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Post Info TOPIC: June 2010 Feature Car


A Poncho Legend!

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June 2010 Feature Car


In my quest to find a pre 1958 Canadian Pontiac to feature this month, I (and many members) felt it fitting to show off Dave LaCourse's 1956 Pathfinder work in progress. Although living in Florida, Dave has been a staunch supporter of this website and, of course, Canadian Pontiacs. So much so that it's only fitting to show off his car and to make him an honorary Canadian.
Take it away Dave...

Most Canadian Pontiac cars are, of course, in Canada, and are owned by Canadians, in fact most of you guys. My 1956 Canadian Pontiac is a bit unusual, since it resides in Florida, USA. So let me tell you the story of how my project car came to be here.

When I grew up (i.e. teenage years in the early 60s) 55-57 Chevys were the car of choice for hot-rod-minded youth (like me) plentiful and cheap as used cars, with that small-block V8 which would peel out in stock condition and do even better when souped up. My mom had a Bel Air hardtop (unfortunately with a straight-6 and Powerglide) with what I thought and still do think were beautiful body lines (and she allowed me to nose and deck it and paint the wheels black so when I took it out I could pop the hubcaps and at least pretend I had a hot car), and I thought it rode and handled great. In fact one fine evening I outran the local cops in that car, mostly because I could hang a right then hang a left then more of the same with quick precision that left them in the dust.

I always wanted to put a junkyard 389 Pontiac motor in that 55 Chevy. But having to work at the local gas station after school, plus study time for college-prep courses, didnt leave enough time, and the work money was slated to help for college anyway. So I had to satisfy myself with moms 55. Although I did have a friend (who worked at the same gas station) who had a 55 Chevy (a 2-door sedan, black and white) with a V8 and stick shift, and I helped him install a floor shift, and that car gave me an appreciation for the V8. (I blew up his motor one night driving back from college, but that is another story.)

So I have fond memories of the 55 Chevy. And of course the 56 and 57 too (I had friends who had them too). And fond memories of Pontiacs of the era (one of my buddies dad had a brand new 59 Pontiac with the 389 and a 4bbl., on the rare occasions he got to drive it, man did we have a blast!).

Below the border, Canadian cars were not often seen, although on the rare occasions I saw a Parisienne or Laurentian, I was intrigued by the distinctive styling on a classic body shape.

And that (plus quite a few years of elapsed time) leads us to my 1956 Canadian Pontiac. And my current situation.

After 45+ years of continuous work (including working my way through college), I finally retired. And you know what the biggest problem is at that point in life? It is: what the hell do I do with all this free time that I never had and am not used to? In my case, the answer was: do what you have always wanted to do but never had the time for = build a car. Not just any car, but a Hot Rod, like I would have done back in the day except I didnt have the time or the money. And now I had plenty of time, and a modest amount of money, so thats the answer, build a car. (Along the way, during those 45+ years, I had raced [SCCA] a 65 Corvette, and I still had the BIG red full-to-the-brim toolbox, so I was pretty well prepared.)

What car? Obviously a 55 Chevy. But then reality strikes, and I discover that prices for a 55 Chevy in decent shape are out of sight! (Keep in mind that I am not rich, I was just an engineer, and only have a modest amount of loose cash.)

So I reflected on the unobtainable 55 Chevy, and I recalled that during my college years, I owned a 55 Ford (6-cyl. stick shift, nosed and decked with custom metallic blue paint) and later a 55 Merc (V8 with floor shift, nosed and decked with custom metallic green paint) and they were great cars too, so I expanded my search to 55-57 cars of any make and then, on eBay, a 1956 Pontiac popped up, and it sure looked like the body lines I remembered
Photo1.jpg
although with obvious Pontiac styling features (hood and fenders). And since my vision for my project car was the Hot Rod I would have built in my youth, the lack of a front bumper ala 60s Gassers, the nosing and decking, and black primer paint, were all plusses for me.

