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1954 Chevy Bel air. An impossible restoration?

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Parts car or have fun building a hot rod, rat rod, custom with it on some other frame.  Couple of S10s with low miles sold up here at auctions for the exact same $200.  Hone up those welding skills on it.  Would never be worth a lot, but it would be something you built yourself.  

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7 hours ago, Pontiac59 said:

Parts car or have fun building a hot rod, rat rod, custom with it on some other frame.  Couple of S10s with low miles sold up here at auctions for the exact same $200.  Hone up those welding skills on it.  Would never be worth a lot, but it would be something you built yourself.  


Yes, I've been toying with that idea.   I already have a 1990 Ford Ranger here that runs just fine.  I might look into fitting this body on that frame.  Although the major difficulty there is in getting the steering wheel mechanism to line up.    Lots of mechanical fabrication just in that area alone.   Not an impossible task, but it certainly requires some engineering acrobatics.   Other than that one major connection, everything else appears to be fairly doable.   The wheel base is fairly close already.




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11 minutes ago, JACK M said:

I'm a bit late to the party,

But being a boat guy I want to see pictures of the four piece river boat.


Ok, you caught me in a lie (kind of). I don't actually have the boat yet.  It's still on the drawing board.  ?


I'm hoping to make it out of wood.  I actually have a sawmill and started cutting lumber for it.  But obviously it's going to be a very long time before it's actually built.  This is why I have time to restore four old trucks to tow it with in the meantime. (ha ha)


It's a very simple design.  It's basically four wooden barges (I'd make them out of modern lighter materials but for me lumber is FREE, so gotta go with what's free).


Two of the barges are just plain flat decks.  Each one being 8' wide and 16' long.   The other two barges are powered by large paddle wheels in the back.  These two boats are separate, and are the "Tug Boats".   You take all four boats down to the river,  place one of the barges in front of each Tug, and then pull the two Tugs next to each other and then tie them together as well.  What you end up with is a  make-shift "Riverboat" that is 16' wide and "32 feet long.   The BEAUTY of it is that it's easily portable as four separate units.   So it can be put in an out of the river quite easily.   Assuming you have lots of friends who want to go boating.


I should mention that my friends are also musicians, and the reason we want a large flat deck is so we can set up our musical instruments and play music whilst floating down the river.  Just for fun.


Admittedly this is most likely a dream that will never be completed.   None the less, it is a dream and it has been physically started.   At least in terms of cutting some of the raw material.  I've also designed it in a 3-D CAD software (but then LOST the drawings!).  Here's a screen shot of some of the CAD drawings.  (unfortunately I have since lost the original CAD drawings due to a computer disk failure).  Fortunately the design is  so simple I really don't need the drawings to actually build it.  It's  very simple design.


Here are some pictures of the drawings that I was able to save because I had uploaded them to the Internet:


These are VERY CRUDE drawings.   The actual boats will be far more detailed and prettier.


This is a side view drawing in I made in 2D.





The following drawings are in 3D.  But not nearly as detailed.  For example the paddle-wheel in this drawing is just depicted as a red cylinder.   But it would obviously be a more complex paddle wheel as depicted in the 2D drawing above.


The following picture is just of one of the tug boats.





Below gives an idea of what the finished "Riverboat" will look like when completely assembled.




It's going to be a very SLOW Riverboat.   Each Tugboat will be powered by an 18hp Briggs and Stratton twin cylinder engine giving the whole rig a total of 36 hp.   It's not designed for speed.   We don't plan on going anywhere far.   We just want to go down to the river and play music out on the water.   It's kind of like a floating stage if you want to think of it that way,


Like I say, it's an extremely simple design.  Basically four identical barges, and then two of them are powered by a paddle wheel.  The only "cabin" is for the pilots.   Everything else is open.


Before we get into a lot of controversy, I totally AGREE that there would be far better materials to build this from.   But it's actually going to be quite light because I'm using a special woodworking technique to build the hulls.   In fact, I had detailed drawings of how the hulls are going to be built.  They will be sectioned off which allows them to be made of thinner wood, as well adding a feature of safety should the hull be compromised.  Only one section would then leak.    Also as slow as these boats will go there won't be any risk of a high speed crash.




