1957 Pontiac Star Chief

An Extraordinary Restoration by a bunch of Classic Folks.

Project Diary – 2011

January 2011

0114011616bIn 1957, people actually knew and sang the words to Auld Lang Syne but I’ll bet that even if they knew the actual words, they didn’t know what they meant then either. All I know is that there is a ‘cup of kindness yet’ in those lyrics and above that, it’s sort of a take on an old crooner’s song of ‘Thanks for the Memories’.

The ‘drawings’ for the interior got sent off to Vince Delgado, the upholstery instructor at Wyotech and owner of SeatWorks in Sacramento. ( Note: special thanks to Larry Eckman for steering Diane in the right direction as to ‘designing’ the interior drawings). As of this writing, no date has been set for a preliminary appointment at the school. The car, though, will be ready. The seats were brought down from the storage unit and placed inside the car. (Ok, they look gnarly inside this beautiful beast! Sure shows how far this project has come!) SOB (aka Bob Madsen) has mocked up a cardboard prototype for the center console (right) that will house the stereo and the a/c and heater controls. SOB is making this out of metal, have it spot welded by Don Forster at Metal Works and will have it done before the car goes to Wyotech so it can be covered when they do the rest of the interior.

Here’s a toast to communication. SOB and Diane were talking about the wiring and where the pedals were positioned…you know… gearhead talk. (I say this tongue-in-cheek with regards to Diane, of course. She just nodded enthusiastically while SOB talked.) Then, SOB pulls out the floor dimmer switch and shows her how it works. Tap it once and the highbeams go on, tap off and they go off. He then asked the million dollar question (ok, actually, it was more of $2.35 but I get ahead of myself). “Where would you like it positioned on the floor?” Ok, the truth be told, Diane’s left foot would be totally useless turning off a dimmer switch in the normal floor position. (So, here’s the clinking of the glasses and where the $2.35 comes in). It was determined that a toggle would be mounted under the dash – a hole is already there for it – to the left of the steering wheel under the lip of the dash. Toggle on – lights blare. Toggle off – lights tone down to normal and all within flippin’ reach. And that, as they say, is how it’s done. Clink…cheers!

SOB decided that he didn’t like the way the wiring looked so, after consultation, he ordered a new wiring kit which he has installed and tucked away. He is working on getting most of the dash wired but this is not detrimental to have it done before the upholstery is done. It turns out that there are some missing light fixtures that haven’t turned up but the wiring will all be in place when they’re found.

So the song goes – For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne, We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, For auld lang syne. If memories of the past year and half of this project are any reflection, this project is filled to the brim!

February 2011

57Wiring57 Pontiac wiring: Things are flying! While trying to get the door switches installed so that when the doors open the courtesy lights come on, the plate holding the button and spring decided not to hold…the door opens and ‘POP’ the bracket and spring go flying across the garage! Now to gather the parts and see if Riebes will take the ill-fated parts back and exchange for ones that won’t ‘pop’. Hey, if its not one thing, its another flying one.

Well, the wiring has been replaced from headlight to taillight. It’s been quite the challenge comparing the ’57 factory wiring against the kit wiring to make sure that all the little parts that need power are hooked in. The fuse panel is all set so that all the necessary lights will work (fingers, toes, any other appendage crossed for luck). In some instances, SOB is following his own patented method of operation with the appropriate acronym S.W.A.G. (scientific wild-ass guess) to make sure that it all works as designed or by his own creation.

Speakers: This car has been a definite community project. Put together with original and used/new parts many which have been donated including the radio/CD player that came from Dee & Russ Knapp. When they upgraded their stereo system, they donated their old one to the Pontiac Project. (Thank you!) And as you all know, tunes are important to any good cruise, so Diane and Dave went speaker shopping. After finding the speakers that they wanted, Diane went online to see if she could get a better price. With a combination of ebay and amazon, she was able to save about $50! She got 2-6X9s for the back deck and 2-3″ speakers for the center console that SOB is building for up front between the seats. Cool, huh? While there’s no amplifier, it should sound as good, if not better, than the original system.

Many people have asked about when the car is going to Wyotech. While it was originally thought that the car would be heading down in February, that’s now been revised to probably the end of April. The way that this works is that Vince Delgado, the instructor, wants to put his better 2nd semester students on the project. Right now, though, they have other projects that are taking their time. Diane will be checking with Vince every couple of weeks to see what the status is. It could go sooner or later. The project is still a go though and has the approval of the school administration so patience is the name of this game.

