The work on this 1952 truck continued throughout 2008. Aims - to modernise the truck and improve the
drive-ability but keep it, as far as possible, original on the outside.
Steering column and in the cab.
The adjustable steering column had a large spacer fitted between the dash and the column. It was about 50mm (2 inches)
thick and was unsightly. It spaced the steering wheel quite low and pushed the steering wheel towards the driver. This
spacer was removed and replaced with a spacer of only a few millimetres (about 1/8th inch). This moved the (new)
steering wheel into a much better position but the “knock on effects” were considerable. It affected the steering relay
shaft alignment and the steering was very “notchy” while turning the wheel. The relay shaft support bracket needed to
be re-made and re-aligned. Another effect was misalignment of the gear selector shaft. This also had to me modified
by rotating and lengthening the shift flange on the column (under the hood) and the column to transmission rod also
adjusted so that the gear selector worked perfectly. Finally the reversing lights were coming on in the “park” position
and this was also corrected. The new wheel was fitted. All of this work was completed by the end of April 08
The hole in the dash were a modern radio had been fitted has now been filled was filled in.
The original truck would have had knock-outs in this position. (Two holes and a small slot for
the original valve radio.) These knock-outs had been opened and further cutting resulting on a
large rectangular hole in the dash for a modern radio. Sheet steel was cut exactly to size and
formed in a curve to fit the hole and exactly follow the curves of the dash. It was soldered
in (with a 200W iron) and the final surface finished of with a very fine paste. After sanding
it looks like the dash had never had a hole in it.
The left hand picture was taken in June 07 in the USA at the time of purchase. The right hand picture late 2008.
These pictures also illustrate the effect of removing the spacer between the column and the dash to raise the
column and the specially selected wheel with a small "dish" was fitted. The result of all of this was to provide
a larger distance between the seat and the wheel. This series of trucks did suffer from the wheel being too close
to the driver even with the seat pushed fully back. This new set up is better.
New front tyres.
On 1st May low profile tyres were fitted to the front of the truck. The 15-inch “75” profile tyres were replaced with
15 / 60 / 225 tyres. This lowered the front of the truck by 1 & ¼ inches (but this does not affect the angle of the rack
ends.) The test drive showed another improvement in the handling of the truck especially while cornering although it
did make the ride a little stiffer and bumps more noticeable. The whole of the wheel and tyre can now be seen in the
fender arch which does look better. Eventually the 15-inch wheels will be replaced with 16-inch wheels and
the tyres changed again.
Front anti-roll bar.
Fine tuning the handling of the truck coninued with the fitting of a front anti roll bar.
New shock absorbers all round and rear bump stops.
The next upgrade was for new shock absorbers all round. Back in 1996 I transformed the handling of my 1992 Buick
Roadmaster by fitting stiffer springs on the back and putting the police specification Bilstein shock absorbers all
round. I decided to talk to Bilstein and seek advice. They told me about a special Mustang II type shock absorber
they build for a company called “Race Car Dynamics” and all technical questions were referred to them.
It became clear that many of these expensive and very good Mustang II kits that you see in catalogues with their
many chrome parts often used poor quality shock absorbers. Maybe the shockers were chrome and looked good but were
not high performance. That is why "Race Car Dynamics" approached Bilstein to build some good ones, to their
specification, for the Mustang II type kit. (Remember Mustang II type kits are used in many different hot rods and
street rods – not just Chevy trucks). The Shock absorbers arrived and the front ones were fitted.
After the new leaf spring upgrade, the maximum rear shocker extension, minimum extension and ride height centre
to centre were measured and "Race Car Dynamics" selected some good Bilstein shockers for the back to compliment
the special Bilstein Mustang II units for the front. They were ordered in the first week in April 08.
They were then road tested. Once again there was a step forward in the way the truck
handled, especially while cornering.
Bump stops from a year 2000 Ford Ranger were found to be perfect for the U clamps. The
original truck would have had bump stops fitted to the chassis (hanging down)
but these fit on the back axle (pointing up) and provide ideal safety.
Upgrading the brakes.