Anyway, that's the idea.  The project is in progress.  But it's in a very early stage to be sure.   In fact, I haven't even finished cutting down all the trees for the lumber.  So it will be a while before the actual construction begins.




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8 minutes ago, Xander Wildeisen said:

So what kind of activities are going to be done on this free from land laws vessel?



So you want the entire history of the idea? 

Ok, here's the scoop.


Once upon a time in a dark mysterious forest there was a lazy river that flowed quietly along.   Human activity was a rare sight and it was a nature lover's dream.


Then along came myself and two of my friends making all manner of clatter putting an aluminum canoe into the river.  I also had a guitar, as did one of my friends, and my other buddy had a set of bongos.  We took to the river making music that would drive any sane naturalist away from the area for miles around.  Fortunately for us there were occasionally other crazy people around who enjoyed our noise.    As the river of time flowed forward other musical maniacs started joining our party.    On various occasions we had as many as 5 canoes floating down the river making beautiful music to drive away any remaining naturalists.


Then the idea came up that we should get a bigger raft.  Perhaps a pontoon boat?   But even that would be a bit small to hold the whole group of musical monkeys.


So being one of the most ridiculous monkeys of the group I proposed the idea of building a 4-piece "Riverboat" made from four barges all tied together.  The other monkeys thought this was a great idea and said that if I cut down the trees and make the lumber they would help me build the boats.   And so the idea was born and has begun to materialize ever so slowly.  Fortunately all the monkeys in the group are very patient and have no extreme expectations.


And so that's where we are today.


By the way, some added features of this project is that we only need to build one barge at a time.    If all we built was the first "Tug boat", then we'd have a nice little boat that at least a few of us could enjoy at a time.  Add a second barge and we could push that around with the first boat.   And who knows?  Maybe someday we'll finish all four of them and end up with the original dream.


It's an extremely low-cost project, if you don't count the labor.   The trees are free, so all we need is some gas for the chainsaw and sawmill.  Then a few fasteners and glue.  Finally some paint which might run into a bit of money, but if we're ready to paint it then it's coming along pretty well.   And finally the biggest cost will be the actual Briggs and Stratton engines.   I chose to go with those because they are low-maintenance and will serve the purpose.  I've also been toying with the idea of using an engine out of a car.  Something like a 4-cyl old Ford Escort engine.  The only problem there is that it gets into being water cooled which makes it more complicated.   The Briggs and Stratton Engines might end up actually being more economical in the long run.   And they aren't really all that expensive.   Especially if all the musical monkeys pitch in.    They might do that when the boat is looking like it's ready to be launched.


The naturalists are going to be really ticked when they see all these monkeys coming down the peaceful river making all their musical noise.  This is why the Riverboat needs to be easily portable, so we can quickly escape the angry naturalists after our Riverboat gig.

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I hate to rain on the party,  but even on water there are rules and regs plus fees in many areas.  You can't escape big brother,  you just have to report to a different agency.   If it's over a certain size you will need a captains license and comply to coast guard regs.  Those fasteners will probably cost alot more than you think as well.  Fuel tank, etc.  Who knows you might need insurance of some type.  Probably a permit for playing music on the water etc.  Be sure to check into all the local laws.  There are probably some dussey's that are still on the books that will affect nobody but you.  

Good to dream though. 

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I live in a real nice community.   The law enforcement people around here are very anxious to help you out.  They will often point you to the legal loopholes that you'll need to do what it is you want to do.


The absolute worst case scenario is that I would need to power all four barges and just take them out on the river side-by-side without actually tying them together.  We already know that's legal.


As far as the special permits and license for a "Big Boat", that woudln't come into play because they would all be registered individually as "small craft".  It wouldn't be registered as one "Big Boat".    So there won't be any "Big Boat" to license or permit.    In fact, that's one of the many reasons to keep the whole shebang as four individual small boats. 


