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What Are You Workin' On?
- Season 16: Episode 13
1969 Subaru 360 Electric Motor SwapRichard RiegerBraxton, MS
I first fell in love with Subaru 360s after working on one as a mechanic’s apprentice in college. This car came up for sale on Facebook marketplace and I had to jump on it. A couple hour road trip later the car was home with me. It had a disassembled engine that could not be salvaged and was missing some parts. I made the decision to integrate a 36 volt Taylor Dunn utility truck and what was left of the original Subaru drive train together to make this an electric car. The electric motor from the Taylor Dunn was mounted above the crankshaft where the pistons and cylinders use to be. A chain drive was added to the original crankshaft to drive the original 4-speed transmission. The motor control box is from an EZ-Go golf cart. From there brakes were redone, which was a challenge of trial and error as no reproduction brake parts are available. New hard lines were made, GM hydraulic lines were found to work from the metal line to wheel cylinders and the wheel cylinders were honed and the right size seals were found to replace the old ones. With the mechanical side complete, what seemed like endless rust repair began on what seemed like the world’s thinnest sheet metal. Floor pans were repaired with left over sheet metal from the rear seat section of floor pan from a 57 Chevy. After almost a year of cutting and replacing metal, the car currently sits in primer waiting on its baby blue paint. In the meantime, a battery rack was added where the rear seat was, and interior panels were made to cover them. The interior got some carpet to cover it all and the interior metal got a coat of white paint. I take the car to local car shows and people seem to enjoy seeing the different stages of the build over time. The car with the current set up will only go about 30mph and has a range of about 30 miles, but I hope as EV technology and parts become cheaper, the car will afford me the opportunity to make different versions and improvements to make it street legal again. Hopefully the current version of this car will be complete in a few months.
- Season 16: Episode 12
1959 Volkswagen Bug Gasser"Pepsi" Joe UnverzagtEast Alton, IL
Approximately nine years ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 43. I got to the point where I couldn’t even hold a wrench, but after taking medication I was able to control it a little bit – enough where I can at least work on cars. My wife said you need to build something nobody’s ever seen before you’re not able. So, my friend Nate, my wife, and I came up with an idea to build a gasser Bug since I’ve never seen one. At the time I was working on my ‘59 Volkswagen, so over the course of five years give or take I’ve made the frame, suspension, firewall, floorboard, and most everything else with the help of a few friends on stuff that I couldn’t do because my Parkinson’s was shaking too bad. I was able to build a nostalgic-looking 60’s Gasser-inspired Bug, and I competed in Hot Rod Drag Week 2021 and won the spirit of drag week award with it! I made the whole trip, and my fastest pass was 11.9. The car will run lower 11s if I can stay in the gas pedal. It has a 385 stroker motor, 350 turbo transmission, 3100 stall converter, and 7 1/2-inch rear end with Yukon 342 gears and axles. It’s a blast to drive and gets all the looks with the Pepsi-Cola Express theme down the side. I’ve always loved Pepsi and I like the way it looked on the car!
- Season 16: Episode 11
1954 Chevy 3100Rex AugustBluffton, OH
I drove a 1954 Chevy truck to high school back in the 70’s, then married my HS sweetheart and started having kids. So, the truck was sold to buy a family car. For our 30th wedding anniversary my wife found a ‘54 Chevy project truck in Michigan and we went up and bought it. 9 months later it was on the road. For the last 10 years I’ve been buying new parts to do it the right way. We put over 87,000 miles on it during the 10 years and LMC truck featured it in their magazine. But now it’s getting a full frame off restoration plus a fresh 383 SBC with Holley Terminator Stealth fuel injection, headers, E-street aluminum heads, Strange Engineering Dana 60 with true track posi 3.73 diff., Tremec 5-spd, and a new double din radio with navigation and backup camera. The last owner cut part of the dash out and we spent hours looking for a ‘54 cab to take the dash out of. It’s going well but I’m so busy at work that the project is taking longer than I hoped. All the fab, bodywork, paint, wiring, A/C etc. I did myself. I call my truck Houndog because that’s the only name my grandfather ever called me. The pictures of the truck painted is what I did in 2011, then we drove it until I collected all the new parts. This will be the last time I restore it. I hope to get it done before the snow flies so I can drive it a little this year.