So I followed up a bit with the seller, and someone else had pointed out to him that the car was a Canadian Pontiac, and I did a bit of research to discover that under the skin, the car most importantly, the chassis and drivetrain was a Chevrolet, which meant that the HUGE Tri-Five aftermarket of readily-available and reasonably-priced parts could be drawn upon for suspension, steering, brakes, engine, transmission, differential, etc. and that therefore rebuilding and upgrades would be infinitely easier than chasing down old Pontiac parts.

So I bid to win and bought my 1956 Canadian Pontiac $3,250 (USD). Even though it had the straight-6 motor (because I knew I could build and install a big-block Chevy V8 just like I could in a 55 Chevy). And even though it had unsafe tires and even worse brakes and a bunch of other problems (missing door handles and window cranks, right rear window would not roll up, front seat was loose, headlights and turn signals did not work, etc.). Even though I had to ship it from California to Florida (another $1,000). Driving it home one mile from the place the car carrier dropped it off, at night, with no headlights, and terrible brakes, was an adventure, eh?

But it had a cool custom interior with old-school tuck-and-roll upholstery, and the frame and floor pans were not rusted so there was a solid foundation, and most important: I had a project, that I could do, pretty much all by myself, that would basically result in the 55 Chevy (actually, an improved version) Hot Rod I always wanted but couldnt do. And I could get the parts at reasonable prices:
·    New power front disc brakes:
·    7 dual-diaphragm booster
·    Dual master cylinder
·    Proportioning valve
·    Pre-bent brake lines
·    11 rotors with large GM calipers
·    Hoses, seals, dust caps, hardware, etc.
·    Rebuild rear brakes:
·    New wheel cylinders
·    Self-adjusting brake kit
·    (Brake shoes and drums were in excellent condition and did not need replacing)
·    Complete rebuild of front suspension with all new parts:
·    Urethane control arm bushings
·    Ball joints
·    Tie rods and idler arm
·    Springs
·    Shocks (upgrade to gas-filled)
·    Spindles, 2 lower than stock, with roller bearings
·    Tubular upper A-arms (necessary after the first attempt at front end alignment showed the need for more caster and camber)
·    Complete rebuild of rear suspension with all new parts:
·    Springs (high-lift to help clear big tires and although many do not like it, the healthy rake fits my vision of my Hotrod 56)
·    Shackles and bushings
·    Shocks (upgrade to gas-filled)
·    4.11 Positraction
·    HD all-synchro transmission with floor shift
·    Big-block Chevy motor
·    4-bolt main 454 bored and stroked to 496 cubic inches
·    Forged steel crankshaft and H-beam connecting rods
·    Forged aluminum pistons with plasma moly rings
·    Balanced and blueprinted
·    Brodix aluminum heads with 2.25 intake / 1.88 exhaust valves
·    Comp Cams Big Mutha Thumpr hydraulic roller cam and matching valvetrain
·    Milodon custom (to fit chassis and stroker crank) 7-qt. oil pan and pickup
·    Edelbrock aluminum high-rise dual-plane air-gap intake manifold
·    Demon 850 cfm mechanical-secondary carburetor
·    ARP stainless steel fasteners
·    Aluminum water pump, electronic ignition, and lots more go-fast parts

Lots and lots of parts:
Photo2.jpg
Photo3.jpg
Photo4.jpg
and more, eh?

Of course there were a few original Canadian Pontiac parts needed, such as the trunk latch Taylor55 graciously sent to me.

