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-   -   Stock Frame Drivability? (

TheSovereign53 03-04-2008 01:34 AM

Stock Frame Drivability?
Hey guys, I'm back again, with some headway on the 53, just need to throw some seatbelts in it, and we are kosher in terms of not falling off the seat...

But I worry, this truck will be driven by a 16 year old (given, he's smart enough to know that if he even looks at the pedal too hard, it will spin the wheels all over, and his older brother just totalled a Honda, and almost died in the process, so we have the crash-scare process all set)

He won't take it on the freeways, but it will be driven on 30-40 MPH 4 lane streets a lot, and down a fairly steep (think San Francisco, but not that bad) stretch of road to Highschool.

It's got the added weight of the 302/C4, so that's something to keep in mind.

Will it hold up okay in terms of braking? Will it handle okay at these speeds, and on the incline?

Or is it a total deathwish?

55 f350 03-04-2008 03:51 AM

i drive my 53 in almost completely stock form every day and i think it makes me more cautious as i know the drum brakes , manual steering etc , make it harder to control in situations . so i'd say once the young 'un adjusts and realizes the trucks limitations , given he / she is not like some they will be fine . they will have to pay more attention to stay safe in these old girls as they are a lot harder to deal with . i dont think that 302 combo ya got is a whole lot heavier than my flathead and manual crashbox so it should be fine brake wise unless they want to try and run 100 mph in it .i was gonna switch to discs but the more i drive mine i dont think i am as the drums have done an admirable job . just remind them that if the drums get wet they really dont work so freakin' well !!! my 23 year old daughter borrowed mine to run to the store for mom and got the crap scared outta her at the end of the block as she drove through a big puddle and they got wet and we all know how they react to that !! :) with that being said i'd say they are gonna be driving the coolest car / truck to school !!!

mtflat 03-04-2008 05:10 AM

Truth is the 302 weighs 100 lbs less than a flathead V8 [460 vs. 569] and the c4 is about the same as the 3 spd HD my truck has.

Depends what you did with the brakes. If the system is completely rebuilt from start to finish he should have no trouble driving it daily.

My 48 is a daily and it is completely stock on the suspension end of things. I don't tailgate! but I haven't had trouble stopping in time to avoid accidents. Give him time to get used to it where there isn't a lot of traffic and use the simple rule of no riders.

AXracer 03-04-2008 08:10 AM

If the steering box is in good shape with no significant freeplay, and the front end aligned properly it should handle just fine, and he'll get a good upper body workout steering at low speeds.
The drum brakes will be adequate if he leave stopping room and they are fully rebuilt including new wheel cylinders, shoes, turned drums as well as new lines and flex hoses. I'd switch to a dual chamber master cylinder while doing all that replacement at least for safety sake. I had a brake line rupture on a car with a single chamber MC once in traffic, it is NOT FUN! On a steep hill it would be disasterous! If it was my son driving it as a daily driver, I'd do the Toyota power steering box conversion and add power assisted brakes. Then I'd sign him up for a good defensive driving course (NOT just driver's ed, they only teach the rules and fundamentals, not accident avoidance) that includes wet traction and spin control. Many single car accidents are due to inexperience with what to do should you drop a wheel off the pavement or start to slide.

packrat56 03-04-2008 08:26 AM

I drive a 56' with stock suspension, and a 302/c4 every day. The only mod to the brakes on mine is a duel chamber MC and a power brake booster on the firewall. At times I find myself wishing I had front discs, when things were not adjusted right, or braking on a steep hill. But its all about learning the limitations of the stock system and driving accordingly. Just have to drive like its 1956 and to not be in a huge hurry all the time. I went thru the front end (with the help of all the fine folks here!) and things seem pretty tight. I do not have any need for power steering, only parking in tight spaces is a "work out" as long as the truck is moving, the steering is as almost as easy as other vehicles.

bobbytnm 03-04-2008 08:38 AM

I think the key here is to teach the kid the limitations of the truck. You cannot drive one of these old trucks the way you drive a new car. With some coaching from you it shouldn't take him long to get adjusted to driving the truck. Stopping distance will be greater, the truck will have a tendency to follow ruts in the road and have some bump steer (all inherent with a straight axle configuraion). As long as everything is mechanically sound he should be ok.
Its all a learning curve, heck, it might even make the young lad a safer driver as he has to pay alot more attention to his driving than those silly teenage girls that tend to drive Daddy's Camry way over their abilities (oops I got sidetracked). Teach the kid to be aware of his surroundings, whats going on in front, way in front, on the sides, and behind him. Teach him how to anticipate what the other morons on the road might do. Get him in the habit of constantly assessing the ever changing situation for risks and to always plan and exit strategy if something happens.

I disagree on the defensive driving course. I have not been to a good one yet. the tactics they teach in those classes tend to lead to traffic congestion and road rage. I think we need offensive driving courses (I mean "ah"fensive here, as in an aggressive position not "o"ffensive as in being unacceptable).

The kid will have the coolest ride in the high school parking lot. That in itself will probably inspire the kid to take alot of pride in the truck and take care of it.


WALFORD'S 56 03-04-2008 11:09 AM

I learned how to drive with my Dad's 56 F100 ,with 6 cylinder and 3 on the tree and stock brakes.....I still got it to go 90 mph!! I think Knowing the limitations is great. I would however teach this boy that look what happened to the Honda!! I t would be wise to drive the 53 with respect. I know parents worry about their kids on the road,but as long as he respects you and the 53 and loves the old truck -he will respect it. Just hope the best and the 302 will go faster than my 6 did!! Good Luck!!--he can have pride like I did that I drove a 56 in High -school...........Bill

TheSovereign53 03-04-2008 02:00 PM

Thank you all for your posts!

