1957 Pontiac Star Chief

An Extraordinary Restoration by a bunch of Classic Folks.

Project Diary – 2013

January 2013

The Pontiac was nestled under its car cover in our garage for a short period of time. Bob M. needed the space in his barn to work on his own projects, so he brought it over to get it out of the weather until Larry E. and Dan G. were ready to put the engine in.

Wednesday, the 23rd, Bob came back and reloaded the car back onto the trailer and took it over to Dan G’s garage. Then the engine was loaded onto the frame and bolted on. Larry and Dan spent about 5 additional hours tweeking the engine, fixing the brakes and making sure that everything was in great shape. In the process, they noticed that the floor pans had some gaps/holes/rough patches that needed to be plug/filled/sanded so Bob is going to take care of that before the car goes to Darrel Lenox’s shop to have the muffler system put in…which will be the first week of February.

After that…it’s back to Wyotech. Yippee! There’s a light at the end of that tunnel! Thank you! Thank you! We can hardly wait to bring our car home for good but more…we can hardly wait to get behind the wheel and on the road!

February 2013

IMG_2193The wheels on the Pontiac go round and round….come on everybody…sing along with me!

The Pontiac is back at Wyotech. I spoke with Scott Swafford, one of the coordinators who graciously got ahold of me and wanted us to bring the car back so that it could be finished. (Here’s where I do a little happy dance!) So, SOB and Ed J. load the car back up on the trailer and we headed back down. Also, after careful consultation, I asked Scott if they would please pull up the horsehair matting and put down Peel and Seal instead. Larry told me where he got the stuff he used and how it worked; talked to Dan, he told me the name of the stuff he used. I finally got ahold of Wesco Distributing in Sacramento and was able to pick up two rolls plus the foil tape – all for a fraction of the cost of Dynamat. The guys at Wesco were very nice too. Oh wait…what else? I’m sure that I must be forgetting something… Hmmmm…The engine, transmission AND the muffler system are in! (Yippee! I am beyond the happy dance and doing cartwheels! Ok, in my mind anyway!) Larry E. and Dan G. worked their magic and got the engine bolted in then SOB did some more wiring and fix up and then carted the ‘vision’ to Darryl and now, the muffler system is in…and I’m promised that it won’t sound like an old lady’s car.

Ok, a little side note…at Wednesday night pizza I was sitting next to Dave G and showing him photos and telling him about the progress on the car. I then told him how I was looking forward to at some point taking it down to Sacramento Raceway to see what it could do. Dave’s face turned a bit pale and he said, “No.” “But…” “No.” he again says. “We didn’t put all this work into the car so you could blow the engine or worse….no.” “Ok….I hadn’t thought of that.” So, guys…no raceway. It was just a thought. I’ll just be happy to drive it. The speed limit is my friend… I promise (fingers crossed).

March 2013

IMG_2630The Pontiac is back at SOB’s for (hopefully) the last leg of this magnificient and incredible journey.

Bob ‘SOB’ M., Ron O. and I drove down to Wyotech to pick up the Pontiac. We met up with Scott Swafford–Coordinator, Dan Dermott–Street Rod Instructor, and a large group of students who pushed the car out to the trailer. Then Ron and Bob worked on getting the car onto the trailer while I stood and talked with Scott .

Scott asks me, “So, I’m curious…is your car male or female? I know that most guys will call their cars a ‘her’ but I wonder what a woman would call her car.” I thought for a moment and said, “I have actually been giving that some thought, surprisingly, and all I know is its too pretty to be a ‘he’ so, I’m guessing that its a ‘she’.” Scott nodded his head like maybe that made sense. Personally, I’m very comfortable having ‘her’ be a ‘her’.

There are still some little details that need to be done on the interior. Scott and Dan told me that they didn’t put the backseat arm rests on due to a problem aligning the screws at a strange angle. They also didn’t put the door handles or window cranks back on as they thought they should have new plastic washers and the clips for the handles which they didn’t have (with the upholstery department closed). SOB seemed to think that he might even have those parts. The trunk looks great too. It’s got walls-to-floor-to-walls carpeting. Finished off very nice. There are a few things that are still left to be done but we’ll drive over that bridge a little later. It will get done…eventually. Isn’t that the way with this type of project?

All I can say is that the interior looks awesome! The dark blue gray carpeting sets the blue and ivory seats. The back deck is covered in ivory naugahyde and has the speakers mounted. Its getting so close that I can almost feel breeze coming through the window as I’m driving down the road!

Ok, there are still things to be done and I don’t want to get ahead of it all…but this is so great! As we’re driving back to Grass Valley, we notice that the car seems to be getting brighter and brighter the closer we are to home. Then we realize that that’s just a year and a half’s worth of dust being blown off the car.

Thank you Wyotech for the wonderful job on the interior.

Note: Sadly, Wyotech is closing it’s Sacramento facility in October of this year. So, there won’t be a car show in May.

