54 Chevy Bed - Paint The Frame, day 2

A second coat of Epoxy Primer had to occur within 24 hours.  There were a few missed spot and a few with light coats, so I set up again today.  The hardest part about frame painting is getting the gun in position.  It would be easier without the exhaust system.  I’m told that the epoxy will gray if it’s in the open exposed to sun light.  This truck will live in the barn and the frame is under the body, so I will leave it as is.  Otherwise, I would have needed to put a paint coat over the epoxy primer.  I will also use this primer inside the fenders and under the hood — no sun light problems.

I didn’t mention it before, but modern automotive paints and primers require a good filtered mask.  Some have permanent accumulative effects, so don’t skimp.

54 Chevy Bed - Paint The Frame

Starting out to replace the bed, we removed the pickup box.  The undercarriage up to the cab is now in clear sight, might as well take care of that while the taking care is “easy.”  Here’s the thing, the rear suspension and rear end performed without issue, and there was no detrimental rust, so why mess with it?  It’s because we can, and the rational is that we will never have to touch it again and the value of the truck will increase.  Really it’s because I want to.

Everything except the wheels were removed, and the brake lights were clamped to the frame so I could drive it to the sandblaster.  I did use Purple Power and a pressure washer to rid it of 56 years of grease and dirt. This of course made the lights dysfunctional, but Rhonda followed me to the sandblaster.  Look at the picture, Advanced Applicators, LLC did an exceptional job.  I had never seen white metal before.  The wheel hub in the picture was covered in grease and dirt.  Now I will be able to learn if the leak is historical or still exists.  It’s not at all clear how the backing plate is removed so that the wheel bearing and seal can be replaced.  Do you suppose there is any chance the previous owner fixed the problem?

Ed’s Auto Paint helped a great deal when I asked for a primer that would work on the frame, engine compartment fire wall, and inside fenders.  DuPont 2590S Epoxy DTM was the thing for me they said.  I have long had a Fuji turbine HVLP sprayer that I purchased from a woodworker going out of business.  My anxiety grew wondering if it would work with automotive paints and if I had the skill.

Previous experience painting my tractor with a standard sprayer said that proper adjustment was an art.  Well, it worked great, and I am left confident about painting the pickup box.  Yes, that is next, and eventually I get to the woodwork.

54 Chevy Bed - Out With The Old

This is the first post in a series about replacing the wood bed in our 54 Chevy pickup.  It will be similar to the Fiberglass Fly Rod series.  Click the Fly Rod category if interested.  I’ll emphasize what is learned along the way.

Replacing the wood bed has been on the list.  We have the new rails and bolts, and the wood is in the basement.  The summer cruising and fishing season is over so it’s time to start.  Plans are always easy.  You measure the width of the old boards, remove them, cut and finish the new boards, install them, and hit the road.  Just so you know, we are using Colorado beetle-kill pine.  It is a local wood and contains violet streaks that match the light purple of the truck.  It’s not oak or ash, but we’re not carrying engine blocks or seed grain.  We may sit in the back on lawn chairs at the drive-in move with carpet on the deck.

The original wood was in very bad condition and the rails very rusty.  This resulted from moisture collecting under the steel plate placed over the wood bed.  72 bolts holding the bed in place had to be cut out.  Turn the nuts, and the carriage bolts rotated in the rusted holes.  I cut each rail crosswise on both sides of a bolt head and then lengthwise on one side of a head.  Then I could get the cutoff wheel under the rail to cut the bolt shank.  The Skill Saw with a carbide blade made the crosswise cuts when it would reach; otherwise, the cutoff disk had to be used.  This became more complex at the sides of the bed, but pry bars, hammers and chisels along with expletives got the job done.  It was a project for manly tools, making great noise and serious mess.

It turns out that the truck bed and box is held to the frame with only six bolts.  Once they were removed we placed the box and bed on saw horses.  Two bolts removed the tailgate, and a few more each fender.  This provided good access to the next really hard step.  On the sides of the bed the wood is bolted to an angle that is spot welded to the box.  There are twenty welds on each side and they all had to be cut with a reciprocating saw.  Again, prying, expletives, and saw blades were equal to the task.  New angle stripe will be bolted on.

What’s a project if it doesn’t require a new tool.  Harbor Freight provided a 4″ Angle Grinder, on sale for $19.99.  I’ve used it hard and often.  If I didn’t have to drive fifteen miles I’d buy another one just so I didn’t have to change wheels.

There’s a sandblaster in town who will blast all the exposed frame and rear end so that we don’t have to clean off 56 years of road deposit.  I’ll paint this with black epoxy primer.  The box has a couple of rust spots that will be painted with a rust conversion paint like POR15, and then we will prime and paint the whole box.  I’ll cut and finish the wood clear without stain.  Then it all goes back together.  Did I mention lots of sanding and having to learn how to spray paint?

What Makes a 54?

The 54 Chevy pickup body style existed in 1954 and the first half of 55.  Its grill is the most distinguishing feature.  The bed was 2 inches deeper with flat bed side tops, and the front windshield was one piece.

The engine was a 235 cubic inch six, and there was a Hydra-matic automatic option for the first time.  It was the last year for the 6 volt electrical system and the enclosed drive line.  It was also the last year of two round dash gauges.

The 265 cubic inch V8 became optional in the second half of 55.

The 54 had an optional, now rare, Chrome Eagle hood ornament; but not to worry, you can have one for $279.95.   All parts are available.  You could build one from a catalog.  Oddly, some after market additions like radios are available for pre and post 54’s.