Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | January 13, 2014


Every once in a while a conversation with friends over a beer will lead to automotive enlightenment.  Such was the case a couple of days ago when the subject of the recent advances in automotive parking technology came up.

One of our threesome stated that such technical wizardry was nothing new.  He  informed us that a system was devised in the ’50s that did much the same.  Being the self proclaimed car expert in the group, I doubted the authenticity of his memory, but decided to look it up on my i-phone.

Like they say, if it’s on the internet, it has to be true.  So, sure enough, here it is.  Enjoy.

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | January 4, 2014


I recently received a contact that suggested that I might be the owner of a Camaro Pace Car that was previously owned and restored by a fellow from the Philadelphia area.  Frank, the individual making the contact, suggested I check the vin number that he had supplied in his email.  It was an exciting possibility, so I immediately checked, and, much to my satisfaction, THE VIN NUMBER MATCHED!   Car collectors are always interested in discovering the history of their cars, and Frank had potentially given me that opportunity.

In my response to Frank, I clearly indicated how happy I was to hear from him and how much I wanted to talk further.  Frank’s response was equally enthusiastic, and he expressed a willingness to tell me all about the car.  He not only seemed like a good guy, but, also, a knowledgeable Pace Car afficianado.  This was going to be fun!

One unique feature of my Pace Car is that it has a column shift.  Most Pace Cars were ordered with a console, so column shift cars are very rare.  Frank found this website by every so often searching for 1969 Pace Car with a column shifter.  Eventually he found mine.

Frank bought the car in 1981 and owned/restored it over a twenty year period.  The car was originally sold in South Dakota.  The owner prior to Frank had owned it for five years.   When Frank bought the car, it was sitting outside, in primer, surrounded by overgrown weeds.  Clearly, it was in need of significant restoration.


The Camaro that Frank purchased in 1981 was vastly different than the current one.  It’s twelve year life had left it in primer, in a field, exposed to the elements, and in need of a lot of work.  Fortunately the car still had it’s original drive train, interior and body panels.  However, the interior was badly worn and the body exhibited a significant amount of rust.


Frank began by replacing the floor pans and finding a donor car for replacement of the doors.  The fenders, rear quarter panels and trunk are GM replacement parts purchased from the local Chevy dealer.  It took four replacement cowl induction hoods to find one that fit Frank’s exacting specifications.  The original rear spoiler was reused, and a new trunk floor was welded into place.  When removing the spoiler from the original trunk lid, the original Hugger Orange stripes were exposed which allowed Frank to eventually duplicate their correct size and location on the restored car.

Frank cleaned the underside of the car and painted it chassis black.  He was also able to find the original build sheet under the rear seat.  The build sheet is a document that follows the car down the line and tells the assembly line workers what options to put on the car.  It is a great way to verify a car’s authenticity.  According to Frank, although he was able to find the build sheet, it was badly deteriorated and unable to be saved.


It was time to move on to the mechanical aspects of the restoration.


The car’s drivetrain was as it came from the factory in April of 1969, but showed the effects of twelve years of driving.  The engine was torn down, inspected, pistons replaced, the rear seal replaced, and the valve seats hardened.  The engine was then carefully examined and reassembled.

The original Turbo-Hydromatic 350 transmission was removed, inspected, and found to be in good shape, and the original linkage was replaced.  The original twelve bolt Positraction rear end was also checked and found to be fine.  The rear 3.55 gear ratio was verified.

The Pace Cars all came with cowl induction hoods.  The cowl induction principle took advantage of the increased air pressure at the base of the windshield (cowl) that allowed a greater volume of air to reach the carburetor through a raised opening in the back of the hood.  The cowl induction package increased the 350’s horsepower from 295 to 300.  A solenoid operated flapper opened to allow the higher pressure air to enter when the accelerator pedal was floored.  During restoration, Frank replaced the flapper and repaired its operation.  The sound of air rushing into a cowl induction hood when the go pedal meets the floor is music to any Chevy guy’s ears.

Frank stripped any old paint, primed the car, and then added a base coat of original Dover White paint.  He then added the Hugger Orange Z-28 style stripes (the Pace Car is the only non-Z28 Camaro to have the factory dual stripes), and then clear coated the car.