My basic plan was to:
1.    Get the car roadworthy:
a.    Rebuild front and rear suspension, install power front disc brakes, and rebuild rear brakes. Satisfying results:
Photo5.jpg

b.    Polish the old Ansen Sprint mags and mount the new BFG tires 255/70R15 rear (the biggest that would fit the wheel wells), 29.1 tall, 10.2 wide and (rather than drag race skinnies on the front, something to aid stopping and cornering) 205/60R15 front, 24.7 tall, 8.2 wide.

c.    Remove non-functioning vacuum/cable windshield wiper system and install Raingear system with 2-speed/delay switch (washer system to be added in the future) and new wiper arms & escutcheons.

d.    Finish the interior - fix dented dashtop, replace/restore dash trim and gauges, rebuild steering column, NOS headlight switch, paint dash two-tone black and silver to match upholstery, NOS steering wheel, restore fresh air vents, new door handles and window cranks and a few hot rod touches NOS radio delete plate, fabricate heater-delete cover, smooth steering column shift collar to match floor shift, of course a Sun tach, and just for fun, on the speaker cover:
Photo6.jpg
Although it is clearly not original, I like the Silver Streak upholstery; in my mind it emulates the hood stripes and the tops of the rear fenders.
Photo7.jpg

2.    Get the original 261 straight-six running well, then drive the car a while to debug the new running gear (and maybe even hit a few car shows, eh?), then replace the transmission/shifter and make sure it works well, then install the new 4.11 Positraction and make sure it works well, while building up the 496 motor, then do the engine swap.

I did get everything in step 1 completed, and actually got the car out on the road for a bit, allowing a better photo op than in the garage.

Photo8.jpg
Ill probably end up painting the lower part of the polished aluminum radiator flat black

Photo9.jpg
The replica 1956 Florida license plate is just for fun, eh?

A real bonus of the short time on the road is that I got to take my wife (who has unflinchingly supported my project) for a brief ride, and got her ultimate blessing, when she said: This is pretty cool. J

My granddaughters think Grandpas Old Car is pretty cool too they have even helped with a few jobs when they visited from Maryland:
Photo10.jpg

And they are looking forward to a ride some day with Grandma and Grandpa:
Photo11.jpg

In the pictures of the 56 on the road, I hadnt yet drilled the taillights to add the 1959 Cadillac lights, which I have always liked, yes I know some think them too gaudy, but here they are, in all their rocket-ship glory:
Photo12.jpg

Trying to bring the 261 up to snuff included rebuilding the carb (yes you can still find carb kits for those old 1bbl. Rochesters)(and did I mention the dead spider I found in the float bowl?), new fuel pump, pulling the fuel tank for cleaning and coating, new water pump, new radiator (aluminum ready for the big block later on) and hoses, and rebuilt starter over $300 in parts, not counting the radiator. Finally I pulled the head and discovered one bad valve (#6 exhaust consistent with the low compression in that cylinder and rough running), a blown head gasket (consistent with the overheating and coolant loss), and the fact that the head is a common 235 head, lacking the steam holes for the 261. Bah! Dilemma: should I invest more time and money in the old motor (which was destined to come out eventually, and which would present a disposal problem), or should I sell it now (I had been contacted by a gentleman who wanted it for his mid-50s truck project)?

The collective wisdom of fellow Canadian Poncho members was that there was very little market for the old 261s, so if I had a buyer, sell it now. So I did. During May I pulled the straight-six and shipped it off to Oregon. I decided that $300 was a decent price almost covered the cost of parts I put into it, and basically it was just an old motor with typical problems, not worth a heck of a lot. The new owner planned to totally rebuild it which is what it needed and I was unwilling to do, so passing it on to a place where it could have new life was all in all a good outcome for the old 261, dont you think?
Photo13.jpg
So that is where we are now. My 1956 Canadian Pontiac is sitting with empty engine bay, ready to be cleaned and painted for its new motor. I have one of those polyurethane foam mock BBC engines, so I can do test fitting and see where, since I chose to use the stock engine mounts, experience of others says, I will need to dent the firewall. Ill be relocating the battery to the trunk, a favorite hot rodders trick to improve weight distribution. Ill also upgrade to 3/8 fuel line from tank to pump. And Ill remove the regulator and go with a 100-amp one-wire alternator.

