When resurrecting a vintage car, it's important to have a well thought out game plan. A thorough examination of the car from top to bottom will determine its needs and help determine just where to get started. In the case of Steve McDonough's '56, which you saw in our 2008 issue of Chevy Classics, it was rescued from its past life as a poorly constructed '80s-era Pro Street car and given a chance for a rebirth into the Pro Touring world.
With the talented team at Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, having completed the installation of a new trunk and stretched wheelwells, it was time to concentrate on the installation of a new one-piece steel floorpan from Harmon's. The new pan from Harmon's is constructed from heavy weight steel and is the perfect piece to tie the car back together to regain its original rock-solid feel.
Separating a car from its chassis is a major undertaking. Peter Newell and his team at Competition Specialties are veterans at this type of surgery and we followed along as they began the process. In preparing to drop the chassis, the team began by draining and disconnecting all fluid lines, including those for cooling and heating, fuel, braking, and transmission. From there it was on to wiring, making sure harnesses for the engine and lighting were all disconnected, as well as the ground straps and battery cables.
Moving on, the team then addressed the steering column, throttle, emergency brake, speedometer cable, and shift linkage. The final steps included removing the front and rear bumpers, front wheelhouse lower splash pans, and breaking free the body mount bolts from the chassis. Once steps were completed and with all team members keeping a watchful eye at each corner of the car, the body was removed from the chassis using a lift. After separation, the tired old Pro Street chassis was rolled out and the team began evaluating the removal of the original floorpan.
Peter used a bright yellow Markal B paint stick to create a visual path to follow once the Sawzall got fired up. Before starting, it was important that both the floorpan and the body were securely braced while on the lift. This would eliminate any potential accident, or flexing of the body when the support structure was taken away during the procedure. Once pilot holes were drilled to allow access for the Sawzall blade to enter the seams along the pan, the initial cutting went without a hitch.
To then remove the central pan, team members were at each corner to eliminate the support braces and lower it to the ground. Seeing that the new Harmon's pan incorporates fresh bracing and inner rockers, the removal of these areas from the original pan were then addressed. Cleaning up the mounting areas for the new pan was a snap using a disc grinder topped with an 80-grit wheel.
To test fit the pan, Peter first placed it on the new Art Morrison Tri-Five GT Sport Pro-Touring chassis shod with massive P345/25ZR20 rear tires mounted to Boze Fatal wheels. This showed that a bit of trimming would be needed in order for the combination to work. Peter carefully measured and removed 3 inches from each side of the rear of the pan, which would later be reworked and welded in again to give the area a factory-like look. With the trimming completed, the team clamped the pan to the body and lowered the body onto the new rolling chassis to ensure everything would line up perfectly, including the body to chassis mounting points.
With the green light given regarding the fit, the team separated the pan from the body one last time to pre-punch 3/16-inch holes for all spot welding points. With all metal-to-metal points ground clean with an 80-grit disc to ensure a proper welding base, the pan was secured to the body using a Lincoln Electric MIG welder. After all welding had been completed, a pass with a disc grinder cleaned up the welds and brought the job to completion. In final form, the new floorpan not only looked great, it gave the car's structure plenty of added strength and prepared it for future infusions of horsepower once the project hits the streets.