More so than the general population, street rodders agree: "The beauty is in the details." In fact, some of us border on the fanatical about details. During the entire build process of a street rod, components are selected and positioned to enhance the total style/performance/efficiency formula of the vehicle. The word "detail" has several meanings for the street rodder. The design process itself is all about details, then there are the minor choices regarding how things go together on the car, and at the end of the assembly phase there's a host of "stuff that needs to be done." We'll call this period "final details."
As we have cautioned before, there may be a tendency to rush to the finish when the car nears completion, but there is real danger in overlooking a myriad of small details. Sometimes an aspect of one of the car's subsystems is not quite completed. Maybe you were short one fastener at the time you hung the transmission cooler, or you didn't have the gasket but you loosely bolted a mechanical fuel pump to the block so you could run your plumbing. Anyone who spends his spare time out in the garage has done this from time to time. But if you've been careful to keep a notebook on the workbench as the car goes together, just the simple notation "fuel pump gasket" is all you need to see to make up for a sometimes failing (never!) memory.
When you are close to completing a street rod or any long-term vehicular project, get out that notebook and every place you see an item that hasn't been checked off, write it on a new list. It's psychologically less daunting to work off a short list than a long one, so if you have tons of unchecked items in your note- book, break them down into a couple of doable lists. Like the old street rod philosopher once said, "Remember, chrome wasn't built in a day!"
Hot Rods & Custom Stuff built our beautiful '32 Ford highboy in a period of about ten months, from the initial conception and ordering of the major parts, to the rubout of the paint and the final tuning of our computerized LS1 engine and 4L60-E transmission. This was done in a very professional and highly creative shop filled with rods, customs, and street machines, so it may actually bear little relation to your own street rod project as far as a time frame goes-most amateur builders take a lot longer. Even though you or I might skip the extra hours spent customizing the body and detailing every component (as was done on the Deuce roadster you see illustrated here), most of us work on our cars without a crew and can't take five days a week to work on them (although that's a brilliant concept, we must admit!).
If only we could convince everyone involved that it would be much better for the efficiency of the planet if we could just have the weekdays to work on our hot rods, we'd graciously give up the weekend to work for our regular employers. Run that one by 'em!
In the "Electrical and Interior" segment, it may have looked as if the heating, cooling, and air conditioning systems were completely wired and finished, but the connecting lines that will carry refrigerant and engine coolant had yet to be addressed. The average homebuilder who is installing air conditioning and a heater in his street rod will locate and mount the components and even wire things up, but leave the lines to a professional shop that can fabricate the flexible high-pressure hoses. Your local shop probably only offers stock black hose, but you could get an aftermarket braided- stainless refrigerant hose kit like HR&CS did. Don't try to use standard stainless AN hose, as refrigerant will escape right through the sides of rubber-lined hoses; to work with refrigerant, the hose must be Teflon-lined. The HR&CS guys laid out, measured, and marked the kit hoses as they would like them, then brought the pieces to an NC shop for crimping. As you'll see in the photos, they also combined the fine lines with nicely turned billet bulkhead plates at the firewall, and carefully planned the routing of the lines so that they'd work into the engine's visual appeal.
Our cooling system consists primarily of the Walker Cobra-series radiator with NC condenser attached out front and a Cooling Components electric fan on the engine side. To connect the engine to the radiator, the HR&CS crew formed steel "hoses" using pieces of straight and curved (U-bends) pieces of tubing. Once sanded and plated the pipes were fitted to the LS1 's radiator and water pump via short lengths of hose cinched with stainless clamps. These pipes not only look great, but can also be formed to custom-fit a much tighter application than can standard black rubber hose; additionally, they won't collapse or burst.
We say, "heat is neat," for those times crossing the Rockies in the rain, and we needed to get coolant to the heater core in the Vintage Air Compac unit under the dash. To keep all the hoses looking similar, the engine compartment side of the coolant hoses was as showy as the A/C lines, but inside the car, utilitarian black heater hoses were used to connect the firewall bulkhead fittings to the two tubes on the heater core.
The street rod air conditioning system is not much different in layout from that of your family car, except that rodders concerned with appearances usually mount the compressor down low on the engine, and on a car like our '32 the receiver/drier is not mounted near the grille shell but low on the engine side of the firewall. The Vintage Air components are compatible with both R-12 and R-134A refrigerants, but we used the environmentally friendly R-134A since the now rare R-12 is ten times the price.
You may not have a lift at home like HR&CS does, but a good floor jack, some jack stands, and a pair of heavy steel ramps will get the car up high enough for you to do all your under-car checks with a mechanic's creeper. Warning: Never slide under a car supported only by a jack; always have jack stands in place under the frame rails. Make yourself a checklist of all the fluids, lubricants, and other items you need to inspect while under the car.
Starting in the front and working your way back, check mechanical items first, like fasteners, springs, and linkages. You're looking for loose bolts and nuts, the presence of lock washers or locknuts, and to ensure the right-sized cotter pins are in place on the tie-rod ends and that they're bent over at the end. Check the easily forgotten nut and cotter pin on each front hub also, and remember to tighten the wheel lug nuts. When you have the wheels and tires on and off during a car- build, it's easy to forget if the lugs are tight. Check the drain plugs at the transmission and engine oil pans, as well as at the rear axle; even check the oil filter to see if it's tight. You're looking for anything that could cause a problem somewhere down the road when you don't have a floor jack and a full toolbox with you.