Ive completed the bottom half of the new motor.
Photo14.jpg
Next up is finding TDC, then installing the harmonic balancer, cylinder heads, lifters, pushrods, rockers, intake manifold, you know the rest. Then off to the dyno man for break-in and tuning, then the big install. Yes you can expect a video of that big 496 smoking both rear tires J and maybe even a run with the cutouts open.

When will it be done, you ask? I do not have a schedule, or a timetable, or a deadline. This is my retirement project. I work on it when I want to, and I have to admit, I milk it a little. "Life is a journey, not a destination." (Ralph Waldo Emerson) To me, the fun is the doing, and although I do want to (and I will) actually complete the car as planned, once it is done, what will I do then? I do not delude myself that my 56 Pontiac Hotrod will sell for lots of money, or even that anyone might want to buy it at all. The logical step after completing this project is to find another Canadian Pontiac (maybe a 66-67 Beaumont, similar to my old 66 Chevelle?) and begin a new project. But I dont have enough space to keep the 56 and get another to work on. So my best course of action is to stretch out the build as long as possible, eh?

Once all the mechanicals are complete, I do have a few other plans. Seat belts, since their parents would not allow my grandkids to come for a ride without them. A/C, so I could actually drive a black car in Florida, eh? Body work, since there are a few rusted areas. That way cool 61 Pontiac Super Duty hood scoop that 427Carl gave me. A wide-band air-fuel ratio gauge, for the engineer in me. Drill 3 little holes in each of the eyebrows above the headlights and install LED sequential turn signals. Fabricate brackets and install the 1954 Chevrolet grille, with extra teeth. Custom trunk interior lined with tools like those 50s customs:
Photo15.jpg
And even though I am very fond of the black primer, because it is quintessential Hot Rod, I may even some day paint the car, although I would want my old friend who lives in Illinois to do it, a long way from here in Florida. That would be a fun road trip!

I was fortunate to find my 1956 Canadian Pontiac, and even more fortunate to have found CanadianPoncho.ca all you great guys (and gals!), willing to share your knowledge, and hopefully have a little fun along the way!

Runnin4.jpg
The old man and the old car go together well, eh?

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Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Awesome !

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Poncho Master!

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Great Story and a great car Dave.  

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Poncho Master!

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always loved that car!! another great pic for the car of the month!

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1959 El Poncho!!


Uber Guru

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Very car Dave! That interior is as cool as they get! Love the photo's with the grand kids. (They'd probably look neat if they were converted to B+W.)
Congrats on the well deserved feature car recognition. And great timing to coincide with your soon to be 1000th post! I look forward to seeing and hearing the video when it's complete!

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Poncho Master!

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Great story and good to see a friend south of the border spreading the Canadian Poncho story.

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1967 Parisienne 2+2
1967 Grande Parisienne

1967 Laurentian
1967 Strato Chief


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Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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Beauty, way to go Eh!



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Ray White, Toronto ON

1973 LeMans 454 "Astro-Jet"

Built March 9, 1973 - Oshawa ON

1993 Corvette Convertible LT 1

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A Poncho Legend!

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Very nicely done  handshake.gif   when you get a minute, why don't you give us some detail?  lol   

This feature, should earn us a spot, for our "Southern conventon" in 2011 

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Poncho Master!

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Wow! Lots of great detail going into that ride! She should be a real blast to take out for a spin.

Have fun with it!


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Uber Guru

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Love the story, Love the car , I'm partial to primer black cars ;) GREAT JOB!!!

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1960 Pontiac Strato Chief Safari
1960 Laurentian Safari 
1960 Laurentian 4door(scrapped)
2001 Grand Am Traded on a '96 Suburban 2WD
2002 Hyundai Accent(SOLD)
1968 Grand Parisienne Scrapped and SOLD

 

Calgary, Alberta, but raised in Peterborough



Canadian Poncho Superstar!

