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Dans 283
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Sometime around 72 or 73 I had a friend let me know about a deal he had in his backyard. It was a 57 Chevy Convertible minus drivetrain, with some butchering, to drop in some other substantial type power but never completed. He also had a 65 Chevelle 283 with a 3spd stick sitting with it that he had intended to put in the 57. He wanted $150 for the car and $50 for the 283. Now in 72/73 $200 was a bit more money than it is now a days, but it was still a pretty good deal for the 57, especially since it had a good title and a one piece 'california' front bumper, so I offered $150 for all of it and he took it.

Now, I never really had anything in mind with what to do with the car, just didn't like the idea of a 57 Chevy Convertible going to waste. Then for some really odd reason I thought it might be a nice 'first car' for my brother. So, being the frugal/cheapskate/skinflint person that I am, I decided to do a 'J.C. Whitney' restoration on the car and give it to my brother.

The car had had the original rear side mounts torched out and the front crossmember cutout where the stock mounts had been. The underdash wiring and engine compartment wiring was all gone. The floorboards were both rusted out and butchered up. So, I welded up the front crossmember, and 'cloths hanger' welded new floorboard repairs into the car. Since the car had an Xmember chassis and the stick trans out of the 65 Chevelle had a rear mount pad, I just bolted in a plate to the Xmember for the trans mount.

Got out my J.C. Whitney and ordered a 'rebuild' kit for the 283, a new clutch and pressure plate and a replacement convertible top kit for the car. Had the 3spd trans gone thru by a local shop.

The car had been a factory auto, so I had to scare up a clutch pedal and linkage which I actually seem to recall I had 'in stock'. Went to local 'yard' for a drive shaft and did a J.C. Whitney brake job and front suspension rebuild, pretty much had it all set to go.

Did the main bearings on the engine while having the block laying on it's back and then bolted the flywheel to the crank and set the block up on the tailgate of my El Camino to install the pistons. Kinda neat, just spinning the block around on the crank as I tapped the reringed pistons and rods into place.

Somewhere down the line after most of the pistons had tapped in rather easily, using one hand to guide the rod bolts past the crank and tapping with the other, one of the pistons was a bit more difficult and after some hand manipulation and some loss of patience I realized it needed some harder tapping/banging.

Soon afterwards I discovered a rod bolt firmly jammed into the crank journal. Upon further inspection I also found a nice little half moon crescent indent in the rod journal. This caused much consternation and confusion on my part as to how to resolve this possible problem. Then with my evil genius/mad mechanic mode kicking in 'heck it's just for my brother', I decided that the rod journal had holes in it anyway, I'll just make sure there's no protruding deformation metal and go ahead and use as is. I filed, sanded and crocus clothed the spot until I was sure it was smooth and went ahead and finished the job.

Just like when my 56 Chevy 265 lost oil pressure I was curious as to how this was gonna work out.

Anyhow, after rewiring the car, without a kit, and installing the top kit and a J.C. Whitney exhaust system I got the car done. A little shabby, but driveable. In a prevous era it probably woulda been considered a 'jalopy' but now it was just an old car for my brother to drive to High School.

I got the car out for a test drive on a sunny day and went ahead and drove it over to my brothers High School and cruised into the parking lot and parked in a prominent spot so he couldn't miss it.

So, when the 3:30 bell rang and the kids started coming out the car did it's share of attention and finally my brother came out and found me sitting on the passenger side with the keys in the ignition and I told him to get in and drive, it's his.

This for the kid who wiped the paint off the side of my Coupe.

Brother still has the car and it still has the same 283 in it. He says he's never had any problems with the engine. He actually drove the car from Wichita to Colo Springs and to the top of Pikes Peak with no trouble.

If I had that engine I'm sure the bearing would have spun in the first week.

Guess he really musta liked the car, he has only had 3 or 4 wrecks with the car since then, t-boned someone pulling out in front of him, so the car got a new station wagon front clip. Twice at a drivein theater, where he worked, he backed up with the door opened and tangled with a speaker post, replaced both doors. He also got side swiped in an intersection smashing up a rear quarter pretty good. Porta powered that back into shape and found a good used quarter replacement.

Brother still has the car, must be for the memories or something.

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George Carnut McDowell
est. 1996