Original Condition

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The original picture that started this project, sent via text message to our daughter's cell phone. Note the fenders on top of the roof and the lack of interior panels. But the message said solid body, so we had to go look at it. The color is deceiving - it's actually a faded gray primer.

When we arrived, everyone started pulling parts out of the garage until we had a pile of parts outside.

Two heater boxes?

The radiator support, 2 door window trim, Body by Fisher plates, and cowl cover.

The hood and fenders and a new brake line.

The grill, four blade fan, master cylinder, and more brake lines in the tube.

Splash pan, bumpers, and many other parts. On first look, the splash pan looks to be in great shape. However, upon closer inspection, the back edge is very rusted out. This will probably be replaced instead of fixed to save time.

Heater motor, water pump, power steering pump, and timing cover.

The stainless windshield trim, stainless side trim, rear window interior trim, and the Sedan Delivery specific interior panel side trim.

A transfer case from the International and a '56 transmission bell housing that the Wagon needs.

Clutch and brakes.

Intake and exhaust manifolds, two taillights, and the speedometer cluster. We already have a spare set of new taillights.

The inner fenders for the front are in rough shape. At some point, they had been cut to make room for headers. Fortunately, these are available new, just a bit expensive.

The planned exhaust for the 396. We left that.

And we left the one-piece tie rod assembly.

The 396, with a set of New Old Stock valve covers.

The original automatic transmission for the 396.

Once I waded through all the parts, I got a good look at the SD itself. The power brake booster was installed on the firewall, along with the original Chevy steering box. Um, slight problem though. Notice that the front wheels are missing. The SD sits partially on a homemade body dolly. The rear wheels are mounted to the dolly, not the car.

The frame is outside. The rear of the car is on the left. The front is setup with the off-road suspension already and sits several inches higher than stock. I'm not into the Gasser look, where the front of the car sits higher than the rear.

Unbeknownst to the owners, the mice had invaded the garage at some point. Not just one or two either. Nests, debris, and even carcases were everywhere, including inside the drawers storing the smaller parts. The drawers were dumped into boxes and set outside. We were careful not to move any live mice with us. These boxes traveled from PA to VA inside the SD on the trailer.

Another box of parts, with two pieces of the stainless and the installation kits for two sway bars. Until we come up with a better name, the mice are why I've dubbed this one "Mouse House".

We didn't bring the engine hoist, which is good because we were tight on space. So we used a come-along attached to the rafters in the garage to lift the engine high enough to get into a truck bed.

One of the friends help our son to get the engine into a redneck engine cradle for the truck bed - an old tire. They made it look almost easy. Shoving it to the front of the bed took three people though. Then it was strapped in place.

Kurt helped load the transmission. It was shoved forward and strapped in place as well.

The International transmission and transfer case however was a different story. It took 5 people to lift it and 4 to carry it to the truck. Our daughter and her husband helped with that. This really was a all-hands-on-deck escapade.

Once the larger drive train components were successfully loaded, it was time to put the body back onto the frame. That's when we found that the wheels did not turn well. Two come-alongs was used to lift the front of the body and the rear of the body was jacked up and set on jack stands so that the body dolly could be dismantled and removed.

Once the body dolly was removed and the frame rolled under, we placed the new body bushings in place and began lowering the front down, a few clicks at a time. Our daughter slide underneath to slow the landing on the frame, just in case anything went wrong. Since the body would hit the frame before her, this was ok with everyone.

Final alignment was done by hand at the back. Everyone found a spot to lift and our son was underneath on a creeper to align the body mounts.

Body mounts tightened, it was time to roll her out. That's when that front end decided to not roll or turn. The springs were just too high and were binding. We put over 600lbs on the grafted on bar and the front end did not squat in the least little bit. So everyone except our daughter piled onto the front bar and cross member, over 1,200lbs total. She still had to crank on the ratchet straps to compress the front enough to obtain a rolling chassis.

To be sure that we could clear the garage door, we had to come straight out. Unfortunately, the main access was a bit sideways, so we rolled right out into the bushes. Turning became a one person job as no one wanted to brave the bushes.

Our friend managed to steer the beast out safely though from just the driver front tire. The tow strap is hooked to the Dodge truck due to the poor rolling capability of the front wheels.

The Dodge couldn't maneuver well enough to line the SD up with the flatbed trailer we had brought to take her home to VA, so everyone pitched in and pushed.

