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My '54 Customline build

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  • My '54 Customline build

    I picked up this '54 Customline over 5 years ago for a mere $1800. It's complete and original.

    Of course, I needed a drivetrain. Landed this '93 Mustang for $1500 and was able to drive and enjoy it for the last two years. Very soon it'll be donating it's motor/trans/ECU/wiring harness and anything else I can make work on the '54.

    Now, the '54's been sitting on the back burner until I finished the roadster. Well, that happened last summer. Here's the roadster's build thread start to finish.........

    While finishing the roadster I would also play with the '54. Got it running, put everything back together, rubbed out the paint and cleaned the car up some. Got it looking pretty good!

    However, I couldn't drive it 'cause all the wiring was completely toast. But it sure did look purdy!
    Enough playing around. Now it's time to get serious on this build!

    First order of business is to pull the front sheet metal so I can see what I have to work with.....

    65 years of grease, dirt and crap. The stuff was literally an inch thick! I scraped as much off as I could but I really needed to give it a good sandblasting just so I could see some of the suspension bolts! I built some blast barriers out of scrap lumber and clear plastic sheeting......

    I gave it a cursory blast, yanked the motor and tranny then rolled it into the garage......

    I decided the first problem I was gonna address were the rotted toeboards, floorboards and rocker panels.......

    Pricing out EMS repros in the neighborhood of $1500, I decided to build my own.
    Picked up some 18ga remnants at the local steel supply house for $80. More than enough to handle my needs! Opened up the drivers side first and found the body brace rotted through....

    Remedied that....

    The front cowl mount was also toast.....

    Fixed that.....

    Also, the inner rocker behind the front body brace....


    On to the rocker panel. Opened it up and coated the inside with POR15. Cut a length of 18ga to shape and welded it in. I even cut the factory wire clip off the old rotted panel and attached that....

    Had to fab a new piece at the bottom of the door jamb also. That side done.

    Next up, toeboard. I got a little over zealous with a ball peen hammer trying to form the stiffening rib. That didn't work out so I resorted to my cheap Harbor Freight bead roller. The 1/2" die worked perfectly to form stiffening ribs!

    Then I cut the floorboard....

    I formed the roll that transitioned into the trans tunnel with my high tech rolling tool.....

    Many beads to roll on my cheap HF bead roller and couldn't have done it without my assistant (and wife of 34 years). This ain't her first rodeo either! She's helped me pull many a motor and trans over the years!

    All buttoned up.....

    On to the pass side.
    This side was more extensive so I decided to pull the door for easier access. Built a door dolly out of 2x4s and some cheap casters I had laying around. Made it real easy to pull the door myself (didn't even need the wife to help) and it's mobile so very easy to roll around.

    Cut out the offending cancer.....

    Same issues with the right side body brace and inner rocker.....


    Right side toeboard....

    Had to replace the right rear floorpan also.......

    Had to make the small 'under the seat' section outta 5-6 pieces because of the elevations....

    I think it all came out pretty good considering it was done on the cheap!

    While I was at it I noticed rust starting to come through the previous owners bodywork on the pass side rocker panel. I ground the old bondo out and found this mess....

    Cleaned, derusted, POR15'd and welded in a new panel. A fresh coat of mud should get it looking just fine.

    Next up is lay down some seam sealer and primer then I'll probably jump on the front suspension. More to come!

    Last edited by 2.3Turbo_T; 02-15-2020, 02:07 PM.

  • #2
    Thanks for all the pics, it helps people who are a bit worried about a rust hole,realize that taken one step at a time these problems can be resolved very nicely.
    My build thread:


    • #3
      Got a couple more things done. Prepped and primed the floorpan and layed down some seam sealer.

      Didn't want to pay $30 a tube for the high end automotive stuff so I picked this up at Home Depot for $7 a tube. I used a case of this when I painted my house last year and it's quality sealer. Good enough for my house, good enough for the car!

      Done with the floors!

      Moved onto the next task, pulling the front suspension which will be rebuilt.

