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!
With all of the S10 suspension and steering components up front replaced with new Proforged parts, we needed to make the rest of the chassis and suspension look as good as the parts we put on. We decided to remove the stock Chevy V6 drivetrain first. We got some help from one of our friendly forklift drivers in the Eastwood distribution center to lift it out. The removal went pretty smoothly, but the cleanup was another story though!
With the engine out and the mess cleaned up, I could now check tire clearance when lifting and dropping the air suspension. It quickly became evident that the tires were contacting the front cab corners when dropped. To make room, I made notches in the cab corners with the Versa Cut Plasma Cutter. With those rough cuts made, the suspension now has its full range of motion. Later on I will be making mini-tubs in the cab corners that close up the notches I cut, but still allow the tires to tuck when dropped. More on that project a little later down the road.
Next we rolled the truck outside so we could clean and detail the chassis. I started by removing the steering box and giving it a good clean and detail with the help from Chassis Kleen and Detail Gray.
With all of the bolt-on parts removed from the front of the S10 chassis, I moved on to cleaning and prepping it for paint. The hero of this job was our new Rust Brushes. Once I had them hooked in the drill it only took about 15-20 minutes and 2 brushes to get all of the scaly rust and messy grease off. I also found it was handy to keep the “worn out” brushes and use the pointy ends to get into the hard-to-reach spots that a fresh brush couldn’t reach.
With the major debris cleaned off, I hit everything up with Chassis Kleen, and PRE before applying Rust Encapsulator. The Encapsulator will stop any of the light rust left on the chassis from growing, and also gives a uniform finish to build off of. I then applied some Satin Chassis Black for the final tough finish. Even though I use Chassis Black quite frequently on other projects, I’m still amazed at how well this stuff sprays out of the can and how tough it is. Only problem now is that it makes all of the dirty, original parts around it look worse! I just have to keep reminding myself this is just a driver and not a show car build!
Now that the front clip is detailed, I can move on to test fitting the mockup block and V8S10 conversion bits. Watch this space for more on that here shortly. Thanks for following!
We know everyone loves videos as well as pictures, so to supplement Part 2 of our Front Suspension Project we decided to show you how we went about installing the new front Proforged suspension and steering parts, as well as the custom air ride suspension in this video. Although it looks pretty straight forward to build and install in the video, I must have had the front suspension apart at least 5-10 times! Enjoy the video and make sure to follow our next episode where we show you how we built a new set of running boards from scratch!
In the last entry we showed you how to disassemble the front suspension on the S10 chassis that sits under Project Pile House. Once we had it all apart we began fitting the front air suspension. Air bags will allow the truck to drop all the way to the ground and lift to almost stock ride height. This will give us the looks AND function I want out of the truck.
A warning for anyone starting an air ride build–it will NOT be a bolt-on job! It can be nearly “bolt” on with some of the expensive kits out there, but most won’t get you much lower than a set of drop spindles and some lowering springs/drop blocks. To get the “slammed” or “laying frame/body” look that many want, you will need to cut, weld, and fabricate. But for me, that’s the fun of building a custom car or truck!
I started with a cheap eBay S10 “bolt-in” front air ride kit with the larger 2600 bags. They really use the term “bolt-in” loosely, as the lower mounting plate for the lower control arms were completely wrong and I binned the idea of using them pretty quickly! Regardless of 2500 or 2600 series front bags, you will need to cut the spring pocket to make room for the bag when deflated. If you don’t cut the pocket the bag can rub the opening and put a hole in it quickly, not something you’d want to happen on the highway! I set the bag and upper mount (which mounts through the OE shock hole) into the truck to get an idea what needed to be cut. I then pulled out the Eastwood Versa Cut Plasma Cutter and made quick work of the frame notch.
Once I found that the cut around the spring pocket was large enough to tuck the air bag inside, I moved on to fitting the bag to the lower control arm. This is where it was evident that the lower bag mount plate wasn’t going to work and I decided to plate the control arm myself. I first outlined the bag so I had an idea of the minimum area I had to plate to support the bag. Next I cut out the “humps” in the control arm with the Versa Cut (mini truck guys call it “dehumping”) and welded in a plate to make the top of the lower control arm more flat. A plate was then added to cover the top of the lower control arm and welded it in with the Eastwood MIG 175. Lastly I drilled a hole in the plate to mount the bag to the lower control arm. The final outcome is now a bolt-on job.