Ok, the plan at this point was to reassemble the front end - the radiator support, fenders, and hood - as that would make transporting those items easier. After a hunt for the right bolts and not finding any, that plan was abandoned.

While the plan was being discussed, I took time to photograph all sides and really inspect the SD outside of the mouse infested garage. The smell kept getting to me inside the building. By the time we arrived home, most of the smell was gone.

There are two large shallow dents in the rear hatch, in the obvious locations to push the vehicle. Unfortunately, the hatch is SD specific. Not sure if we can pull those dents out, or if we will end up grafting the skin from a wagon tailgate onto the lower portion of the hatch. Surprisingly, the hatch lifts easy. There is a tortion bar inside that is still working.

The first sign of a bad previous repair. I had already noticed it when I helped to lift the back onto the body mounts. Just a lot of putty in the usual place a '56 rusts out.

One more spot of damage, probably from something falling onto the passenger fender during the years. We should be able to pull that dent out pretty well.

The driver side isn't too bad, but that is putty work. How much putty remains to be seen once we start digging into it.

A closeup of the previous putty work on the passenger rear corner.

The inside of the unique SD. Basically, the rear windows of the wagon are steel panels. These were sold and titled as trucks back when they were new and they often became work vehicles, complete with the hand letter signs on that panel on the outside. There really isn't any sign of it's original life left.

The passenger side panel. Notice the double well behind where the seats would be. The braces from side to side are to hold the floor of the SD up. One thing I noticed while putting this page together, the red and blue inside those front sections. We did a closer inspection and at some point someone put a patch panel on both fenders. There is a weld seam at the top of the red and blue paint. Considering the lip of the weld, I suspect we will find putty once we start doing the body work.

A shot of the full interior. That compartment will hold the boxes on the way home. We do know that the original color was the brown that all SDs came from the factory with.

The SDs are a 2 door body style. Betsy and the Wagon are both 4 doors. None of our parts for the doors will fit, except perhaps the wing vent.

In looking at the doors, I noticed some welding down by the rocker and the obvious signs of a failing fiberglass repair. That makes me very suspicious about the overall condition of the doors.

And on the driver side, more welding.

The radiator support was mounted. As we started to mount the fenders we realized that we did not have the fender bolts. So that plan was abandoned. Besides, it was getting very late and, since it was the 4th of July, we all wanted to go watch the fireworks.

The hood would not fit inside the SD. Fortunately, we had brought 3 pickups with us, Pepe, one Chevy Silverado, and our Dodge. While everyone else had been working on the SD body, my daughter and I had been busy loading all those parts into the trucks. The hood was loaded into the Chevy, but we could not manage to keep the back edge from snagging on the already loaded parts. Our son-in-law went in with the hood, then crab-walked back out using the bedrails.

This is the body tag on the cowl. It says this body is a 1956 - 150 2 Door Sedan Delivery (Style No 56 - 1271) #5979 off the Fisher Body line in Cleveland OH, interior was Gold Striped Vinyl with Charcoal Gray Vinyl (Trim 615), black paint (Paint 687), with accessory P. We haven't been able to identify what the P means. All SDs were 615 and 687 and the bodies were built in Cleveland. By the VIN, it would have had a straight 6 cylinder engine and she was assembled in Baltimore, MD.

Finally, the SD is loaded and ready to come home to VA. Time to go watch the fireworks and celebrate the birth of this great nation!

Back home the following day, we had to unload, wash off the mouse debris, and inspect everything. The drive home had given me time to research and I found that several parts are SD specific. Most of this stainless is 2 door. The short spears may be tough to replace because they are from the 150 style, but fortunately all the stainless is restorable.

The stainless windshield trim works from any '56, so no concerns here.

All those brown pieces are SD specific though and several are badly rusted. These need to be cleaned and preserved soon. Tracking them down later could be a bit of a challenge.

The hood had already been painted black underneath, so it looked very usable. We removed the hinges and bolted it to the Wagon to replace the crunched hood and found that it was slightly twisted. But at least it is not creased.
Ok, so this is where we stop. We are still working on the Ranchero and trying to keep the daily drivers in good shape. Betsy also has a leaking transmission and the Wagon still needs to be fixed from the accident. In my spare time in the garage, I plan to start sand blasting the SD specific parts and getting them into epoxy primer to stop the rust, but most everything else on the SD will have to wait for a few years.

 

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