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!
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.
I must admit that when it comes to my projects I have A.D.D, especially one as large as Pile House. Sometimes life gets in the way or we have other projects going at Eastwood (like our Project Resolution Mustang), that I can only devote small amounts of time or maybe a day here and there on the truck. When that’s the case, it’s tough to start or finish projects that take a big chunk of time to accomplish. One of MY resolutions for this year is to finish all the half-done and partially finished projects on Pile House.
One project I had started a while ago was the custom front bumper build for the truck. I did what many hotrodders have done throughout the years, and hit the junkyard to find a suitable part to modify and retrofit to my truck. The result was a bumper bar that looked close to original.
Since then I’ve done a lot to the truck and the bumper has sat under a layer of dust in the bed. The other day I had a spare afternoon to tackle the rest of the bumper project. The biggest task left was how I was going to mount the bumper to the truck. With it being winter here I decided to opt out of another junkyard trip (removing rusty bumper brackets in the snow is NOT my idea of fun). Instead, I took some flat steel and made up a set of mounts. These mounts needed to be strong enough to help support the weight of the front end of the truck when I lowered the airbags down. I didn’t want the sheet metal taking the weight every time I aired the truck out, especially if someday the truck will have nice paint on it!
So I started by cutting some 5/16″ steel plate to length. I planned to make a triangulated mount that would help hold the weight when transferred across the front bumper.
The first piece we needed to make was an “L” shape out of the flat bar stock. In order to get a nice bend in this I used the oxy-acetylene torch to heat up where I wanted the bend, then I used some leverage with some pipe to make the 90 degree bend I needed in the bar. The key is to get the metal “cherry red” hot where you want the metal to bend. With the bends made in the bars, I cut some more 5/16″ plate and triangulated and braced the pieces I bent. This will add rigidity to the bracket. In order to get a better fit-up of the cross brace, I sanded an angle into the ends of the brace with the Belt/Disc Sander and finally tack welded it together with the MIG 175 welder.
With the bracket starting to take the basic shape I wanted, I cut another piece of 5/16″ flat bar that I could weld to the backside of the bumper and the bracket. In the end I want to shave the bumper and have no visible mounting holes, so the bracket must be welded to the bumper bar itself.
Finally, I test fit the bumper and drilled my mounting holes to attach the bumper to the S10 chassis under the body. Once I was happy with the fitment of the bumper, I took it off and finished welding all of the seams on the brackets and the bumper bar with the MIG 175. I then decided to add some additional bracing to the bracket to help combat any bending or flexing of the bracket when the bumper is laid on the ground.
This left me with a bumper bracket that resembled a jungle gym and I wanted to box it all in so it looked a little more “finished”. I decided to take some 18 gauge steel and cut pieces to the shape of the sides of the brackets. Since I was covering the inside of the bracket, I decided to seal up the soon-to-be-hidden areas with some Gray Self Etching Primer. From there I used the Eastwood TIG 200 DC to weld the panels on. Once all of the seams were welded I blended them all together with a flap disc
Now that the bumper is mounted it really makes the front end look more complete AND I’m not lowering the truck down on the front sheet metal anymore. When it comes time to disassemble for paint I’ll blast the inside of the bumper with some rust encapsulator and chassis black to keep them corrosion-free for the life of the truck. With that old project finished, I can now move on to all the other loose ends I have on the truck!
It seems like all we talk about when working on Project Pile House is the rust and body damage it has.. but again today we’re covering the repair of more rust that’s on the truck. This time it’s on the sides of the fenders where the cab mounts attach to the fenders. Originally they sandwiched multiple pieces of metal together and riveted the mount through them for additional support on the fenders. This spot is very prone to rusting on these trucks and should definitely be addressed. On Pile House both fenders were rusted badly and the rot was covered with a heavy coating of body filler to hide the damage. In my effort to clean up the exterior of the truck, I wanted to get rid of the rust and rivet heads when making the repair. In the end, I modified the cab-to-fender mounts so I could spot weld them to the fenders after positioning the fenders to get an even gap where the doors and fenders met. This was pretty boring, time consuming, and hard to photograph.. so I’ll save you the winded post about that process in this update, and focus on repairing the rust and smoothing the fenders.
The first thing I do when making a repair like this is to use painters tape to mark out the area I want to remove and repair. I usually tape off just a little further out than the rusted area so I can be sure that I’m into good metal when welding the patch panel in place. It’s really difficult to weld thin, heavily pitted metal, so it’s best to remove a little more so you can get a clean area to work with.
The other nice thing about the painters tape is that it gives a nice straight line to follow as you cut out the area you’re repairing. I chose a 4 1/2″ Electric Angle Grinder with a cutting disc to make the cuts. I just put the edge of the cutting disc against the inside edge of the tape and followed that as I made the cut.