The interior required significant work including new seat cushions and covers, carpeting, and dash rehab and repair.  New door panels were installed along with a new white convertible top.  Frank was also able to find an original Delco AM radio just like the one that came from the factory.  The radio still works great.



We all have fond memories of our old cars, and Frank’s experiences when the Pace Car restoration was completed should bring back some of our own.

He took the Pace Car to the Camaro Nationals and waited in line while the judges approached his car.  While waiting his turn, Frank watched judges discussing the authenticity of a firewall grommet in a car three or four before his.   The experience turned him off to the process but didn’t keep him from eventually getting the car certified by the Pace Car Registry.

Frank called his car a “chick magnet” and frequently filled his car with friends and headed for the Jersey shore.  He was also a participant in an occasional stop light drag race.  In one instance he was leading a competitor heading into a curve in the road.  With competitive juices flowing, he refused to back off and hit the curb at high speed.  The impact launched his passenger out of his seat and caused his knees to dent the glove compartment door.  I have been temped every once in a while to straighten the door, bit it won’t happen now.  The story is too good.

While he owned the car, Frank had many offers to buy it.  He rejected them until 2001.  By that time his interests had gravitated to street rods, and he had found someone in Wisconsin who wanted to trade a street rod for the Pace Car.  Frank drove the car to Ohio and met the street rod owner for the trade.

I bought the Pace Car from the Wisconsin owner and drove it home.  Ironically, it’s probably now located pretty close to where Frank traded for the street rod.

Since I have owned the car, it has needed little.  With the help of a good friend, we rehabbed the vacuum headlight door system and got the headlight washers operating again.  Because they were chipped, I had the rocker panels and front valence stripped and repainted.   I also spruced up the instrument panel and engine compartment and cleaned the interior.

I have also been tempted to add a console and move the shifter to the floor.  I won’t be doing that now for two reasons.  The fact that the rarity of the column shift brought the previous owner to me is the first reason.  Secondly, a photo of the car’s interior appears on page 138 of a book entitled “The 1969 Camaro Reference Book.”  I wouldn’t want to make a liar out of the book’s author.

The entire experience of talking to Frank about the car has been a lot of fun.  His enthusiastic retelling of the Camaro’s story was not only informative but contagious.  I can’t wait to get it out next spring!

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | April 28, 2013


Since the cars and other garage memorabilia are testaments to good times past, I decided some time ago to look for an old Eco air meter. The Eco units were fondly remembered as useful ways to fill bicycle (and later, car) tires. You simply dialed in the desired air pressure and put air into the tire until the bell stopped ringing.  They were easy to use and generally pretty accurate.

After searching auctions, Craig’s List, and local ads, I bought a pedestal model on Ebay.  The meter arrived in decent shape and ready for restoration.

After removing the two piece shell, I was happy to find the internal mechanism in apparent good condition, at least from a visual perspective.  When tested, however, air passed through the meter in both the on and off positions, and the pulsing action with accompanying bell sound was not functioning.  A couple of hours at my buddy Rick’s house and a good lubrication of the internal mechanism got the meter working perfectly.

The shell and frame needed a clean up and painting, and the glass and trim needed replacing.  The pedestal also needed painting, and the light unit inside the meter needed repair.  Fortunately all of the cosmetic work was within my capabilities.


Front view of the internal mechanism.


Rear view of the internal mechanism.

I started by sand blasting areas that showed thin or missing paint on the outside surfaces and minor rusted portions on the inside of the shell.  I then stripped the paint on the frame  and primed it.  Final prep included sanding and priming the pedestal and base plate.

My intent was to keep the Shell color combination of red and yellow that had been used on the restored gas pump that already resided in the garage.  Fortunately I still had paint left  from the pump, and I was able to spray it onto the air meter in pretty good fashion.  After wet sanding and clear coating, the painted parts looked great.

The meter came with a lighted face, so I replaced the socket and drilled a hole into the side of the pedestal where I installed a toggle switch to control the operation of the light.  I then ordered new glass and chromed parts from Gas Pump Station, and replaced any rusted fasteners with new ones. I also applied new numerals to the pressure dials and added a new face plate.  The final step involved assembling everything.  Fortunately it all went back together with very few “field modifications” required.