The aim was to fit modern power assisted brakes. The original pedal pushed through the floor and the brake
cylinder was mounted under the floor. A stainless steel break booster (servo) and chrome master cylinder
were ordered from Speedway Motors. This was fitted on the firewall (under the hood). A very time consuming
job was to manufacture a modern pedal box. This was done by taking a pedal box from a Vauxhall Senator
and with a great deal of measurement, assessment, adjustment and manufacture, it was modified to fit the
1952 truck’s firewall (inside the cab). It was then found that while depressing the pedal, the whole assembly
and servo flexed and lifted due to the firewall sheet metal lacking rigidity. In the cab a steel stay was fitted
between the pedal box and steering column. This eliminated all of the flexing. The modern pedal hung from
above at exactly the correct height. All of the brake pipes were replaced with new copper pipes. This was
now a dual braking system. 11- inch disc rotors (from Speedway Motors) were fitted and, in testing, the
brakes were light, powerful and precise. Once again drive-ability had been improved.
Decoupling / modifying the bed.
A major problem with an old truck are noises. Creaks and groans from flexing and parts that have possibly not been
assembled properly from previous re-builds. It was decided the whole back end of the truck could be vastly improved
compared to the original 1952 specification by completely decoupling the bed (and everything else) from the chassis
and mounting it on 4 engine mounts. These engine mounts were selected from a Vauxhall Carlton. The bed was removed
and the engine mounts fitted onto the chassis. This involved a very small extension at the back of the chassis. The rear
wings (fenders) were removed. The running boards were also removed. Since the bed was originally bolted to the chassis
some major alterations were needed to maintain rigidity. Indeed, in it’s original 1952 spec. various panels are prone to
cracking due to differential flexing between the bed, the wings and the chassis. These cracks were all welded and
repaired. The corners of the bed were strengthened. The channel that runs along the front of the bed was turned into a
box section and again the front corners were strengthened. The wings (fenders) would normally be supported by the
chassis (again a source of metal fatigue) but two bars were fitted running across, under the bed and joining the rear of
each wing together and the front of each wing together without any connection to the chassis. The rear bar was made of
unequal box and the front bar was a stainless steel tube. The wings were refitted with fender welt. The bed was then fitted
onto the engine mounts and was completely decoupled by rubber. There were no rattles or noises at all from the bed or
wings after all of this was completed. A difficult task was no refit the running boards so that they looked correct. The
bed had been slightly raised and spacers were made to adjust the running boards so they ran from the front to the back
at the correct height and looked correct. Since the fittings to hold the running boards are conceded, making and fitting
spacers was not easy. The wings were originally bolted to the running boards but due to the decoupling, there is now a
small gap instead. The sheet metal filler pieces between the bed and running boards also had a new bracket to the chassis
made so that again they were not connected to the bed. The work on the bed, wings and running boards was completed
by the middle of September 08
Stainless steel fuel tank.
There are a number of places where a fuel tank might be fitted. Chevrolet fitted the tank behind the seat in the
cab. A common place is to fit a new tank is behind the back axle where the spare wheel would go. This option
was discounted for several reasons - Loss of the spare wheel area. - The tank is heavy and this would move the
centre of gravity and a large mass in the overhang behind the rear axle and that is not ideal for weight
distribution and overall handling. - A narrow tank longitudinally under the bed outboard of the chassis. - Here
the tank would be too small to be viable. - Above and at the front of the bed. - This affects the appearance of
the truck. None of these options were attractive. It was therefore decided to go for the most difficult option but
ultimately the best option. Between the chassis rails forward of the rear axle, just forward of the differential but
behind the cab and under the bed. This offered many advantages - Enough space for a 20+ gallon tank. - Low
and in the centre of the truck – the resultant centre of gravity would improve handling. (In the cab the original
tank is only about 10 gallons and is quite high). This final option would be difficult as it must be well clear of
the prop shaft and exhausts and also a 10 mm gap was planned below the bed as the tank would be fitted to the
chassis and the bed is now completely decoupled. It could not touch the bed at all. A tank chassis cradle would
need to be manufactured. It was decided to make the tank 7 inches deep. This would keep it well clear of the
prop and exhaust even taking into account the cradle and the gaps. The shape of the tank was designed to go
between the webbing behind the cab in the chassis to maximise the volume. The tank was commissioned from
Rick’s Hot Rod Shop in the States. It was built and delivered. The exhaust silencers were moved forward, under
the cab to provide more clearance under the bed. The bump stops on the rear axle were designed to bottom
before the tank came close the prop shaft. Even with two people bouncing up and down on the back bumper,
the clearance to the prop or exhausts was large. Filling the truck with a heavy load was not an option anyway.
