When Detroit builds a car, it takes a matter of hours to traverse the assembly line. When most of us build customs, it takes much longer--sometimes months, more often years. When the television show Overhaulin' builds a custom car, it borrows a page from the Bible--seven days of creation.
By now, most of you are familiar with the show's premise: "borrowing" a car, tricking the owner, and returning a custom ride one week later. It makes for pretty entertaining viewing, even if deceiving the owner takes airtime priority over the build (this is television, after all). One thing I like is that, unlike other shows, Overhaulin' cars aren't too outrageous or tacky; they're generally pretty clean rides. Credit car designer and builder Chip Foose for avoiding the slide into pimp territory.
One episode last fall caught my attention in part because the '63 Falcon being overhauled really seemed to capture what I felt was a tasteful blend of traditional and modern customizing. Two-tone blue suede paint, a gloss white top, subtle body mods, and white pleated upholstery with blue piping gave it a vintage vibe, while the stroker small-block and full-boogie stereo brought it up to date. Even the 16-inch Intro Smoothie wheels struck a balance of old and new, looking like billet versions of chrome reverse wheels.
THE FALCON BUILD
Now that I'm with K&N Engineering, I was able to be on the Falcon build team. Luckily, I could give CUSTOM RODDER readers a first-hand report of what the experience was like, and answer some of the
questions I'm sure you've all asked yourselves. The following is my account:
The Falcon arrived at the K&N Engineering race shop with faded white paint, a sad interior, the original inline-six, and a few holes not placed by the factory--rust. All of us on the build team took a long look to see what we were up against. On K&N's chassis dyno, the sick bird mustered a meager 48 hp.
On each Overhaulin' build, designer Chip Foose sees photos of the car beforehand, and you could tell he already had ideas on the project's direction. Chip and project manager Craig Chaffers assigned tasks at the kickoff meeting. Not knowing everyone's background, they asked for volunteers for each general area (bodywork, suspension, electrical, etc.). I picked interior hard parts and wiring because I'm pretty good with electrical and enjoy detail work.
Day one saw the car stripped to its basic form, while Foose sketched out concept illustrations so we could visualize our goal. Things went pretty quickly; then again, taking a car apart is always easier than putting it back together!
On day two, even more was stripped from the car, including the engine, glass, trim, and much of the faded paint. All the emblem holes were filled and the door handles were shaved. Foose is known for subtle details, and the Falcon got many. Shaving the bumpers meant welding the brackets on and welding up the bolt holes and marker-light openings. Using custom tooling fabricated by K&N's machine shop, new holes were stamped in the front bumper to fit modern PIAA driving lamps. Similar tools were made to stamp rear bumper exhaust cutouts. All this happened on just the
By now the project's scale was clear. Fortunately, we had a good build team assembled. Representing K&N were John Hudson and Brad Beltinck from the Race Shop, Chris Bennett and myself from marketing, plus Jim Lunger and Kirk Swanson from R&D. Dave Shushereba, Tim Fleenor, Jere Wall, Rusty Ries, David Miles, and many other K&N employees helped out when needed. Additional team members included Summit Racing's Kirk Heinbuch and
fabricator Shane Boulay.
The Falcon lookedlike your typical little old-lady compactgoing into the build.
In general, the shop was less crowded than you'd expect. There were always several people working on the car, but individual projects were done elsewhere--bumpers on one workbench, electrical on another, and so forth. The pace was pretty intense. With so much to do it was important to focus on your assigned task, but to also be available to help where needed. From time to time the cameras would focus on a particular job and it was easy to find yourself wanting to assist--making for some crowded scenes and, in some cases, a few too many hands.
Day three was a powerful one because Ford Performance Solutions delivered a new 347ci stroker small-block--an engine with almost 48 hp in each cylinder! It and a new Hughes Performance C4 transmission were set in place, more paint was stripped, rust was repaired, and driprails were filled before the car went to Doug Starbuck's Starside Design for final bodywork and paint.
