Any car enthusiast will tell you that a project car is never truly "finished." There's always more to do on a vintage vehicle, whether it's basic maintenance and detailing, occasional mechanical and aesthetic upgrades, or a complete facelift every few years. Such is the case with the Tri-five chassis in our "Framing a Classic" series. While it's not really appropriate to call it finished (it doesn't even have an engine or transmission, much less a body), we will be wrapping up the story series with this installment. Our goal all along was to transform our once-bare frame into a complete rolling chassis, and with the addition of wheels and tires (plus a set of brake lines), we feel we've reached it.
Before discussing the particulars of our latest updates, let's review some highlights of the build-up so far. Starting with a used '55 Chevy sedan frame from John Chambers Vintage Chevrolet, we've assembled a real-world, street-worthy chassis that should provide a solid foundation for a modern Tri-five street machine. The frame has been improved and strengthened with new transmission and rear shock crossmembers from Williams Classic Chassis Works, and protected with powdercoating by RTS. The Camaro 10-bolt rearend has been upgraded with a limited-slip unit and new internals from DriveTrain Direct, and rides on lowered leaf springs from Mike McGaughy's Classic Chevy. The new 605 power steering box also came from McGaughy's, while Heidt's Hot Rod Shop gave our front suspension a lower stance, better stopping, and plenty of flash with dropped spindles, lowered coil springs, disc brakes, and polished stainless steel tubular A-arms.
Considering some of the trick upgrades we've made to our chassis, our choice of rolling stock may seem a little old school. After all, the street machine scene these days is filled with big billet wheels and low-profile rubber, not wide whites and chrome steel. But we had several reasons for selecting the combination of Coker Classic wide whitewall radials and Wheel Vintiques Smoothie wheels for our Tri-five. First, it's something different, which should help the finished car stand out in a crowd. Second, we've always liked the classic custom look on Tri-fives, and we envision a finished car that looks like it rolled out of the cruise night scene from the late '50s. And finally, we wanted to prove that you could build a chassis that would provide a modern stance and road manners, while still having a classic, vintage appearance.
With that said, let's take a closer look at the wheel and tire package. The Coker Classic wide whitewall radials from Coker Tire combine a nostalgic look with the superior handling and performance of modern radials. While they probably won't win any performance tests on a slalom course, they do feature an all-season tread design with polyester cord and steel belts, which should make them perfect for around-town or highway cruising. As for sizing, we stayed fairly conservative (considering our stock-width rearend, stock-location leaf springs, and low stance) and ordered 205/75R15s (front) and 215/75R15s, which we had mounted on 15x6- and 15x7-inch Wheel Vintiques Smoothie chrome wheels. As a dealer for Wheel Vintiques, Coker was able to supply us with both the tires and wheels, and they made our lives easy by mounting and balancing them (a free service on certain tire and wheel combinations). For that perfect finishing touch, Coker also sent a set of '55/'56-style Chevy center caps.
One other task we decided to tackle for this segment was routing the brake lines. We called on Classic Tube for help with this, but instead of ordering one of the company's pre-bent stainless steel brake line kits, we opted to order straight stainless steel line that we could bend and flare ourselves. This allowed us to route the lines the way we wanted, which included running the main rear brake line down the left frame rail, rather than the factory method of routing it across the crossmember and down the right rail. We used Kugel Komponents' stainless steel line clamps to secure the brake lines, and routed them to a proportioning valve from Classic Performance Products (which was mounted to the steering box using a bracket from Williams CCW). Danchuk helped us out once again by supplying the necessary little parts, like the rubber brake hose leading to the rearend housing, the brass junction block for the rearend, and the necessary brake hose-to-bracket clips.
Now that we've reviewed the series and outlined our finishing touches, let's take a look at how those last-minute details came together and got our chassis up and rolling. As we said before, this is the last of our "Framing a Classic" series, but don't think for a minute that the chassis is going away. We plan to bring you updates in future issues of Super Chevy as we outfit the chassis with an engine and transmission (we're envisioning a RamJet 350 and overdrive automatic, or possibly a stroker small-block decked out in vintage-style dress-up goodies). And one of these days we may even find a body that will help turn this trick chassis into a bona fide classic cruiser!
Bending and routing hard brake lines may seem like an easy task, but making it all look nice and tidy is an acquired skill that takes plenty of patience. The job is certainly easier when you don't have obstacles like an engine, transmission, or body panels to work around, which is one of the reasons we chose to do it now. (Of course, without the engine or body in place, it can be difficult to know if you're going to run into clearance problems later on.) Armed with a simple Snap-On tubing bender, a flaring tool, and our bare hands, we were able to get the job done and route the lines in a reasonably attractive fashion, but it did take more time than we anticipated. The following is a brief synopsis of the tools and techniques we used to form and flare the tubing.