Chevrolet National Tourer
Customer: Ray Dean
Lives in: Australia
Vehicle: 1928 National Chev Tourer (Holden Bodied)
How long have you owned this vehicle?
41 years, purchased in 1973
Where did you get this vehicle?
The Red Chev was made from the parts of 3 cars.
As a young fella I had the car bug and was spending way too much time cleaning, detailing and polishing a modern car. So in 1973 at the age of 20, just married, I decided I wanted to buy an old car to have something to show for my work. I came across a 28 National Tourer chopped into a farm Ute, very sad, very worn out, and amazingly still running, no oil, no water, no brakes, etc, but in my eyes it was the car for me, at $245.
Picked it up from Bunyip (country Victoria), and when I got it home started stripping it the next day. What a shock, the cabin literally fell off, the front guards were held on by wire and the radiator wobbled from side to side like the pendulum on a grandfather clock.
The following week I came across the remains of a 27 tourer in a creek bed in Avonsliegh, a little country town in the Dandenong ranges.
At the same time I had been talking to a dealer in Adelaide regarding a rear tub and other bits and pieces that I needed to rebuild the rear of the car. After no contact for several weeks he located a complete un-restored 28 Tourer that the local Holden Dealer apprentices had been working on. It had all the bits and pieces I needed to make a complete car.
What condition was the vehicle in when you got it?
Mechanically everything was worn out, neglected and unloved, and would require a full restoration of everything.
What work have you done on this vehicle?
1973 to 1975 -
After several attempts to find a good chassis, the Adelaide one was the best. So we then start with a bare chassis and work from there. After replacing all the bushes on the chassis, every bearing in the drivetrain had to be replaced, the motor was reconditioned and fitted with 40 thou oversize pistons. Front and rear springs were retempered, steering box overhauled, and the gearbox reassembled with the best second hand gears I could find. The front wooden spoke wheels were ok, and were reconditioned, the rear were shot and reproductions were obtained. With the exception of a few door timbers, all the others were replaced. The body was taken back to bare metal and resprayed by a local panel shop. The upholstery hood and side curtains that were done by a couple of elderly motor trimmers that worked on the 28 Chev assembly line in Adelaide as apprentices. The final step was new brakes and tyres all round and the car was on the road, registered on 21st April 1975.
1976 to 2006 -
Several improvementswere done during this period, including:
- Full length Stainless Exhaust
- Complete set of NOS gears fitted
- Clutch Flywheel and pressure plate upgrade
- Water Pump
- Engine Mounts
- Radiator Overflow Tank
My daughter wanted the Red Chev as her wedding car, which spurred me to put it back on the road after being laid up for 8 years, and during a mini restoration the following jobs were completed in the 8 months from February to 4am on the morning of the wedding in early October. The time spent was 4 to 5 nights a week, 1pm to very late on Saturdays, and 9am till very late on Sundays.
Originally I had not planned on removing the hood, but after I discovered the poor condition of the hood irons, there was no argument. It was "Off with its Hood". I had made contact with a a local motor trimmer, who specializes in Vintage Upholstery, and had arranged that he would refit the hood sometime around September.
2. Rear Axle Housing
I striped the axle housing back to bare metal as there were several areas that required welding repairs. This turned out to be a big task as there were several layers of black enamel,
several layers of zinc chromate, a layer of dirt, rust and then at last metal. Thank god for high speed heavy duty wire brushes and angle grinders. If I struggle to recall back in 1973, my only tools were a wire brush wheel on a Black and Decker drill, and rotary sanding discs. But what about the rust, did I not do a proper job back then. To be honest I cannot remember, and why did I not have it sandblasted in 1973?
There were several problems with the housing, and were due to using a unit from a paddock bomb back in 1973, and not being fully aware of the poor condition it was in.
The contact area where the axle saddles (which attach to the spring) rotate on the housing. On both sides there was sufficient wear and the low spots filled with weld and ground back to an even surface.
On one side of the axle housing where the axle saddle sits on the housing, there is a curved section of approx 1/4" thick metal riveted to the housing, which the saddle locates and rotates on. The rivets attaching this to the housing were loose and oil was leaking through.
All welding repairs were done by a good friend whose skill and attention to detail was a great assistance during this critical part of the restoration.
The fourth problem started as a minor job and turned into a marathon. I noticed there was significant rust inside the axle housing, at the top. I found this very strange as you would think that the oil churned up inside the axle and diff would splash and coat all internal surfaces with a coating of oil. How long it had been there? Don't know, could have been before it was restored in 1973 or later, but I cant be sure.