- Season 16: Episode 10
1968 Dodge DartBrian DukeColorado Springs, CO
My Dad and I used to go out to the drag strip back home in Georgia all the time. When I was 14, I laid eyes on an original LO23 Hemi Dart, and I fell in love. As I got older, I started helping my dad in the garage and I still cherish those memories. Fast-forward to July 2020, I had the opportunity to buy the ‘68 Dart 270 that now sits in my garage. It started as an empty shell and my oldest daughter, Maddie, has been helping along the way. After a year of working on the car with some friends and the supervision of Maddie, we got it to drive under its own power to the local drag strip, made a couple 1/8-mile passes, and drove home. My hopes are to build a 10-second ¼-mile street car that can handle drag and drive style events. One day the Dart will be passed down to Maddie when I have to hang up my race gear.
It has a stock 5.9 Magnum swap from the junkyard, Calvert racing split monoleaf springs, Competition Engineering 3-way adjustable shocks, Holley Sniper EFI, Holley Hyperspark ignition system, Summit Racing long tube headers, homemade Cherry Bomb exhaust system, TCI Street fighter A727, Chrysler 8 3/4 rear end with 3.55 sure grip, M/T ET Streets, ‘64 Valiant manual steering gear box and steering column, and 340lph fuel pump with stainless braided fuel lines.
- Season 16: Episode 9
1964 Chevrolet ImpalaRobert EnglandSandusky, OH
I found this online and thought it would make an awesome family cruiser. I brought it home needing interior and engine work. The wife and I put all new interior in it except the headliner, which was in good shape. We rebuilt the 350 that was in it to make a low compression 383 stroker and added an old school RV turbo kit that has a Rayjay turbo on it that should have been on a small plane. It also has a built Powerglide, aluminum radiator, Lokar dipstick and kick down cables, Holley 750cfm double pumper, and MSD ignition. Future plans are to add an overdrive transmission to make it more highway friendly to enjoy it on road trips and if the motor ever lets go it will get a modern drivetrain upgrade. The car shows 33k miles and came with all the original paperwork except the window sticker. Our kids love it and help as much as they can with it. The Impala has original paint, and no one knows what lurks under the hood.
- Season 16: Episode 8
1925 Gerin AerodyneSteven WhiteSaint Petersburg, FL
Here’s something quite unique that you don’t see every day. This is a one-of-a-kind automobile from 1925 designed by French aeronautical engineer Jacque Gerin called the Aerodyne. When he was 24 years old, he decided to design an automobile and when he applied for the patents in 1922, he had a lot of innovations in automotive engineering that we now use today such as hydraulic shocks, hydraulic brakes, rack and pinion steering, adjustable steering column, conical valve springs, and roller rockers to name a few. It uses a 2.0L inline 4-cylinder engine and dual spark plugs per cylinder with a distributor on one side and a magneto on the other. Each rear wheel is gear driven. Gerin made the main platform out of cast aluminum and the exoskeleton out of oak wood sandwiched between cast aluminum, he made the car drivable but never fully finished the vehicle. He never completed the body, and later dismantled it and either hid or destroyed a lot of the key components that made the car operate as he didn’t want anyone to steal his ideas.
I work for the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum located in Pinellas Park, Florida, and I’ve been given the privilege and honor of creating this truly unique automobile and bringing Gerin’s vision to life again almost 100 years later. Using a few prints of Gerin’s renderings as well as prints of his patents, I have spent the last 2-1/2 years off and on fabricating the body out of sheets of 0.063” aluminum with an English wheel, planishing hammer, TIG welder, and my talents that were passed down to me by my father who was an aerospace engineer and brilliant fabricator on race cars, hot rods, and custom motorcycles. I hope to have this completed by the end of this year so it can attend Retromobile in France in 2023.
- Season 16: Episode 7
1971 Chevy K5 BlazerBetty & Ed SmithMorton, IL
My husband, Ed, has worked hard his entire life, and at age 81 in 2021 he is still working part time. In 1971 we bought a new Blazer. Ed mounted a Western snowplow on it and started to plow. In 1975, in addition to the front plow, he also innovated a way to mount a rear plow. This worked extremely well for plowing driveways and loading docks. For 37 winters, he plowed with the same Blazer and finally retired his plowing business in 2008.
