Posted in Custom

Watch a Master Chop the Top Off a 1937 Ford – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


It seems most videos on YouTube that show the procedure for chopping the top on a custom or hot rod are either far too short, omitting important steps and context that help viewers understand the process, or belabor each point with a lot of blabbering about what makes this difficult. Cutting the top off a vehicle requires skill and competency with various metalworking tools, sure, but it also takes a keen eye, not just for the overall package but for the details that make a chop flow. Each chop is unique, made up of thousands of individual decisions, hammer strokes, and beads of weld.

Despite a minimum of dialogue, this time-lapse video of Mike Bello of Bello’s Kustoms taking three inches out of a 1937 Ford’s roof doesn’t gloss over any details. You can see Mike’s thought process as his hands work over each piece. It’s evident he’s done this many times before from every step that seems incongruous at first but later proves prescient. Though rendered in steel, the work here is far from cold and emotionless. It’s well worth the watch, even if you never plan to chop a car.

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Posted in Detroit, Packard, Packard Production Line Bridge

Is This the End (Again) for Detroit’s Packard Plant? – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


Stop us if you’ve heard this one: The Packard plant—that forever-crumbling bastion of ruin porn on Detroit’s East Grand Boulevard that perennially seems on the cusp of rebirth or decimation—is in danger of facing the wrecking ball.


This time, it’s Detroit’s mayor who has the plant in his sights.”My mother… she said to me, ‘When are you going to finally get rid of it?'” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told the Detroit Free Press last week after winning a third term in office. “I told her, ‘Mom, I’m going to get it done this term.

Though parts of the plant remained occupied after Packard ceased production in 1954, other areas have fallen into disrepair due to squatters, scrappers, vandals, and exposure to the elements. Hopes for the plant’s revitalization ran high after Peru-based developer Fernando Palazuelo bought much of the plant at a foreclosure auction for $405,000 in December 2013 and promised to turn it into a complex of nightclubs, apartments, restaurants, breweries, and art galleries. The plans also included a go-kart track and an automobile museum as a nod to the factory’s history.

Palazuelo intended to spend as much as half a billion dollars on the project over 15 years, and for a while, it looked as though he might just follow through. He negotiated tax breaks and other incentives to help fund the project. His company, Arte Express, hired crews to secure and clean out the main administration building, then hosted a groundbreaking ceremony in 2017. He hired Albert Kahn Associates, the architecture firm named for the man who originally designed this reinforced-concrete building in 1903, to oversee the restoration of certain aspects of the plant. On at least a couple of occasions, architects and designers emboldened by Palazuelo’s efforts made their own pitches for how the Packard Plant could be reused or reimagined. The media followed the project and posted profile after profile of the developer.

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Posted in wiring, Wiring Mess

Six Steps for Contending with Spaghetti Wiring – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


We all have our black boxes—things we’d rather not tinker with because we don’t know how they work and don’t want to know how they work. As long as the black box is doing what it’s supposed to do, it’s easy enough to leave it alone and focus our resources on other things. If it’s not working, we replace it or hand it off to somebody who knows what they’re doing. Having black boxes is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s just an acknowledgement of your limitations.

Electro-modding an old car—specifically, thinning out a wiring harness—will quickly reveal every black box in your life, both literally and figuratively.

Thinning out a donor car’s wiring harness is a matter of removing unnecessary circuits before transplanting the bundle into your project car. In my case, for my Chenowth EV, I won’t need power door locks, power windows, or a rear defroster, so why keep any extraneous wiring? It adds  weight and complexity, but more importantly, the less wiring I have to sort through, the easier it’ll be to diagnose the issues that will inevitably crop up when I get to the put-it-back-together-and-make-it-work stage.

But, as with any modern vehicle, eliminating wires is not easy. Black boxes abound. Circuits might meander from one end of the harness to the next. The wiring might be discrete, but the functions it carries out are often far from obvious, even if you have a factory wiring diagram.

Still, it needed to be done, especially if I wanted to continue with my plan of using all of the stock components necessary to drive the traction motor from the donor Nissan Leaf using the Leaf’s traction battery. So, to make sure I didn’t screw up anything or get overwhelmed, I developed a few strategies for this weeks-long process.

1. Label everything. I’ve seen people use subtler labels than green masking tape, but subtle would be self-defeating to me during this process. I needed to see at a glance what a group of wires did and where they terminated. Even when I identified and removed an unnecessary circuit, I labeled it where I clipped it (and on both sides of the connector, if it ran through one), just in case I needed to refer to that wire stub later on

.Just as important, I removed pretty much everything that the wiring harness plugged into from the car, even if I knew I wouldn’t end up using it. That air-conditioning compressor above obviously makes no sense in a sand rail but still serves as a good reference. This strategy has proven particularly useful for the steering column and the various controls mounted to it.

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Posted in Hudson

The Future of Sir Vival, A Safety-Minded Custom Hudson, Is Uncertain as Bellingham Auto Sales Closes Its Doors – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


In Bellingham, Massachusetts, the last active Hudson dealership in the world holds several treasures.”Right now, the place is like a landmark,” owner Ed Moore says in his thick R-obliterating accent. “We had to move the two-headed Hudson away from the corner when they were doing construction on the intersection, and everybody was asking when it was coming back.”