55 F350- It's actually got power steering, believe it or not, and a steering wheel about the size of a 45 RPM record..But the steering is very nice, albeit whiney. It hasn't actually been steered while moving, but she's a beauty sitting still..

MT- Thanks for those weight numbers! I had no idea that the 302 was a lighter motor, and 460 pounds is nothing!

AX- Every single brake component is new, along with a dual chamber MC, I guess the 4 wheel drums still bother me though. Steering box is brand new, just aligned the front end, it's got a touch of slop to it, probably 1 degree of rotation at the most.

Packrat- So you have basically an identical setup to my vehicle, it's good to know that you don't run into issues!

Bobby- He's a real smart kid, he'll understand how iffy the truck can be as opposed to something such as a Honda.

Bill- 90 MPH? Bet you that was some fun time you had! Geez, I would have peed myself, and then some. 51dueller and I did the math about a year ago, it will top out at 73 (if I recall correctly) at 5000 RPM (as fast as I'd ever want to rev it). Needless to say, it will really haul butt from a standstill!

I have a friend with a 52 V-Dub Transporter, and due to the gearing, it will beat out ANY vehicle to 30 feet. I'm a little bit worried about the 16 year old getting courageous and seeing what vehicles HE can beat to 30 feet, but I think he's smarter than that.

53OlderThanMe 03-04-2008 04:19 PM

The bottom line for me with kids new to driving is size. Do you want your kid learning to drive and make mistakes as we all did in a 3000 lb import or 5000 lbs of good old American steel thats lasted for > 50 years?

TheSovereign53 03-04-2008 04:32 PM

That's a very valid point, but the build I'm doing isn't a beautiful restoration by ANY standards, so the value of the vehicle isn't particularly high.

Any import that's worth less than this 53 has big issues, such as timing belt breakage damage.

The 53 is solid, mechanically sound, and for me, cheaper to insure.

Weight aside, an import is clearly a better choice, crumple zones, drivability, safety, economy, etc etc.

However, the young man who will be driving this truck is only 14, and he's learned so much working on it, and has his heart set on this truck. At this rate, it should be ready for him by the time he's 16. I'm just so concerned about safety, especially if some other a-hole rams it.

mtflat 03-04-2008 06:00 PM

I've repeated this story before, but the year after I got my 48 F1 on the road, a pickup loaded with kids doing about 80 decided to run over me while I was turning into my road. They left 40' of skid marks before they hit me from behind. It spun my truck 180 and dumped me in the ditch, bending an axle and a wheel. It smashed the box into the cab........

I went home and brought back my spare, changed it and drove the 48 for a month until they could get it in the shop to straighten the frame. Rebuilt the box and other miscellaneous bits later.

A wrecker had to be called to take them back to town. Front end of their truck was mostly gone, coolant all over the road, tire flattened, etc. They definitely got the worst of the deal...........

Oh, did I mention the other truck was an early 90's F250 4x4 extended cab long box pickup? Don't mess with these old trucks - it'll hurt!

TheSovereign53 03-04-2008 06:18 PM

It's good to hear that you're okay after that whole deal!

Well, I figured, hey, there's no crumple zones, obviously, but the underlying truth is the whole darn truck is a crumple zone.

I'm surprised that your truck wasn't totalled.

I know you get a lot of points for hitting a vintage vehicle that fast and not totalling it. I think it's almost as many points as nailing a whole stoplight!


They must be winning.

Well, obviously highschool isn't the place to find the most talented drivers, but for the most part it's alright...Just the occasional 160 year old grandma on the wrong side of the road in her Ford Taurus.

I'll have to think about this one, you guys do make a lot of points, but I just don't know about the usability.

rhopper 03-04-2008 06:27 PM

I would swap to front discs for my son. He may drive to the truck's limitations, but some jerk can still cut him off. I'd give him every advantage I could. I second Ax on the defensive driving school, or if one isn't available locally, take him to an autocross. They'll probably frown on running the truck, so let him run your family sedan. As a long time autocrosser, I've had several young men and women go autocrossing with me to learn car control. The best thing that can happen to a cocky, overconfident young man is to lose control in a safe environment. It usually scares them silly, but more important, they learn that it CAN happen to them. From that point, they're usually receptive to learning the correct way.

TheSovereign53 03-04-2008 06:33 PM

I'm be terrified to let that truck open up on an autocross track. Taking a run in a 356 Speedster without a rollbar was as much as I could take. The 356 may have the Corvair effect, but at least it's somewhat made for that.

I wouldn't mind letting him go around in my Honda though, that's a good idea. I will definitely try to find a defensive driving school though. Being in SoCal should make finding one with ease. Just on the off chance anyone from San Diego has been to one of these, have any recommendations?

bobbytnm 03-04-2008 06:34 PM

I say go for it. You and your son are building the truck, he will have alot of pride and respect for the truck and the work he put into it. Yes, he will on occasion smoke the tires and probably get in more than one stop light race but then again he is going to do that in any vehicle is will be driving. Instead of letting him figure it out on his own and possibly hurt himself or others, take him out and teach him.

When you get the truck driveable take him out and let him thrash it a bit. Its very important for him, and you, to learn how the truck will react. Find a rutted road and let him feel the bump steer, hammer on it hard, lock up the brakes, try to slide the rear around a corner, etc. The more you and he learn about the truck and how it handles, reacts, responds, etc the better and safer he will be.

I had to figure it all out on my own. I drove some very dangerous vehicles in some very dangerous ways, and its a wonder I didn't hurt myself or someone else

Don't worry too much. From what I can tell form your posts, you, he, and the truck will be fine

enjoy the ride

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