt together to hold the fuel cell in place. I then TIG welded the base of the straps to the lower fuel cell surround I previously made.

With the fuel cell “contained” I had to figure out how to attach the cradle to the chassis legs in the rear. I decided to use some steel DOM tubing I had kicking around from another project and bend pieces to attach the cradle and chassis. I used a jack to fit the cradle into the place I wanted and used some TIG filler wire to play with the bend I needed to make in the tubing to hang the fuel cell at the height I wanted. I then used the sample TIG wire and the Eastwood Professional Tubing Bender to bend matching radii in the tubing. I once again TIG welded these parts on and was able to hang the fuel cell in place.

Now the I had the fuel cell in place I was able to plumb my fuel system. I stitch welded the bracket for the electric fuel pump to the base of the cradle and hung the fuel pump in place. I then ran the fittings, hoses, and tubing necessary to get fuel to the system. I ran rubber fuel line from the pump to the chassis and then I took one of our Steel 3/8″ Tubing Kits and ran hardline from the rubber hose to just under the firewall of the cab.

After removing the tubing from the chassis I used the Professional Tubing Cutter to cut the tubing down to the desired length. On the engine side I’m also using rubber fuel line to connect to the hardline so I like to put a flare on the tubing to help keep the rubber line seated. I used the Eastwood professional tubing flare tool and flared the first step of a double flare into either end of the line. This makes for a tight fit when slipping the rubber hose onto the hardline and gives a “shoulder for me to put the hose clamp up against to assure the fuel line won’t slip off of the line.

With the fuel system mounted and plumbed I can drill the holes to bolt the fuel cell cradle in the chassis and secure it finally. I plan to eventually build a roll pan that will hide the fuel cell and clean up the rear end of the truck, but that’s down the road a little bit!

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How to Install an Aftermarket Shifter on a Chevy V8 and TH350.

When building Project Pile House I’ve pretty much discarded all of the original mechanics and I’ve been building from the ground up. I’ve already installed a SBC (small block Chevy V8) engine and a TH350 automatic transmission in the truck. Next I needed to install a universal shifter that would work with the changes I’ve made and look “right”. I wanted something no-frills and as “retro” as an aftermarket shifter could look. I opted for the 15″ B&M Street Rod Shifter kit from JEGS. Most of the aftermarket shifter kits are simple to mount, but I figured I’d show you the process for anyone thinking about doing this themselves in the future.

I haven’t made the removable portion of my tunnel on Pile House yet, so I had plenty of room to work with, but you’ll need to gain access to the top of your transmission first.

From there you need to remove the top bolts from the tail shaft of the transmission. I found using a Ratcheting Wrench helped make quick work of removing the bolts. These top bolt holes will serve as two of the mounting points for the base plate of the shifter. The B&M kit (and most other brands) come with bolts to mount the plate in those top holes, but the factory bolts will work as well. You’ll also be utilizing a (normally) unused bolt hole in the top center of the transmission. I have a new transmission in Pile House, so I was able to just install the bolt, but you may want to clean the hole out with some Chassis Kleen and a “thread chaser” or tap.

Once you have the baseplate installed you can install the adjustable top mounting plate that the shifter attaches to. The top plate has a number of different mounting holes that allow you to mount the plate as far back (or forward) as you need and allows you to do the same with the shifter on the top plate. This gives almost limitless mounting options no matter the size of your cabin and seating configuration. The top plate uses hex head bolts and set screws to mount it and set the height/angle that the plate sits at. The shifter also mounts with button head hex head bolts. I opted to mount the plate and shifter fairly far forward so that the shifter wouldn’t hit the seat when going into gear.

With the shifter installed you can now hook it up so that it not only looks cool, but also actually works the transmission. The B&M shifter came with two simple brackets, some spherical heim joints, bolts, and some threaded rod. The smaller bracket with a square hole on one end mounts over the selector shaft located at the center bottom of the drivers side of the transmission. The larger bracket attaches to the drivers side of the shifter.

To make the shifter linkage you want to make sure the transmission and shifter are in the “park” position. You then measure the distance between the empty bolt holes on the two brackets and subtract the length of the heim joints from that number. That’s the length that you cut your threaded rod to. You then thread the heim joints on the threaded rod and attach each end to the brackets on the selector shaft and the shifter with the supplied nuts and bolts. Lastly adjust any slop out of the rod and tighten the jam nuts down on the heim joints. From here you should be able to check to make sure you have Park, Neutral, Reverse, Drive, First, Second, etc.

