Venus #1 Restoration and Updates

Work On This Page Is In Progress!

First and foremost, my apologies for not finishing this page that updates my work on Venus #1….I’ll have to get to it soon, and make it a much more condensed update.

For those of you with a simple 2-car garage, dealing with a Venus body can be daunting due to its size. That’s one thing that’s unique about a Venus…it’s one piece as opposed to other fiberglass cars that were in two or three sections. Although it is a light body, you will rarely get 3 or 4 guys to help you lift it on and off as needed. My solution was to mount a couple of inexpensive electric hoists to the ceiling to raise and lower the body as needed. Raise it up and the chassis (on rollers) will slide right out for easy access. I figured that if my attic would hold 2 two-hundred pound guys, it would certainly support a Venus body (see below). Rather than keep the body hanging for long periods, I simply built a couple of long-legged sawhorses to support it.

The photos below are of my previous garage. I have since moved and now trying to get things back in working order, including mounting of the lifts.

body-lift-1-copy body-lift-2-copy body-lift-3-copy engine-lift-1-copy engine-lift-cart-2-copy

 

 

 

 

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(old stuff below)

Father’s Day, 2004
After about 8 months of waiting, the Venus is finally in my (home) garage, but it was WAY too hot to start work; just getting it in the driveway was work enough for one day.

June 21st:
Okay, the time for talking is over. I’ve started disassembling the Venus, and it’s going pretty quickly. Though I’m findi

January 2004

I removed a lot of the crap in the engine compartment, including the air cleaner, battery tray, radiator hoses, plug wires, choke cable, fan, hood latch, etc…just a lot of junk that cluttered it up. I poured Marvel Mystery Oil into the plug holes and let it sit for a week. The engine does turned freely. I also removed the hideous side moldings and rear license plate bracket. The two front wheels had been altered for some reason. The center hub of the wheel had been removed, reversed, and then welded back on! What the heck? The front tires did rub on the inner fender at its full-turn position, so perhaps this was an attempt to offset the tire to prevent this…but if it was, it didn’t work. So I had to go about the task of finding some 1952 Ford wheels. I finally found a set through a Ford Flathead forum, and at a good price…$25 each. I had the wheels sandblasted and gave them a cost of POR-15 black engine enamel. The wide-whitewall tires were cracking in places, so those will eventually have to be replaced…but for the time being, they’ll hold the car alright. After putting on new wheels, only the right side rubs a little now. I suspect the suspension is shot and out of alignment somehow.

 

When the wheels were off, I noticed the engine moved when I turned the steering wheel! Not good! Turns out that tie rod that links the right and left steering linkage, was rubbing on the oil pan. So now I need to either see if an oil pan from a passenger vehicle is shallower at that point than what I assume is a truck oil pan. This is a problem I would address during restoration (discussed below).

Here are some pictures of the engine with a lot of the clutter and junk removed.

October 12th:
I had built a body dolly out of angle iron; covered it with 3/4″ plywood, and hand-made two custom saw horses to support the body at specific areas. Many thanks to Clay Ownby who helped me get the angle iron all welded up at his shop. I then invited a bunch of friends over for pizza and beer, and they were there anyway, we lifted the body off the chassis and moved it over to the dolly. For some reason, I was expecting it to be a heavy lift, but it turned out to be light as a feather….a mere 400 or so pounds. It was another milestone day!

 

For the next month, I removed everything from the frame, including all of the front suspension pieces and the rear axle w/leaf springs.
I also removed two of the four body supports coming off the frame (which may have been a mistake), and ground off old welds and plates. What a mess this makes in a garage!

Upon closer inspection, I noticed some debris in the square frame channels. Turns out that while this frame was up in a field somewhere in Massachusetts, little field mice managed to fill up both sides of the interior frame space with nut shells, twigs, insulation…all kinds of stuff…and it was packed from stem to stern. There was no way that I was going to leave this debris in the frame, so I had to cut some small panels in the inner side of each frame (see above right). I managed to get a 2″ shop-vac hose into the space to vacuum it all out. The panels will eventually be welded back.

When I started to remove the rear axle, I thought it best to go ahead and remove the brake drums and parts since those would need restoring as well. The left side came off easy, however, I couldn’t get the right drum off to save my life. I posted a photo of the rear-end and brake drum on the FordBarn site, and the pros all came back and told me that that rear-end was from a Dodge or Chrysler; it was NOT a Ford! I couldn’t believe it. Why in the world would someone swap out an entire rear-end from a different manufacturer rather than replace it with the RIGHT unit? Surely there were plenty to be had back in the 60’s or 70’s. So there’s one more mystery, and one more oddity to replace. My friend Doby knows of a couple of junkyards not too far out of Houston that may have the parts I need.

