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1939 Chevy coupe

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  • 1939 Chevy coupe

    This isn't really a "new" project, since I bought it back in April of this year at the swap meet. No plans going into the swap meet to buy anything, but it is a swap meet, so you never know what might happen! I was just fine with my Austin gasser, and my '63 Falcon gasser. But then I walked past this '39 Chevy and began telling my buddy how I had a '40 Chevy coupe in 1968 that I'd built into a gasser, and how I regretted having sold it back then.
    As we walked around this '39 an older gentleman (older than me even!) stepped out and said, "Real beauty huh?"
    Well with most of the floors rotted out, no rockers left, door bottoms rotted away, and the tail below the trunk all gone, I asked him what was keeping the body from channeling itself over the frame? The car was perfect from about 4" up, and not much left from 4" down.
    After a long discussion in which I kept telling him I didn't need another project, and at 69 was too old to start another this big; he asked what I thought it was worth? I refused to say because I figured he'd let me buy it if I did. So he tells me I could have it for $2500, and I laughed. No way I'd pay that for such an extensive rust repair project. He kept lowering his price, and began showing me all the extra parts inside the car. He finally asked if I'd buy it for $1500, and I asked if he'd deliver it for that price. He agreed, and we shook hands on it. So I was committed, or should have been committed for saying yes.
    So here's what came home the next day:









    Once it got in front of my house I began pulling parts out, and inventorying what I had. There were a lot of spare factory parts, plus some new parts of both steel and fiberglass. I decided to put the parts back inside that I'd keep, and the rest went in the "for sale" pile.








  • #2

    Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

    Should be fun. Good luck with it. Signed up to watch!
    Ed, Mary, & 'Earl'
    HRPT LongHaulers, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19.


    Inside every old person is a young person wondering, "what the hell happened?"

    The man at the top of the mountain didn't fall there. -Vince Lombardi

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    • #3

      Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

      my dad has a 37 Coupe shell in front of his barn - you'll feel better about your purchase if you see his.... that said, he'll be stoked to hear you took this on
      Doing it all wrong since 1966

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      • #4

        Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

        At that point I really didn't have any idea what direction the car would take. I knew it was going to be a long project, with lots of cutting, welding, and bodywork; but not sure how I'd do it even? Never did this amount of rust repair, or this much panel replacement, so no way to judge the project. The whole side of the body swung back and forth when I closed the doors, with nothing attaching the body to the chassis, or sides to the floors!
        I began making a list of what I'd need and searching the internet for sources. Some of the pieces were available locally through Chevs of the 40's in Vancouver, Wa., and some needed to be fabricated. Found some things like floors on Fleabay, and made the rest with some help from the local sheetmetal shop.
        I found things like the rocker panels to be a bit spendy considering how simple they were shaped. But my brake is only a 3 ft. so I took the 18 ga. sheet metal to a shop, and for a paltry $10 he bent up all my rockers for me from my steel. At the same time I had him shear some strips for various patch work, and bend me some 90 degree strips for other places I might need them.
        First thing I did was cut out what was left of the rocker panels, (which wasn't much!) and weld in the new ones I had bent up.







        I had him bend me these U shaped edge pieces to go over the edges of the rockers where I welded the inner to the outer rockers. Made a nice smooth edge, plus a good spot to butt carpet to at some point in the future. Luckily the floor braces weren't rotted out, so I had something to weld the inner rockers to! So it made a little less work, plus a good reference point to ensure it all sat in place correctly.



        Then I began filling in the lower body areas to make up the gaps between the new rockers and the body.



        After the rockers I cut the door lowers off, and began tacking in the new lower inner and outer structures. The new inner structures were about 3/8" too long, which I later discovered was pretty common with replacement panels. So I had to cut it, remove the extra length, and then butt weld it back together before using them. Extra work, and a PITA, but not many choices beyond this.



        Once the inner structure was welded in, I tacked in the outer panel, and hammered it around the inner structure to complete it. I spent probably a day or more on each door. Guessing a knowledgeable bodyman would knock these out in 1/4 of that time!



        Next on the list was these ugly rotted out lower 1/4 panels! I got a generic door lower, and cut it in half to make two 1/4 panels. Then hammered the rolled edge on each end to roll the edges around the new inner door.





        After getting the drops done, I again finished them off at the ends by making small patches shaped to match the reveal along the fender lines. Then I moved on to the new floor panels.



        I cut out the driver's side and tacked in the floor. The toe panel was in good shape, but it had a fair number of holes for different pedals, etc., so I figured it's better to replace it than fill holes I wont use. Somebody had cut the brace in the kick panel area to pound out a dent, and then left it loose. So I welded that also, and plated it with a little piece of sheet metal at the same time.



        Moved over and did the passenger side, but just the floor. Toe panel was fine, and no extra holes. But it didn't quite cover all the rusted areas, so added some of the strips I had cut earlier to fill in gaps.