I said on this forum that it's a "four-piece Riverboat".  But it's not going to be registered as a four-piece Riverboat.   As far as the law is concerned, it's four individual small craft.  


As I say.  Absolute worse case scenario is that I will need to power all four of them and just not physically tie them together.   Problem solved.

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34 minutes ago, Laughing Coyote said:

Just build it and enjoy life.  If things go wrong you just say the old phrase. "Well I didn't know"  Seems to work  for a lot of situations these days. :)


Agreed.  Besides, by the time I get these boats built I'll probably be dead anyway, so why worry about problems I'm never going to have? ?

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UPDATE on the 1954 Chevy restoration project:


Today I took a few moments to unbolt the hood, trunk lid, and all four doors where the hinges meet the body pillars.   I thought this was going to be impossible to get the bolts out and that they would mostly either break or strip.  But to my utter shock and amazement I was able to get every single bolt out without breaking or stripping a single solitary bolt.


I'm calling this a "restoration project", but that's just a play on words.  I really don't know where I'm going with this yet.  I want to strip this car down into pieces no matter what I do with it.  Even as scrap metal it brings more money broken down into smaller pieces.   Not only that but I collect screw and hinges, etc.  If I don't use them on a car I might end up using them on some other project.  I'm always building something.


In any case, I just thought I'd report that things went quite well thus far.  I'm working on trying to remove the front fenders next.   I got quite a few bolts out of one fender so far.  One bolt  is stripped, and some of the others I'm not sure how to get at.   I'm going to try to remove the fenders without damaging them if at all possible.   I won't go too far out of my way.  If it proves to be too much work to take it apart nicely I'll start ripping it up for scrap metal.  But thus far things have been coming apart quite well.


I also found a new paint job I really like for this car.  If I decide to put the body back together I think I'll go for this one solid color.  I really like it.



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The engine and tranny are easier to buy than a decent body and it's tough to make a 4 door into a 2 door, though many have failed trying.  Not to say it's worth 2G,  but some big differences.  If your engine is seized or worn out,  you don't really have much either by having the engine.  These engines are pretty easy to come by.  I doubt the trannies bring much either.  Lots of rodders out there,  scrapping their sixes for a V8. 

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But rafting them together makes them one big vessel.  It just takes one official with an agenda or the need to make an example and boom you are the new target.  The current set of guys may be great and lenient but it's often those just coming into power that have the most to prove. 

If you are going to build them out of wood,  be sure to figure on plenty of Bilge pumps and batteries.   Even the professionally built boats leak a little. 

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2 minutes ago, auburnseeker said:

But rafting them together makes them one big vessel.  It just takes one official with an agenda or the need to make an example and boom you are the new target.  The current set of guys may be great and lenient but it's often those just coming into power that have the most to prove.


I agree, there's always the threat of being harassed by jerk cops.   I'll keep that in mind.


2 minutes ago, auburnseeker said:

If you are going to build them out of wood,  be sure to figure on plenty of Bilge pumps and batteries.   Even the professionally built boats leak a little. 


That's not my style of designing.  Just one bilge pump and run it directly off the main engine.   No batteries required. 


Also, for day-sailing, where you put the boat in the river in the morning and take it out that evening, you're not likely going to need to even use it at all.   Where the bilge pump will come in handy is when you decide to dock the boat in the water for the entire weekend or week.    Then you can just start the motor up and pump her out once in a while.   I could even rig that up to happen automatically via water level sensors.


I haven't really thought about rigging it up to have it automatically pump itself out because I'm thinking one-day sailing trips.  But yeah, now that youv'e mentioned it installing an automatic bilge pump probably wouldn't hurt.   That would be a nice touch.  There probably will be times when we'll want to put them in for a whole weekend or more.   I'm not really designing them as "sleepers".  We'd need to just sleep out on the open deck.   


Yeah, it probably wouldn't hurt to put automated bilge pumps in them just in case we decide to sleep over.   I definitely expect them to leak to some degree. 



