By on August 18, 2011

IntroductionPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8 • Part 9 • Part 10
Once the Impala had been modified sufficiently to function as a 1992-grade daily driver, the long-term project of converting it into an art car that drew upon the Holy Trinity of American Car Archetypes (drive-by-shooting ghetto hooptie, official vehicle, redneck street racer) took on less urgency; I planned to “finish the work of art,” whatever that meant, but along the way I’d created an excellent road car. And when you have an excellent road car, you have no choice but to hit the road.
Back in the early 1990s, cheapo Chinese-made point-and-shoot 35mm cameras flooded the world. At that time, my love of photography had veered from an obsession with shooting razor-sharp, depth-of-field-calculated-to-the-millimeter shots on my prized Canon AE-1 to a fascination with shooting blurry, bleary, headache-inducing shots with the likes of the $1.99 Guangzhou Special panorama camera that took the photograph above.
With disc brakes, a rebuilt front end, stiff shocks, and new rear springs, my 27-year-old Chevy drove and handled like a much more modern car; the design of the advanced-for-Detroit-at-the-time four-link-with-Panhard rear suspension had held up well (especially compared to the leaf-spring setups on the GM B platform’s contemporary Chrysler and Ford competitors), and improvements in tire technology helped a lot.
The car’s 350 small-block, with its Malaise Era smog heads, woke up a bit once I installed headers, a Quadrajet, and HEI ignition; my Impala wasn’t particularly quick, but it had the edge over Camrys, Tauruses, and the like when it came down to freeway-onramp drag races. Fuel economy (about 17 MPG highway, much less city) wasn’t great by early-90s standards, so I resolved to wait for the day when small-block Chevy throttle-body fuel injection systems started showing up in Pick-Your-Part in large numbers.
Around this time, I burned out on bouncing between rejected job applications and working for temp agencies and surrendered to the inevitable: I started graduate school. With a University of California undergrad degree under my belt, the skids were already greased for my quick acceptance into my choice of California State University campuses, and so I looked for the Cal State in the area with the cheapest living expenses. With presidential candidate Bill Clinton excoriating Sista Souljah and Ice-T as background noise, I packed up the Impala and moved to my new home in… Turlock, California.
Yes, I was no longer an underemployed San Francisco slacker driving a primered-out Detroit heap. As the spring semester at California State University, Stanislaus (aka “Turkey Tech”) began, I was an academic driving a primered-out Detroit heap. American Grafitti was filmed in Turlock, allegedly because it resembled the early-60s version of George Lucas’s hometown of Modesto (located just a bit down Highway 99), and its bovine-scented farm-town ambience was just the thing to force me to focus on my studies. Ideally, I’d have a master’s degree in Rhetoric and Composition (a fancy name for “teachin’ writin’ to the young’uns”) in two years’ time, at which point I’d be able to snag a soft job teaching sullen small-town stoner kids how to write five-paragraph essays at some backwoods-ass junior college. I would have preferred a warehouse job staring at stacks of boxes, punctuated by the occasional forklift race with my coworkers, while the Dead Kennedys played on my workplace boombox, but such jobs were no longer available in 1992 California.
Graduate school turned out to be fairly pleasant, if somewhat boring. While Los Angeles burned during the Rodney King riots and Clinton, Bush, and Perot duked it out, I cranked out gibberish essays about the hermeneutical reification of the work of John Donne. The English Department at CSUS boasted perhaps a dozen graduate students, half of which were cynical Generation X types like me, sheltering from the Unstoppable Downward Spiral of Civilization and half of which were jaded, chain-smoking high-school teachers hoping to nail down a fatter paycheck by adding a master’s degree to their resumes.
My life settled into a low-stress routine. Every couple of weeks, the professors would scrounge up English Department funds sufficient for us to buy barbecue food and a keg of beer, and we’d all spend a day getting drunk and sunburned and playing volleyball. Every night, I’d stay up until about 4:00 AM with some of my fellow impoverished grad students, drinking Milwaukee’s Best, listening to Cypress Hill and Primus, and playing cribbage. Most weekends, I’d hop in the Impala and drive the two hours back to the San Francisco Bay Area and hang out with my friends there. It was a dignified life and an easy one, and the months went by fast.
