Six years ago, I was facing a very serious battle with cancer in my abdomen, and at that time we had no idea how serious things would be. While I faced radiation and chemotherapy, Jen set Finn up with friends who could watch her while she shuttled me to and from the hospital for treatment. One of the fathers of those friends knew what I was up against and offered her homemade marijuana candies to help keep my appetite up and pain levels down, and I gratefully accepted them (we only just got legal weed last year). They were a godsend when the radiation completely fucked up my digestive system and my body was expelling chemotherapy four or five times a day. I never forgot that, and I don’t remember if I ever properly said thank you. That’s been on my mind intermittently for the past year.
We found out he passed away suddenly last week, and I’m kicking myself for not having followed up on that thought.
The beginning of the week was quiet, but I put almost two full days in over the weekend.
With the glass and other stuff out of the back of the Travelall, it’s much easier to start some of the preventative maintenance I’ve wanted to do to the rear frame and crossmembers. Saturday afternoon I lifted the rear bench seat out and pulled up the plywood floor. Then I put on some ear protection, fired up the compressor and the needle scaler, and got to work. Starting from the back I took as much scale off the unpainted metal as I could find, making my way to an area over the rear axle. Then I brushed on Rust Converter to everything I’d cleared and let it sit. I started around 4 and finished when the sun was setting, so there’s still a lot more to do—and I haven’t even touched the underside yet—but it’s already looking much better under there.
Reorganizing the garage a bit, I stumbled across an extra box of weatherstripping and realized it was doing me no good here. So I put it up on Marketplace and got a pretty immediate response from a guy in Washington, who was also interested in my old brake booster until I did the research and learned it would be something like $80 to ship it out to him in Washington. So the windshield gasket is on its way to him, and the brake booster remains in the Heavy Metal corner of the garage next to the old starters, spare Dana 20, and other stuff.
A brake has been instrumental to the plans I drew up for the doors on the seat base, because I wanted to bend a quarter-inch of metal along the edges on the three sides to add structural stability and make it look better. My Harbor Freight brake is woefully unprepared to bend 18 ga. metal at the measurement I need. On Sunday I met up with Bennett over at our friend Brian’s shop to get a couple of projects done. Bennett was there to clean up the carburetor on his Hudson project as well as tinker with Heavy D, which has been sitting there for several months waiting for a windshield replacement. I was there to use the heavy-duty finger brake Brian inherited with the pole barn shop on his property.
I started messing with the brake and putting a couple of scrap pieces through it to learn how it worked and where the sweet spot was. There was only one finger clamp on it, so the first long section of metal I bent didn’t stay still and bent unevenly. I took a break, had a donut, and Bennett suggested looking around the shop for the other fingers. I found them along the back wall and installed three of the fattest I could find, then put another long test sheet through. When those results looked much better, I marked out some new metal and started bending. We had to do some creative adjustment to the brake, because the bending plate was so close to the lever plate it wouldn’t release the metal when I’d bent the second side. This involved unscrewing the plate from the bottom to release my metal, but it worked. After I got two doors bent and test-fitted, I helped Bennett mess around with Heavy D, got it started for the first time in forever, and installed a choke cable before we both headed for home.
Back at the house, I investigated how I could bend the short edge with the tools on hand. I’ve got a cheap wide vise I bought from Harbor Freight back in the day, and after some testing I realized I could bend the width I needed with that and a pair of vise-grips blocked into place, keeping the entire width of the metal on basically the same plane. After making the initial bend, I had to hammer the center sections flatter with a combination of deadblow hammer, wood blocks, and metal scraps. When I had it flat and straight, I welded the corners up, cleaned them up with the flap disc, and trimmed the length of each to allow for the width of the hinge knuckles.
When those were in place, I tacked the hinges in place and test fit the doors; all my cuts looked good. So I flipped the hinges, cut some tack holes in the doors, and welded those into place. If I had to do it over again, I’d have put the weld on the underside, but I think it looks pretty good either way.
So the doors are in place, and next I need to cut and install a pair of stops opposite the hinge side for the doors to sit on. I’m going to wait until the locks come in next week so that I can design around those. I was originally going to cap off that gap in the middle, but now I’m considering adding a plate underneath to make it a shallow tool well to utilize some dead space.