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1 hour ago, auburnseeker said:

The engine and tranny are easier to buy than a decent body and it's tough to make a 4 door into a 2 door, though many have failed trying. 


What's wrong with a 4 door?   That makes it easier for people to get into the back seat.


I paid $1800 less for mine and I got two more doors to boot.


I'm not going to complain about that. ?



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11 hours ago, AntiqueCraftsman said:

Hey, I just found another one in about the same condition.  They are asking $2000 for theirs!  On eBay


I only paid $200 for mine.  ?





On this deal you get both cars and one is a 2 door.  Looks like the 4 door is a lot better condition but rodders want 2 doors

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48 minutes ago, TerryB said:

On this deal you get both cars and one is a 2 door.  Looks like the 4 door is a lot better condition but rodders want 2 doors 


It will be interesting to see if anyone actually buys these for 2G or more.  The auction has 6 days to go at the time of this post.


I personally prefer the 4-doors.   I'm a pragmatic fogie.   And if you actually use the car to haul around 3 of your friends the people sitting in the back really appreciate having their own personal doors. ?


2-door rodders probably don't have many friends.  (hee hee)  just kidding.

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Is it just me or are the banjos getting louder?


There was a homemade river boat around here several years ago similar to your barge idea.

Very ornate, and I am sure it was a blast in its day. It was probably 12ft beam and 35 ft or so in length.

By the time I knew about it is pretty well past its useful days unless someone would have gone over it.

Unfortunately it changed hands a few times and sat around in places that were not so good for it.

I was intrigued by its power plant, A simple air cooled VW, It had four forward and one reverse speed on its full width rear paddle wheel.   

I often wish I had taken some pictures of that thing, but like I said, it was pretty much junk when I first happened on it.

Not sure where it ever ended up at. Last I remember was at least 20 years.

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Google millersbug ferry. The ferry association makes them from scratch. Powered by whatever engine they scrounge up. The wheel is chain drive. I,ve seen them use a rear end as a gear reduction and direction change. The ferrys draw about 12 inches. They will take cars, trucks, horses, dogs, whatever can be driven or walks on. ......bob

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33 minutes ago, Bhigdog said:

Google millersbug ferry


That's about what I expect my rig to be able to do.  Except I don't plan on hauling 4 full-size vehicles on it.  Notice that it isn't even leaning even though the four vehicles are all on one side.


I actually did quite a bit of studying of the physics of barge-shaped hulls.   They are amazingly stable and require very little draft.   According to the calculations my "riverboats" should only sink down into the water a mere 4".   That's calculated based on what the wood they are made of weighs.    And that was even calculated using the weight of green wood.  They should even be lighter when the wood is well cured.    Then I did further calculations to see how many people I could have on each barge.   Based on calculations using Pennsylvania waterway laws each barge should safely carry (25) 200lb people.   I don't plan on having anymore than 4 or 5 people on each barge.   But technically the complete rig could legally carry 100 passengers.   The most I plan on ever having might be 20.  5 on each barge.


Just look at the weight on this baby and it's not even leaning toward that side.   I don't think I'll need to worry about stability problems at all.


The paddle wheels seem to do a really nice job too.




Edited by AntiqueCraftsman (see edit history)
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Good luck with your  barge. The millersburg ferrys are about as crude as you can imagine. Im pretty sure the most precision tool they use to build them is a limbing chain saw. And yet they are the absolute perfect craft for the job at hand. 

That said, these are well built, safe, vessels licenced and inspected by the coast guard, operated by a licenced captain.

We try to take our dogs for a cruise across the Susquehanna at least once a year as walk ons. I think its $2 a head each way. No charge for pups.....bob

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12 hours ago, zipdang said:

I'm sure you noticed that the 2-door Chevy you displayed is even in the color you had just admired!


When I was a young teenager my mother had a 1955 Buick Special that was also a very similar color.  I miss the good old days which is probably the underlying psychological reason why I'm trying to bring them back by restoring old cars.  In my sick subconscious I'm probably thinking that if I can bring these old cars back to "like new" condition, it might somehow magically transform me into being a healthy young child again.   And it probably does serve that purpose at least to some degree in my dreams. ?