During this period, a couple of my cribbage partners drove off a freeway overpass while drunk-driving a mid-70s Celica back from a Social Distortion show in San Francisco. They were pretty well banged up, with the un-seat-belted driver being thrown from the wreck and having an Evel Knievel-grade quantity of bones broken; when he recovered enough to move under his own power, he fled to the Czech Republic Czechoslovakia to avoid probable jail time for a DUI-with-injuries crash. These events had two effects on me: first, no more nightly cribbage marathons. Second, I became more aware of the crash-safety limitations of my pre-Ralph Nader GM car. I had installed some junkyard Olds 88 lap belts soon after getting the car, but visions of my face getting mashed by the steel dashboard in a wreck sent me to the Modesto Pick-N-Pull to buy a 1969 Caprice shoulder-belt setup. Due to the inherent inferiority of the film-camera era, I don’t have any photographs of my seat belt installation, but it was simple enough: the first generation of US-market shoulder belts used separate belts and buckles for the shoulder and lap seat belts, which meant that I could keep my bright green Oldsmobile lap belts and add some brown Caprice shoulder belts merely by drilling holes in the B pillars and mounting the upper mounts of the shoulder belts with Grade 8 hardware through the pillars. This worked well, although the lack of spring tensioners in the early shoulder belts meant that I had to unbuckle the belt in order to lean over and adjust the stereo volume or turn on the heater.
During my second semester as an R&C scholar, I began to realize that the life of an academic wasn’t a good fit for me, and that my envisioned future teaching writing at Butcher Holler Junior College wouldn’t be to my liking. Accelerating this realization was the fact that I had been taken under the wing of the angry, sociopathic professor of feminist literature who had poisoned her relationships with academics on several continents (I was heavy into Virginia Woolf at the time, which apparently convinced her that I would one day be just as angry and poisonous as she was); this meant that my academic career, such as it was, would forever be tainted by my association with a mentor loathed by everyone in my field. Things got weirder by the day. At one point, I attended a party at the home of one of my fellow grad students, one of the bitter/master’s-degree-chasing high-school teachers, and she cornered me and a couple of my cynical 20-something peers (as we were in the process of guzzling a bottle of Bailey’s we’d found in her liquor cabinet) and launched into a scary tirade along the lines of “All you young guys, you think you want to teach… but YOU’RE NOT SHOWING ME ANYTHING!” That was the tipping point.
I decided to take a leave of absence from my academic career and head straight to the land that inspired me to write (what I thought was) good fiction and take4 (what I thought were) good photographs: southern California. So, I rounded up my friend Judy (the only San Francisco resident I’d ever met who was actually born in San Francisco) as a traveling companion and steered the Impala onto Interstate 5.
By that time, I had spent seven years driving between the Bay Area and Southern California on I-5 between five and thirty times per year. When driving I-5, I had the sense that everything that had taken place between the current drive and the previous one had been a weird dream, and that I-5 was the place to evaluate the dream. As the Impala had proven to be the best I-5 car I’d ever owned (better even than my Competition Orange ’68 Mercury Cyclone), I slipped into the requisite I-5 mental groove very easily while behind its wheel.
So, while I pondered existential questions as the mileage signs to Los Angeles showed progressively smaller numbers, Judy read fashion magazines and enjoyed the nostalgic sensation of riding in the same type of car she’d ridden in during early childhood.
During my performance-art career, I spent quite a while working on my never-to-be-finished magnum opus, a piece entitled “I-5.” In it, slide projectors would show an endless series of through-the-windshield photographs of I-5 between I-580 and the Orange County line. Meanwhile, Murilee Arraiac (my Negativland/Throbbing Gristle-influenced band) would perform a short musical piece representing every freeway exit during that drive. I got as far as shooting a few hundred slides and recording perhaps a half-dozen songs, including “Twisselman Road”.
I had decided that I would photograph this journey using only the Guangzhou Special panoramic camera, loaded with Kodak Tri-X. It’s difficult to shoot a flying bird out the side window of a moving car with a 1/30th shutter speed, but I managed this one.
Even though my Impala looked like a clanking beater, it ran perfectly at this point, and the ride was quite comfortable. I had never expected this 27-year-old Chevrolet to win me over as a driver the way it did, but sometimes things sort out in unexpected ways.
These days, I prize the images on this single roll of film more than just about any other. I became a jaded hack long ago when it comes to photography, and I’d never go back to film, but I’m glad I put in my time in the darkroom.
I must admit that the P71 Crown Victoria I bought in the 21st century was an even better long-distance-drive car than my ’65 Impala, but not by much.
Just around sunset, we made it through the Grapevine and entered Southern California proper. Little did I know that the Southern California journeys would soon end, as the economy picked up and full-time employment loomed its ugly head. Next up: Fiat X1/9 hood scoops, spinning that Buick odometer.

IntroductionPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8 • Part 9 • Part 10

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48 Comments on “1965 Impala Hell Project, Part 9: Fastening Shoulder Belts, Bailing From Academia...”


  • avatar
    Philosophil

    What a great little autobiographical yarn. Thanks.

  • avatar
    Mud

    “When driving I-5, I had the sense that everything that had taken place between the current drive and the previous one had been a weird dream, and that I-5 was the place to evaluate the dream. ”

    I spent 5 years on the same drive yet a different road, this sentence captures those road musings exactly.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      (I too have been on I-5) The only thing more surreal is driving I-40 between Albuquerque and Flagstaff. You’ll get the feeling that the creator gathered up all of the materials for making a world, realized it was lunch time, got distracted and never came back to the task at hand.

      • 0 avatar
        nickeled&dimed

        I’m quite familiar with the empty swaths of earth around I-40 in NM. Well before my driving days I was a passenger on many miles of barren highway, watching the white line and tumbleweeds zip past. Never travel those roads in a car with a history of dropping transmissions. Losing one around Tucumcari is about the worst thing that can happen on a road trip.

      • 0 avatar

        OK. Thanks for my second best laugh of the day, and probably of the week (Bad Reporter was absolutely funnier than hell today).

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Lovely photo’s Murilee. I’m surprised you say you’ll never go back to film. I have never quite gotten over the switch to digital. Although I upgraded to a Nikon D80, I still keep my bulletproof F5 loaded with Ilford XP2. I also can’t find any compact digital camera’s which give me exactly what I want (ie a wide angle good lens) so I still keep my Yashica T4 and Soviet era Lomo around. Besides, I find digital photos are too ‘instant’ and I just blast away without thinking. But with film – my resources are finite, meaning I take my time with each shot.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Great stuff! Brings back memories of my dad’s ’66 Impala with the 283 v-8, purchased new my junior year of high school. It seemed infinitely quicker than the wheezing 6-cylinders which preceded it.

    Once I started college, Dad went foreign . . . and bought a Volvo 144 sedan, the first of many he’s owned.

  • avatar
    nikita

    Ive hated I-5 from the day it opened. Even if it takes a little longer, 99 is my highway of choice up and down the Valley. My first drive of this route in a ’65 Impala (light blue 327/Powerglide station wagon) was in ’69, before the I-5 was built. If I have the time, its the 101 between LA and SF.

  • avatar
    CopperCountry

    Great stuff. Love those panoramic shots out the front window of the ’65 … brings to mind a verse from Chris Ledoux’s “Rodeo Moon” –

    “Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room
    It changes each mile like the radio tune …”

    Do people still take road trips like this? If not, they should.

    • 0 avatar
      EyeMWing

      I take trips like this. I’m still working on procuring exactly the right bargecruiser for it (big, black, British and forced induction) but even in my little ecobox the right road with the right mindset, right music (which is often ‘none’) and right traveling companion (also often ‘none’) easily becomes a religious experience.

  • avatar
    theeastbaykid

    I really don’t want this to end. Once we reach the end of this tale, I think Murilee needs to find another ’65 and build a tribute car.