With the hard fabrication work done, I moved on to removing the old tired steering components. These were just as bad as the suspension components! Pile House will never be a daily driver, but I plan to take it on long drives and it may even double as a tow vehicle once in a while. For this reason I want the suspension and steering components to stand up to a lot of abuse and function well with the lowered stance and added power it’s getting. I decided to call up the folks at ProForged Severe Duty Chassis Parts and see what they had to offer. Zack and crew came back with just what I needed; severe duty replacement steering components, drilled and slotted rotors to help stop the truck better, and my favorite, extended travel ball joints. These ball joints are right up my alley, they were designed to eliminate ball joint binding when a GM chassis is lowered. Ball Joint binding can happen on vehicles that are lowered (even with small drops!) when they hit a bump and the suspension compresses (lowers) and the stock ball joints go past their optimum point of travel and bind. All of this GREATLY decreases the life of the parts and can cause them to fail prematurely. Best of all ProForged offers a Million-Mile Warranty on all of their parts!
From here we test fit all of the parts and made sure the truck was sitting how I wanted when dropped. I did have to cut the height of the upper bag mounts to get the truck to sit flat on the ground in the front, but only a minor job compared to the all the other work that’s been done thus far! Now that all of the major fabrication was done, we could move on to installing the ProForged parts and begin cleaning and detailing the front suspension. Stay tuned for the next entry where we detail and assemble it all.
Plasma cutting seems easy right? Pull the trigger, make some sparks, cut some metal, easy as pie! Well it can be quite simple, but there are a few things that can cause your plasma to underperform. Below we cover 5 tips to allow you to cut any metal with ease.
1. Clean your ground location- Some of the modern plasma cutters like our Versa Cut Plasma Cutter have a “high frequency start” that allows the plasma arc to blast through rust, paint, and years of grime to cut metal without the need to clean the area you are cutting. This is great for those who hate cleaning metal; but one thing that people often forget is that they need a clean, solid ground to help create a strong arc to easily cut through metal. With a subpar ground you will find that your arc is unstable and will often result in inconsistent cuts. Take the extra 2 minutes to find a good ground location, or grind yourself a clean clamping area. It makes a world of difference!
2. Keep your torch “Slag-Free”- When cutting with a plasma, you have molten metal splattering and slag goes flying; especially when cutting with the torch below the work surface. The slag can inadvertently make its way onto your torch electrode or nozzle. The build up of slag on the business-end of your torch can create an unstable arc and block airflow out of the nozzle. That buildup leads to poor cutting ability even on the most expensive machines. We suggest that you check the end of your torch after each cut to make sure there isn’t a build up of slag that can decrease the performance of your plasma cutter.
3. Dry Air is Friendly Air- Plasma cutters need a constant flow of clean, dry air to allow it to “punch” through the metal when cutting. This is another reason we can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure your compressor has an adequate dryer and water separator system installed. For that reason we integrated a “last chance” filter in our Versa Cut plasma to make sure clean, dry air reaches the plasma torch. When you introduce dirty or moisture-rich air into the plasma arc you will notice that it will be difficult to get a stable arc going as the moisture in the air coming out of the torch will cause the arc to wander. You NEED clean, dry air to create a stable, focused arc!
4. Avoid extension cords- We put a 20′ torch lead and a 10′ ground lead on our Versa Cut for a reason; you need to keep the machine as close to the power source as possible. The same as using a welder, the longer and skinnier the extension cord, the more it drops the voltage your machine is receiving. This means you could be “maxing out” your machine cutting something that should only require 3/4 power because the drop in voltage at the machine is so low by the time it goes through that 20 foot extension cord. We suggest (especially on the 110V setting) to keep your plasma plugged directly into an outlet. If you do need to use an extension cord, get a dedicated heavy gauge extension cord that will have the least power drop possible. By heeding this warning you can get the most performance out of your plasma. Remember, move the work surface or torch and ground, not the entire machine!
5. More Air= More Punch- Like the amperage adjustment, we have an adjustment for air pressure along with a built-in pressure gauge. You need to make sure that you have adequate air pressure going to the torch to allow the plasma arc to properly “punch” through the metal. “Too much” air isn’t as much of an issue as “too little” air, although you do want to dial the air down a bit with thinner metal to reduce the amount of slag and sparks from flying across the room.
Hopefully by following these 5 tips you can streamline your plasma cutting jobs, and keep your machine function properly.