April 2013

100_2265Bob M. has been diligently working on pulling the front end together and hooking up the wiring. He’s been installing the radiator and the inside wheel wells, bleeding the brakes, installing hoses and belts plus doing other assorted things getting things he can get done before Larry takes over and starts the engine (!).

You may remember that I had a discussion with Dave G. about license plates and racing the Pontiac. Well, Dave took the Pontiac’s license plates with the thought that he could straighten them out. Well, he did more than straighten them out! He cleaned them up and magically (he says) they’re like brand new! Check out the picture and see for yourself. I never thought that I would say this but these plates are gorgeous! Thanks so much Dave.

Well, every day brings us closer to the end of this project and to the day I’m behind the wheel. I sort of feel like Cinderella and all these godfathers and godmothers are working hard to create this really cool chariot just for me. Life is good and I am blessed!

June 2013

100_2280Ingenuity and thrift store bakeware lead the way on this month’s update.

Bob (SOB) M. needed to find a way to cover up and protect the wiring coming through the fire wall to the engine. He found the perfect solution in a small loaf baking tin. He bore out the side wall of the tin to allow for the wires to come through, painted it black and bolted the tin to the firewall over the wires. It looks like it’s suppose to be that way. He still has to put some foam-stuff around it to keep the water out…all very technical, I guess. Very cool!

SOB also moved the gas filter up to the engine compartment to make it easier to access and redid some of the wiring to allow for enough amperage. SOB is very patient with me as he explains what he’s done to the car over the past month or so. Most of it slides right over my head but some of it does seep in. I’m just happy that I know people who know these things.

Ron O.’s been busy working on the fenders and helping SOB install those fenders, hood and front grill. The stereo – a cool hand-me-down from Dee and Russ K. – is now installed in the center console that SOB designed and hooked up to the speakers. The controls for the a/c are mounted in the console as well. All the modern comforts!

By the time you read this, the new windshield will have been ordered and we’re coordinating the engine start up with Larry Eckman and Dan Graholm! Once that’s done, there’s the touch up painting and some upholstery issues to take care of. Am I racing ahead?? Can anyone say “Road Trip!” Oh, that was me…I just said that! I can almost smell that ‘new’ car smell…Yeehaw!

July 2013

31-1I have just had one of those monumentous moments in my life. One of those that take you by surprise and make you feel incredible.

On July 6 at 11am, a small group gathered at SOB’s with the intent of starting the engine on the Pontiac for the first time. Mike H. brought along his friend Rick from San Francisco to show him what us country folk call ‘entertainment’. Pat C., Bob G., Ed J., Bruce and Dee Ann B., SOB’s wife Nolie, my hubby Dave and myself rounded out the group. So, SOB had plenty of ‘help’ with starting the engine and breaking in the cam.

Preparations and double checks preceeded the go ahead to turn the key but finally I sat in the driver’s seat and turned the key for the first time. How do I put into words that experience? It all seemed to climax at this point. Ok, it was wonderful to hear that roar. It turned over rough at first but then, second crank, it hummed…loudly…powerfully. So cool! David thought he had taken a video of the whole thing but somehow he hit a wrong button and it didn’t take. You had to be there I guess. It was…magic!

Then, I got out of the car and Mike took my place so someone could depress the accelerator for a while. Ten to fifteen minutes in that’s when all hell seem to broke loose…so to speak. David felt moisture coming out of the driver’s side by the tire. Well, it wasn’t coming from the tire, it was under the car. A puddle emerged as it was sputtering and spewing water. The engine was cut and the culprit found. The overflow was thought to be the problem but now, of course, the car was HOT so we had to wait til it cooled down before the radiator cap was removed. So, we waited.

9-1 10-2The engine turned over the third time and worked perfectly – thank you Larry! Mike H. presented me with a bottle of champagne that I (symbolically) smashed over the hood of the car. The group toasted the project and SOB looked at David and said “now?”. Now. SOB comes out of the garage and the group huddled around me. SOB presented me with a brass plaque enscribed “Especially Designed and Built for Diane Blakley by her Roamin Angels Friends 2013”. This was one of those moments that got me and as Bruce said I got the ugly face (I started crying). This has been a four year journey that has been a phenominal adventure. It was never suppose to have been this indepth a restoration but it has turned out beautifully. All the hard work, donations, time and effort put into this project has left me humbled and awed.

On the 16th, I had a new windshield put in the car and also purchased 4 new tires that should be in July 23rd. Are there still things to do? Silly question…of course. As long as this car is on the road, there will always be things to do. But, for right now, there are still some interior things to be done and the touch up on the paint but the ‘finish line’ is coming into sight. The goal we are shooting for is the car show. I’ll love to drive this car through the car show gates!