    • 0 avatar
      mechimike

      I’ve had the same thoughts about the first vehicle I ever purchased with my own money. For me, it was a little later, and a little newer. 1997, and a 1977 GMC Suburban, to be precise on both counts. Just like Phil, I loved that old GM beast. It has a 350, which in that 2+ ton behemoth was never good for more than 14 mpg on the highway, but the Commanding View of the Road coupled with the ability to haul copius amounts of anything – be it people, beer, my collection of massive antiquated electronic equipment, or sometimes, nothing at all – mad it my favorite road tripping companion. Despite never having a full-time job the entire time I owned it, I logged an average of 20,000 miles per year that she was in my care. At the end, the body having nearly fully succumbed to the ravages of an Upstate NY life, the engine burning a quart of 50W motor oil between fill-ups, and the landlord making me park on the street, far away from the craphole I was renting in Plainfield, NJ, I donated it for a $400 tax write off to the Salvation Army.

      A few months later I started getting parking ticket notices from the state of Delaware. The truck, I was convinced, was haunting me.

      I’m not sure if I regret getting rid of the old girl or not. Hell, I’m not even sure she was a she- right after I bought the Suburban a college friend of mine told me I ought to name it “Raymond”, since it was way, way too butch to ever be a girl.

      Sometimes I find myself looking around at other Suburbans. Part of me wants to relive the ownership, but a larger part of me realizes that it wasn’t just a 1977 GMC Suburban. It was that whole part of my life- a pretty bad part of my life, in retrospect, and the Suburban was the shining bright spot in it all. You can’t recreate history.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Turlock ahoy.

    Last place i visited in California.

    2007 it was.

    October.

    had a crumbled linguicia-topped Round Table pizza.

    A few visits to the Modesto Weenie Hut also known to modern-day folks as Wienerschnizel.

    Looked up an old friend from long ago via his aging dad who still lived in the same house waaaay back when; old friend was serving time in a federal prison in SoCal. Some sort of involvement with organized crime and bingo halls and not sharing the wealth with the feds.

    One type of organized crime cartel competing with another but the fed’s cartel was bigger and better organized.

    Awareness of the locales contributes to the enjoyment of the continuing adventures of what to me is a talented youngun gallivanting around my home state I fled so long ago for the abysmal abyssal plain of mid-continent USA.

    Cool story, bro proclaims the Web meme.

    I AM surprised your car has been passed up by the vatos and esses swarming the central valley.

  • avatar
    beach cruiser

    This is a great storyline. I am loving the car, the photos and the narrative. I have been up and down the I-5 so many times I have lost count. Just three weeks ago I drove to Berkely to watch my oldest daughter get married. It is a 600 mile run from my home and I was asked why I just didn’t fly. Because I have been married to the Road Trip Queen for 34 years, that’s why. Side note here, gorging at the Berkely Bowl is not to be missed when in the Bay Area.
    After the festivities we journeyed home on the 101. I have driven the length of the California coastline many times, once in a creaky MGA coupe powered by Lucas the Prince of Darkness. Other times in big GM land barges and lately a series of Hondas. For me, it usually isn’t about the vehicle it is about the drive. Good work, Murilee

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Hey Murilee, back when you were making the decision to go into small town community college academia college girls never once affected the decision making process right? ;)

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The coil spring suspensions on these cars was good for a smooth ride and little else. Athough in fairness a smooth ride was what most fullsized car buyers wanted. I remember seeing alot of these cars sitting low in back due to the springs sagging after a few years.
    The same setup was used on the A bodies, and they gave trouble hooking up at the drag strip as the power went up. You couldn’t bolt on a set of traction bars like you could with a leaf spring setup, among other things. Ford also started using the 4 link coil spring setup in the 65 model year on the fullsize Fords and Mercuries. Lincoln went to them in 70, and the midsize fords and mercs started using the setup in 72

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      Compared to our ’65 Impala, Grandpa’s ’65 Belvedere sedan, even with torsion bars in front and leafs out back was inferior on the road. Saginaw power steering had ten times the road feel of the Mopar “full time” setup. The old polyspheric 318 was a heavy lump compared to the 327. All the Plymouth did was understeer, heavily. The Impala, with heavier station wagon springs, was much better balanced.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    love it. the dashboard is a beaut!