Got right into cleaning the rust out with a heavy duty circular brush on an extension rod on a power drill. Cleaned up the inside areas where the axle shafts are located, and set to work on the diff housing. Next problem. Inside the diff housing, is a complete inner layer or steel ring. This appears to be for two reasons. Firstly to provide extra strength for the diff housing and extra thread material for the diff bolts that hold the cover on one side and the torque tube on the other. Using long telescopic lights I found heavy rusting running underneath this inner layer, and the only logical solution was to remove it. This would not be easy as this inner layer appeared to have been inserted before the axle housing had been pressed and formed into a complete unit.
So its out with the Dremmel and countless mini cutting disks. About 5 hours later on a Sunday afternoon I managed to cut the inner layer into several sections and removed it. Next time if there was a next time, think I might go for chemical dipping. My hard work was rewarded by locating and eradicating a deep seated layer of rust that covered the entire inside surface of the diff housing between the inner and outer layer.
3. Torque Tube
This presented a simple problem with an involved solution. There had always been excessive slop between the torque tube and where it slides into the uni joint bell. I had been aware of it for a few years, and had been avoiding it. With the rear end was out of the car, it was time to fix it. The job required the torque tube being mounted in a big lathe, and the area of the torque tube that fits inside the uni joint bell, being turned down minimally, but just enough to achieve a constant diameter over the entire area. The end result combined with a new section being made and welded to the uni joint bell was perfect. The job was finished with the rear of the bell machined to fit a modern oil seal. Many thanks to "Geoff the Machinist" for a job well done.
4. Tail Shaft
The tail shaft was cracked where the pinion fits, and was unserviceable. I had 5 spare shafts, but they were all in poor condition, and could not be used. It took me till late May to obtain a NOS tailshaft, which was getting a bit close for comfort, and after getting the tailshaft sorted the following parts were replaced:
2 x Rear Axle Bearing Retainer
2 x Rear Axle Keys
2 x Rear Axle Inner Seals
2 x Rear Axles
1 x Propeller Shaft Installation Kit
1 x Propeller Shaft Bushing
1 x Propeller Shaft Packing
So its mid May, the car is on jack stands with no front or rear end. The rear axle and diff are spread across the garage floor, in various stages of repair. I was so pleased to finally have a tail shaft that it over shadowed any feelings and or concerns that I may have been running out of time. After all, its May, plenty of time till October?
5. Re-Assembling the Rear Axle and Torque Tube
With the tail shaft arrived the assembly process commenced, in the following order:
1. New bearings were fitted to the tail shaft.
2. A good second hand pinion was fitted to the tail shaft.
3. A new bushing was fitted to the torque tube.
4. The tail shaft was fitted to the torque tube.
5. New bearings were fitted to the diff carrier.
6. A good second hand crown wheel was fitted.
7. The diff assembly was fitted into the torque tube.
8. The torque tube was bolted to the axle housing.
9. New bearings and retainers were fitted to the axle shafts.
10. New seals were fitted to the axle housing.
11. The axle shafts were fitted to the axle housing.
12. The back cover was fitted to the axle housing.
13. Job finished, at last.
6. Hood Irons
The Hood Irons were pretty sad, especially the "Horns", which is where the timber bows fit into. They were sent interstate to a guy who specialized in Hood Iron repairs, and when they came back they looked brand new, and in 2014 still do. With several coats of acrylic primer and acrylic full gloss black enamel, they were ready to go.
7. Front Axle
The front axle received the following treatment:
1. Stripped back to bare metal.
2. Checked for straightness.
3. Primed and painted in black full gloss acrylic.
4. Brake arm pivot points were re bushed.
5. New King Pins and bushes were fitted.
6. U bolts were cleaned,. re threaded and plated in Gold Zinc.
7. Stub Axles were checked, and replaced with more serviceable units.
8. Brake backing plates were cleaned, zinc plated, primed and painted in black full gloss acrylic.
9. All nut and bolts were either replaced or zinc plated.
10. All Grease nipples were replaced.
All grease nipples were replaced.
Stripped back to bare metal.
Checked for straightness.
Primed and painted in black full gloss acrylic.
Tie rod ends were replaced with later model Chev sealed units.
All balls were replaced with new units.
Replaced with a more serviceable unit.
Ball replaced with a new unit.
9. Under body
Painted in Black Full gloss acrylic.
10. Front and Rear Springs
Stripped to individual leaves.
Sanded to remove rust.
Primed and painted in Black full gloss acrylic.
Bushes were all replaced.
Re-assembled with new bolts.
11. If it doesn't Move Plate it
I liked the look and corrosion inhibiting benefits of either Gold or Blue Zinc plating, so I went crazy and plated the following parts:
Spring shackles and Bolts.
All under body Nuts and Bolts.
Brake rods and Fittings.
Front and Rear Brake Drums.