Wrong Rear-End Unit!                                                   Correct Ford Rear-End Being Pulled in Salvage Yard

The frame finally returns from the sandblasting place; all clean and covered with an epoxy 2-part primer. Now, before any paint work on the frame begins, I’ve got to solve a couple of problems.

 

The Problem(s)

A problem I had was with steering connecting rod (or drag link) hitting the oil pan. When I first got the Venus, I noticed that the connecting rod was barley scraping on the oil pan, but it was enough to actually rock the engine a bit; seen below.

 

I also discovered that the rear motor mount had been turned 180 degrees out resulting in it being farther back. And since the motor mount was now 5.5 inches further back, the previous owner torch some new holes for the front motor mounts, seen below on the right. (Actually, 4 holes were made).

 

It is probable that they did this in order to get the connecting rod to at least clear the oil pan that was on the engine.

With the frame back from being sandblasted, I mounted the engine for a test fit. Since I wanted to move the engine back to the original mounting holes, I put a new rear mount back the way it is supposed to go, and fresh mounts under the water pumps. Everything seems to fit correctly!

 

Due to my frame having a stabilizer bracket on the front sway bar, I believe this is a 1949 frame. The 1951–53 had a different type set up that did not have the bracket. The steering linkage all seems to mount in the right places and I don’t see where any modifications could have occurred.

 

With the engine now moved forward by 5.5 inches, the oil pan became a complete obstacle.

The fix came by first finding out from my friends on the FordBarn site that the oil pan on my car was from a Mercury, and that I needed a pan for a Ford. I just happened to have one from EBay. So I dropped the Merc pan and removed the pickup assembly. The Ford pan went into place and the control link cleared through the notch in the back of the Ford pan!

 

So now with these problems solved, I can start work on finishing the frame and painting it gloss black. The suspension pieces will go to the powder coaters, and the engine to the mechanic.

January 2005

Work now concentrates on the engine and the rear-end. I took the engine to a local experienced machinist, who allowed me to use one of his engine stands and to disassemble the engine myself. Removing the flywheel, pistons, and crankshaft was very easy. The bearings showed very little wear, but then again, what do I know. This engine has a much sought-after Mercury crankshaft with the longer stroke of 4 inches. I discovered a stamping on the crankshaft “CM1”. According to Mercury general specifications found on page 41 of Frank Oddo’s book “Ford Flathead Builder’s Handbook”, CM1 designates this engine as being built in 1951. Bore and stroke: 3-3/16 x 4.00; CID 255.4; compression ratio 6.80; Horsepower 112 @ 3600 rpm; Torque 206@2000 rpm;, and 57 lbs or oil pressure at 40 mph.
More on the engine work as it becomes available.

May 2005

The most notable progress is that the entire chassis has been painted gloss black, and all other parts associated with the suspension or running gear have been painted or powder coated. But before doing so, a big hurdle had to be overcome. There had been a repair on the right rear side of frame where it had apparently cracked or buckled. Even though this repair held okay, it was crude and unsightly…this had to be redone. I traced the outline of the rear frame portion and had two repair plates cut that not only looked aesthetically pleasing, but provided additional strength. After being certain the frame was even and square, I had these professionally welded to both sides of the frame (even though the left side was okay).

The rear cross-member was quite thin (1/8″) and irregular-shaped holes had been torched out for exhaust pipes. Again, I traced this piece for exact dimensions and took the pattern to be precision cut by water jet. I cut out the old piece and had the new pieces welded in place and then boxed-in across the top and bottom. Note the nice oval cut-outs for the exhaust. This is now a much stronger and better-looking cross-member. Also, the torched-out holes for the engine were blanked and smoothed out With these repairs made, the frame was then painted with a 2-part epoxy paint.

 

But before I could start reassembly, I had to get all of the special little fasteners plated in bright zinc (92 pieces total).

While the engine is being worked on, it was necessary to open the checkbook to start buying parts. This included new pistons, rings, crankshaft bearings, a new 3/4 race Schneider camshaft, timing gears, and adjustable lifters. Also amongst my purchases were “jewelry” in the form of a new polished Offenhauser intake manifold; a polished offset generator bracket w/stainless steel band, and other shiny engine parts. Seen below is a photo of the “stock” intake manifold (cast iron) next to the new intake (aluminum). Also notice the difference in height of the carburetors. Hopefully this new set-up will fit under the hood scoop when I get sized back down to the original shape.