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Sounds somewhat familiar – I graduated with an BS in Accounting in ’93, took a quick look at the (lack of) job market in Maine and promptly went to Law School (Northern Illinois – they gave me a scholarship) for three years. Never did take the bar exam, I fell into IT while still in school and have been in the field ever since. No regrets about the law degree, law school teaches you a useful way of looking at the world.

    No primered Detroiters for me though – I had an ’84 VW Jetta GLI for the last half of undergrad and all of law school. Fabulous car, drove it to 350K+.

  • avatar

    i think i’m starting to understand california…

  • avatar
    John Fritz

    Wow. Two things I hadn’t thought of in years. One was writing boatloads of those little five paragraph essays while attending DeKalb College in the late eighties. I loved those things because writing came easy and my string of mandatory English Comp classes gave a quick and easy upward bump to my cum (pronounced “kyoom”). Had to stay on the Dean’s List, although I long ago forgot why that was ever important.

    The second thing was that two-piece shoulder harness and lap belt setup in my ’68 New Yorker, which I drove throughout my college career. The dashboard was still about seven feet away from the tips of my fingers whenever I had that torture-matic shoulder restraint all buckled up tight. No give to that puppy.

    It was a tossup which one pissed me off more about that car, the super-sado shoulder harness or the combination lack of cruise control / pressing on the accelerator equipped with a bunion inducing thirty pound throttle return spring.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    It would have taken about a minute to change the throttle return spring.

    • 0 avatar
      John Fritz

      The primary throttle plates wouldn’t close completely at idle w/o a big spring (two, actually) tugging on them. The shaft/plates would bind at partial throttle. I never had money to throw another Carter on it.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    ” When driving I-5, I had the sense that everything that had taken place between the current drive and the previous one had been a weird dream, and that I-5 was the place to evaluate the dream.”

    F-ing magic right there…

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I drove the major portion of I-5 back in 2002 in a 1988 Honda Accord, from Tacoma WA to LA in search of work when the LAST downturn took place, then under Bushie (ugh).

    I went like probably many others, to LA in search of work as it’s a HUGE city with LOTS of work, uh, yeah, when California is hurting for work like Oregon and Washington and virtually every one else, and so with a bazillion others searching for work, no workie for me other than temp work for the 6 months I lived there. Lived in Culver City with a friend and his partner in a HUGE 2 bedroom, 2 bath apt in the Fox Hills section.

    I have to say, it’s an experience to drive all the way down by yourself in an older car, sans AC and go through the San Joaquin Valley at nearly the century mark, mid afternoon with the temps in the 90′s with music blasting out of the stereo with the sun beating down on you through the open sunroof until I got too hot then had to shut the damned thing and closed the shade too.

    Part of my soundtrack for that trip was a CD I’d made of songs that had to do with California, things like M. Pink’s Gone to California, I left my Heart in San Francisco by Tony Bennett, I Love LA by Randy Newman, San Franciscan Nights by the Animals and California by Phantom Planet, All I Wanna Do by Cheryl Crow (as she mentions Santa Monica Boulevard), Poterville by CCR and Mendocino by the Sir Douglas Quintet amongst others.

    Now I’m back in my home state of Washington and live in Seattle and am doing OK for now.

    I so want to do that trip again, some day…

  • avatar

    The dash looks like a cockpit lol. Another great write up can’t wait for the next one.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Nikita, it’s a known fact that the mopars of this era were canyon carvers compared to the gm junk. Torsion bars are superior to springs because they transfer much of the car’s frontal weight rearward. It doesn’t take a genious to know the effect this has on handling. It also does not take a genious to know that leaf springs were superior from a handling, traction and durability standpoint, that was why many police agancies used chrysler products. I won’t even get into the rubber band like structure of the gm products.
    Sure, the poly headed 318 was a slug, but that has nothing to do with what I was talking about, and at least the old slug wasn’t an oil leaker/burner and the cams didn’t wear out.
    It is true that later gm products had somewhat better steering feel, but that was after the variable ratio steering box came out in later years. not on the 65. But did you know that it’s easy to change the ratio of a mopar steering box with a simple part swap?
    I own three large chryslers, a 63 Imperial, a fuselage Imperial, and a 78 New Yorker Brougham. I’ve also owned many other 60′s-70′s mopars over the years. I have never owned a 65 chevy, but I have driven 65-66 models. They drove like crap compared to mopars, all you have to do is look at road tests from the 60′s to see who made better handling cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Having owned examples of 1960s Chrysler A, B, and C platform cars of the 1960s prior to buying my Impala (not to mention GM As and Bs and Ford midize, compact, and fullsize), I think my version of the statement “it’s a known fact that the mopars of this era were canyon carvers compared to the gm junk” might go something more like “while Ford cars of the era handled like garbage trucks hauling several thousand gallons of hog vomit, GM and Chrysler cars handled more like cement mixers piloted by drunks.” Heated brand-loyalty debates about cars of 40+ years ago ring somewhat quaint to my ears, like hearing an ancient veteran of the 19th Austro-Hungarian Hussars arguing with a gunnery sergeant of the 144th Artillery Brigade of the Ottoman Empire’s Imperial Guards about whether beef tallow or pitch worked best for lubricating wooden gun-carriage axles.