      With no front end I needed a way to roll it out of the garage when I pull it out for sandblasting so I built a car dolly using 1" square tubing and some casters I had. Rolls quite nicely!


      • #4
        Looking good. The dolly is inspirational! I'm glad you posted this one because I've got some wheels that's been sitting around for quite some time. They will become useful in the very near future! 1930 Chevy truck build link:


        • #5
          Great work on the project. You are really great at sheet metal work, something I need work on.


          • #6
            I've been working on installing electric power steering and power brakes for a few weeks now. Finally got it all mounted up but no performance review 'cause the car is far from roadworthy, sorry. I don't see where there would be any issues, but ya never know!

            First order of business was to pull and dismantle the '54s steering box.

            After cleaning and inspection all needle and roller bearings looked to be in great shape! Only thing I replaced was the oil seal. For teardown and inspection I followed this article...

            With the box remounted I made a run to Pick-N-Pull to find the proper EPAS unit. This 2005 Saturn Vue gave up it's EPAS. $66 out the door!

            It's surprised me how simple it was to remove the unit. A couple of mounting bolts, disconnect a U-joint and a few wires and you're done. Took me 1/2 hour at the yard. Oh yeah....bring metric tools!

            Get the steering wheel (I'll explain later) and make sure to get the 6ga power wire with the fuse and it's neat little fuse holder too.

            There's lots of lists on the internet as to which units will work. I think with the Saturn units you need the ones with the metal ECU cover. Here it is for reference.....

            Now it's time to dismantle it to the bare unit. Remove the steering wheel (save it)! Also remove the ECU. It'll need to be remounted and the wires lengthened. It's connected to the torque sensor by 4 short 22ga wires. Cut all 4 right in the middle and then solder on some lengths of 18ga to all 8 cut ends. Soldering is necessary 'cause butt connectors won't crimp to the 22ga very well. I added quick disconnects to the other ends.

            There are many ways to mount these things. This way worked for me. I highly recommend dashboard removal! These units aren't light (25 lbs) and trying to manhandle it under the dash while designing brackets and such is best left to the young studs!

            I'm also adapting power brakes during the build so I killed two birds with one stone here. I decided to mount the EPAS off the brake pedal mount so I removed it and made some mods. I extended the mounting flange and opened up the center hole to accommodate my new 8" dual diaphragm brake booster. Also, made a bracket for a generic brake light switch.

            In addition, I reinforced the front section as the column will be supported by a U-bolt that threads up into the dash.

            Welded a plate to the firewall for added reinforcement.

            Mounted the booster and master. Here's what I used.....



            OK....enough of that. Back to the EPAS!

            The Saturn column cover was 2" wide and if I wanted to use the '54 column it would have been a whole lotta work so I decided to just cover the Saturn column with a length of 2-1/4" exhaust tubing. I welded some ears onto the bottom so it bolts right on top of the Saturn piece.

            You'll also notice I adapted the '54 turn signal housing to the pipe. Just cut it off from the old column, fabbed some brackets and welded it on.

            I came up with a main EPAS mounting bracket of 1/4" plate that mounts to the motor itself at a 32* angle (same as the stock '54 column). Not pretty but it works!

            You can see where the U-bolt comes into play. It's simply a 2-1/4" muffler clamp.

            Now to connect the lower part of the unit, I had to cut the '54 column down to 13". Depending on your mounting procedure that number may vary.

            The main piece for this conversion is the 16.5mm x 3/4" smooth U-joint. Took me forever to find one 'cause most of them are listed as 17mm but they're actually 17.5mm (too big). Digging deeper I found the proper one. Woodward Steering in Wyoming carries it. Part # 114/100. #114 is the 16.5mm 36 spline and #100 is the 3/4" smooth end. $70.


            The 3/4" smooth end is to be welded onto the '54 shaft. The other end slides onto the Saturn splined shaft. The U-joint has 2 small setscrews to lock it in.

