Growing up, one of my absolute favourite movies was Little Giants. Fellow Canadian Rick Moranis is a brilliant actor, and in this film his character, Danny, drove a go-kart on public roads. As a child, there was no better fantasy.
Sometime around the movie’s climax, the underdogs try to intimidate their opponents by putting antacid pills in their mouths to make them seem rabid and deranged. If you think about the scene for too long, it’s ridiculous, but I couldn’t shake it when sitting down to write this Project 51 update.
My lowly ’51 GMC, going up against the insane offensive lineup of the current Speedhunters Garage: Blake’s NSX, Dino’s Porsche, Ben’s 190E 2.3-16 and whatever car-shaped fire is currently engulfing Mark‘s wallet, all seem much more impressive than my collection of parts. But if ’90s sports movies have taught me anything, it’s that everyone loves a good underdog story.
It’s been over a year since I’ve mentioned Project 51, and that wasn’t intentional. It’s just something that happened as I got lost in the garage. Being able to escape in the garage has proven irreplaceable as the world –or at least the province of Ontario– continues to spiral.
As a brief recap, my end goal with ’51’ is a bagged and LS V8-powered family cruiser. When we last left, it looked like this.
My 2020 update focused on the importance of keeping yourself motivated while navigating unfamiliar waters. Truth be told, I needed to write that post to prepare myself for what came next: Paint and body.It’s a Dirty Job
I wholeheartedly salute those who do paint and body for a living. It’s a downright messy, tedious job that most don’t have the patience for. Even though I took a shortcut through the process by building a truck that’s mostly patina, I spent a considerable amount of time living in filler dust.
All those hours spent sanding amounted to a final product that looks like I did nothing. This is what I wanted of course, but it made me feel like a drinking bird toy – lots of movement with no real result.
Matching any paint is a difficult task, but matching patina is more art than precision. Unfortunately, I’m not a master at either. Achieving the look I wanted required an extensive number of products. Some were meant for the job, but a few were not.
Again, salute to the body men and women out there. Not only is it dirty work, it’s expensive too. The photo above is a small representation of the products used.
Yep, I used rattle cans, and rather liberally I might add.
While I do have a sadistic goal of one day properly painting a vehicle, Project 51 isn’t the one.Pinch Me
Once I finished painting the patch panels and door jambs, I threw in the towel. The level of quality I desired for the rest of the truck needed a pro’s touch, so I sent the cab a few intersections up the road to a local painter’s backyard. This was the first time the cab had left my garage in three or so years, and it was pretty nerve-wracking to have such a large part gone for several months.
The term ‘Paint Jail’ doesn’t exist without reason. I was keen to stay out of the penitentiary, so I made sure to bug the painter just enough to keep things moving.
Originally, I planned to have just the firewall and inner fenders painted straight gloss white. The roof would get white too, but with a bit of flake thrown into the clear.
However, in the name of cohesion, that list grew to include the dash, hinges and inner doors as well.
Getting a vehicle back with a fresh lick of paint is a bit of an indescribable feeling. Especially when it’s something that you’ve been slogging away at for years.
Even my wife, who was skeptical that I should have cut up my firewall, conceded that it looked miles better with the LS Fabrication firewall fillers. Vindication!
For anyone considering paint for their build, let me offer the following suggestions: Budget more than you expect, remove as much as you feel capable, and again, budget more than you’d expect.
Generally, American trucks from the ’50s are little more than tractors with doors, and getting panels to line up at least halfway decent by today’s standards can be a nightmare. Replacing all the seals on the truck, as I did, compounds this issue.
I wouldn’t go back and change this decision though. Now the truck opens and closes like a modern vehicle.There’s Always More To Do
With the truck back from paint, my to-do list remains in a state of constant flux.
My whiteboard currently represents what needs to be finished before the truck is sent off to be wired and fired. Issy Fab Speed & Engineering will handle that job.
Jeff, Issy Fab’s sole proprietor, built the chassis, so he has a vested interest in seeing this truck on the road. He’s also a good friend, which helps as scope creep is inevitable.
My list included a few more items that needed their colour changed, including my Air Lift Performance air tanks. I had these done in Cerakote, not powder, so a bit of aluminum machining was still visible.
“Organize parts” was a step I should have done a few months prior. Thankfully I have not lost anything, but I did double order a set of cab-to-frame bushings. Oops.
One box that’s spent most of its time in my office contains the gauges I’ll be using. I’m particularly fond of their analog look, however, unlike the stock pieces these gauges are compatible with modern ECUs.
After six years at this, I’ve set my sights set on driving the truck in 2022. I’m not pushing for any particular event or date – it just needs to happen this year.
I think I can do it, and now that I’ve typed it I guess I sort of have to do it. So wish me luck. My son already has with a rather clever Christmas gift.
One way or another, Project 51 is going to be more than just a garage ornament before the year is out.