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427carl wrote:

Very nicely done  handshake.gif   when you get a minute, why don't you give us some detail?  lol   

This feature, should earn us a spot, for our "Southern conventon" in 2011 



Got a chuckle out of this comment but would agree on the Southern convention.  And about those tailights, was there also some safety reason for them?  Good job, Dave, nothing is going to stump you.

 



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Jerel


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I get it! Nice concept. Those hood bands look great against the black primer. The interior looks nice, and the big block power is totally appropriate. Jack it up. Hey, that's what loads of people did back in the sixties & seventies.

The story is good. I'll bet that guy in Oregon is tickled to get his hands on a 261.

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67 Chevelle Malibu Sport Coupe, Oshawa-built stocker 250 Powerglide 41,062 mile

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Guru

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A true hotrod..looks great Dave!!!

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A Poncho Legend!

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That is pure hotrodding.

And I guess I finally have to concede and say you're a full blooded Canadian now, having your car featured on Canadian Poncho!

Feels pretty good, eh???

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1966 Strato Chief 2 door, 427 4 speed, 45,000 original miles 



Uber Guru

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Great story and a great looking 56. I realy like that gasser look.

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A Poncho Legend!

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Hey Dave,
I'm liking it a lot! Great car! Have a frosty rocket for all your hard work Eh!

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Prince Edward Island

'64 Parisienne CS "barn find" - last on the road in '86 ... Owner Protection Plan booklet, original paint, original near-mint aqua interior, original aqua GM floor mats, original 283, factory posi, and original rust.



Poncho Master!

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Cool, waiting to see that big inch motor installed!

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Poncho Master!

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Great story Dave.  I think you point out one or two big differences in the members of this forum.  As the engineer, you plan every aspect of your build and are reluctant to see it finished because again, as the engineer, you accept the reality of building a vision in your minds eye that may not have enough universal appeal to be a Barrett Jackson top five seller.
You even go so far as to rule out the possibility of owning another "just for fun" car because it doesn't fit in your current space.
Many of us non engineers are in such a big hurry to drive our cars, in finished form, that we rush the project part to reach the finish line.  Then after a project or two we look for cars we like and can afford that we can drive immediately.
Lastly, there are lots of guys on this site such as my self that the last thing they think of is where will I put it.  When everything is full of cars, I just rent more space.  Other guys build more space and some guys can buy more space.  Point is, the purchase comes first and the space is almost an afterthought.
I have often said, I don't have time for another 2-5 year project.  I'm a cancer survivor, someone who lost his two best friends just prior too and shortly after retirement.  I have lived life the way I wanted, with some financial limitations since I took a pension in Feb./2001.  My wife retired two years ago.  My goal now if I have one, is to own all the cars I ever thought were cool, one at a time.  I, like you, will not have a collection.  So I buy them one at a time and then sell one to buy another.  Sometimes the cart gets before the horse and I own 2 or 3 at the same time but it eventually gets back to one again.  The only thing I concern my self with is convincing my wife this is a calling and it is all necessary for my continuing good health.
I wish you good luck and good health with your project it is one worthy of your time and effort.  

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Great story can't wait to see a pic of the tires smoking EH

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Poncho Master!

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Dave, I love your story and your dream! Keep it going and glad to see your car as the feature.....eh! The interior is awesome by the way!

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love it dave. smile

looking forward to seeing that big block go in there! aww



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Poncho Master!

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Great car and even better story and guy, Eh. Awesome job, congrats Dave.wink



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Stony Mountain, MB

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59 Impala 2dr HT
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Poncho Master!

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GREAT STORY DAVE. I REALLY LIKE THAT CAR, HAS JUST THE RIGHT LOOK.
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   MIKE



Poncho Master!

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Nice job eh! That interior is awesome! Whole car is looking super and i really like the caddy tail light treatment! Keep it up, you're a real inspiration!

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Randy

1967 Beaumont Custom 4 dr survivor
1985 Firebird

2004 Montana shortie

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Poncho Master!

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Great story and can't wait for the stories of that Canadian car at those Florida car shows.

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