September 2013

DSC_0041What is the most awesome feeling in the world? Whatever yours is, mine is sitting in my Pontiac after this wonderful 4 year project’s journey; turning the key and starting her up; shifting into drive…which is a different trick itself; and driving it for the very first time. Now, the trip wasn’t a long one. It was from outside the Northern Mines Building at the fairgrounds (where Bob “SOB’ M. had off loaded it from his trailer) to where it was to be on display inside the building during the car show. I drove it with a group of well wishing friends in attendance. It was scary, thrilling, exciting, nerve-wracking, joyful, awesome and I had goose bumps for goodness sake!! I even got to back it up. All I kept thinking was “Don’t let me hit anything!” and “This is so cool!”. I parked it without mishap and without my heart bursting out of my chest.

To get the car ready for the show, SOB cleaned up the inside of the car wiring and tucking things temporarily away. Ron O. washed and cleaned the outside of the car while I cleaned up the inside upholstery and headliner. It looked as good as it was going to be at this point. The thing is…it looked even better when it got to the show! I’m not sure if it was the light of day, the being in a new place – the building at the fairgrounds or what but, can cars smile? It’s like my car KNEW it was on display and it was going to put on a show!

33Sign for Pontiac Progress ‘Tale’So many people stopped in and saw the Pontiac. I had made a sign telling a bit about what was ‘behind’ the car and a little about the Pontiac Project as well as a listing of who did what with what (to my knowledge). The really fun part was talking with people who stopped by and were looking at her. I got to tell a little about the Project and what everyone did. The comments I got were wonderful! I didn’t hear one bad thing being said, it was all positive and impressed. A few people asked it my car was for sale! No way! (For the record…David said, “Tell people “yes! For a price…”.) Still…no way.

After the show, once the building was cleared and cleaned, David drove the car out of the building and brought it around front of the building to pick me up. When we tried to start the car up again, it wouldn’t turn over. Mike W. happened to be walking by and took a look under the hood. Between he and David, they got the car started again. (Remembering flooding and having to wait for the car to settle back down?) It did start up and we decided to go for a drive. We cruised around the outskirts of the fairgrounds and headed to the Ponderosa Pines and the after party. David with one arm out the window and me sitting right next to him (oh the joys of bench seats!). David’s comment…”This car drives like a boat!” Yeah, and it’s our boat, honey. It was wonderful!

20So what’s happening now? SOB is finishing up the wiring and getting the seats and seat belts stationary and in correctly. As a side note, everyone has their favorite places to buy their parts. Here’s one of mine…for seat belts. There’s a place on the web called Seatbelt Planet (www.seatbeltplanet.com). I bought 6 sets of seat belts and the mounting hardware for $136. and that included the shipping. I got the color I wanted – dark blue, they had a lot of colors to choose from – and the best price that I found online plus they are made in the USA. Their site was easy to use and they shipped out quickly. So, there you go. Unpaid, unsolicited endorsement. OK, to continue…because of the problem with the ignition – the key comes out in any position its in that could lead to a dead battery, at the very least – I asked SOB what could be done. We decided that the best thing to do was to get a new ignition switch, which he did. That will hopefully fix a couple of other problems as well. But as every car person knows…the project is never done.

The devil’s in the details and at this point it’s all details, right? SOB is looking for and fixing a leak that showed up at the fairgrounds. Then he figures that once the ignition switch is in, he’s done. (Wait…did I say that outloud??)

Oh, before I forget…Ron O. ordered some sideview mirrors for me and I still need to get the rear view mirror. (Hmm, details.) I told David that he has a built in idea-bank for what to get me for Birthdays, Christmas, etc…parts for the Pontiac. My bling is just different than other women’s, I guess…not that I don’t appreciate the other!

BuzzardsRaffleA couple of things happened right after the car show. First…I got a phone call from this guy who had come to show and had seen my car. He called to see if I wanted to sell it. (Refer back a couple of paragraphs for my answer) Then he told me how he had the same car when he and his wife were dating. They saw my car and now they’re looking for a ’57 Pontiac Star Chief for themselves. I ended up talking to him and his wife for quite a while.
Buzzards Raffle JokeThe second thing…An email came in from someone who called themselves ‘Anonymous’. The Buzzards claimed to have held their first ‘car raffle’ and the attached picture was of the winner and the car. (A photo of Don M. and my Pontiac!) It cracked me up! Here’s the correspondence and pictures:

Email #1:
To: Diane
From: Anonymous
Attached is a picture of the Winner of the Buzzard’s Car Raffle and the awards committee. Those Buzzards do so much for the car hobby. Imagine that, a car raffle. I hope there is still time to use this for publicity for R.A.

Email #2:
Diane, Its about time the other Buzzards took my advice and accepted cars with FENDERS, YES I said FENDERS, NOT FEATHERS, into the nest of acceptable winners. The blue beast is a real winner and suited to cruise anywhere unlike them old cars without fenders.
Signed, (Another) Anonymous

The Project is on the home stretch. The car is once again street legal with the DMV, the insurance has been purchased and it’s waiting on it’s maiden voyage so stay tuned.

Pontiac Project Progress 2014