In 2016, Ed started the restoration, keeping it as “original” as possible. Piece by piece, he took the Blazer apart down to the frame, had it sand blasted – and then the real work began. He carefully re-assembled and refitted the body and other parts (replacing old with new when needed). Some of the wiring and all of the fuel/ brake lines needed to be replaced (including master cylinder, booster, and radiator). He replaced wheel cylinders, steering components, all rubber seals, etc. He painted the interior and exterior (no bed liner used). Most of the knobs and fixtures were in good condition and able to be reused. Only the front bucket seats needed to be re-upholstered since the back seat was still in great condition. Lastly, among the other numerous finishing touches, he flushed and recharged the air conditioner, adding a new compressor.
I am very proud of him for taking on that huge project at 76 years old.
He has gotten many ideas from watching your show, so I would like to thank you for giving Ed encouragement to do this project himself. At the age of 79, Ed finished the restoration. We took the 1971 Blazer to its first car show in August of 2019, and to our surprise, he was awarded the Mayor’s Choice award. We were happy to know that so many others enjoyed seeing the fruits of his labor!
It would be a dream-come-true for Ed to hear about his restoration on Gearz (What Are You Workin’ on?). When you tell your fans that it is NEVER too late to work on your project and make their dreams come true – we agree 100%! Please, keep encouraging people (like Ed), and inspiring them to work on their projects too!
Betty and Ed Smith
PS: Now at age 81, Ed is hoping to restore another 1970 Blazer, to create a “twin” for me. Thank you for taking the time to read our story.
- Season 16: Episode 6
1941 Cadillac Series 61Erik PerryRiverside, CA
I am currently finishing my father’s project that we worked on together. It is a 1941 Cadillac Series 61 fastback. My dad and I picked this project because we had just finished a ‘29 Model A and would take it to shows along with twenty-plus other Model A’s. So, we sold the Model A and decided to find something out there that you just don't really see at car shows. Well, my dad was visiting my sister in Idaho and came across this car out in a field with a for sale sign on it. He knew this was a different kind of car that is not seen at car shows and we decided to build our first Hot Rod. We don't have a large bank account, so we sold parts off the car that we knew that we would never use and saved some money. We bought a Chevy 454 off eBay for 600.00, a Turbo 400 off Craig's list for 200.00, and a Ford 9-inch rear end from a wrecking yard for 150.00. We did the scariest thing by cutting the front of the frame and installing a 2500.00 Mustang II front end. We would always watch your show and say to ourselves that if Stacey can do it, so can we. This project became more important to me because I lost my father a couple of months ago to Agent Orange that he was exposed to during Vietnam as a U.S. Marine, and I want to keep the memory alive of the fun we had together while building this project.
I recently found out the history of the car. I was told that this was a staff car for the first Commanding Officer of Las Vegas Flexible Gunnery School (now known as Nellis AFB Las Vegas) Lt. Col. Martinus Stenseth and when he retired in 1950, he kept the car until his death in 1979. Then, it was stored in a barn until the mid-80s when it was bought but left abandoned in a field. We found it and bought it in the early 2000s and brought to Southern California. I was told that Burgess Meredith and a past President of the United States Ronald Reagan were in this car when they were filming "The Rear Gunner" in 1943. I was told also that actress Carole Lombard (Clark Gable’s wife) was driven to the Commanding Officer’s headquarters in this car after she was removed from the plane to seat a service member who was on the way to California for deployment. She was placed back on the plane and later killed when the plane hit the side of Potosi Mountain in Nevada. I just want to preserve the history and dedicate the car to our past and future military folks. We as the United States are indebted to you all and thank for you service.
- Season 16: Episode 5
1965 Shirley Muldowney Front Engine Dragster RecreationChris HenryKokomo, IN
This is a childhood dream of mine. Growing up in the late 70’s watching drag racing on tv, I loved to see Shirley Muldowney race and win! Then the movie heart like a wheel came out, I saw it and I knew I wanted to build and have a front engine dragster! A few years ago, I attended an estate sale where there was a basket case front engine dragster that was period correct for my recreation on Shirley’s first dragster. I watched the movie numerous times, studied photos to get the correct parts and look, and did everything that I could do to make this “right”. The engine is an alcohol-burning 406 small block Chevy with correct Hilborn injection and a Mallory mini mag magneto. It also has a Powerglide transmission, Olds rear end with 4.56 gears, correct M&H Racemaster slicks, and 17 inch spoke front wheels with Avon Speedmaster tires. The decals on the body panels were figured out from photographs, measuring with other components on the car to get correct size.
