Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hot rod, post numero uno!

Well, you have to start somewhere so I decided to start with the frame. I have to start there or it remains a pile of parts.

Since I pretty much have a good idea that I don’t know what I’m doing, I decided to buy a book on the subject. After reading that, I still have no clue but at least I have something to refer back to.

Remembering how I got out of grade school, I decide that when all else fails it’s best just to copy from someone else who looks like they have a clue. In this case, I’m cribbing “Littleman” and his superb “Death’s Doorstep” (see http://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/showthread.php?t=104367&highlight=deaths+doorstep&showall=1 to see what someone who has a clue does).

If you saw the TV show “Hard Shine”, you might recognize him as Dave Lohr, the guy who actually won the contest (check out his blog here http://www.littlemansspeedandfabrication.com/)

In order not to be a total shameless ripoff, all I’m copying here is the front rails and to be fair, these are time honored hot rod tricks. I’ll have a few less holes but the general idea is the same.




Death’s Doorstep, what a real hot rod should look like





Frame rail of Death's Doorstep

Based on what I thought it should look like, I drew up a plan on some old graph paper I’ve had since high school and then made a life sized pattern out of cardboard. This just seemed to be how it should be done.


I managed to bum some 2X6 rectangular tubing off a fellow HAMB’er “elchuco” (Henry Ramirez - I’ll get him back for that, it was a great thing to do) and went snooping around on how to make holes. I figured it would be pretty cool to make them get progressively smaller as the frame tapers down so I tried to determine what to use. A trip to the steel yard turned up Schedule 40 water pipe. It’s sold in incremental sizes and most importantly it’s cheap.

Now, one thing I learned in my “research” is that lightening holes don’t do much other than look “bitchen”. The pipe I put in where I cut the wall out weights more than the part I cut out. Also, it pretty much does nothing to make anything stronger (the sidewall is what makes the square tube rigid). No problem, It’s gonna look cool and that’s what I’m after here.

Henry also came up with a brilliant idea. He knew a guy who owns a water jet over in Ju├írez and the guy agreed to try to cut the holes out of the rectangle for $50. That’s a smoking deal over what the hole saws for all those different sizes would cost me.

Now, here’s another nugget of knowledge for ya. Water pipe is sold by the internal diameter, not the external diameter. That means when you cut the hole to stick your “holes” in, you need to add the wall thickness twice (watch that one, many a smart feller have added it only once). I called the steelyard and asked how thick the wall was for each of the sizes I had planned on using. These sizes were determined by what sizes they sold.

On paper, I knew what size to cut the holes. In reality, I was going on blind faith that nothing would go wrong such as the steelyard guy not knowing what he was talking about.

Henry offered to draw up an AutoCAD drawing of what I drew on the napkin for the water jet dude and since I don’t have AutoCAD I jumped at the chance. This also helps the guy to make it since this equipment just loads the cad drawing and cuts.


It worked like a charm, cutting perfect and clean holes in the rails. This is a thousand times nicer than I would have done with the hole saws and I didn’t have to clean up any of my blood afterwards. But, the big question remains – will the holes fit after I get them made?



I cut a rounded notch in the back of the rail to transition it down to the part where it will meet the part of the frame that runs under the cab, which will be 2X4 rectangular tubing. This was done by hand with a cheap ass electric cutoff tool from Harbor freight. I think I may have paid $8 for it. Luckily it worked and I didn’t take off any fingers either.


I got the sizes I had planned for from the local steelyard. These guys are used to selling truckloads of beams to people building bridges and metal framework so they looked at me a little weird when I went in requesting 6” of 6 different sized tubes but they humored me when I told them what it was for.

I don’t have a bunch of tattoos or a pompadour haircut so I probably don’t look much like a guy building a hot rod in his yard. In fact, I probably look more like your accountant than Billy badass. Just fine by me, I’m too old for that crap anyway.

I work in a factory and it’s standard operating procedure for guys to abuse the use of the toolroom. Instead of spending all afternoon with a hacksaw trying to cut a straight line with my vise bolted to a table, I bribed the guy in the toolroom with a 12 pack of Tecate to turn em down for me. Plus, since he’d be cutting them down on the lathe, I asked him to bevel the edge so my weld bead would be below the surface so I’d have less grinding to do. He did a super job on them and was happy to get beer in payment (I love Mexico).








Now for the moment of truth, will they fit? As my kids look on (Isabella, my daughter was dying to “help”. I consider this a good thing) I laid one rail out and got one of the stacks of holes.





They fit perfectly! There’s not much gap to fill in and I’m pretty stoked about the result. The plan is to tack them in and then weld up the gaps. After that, I’ll cut a long skinny wedge out below the holes and fold up the bottom part to make the rail tapered. The welded in holes should keep the sides from warping on me.





Well, that was the plan until I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. Two of the holes seem to have been made by a mill that leaves a big nasty weld bead on the inside of the pipe. I’ll have to go back and bribe the toolroom guy with some more beer to turn this out of them. Either that or sit in the yard with a dremel for a couple of hours grinding it out.


Oh well, that’s minor compared to the fact that I need to wire my garage for 220v 80 amp service to accommodate the Miller 180 Tig welder I picked up for the project. Now where can I get a book about wiring?

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