I'm torn between restoring old cars, building old wooden paddlewheel riverboats, and building robots in my spare time.   The robots are kind of out of place in terms of era.  Although, I have been thinking about maybe building a robot that replicates a robot from some old sci-fi movie.   Believe it or not, there are actually clubs for just about every old sci-fi robot you can think of.  So it's even possible to take a modern day hobby like robotics and make it into a "retro dream".





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2 hours ago, JACK M said:

WHAT ???

She's a robot?

I wonder if there is an on and off switch. :lol:


Apparently while some of us are rebuilding old rusty cars and wooden boats, other's are building female androids.   It's amazing how times have changed.


Edited to delete suggested inappropriate content.



Edited by AntiqueCraftsman
Edited to delete suggested inappropriate content. (see edit history)
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Well, have fun with your robots and Chevrolets.

Some on here don't like straying into other fun stuff besides their cars.

Not my sand box so cant make the rules.

At least they didn't b*tch about the barge.

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Well, returning to the '54 Chevy "project" I've decided to disassemble the bulk of the car and place all the parts with their bolts in well-marked boxes.   So far all the bolts are coming loose without breaking or stripping with only a very few exceptions.  So that's pretty encouraging.  If I had to cut everything apart I'd just scrap it.   But thus far it's coming apart pretty nice.   The main body is going to need full rocker panels on both sides replaced, as well as most of the floorboards.   I'll fabricate all those parts myself.  I won't need to purchase pre-made rocker panels or floor panels.  I have all the tools necessary to make any sheet metal part I need from scratch.   I'll also make them from metal removed from other junk cars.  So they'll be no financial investment.   Just my time.   And since I enjoy making things from scratch it will be a pleasurable experience.  No rush.


I think the first thing I'll do is build a rotisserie to hold the body.  


In fact, I just looked on YouTube and found an extremely cheap and easy wooden auto rotisserie.    I can have that built in no time.



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40 minutes ago, Rusty_OToole said:

Is there any way we could talk you into scrapping the 54, keeping the best parts and selling off anything you don't need, and scrapping the body shell?


Probably.  I might even talk myself into doing that before too long. ?


I haven't even gotten it off the trailer yet.  I had to drag it up onto the trailer because the rear wheels are froze up.  I'm thinking they parked it with the emergency brake on and the brakes are frozen in the hard-on position.  That's just a theory.


In fact, I'm in the process of trying to remove the rear brake drums just to get the thing to roll freely on the back wheels.    I live in a forest with lots of trees so I've been toying with the idea of just winching the body up between two trees and driving the trailer out from under it.   I'd like to have that trailer free in case another $200 bargain pops up on Craigslist.  I could just shoot out and grab that one too. ?


By the way, not to worry.   I was actually working on the '47 Fleetline yesterday and cutting lumber on the sawmill too.  So it's not like I'm devoting all my time to this '54 rust bucket.


Oh!  By the way!  While I was looking for rotisserie ideas on YouTube I saw a guy who built his own metal rotisserie.   Looks to be pretty expensive to me!  All brand new tubular metal along with a couple hydraulic jacks.  I'll bet he's got some dough in that rotisserie itself.   And he built it to restore a '55 Chevy body that doesn't appear to be in much better shape than my '54.   PLUS, he's talking about buying all pre-manufactured replacement parts on eBay to weld onto it.   If he keeps that up he'll have $10,000 in that car before I get mine off my trailer.


Owl grant you that a '55 Chevy is far more in demand than a '54, but still.   Personally I'd rather have the older vintage cuz I'm weird like that.


Who knows?  Maybe I'll find an older piece of junk to work on before too long.


Don't forget I'm doing everything I do today because I'm ticked off that I missed a running 1930 Ford Sedan for $900.    So now I'm just buying any old junk I can find to pacify my frustration.   What I really should be doing is making an appointment with a mental health physician.   Or maybe a Buddist guru who can convince me to sit in a corner and chant, "Who am I, who am I, who am I?"