The other thing I spent a bunch of time looking for last week was a hinge of the proper size for mounting the seat to the box. The hinges on the seat base are beefy; the pin is 3/8″ in diameter and the knuckles are thick. I found a lot of hinges with the right pin size but nothing with a leaf the proper length—the interlocking sections of the hinge I’ve got are 1.5″ wide, and most industrial hinges I’ve found with that pin size are only 1″. While I was at Brian’s, I was looking at his scrap pile and found a beefy hinge with a 3/8″ pin and a 2″x2″ leaf—exactly what I had been looking for. I texted Brian about it and he told me to take it with me.
Monday I had off for Columbus Day, so I got back outside and kept rolling. First I cut two hinges down to the right size, trimmed the knuckle widths, and test fit them on the box. When I liked what I saw, I tacked them in and fit them to the seat. With that confirmation I burned them both into place and cleaned up the welds. The plates will get two bolts through the square tube for extra structural support, but I like where things are sitting (literally) now.
Then I got out the needle scaler and wire wheel and continued working on the chassis while I had the rear floor out. Before finishing up for the day, I brushed on some Rust Encapsulator. I’ll finish coat it with chassis black when it’s all ready, but there’s a lot more to go.
Meanwhile, I’ve tried removing old upholstery adhesive on the vertical surfaces with every chemical I can think of and a rubber eraser wheel with no success. Frustrated, I tried a small patch with the wire wheel and found that with a very light touch I could get most of the old crust off without going through the paint to metal—there are a few places where the paint is very light—but it mostly came off with little damage. I was always going to respray the inside anyway, so I’m not worried about patchy areas. It’s nice to have that stuff cleaned up, for sure. I’m going to see if Hobo Freight sells a plastic bristle wheel for an angle grinder and see if that’s more gentle on the paint.
Saturday morning, the family rose early and walked down the street to help sort and assemble boxes of foot for two local food pantries. We’ve done this for a couple of years now, and we’re getting to be pros at it; this year’s date was a month or so early, so the amount of food donated wasn’t as large as we were used to. But we all pitched in and made ourselves as useful as possible. At events like this, with decentralized leadership, we’ve found it’s always best to stand back and let someone else explain how things are going to work and what needs to be done, and I think we’re all very good at staying out of the way but pitching in where needed.
We walked back home, let the dog out, and then drove into the city for a tasty sushi lunch in my old neighborhood at the foot of Boston street. It’s boring and repetitive to write about how much things have changed down there, but it’s good to see some things are still similar. After filling ourselves on lunch I bought the girls our first PSLs of the season at the Starbucks up the street, which were…underwhelming. For $16 I was really expecting a lot more flavor. Then we drove up to my other old neighborhood and stopped in to the MICA bookstore for Finn to find some art supplies. I picked up a new watercolor pad and some window stickers to replace the one that crumbled on the Accord, and while I was there I spied a big retrospective book they produced a couple of years ago:
Thumbing back through the years I stumbled on a page about Portfolio Review day, which is (in an oft-told tale here at Lockardugan Central) where Mom and I drove down to Baltimore, I showed them my work, and was offered admission to the school on the spot. I took a picture of the page because this is exactly how I remember it—sitting on the steps in the Main Building to visit the various desks. Thankfully my friend Jeff and I had already attended a series of other Review days at Pratt and Cooper Union so we knew what to expect and how to set up our work.
On Sunday I got up and drove over to Columbia, where I met up with Scout friends and helped Bennett get the Hudson off the trailer and moving under its own power. We really didn’t have to do much, other than unstrap it and get it started; the accelerator pump is shot so it bogged down when he got on the gas, but it ran enough for us to take a few short drives up and down the lane.
Then we headed back to Bennett’s house to help demo a trellis on his back deck, which has been leaning drunkenly under the weight of a 20-year-old wisteria. We strapped it to an adjacent tree and used various power and levering instruments to remove most of the wood and stacked in in the back of his truck. Then we paused for some lunch and cold beer, and by 3PM were packing up for home. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed and we were all tucked into bed by 9:30.
My friend Bennett went out and found himself the high bidder for a 1950 Hudson Hornet at an auto auction last weekend, and asked the boys if anyone could help him get it home. I love an adventure, so I met him at his storage facility and we drove down into D.C. to pick it up. He’s got a good hauling truck and a heavy-duty trailer with a winch, so the actual recovery was pretty drama-free.
