BY DAVE CHAPMAN
Working long hours with little or no sleep to get a vehicle ready for Autorama is nothing new for Grosse Isle resident George Williams. He has done it many times while helping longtime friend and custom car builder Chuck Miller with one of his vehicles. What’s different this year is the long hours and sleepless nights are for Williams’ very own custom 1940 Chevrolet.
Williams purchased the car in 2008 as the car he wanted to build, as it was something different that you don’t often see. Another factor in the decision was that the car was built in 1940, the year Williams was born. The car wasn’t a total wreck but not in as good of shape that Miller would have liked to have seen. Miller even told Williams that the next time he is going to buy a car, he was going with him.
The car was worked on a little here and there until two years ago when Williams got serious about completing it for this year’s Autorama. Parts for a 1940 Chevrolet aren’t easy to find, which meant Williams spent a lot of hours at swap meets looking for the needed parts to complete the project.
Keeping track of all the parts Williams had accumulated and what he still needed was an important part of the project.
“Without the help and support of my wife keeping track of all the parts I have and what I need I couldn’t have ever got the car built,” Williams said.
Instead of replacing the car’s power plant with a small block crate engine, Williams rebuilt the original in-line 6-cylinder engine. While the performance of the engine was increased, Williams wanted to keep the car reliable and cruise friendly so he did nothing radical to the engine.
During the rebuild process the engine’s displacement was increased slightly by boring in out. A ¾ race cam was added along with a pair of 2 barrel Webber/Carter carburetors replacing the original single two barrel carburetor. A modern HEI ignition system replaced the engine’s original point fired system. An electric fan was added in front of the radiator to keep the engine cool on hot days of cruising in heavy traffic.
If you look closely at Williams’ car you will notice that the exhaust manifold has Williams written right on it. When he went to buy the manifold that he did need, once he saw the name on it, Williams said that he would have brought it home with him even if he didn’t need it.
Exhaust exits the engine via a custom exhaust system that was installed by Guardian Car Care in Trenton. Included in the exhaust system is an original Cherry Bomb muffler that Williams found new in a box at a local swap meet.
A five-speed manual transmission is mated to the engine that sends the power to a rear end that was transplanted from a late model Buick. The vehicle’s old six-volt electrical system was updated to a modern 12 volt system. A new wiring harness was installed to accommodate the vehicle’s new air-conditioning system, stereo system, LED tail lamps and high output headlamps. The wiring harness and much of the other car’s updated electrical system was done by fellow Grosse Isle resident Glenn Forshee.
Although many of Williams’ friends urged him to replace the Chevrolet’s original suspension with one from a Mustang II complete with power steering, Williams stood fast and kept the car’s original front suspension without power steering. He did add a pair of disc brakes taken from a Nova for improved braking.
Williams’ car rides on 225x75R 15 wide white wall tires on the rear and 205x75R15 wide white walls on the front. All tires are mounted on steel wheels with beauty rings and Chevrolet dog dish hub caps.
The car’s interior received a custom makeover via the hands of Gibraltar resident Rag Boy, Steve Kowalski. This included custom door panels, head liner and the recovering of a front bench seat that was borrowed from a late model Buick. The trunk also received a complete makeover with matching fabric panels and carpeting.
Miller repainted the dash to resemble the car’s original finish. Williams updated the Chevrolet’s instrumentations by removing the old ones and installing a set of new modern ones inside of a custom bezel that fits in the original instrumentation slot.
While Williams did not add power steering or power windows to his car he did add air conditioning and a modern sound system. The duct work for the air conditioning is hidden under the dash. The controls for the air conditioning and sound system are cleverly hidden behind a fold down section of the car’s dash.
Williams did some of the car’s body repairs by welding up the holes in fenders. He also did other minor body and paint prep, all of which was done with Miller pointing him in the right direction. The Chevrolet’s fuel filler door was filled in to give the car a smoother line. The fuel filler neck was relocated to the inside of the trunk.
During the building of the car it was decided that not all of the vehicle’s original parts would be put back on it. Among the parts that were left off were the car’s running boards. Williams decided that he liked the way the car looked without them. This was not as easy as just not bolting them on. Custom body panels had to be fabricated for the front and rear fenders to fill the space where the running boards were mounted.
The other pair of items not put back on Williams’ ’40 Chevrolet were the front and rear bumpers. As with the running boards, custom parts body had to be fabricated and added to give the car its smooth look.
Once all the body panels, seams, and gaps were perfect, Miller applied the car’s flawless custom paint. The final color of the car was up in the air as many different colors and types of paint were discussed until the final color of Cabernet was decided upon. Each coat of paint was hand rubbed between its coats. After they were happy with the paint, numerous coats of clear were applied.
The chrome and stainless steel parts of car were polished to better than new brightness by longtime friend Glen Gibbons, of RT Custom Polishing.
The finishing touch to the car was added by pin stripper Richard “Lil Dickie” Hounshell. Hounshell added a single line of contrasting paint along the car’s side body line and some pin striping around the car’s license plate.