12. Radiator / Cooling System
I did a rough fit with the radiator as I suspected a small leak. Well actually there was a small leak when I packed the car away in 1999, so one would presume it was still there. I was not disappointed!
No time to muck around, so I pulled it out, stripped the core from the housing and took it down to the local Radiator shop who also did rods and vintage cars. I did not get a very positive reaction. There were concerns about how thin the top and bottom tanks may be on a 79 year old radiator, and if they would survive the de-soldering and re-soldering process. Both tanks needed to be removed to gain access to both ends of the core to clean it out and try to fix the leak.
I left it with him for a week, and another week, and again. Finally got the call to come over and see him as there was a problem. He could not get into the part of the core where the leak was, without destroying the frontal appearance of the core. The leak had been reduced to a seepage but it was still there. There was one other thing he could try, failing this its a new core. Ouch. The core is immersed into a tank of solution containing a high level of metallic particles. While submerged the solution is pumped through the core at low pressure, and hopefully the metallic particles are attracted to the hole and plug it. Did it work, bloody oath it did, and has never leaked since (2007 to 2014).
The engine block was sealed top and bottom and filled with undiluted rust cleaner/converter, and allowed to stand for 6 hours. The engine block was then flushed out with high pressure water. The end result was that no signs of rust remained, and the block was cleared of any obstructions.
The water pump was cleaned repacked with grease and refitted.
The thermostat housing was replaced with a more serviceable unit.
The engine was relatively left untouched during this pre wedding restoration and would enjoy its own dedicated cosmetic revamp in 2008. Items such as plugs, points, oil, oil filter, rotor cap and button were replaced as part of a routine service. The engine was reconditioned back in the 1973. It has always been strong and continues to do so. It may moan and groan now and then, and have various noises at different times, but there's still a few years good motoring left in it. (2014)
14. Engine Bay
I tidied up the engine bay wiring and repaired the chassis cross member under the radiator.
16. The Uni Joint
A new replacement was fitted.
17. The Fuel Tank and Vacuum Tank
Both enjoyed a four stage process to eliminate what little rust was present, and to ensure they would remain in first class condition for many years to come.
Over a period of 2 weeks I restored the tank to as new condition, the tank was thoroughly cleaned, rust treated, etch primed and sealed with a smooth ceramic type lining. I also treated the Vacuum Tank the same process. That was back in 2007, and so far (2014), I have every expectation that both items will last for many years.
18. The Brakes
Relined all wheels.
All linkages inside brake drums replaced.
Brake rods were re bushed.
Replaced front brake cam adjusters.
19. The Exhaust System
Hot Air Intake rewelded.
Replaced exhaust straps and hangers.
20. Wooden Spoke Wheels
Rims sanded back to bare metal, primed and painted full gloss black acrylic.
Spokes sanded and filled.
Stained and lacquered spokes.
Primed and painted wheel rims in full gloss acrylic enamel.
21. Tyre Rims
Blue zinc Plated.
22. Tyres, Tubes and Rust bands
Purchased full set for 5 tyres, tubes and rustbands.
Replaced Top glass section
Sanded, filled and painted surround in full gloss back acrylic enamel.
24. To the Upholsterer
A local motor trimmer did the following work:
1. Refit Hood Irons.
2. Refit Hood Bows.
3. Refit Original Hood.
4. Replacement perspex in the rear window.
5. Replace clear plastic in side curtains.
6. Replace carpets front and rear.
Is there any other work that you would like to do?
A possible engine rebuild and paint repairs may be required in the next 5 to 10 years, and apart from that just keeping it in good operational condition.
What were the hardest parts to find?
There was no internet, ebay back in 1973, so everything was a search and locate mission. With only about 12,000 National Chevs produced in Australia, rear tubs, wooden spoke wheels, hood irons, windscreen surrounds were all difficult to find back then.
I would have given an arm to have had access to places like the Filling Station back then, and having been a customer since 2007 The Red Chev now has many FS parts on board.
What other vehicles do you own?
No other vintage cars, but would love a 32 Confederate.
My dream car is a 61 Corvette.
What is your next project?
Nothing planned at this stage.
Do you have any advice for people thinking about doing a restoration project?
Decide at the beginning of the resto, how far and into what detail you wish to go to. I am critical now as an older person of the standard or work I did in the early days when the priority was to get the car on the road ASAP. The result was a car that looked great (and still does) but mechanically was pretty average for the first 20 years. I now take my time, do it once, do it right.
Also take full advantage of places like The Filling Station. Referring to a latest catalog or going online can save a lot of time and drama.
For further adventures of the Red Chev
Please visit Ray Dean's blog: http://my28chev.blogspot.com.au/
Send us stories and pictures of your vehicle.