While gathering parts I attended the US Nationals NHRA event in Indianapolis. Shirley was there signing autographs and I had to talk to her. I finally made it through the line and got to meet her. Of course, I was nervous, but I asked her if we could talk about something. She agreed, and I showed her pics of what I got at the estate sale and told her I’d like to build a replica of her first car. She looked at the photos and started to tell me about that car. She said her first car was built in her garage by her then husband Jack with a gas torch and brazing rods. She didn't know what happened to that chassis, but she said what I had was a very close resemblance to what hers was. She did say that she thought it was a neat idea, “do it, I’d like to see it” is the response I got. I was floored! Immediately I get home and started in.
Then, I got news that the local dragstrip was having their 65th anniversary and lo and behold, Shirley Muldowney was the Grand Marshall of the show! This was my chance, I had to get this car done to be at this show! I had 1 month… The chrome was still out, injection was still out, and the engine wasn’t even together. So, many late nights were spent working on this, getting the correct decals made, correct colors chosen, and spending a lot of time standing at the polisher. However, I got it done a couple days before the show. My dad came over so we could fire the engine and set everything correctly. We got the car fully functional and ready for the dragstrip. The cage was updated to pass inspection and it has a certified period correct parachute and seatbelt. I took the car to the show at the dragstrip with Shirley not knowing anything about it at all.
The promoter of the show knew about it and had it all arranged. Shirley got to the show and saw the car, then she looked at me and I told her, “I hope I did you proud.” She looked the car over, front to back. I got a lot of compliments from her, and we talked about the car and the history behind it. I spent quite a bit of time with her that day, which made building this so worth it. Later on in the year there was another car show that I attend ever year in Rochester Indiana. Lo and behold, Stacey David is the grand marshal! I had to be there with the dragster. I’ve watched so many episodes of Gearz and always liked what he did. Plus, I thought he liked the cool and unusual stuff. I won first place in the race car class, and he signed my trophy!
- Season 16: Episode 4
1948 Cushman Resto Mod - Volks PodMike BlackburnEdina, MN
I Saw It, I Knew I Had To Do It
It honestly was that simple. While visiting YouTube one evening I came across a Post about how a fellow cut two Volkswagen Beetle fenders in half, welded them together and then stuffed a minibike beneath them. So, with a tip of my cap to Brent Walter (Ultimate Rebuilds) our project began.
Only a week later, two reproduction Beetle fenders hit my doorstep. With the immeasurable assistance of my friend Steve D., a retired welder-fabricator, the project was underway. The premise is simple, but as they say, the devil is in the details. You can expect to spend many evenings and weekends to complete a build this involved (it took us nearly 7 months).
There's no need to go into every detail on our build. Basic construction is covered by BW's six-part series as well as others. Some highlights, when the forks and frame were shortened, I added metal rods inside prior to welding. Flat 2-inch bar stock was rolled to match the inside of the fender and welded in place, near the bottom edge, on both the front and rear. This improved the strength of the fender shell and allowed a hard point to weld the mounting brackets to. I didn't want to weld mounting points to the thin fender shell. This was designed so that one person can easily install and remove the fender. Four brackets on the frame were welded in place; the fender has four welded studs. That allows the fender to simply drop down to be securely fastened. With the extremely short wheelbase and no steering rake, I installed a steering damper, something which I would absolutely recommend.
A battery provides power for the running lights and brake light (lighting coils can be installed on this engine). I retained the minibike’s handlebar mounted engine shut off switch. The steering post was drilled, and a nut welded in place. Then, the bicycle steering post was inserted and drilled to match the hole in the steering post for a bolt to be inserted and secured with a locking nut. This provides additional safety in the unlikely event that the bicycle stem lock might fail.
This was not to be a minibike relegated to only the parking lot or alley; the ability for it to be ridden to Saturday morning coffee and local events was paramount. It was able to be titled and insured as a scooter, so it is now perfectly street legal. All of the parts were powder coated with the single exception of the top side of the fender shell.
There were so many hours - skilled and very patient hours. This would not have happened without my buddy Steve’s (and wife Marge's!) tireless effort. With thanks to SKYCOAT powder coating, Baldwin, Wisconsin. Body work was handled by Darren S. and Mark T., River Falls, Wisconsin. Paint by my friend Mark T. (marks650yamahas.com). Cables fabricated and supplied by GoMoto in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Thanks Marty!). Thanks to an anonymous admirer for assisting with the production of this video.
