After a long consultation, saving up for resources, and checking with several local tire shops I settled on Les Schwab. http://www.lesschwab.com/ in Livermore. My tireman was Jim McKee and he knew his stuff. He identified 3 of my original six wheels as widow-makers and he pointed out the features that he was looking for. I knew I already had 3 different styles of rims amongst the set and had it on good authority that at least two were widow-makers.
I really wanted to upgrade to single piece wheels with modern tubeless radials so what I settled on were the 22 5.x6.75 Accuride #28157 wheels that came stock in grey. I had Les Schwab powder coat them in black. The tires are 255/70R-22.5/16 Gladiator QR55-ST Highway and they are a perfect match for the old 7.5x20 tube-typed tires that used to be on the truck. The are a tiny bit wider but almost the same outside diameter. There's no rubbing at full steering lock, I couldn't have asked for a better match. Thanks go out to Stu McMillan from the stovebolt.com forums for the original recommendation.
After getting the tires done it was time to go get some lunch on the way there I had to cut through the safeway parking lot and I noticed I had a stalker.
This guy was halarious. He was soo excited he was fit to be tied.
He pulled up next to me as I parked at Burger King and he said he threw his wife out of the car at Safeway and chased me down. He had just watched one of the Cars movies that morning with his kids and he was just tickled with the truck.
So I popped the hood, and we talked for a good 30 minutes, he gave me his camera to take pictures of him with the truck, and I took a snapshot from my phone as well. It was a fun experience.
Time to look for some modern replacements that I can fold in.
I decided to get out early in the am before traffic last weekend and try to practice with the truck. I still have to get enough confidence to go get it weighed.
My plan was to head out north Livermore into the country roads, giving me a chance to open it up without being on the highway.
I didn't make it, right as I stopped and turned right onto north Livermore from portola the gas pedal fell behind to the floor and the gas pedal lever that goes through the firewall now sets higher than the pedal actually reaches. I limped the truck into the neighborhood just to the right; I couldn't find a reason for it; but the gas pedal shaft will no longer rest behind the pedal. But works and goes all the way to the floor.
So I got back in and I drove the truck by just keeping the nub of the gas pedal shaft under control with the bottom of my shoe. I was getting the hang of it; started a couple times from a dead stop fairly elegantly. Then I got brave and decided I had annoyed this set of neighbors enough I should head back home. The north Livermore back country would have to wait until I had a less than lethal gas pedal.
Just as I get to the light to turn left it turns red, ... Dammit. Now I have traffic behind me and I get to be first into the intersection when the light changes. The light changes, I start out good, gas is strong, clutch easing out, not covering enough ground, ... Damn I didn't realize this intersection was this big, more gas less clutch, a herking-jerking we go, I'm trying to find a position in the clutch to ease the jerking, I don't dare let up all the way, so i decide more gas, HOLY MOLY the truck didn't like that! the whole truck starts hopping like it's a seal out of water, the gearshift begins jackhammering me in the knee punishing me for my overzealous application of fuel. I finally get the beast under control and now its moving in a straight line; people flying past me on the left. Most of them weren't mad, most of them I think were just bewildered from the show they had just witnessed and more than anything else just wanted to be farther away from it of it in case it were to happen again.
Rubbing my knee, ... That'll probably leave a mark... I'm on a straightaway doing 35 in 4th I realize the diff must be in low; I pull the lever to switch, no sound no change; let all the way off the gas; no change. I push it in; no sound no change. So it appears the diff is stuck in low; at least that explains why I cant get to highway speeds. I repeatedly tried to change it, clutch in, Clutch out, nothing seemed to work; and I've heard it work. In my second trip out. But nothing doin this time around.
My short list of suspects is that I'm either not generating enough vacuum, I have a vacuum leak, the fluid leak at the diff may be a cause, or that part of the diff has decided it's on vacation until this new jerk learns how to drive it nicely.
Oh forgot the best part, pulling it out of the parking spot I ripped off the left mirror this time. So I'm 2 for 2, I ripped off the right last time, it's costing me $16 to unpark my own vehicle each time I want to use it. $16 = cheapo head mirror replacement from kragen. I asked the manager if she would kindly keep an eye on the inventory and order some more when she gets low 'cause I'd be back...
Mater's back from the shop.
New brakes, rebuilt master cylinder and hydrovac. All new brake lines, and a couple new vacuum lines.
Brakes were entirely overhauled, drums machined, new wheel cylinders, new shoes.
Emergency brake was adjusted, right front leaf springs straightened out and re-bracketed. Tie-rod ends and kingpins have been replaced.
He's still running really rough, one cylinder is totally dead, and another is intermittent. I need to do a full tune up to see If I can get him running on all eight cylinders.
It was an exhilarating and terrifying ride from the shop to home. All of my driving up to this point only partially prepared me for what I had just experienced.
Here are my thoughts as I drove my 57 Wrecker for the first time.
Clutch out, gas, c'mon, c'mon, ... ok that wasn't so hard.
ok, now need to turn, .., Turn, TURN, TURN!, OMFG IM GONNA DIE, TURN! TURN! TURRRRRRRRRRRN! ... ah hell holy crap I almost just took out that fence.
street coming, going to need to stop, slow.
ok, need to stop, .., Stop, holy crap, STOP! STOP! STOOOOOOP!
And that was before I got out of the shops parking lot.
I liken my first Mater driving experience to 'Whipping an ogre to do your bidding'. You'll eventually get him to do what you want, but he isn't going to be at all happy about it.
The video was done on a phone, I'll try to get a better version. In the background you can hear my wife, her sister is recording, and she was there with her son. You can hear my nephew in the background, 'I like it!'. Well, so do I.
This will be a great learning experience, and I can't wait to take it out and practice some more.
The 1957 Chevy 6100 Wrecker is home. Thanks to Ray, and R. Lance and Sons Towing. http://rlanceandsons.com/
The Wrecker has a 4 speed manual, with a two speed two ton rear end, PTO, winches, air horns, lots of lights, and a Chevy 350 Under the hood.
It looks uncannily like Tow Mater from Pixar's Cars movie but I'm going to resist naming it "Mater". It's too cliche; and this is a serious work truck! Maybe "Bessy"; Not sure. The truck will eventually name itself; until them I'm just calling it
Current Todo List:
Rear Brake Drums are Seized; Unseize them.
Rear Brake Lines are Cut; Replace them.
The Rims may be unsafe widow-makers; Have them checked.
The Tires are Dry-rotted; Replace them.
Windshield is severely broken; Replace it.
Driver Side Vent window is missing; Find a replacement.
The bench seat is nasty; Fix or Replace.
Then drive it!
It last ran in May, starting it should only require fluid changes, and a nicely charged battery.
Big props to Ray and R.Lance it was fun going to pick it up, and it went very smoothly.