        The rear floors were worse, and the floor panels I bought were worse too! They were supposed to fit '37-'39, but when they arrived the box said, " '39 with some modification". So some meant cutting off most of what I needed, and was missing a huge amount! So I tacked in what I had, and then cut the center out and made a new tunnel from spare metal. I made it larger, so once I marked it out, I removed part of what I'd just tacked in and welded the new tunnel in.





        I overlapped these panels since they're floors and didn't need butt splices like the body panels do.

        I finally reached the last rotted exterior panel. I saved the trunk drop for last because I thought it would be the worst and toughest. But it turned out to be the easiest! About 3 hours to remove and install the new donor! I chopped the old panel out first, and left it long until I could test fit the donor. Surprisingly it's the only panel that needed zero reworking! The old one was bad inside and out, like others were!







        Had to trim the new panel excess metal first, but then it was perfect!





        I drilled a bunch of holes along the trunk lip to "spot weld" it in like the original. Then I cut and butt welded the body to the new tail panel.









        After the outside was done, I filled in the trunk drop inside with metal I cut and fitted. No inner panels are available, so I just cut pieces and made them fit.





        That pretty much ends the 4 months of rust repair! Thank God! Finally I can move on to the fun part; drivetrain and running gear!
        I scored a 1990 Chevy 350 roller motor off Craigslist for $100. Guy said it was supposedly rebuilt, but I figured if it wasn't true it was still worth the price. I tore it down, and was shocked to see all new bearings, rings, and cam! A stocker cam, which I tossed, but at least it all checked out! I plastigauged all the bearings, and it was great!
        So I found a pair of 487x heads, that needed rebuilding and had the machine shop put new SS valves, hardened seats, springs, guides, screw in studs, etc. and totally rebuild them. Way more than the price of the motor, but worth it.



        Put the heads on the engine, and swapped in a Howards Rattler cam with .525"/.530" lift, 288/290 duration, and 109 LSA. A nice roller cam that should make the engine breath well, and scoot too. Topped it off with an old Weiand intake I had. I've got a Barry Grant 700 double pumper that I'll put on it also.





        Been looking at a 700R4 overdrive trans for a couple years now. Planned to put it in my '69 Suburban, but it never went in. Now it's going behind the 350 and in this build. It came from a guy's '55 Chevy who converted to a manual trans, and has been fully rebuilt, and the case polished.
        Swapping in a 8.8" Ford limited slip with 3.73 gears in the back. There's a 9" in the coupe now, but it's 3.08 open diff. and I've already got the 8.8" sitting here, so it's cheaper, and better for this build.

        The coupe is a Master Deluxe, so it got the old cast iron control arms, and knee action shocks. So it's coming out, and I'm swapping in a Chevy pickup front axle. Also swapping in a disc brake kit on the axle to make it stop better. Drilling a few holes in the I beam, just for fun, and looks.



        So that's about it for the last 4 months of spare time. I suspect it will be another year to get to driving, and maybe another year after that to complete bodywork, paint, and interior.










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        • #5

          Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

          my dad has a 37 Coupe shell in front of his barn - you'll feel better about your purchase if you see his.... that said, he'll be stoked to hear you took this on
          Thanks! The '63 Falcon that he sold me the engine for went away. Needed the space, and funds to make this coupe project happen! Was kinda sad to see the Falcon gasser go, but I am happy to have built it, and happy to have another pre WWII Chevy coupe.

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          • #6

            Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

            my dad still has his shop running - it's good to have options. I wish I had a power shear (rather then my jump shear), but it is nice to have bending capability in my own walls.

            I know about this rust repair stuff, I'm about to embark on a bunch on my 64 Buick wagon (that I had no intention of buying).... worse part is that no one makes panels for it... okay, one company but the extensions were so cobbled that I will simply do it myself ....
            Last edited by SuperBuickGuy; September 5th, 2019, 04:08 PM.
            Doing it all wrong since 1966

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            • #7

              Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

              Oh, and here's another little tidbit I found. The coupe had no grille, and nice grilles are well over $1,000! Yikes! So I figured I might be OK with a painted grille since I have the polished stainless trim, surround, and center bar. I found two grille halves at Old Car Parts, and Joe sold them to me for $125. He tossed in a 3rd half that was kinda junky also. My plan was to make one good grille from the three.
              The two halves had the bottom 3 bars bent up, and rotted out; just like the body! So I cut the bottom three bars off, and cut three donor bars for each half off the spare half grille. I cut off the donors along with the wide edge piece to make welding them in easier. Once I cut them down to fit, I took them to a guy who has a tig welder. I only have a Mig, and these were too delicate for it to weld.





              He tig welded the donor pieces in, and I'll sand it down, and put a thin coat of All-Metal filler on places that need some help. Then I'll pick a color and paint it before adding the stainless trim.






              24 bolts holding in this front suspension! I removed all except the last 4 bolts. My disc brake kit arrives tomorrow, and I'll begin the front suspension then. This old suspension goes to Old Car Parts for trade credit towards parts I need. He's given me a lot of parts credit for all my spares.



              Oh! Almost forgot this! I had the mobile tire guy come by and mount up my tires and wheels. Way too soon yet, but had to buy when the sake was great! $1,000 for 4 new old style as cast American Torq Thrusts, with caps and lugs, AND 4 new tires. Two 9" pie crust cheater slicks, and two 45,000 mile front runners.