- Season 16: Episode 3
1975 Volkswagen Combi BusJim HensonMiddleburg, FL
The project started when my brother got the VW by trading a golf cart for it. It is my brother’s project and I helped him with the work until my health issues stopped my participation. He keeps me up to date on what he has done and sends pictures. I am 78 years old, and my brother is 84 years old. We're both veterans and we always wanted to do a VW project. We have worked on cars together since my late teens, starting with a 1950 Ford and 1955 Chevrolet. The VW Combi Bus will be passed along to someone at some point after completion. We started by removing the engine, interior, lights, glass, handles, bumpers, etc. Next, the underside was cleaned up. Then, the wiring harness was replaced from front to back. The engine was refreshed and updated by a local VW expert. The brakes have all been renewed. The axles have been replaced, rims and bumpers powder coated, and new tires installed. All lights and electric have either been replaced or restored. We restored the steering components, replaced all rubber and seals around doors and windows, changed all fluids, and installed a new clutch system. The interior is yet to be renewed and the windshield will be the last thing to go in, so we still have access to the back of the dash and electric. We reinstalled the engine and installed a new gas tank, fuel pump, and filter. We also cleaned and painted the engine compartment. My brother will be finished before too long and the interior will look stock but renewed and nice.
- Season 16: Episode 2
1947 Ford CoupeMatt FreygangFort Wayne, IN
I was looking for a project that my son and I could work on and found this Ford coupe sitting next to a gas station near my house. I got all the cash I could get, and I went and looked at it. As I was looking at it two other guys came along with trailers, so I knew I had to get it. It's really neat because it's a 1947 - the same year my mom was born. Unfortunately, I didn't get it on the road before she passed. My dad was seven in 1947 and I have a picture of my grandpa playing baseball in 1947 for a minor league team. The coupe had been sitting in a barn with the back end outside the wall that was built around it. It was a complete basket case and I had to find a new frame. I had to repair all the sheet metal from 6" down all the way around and rockers, quarters, and rear tail pan. I patched what I could on the fenders. I boxed in the chassis put a new front independent Mustang 2 suspension on it. I installed a ladder bar rear suspension, Ford 9 inch, and coilover shocks. To work with what I have, it has a rebuilt 289, T5 manual transmission, and custom-made clutch and brake pedal out of a YJ Jeep. I also built in a custom dashboard. It still has so much to go, but I am driving it now. It motivates me a lot when I take it to a car show. I have you to thank for giving me motivation with your show. I've been working on the car for 10 years and it's been a budget build pretty much from day one. I'm in the process of building a 351 Cleveland stroked to 393ci for it.
- Season 16: Episode 1
1967 Pontiac FirebirdDirk MuitsCherry Hill, NJ
My sons and I started with two 78 Corvettes. After working on one we were going to install the motor, but a few months later they lost interest since we all could not drive in it together. So, I sold them and bought my childhood dream muscle car, a '67 Firebird. I made the classic mistake and bought a car online without looking at it in person. The car was really bad with rust everywhere, non-matching '76 400 motor, not running. For the last 5 years, the sheet metal, frame rails, and subframe have been replaced. The only original metal left is the dash, inner quarters, door jambs and the two interior roof supports; everything else is new. We drove to Virginia from NJ to pick up a '68 400 block, then drove to Maryland to pick up heads. Motor is now rebuilt with Howard cam, roller rockers, aluminum Edelbrock intake, Edelbrock carb, and MSD distributor. It's pushing around 375 hp. We added new rear suspension and tubular control arms and converted to Wilwood brakes on all four corners. We also replaced the steering column and added an aftermarket wood steering wheel. Then, we took the new steering wheel horn button and the original and modified both so I could still use the original horn cap. Car is currently in primer and will be painted within the next year. The interior is mismatched; will do the upholstery while the car is getting painted. We are converting the standard interior to the deluxe interior. The wheels are 18" Ridler's off a C10. I created a 69 Trans Am front spoiler drawing in CAD, had it fabricated out of aluminum, and made modifications to the air baffle so the air dam could be mounted to it. After it was finished, my boys decided to add all the stickers to the air dam that we collected at shows or from parts we have purchased for the car; you will not see this on any other car. After 5 years of work and sweat with my boys, we took her to our first cars and coffee meet this summer.