I decided to install the finished unit on the checkered portion of the garage floor, so I built a base and matched the black and white floor pattern.  I then ran an air supply hose and power cord through a three quarter inch pvc pipe to the compressor and power source on the other side of the lift. Before installing the conduit, I had “tested” it’s ability to avoid crushing by driving back and forth across it.  The pipe survived with no apparent damage.

imageAlmost ready.

All in all the air meter turned out well.  With any luck the grand kids will find the same enjoyment filling their bike tires that I did when I was their age.

imageStanding tall.

imageReady for service.

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | April 26, 2013


Purchasing the Gamewell fire box led to an unexpected pleasure.  While making arrangements to pick it up in Charlotte, NC, the seller suggested it would be worth my wife and I taking a short side trip to look at Uncle Dallas’ collection of pedal cars and memorabilia.  He promised that we wouldn’t be disappointed.  We decided to take him up on the offer.

Uncle Dallas and his wife Helen were awaiting our arrival as we pulled up next to an unattached garage adjacent to their house.  It was clear from the first few moments that these two genuinely nice folks had a passion for collecting.  We immediately felt comfortable in their company.

Dallas opened the tour with a walk through the garage that featured numerous automotive memorabilia on the walls, a large display of model cars, a beautiful Cushman scooter, a restored pedal car with working head lights, and three or four other pedal cars. Although the pedal cars were very nicely done, there were only a few of them. There has to be more than these based on the description we had been given.  Patience would be well rewarded.


Dallas is rightfully proud of all of his collectibles, but he has a special place for his restored bright yellow 1939 Ford convertible.  The car is a street rod  that has a family history and many touring miles and awards under its hood.  Dallas explained that a lot of the paint and body work was done by a fellow at nearby NASCAR famous Hendrick Motorsports.  The paint, engine compartment and interior were immaculate and belied the fact that he had put more than a hundred thousand miles on the odometer.  Magazine covers and articles featuring the car where proudly displayed on the garage walls.  The car was deserving of the attention it had received.


Dallas and his wife then escorted us to a small building toward the back of his property that he had made into an old-fashioned general store.  On the covered front porch stood two rocking chairs and inside awaited a G Scale model train that ran around the ceiling, a corn husking machine, lockable mail cubicles, a counter with a cash register, an old wall mounted telephone and countless other smaller items that one would expect to find lining the selves in an old local store.

Stocked shelves.

As we left the store we relaxed for a short time in the rocking chairs on the front porch and enjoyed Dallas’ reminiscing about the history of items in his collection.

Passing time.

Passing time.

Walking back toward the garage, we passed a restored circa 1950’s gas station island.  On the raised concrete island, Dallas had mounted two gas pumps, an air meter, an oil can rack and a large overhead Texaco gas sign.  When I asked Dallas if it all worked, his response was, “Everything works.”  I would ask that same question as we continued our tour only to get the same answer.  After a while even I figured out that there was no need to ask again.


While still wondering where all the pedal cars were, Dallas directed us toward a large enclosed auto transport trailer.  As he pulled down the rear ramp, it became clear that the trailer was the home to his collection of pedal cars.  Neatly arranged three shelves high on each side and the end of the trailer were probably forty or so beautifully restored vintage pedal cars.  As Dallas led us through the trailer he described the restoration process on some of his special projects.  He explained that restoring the small cars was very much like the restoration of a full size vehicle.  It required pounding out dents, patching bodywork, finding parts, re-chroming trim, painting and pin striping.

Restored pedal cars.

Restored pedal cars.

The collection included not only cars, but also an airplane, fire trucks,a train engine, a boat and a replica Cadillac called Kidillac.  Under each vehicle was a small sign that identified it.  The trailer had been a mobile pedal car museum that had been enjoyed by many over the years. Dallas added that the value of the cars ranged as high as $30,000.  And, not to be reminded, every one of them worked as originally designed.


It’s hard to imagine the hours that went into restoring the miniature cars in the trailer.  Dallas’ excitement when describing some of the extraordinary samples was as enjoyable as the cars themselves.


It never ceases to amaze me as to what people have in their garages and back yards.  We considered ourselves lucky to have had the pleasure of spending a morning enjoying the treasures found at the home of Helen and Dallas.