One of the things that has come out of this project is a deeper appreciation of the time and passion that goes into restoring these rolling pieces of history. It’s one thing to look at a thing and think it’s ‘a thing of beauty’. It’s another to realize that the outside is nothing compared to the inner workings and what has gotten it to it’s ‘beauty’ state…and the ‘artists’ who have gotten it to it’s final stage. Hmmm…but is it ever really done? Stay tuned. I’ll let you know.

Sorry, no cool photos of the car this month. Snow and timing played a big important factor in that. Next month, the camera will be back at it again.

March 2011

100_1886Spring has sprung…Ok, I’m redeeming myself from last month regarding no photos. Some really cool and exciting pictures this time. Wait until you see them!!

SOB, Bill R.n and I met up on a Friday morning at Bob’s garage. Personally, I hadn’t seen the car in a couple of weeks. My heart did a big flip-flop when I saw it! The dash was almost entirely put back together!! Ok, I thought I was gonna cry. It looks so beautiful. Then I looked in the back seat. That sobered me immediately. The old seat was looking pretty pathetic. It was a great reality check though in how far this project has come.

If you recall last month things were flying. Here’s a photo of the item in question (left)…unflying, controlled and installed. This unassuming knob will control the courtesy lights inside the car when the door is open. Now, did I mention that the wiring is done? Well, for the most part. Once everything is done, you won’t even see the wiring but SOB is doing it ‘old school’ (as quoted by Bill Robinson) where something is done with the forethought of ‘what if’. What if you have to work on it later’ and ‘what else might need to be done or added later’. SOB has put forethought into his part(s) of the project. There are a few missing pieces such as the trunk light but the wiring is there when it’s been located or one can be found later.

The new front seat console that SOB designed and is putting together is awesome and will house not only the radio but the front air vents, the a/c and heater controls, and …drum roll please… cup holders. In the essence of ‘what if’, the console is being designed so that the front plate will be easily removed so that if you need to work on the wiring, replace a part, et cetera…viola!…piece of cake! Ok, I’m impressed. They had me at cup holder.

The engine for the beast is at Larry E.’s shop (C&L Enterprise) and currently the heads are done. Now that Larry is doing well after his surgery, he’s ready to get the engine ready. The million dollar question right now is the transmission but our collective fingers are crossed that there won’t be any problems. At this point, we’re not sure if the engine will be installed prior to the car going to Wyotech for the interior. We’re still waiting to hear about when the car is going down to Wyotech but its anticipated to be around the end of April. Will keep you posted as we hope to get a group together to trailer the car there. That’s all for this month!

April 2011

IMG_0041This month, we’re going to start this story with a reality check. SOB (Bob Madsen) had put the old, gnarly seats back in the car so he could make sure that we had the correct mounting hardware and also to check the positioning of the brake and gas pedal. Anyway, if you needed a picture to gauge how far this project has come, here it is. (see photo on the right)

Now flash forward 23 months and check out the dash, the center console, the exterior, ok, the whole oo-la-la package. Now, when we review this project and all the extra steps we took with it that we hadn’t planned, we know it’s been done right. With everything that we’ve done, if we have just ‘dressed it up’ and put it on the road, there would have been major problems down the road. As it sits now, there’s nothing wrong with the car, in fact, it’s almost as good as new and in some cases, better than when it rolled off the assembly line. We can be rest assured that it will be a safe and beautiful classic car to drive for years to come.

The car heads over to Wyotech on May 7 to get the interior done.
Wyotech Car Show • May 7, 9am-3pm • Leaving IHOP, Grass Valley at 7:30am
980 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento

May 2011

Teaching an old dog some really new tricks or is that trickin’ out an old dog? Either way, once again the Pontiac was hoisted onto the trailer to take another journey to the next stage in her ressurection. This is another ‘facelift’ stage and if beauty comes from within, then she is feeling more and more like a beautiful ‘new woman’. So, what does all this ‘tricks’ and ‘teach’ mean? The Pontiac is at Wyotech! Yeehaw! This is so cool!

A group of us caravaned down with the trailered Pontiac to the Wyotech Car Show in South Sacramento. While Steve Olsen and Dave Rawcliffe went to register for the show, SOB, David (my hubby) and I drove behind the school to the backside of the Upholstery department and met up with Vince Delgado, the instructor, to drop the Pontiac off.