Just because the body was away didn't mean the build team could kick back on day four. All the components that were to be reinstalled were cleaned, painted, or polished, while the stereo team sent by JBL Audio went to work on a system comprised of JBL amps and speakers and an Alpine head unit from Crutchfield. Meanwhile, Raymond Miller took the seats to his shop to stitch the white leather upholstery.
All hands were on deck for disassembly. This was the easy part.
One thing everyone asks about is sleep. I knew the pace would be hectic, so I brought a camp trailer and someone else brought his RV so we had places to nap and clean up. I don't think I got more than 20 hours of sleep the entire week, and toward the end, the project could have gotten ugly with mistakes. Fortunately there weren't many. Probably the biggest setback was with the stereo installation. Things got rushed building
the fiberglass speaker enclosure; it built up too much heat while curing, warped, and wouldn't fit.
Day five was similar to day four--cleaning and painting small parts. Huge Baer brakes were installed on a new rearend, and a host of parts from Summit, Dearborn
Classics, and a several other manufacturers were unboxed and laid out. The guys at Inland Empire Driveline took measurements for the custom driveshaft, and we all
waited patiently for the body.
Much of the initial bodywork--rust repair, filling holes, etc.--happened on-site at the K&
A frenzy of activity began when the body came back on day six. We quickly went to work wiring the car, installing a Be-Cool radiator, and installing the suspension. Hollywood editing made some tasks look easier than they were. For instance, the factory steering column and shifter were modified for the C4 transmission. Getting the column in place seemed to take forever. After the camera came back to check on my progress for the fourth or fifth time, I was close to throwing the column across the room and was sure I looked like an idiot milking something that seemed so easy. It took three people to finally get the column in and operational.
There were a few electrical things we never checked beforehand, so during reassembly we didn't know if the windshield wipers and horn weren't working because we did something wrong or because they didn't work before. The factory wiring was pretty hacked up, and though we did get a couple wiring sets, the original under-dash portion had to be saved. Memory Lane brought out another Falcon to use for measuring and mocking up projects; I cannibalized a few wiring parts and dash internals.
They even trusted me with a grinder! You gotta love stripping paint and rust!
Day six bled into day seven, and the Falcon really began to take shape. MagnaFlow Exhaust sent a crew to assemble custom pipes, the engine was fired for the first time, and the cabin was covered in DynaMat sound-deadening materials.
As day seven faded into delivery day, the remaining body panels were fitted, and the bumpers and grille were installed. Finishing touches were added to the stereo and interior, all systems were checked, and some last-minute detailing were done.
Those who saw the episode probably thought it was over when we surprised owner Travis Bailey with his customized
Falcon. Not quite. Part of each Overhaulin' build is the after inspection. After showing the excited owner his ride, they send him home empty-handed, which must be like getting the coolest Christmas present but not being able to play with it. Each car goes to a shop for a complete inspection. With so many rushed jobs, it's a good idea to go over it all (torque bolts) and make sure nothing falls off. For the most part, the Falcon was ready to run. The build team was impressed with the results and glad Travis liked it. We were also ready for a nap!
Chip Foose helped with the paintwork at Starside Design. He's shown here practicing his ma
You might think doing a show like Overhaulin' is all glamour and showbiz. During the week of filming it was well beyond 100 degrees outside. The shop was not air conditioned, and the best we could do with portable A/C units was keep temperatures in the 80s. Overhaulin' co-host Courtney Hansen is obviously nice to have on the set, but she's not just eye candy; she jumped in and got dirty. One day I was in the car, 6 feet up on the lift. Courtney climbed in to report to the cameras on what I was doing. Space was pretty tight, and some of the guys teased me about how nice it had to be to spend time with her in cramped quarters. Truth is, I was sweating so much my shirt was soaked through. Other than a few sweat marks, I seriously doubt I left much of an impression. That's the reality of reality television.
The underside got as much attention as the top, with new Maier Racing suspension parts and
Why is reassembly always slower than disassembly?
DynaMat was used to keep the cabin quiet and help the killer stereo sound its best.
Owner Travis Bailey got the surprise of his life when he "found" his Falcon. The surprises
Travis was all smiles after the reveal; the build team was ready for some rest!