Once I had the cancerous areas removed, I cleaned the area surrounding the hole with a flap disc. With the area prepped, I could then make a pattern of the patch panel I needed. I chose to use a manila folder as my pattern, although you can use thin cardboard, chipboard, construction paper, or any other thick paper product. Chipboard is often the best to use as it behaves the most like sheet metal, but construction paper or a manilla folder will work ok as well (and is easier to find). Once I traced and cut out the patterns for each patch panel, I transferred the pattern to the metal and cut the rough shape from 18 gauge steel with the Electric Metal Shears. Once I had the rough shape cut, I could then trim the piece to shape with a set of Eastwood Aviation Metal Snips. After I had the patch panel close to the size I needed, I used the curvature of the fender to give the patch panel a slight contour to match the fender. Alternatively you could use a pipe form, a Slip Roll, or even an English Wheel to shape the panel. But in this case, the curve needed was so slight, using some muscle and the fender as a form, gave me the shape I needed.
On this repair, I chose to use a set of Intergrip Panel Clamps to gap and hold the patch panel in place. Then the Eastwood MIG 175 to weld it all together. The key with using the intergrips is to use the aviation snips to carefully cut the panel just a bit smaller than the opening so that the mounting plate for the intergrips can slide between the old and new metal. This allows your welds to bridge and fill the gap.
Once the new metal is clamped in place with the Intergrips I used a flathead screwdriver to get the panel centered in the opening and began laying a few quick tack welds to attach the new metal in place. From here I like to move my intergrips around and tighten them in place after each tack weld to get the patch panel flush with the surrounding metal. On a curved panel like this it’s important to make sure the curve of the seam matches. Once the patch panel is tack welded in place and lined up correctly I removed the Intergrips.
Now that the patch panel is tack welded in place, I began stitch welding the joint closed. I like to jump around the panel making quick, hot welds. On a patch this small I had to be careful not to introduce too much heat into the panel and warp the metal. I like to keep a blow nozzle from the compressor handy to hit the welds and metal with cool, compressed air every few welds. I make sure the panel is warm or even cool to the touch before I continue laying stitch welds. If the metal is too hot to touch with your bare hands, you shouldn’t introduce anymore heat into the panel until it cools. After some time I ended up with fully stitch welded patches that didn’t have any major warpage.
After I’ve made sure the panel is fully welded, I used the flap disc on the angle grinder to grind the proud welds down. The key is to grind across the welds so they’re flush with the surrounding metal. If ground too much, the weld joint will be thin and weak. With this repair method you should be able to grind the welds pretty much flush with the surrounding metal. I then used the Eastwood Pro Hammer and Dolly Kit to bump up any low spots from welding. For now I sealed the repair area with Eastwood Self Etching Primer until I’m ready to lay body filler, primer, and top coat.
Pilehouse didn’t live a charmed life, it was used and abused as a farm truck, then sat for many years in the woods. Mother Nature has really left her mark on the truck. From the scratches and scrapes, to HUGE dents and smashed in sections, some would say I’m a masochist for taking on such a project. I’ve always liked a challenge and I thought straightening the roof would be just that.
Some of the dents on the roof were fixed by metal bumping them back into shape with the Eastwood Pro Hammer and Dolly Kit, but other areas weren’t so easy. I found a few pesky dents that were in areas I couldn’t get to, or were simply creased and needed some pulling before I worked them with the hammer and dolly. We recently released a new MIG Stud Welding Kit that was perfect for the job. This kit allows you to turn your MIG welder into a stud welder. I’ve always hated using a traditional stud welder. It’s bulky, heavy, and hard to get a solid weld with. It’s pretty simple, just add the MIG Stud nozzle to the end of the MIG gun and slide a stud into the nozzle. Then just hit the trigger for a couple seconds and I’ve got a firmly attached stud for pulling dents.
Below is the damage I was repairing. It looks like a sharp edge scraped against the roof and really did a number on this spot. After Stripping the paint and surface rust, I had bare metal to weld my studs to.
I began welding studs into the deepest portion of the crease and using the slide hammer to pull the dent out. I like to leave the studs in place until I’ve got the dent roughly pulled out. This way I can come back and give a couple more pulls on the slide hammer if an area didn’t quite pop out like I wanted.
After I got the dent roughed out, I cut off the studs and used a flap disc to take the stud welds back down to the surface. I then like to check the area with the palm of my hand for low spots I missed. This crease came out after only a handful of pulls and you can see below it’s MUCH better. It only took a little more hammer and dolly work to have it ready for a skim coat of filler, then primer. If you have the patience you could eventually metal finish this area perfect and only use primer. This whole project took 30 minutes, so I’d say repairing this crease was a relatively easy job (I wish all repairs were this easy!).