While you're still under the car, check over all the fluid plumbing for the fuel system and brakes. Look for any signs of weeping at fittings or an accidental kink in any line. If you haven't done so already, this is the time to bleed the hydraulics of your brake system. Your master cylinder should have been bench-bled before being installed in the car for the final time (see the instructions with your master cylinder), but now you need to remove the air from the rest of the system.
Have several cans of brand-new brake fluid handy (never use fluid from a partially-used container you had in the garage, it'll have moisture in it), and a friend to help you. Have your buddy sit in the car and slowly pump the brake pedal four or five times, then hold the pedal down. Meanwhile, you should be on the creeper at the right rear wheel with eye protection and a wrench. Have a glass jar with some brake fluid in it and a length of clear plastic tubing that just fits over the caliper bleeder screw. Push the tubing over the bleeder screw and put the other end in the jar. Open the bleeder screw a little and you'll get some spurts of air and fluid. Tighten the bleeder again (not super tight) and repeat the pump/hold/bleed cycle. Each time you do this you should get more fluid and less and less air. When bubbles no longer come through the tubing, you can follow the same procedure at the left rear wheel. When finished with the left rear, move on to the right front and left front wheels. When you've been doing the right rear for a while (the longest run of brake line), check the fluid level in the master cylinder; if it runs dry you have to start the whole bleeding process over. Top off the fluid after each wheel is done and before working on the next wheel in this progression from farthest (from the master cylinder) to the nearest.
When you've got a nice, hard brake pedal, you're ready to try the brakes out in the driveway, but make sure your mechanical parking brake is working before you venture out. If you can't find someone to help you bleed the brake system, there's a handy kit you can get at your auto parts store that uses a hand-held vacuum pump to suck brake fluid through the system at each bleeder screw. It's a one-man job with this tool. Whatever method you choose, the basic dictum should be, "A hard brake pedal...don't leave home without it!"
It should go without saying that all your fluids should be checked, but make yourself a list. Did you include steering box lubricant, rearend gear oil, and wheel bearing grease? Some items can be forgotten or assumed taken care of in the excitement of approaching the car's completion. You know the old saying about what happens when you assume... Our Flaming River Vega-style manual steering box comes with lubricant factory-installed, so we were good to go there, but we needed to add 75-90 weight gear oil to the rearend (just until it comes to the bottom of the filler-plug hole). If you have some type of limited-slip differential as we do, you should add the correct amount of friction additive also (see the instructions that come with your differential or rearend).
How about your new driveshaft? Use your little hand-held grease gun to squirt the Zerk fittings in the U-joints, as it's really easy to forget these.
Switching to the topside will get you off the cardboard sheet or creeper and give your back a break. Take nothing for granted, even if you think you checked the engine oil last week, Check the engine oil, transmission fluid, and radiator coolant. In regards to the latter, take a gallon of new antifreeze and pour half into another container, then add a half-gallon of clean water to each container. You'll now have two gallons of coolant in the preferred 50:50 ratio to put into your system.
With most automotive fluids, having too much in the subsystem can be just as bad as having too little, so creep up on the filling procedures and keep checking as you go. Also, when it comes to the coolant and transmission fluid, temperature is a major factor in fluid readings. When you first start filling your cooling system, there will be air in the system and the thermostat will be closed. You can get some of the air out as you add coolant by rocking the car side to side, but you'll have to warm the engine up to operating temperature to get the thermostat to open. When the upper radiator hose (connect- ed to the thermostat housing) is hot and you can feel the coolant in there when you squeeze the hose (keep your hand away from the fan!), shut the engine off and let it cool completely, then top-off with more coolant. It may take a few trips to work out all the air. When the system is purged, fill your coolant over- flow container until it's about one-quarter full of coolant.
Automatic transmission fluid is tricky and procedures may vary between makes and models of transmissions. Your transmission company (TCI Automotive in our case) will supply you the necessary specs for your tranny, like how much fluid to put in initially and what the eventual total capacity will be. When you have the car running and the engine has been at operating temperature for ten minutes or so, pull the trans dipstick (engine running, trans in Park) and check the level. Don't check the fluid level when cold or it will appear low (the fluid expands with temperature). Once the transmission fluid is topped off, put your car in gear and check that the shifter and indicator work properly. With the car off, tighten the parking brake, put your foot on the brake pedal, and try to start the engine in any gear other than Park or Neutral. It shouldn't, of course. This checks your Park/Neutral safety switch hookup.
With everything checked out, you're ready for a short and cautious test drive. When you know the brake, steering, throttle, and other controls work just as they should, you can take longer trips, but it's not a good idea to start with blasting around town in your new machine or taking a high-speed, six- hour run somewhere. Just like any new car, there are break-in procedures for' your street rod. Your engine, transmission, and brake system supplier's instructions will have the best information on proper break-in procedure for their equipment. Suffice it to say, you should take it easy for the first 500 miles or so, and make your first engine oil change based on that manufacturer's recommendation.
After perhaps a thousand easy miles on your new attention-getter, you can start doing anything you want with it, within reason. It will serve you as faithfully as any production car while out- performing the majority of vehicles on the road. Not to mention it'll get the highest marks in fun factor and admiration from others as anything else you're likely to own. It's yours. You selected the mechanical and styling elements yourself and put it together, so it's one-of-a-kind. Our nine Road Tour cars have proven that our street rod after-market suppliers and the nation's street rod builders offer products and ser- vices at the highest level of quality and reliability. We only wish we could take every STREET RODDER reader for a good long spin in this year's yellow Deuce roadster!