The rear springs were designed for optimum performance and handling with an empty bed. The cradle
involved several weeks of design, assessment, modification and manufacture. It was finished on the 3rd October
2008. The cradle was fitted, the fuel pipes were all attached and the original cab fuel tank was removed. A filler
pipe was manufactured and this emerged discretely between the bed
and the cab. The old filler on the side of the cab will soon be removed.
After a test filling the tank was found to hold 21 UK gallons (about 28 US gallons). This was about twice the
capacity of the original tank.
Update June 09. Tank venting problems.
The bed can be removed along with the wood and wings (fenders) still attached in about 15 minutes.
This is because it sits on 4 engine mounts and these decouple it from the chassis. It is simply a matter of
removing the stainless steel bar that fits under the truck from the front of the left hand rear wing
to the front of the right hand rear wing (4 bolts) and then take off the 4 nuts holding the
bed engine mounts to the chassis. 4 people can then go to each corner of the bed and lift it off.
It does not need 4 people due to the weight. Actually two people could lift it but the size makes
it awkward and 4 people are better.
The following problems needed to be sorted out.
1. The filler pipe needed to be a little narrower as the distance between the bed and the cab was such
that it tended to rub against the cab.
2. We found that there was not enough venting. The fuel splashed back unless the tank was filled slowly.
3. The cut-out arch in the bed needed to be made a little larger for better access for the flexible pipe
and pipe hose clips between the filler tube and the tank.
4. While the bed was removed we decided to mount the rear lights on the stainless steel tubes and feed
the wires through the tubes. This was always planned but with the bed removed it was
a good time to address that modification.
1. The filler pipe was removed and put in a vice and "squished" to be an oval shape. This maintained
the same flow volume per second but reduced the width by about 8mm. (38mm to 30mm)
2. When we ordered the tank we asked about venting all 4 corners but was told one 1/4" vent was
all that was required. This was a mistake and we should have insisted on more vents.
Even one 1/4" vent and two 3/16" vents were found to be insufficient and resulted in
long filling times at the pump due to splash back problems.
With three 1/4" vents and two 3/16" vents it was possible to fill the tank at full flow without problems.
Four of the vents were taken to a vent manifold that was specially constructed to bring them all to one 10mm pipe.
This was brought back and into the top of the filler tube. The fifth pipe was looped round the top of the
filler tube but left open so that air could get into the tank as the fuel was used up.
3. See picture. (See the bottom right picture above)
4. See section 4 "rear lights upgrade" (Coming soon)
Below you can see the work on the fuel tank filler pipe, the manifold that joins the vents together and the
whole unit now fitted for testing. It still needs to be removed and re-painted.
You may also notice that the filler tube is now narrower.
The exhaust system.
This work was done in Nov and Dec 08. The “Cherry Bomb” mufflers sounded great “round the doors” but on
longer trips they were too loud especially on the motorway. Indeed trying to talk or listen to the radio was
almost impossible while cruising at 70 mph. I contacted Speedway Motors to talk about the various types of
performance mufflers that were available. In particular, were there any that kept women happy? They said that
the Flowmaster range all tended to be quite noisy but the Flowmaster Hushpower stainless steel units had
resulted in good feedback from female sources. An order was placed. It was decided to use stainless steel
exhaust flanges to convert the full exhaust system into 3 sections. Front pipes, silencers and rear pipes. This
meant that each section was easily manageable and the cherry bombs could be re-instated, if required, by
simply taking off a few stainless steel bolts. The flanges were made by a local company using the Vauxhall
flange system as a pattern. This meant the triangular gaskets were available locally. Enough flanges were
ordered for the pipe ends, the Hushpower mufflers and the cheery bomb mufflers.
Flanges were also fitted to the cherry bombs (also built in the jig) and they were put in storage.
The final exhaust sound was much quieter but the sound of the V 8 was maintained with a good throaty tone.
Being performance units they were not as quiet as modern silencers on new cars. Were they quiet enough to
keep women happy? Perhaps some - but not Elaine! So what’s new about that ? !!
Stainless steel hold down rails for the bed boards.
The right hand pictures above were taken in June 2007 in the States at the time of purchase. The left
hand one in the UK - Aug 2007. After fitting the fuel tank and exhaust silencers, the bed was
re-fitted with new stainless steel rails shown below in Nov. 2008.