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              • #8

                Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

                my dad still has his shop running - it's good to have options. I wish I had a power shear (rather then my jump shear), but it is nice to have bending capability in my own walls.

                I know about this rust repair stuff, I'm about to embark on a bunch on my 64 Buick wagon (that I had no intention of buying).... worse part is that no one makes panels for it... okay, one company but the extensions were so cobbled that I will simply do it myself ....
                Heck the guy I use for sheet metal still uses a old jump shear too! I have electric shears that work great, but it's tough to cut a perfectly straight line with them. So if it needs to be very straight I run over to his shop and he shears the pieces for me. Last trip was a bunch of sheared pieces, plus bending up the rockers, and he charged a whopping $10. So he's always very good to me.
                SuperBuickGuy likes this.

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                • #9

                  Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

                  Good start.
                  Ed, Mary, & 'Earl'
                  HRPT LongHaulers, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19.


                  Inside every old person is a young person wondering, "what the hell happened?"

                  The man at the top of the mountain didn't fall there. -Vince Lombardi

                  Comment


                  • #10

                    Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

                    Iím in for this one. Color me entranced.
                    Of all the paths you take in life - make sure a few of them are dirt.

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                    • #11

                      Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

                      Sounds like you been busy, Vall!
                      So happy you kept Mousetrap! It is a nice car!

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                      • #12

                        Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

                        Sounds like you been busy, Vall!
                        So happy you kept Mousetrap! It is a nice car!
                        The Austin can't ever go away. My 20 year old granddaughter has claimed dibs on it, so it will be hers when I'm gone.



                        I haven't been as busy with this build as I was with the Falcon or the Austin. I finished the Falcon in 3 months, and the Austin in 6 months. But I had more energy then, and didn't mind working 8-10 hrs. a day, 7 days a week! Now I work 4-5 hrs. a day, 2-3 days a week.
                        And this level and amount of rust repair was way above my previous undertakings. The Austin was rust free when I bought it, and the Falcon had less than a day's work to repair the minor rust issues.

                        Half of my disc brake kit came yesterday. Just the rotors/hubs, and the rest is supposed to arrive today. New U bolts tomorrow. So hopefully by Sunday I can pull the front suspension, and begin mocking up the dropped axle.
                        Russell and Deaf Bob like this.

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                        • #13

                          Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

                          I've been building this '35 Plymouth for my neighbor at the same time. Started this in January, and I'm restricting his car to one day a week! Don't want it to interfere with my build too much! We did a frame off on it. Built up the chassis with coilovers all around, dropped chrome tube axle, and a 8.8" Ford 4.10 rear. Four wheels disc brakes, 383 SBC stroker, and Super T10 four speed.











                          Teddyzee likes this.

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                          • #14

                            Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

                            My neighbor with the '35 Plymouth called to tell me he was putting some scrap metal out to be picked up, and I might want to look at it before it's gone. So I walked over and took a peek, just in case something might be worth saving for my '39.
                            Sitting on top of his pile were a pair of trunk lid struts with brackets. I asked what they came off, and he told me his brother's 1995 Z28 Camaro hatch. So I figured since they seemed new, they might work to hold my fiberglass trunk lid open! Grabbed them and took them home to my shop.
                            I test fitted them sort of by holding them up to the location of the original trunk lid supports, and seemed like they were pretty close to what I needed. The one end used a 7/16" NC pivot ball stud, and the other used a mounting plate. So I drilled out the top 5/16" hole on my '39 and tapped it to 7/16" thread. Then propped the trunk lid open and measured about 26.5" from the top edge, down to where it should mount. Drilled and tapped two holes per side, plus two smaller holes for the alignment pins. Bolted it on and closed the trunk lid!
                            It works perfectly, and no more lifting the trunk lid, or holding it back as I lower it either. The struts do all the work, and make it an easy operation both directions! Love free stuff that works out!







                            Ran into yet another stumbling block with the late model SBC engine! I am really clueless about these post 1986 engines, so didn't realize the seller had left the one piece rear main seal housing off the engine! My new pan came today, and I ran out to the shop to test fit it. Set it on the block and the last holes in the rear had no place to bolt too!!! I drilled for my handle now also, so I have a way to lift the trunk lid. Ground out two small cracks on the edge of the fiberglass trunk lid, and smeared some Duraglass into the opened up areas too. So it's ready to finish once I get the inside of the trunk latch setup built, and installed later.
                            I began looking at the back, and realized something was missing. Went in to my computer and searched for "rear main seal housing SBC" and up pops images of a bolt on housing for the rear of the engine. So back to the internet and found one on Ebay for $10 and ordered it. Nickels and dimes, but the irritating part is waiting again to get it assembled. Guess I'll know these later SBC engines by the time I'm finished!
                            Last edited by 1946Austin; September 6th, 2019, 03:42 PM.
                            STINEY and like this.

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                            • #15

                              Re: 1939 Chevy coupe

                              nice
                              Doing it all wrong since 1966

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