When we got it back to the storage lot, we had the first real opportunity to look it over, and realized it was very complete. Someone had pulled the original Hudson straight-6 out and put a Chevy 350 in with an automatic transmission. It was done well as far as we can tell, too—they put time and effort into the wiring, welding, and engineering. It has a new gas tank, driveshaft, and exhaust, so we figured what the hell and tried turning it over. With a new battery and some gas in the bowl of the carb, it fired right off. So we put some extra gas in the tank and kept it running long enough for the fuel pump to draw from the tank, and it idled on its own happily. Bennett tested the transmission, which appears to shift cleanly.
So this brings our record of dragging-shit-home-from-an-auction-and-getting-it-to-run to 2 for 2; the plan for next weekend is to bring a couple of guys back over and see if we can cruise it around the parking lot.
When I first posted on the Binder Planet about the red bus, I got a lot of good feedback and an offer from a nice man up in Massachussetts to come get a Traveall rear bench seat that was taking up space in his barn. Filing that away in the back of my head, I kept an eye out for seating that was closer to home, but it’s rare on the ground pretty much anywhere east of the Mississippi and north of Georgia. When I got back from Nats I reached back out to him, and a plan was hatched. He followed up with more pictures of stuff he’d dug out of his barn, including a front bench and a bunch of smaller parts. We settled on a date and a price, and I made plans to swing up there for a pickup.
I rented a 7-passenger SUV figuring I wouldn’t know how big all this stuff was, and I’d never fit it in the CR-V—plus, I wanted modern amenities and CarPlay to get me through New York City. This was probably the best decision I made on the whole trip. Hertz gave me a shiny silver Ford Explorer with three rows of seats, and it took me a couple panicked minutes before I figured out how to fold everything flat. Once we got it back to the house, I threw some tools, tarps and bags in the back and Finn and I hit the road. We were smart enough to get up and past New York City by 1PM, which put us in a strange dead area of Conneticut north of Stamford trying to find something to eat. We found a Chipolte and powered up, then got back on the road eastward.
I-95 through Conneticut is a disaster. It’s two lanes with a very picturesque view of the Sound to the south, but everyone is driving at 15 miles an hour for no visible reason for pretty much the length of the state. Once we’d gotten past New Haven it opened up a bit, but that was pretty frustrating. I’d found a cheap-ass motel in Stonington, CT over the border from Rhode Island, but when I was looking I didn’t realize its proximity to Mystic, which we had to drive through to get to our destination. We checked in to the room to find it about one step above an hourly hot-sheet truck stop, grimly left our stuff on the desk inside the door, and went back into Mystic to walk around the town.
Mystic is beautiful and quaint and filled with touristy shops selling either expensive local jewelry, expensive preppy boating clothes, expensive beachwear, or expensive gift items. Peppering the storefronts there were very busy bars and restaurants, and the streets were filled with people. We parked a few blocks off main street and walked our way back in, looking through all the stores that caught Finn’s eye. On our way back outside we heard the bell for the drawbridge ring so we walked up and watched them raise it with huge concrete counterweights to let river traffic pass. It was a beautiful place to walk off some of the road. Finn was tired at that point so we jumped back in the car and headed back to the hotel room to hang out before going to sleep. You can tell you’re in a quality establishment when the A/C is running at 65˚ but the room is still damp and smells like mildew.
Saturday morning we drove back into Mystic to get a bite of breakfast and hit the road for Rhode Island. Ray, the seller, was meeting us at a shopping center and we pulled in right behind him. We shook hands hello and loaded up the Explorer with all of the parts (surprisingly, it all fit neatly inside) and then shot the breeze for about 45 minutes. Ray is super cool and we traded IH stories for a while, then said our goodbyes so I could hit the road.
Here’s the back of the Explorer stuffed with rusty parts.
On the way back West I swung up into Mahopac and we stopped to get some lunch with my High School friend Jeff at a cafe in town. It was great to see him and catch up; that alone would have made the trip worthwhile. By 3PM the cafe was closing and I knew we had to hit the road, so we said goodbye and pointed the Ford south. With one stop in Delaware and a half an hour of heavy rain in New Jersey we made it back to the house by 8PM with a little over 900 miles added to the odometer.
I stashed it all in the garage after we got home and vacuumed out the back of the Explorer to avoid any cleaning fees. Overall the Ford was a perfect road trip vehicle; we got 29.5 MPG the whole way, and I never once had a problem with the technology or the car itself. (Five stars! Would recommend).