            I also made a lower column cover from the '54 column. Cut it to length, split it in half and welded some ears on that connect to the floor plate.

            Here you can see the remounted ECU. That little black box up top is the 'Bruno' controller. The 'Bruno' controller is necessary because the steering ECU isn't receiving any input from Saturn sensors. The 'Bruno' controller sends the proper signals. $59 shipped from Portugal. Takes a few weeks to get here!


            The other end of the controller is an adjustable pot that varies the amount of power steering assistance. It came with a generic knob and I didn't want that. So I welded a bracket to the backside of my dash and adapted the factory choke knob to it. Works great!

            Tidying things up I needed to cover that muffler clamp on the column. I chopped up the old column cover and made it fit.

            Almost done! Wait.....what about a steering wheel? I had always planned for an old Cal Custom 3-spoke metalflake wheel. I plan to eventually paint the car two tone. Calypso green with a white top. No swap meets due to the corona virus shelter-in-place so I had to buy a new one. SoCal Speed had what I needed.

            Come to find out that absolutely no one makes an adapter to adapt an aftermarket wheel to a Saturn! Remember at the beginning of this post I said 'save the Saturn steering wheel, I'll explain later'?
            It's later.

            Made my own adapter from the old Saturn wheel. The center of the wheel is aluminum with a splined steel insert that matches the Saturn EPAS splines. Cut out the center of the wheel with a Sawzall then trimmed it to fit on my bandsaw.

            I wanted to retain the self cancelling feature for my original '54 turn signals so I removed the turn signal cam from the old wheel and welded it to the steel insert. The Saturn insert is a smaller diameter so I had to build up the edges with a weld bead to trigger the cancelling mechanism.

            Drilled and tapped three 1/4" x 28 holes in the adapter to mount the wheel.

            I used an adapter cover that came in a Grant wheel adapter kit I had laying around. Fit perfectly! Grant #4510.

            I simply need to hook up the power wire and I should be good. The steering wheel sits just right. It's about 5" from the top of the speedo. I was even able to utilize the original turn signal wiring cover at the bottom of the column. Total cost was under $200. Now I have unobtrusive power steering that should work well. I think it came out pretty good!

            Last edited by 2.3Turbo_T; 05-12-2020, 11:31 AM.


            • #7
              Turned out cool indeed! Great layout with details and pics- and appreciate several of the links that I very well may end up using. Liking the fab work you're doing as it's practical and to-the-point. Enjoyed this update with my first cup of coffee this morning! Double thumbs up.
     1930 Chevy truck build link:


              • #8
                Good job! That looks great, and may solve a lot of power steering issues with old cars. I foresee a run on the Saturn electric power steering units at the local pull a part. My son has a 57 Dodge wagon and the power steering units on those only fit 3 years, and those are mounted in a horrible location where you need to pull the entire power steering unit (steering box and all) out from under the dash inside of the car. This would make a slick replacement for that wagon.
                I will be interested in how it feels driving down the road. Gene


                • #9
                  I'm trying to keep a record of everything I do but I forgot to put this in. While the dash was out, I threw in a Newport 12v electric wiper motor and new bushings. Got it cheap from a guy who bought it years ago but sold his project before he ever installed it. Always looking for a deal!

                  Also blasted and painted the front suspension pieces. Got the bushings installed and picked up some Aerostar coils too. I bought an entire front end rebuild kit from these guys.....

                  More to come.
                  Last edited by 2.3Turbo_T; 05-14-2020, 12:09 AM.


                  • #10
                    Good find on the Newport motor. Those things are quality.
           1930 Chevy truck build link:


                    • #11
                      Today was a dirty day! Started out by removing all the factory seam sealer that Ford installed in the rear trunk area behind the bumper. It trapped a ton of moisture and the panels just rotted through. The PO decided to just bondo over the rust! Out of sight, out of mind!

                      After I was saddened by that, I turned my attention to scrapping out the seam sealer in my drip rails.

                      This just keeps getting better!