      Fords of the 1960s had utterly terrible handling in stock form, thanks to their antiquated, engine-compartment-narrowing spring-atop-upper-control-arm front suspensions and 1875-Studebaker-hay-wagon-style unlocated rear leaf spring setups. The torsion-bar front suspensions of 1960s Chryslers were more sophisticated (i.e. cheaper to manufacture and allowed room for wider engines), but any handling superiority they may have offered was more or less indistinguishable from that of The General’s products. Everything out of Detroit was set up to ride soft and default to massive understeer under the first sign of duress.

      But let’s talk about meaningful comparisons between the Big Three of the 1960s, now that I’m warmed up on the topic (working at Year One pretty much destroyed my tolerance for brand-loyal debates about 1960s Detroit cars- which were increasingly crappily build compared to their 1950s predecessors). I’d say that Chrysler’s build quality was the worst, (I’m revisiting the Chrysler cost-shaving practices of the 1960s while working on my A100 these days) with corners cut that GM and Ford didn’t figure out for another decade (although GM, as far as I know, was the only company making cardboard glove boxes at this time) and parts suppliers finding ways to shave that extra 0.04 cents per unit. Ford had the market cornered on junky interior components and dash controls that snapped off in your hands, and GM couldn’t (i.e., wouldn’t) solve that rust-around-the-back-window problem for another 20 years. All three companies built very good engines and transmissions for the time… and continued building the exact same engines and transmissions for at least a decade past their final obsolescence. As for styling, I’d give Ford the edge in the first half of the 1960s and Chrysler the nod for the second half, with a special award for the beautiful 1964-67 GM A-body designs (I prefer the Chevelle, but the other divisions’ A cars looked almost as good).

      And no need to bring up the storied racing history of anybody’s 1960s cars, because race cars have been gone through and de-crap-ified; anybody who claims that Trans Am racing proved the inherent superiority of the Mustang or Camaro… well, let’s not go there.

      • 0 avatar
        theeastbaykid

        You might be selling GM slightly short on styling–if you go outside of the bread-and-butter sedan, and look at Bill Mitchell’s Corvair, Riviera, and Corvette of the mid-1960s, those were some of the best shapes around domestic or otherwise. As far as comparing Mopar and GM handling, well, I suppose you can either debate that or whether or not White Castle or Taco Bell is more likely to result in an extended visit to the crapper.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    agencies*

  • avatar
    cfclark

    I’m sure Murilee’s familiar with this reference: All these photos look like something out of American Movie.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    As far as the torsion bar/leaf spring/unibody versus the coil sprung body on frame setup on gm products goes, I won’t bother getting into that anymore. Just look at some old magazine road tests.
    Whether or not it was cheaper to manufacture the torsion bar steup, I don’t know. But I do know that they are much more expensive to buy than a set of coil springs. Torsion bars also last for decades.
    A perfect examople of gm’s cost cutting is the use of 9 inch disc brakes in musclecars like the 396 chevelle and the GTO. A 318 A body had bigger brakes.
    Both chrysler and ford had stouter driveline pieces than gm. There was a reason that racers put ford 9 inch and chrysler 8 3/4 pigs in their cars, many still do to this day. As well as swapping chrysler 833 and ford toploaders in place of saginaws and muncies.
    The torsion bar setup actually made a tight fit for headers compared to the gm arrangement, especially in the A body. But the ford shock tower setup was horrendous, as far as space utilization went. I guess they handled pretty good when shelby modified them.
    Chrysler’s quality control was iffy during the 60′s, got much worse in the 70′s. BTW my 65 new yorker had a cardboard glovebox.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    meant to say 9 inch drum brakes*