After confirming the shifter is mounted and functioning correctly; I was able to fine tune the position of the shifter to exactly how I wanted with the fine adjustment set screws at the base of the shifter. This put the shifter closer to the dash at park and plenty of room between the seat and the shifter in drive even with the seat moved all the way forward. All in all the project took about an hour of work and I think it looks right at home in the truck. I plan to eventually find or make a custom shift knob, but for know the standard B&M round shifter will work just fine. The shifter also comes with a microswitch to wire to your ignition as a neutral safety switch, I’ll be doing that here shortly when I begin wiring the truck.


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Project Pile House Late Summer Update

Last time I checked in on Project Pile House I had just gotten done welding floor pans in and rebuilding the rotten door jambs. Since then I’ve been really busy and I have been slacking on my updates here. I have been posting regular updates on Instagram if you want to follow along feel free to check the #pilehouse tag or view the pics on your desktop HERE. Either way it’s been a crazy summer and I’ve had my head down and decided to work on making the truck a drivable project rather than a garage ornament. This means I took some of my focus off of fine tuning gaps, minor dents, etc, and focusing on making the truck mechanically complete. I figure I will need to work out the bugs and I’d rather scratch primer than a nice shiny paint job working out the bugs.

I began with only the foam mock-up block and the TCI transmission installed in the truck. I was ready to get the Pace Performance SBC crate engine in the truck. I started by removing the front end of the truck, installing the TCI torque converter, ring gear, and transmission to the engine. I then hung them on the 10 Ton Engine Hoist and attempted to drop it into the truck. This is where my first problem popped up.

If you look closely in the picture above you can see that the oil pan on the engine wasn’t your run of the mill SBC pan. This engine was originally meant for a circle track race car and had a deep sump oil pan that was much larger than standard. I was excited to have a nice baffled pan with extra capacity, but it wasn’t meant to be. The pan wasn’t playing nicely and hit the front chassis cross member. After a lot of cursing, lowering and raising the engine, and scratching my head, I admitted defeat and pulled the mess back out of the truck. I had to buy a stock oil pan and remove the fancy race pan.

Changing an oilpan on a small block isn’t too bad with the engine out normally, but I had forgotten this engine was meant for a “SPEC” circle track series where everyone had the same engine and it was “sealed” with tamper-proof bolts by GM Performance. These little round head bolts have no spot for a wrench or hex key to grab. They even have mini barcodes on them that can be scanned to assure they match the engine they were manufactured for! Since I couldn’t get a set of locking pliers on the small tamper-proof oil pan bolts I needed to use an old mechanics trick and weld a nut to the head of the rounded bolt. I decided to fire up the TIG200 AC/DC to fuse some nuts to the heads of the tamper-proof bolts. This allowed me to crack them loose with a wrench and move forward without damaging anything. I replaced those bolts with some OEM spec pan bolts and I was back in business with a factory oil pan.

With the engine installed the 2013 Eastwood Summer Classic was only a week away and I again changed gears (I do this a lot!) and decided to strip all of the surface rust and old paint off of the truck to so I could seal the base metal and make the truck one color. I used our large 7 Inch Stripping and Cleaning Disc Kit to remove the old paint and surface rust and leave myself with relatively clean metal on the cab and front clip. The bed of the truck unfortunately was too rough to just strip the surface rust from, so I opted to pull out the 100 Pound Media Blaster and blast the entire bed. This did the job well, but it also allowed me to discover some more hidden rot on the bed and fenders that’s a bit bothersome. I may decide to tackle making a new bed and rear fenders down the road as this bed will take an immense amount of work to make it 100% straight and nice again.

Once the body was stripped I decided to coat the entire truck in Black Rust Encapsulator. The truck was stripped to 99% bare metal, but parts of the truck had pitted metal that still had some light surface rust in the pits. Rust Encapsulator gives me peace of mind that the minor rust in those pits will be encapsulated and sealed from spreading. During the stripping and encapsulating process I got a care package from our friends over at Coker Tire that included my wide whitewall Coker Classic Tires and OEM style chrome steel wheels with spider caps. Once I bolted some wheel spacers on, the stance is EXACTLY how I had envisioned from day one. The truck still has the retro style I wanted but with a touch of custom styling and LOW like I prefer all of my vehicles. I can say rolling the truck outside for the Summer Classic with a new look, the right wheels and tires, and the new drivetrain installed was a great feeling!

Once the Summer Classic craziness was over I took a week or two break on the truck before I came back to working on the bomber seat project I hinted at in the last update. I’ve been busy working on the project and we’ve been filming the process along the way. I can’t wait to show off cool projects like this that you can accomplish with some imagination and a few key Eastwood tools. Below are some sneak peaks of the bead rolled, hole punched, and riveted seat pan. I also have been doing some welding with the Eastwood TIG200 DC to attach the custom seat pan to the original Dodge seat frame. I just have to finish assembling the center console and attach it to the seat and Pile House should have a custom bomber seat to sit in shortly!

