Roger Jetter’s ‘55 Caddy Continued....


Then I had to figure out how to mate the new steering column to the Trans Am power steering box. U-joints…yeah, Borgeson u-joints…the best there is…can’t take short cuts here, not with steering…so I spent some cash and got the right stuff…here you can see how I had to snake the u- joints around those headers. They work great and are smooth. It may look like they touch the headers – it’s close, but they do not touch.


I use a lot of round rod to build things…here I’ve bent it to add rigidity to the inner panel, the area in front of and behind it will be filled in…and… on the driver’s side, as you can see in next pic that it is already welded in and done. These took several days each to build…and get them to look correct…I hate something that looks out of place…like it hadn’t ever been there and simply tossed on cuz it had to be in that certain spot…wrong way of building things, IMHO.




I’d originally wanted to use a cross-flow radiator. We went to pick-a-part to survey radiators in many GM cars, but everything was too wide or too tall…time to re-think the whole radiator situation. Since the Trans Am sub is a front steer, the box was right in the way (of the radiator) and the frame rails wouldn’t let me lower a cross flow to miss the hood when it’s closed …my bro and I “built” a radiator…!!!


Well, we didn’t like the looks of a cardboard radiator, so we built another one… Hmmmmmmmmmm, OK, maybe an upright is the only way to go …While this plywood radiator wouldn’t hold any water…it gave us the dimensions and the look I need…I then asked several radiator places for estimates to build one for me…wanting to keep the money local…but I got all the same price…and no guarantee a standard radiator would cool the 500” and run an A/C unit at the same time. At one of the last rod runs I attended (GG’s in Phoenix in late November), I found a “builder” displaying his aluminum radiators and talked to him. He could build an aluminum radiator for me, any size, any style and guarantee it’d cool the 500” with A/C on and…even at an idle. That’s what he promised…but, you know how that goes…???


OK on that, gonna have to save some bucks for that…let us proceed. Problem Number two: the remote oil mount…this problem surfaced once we hung everything (alternator, power steering pump, fan, belts, etc.) back on the engine, including the stock oil pump. In case you don’t know, a 500” Cad has the oil pump mounted low on the passenger’s side, outside the block…I found the oil canister to be in direct contact with the tie rod…and upon further inspection, when I turned the wheels, found the tie rod steering arm contacted, and actually stopped the car from turning. Uh-oh…’stock’ is not going to work…will have to put in a remote.  I mounted the remote, angled the hoses under the sway bar and over to it…and finished it. Then I added a plate to the square tubing so the hood support/latch would bolt in…killing a bunch more birds. Keep in mind, that all the time I’m building all this stuff, I have to be aware that everything I put in place HAS to be removable and able to be replaced, in the case of an accident (fingers crossed, knock on wood), so, that alone, some times, takes a lot of figuring…and never let anyone tell you putting in a sub-frame is easy…well, wait, hold on…putting it in is much easier than making all the original stuff fit it and look like it was made that way…!!! THAT, I think, is the whole secret…to making a car look nice.


At that point, I trimmed out a sheet metal ‘pan’ to fit in front of the radiator, then I made some new metal side pieces and welded them alongside my radiator support…that done, I made some cardboard templates so I could bend up some side pieces out of sheet metal to cover the frame rails and steering box…I clamped a pipe into the vise and Dan (my bro) and I hand bent the two pieces around the pipe so it’d have a nice curve to them. I welded in a couple of bungs on each and used some button head bolts to hold them in.


In order to find out just where the hood support/latch needed to sit, the hood was put on…adjusted as close as possible and closed on the mechanism. The holes were marked for drilling and then the whole thing was removed for ‘surgery’ leaving the hood just sorta sitting on its own.


…I do a lot of rod running in the summertime…so A/C is a requisite item, I’m not a youngster anymore, I like it livable cool.

I built a cross brace in front of the radiator and then shortened the original hood support piece 6 inches…welded it all back together and bolted it in. It fit like it was made for it…and it was…!!!




As you can see, the radiator cash got saved and the aluminum radiator got ordered and then installed. Worse part about ordering the radiator is that it took 11 weeks to get built and shipped to Denver…after a promised time of “no more than 6 weeks”…needless to say, I was a little pissed about that…and I seldom get mad…but NO ONE does customer service or meets promised dates anymore…I don’t care what company you deal with. I won’t post a name here…nor will I recommend you or anyone else using them……


In this photo you can see part of the dash is still in primer…that will be painted black and then an insert (yet to be built) will cover that…then woodgrain will be added over that…black kinda hides things, ya know…???


I had the hood blasted and decided to put on a little sealer…just as well do it now while I’m waiting.


Now that the brakes were working, I decided to throw the original interior back in…It’ll be fine for the summer…




Here’s the woodgrain trim on the door panels…should be OK looking once I get the rest of the dash done.


And the “cruiser” skirts are being built right now…here’s a shot of them being built…they should be OK when I skin them (and lower the rear of the car about 10 inches…).


The date was June 15th…and here I am, driving out of my garage…


...and here I am checking out the engine before I head for the street…


BUT…one good thing, now that it is drivable, all the really fun stuff comes into play…kustom bodywork, general bodywork, primer and paint…until then, watch for my ratty old patina’d Caddy at your local rod run…I may be there…


As we last left this thread, the car was getting exhausts...here it is on the rack, it's got Flowmasters on it and with the headers, it sounds really throaty:


Once we stripped the body to bare metal, I found the car had taken a hit on the driver's side sometime in its previous life...the "bodymen" simply pulled out the area with a slide hammer, and then filled 'er up with concrete (very old, very hard bondo)...they didn't even bother to seal the holes they put in it, needless to say it was all cracking...I dug out about 1/2" to 3/4" of an inch, including the bondo inside the door on the pillar...looks like I'll need to replace that section.