This is the contents of a box of parts, spread out. From top left: Two panels for the doors that go behind the main door cards. The blue rails go on the seat bases—these are the seat tracks. The two rusty gear/spring assemblies are extra hood hinges. The black geared arm at the bottom is a window scissor mechanism.
From the other box of spares, starting in the upper left: a spare rearview mirror, two short and one long door mechanisms. In the center are the ashtray for the back of the bench seat, two door lock assemblies, and the smaller red piece is a door catch. The two red L-shaped pieces bottom left are lower hinges for the barn doors, and two door lock assemblies.
This is an extra set of door cards for front and rear Travelall doors. The fronts are drilled for a set of armrests, something my truck doesn’t have. At this point I’ve now got three fronts and two rears. One full set will get bead blasted and painted the correct IH interior color.
This odd item is the platform the rear seat sits on and hinges forward from. It’s in rough shape, so I may not be able to use it. You can see how the piping is bent on the ends—I may not be able to pull that back out. That black rubberized coating is giving me PTSD flashbacks.
This is the worst part. What I’ll probably do is take measurements from this and build a newer, stronger box from square tubing, then enclose that with a hinged lid for tool storage, using this video as my inspiration.
Ray zip-tied the two seat catches to the base here—these bolt on to the wheel wells and hold the rear setback in place. I don’t have these and my truck was never drilled for them.
These are two spare rear barn door windows with used gasketry. I’m sure I could have new ones cut, but it’s great to have originals on hand instead. (The line on the left side is a reflection of our telephone wire).
Here’s where it gets interesting. These are two front bench seatbacks. The top one is complete with vinyl upholstery, but it’s disintegrating. The bottom is just the frame and springs, all in one piece. The square in the center is the mount for an ashtray, accessible to the passengers in the back seat. They’re both rusty but complete, and all the hardware is present.
This is the front bench seat bottom. Clearly the driver’s side has seen some wear. It’s torn and the foam is both swollen and disintegrating. I’ll have to replace all of that, which isn’t a huge deal.
Here’s the front and the back seat bases. Both of them are bent (Ray was apologetic) but I can use the back one for a template and I think I can straighten out the front. Again, I don’t have any of this stuff, so I’m just happy for the spares.
Here’s the rear seat, with a closeup of the material color. When I talk with Jeff J. about replacement material, I’ll have to see if he can match this pattern, because I kind of dig it. This bench is all in one piece, although it’s pretty worn; once I understand how to rebuild the front seat I’ll move on to this one. For now, I could install this in the truck as-is and it would probably work fine. The hinges and pins are present and the scissor works just fine.
While I was in Mystic I got a call from Jim at Super Scouts, who told me a bench seat he’d heard of and gone to recover was actually that of a D series; I thanked him for the info and told him about the brake distribution block. I’m still searching for a replacement, and the guys at IHPA are supposed to get back to me sometime this week. With that, I’m stalled on the mechanical stuff, so I’ll probably reorganize the garage to fit these bench seats and start cleaning up the skeleton frame for paint.
Jen and I were out walking the dog on our morning coffee route and we saw a bunch of signs in the neighborhood for an etate sale. I’m a sucker for a good estate sale, especially when there are tools to look at, so I suggested we get our coffee and go check it out. As we got closer to the gaggle of cars parked on the road, I realized it was at the house of my Scout friend Steve, who had regrettably passed on a number of years ago. Worried, we walked up the driveway and started looking over the stuff. I found one of the women running the sale and asked if his widow was OK and was relieved to hear she was fine, just cleaning out a bunch of stuff from the house.
In back up by the carriage house, his son’s Scout sat under a tarp, surrounded by tools and yard equipment. I spied a set of Scout panels and a neat bundle of chrome trim, and made a deal on it. It was all too big to carry home so we walked back and I picked up the car to head back over. While I was there I grabbed a set of Bonney box-end wrenches and a creeper, and then I spied a Straight Steer bar sitting on the floor under some other stuff. Walking back outside, Steve’s widow came out to say hello and we caught up a little bit. She mentioned he’d boxed up some other parts and she wanted to make sure they went to someone who could use them, so we traded numbers and I thanked her for coming out to say hello. I’m going to check in with Steve’s son to see if he wants any of the stuff I bought for his truck (she mentioned he’s actually considering selling it) but if not, I can definitely find someone who can use it.
The chrome trim is the big find here. They’re all in super-clean condition with only a little pitting; a soak in some Evaporust will clean up the mounting hardware on the back, and a polish will bring the shine back in the aluminum. I’ve already got two sets of fiberglas panels (one is cut to get between the hardtop and the roll bar) but this set is in fantastic shape.
