Venus #1

Venus #1 Update 12 (?)

Custom Body; Custom Challenges


Welcome back to the Venus restoration update; thanks for hanging in there with me. 
Hopefully, I’m in the home stretch, but typically for this project, it’s two steps forward and one step back. For those of you who have done so, completely taking apart an old classic car, restoring the body and chassis, and putting it back together can be a daunting and very laborious task to say the least.

Although the Venus is far less complicated in terms of the sheer number of parts, it’s still a can o’ worms requiring quite a bit of altercation and fabrication to make it all work. It is most definitely a challenge in every sense of the word, and perhaps it’s that challenge that keeps me engaged. Looking back, I think I’ve tackled the really difficult tasks leaving only the final bodywork to deal with (okay, okay….wiring, instruments, paint, and the interior).

One on-going problem (from day one) is that of man-handling the huge one-piece fiberglass body. On two occasions, I was able to procure enough guys to come out for a single lift, either on or off the chassis. But friends and neighbors are in short supply at a moments notice, and you can’t keep asking over and over again. (It takes a minimum of four to lift the body; six is better). It was easy to devote time to the chassis/engine alone as it was a nice fit in the garage. It didn’t take up too much space and all components were easy to get to. The same was basically true with the body as it was always on its own custom-built body dolly, and somewhat easy to roll around. But the time finally came where the two needed to occupy the same space. Below, the Venus body resting on the chassis: (Please click on any photo for a larger version)

Body Lift 1 copy

 

So to solve this issue, I installed 2 small electric winches in the ceiling, fore and aft. Each winch is supported by crossbeams above the ceiling joists, and the joists are in turn attached to the roof rafters. The total weight of the Venus body is only about 400 pounds, so I was confident that the ceiling would support the weight safely. With the winches, I could lift the gargantuan 1-piece body up and down as needed for purposes of properly mounting the body to the chassis.

Additionally, as seen below, having the body near the ceiling allows me to swing the chassis outward when the need arose. 

 

Body Lift 2 copy

 

 

Engine Relocation

For awhile now, I’ve always knew that the engine was going to have to be moved backwards for several reasons. First and foremost, the engine simply “looked” wrong in it’s stock mounting location. There was simply too much space between the firewall and the engine. Having the engine and transmission too far forward also created problems with the clutch and brake pedals being too far forward….there was simply no way they would even remotely come “into the cab”, so to speak. The Stromberg 97 carburetors cleared the hood, but not by much. Intake air filtration was going to be impossible, and I was resigned to use screen mesh inserts in the carb throats.

Engine Too Forward 1

 

So why did I not recognize this ahead of time? And why was the Venus designed with the firewall so far back? 
If you may recall, Venus #1 was in woeful mechanical condition when I got her. As found, the engine had already been moved back by about 4”; the clutch/brake linkage was a real mess; and the cross (drag) link was actually rubbing on the oil pan (see below). I could actually see the engine rock back and forth by turning the steering wheel! 

clutch-and-brake-mechanism-before

 

ma-venus-composite-5

 

To be fair, I had no guidance whatsoever (printed or otherwise) as to how to mount a Venus body, and I knew zilch/nada about flathead Ford engines and chassis….trial by fire! I deduced that the engine and associated linkage had to first be brought back to stock condition and location (see below). In a sense, I had to bring it from a -10 up to zero just to see where the problem(s) were.

clutch-brake-after

 

When I moved the engine back to original location, I had to also remove the orange oilpan (which was a Mercury), and replace it with a different style oilpan. Note in the photo below that the alternate pan allows clearance of the steering drag link. Problem solved…or so I thought.

Oilpan Crosslink Problem1

 

So what was the deal anyway? Clearly, the Venus firewall was way further back than the stock Ford body firewall. Keep in mind that the Venus was designed to accommodate almost any engine and any chassis. Cadillac V-12 engines? Maybe. I have no idea what other engines may have been taken into account. I believe the issue came from creating a two-seater body for a 4-passenger vehicle.

In studying the only B&W photo of the engine in the Venus prototype, it does look as though the engine has been moved back. Perhaps this was a requirement that the designers had in mind all along. Note this sentence in the single-sheet marketing flyer:

Venus Flyer Segment

 

Instructions

 

Seems that this was a requirement for Ford engines all along. The flyer also states that a “set of instructions would come with every body shipped”. I have never seen one of these documents, and I’m somewhat skeptical that it ever existed. Sure would answer a whole lot of questions I have! I guess I always believed (before now) that mounting a Venus body was as easy as removing the original Ford body and mounting the Venus body. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy! Sadly, that is not the case. But could the Venus body be mounted and driven without an engine move? Well, yes and no. The engine could stay on it’s original mounts, but that doesn’t solve the problem of getting the clutch/brake pedals into the car. Maybe this will be explained as I go along, but moving the pedals is complicated to explain, and I know that eyes are glazing over right about now!