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | April 22, 2013


I’m always keeping my eyes open for old things that add to the “ambiance” of the garage.  While looking for an air meter, I accidentally came upon a restored Gamewell fire box on Craigs List.  I didn’t know much about the old fire boxes, but this one looked good and I thought it would be a good fit in the garage.  After calling the owner in Charlotte, NC, we settled on a price.

While talking to the seller, he told an interesting story about his wife ‘s uncle and the uncle’s collection of restored pedal cars.  He convinced us that it would be worth our while to visit the collection when we picked up the alarm.  He was right.  The tour of Uncle Dallas’ memorabilia and pedal cars was well worth the time.  Details and photos of the tour will follow soon in a future posting.

The Gamewell Company is the oldest fire alarm company in the world.  The first Gamewell system was installed in Boston in 1851, and was used to report a fire in 1852.  Since its founding, Gamewell has been a leader in the fire safety industry.  My fire box is circa 1924.

My intent was to add a bell and light and make the alarm operate as originally designed.  It was soon obvious that making the fire box operational was going to be more complex than my limited electrical background would allow.  So a call to Ken, a fellow Corvette buddy, resulted in a combination of a transformer, relay, resistors, and transistors that allowed the box, light and bell to loudly and brightly announce itself as location 452.  Ken had done an excellent job.  A wiring schematic follows.

Circuit Diagram

Circuit Diagram

I decided to mount the unit on one of the lift posts.  I made a backing board and shelf, painted them black, and attached the fire box, bell, and caged red light.  The transformer and “black box” control unit were attached out of sight to the back of the mounting board.

To operate the alarm, one opens the small white cover door and pulls down on the actuating switch.  The fire box then goes through four-452 cycles alerting the fire station that there is a fire at that location.  Inside the box is a knob to rewind the mechanical mechanism and a telegraph key with an attached small bell.  The key is for the arriving firefighters to inform the station of on-site status and any additional needs.

Internal Mechanism

Internal Mechanism

Thanks to Ken, the Gamewell Fire Box operates as intended and has become a highlight of the garage.  I never get tired of watching and listening to it announce a “fire” at location 452.

Completed Installation

Completed Installation

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | January 18, 2013


My first new car was a 1968 Camaro, and I’ve decided to spend the winter restoring one to it’s original splendor.  Although my talents are somewhat limited, if you would like to follow my progress, please click on the 68 Camaro page and enjoy.

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | September 27, 2012


I am frequently asked how it is that I can store seven Chevys in a three car garage. I’ve explained it verbally.  I’ve drawn it on the back of napkins.  I’ve even used knives, forks and plates to show how it’s done. No method has left the questioner fully satisfied.  There’s always that look of, “Well, I guess I get it.”

I finally decided that the best way to show how it’s done is to create a video.  With the very considerable help of others who are much more capable than me, we put one together.

For any of you who may be wondering how anyone could (or would want to) store seven cars in a three car garage, click below.

Note: Some have questioned the depth of the garage.  It is a standard residential attached garage and measures 21 feet, 10 inches from back wall to inside of closed garage door for all three bays.  There is an angle between doors one and two.

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | August 9, 2012

The ’31 Chevy Overheating Problems Are Back

Just when things were going well, a few problems cropped up on the ’31 Chevy.  Early this summer it had periods of sputtering, rough running and stalling and the overheating problem was back.  We first attacked the rough running and stalling.

Knowing that spark and/or fuel would be logical places to look we began there.  We disconnected the fuel line at the fuel pump and blew  compressed air back to the tank.  As hoped, bubbles appeared in the tank.  To double check we pressurized the tank and got a good steady flow of fuel to the pump.  We verified the pump was operating properly by disconnecting the fuel line at the carburetor and noticing good fuel flow from the pump into a cup.

Pulling a spark plug wire and cranking the engine yielded a weak spark at best when grounded to the block.  We checked the points (operating properly) and changed the coil.  Still no improvement.  When tracing the wiring back to the starter we noticed a lose connection at the starter switch.  Tightening the connection solved the problem.  I can only wish we had seen that problem early on and saved a lot of time.

Even though the engine was running fine, it was still overheating.  I removed the radiator and had it cleaned.  I was told that the radiator had been notably plugged with rust, but had cleaned up well.  It was also suggested that putting the radiator back without correcting the source of the rust would only invite future problems.