After the Pontiac was unloaded from the trailer, David got behind the wheel and the group of guys that were there with Vince pushed the car into the Upholstery facility. For the most part, this went off without a hitch but with no brakes or steering, manpower became the way to move the car. Luckily, the man-brakes worked before the car almost got ‘steered’ into the wall. (No name dropping here as to the person in charge of steering). Anyway, the car made it in one piece and is now ‘stopped’ and awaiting it’s next phase.

The plan now is for Vince to get some of his second semester students to work on the project. As soon as that team is determined, they will work up some designs for the interior. At that point, David and I will go back down to Wyotech and meet with Vince and the students to go over the ideas they have and also choose the fabrics. Because of the way the semesters run at the school, the project could take anywhere from 6 – 12 weeks to complete. As Vince says though, he’d like to get it done as quickly as possible. Once the interior is completed, the Pontiac will be trailered back home and then it gets ready for the engine. Speaking of that…

IMG_0135The Pontiac’s Engine
Larry E., engine project coordinator

The 347cu in poncho motor is back on the engine stand. At this point, it is basically a long block with heads, valvetrain, front drive pulleys, water pump, fuel pump, fliter housing and pan attached and painted – looking pretty good. My old pal, Norval Griffin, owed me a couple of favors and did a marvelous job rebuilding the cyl heads. Dan Granholm and Tyler Mcsweeney (Geared Up Drive Train) “offered” to help clean up parts – thank God – and my old buddy, Tom Thompson helped to tear the grease ball down. (check out the before and after picture of the engine on the club website under Pontiac Project Progress)

Next up is to fab the a/c mount, alt mount and plumb for a pcv valve.

June 2011

IMG_0282The Pontiac is down at Wyotech. Vince Delgado, the instructor, has had his students working on the demolition of the interior. They have stripped the seats and de-rusted the frames. They’ve been primed and painted and new foam has been laid out to rebuild the seats. The doors have new side boards and they’ve even been working on the trunk. The headliner has the insulation tacked in. A group of us went down to Wyotech on Wednesday, June 22 to check it all out.

SOB, Ron, David and I drove down to Wyotech and met up with Vince. He took us on a tour of the work done so far. It looked great! We also got to meet a couple of the students who have been working on the car…Ashley and Rosario. They were both very nice ‘kids’ (in their mid-20s) and talked with us about the car and about themselves. Both Ashley and Rosario were moving onto thei next step of their education as the semester was ending on Friday.


So, what’s happening next? The new semester starts on Monday. Vince was confident that because the class size was fairly large, that he’d be able to pick a couple of the students to work on the Pontiac. He told us that he only utilizes te skills of the top students. Next, he was going to come up with two designs for the upholstery and side door panels. One design consideraation is based on the original designs that I had submitted that went towards the more classic style and another custom design that Vince and the students would come up with. Once the design work is done, then we’ll go back and look at fabric to go with the chosen design.

After talking with Vince, the timing on the project is up-in-the-air. It all depends on the students. As he is only allowing his top students to work on the car, the project could take just weeks to months. Stay tuned.

IMG_0272Cupholders: A little side note: SOB had designed and created a center console for the front seat. This console housed the air conditioner vents and the stereo. It also allowed for space for cupholders. So, the search was on. Finally, on ebay, some gaming table aluminum cups were found. Even after I purchased the cups, I started browsing through cupholders on ebay and found a black rubber configuration out of a Mazda that was the right size as well. I took the two chromed cups and the black rubber cupholders down to Wyotech. After looking at the center console, we decided on the aluminum cups. (see photo above – also pictured are the new plugs and screws.) Vince told us that they could cut the holes for the cupholders.

July 2011

Visualize this…the Pontiac is all done! Ok, now wake up! No, it’s not but it was a good dream anyway. The Pontiac is still in various parts and scattered in a couple of different places. The computer drawing to the right is what I think it will look like when it’s all done. Ahh, the stuff dreams are made of…at least my dreams.

Vince from Wyotech reports that the pattern is all drawn up on the seats and door panels. He would like for David and I to come down to Wyotech the week of August 8th to check it out and to pick out fabrics for the upholstery. We will also take the door speakers down with us as they will install those when they put the door panels together.

