Jump to content

1953 Pontiac Chieftain 8 Hearse by Barnette - The Rim Reaper

Guest Bud Weishaar

Recommended Posts

Guest Bud Weishaar

I was 12 years old when I realized the beauty that was sitting rotting away in Grampa's scrap yard. I proceeded to tell him how much I liked the big old car and asked if I could buy it when I got older, if I got enough money that is...

Well, Grampa passed away when I was 16, and I was fortunate enough to spend his last year running his store while he watched over CCTV from his bed. In his dying days he told my father that he was willing the Hearse to him, but that he intended for it to be passed to me.

I am not sure how long the beast lie un - fettered, since as far back as I can remember in the 80's, but in the fall of 2000, my father fired it up and drove it 2 km down the road to his own scrap yard. He informed me that it definitely needed new brakes, LoL...

After moving it around a few times (a dying scrap yard has infrequent visits by a crushing truck) he finally moved the 56 Chevy out of the shop and brought the hearse in for safer storage, until one day when he needed to make room for a container load of terracotta figures from Indonesia. The Hearse was then moved from its nice dry pad to hiding in the trees, ensuring the crushers wouldn't eat it up. Two weeks later the shop burned down, but the hearse lives on!!!



In 2014 my father decided he was going to crush everything on the lot and sell the property, and so I had the mission of finding a way to get my cars out of there before the crusher got them. First priority for me was the Hearse, and sadly my 1982 Camaro Z-28 was left there with a perfectly good 350 engine, likely to be crushed...

It was 1 week before Halloween, and I love Halloween, so the hearse was a welcome addition to the spooky set - up I add to each year! Sitting in my driveway with fog machines underneath and strobe lights inside, the car drew more attention from the adults taking the kids around than they were paying to their own kids, LoL.

Now it is on the brink of being spring 2015, the weather has been favourable in Calgary, compared to the rest of North America it seems, for most of the winter, and I am beginning the task of bringing the beast to life.


I gave it it's first oil change in what I am assuming was 40 - 50 years. The 7/8" plug on the oil pan came out VERY easily, having only 8" clearance under the car I was prepared for a daunting task, but was pleasantly surprised. The oil drained out beautifully, and I replaced the plug and filled the engine with some old Rotella T6 I had lying around. I will not attempt to start the engine with this oil, I let it sit for 2 days and re - drained in preparation to remove the oil pan. I was under the impression these cars didn't have oil filters. I was quite surprised when I popped open the big thing I had not seen in other pictures or even payed any attention to until now. Guess what, it's an oil filter! I have since learned that these inline filters were found to cause drop in oil pressure, so I may just remove it but keep it for if I ever make it a show car.


Having an abundance of extra allotted time, I proceeded to find the transmission dipstick under the carpet on the hump in the floor in the driver compartment, and checked the fluid. It is way above the full line, I will check again once the engine starts. The fluid still looks beautiful, but I am assuming it needs replacing after all these years.

I still had some sunlight left, and obviously obsession had kicked in at this point. I took my 7/8" socket and cracked open one of the spark plugs. Again, it took little to no extra effort, just a small tug of the ratchet and it was loose. I took it out, looked at it for 3 seconds and put it back.

The fan on the motor spins very easily in the clockwise direction, giving me the impression that this just might be the diamond in the rough I was hoping it to be.

My first milestone after inheriting the old beast was to bring it home, milestone 2 will be to drive it, and that milestone is looking closer now than ever before...

I have been documenting my work on the Professional Car Society forum, but I figured there is a vast wealth of knowledge here as well so I should also have a thread here.

Upon further inspection I found there to be cause to open the head cover, and was pleasantly surprised at the condition of the engine. The piston bores are clean, smooth and oiled from turning the engine by hand. The was one bore that had a very minor dusting of rust on it, it was the same cylinder that I found rusty looking balls of what one guy describes as possibly a mix of water and oil hardened into amber. I will find a pen et rating lubricant to drizzle around the pistons and let sit, and likely repeat a few times for good lube measures in attempts to reseat any rings not in place.




I proceeded to clean the carbon from where I could see it, and found that 2 of my valves with the dip (exhaust?) Are stuck open, one moving only so slightly, and many have rust on the pin as I can see while they are in open position. I have conflicting stories with some people saying to basically rebuild, some people saying to replace the valves, and some saying to get them moving and use something to eat away the rust. Ideally I know that replacing the valves and springs would be a good idea, but I want to drive it at least a bit before I change what is already a drivable engine.

All suggestions appreciated, thanx in advance!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest kaycee

You've already gone a long way. Squirt some PB Blaster or a mixture of acetone and atf on the valve stems and in the plugs ,for a day or two and see if they loosen.

Keep us posted and good luck!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...
Guest Bud Weishaar

Well, no fire as of yet, did get my gasket set in and got the head all cleaned up, just need to get one more bolt that was sheared put of the block and then source my replacement bolts, then I will have to put the top end all back together and then time to fire. Project is on hold momentarily as I have other issues to deal with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...