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    Moparman- the sagging spring scenario you described is exactly what I’m dealing with on my ’72 Olds Delta 88 convert right now. Put two people in the back seat and a cooler full of ice, food, and drink and a few folding chairs in the trunk and presto! Instant lowrider.

    Tomorrow I’m headed to a specialty restoration shop to pick up a pair of rear coils spec’d for a ’76 big-block Caprice wagon, and a pair of KYB shocks. A few paychecks after I’ll do the front.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Cougar, the use of station wagon springs is a common and effective fix. I owned a 73 monte back in the 80′s and the tail end was almost dragging when I bought it. A friend gave me a set of springs from an A body wagon, we installed them and it cured the problem.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    http://clubs.hemmings.com/clubsites/viwpc/quotes.htm

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    You sure about that Cobra? The parts catalog I have from Classic Industries has the 71-76 wagon under the listing for the heavy-duty rear springs they offer for the b-body. There’s one for “exc. wagon” and one for “incl. wagon”. I’ve never actually looked under the wagon version of one of these cars, so I wouldn’t know.

    Is it possible the leaf spring versions could have been for hearse / ambulance / limo applications and not for civilian b-bodies? During those years GM did offer a commercial chassis for those purposes. In my catalog there arent any leaf springs mentioned anywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      The wagons did have leaf springs. I had a buddy that had a 74 Caprice wagon for a time, and it had a set of 5 or 6 leaf, springs in the rear. This provided room for the 3rd seat, though his didn’t have that option, it still had the floor pan stamping for it.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Cougar, my memory is a bit hazy on that one. But I’m pretty sure that the 71-6 fullsized wagons did have leafs. I would imagine the reason for that was the forward facing third seat, a coil setup would have probably cut into foot space.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    Interesting. That’s something I never knew.

    In any case, the rear coils I bought are the stoutest ones available, with “HD” printed next to the part#. My Delta is a ’72 with the small bumpers front and rear. The springs I bought are for a ’76 B-body, which has the massive battering rams front and rear. I figure since those coils are made to compensate for the weight of those huge and heavy bumpers, they should be at least marginally stiffer than the stock ones.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      I bought the HD springs for my 77 Chevelle, made a world of difference! it went from a marshmellow ride to something approaching more sporty.

      It did take the smooth float out of it, but no more crashing onto the bumpstops.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Cougar, I agree. In the unlikely case they don’t do the trick you could always go with a set of springs for a 98/electra.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Kid, I won’t bother with the handling issue. As for styling, it’s a matter of personal preference. But I agree with you there, GM made some good looking cars during the early 60′s. I like the 64 bonneville, and the 62 chevy just looks way cool. I especially like the bubbletop belair. I think that is one of the coolest looking cars from 1962, looks-wise it is my favorite from that year, followed closely by the 61.
    Ford styling from the early 60′s just doesn’t do anything for me, except for the thundrbird and continental. I kind of like the 64 galaxie fastback, but I hate those big round tail lights. I do like the 65 slab sided fastback fords.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    Immediately after getting home a little after 4:00 today, I finished installing the rear coils, a job I started on Sunday night. I thought it would be a breeze once I unbolted the rear shocks. Wrong! I also had to unbolt the upper trailing arms to drop the axle down far enough, and it was a royal pain putting the bolts back in.

    I would have installed the rear shocks too, but someone at the KYB factory put the wrong shock in the “right” box. I have to wait until Saturday to go back and exchange it where I bought them. I’m also picking up either a 7/8″ or 1″ sway bar while I’m there. Which is better?

  • avatar

    You crazy Murilee!

    But some of these photos are absolutely fabulous, and I say that with a bit of professional jealousy.


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