Once I was done stripping the body, I started on the fender skirts...that took some studying... I tried to adapt a pair of Ford Cruiser skirts, but I didn't like how far they stuck out away from the body...besides they were way too short...I set about to build a framework. Using 1/4" round rod, 1/2" tubing and some 14 gauge metal for the "tabs"-mounting points. I'm using six bolts to hold the skirt on...three in the wheel well, two on the bottom of the rear panel, where the original chrome trim bolted and one inside the wheel well, where the stock skirt was attached.


When I had the framework where I liked it, my friend Ron B, offered to "roll" some metal for me...we went to his place and using his cheap Harbor Freight shear and roller, we cut the metal into 26" lengths and proceeded to roll the top most edge...as I said, I didn't like the Cruiser skirts cuz the top edge stuck out so far, so we "rolled" them so they barely have an edge that sticks out from the body...then I tacked all three pieces together and the bottom tacked in place and stood back to study it...Yep, I think they'll work... and they are only 70 inches long...!!! In this photo you can see the ruff area, ahead of the skirt, I had to replace...


When I was satisified with the look of the driver's side skirt, I changed directions and peaked the hood...you'll note that the fenders are not stripped here yet...I'm going to have them blasted so I can paint the insides easier...


and then I moved to the trunk...I used 3/16" round rod for this...figured I'd just as well get this done too...


Remember in an earlier post I said I was going to wood grain the dash and trim...??? Well, another friend  in ColoRODo Springs stepped up and said he could do the woodgraining for real, with real paint so I wouldn't have to use the stick-on kind of wood grained trim...so I had to build some pieces so the paint work would look smooth and look like real woodgrain...worse part is I had to weld studs on the back to hold it in place (THAT was a whole lot of fun, trying to keep it from warping, but I managed)... As you can see, I also built an under-dash panel for the A/C vents and controls (Yes, I like my A/C in the summer--if you do as much rod running as I do in the summer, it's nice to have it in the humid Mid-Western states!)......I also "hid" three gauges in said panel...the small "door" closes so you cannot see the gauges when parked. I feel a Cadillac shouldn't have any 'hot rod" type gauges showing other than what's stock...


Anyway, here's one of the pieces for the doors...should look good when they are done. The door handles (outside) are also removed, I've yet to put in the solenoids...and the seats should go to the upholsterer in February...as you can see, I'm using black plastic for door panels...they don't warp when they get wet.


Also filled the license plate indent in the panel below the trunk and put it in sealer...


And one of the skirts is all one color now...(that big hole is still shown in this photo....!!!)


I'm still working the bumper...trying to get that license plate box to look correct on the stock bumper...and that's taking some real work...!!!


Got tired of working the small dings and dents and decided to tackle one other thing I wanted to get fixed...under the hood. The driver's side inner fender panel had an indented area for the 'automatic headlight dimmer' box...huge area, and I didn't like it...so decided to fill it so it would match the passenger's side...I made a cardboard template to see if it would simply "wrap" from the bottom up...found out it would so cut a piece of 20 gauge and proceeded to weld it in .  Figured I'd clean up the welds later and then seal it after the front fenders are blasted.


With that taken care of, I proceeded to weld in the panel. Of course, I'm not proficient enuff to do all this by myself, so my brother is a big help to me. I got him to get inside the car and hold the metal piece to be welded in against the edges of the hole, that way, the metal conforms to the shape of the body. I welded about 3/4's of it and cleaned the welds...


I then turned my attention to the door pillar, which I'd straightened as much as I could, but it also would need some new metal welded in - as you can see, there were parts of it missing...time to make new cardboard templates. Since I'm not so good at bending sheet metal around corners, I figured a bit more stiffening couldn't hurt anything...I grabbed a piece of square tubing, put it in the vice and bent it to match the curve of the body and tacked it in place...There, that'll give me a lot of area to weld the replacement piece to...and stiffens up the whole pillar...and, better yet, makes a nice "corner".


It took ten hours on Super Bowl Sunday to take care of this section...but it was well worth the time I spent on it instead of sitting in front of the TV, one more thing done...!!! By 8 PM Sunday nite, it was done...and I was done...my hands actually hurt from holding the air file. As for the amount of bondo I put back in it...a skim coat to cover the welds and to smooth out the panel...nothing like what was there...

Healed and sealed....The area you see there that looks like it isn't welded solid is...from the back side...and this is where a stock piece of chrome trim will cover it.


I'm still about half a car away from paint...but I did get the complete driver's side quarter in sealer...And got started on the passenger's side quarter this past weekend. I've got some final welding to do on that skirt...and then I'll have another go at the top...want that in sealer AND primer by this weekend so that'll make about 2/3rds of the bodywork done. It's getting closer...


Saturday morn...decided to work on the passenger's side skirt again...went ahead and made a cardboard template (of the "done" side-the driver's side) with all the measurments on it and cut out so that I can match this skirt to the other (and matching is the hardest part)...


As you can see, the front of the skirt needs some help...but the round rod I use is dead on to the pattern...a little metal fill here, a little welding there...and it "should" look like the other one...

the car is getting closer to done for the summer...hope to have it all sealed and primed in the next month or so...

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