The engine is coming along. Mike has the carbureator built. The exhaust manifold has been coated and baked. SOB (Bob Madsen) brought the linkage over to Larry. Larry’s is making the bushings for the throttle linkage. The transmission is still at Mel’s Transmission. Once the transmission is done, Larry will put the spark plugs in the engine.

While there’s not a lot to report this month, there’s still a lot that’s happening. It’s coming along wonderfully, so stay tuned.

Sorry, no photos this month.

August / September 2011 – No story

October 2011

FenderThere hasn’t been much to report as the Pontiac is still down at Wyotech. Vince Delgado, the instructor, told me that he hasn’t had any students that he felt would do justice to the interior and he won’t let just anyone work on it. He did say that they had been working on the patterns. As Vince reminded me “I told you that it could 6 weeks or 6 months but it will be done right”. So, we’re patiently waiting.

In the meantime, I thought it would be a good idea to ’round up’ the parts so that when the car does come back we’d know where to find them. Engine/transmission at Larry’s – Check! Inner fender wells and radiator – my garage – Check! Hood and fenders being used as wall art in Rick and Margie’s garage – Check and Check! Guess we’ll have to wait and see if there’s anything missing.

Ron O. came over and we photographed and inventoried all the extra parts so that they can be sold. He says that I don’t need any of those parts but then I talked with a Pontiac guy at the car show who suggested strongly that I keep them. Not sure what to do now.

I sure would of loved to have driven our Pontiac on the Fall Color Cruise…I can see it now. Hmmph! Well, they say patience is a virtue.

November 2011

Upholstery interior view of 1957 Pontiac

Nov11-storyVince Delgado, the Upholstery instructor at Wyotech, thinks that he finally has a couple of students that he can put onto the interior of the Pontiac. So, now the plan is that the week of November 7th, David and I will be going down to Wyotech to choose the fabric for the seats. To say that I’m excited about the prospect, is an understatement!

Another development is that I was talking to Vince about SEMA. He and his upholstery business, SeatWorks, will have a classic car on display at SEMA. He generally has a car on display at most of the major car events in and around Sacramento. I asked Vince if he would like to come up to Grass Valley and maybe talk with our club. He said he would. So, after the first of the year, we’re going to coordinate a time and place! Hey, the interior of the Pontiac might even be done by then!!

The old saying goes that ‘good things come to he (or she) who waits’. Ok…I’m waiting!

December 2011

Nick and NickPontiac Progress – Dec. 2011 The end of November, David and I met with Vince, Nick and Nick at Wyotech to choose the fabric for the Pontiac’s interior. Vince, the instructor, had Nick and Nick, the students, go through everything with us. After looking at about 3,000 different fabric swatches (which is not an exaggeration!) my eyes were going colorblind. David, on the other hand, was having a blast comparing, evaluating and showing me his thoughts on all the different possibilites. We narrowed it down to a few and then finally to two. We chose an ivory that matches the car top and a blue that is slightly darker than the blue of the car body. It’s going to look great! David is good at this color stuff though. (I say with fingers crossed and rabbit foot in pocket nonetheless.)

The two guys who are now working on our car are Nick and Nick. What cool guys. They are both in the advanced class and asked to work on the Pontiac. David and I talked with them quite a bit when we were at Wyotech on December 20th checking on the interior’s progress. Nick (in the photo on the left) loves the cars of the 40’s and 50’s and wants to open up his own restoration shop but he’s not crazy about the upholstery part. I suggested that maybe Nick could hire Nick (on the right) to work for him. Apparently, this wasn’t the best suggestion. David told me later that Nick #2’s face got a weird ‘no way’ look on it. I then asked the Nick #2 what he wanted to do once he got out of school. He also wants to open a restoration shop BUT he wants to do the whole thing including the upholstery. David piped up…’maybe you two should have shops across the street from one another.’ This got a smile out of both the guys. Nick and Nick are both wonderful young men. It was encouraging to hear their entrepreneurial spirit.

The sewing part is going slow and sure with only minor glitches. When we came to check it all out, the guys had the four door panels sewn. They explained the process of gluing, drying, sewing and stretching and then showed us the mistake that they had made on their first try at sewing the pleats to the rest of the door panel. It bubbled so that it will now be scrapped and hopefully they can use parts of it for something else.

As to the completion of this stage of the project…stay tuned! All we can say is that the Pontiac is in good hands.

Pontiac Project Progress 2012