Problem is that I already know the answer to that question.  I'm the guy who's frustrated at having missed out on a running 1930 Ford Sedan for $900.  That's who I am.


It was less than 10 miles from my house too!


I just wanna cry.




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Question for Antique Chevy Mechanics,....


Which way to Loosenville?



Ok, here's the scoop.  It's word problem so I hope that doesn't lose everyone.


An AntiqueCraftsman gets out of a 1954 Chevy and walks back to the driver's side rear wheel and removes the tire and rim.  He reaches behind the hub and finds the brake adjustment slot.  He then positions the brake adjustment tool into the slot to engage the star-wheel brake adjuster but doesn't know which way to turn it to loosen the brake shoes.


Question:  Should he place the adjustment tool underneath the star wheel and pull down on the tool to turn the top of the star wheel toward his face to loosen the brakes?  Or should he place the adjustment tool above the star wheel and push up on the tool to turn the top of the star wheel away from his face to loosen be brakes?




For those who passed the undergraduate question above and would like to obtain extra credit will the passenger side turn in the same direction, or will it be precisely the opposite?


Disclaimer:  If any of this has confused anyone not to worry as I'm already thoroughly confused from just typing in the questions.




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36 minutes ago, Rusty_OToole said:

I'm going to say pull up on the left side, and pull up on the right side. What did I win?


You win an old rusty '54 Chevy Project car.   All you need to do is come and drag it off this trailer.  (ha ha)


Thanks for the directions.  Unfortunately the star wheels are frozen so I can't seem to get them to turn anyway.


I just looked up a brake drum puller.  $92 to $139 depending on where you shop.   I think I'll pass on the brake drum puller.  Although I might look into making one from scratch out of old farm implement parts.   I might try heating the drum up too.  I did manage to get it to move  about 1/8" outward from the axle.   I did that by pounding old screw drivers into some holes in the brake drum.  This allowed me to wedge the drum away from the axle ever so slightly.   It must be frozen onto the shoes.  It can't be turned at all.  The wheel is locked up super tight.   So it's not sticking to the axle, it must be sticking to the shoes.


I wonder if heating it up would cause it to expand enough to let go of the shoes?  I'll give that a shot tomorrow.


This car has brand new tires on it!   I mean, the tread is brand new.  Unfortunately the tires are totally dry-rotted and garbage.  But the point is that they had put new tires on it just before they parked it apparently.  It might have new brake shoes too.   I'll get these drums off eventually.  For some reason I always end up doing the impossible if only to prove that it wasn't impossible after all.





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41 minutes ago, auburnseeker said:

If you did odd jobs and spent the same amount of time you did trying to get the chevy apart,  you could buy a better starting point pretty fast. 


You have a great imagination. ?


Trust me, I'm not spending nearly the time on the car that you are imagining.     I seriously doubt that I have more than 15 minutes into these rear brake drums total.   It's not like I'm out there beating on them for hours at a time.   I actually work on the this car when I feel like taking a break from other things I'm doing.   So this car is BREAK TIME. ?


And of course at the moment it also happens to be BRAKE TIME.


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I use heat all the time to free things up.

So here is what I would try.

Heat the outside of the drum all the way around. This should expand the drum and let you drive it off.

Since you probably aren't saving the drum you could cut a slot in it where there would be no shoes. Then use the BFH to open it up a bit.

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17 minutes ago, JACK M said:

Since you probably aren't saving the drum


I save everything. ?


This drum actually looks pretty good on the outside.  It's not broken or chipped anywhere (yet).


If the inside of the drum isn't badly scored I would have no problem at all reusing it.   I have a lathe large enough to turn it if the braking surface needs to be cleaned up.  I see no reason why a brake drum shouldn't last forever as long as the shoes are replaced in a timely manner.


I don't plan on sinking a penny more than I need to in this "restoration project".    So I'm not about to toss out any parts that could be reused. 


My "finished restoration" will be what auburnseeker sees as a "good starter project car". ?

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