Meanwhile, Jen got a call from Finn’s karate instructor, whose sister owns a Scout sitting forgotten under a tarp and who needs help getting it started. He wanted to know if it was OK for them to give me a call. They are such nice people and did such great stuff for Finn, I’d dig the truck out of a hole if they asked me to. So hopefully they’ll give me a ring sometime soon and we can see what the situation is there. I’m feeling a lot better about my skills now that I’ve revived two cars in the space of one year.
Cleaning up on Saturday evening, I left the boat tank in the back of the Red Bus with the fuel pump hooked up and forgot about it. Yesterday I went out to check on some rust converter I’d sprayed on the passenger floor and was hit with a strong smell of gasoline inside the cabin; it turned out that the heat on Sunday had expanded the tank and it dribbled out of the hose onto the rear bed. So I have to air the truck out for the next couple of weeks until the fumes dissipate, which is super annoying; the problem is that it soaked into the wooden floor in the back.
I got a small, heavy box in the mail yesterday with a handwritten return address on the top: the battery box I’d bought off Marketplace arrived safe and sound. It’s in fantastic shape: It’s covered in red primer but there’s only a little rust or corrosion on the inner platform; the rest is smooth and solid. I couldn’t be happier, because the one in the Red Bus is almost gone.
There’s also a spray of corrosion on the inside of the hood from where the original unsealed battery leaked and sprayed upwards onto the metal. So I’ll hit the remains of the old platform with more PBblaster and let it soak; the new metal will get a quick cleaning in the sandblasting cabinet and some new paint, and then go into the truck.
Meanwhile, talking with friends on the weekend, we had an inspiration. I texted my old friend Erick and asked if he was interested in doing some housecall IH work. He got back to me and said he was; I explained what I had and what I wanted to do, and left the ball in his court. We’ll see when it gets a little warmer if he can come out and do some engine and brake work to get her mobile.
Here’s a shot Bennett took before we really started tearing into the red bus.
I got started early on Saturday to prepare. First I humped all my tools outside and got the garage and the truck opened up. Then I organized all of the parts and tools and pulled the battery off the trickle charger. Then I pulled Autolite 303 plugs out of the Travelall and replaced them with a used set of 10,000 mile Autolite 85’s from my Scout. Feeling optimistic, I then swapped out the old ignition barrel with a new one I’d bought from RockAuto.
Brian showed up around eight, and we ran out to get coffee and donuts. Stephen and Bennett showed up a little after that, and we tried starting the truck—but nothing happened. Bennett began diagnosing what I’d done to bodge up the ignition system while Brian, Stephen and I began tearing out some of the useless mechanicals on the engine: the A/C system came out completely, the aftermarket cruise control was removed, and part of the trailer brake system. By noon we had the ignition problems sorted out and paused for some pizza and beer. Then we began diagnosing the starting problems.
The starter worked fine. We actually removed the passenger wheel and a bunch of the metal shielding along the inner fender to expose the starter and the engine stamping boss, and jumped the starter several times to chase down the electrical gremlins. When Bennett had the key sorted out we worked our way through the system with a tester to find the coil was OK but we weren’t getting spark to the plugs. I went around and swapped all the plug wires out with no change.
After a lot of tinkering, cleaning, and testing with the distributor we finally broke down and ran to the store for a new cap and rotor. We got the engine to catch several times but it didn’t run—we were frustrated at this point because we’d come so close. But the sun had gone down behind the house, the wind was picking up, the battery was running down, and it was getting cold, so we called it at about 5:30 and packed things up. I left the trickle charger on the battery to recover and packed things up.
We do have a few new discoveries: The engine is more than likely a 266, but we have no way of knowing for sure: there’s no stamping on the boss like there are in more modern SV engines. This one has a strange IH valve cover I’ve never seen—all the V8’s I’ve come across have four bolts. This one has two on the top and four on the bottom. And having pulled the valve cover off on the driver’s side, I have to say I’ve never seen a cleaner, newer looking valvetrain in my life. That’s VERY encouraging. More and more I think this was a municipal vehicle of some kind that was driven very sparingly, and then someone came along and built it into a summer camping vehicle. So the 40K miles on the odometer may be true mileage.
Either way, it was great to hang out with friends, spin wrenches and drink beer, and spend the day outside messing with old iron.