Make It Happen

So with the Venus body now happily suspended, the chassis was easy to swing over for engine/transmission removal. It never fails to amaze me just how heavy an engine block is, even this “little” flatty V8.

Body Lift 3 copy

 

Engine Lift 1 copy

 

First order of business will be to replace the oilpan back to what was originally on the engine, a Mercury oilpan. The front of the Merc oilpan is very shallow, which means that it will clear the steering crosslink. (sorry, no photo yet). The biggest obstacle to overcome is that of the steering gearbox on the left side of the frame. I need to make sure that the exhaust header will clear the gearbox. And since the header will be so close to this gearbox, I will need to install a heat shield. Otherwise, the oil in the gearbox will become mighty hot!

I plan on keeping the original motor mounts, which as you can see, sit at a 45-degree angle. Another option however, is to change the water pumps to those off a truck which have a “flat” mount off to the side, making things very easy. But I’ve already invested in new and improved water pumps, so will simply keep the original configuration.

 

Photo here

 

 

Tranny Move As Well

Needless to say, whatever is attached to the engine will also have to move backwards, which includes the standard column-shift transmission. The tranny is supported by a brace that spans the width of the chassis. (This is actually referred to as the rear engine mount).

Note that this brace has two “hunps” in it, designed for the contour of the donor Ford body. These two arches are about an inch taller than the rest of the chassis.

Since it will need to move backwards to again support the engine, I will need to shave off this excess amount and weld a cover over the exposed area. This way, it won’t be an obstacle for the 1/8th inch aluminum floor I plan on creating for the chassis.

Needless to say, the driveshaft and emergency brake cable will have to be shortened as well. Easy stuff.

Clutch and Brakes

Another somewhat difficult alteration will be that of the master brake cylinder and clutch actuating bracket. The clutch and brake both work off the same support shaft, and this shaft MUST be in correct alignment with a specific support piece on the transmission. This shouldn’t be too tough to handle, though will require a new bracket for the master cylinder. Of all the possible upgrades I’d make to the Venus, it would be to put disc brakes up front along with an updated master cylinder. I still may look into this, but it’s difficult to determine what the exact set-up should be. I just don’t like the thought of a 60 year old master cylinder (and drums) for something as important as brakes. Could be pricey though. (I need an expert).

 

Paint Scheme

I have now changed my mind on what the paint scheme will be on this Venus. Initially, I was looking to reproduce the Venus on the front cover of Motor Trend, May 1954. But I’ve moved away from the monotone baby blue color in favor for the sportier-looking two-tone as seen below. (This explains all of the baby blue on the underside and engine). The dark front will be dark blue or Navy, while backside might be white. This should help to define the body lines better. The more I looked at the single-color Venus, the more I found it to be monotonous. The interior seats will be as original dark blue and white. So it goes without saying that the engine needs to be repainted dark blue as well. (I will try to resist a metal flake or opalescent dark blue color as well. Might look good, but wrong on a 1954 automobile. I have not yet found a period-correct opalescent dark blue yet.

 

Firewall/Engine Bay

I have also decided to cover the fiberglass firewall with 1/8th inch aluminum sheet. Not only will this give the engine compartment a sportier look, it will also save a TON of bodywork to make the firewall perfect. I will create a template from cardboard and have it cut slightly oversize. I will also create a “gauge” that determines the exact bend needed in the firewall. (I will probably have two of these made, one for Venus #2). This will also compliment the dark blue engine as well, giving the engine compartment some contrast.

I don’t know where else I might put the aluminum, but will try to refrain from covering everything! I will probably opt for a satin finish over a polished, the latter being hard to maintain. Might need a clear coat to keep from graying? Don’t know yet. I will also probably have a thin layer of sound deadening/anti-heat material between the aluminum and firewall.

(firewall photo)

Closing

Needless to say, there is still lots to do, but at the same time, not all that much. I’m confident that the engine can be painted and relocated in a months time. The biggest holdup will be having custom motor mounts fabricated at an outside shop.

My ultimate short term goal is to get this mechanical stuff behind me so I can concentrate on the best way to firmly mount the body to the chassis so that body work can begin. In my opinion, both Venus bodies were incorrectly mounted to their chassis.

No work on Venus #2 (below)….though looking for a Thunderbird engine (Y-block). Doesn’t she look lonely?

Venus 2 Rough copy 2

 

Thanks for tuning in….Onward through the fog!

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