A call to The Filling Station for advice suggested removing the water pump and baffle and checking for rust.  If rust was present behind the baffle it would be necessary to take the head off and clean the water passages.  I could only hope that there was no rust, but that was not to be.  Significant rust in the area behind the baffle was clearly evident.

I called my good buddy Rick and we went to work.  We removed the intake/exhaust manifold, the head, side plate, and the push rods.  The head and valves looked good, but it was obvious that there was rust around the cylinder walls in the water passages.

Rick made a small valved water nozzle and a similar air nozzle and we flushed air and water through the block and out the water pump opening and freeze plug holes.  We also used a small telescoping magnet to remove iron particles left after flushing.  The flushing and magnet operations were lengthy as every time we thought we had removed pretty much everything, the magnet only produced more rust.  Finally we were satisfied with the level of cleanliness in the cooling system.  The following photo shows the rust removed by the magnet.  Probably a similar amount was removed by flushing.  The rust appeared similar to coffee grounds.

Rust from engine

Rust From Engine

We reassembled the engine with all new gaskets and the proper bolt torque settings supplied from The Filling Station.  I changed the oil using a recommended non-detergent brand and we started her up.  She ran great and much cooler than before.  The new exhaust manifold gasket had also solved an exhaust leakage issue and helped the engine run quieter.

After satisfying ourselves that things were much improved, the car was taken to a large local car show and received an award for “Best of Show.”  It was a satisfying reward for more than a few hours of labor.

Reassembled engine

Reassembled Engine

Looking (and Running) Good

Looking (and Running) Good

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | March 4, 2012

Chevy Memories

The cars we grew up with will always hold a special place in our memories. I’ve included a few links that have meaning to those of us who spent cherished time in our dad’s Chevy.

The first is a true story of a son’s hunt for his dad’s 1965 Impala Super Sport. Dad’s reaction to seeing the car will bring tears to any 60ish Chevy guy.

The second is a tribute to Chevy’s first hundred years.

And, the final is Dinah Shore singing the memorable “See the USA in Your Chevrolet” commercial from the ’50s.

Hope you enjoy.

Posted by: Phil's Classic Chevys | February 20, 2012

Determining the Value of the 1957 Bel Air Convertible – Part Three, Final Value

After determining the relative condition of the Bel Air and researching price guides, we have determined a range for the value of the car from $67,115 to $86,100.  To verify the range and to reach a final number, it is necessary to examine recent auctions and reputable classic car sales websites.

Two of the largest and most recognizable auction companies are Barrett-Jackson and Mecum.  Information on the sale price of cars at both auctions can be researched at their web sites. Barrett-Jackson’s listed sales prices include a ten percent commission.  Although it’s an amount added to the gavel price, and argument can be made that it still represents the actual price the buyer paid for the car.

Researching Barrett-Jackson’s site for similar cars (eight total) in the same relative condition as the Bel Air (some worse, some better) produced a range $51,700 to $123,300.  Recognizing the low and high numbers represented a bit of an annomally, removing them from consideration showed a more reasonable range of $62,700 to $90,200 with a median value of $75,100.

Performing the same analysis on information from Mecum auctions gave a range of $54,000 to $97,000 and a median of $70,000.

When choosing sales web sites I decided to use Hemmings Motor News (probably the oldest and most respected publication) and Autabuy.

The asking price for comparable 1957 Bel Air Convertibles for sale on Hemmings ranged from $75,000 to $100,000, with a median of $88,000.  Recognizing that asking price is usually negotiated downward by a potential buyer, I decided a more realistic actual sale price would be about ten percent less or $79,200.

Autabuy research showed asking prices ranging from $59,100 to $100,000 with a median of $80,000.  Using the same ten percent reduction from asking to negotiated price yields a median of $72,000.

So, in summary we have the following:

Range of values based on pricing sources:  $67,115 to $86,100.

Barrett-Jackson:                                                                $75,100

Mecum:                                                                               $70,000

Hemmings:                                                                         $79,200

Auta Buy:                                                                            $72,000

The auction and web site values fit nicely within the range and generally verify the price guide determinations.

After all is said and done, the value of the 1957 Bel Air Convertible should objectively be placed at $77,500.  It also seems right from a gut feeling point-of-view, and, in reality, that’s the final check.

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