I look forward to the day in the near future when the suspension, engine, and running gear is on the frame. When this happens, the frame will be put in storage and work can begin on the Venus body.

April 2006

Has been quite awhile since I’ve done an update on the Venus, and on the face of it, I’ve gotten a lot accomplished. Working mostly on weekends, and with the help of the guys at Katy-Houston Auto Machine shop (Frank Carlson, Sean, Mac and Doby), I managed to completely disassemble and reassemble the engine, installing all new parts. I have come to the realization that the Venus will NOT be ready for a public debut at the 2006 Lakewood Yachtclub’s concours d’elegance. Oh well, such are the trials and tribulations for a classic car guy!

 

With the engine completed, I now needed to turn my attention to the transmission. Originally, I was going to use the original 3-speed column shift that was used on the ’54 prototype…but I finally came to my senses. Many of the folks on the FordBarn web forum (for old Ford V8’s) were touting the use of a GM T-5 manual transmission, mainly because the 3-speed just couldn’t attain highway speeds without an overdrive (optional equipment back then). I didn’t like the idea of running this engine at high rpm’s on the freeway. Here in Houston, it’s do 75mph or get run over!  But actually, the reason I migrated to the T-5 was because I pulled a bonehead move. One day while looking at the transmission, I decided to separate the case from the driveshaft extension, so I removed some bolts and started tapping the two sections apart. Then came the sickening sound of needle bearings and all kinds of other parts falling to the bottom of the case in a heap o’parts. It was at that instant that I knew I was NOT going to be using this transmission again! No doubt, I’d have to spend big bucks shipping this to some old Ford flathead veteran for a rebuild. And then after all is said and done, it would still just be an old, out-dated 3-speed! No, the T5 started to sound mighty good.

So I bought a used one off EBay for a couple hundred bucks. I then found a good guy in town, Robert Vining of PD Transmissions who could rebuild it for me. But first, I needed to cleanup the tranny case. After Robert took the gears and bearings out of it, I bead-blasted the casing and then applied 3 or 4 coats of clear DuPont Imron paint. Robert carefully installed all new components and the transmission was ready for installation.

In order for the T5 (circa 1993 Chevy S-10) to mate with this old 1951 block, I had to find two adaptors. First was a “half-bell” used on flathead pickups back then, and an adapter (new) from Offenhauser. So I got these parts, bead-blasted them, and painted them body color; same as the rest of the engine. But I wanted the aluminum look for the T5, so I kept it original. We did not renew the shifter until I determine where it’s going to “land” when the body is mounted. New shifters come in all kinds of sizes and configurations….no big deal.  Here are a couple of pics, though not very good:

 

I impulsively decided to enter my Jaguar XKE in the Lakewood show as it had been several years since I had shown there (once a showman, always a showman!). So I needed to make room in my garage for the Jag to perform some maintenance and detailing. This meant getting the engine and transmission onto the Venus chassis for a temporary amount of time.  I still have to make a proper mount under the transmission pad, but before I can do that, I need the chassis on four wheels and level. This is not yet possible as I’m waiting on rear leaf springs. But here’s a pic of the engine on the Venus chassis; I plan on taking some much better shots before all is said and done.

To digress one more time, you can see the doors are off the Jaguar. One of the hinge straps snapped in two, so I had to remove the hinge for the repair (and paint). But the doors were not fitting all that well anyway so I decided to replace both hinges with new ones. I don’t want to have to do this again, so installation of new hardware is mandatory!! Besides, the repros are very good, and not at all expensive.

The Venus body has been soda blasted down to the original resin. When I finally get the engine on the rolling chassis, I plan to store it in the enclosed trailer (or perhaps a U-Stor-It place would be a better idea), and bring the body into the garage for some initial clean-up and patch work. In the meantime, I’ve been looking far and wide for the RIGHT place to do the body work…not an easy task!

 

Soda blasting the body was the only way to do this. Chemical strip or sanding disks…fu-get-a-boud-it! There weren’t as many coats to take off as I expected….dark grey>light colored primer>red oxide primer> to resin. The soda blast job cost about $800.

Did I mention I’m shooting a documentary of this project? Yep, since I have a professional broadcast camera (above), I’ve been filming bits and pieces of the restoration, including the soda blasting as shown above. So far I’ve shot thirteen 30-minute tapes.

 

More Later!!

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