I’ve most recently received a batch of parts from JEGS and I’ve been working on getting the truck ready to start and move under its own power. This means mounting up the Lokar throttle pedal, B&M street rod shifter, making plug wires, etc. I’ve been taking pictures along the way and I’ll give you guys some tutorials on mounting up some of these parts here soon! I’m hoping to get the truck to start up in the next month. I’ll be sure to check in and let you see and hear her come to life for the first time! Thanks for following! -Matt/EW

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Early Summer Project Pile House Update.

I’ve been up to my ears in project car work as of late and it’s sometimes hard to even keep track of what work I’ve done myself. Here’s a quick break down of whats been done and what I’ve got planned for the truck this summer.

With the new steering column and smooth firewall built and welded into the truck (see the process here) I was ready to build some new floor pans for the truck and get the cab one step closer to being solid. I had previously welded in some sheet metal just for a temporary solution while I was doing other work on the truck (the original floor pans were almost non-existant). I cut the old floor pans out with the Eastwood Versa Cut 40 and began making chipboard templates for the new pans.

Once I had templates made I used the throatless shear to cut out the panel and aviation tin snips to make relief cuts around the panel where needed.

I then drew out a design on the panels that I could roll through the bead roller to give the panels strength. I ran a 1/4 bead around the perimeter of the panels and used a new prototype die for the bead roller to make the “X” pattern. This die allowed me to make the portion of my design on the metal raised or recessed. The dies worked perfectly and it really opens up a whole new world of potential for the bead roller!

I then moved on to the top portion of the floor pans and made a similar design in these panels. These were a bit smaller than the bottom panels so they did warp a bit from all of the rolling we did in the bead roller. I decided to use the Deep Throat Heavy Duty Shrinker Stretcher to shrink the metal that was stretched and wavy. This made the panels a lot flatter and easier to work with when installing them into the cab. Once the panel was flattened back out I used the versa bend metal brake to make the flange I needed to connect the upper and lower pans together. With the pans all fit back into place I just recently started welding them in place.

With the floor pans made up I decided to move outwards and tackle the rust in the door openings. The truck door sill on the drivers side was rotted away and the front of the door opening/jamb was rotted pretty bad. In fact the lower portion was almost non existent. I cut away what was left of these parts and used them as rough guides for making my new panels. I started by making the lower removable sill and laying out the bend and bead lines on the panel. I rolled the beads in the panel and then made the bends on each end with the versa bend metal brake. I finally drilled the holes in each end with some Fairmount Drill Bits.

I then cut the away the old door sill area and made a patch out of 16 gauge that was the same size. This was pretty straight forward and was butt welded in place and then blended into the surrounding metal using an electric angle grinder and flap disc. The last portion of the door opening that needed some rust repair was around the door hinge bolts. These areas are are doubled metal and they tend to get moisture between them and rot out. I cut away the layers and repaired the first layer, then sealed the boxed in area with Eastwood Rust Encapsulator to stop and prevent any future rust. Next I cut the top layer to fit and used the Eastwood Titanium Step Drill Bits to open up the mounting holes to the correct size. I then coated the backside with . Finally I welded the last piece in place and again blended it all into the original metal. Now I have solid door openings that I can feel confident will last another 60 years.

With the floors and the door openings finally solid I could move on to some projects that will help make the truck look better. The first one I tackled was filling or shaving the original gas fill hole. These are normally on the side of most old trucks since the fuel tank is behind the bench seat. I’m going to be running a fuel tank under the front of the bed so that hole won’t be used anymore. The hole is on the curve of the cab and the patch needs some shape to blend it into the cab properly. I cut a filler panel just a little smaller than the opening and used the Panelbeater Bag and Teardrop Mallets to give the filler panel the curve I needed. I then slowly sanded the edges of the patch with the Eastwood Bench Sander until it fit correctly and then I stitch welded the panel in place using the Eastwood MIG 175. Now all that areas needs is a skim coat of filler and this shave job will be complete!

That gets everyone just about up to date with where I’m at. Below is a little sneak peak of what’s up next for Pile House. I’m repurposing the original seat frame to make a bomber-inspired bench seat for the truck. I’m documenting the process currently and we’ll have a tech video and article for everyone to see how I tackle this next part of the project. Thanks for watching and be sure to come out to the Eastwood Summer Classic on July 13th to see Pile House, Project Resolution in person!

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