The most visible vehicle—ensconced behind one of the garage doors facing Mechanic Street—is a one-off Hudson-based safety car dubbed Sir Vival. Pretty soon, Moore will need to move it and everything else out of Bellingham Auto Sales before the wrecking ball comes for the garages

Moore’s connection to the corner of Mechanic and Maple Streets goes all the way back to his infancy, when his father, Donald, bought the single-room two-pump gas station there, added two rooms off the back, and moved his small family in while selling used cars on the side. In 1946, with postwar demand for cars off the charts, Donald did well enough that he felt comfortable taking a chance on a fledgling carmaker out of Buffalo and bought a Playboy Motors franchise. More than 700 other service-station owners did the same, and while their investments didn’t pan out as they’d envisioned, Bellingham Auto Sales fared better than most. Bellingham eventually owned as many as 11 of the 97 (or so) Playboys produced, including the prototype, final production car, and a demo car that Mrs. Moore drove. It also had the mahogany buck used to hammer out

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Posted in rambler

Other Than the Aftermarket Radio, This 1966 Rambler Rebel Is Remarkably Preserved – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


The fact that this 1966 Rambler Rebel, listed for sale on, is still around shouldn’t come as a surprise: Well-equipped or sporty versions of any car tend to have higher survival rates than the bare-bones models. Go to any AMC show, though, and you’re far more likely to see restored Rebels than you are ones left essentially untouched, like this example. That legendary straight-six is just getting broken in, with the odometer reporting 65,000 miles. The body shows some wear on the trunklid but no rust, and that interior might have suffered some sun fading but remains intact and clean. The only modification we can see is the addition of the modern radio and speakers. This nice Rambler shows how these cars were originally put together. From the seller’s description:

This Teal Rambler Rebel has a black vinyl hard top and Rambler hubcaps with teal accented wheels making this a cool Survivor Classic. This Rambler started its life at the Kenosha Wisconsin assembly plant as verified by the VIN. The original inline 6 with 3 speed automatic glides through the gears and is an original numbers matching survivor.

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Posted in Model A Ford

Get Excited for Winter Driving With a Snowbird-Equipped 1930 Ford Model A Coupe – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


I’m not advocating that municipalities in northern climes sell their snowplows and let their salt reserve piles dwindle to nothing, but I can imagine winter driving would be far less of a headache in something like this 1930 Ford Model A coupe, complete with a Super Snowbird snowmobile kit, that’s listed for sale on Yes, travel would be slower and a bit more arduous, but that’s sort of the point. It would give people pause to consider whether they really need to go out during a snowstorm. Plus, anything to reduce the amount of salt on the roads gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up from me. As for the Model A, it appears to have benefited from periodic restoration and refurbishment but also looks more than capable of taking on unplowed roads with select enhancements to the original tracks-and-skis kit. From the seller’s description

This beautiful Coupe has an Arps snowmobile attachment (Super Snowbird) triple rear axle set up. The standard rear axle has power drive units 5:1 gear ratio attached with internal brakes, The rear axle has paddle tires that fit into the notches of the 14″ wide steel tracks. The Tracks have been sand basted and epoxy primed/ painted. The center axles are idlers in nature and have solid rubber tires. The front rear axle has turn buckle rods to adjust the track  tension. The entire undercarriage is authentic Snowbird and painted the correct color green as original.  The front axle (Model A) has super snowbird flip-up spindles. The front wheels stay on the car with the skis. The tires rotate up and out of the way when on the skis. This coupe has hydraulic cylinders added to assist in the change over so that no jack is required. This system was designed and installed by NH Snocar in New Hampshire.

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Posted in Nash Metropolitan

So Tiny in This Giant World: Step By Step, A Nash Metropolitan Dragster Comes to Life – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


If there’s one good thing that social media has given the world, it’s the ability for just about anyone to share their story. Take, for instance, the story of an Indiana upholsterer who dreams of building nostalgic drag racing customs and who decides to make a dragster out of a discarded Nash Metropolitan. Most media outlets would boil that story down to a one-paragraph entry in the reader’s rides section or a one-minute local-man-does-good segment on the local news. But Mikey Brown of Paper to Pavement has cameras and a YouTube channel, so he can tell an in-depth story that fully explores the why, the who, and the how of every step in the project that he called Banana Hammock. We mean every step, from the pre-build sketch to sourcing the car to putting the finished product on the track

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Posted in 1960's, Chevrolet, Corvair, Gene Winfield

Rare Gene Winfield–Built Corvair-Powered AMT Piranha Goes Up for Sale – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


If it weren’t for automotive fabricator Gene Winfield, the Marbon-Centaur CRV might have remained a footnote in automotive history, warranting a random article every five years or so before everybody forgets it again. But Winfield—known for designing vehicles in Blade Runner and Robocop—renamed it the Piranha for model car company AMT and put one on tabletops across America in the late 1960s at the same time he tried to convince adults to get into the full-size Corvair-powered version. More than 50 years later, at 94, Winfield has lent his talents and his name to the sale of one more Piranha

.”Gene’s personally working on this car,” says Dan Melson, who will offer it (and two other Winfield cars) for sale this weekend. “I have left all artistic control to Gene

.”Marbon Chemical’s development of Cycolac, a type of ABS, in the early 1950s opened up doors for manufacturers to start introducing plastics into consumer goods. Given that Marbon existed as a division of Borg-Warner, it was only matter of time before company executives decided automobiles could benefit from a heaping helping of Cycolac.

To help sell the idea, according to auto historian Nick Whitlow, Marbon partnered with Dann Deaver, a designer and co-founder of Centaur Engineering, another division of Borg-Warner. Deaver had built some race cars in his time, so Marbon’s execs asked him to fabricate an entire car out of Cycolac, one that Marbon could demonstrate for automotive engineers around the world. The resulting Cycolac Research Vehicle (known as CRV long before Honda started using the name) debuted at the Society of Automotive Engineers convention in January 1965 and led to a series of four more prototypes—two convertibles and two gulping coupes—all powered by Corvair flat-six engines.

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