Chapter Ten: Decisions, Decisions
When we last time we left our hero, he had
just made a cross-country trek in an unknown truck that had caused no
end of troubles en route -- just like the many racers our hero is trying
to emulate. The troubles were inadvertent of course but the entire
episode nearly caused a separation from sanity.
The truck, with cars on its back, was
abandoned behind T&D Machine Products in Carson City, Nevada. I
escaped back to the bowels of Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, far away in Winslow, Arizona,
an old pile of tubing with wheels on each corner and an even older
fiberglass shape were being pondered. And though much discussion and
thought was exchanged, there was no cure for the problem of rear tires
that stuck out of the too narrow body.
Chris and I discussed bubbling the rear
body around the tires and though many cars had similar extensions from
about 1973-79, I'm not in favor of that option.
We discussed narrowing the rear end too.
But that just didn't seem correct. First, the rear end is a pretty
niece piece. The floaters are in place and the back-brace extends right
to the very ends of the housing. To cut on it would be very work
intensive. Several people involved in the conversation suggested that to
do it properly meant starting from scratch with a new housing and new
Ugh. The body stretch helped the
wheelbase matching problem but it has not helped the tire clearance
problem. According to Chris Stinson, "… the body measures
60" and the outside of the tires are 62." It might be slightly
different with the old wheels on it because they're 13x16 and maybe
that'll help. We'll see."
We were discussing my pair of 16x13
American bearpaws (some people call them bearclaws) which had just
Here are a couple pictures to help the
Chris moved the body forth-and-back and
side-to side until he was reasonably happy. He then threw some old Ford
truck wheels on the back – they are the proper 5 on 5-1/2"
pattern standard in drag racing for many years. Keep in mind that the
front tires/wheels are off of Earl Watts' altered. He loved the
wheels/tires that came with my chassis so we sorta traded. These are way
too tall for my car but do allow it to roll around.
"Here's where the body is sitting
right now. It's pretty well lined up in the rear. Things may change
quite a bit once we get your wheels and tires on. The wheel offset and
tire width in the rear will make a difference as will the lower profile
front tires. We'll just have to look at things fresh once your wheels
and tires are in place.
I'll check on some motor plate aluminum, and if you'll do the same we
can talk soon to see what will be the best way to get that going. Once
we have the wheels and rubber you're planning on running I'll be able to
get started on the front tree and latch finish the rear tree and hinge
it and start tinning it. We'll need the motor plate eventually but it's
not the most important piece at this point.
Talk with you soon.
Please do check out the close-up of those
Ford rear wheels to see Chris' great sense of humor.
OK, so the wheels went on and the body
didn't fit. Is this getting to be a familiar tune? I don't have a
photo of that, sorry. More conversation and much thought came next. I
finally decided that there were LOTS of wheels in the world and to get
this car to fit together was going to take a different approach or as it
would turn out a standard approach.
My idea was that when Cragar first gave
us Super Tricks, they were 16x12, and they came in all sorts of offsets.
Surely I could find an old front half, mate it with a newer front half,
and come up with any backspace I wanted.
So, instead of narrowing the rear end, I
decided to narrow the rear of the chassis, get my deep backspace rear
wheels put together and tuck the tires in closer to the frame.
The idea is nothing new. Current FCs have
the rear upright – the one that mounts the rear end – behind the
driver's back. Mine were outboard like cars were built from about
1972-87. Chris could do it but didn't have a line-up bar – that is
the piece that fabricators use to maintain proper alignment between the
engine and the rear end. So, I looked around to see if I could borrow
one. Few chassis builders were receptive to loaning their line-up bars.
The one that was was Rob Stirling. Being
in Kingman, Arizona, he was also closest to where Chris is located. But
in further conversation, the jig at Ron's Racing where Chris is
working was full of a front engine dragster that couldn't be moved and
wouldn't be finished by the window of time Rob was willing to make his
line-up bar available. So, I asked Chris if he would be upset if I hired
Rob to make the modifications. Not only would he not mind, he said, he
agreed to make the delivery and pickup, and said he enjoyed doing that
because he always learned things.
So, an appointment and price was agreed
to, I sent money, the chassis was delivered and Rob Stirling made some
rather major changes.
Here's a before shot.
The wheels/tires mounted are those that
came with the chassis, I believe 16x14 Cragars. The rear end is mounted
to rectangular uprights and there are a few diagonals and cross braces.
Nothing special, and very typical of its era.
Chris stripped the chassis at Rob's
suggestion, and hauled the excess back to Winslow. The chassis was
lifted onto the jig, and all the old stuff hacksawed and cut-off wheeled
out. Since it was the first time Stirling had laid eyes on my chassis,
he certainly had to make decisions as he went along. Basically, he
whacked out the original body tree, rear upright, rear end mounts and
When Earl and Laurie Watts went to visit
a few days later, Rob already had the new bottom rail and upright tacked
in and all the old brackets ground off the rear housing. He had already
redrilled the motorplate from Chrysler to Chevy to facilitate his
line-up bar. The work seemed to have gone quite smoothly. Compare
these photos with the one above:
It is easy to see this was the correct
decision for more tire clearance, plus, and every bit as important, we
found out those old rectangular uprights would not have passed chassis
specs. So now we have the proper spec pipe and have gained necessary
Rob was totally done within two weeks,
including adding soon-to-be mandatory helmet bars and doing a few mods
to the steering shaft. I highly recommend Mr. Stirling for chassis needs
for dragster, funny cars, altereds. He is fair and met both price and
If there is a drawback to Rob's Kingman
shop is that it is small. So when he was finished, my chassis had to
leave. Scheduling is tight there and he needs to clear things out to get
the next car in. Earl Watts went back to get mine – actually traded my
chassis for Laurie's little dragster which was to get a new cowl. Oh
did I mention Rob is a pretty fair tinman too?
The chassis rode back to Camp Verde in
the same Ford p/u that had hauled the body a couple months earlier, and
Chris Stinson picked it up there. Note that the Rob mods include the
helmet bars, the round-tube gusset to the front roll hoop, and the new