                      Also, stripped off the door weatherstripping. Looks like the metal work isn't going to end anytime soon!

                      Finally finished off the day with a bit of satisfaction. Was able to clean up the nasty factory gas/temp gauge cluster. Came out pretty good.

                      That's all for today.


                      • #12
                        Little update.
                        Pushed the car out into the street for sandblasting the undercarriage. Put up a blast barrier and proceeded to blast the whole underside of the car.

                        That was fun!

                        Back into the shop. Primed the firewall, painted the framerails and undercoated everything underneath then reinstalled the rebuilt front suspension with Aerostar coils.

                        Brakewise, I went with '68 Mustang drums, shoes and wheel studs.

                        The Raybestos 1634R drums ($30 from RockAuto) fit like a glove and the wheelstuds from NAPA were a bit longer, as were the shoulders but didn't cause any fitment problems at all.

                        Next, I decided to tackle the rear pan/valance issue. It's basically two panels sandwiched together. The trunk extension and the outer body panels. I cut the outer body panels out to access the truck extensions. It was this bad on both sides.

                        Repaired both trunk extensions. I'll attack the outer panels later.

                        Next up, rear suspension removal. I took it out as a unit.

                        After blasting underneath, I found this. Trapped dirt and moisture allowed it to eat through the quarter from the inside out.

                        Now's the time to address it. With the rearend out I've got all the room in the world to work! First, I cut out the inner panel.

                        Next, I coated the inside of the quarter with POR-15 then formed and welded in the corner piece.

                        Finally, formed and welded in the longer piece. I just overlapped the metal instead of butt welding 'cause nobody is gonna see that. Once I seam seal and undercoat the repair it'll be basically invisible.

                        Turned my attention to the lower section of the quarter. Cut it out, formed a patch and welded it in. A skim coat of filler should finish that up.

                        In the morning I'll order all my rearend rebuild parts from Dennis Carpenter so I can get into rebuilding the rear.
                        That's all for now.


                        • #13
                          Rear suspension finished! Blew it all apart and sandblasted everything...

                          Bolted a couple of lengths of 1" square tubing to the 3rd member and that made it easy to carry around. Set it on a 15 gallon barrel for cleaning.....

                          Replaced the axle bearings and seals, all new bushings, anti-squeak pads, spring clamps, etc.
                          Here's all the small hardware painted and ready to go back on...

                          I'm far too old to lay on my back and wrestle a 3rd member into place. I ratchet strapped it to the floor jack and it was amazingly easy to slide into place!

                          All new brakes and replaced all the brake lines and rubber hoses too. All back together and looking good!

                          Scored a brand new fuel tank from a member on another board who bought it for his '56 years ago but sold the car before he could install it. Got it for a great price too! Holds a full 22 gallons!

                          The '55-'56 tanks are a little different than the '54's but it fit perfectly! The only mod necessary was to lengthen the mounting straps a couple of inches. I utilized the tank straps that came with it then cut the rear sections off my old '54 straps and welded them to the new straps.

                          I'll be running the factory Mustang fuel injection so I ordered the in-tank fuel pump cradle from Backorder Bob Drake. Well, the fuel lines stick up an inch above the trunk floor. What to do? I removed the access door for the sending unit from the trunk floor then opened it up to the front of the fuel tank.

                          Built the sides then designed a box to cover the obtrusion.

                          I welded the back portion to the sending unit access door 'cause it's got a neat little flap that slides under the trunk floor and secures it in the rear and 2 screws hold down the front. I like it!

                          Next up is a full rewire!


                          • #14
                            It's a cowl induction sending unit hood! LOL! Nice fab work. I really appreciate getting to live vicariously through so many builds that I would like to do. Seeing so many different ways to do things is not only neat but is also keeps me juiced on working on my own ride. Keep it up!
                   1930 Chevy truck build link:


                            • #15
                              It's really great how you are finding all the little odds and ends to do the job properly.
                              and thanks for all the pics and explanations!
                              on point 👍
                              My build thread: