Chuck the Truck's 52 Chevy - Goin' Fishin', Tonneau, & Balancer

More updates: In preparation for my first long road trip in March, a 600 miler to Rend Lake, IL, I installed a Hayden Electric fan in front of the radiator and removed the bent & straightened 4-blade fan from the water pump. The engine is much smoother without it and it is cooling fine - temp stays steady at 180. Fifty miles into the trip, the speedo quit. After I got back I sent it to the Speedometer Shop for repair. Long out of warranty by the calender, it had only 3000 miles on it when it stopped. They informed me the problem was due to a bad seal on the trans - gear oil had forced it's way up the cable and into the speedo, fouling it up. I took the cable off and they were correct, it was full of oil, so I fixed it. The seal recess was deep enough for two so I doubled them up to prevent a recurrance. They returned the repaired speedo promptly and at a very agreeable price - I highly recommend them and their great customer service.

Also, the aftermarket rally wheels were giving me the shakes, despite both hub-centric and lug-centric balancing. The wheels had lots of runout, even from two different vendors. It was not a good sign when I called to complain to the first about excessive runout and had to explain what runout was. This outfit builds wheels? Yikes! Wheels from the second vendor were no better. Out of eight total wheels from the two vendors, I had two good ones, two marginal, and four junk. They each supplied a good wheel so they are capable of it; their quality control stinks. I solved my problem with a set of one-piece aluminum Torq-Thrust D's from American Racing. It is nice to go down the road without my teeth rattling. They look great too.

The third problem revealed on the trip was my gas mileage - averaging 12.5 MPG. Once home, I leaned the mix with fatter metering rods and bumped the timing several degrees. I think I can still add a little more timing, but I want to see if it rattles once it gets warm out. I don't trust my timing light so I can't tell you the number.

A second trip in April was MUCH better. The truck has plenty of power, cruising at 75-80 MPH was smooth, and my mileage averaged 16MPG. I'm betting that a tonneau cover will help and a little slower (hey I was going FISHING! Speed was of the essence), and the milage will hit 20 MPG. That's the Garman holding one of our 85 fish, a 30" 9.2 lb bowfin. It was a fun trip - cool truck getting lots of thumbs up, and catching lots of gar and bowfin. Learn more at and Gar and Bowfin "America's Toughest Sportfish For 100,000,000 Years!"©

OK, the doors were STILL bugging me. The pass door was way out so I pulled the lower hinge today and using the previous diagram I bent that hinge with a sledgehammer. Back together and it looks great now. This angle shows it well. The pass door is uniform and a 1/16 out. The drivers is pretty uniform and 1/8" out. I'm happy. Be sure to check out my Bear Claw install.

I was looking for a hard tonneau to keep the fishing gear out of sight and to pick up some MPG hopefully. Gaylord's didn't seem interested in selling one. They don't sell direct, so Master tried to get me pics of their cover on a 47-53 but Gaylords couldn't supply it. A month and a half and repeated phone calls netted a box full of leaflets, but no pics of an AD. The AD pic on their website was wrong - a later bed without the angled sides. They wanted Master to buy 5 covers to get a dealer discount - these were $1000 covers!

Fortunately a good soul at mentioned Checker Pro out of Benton KY. I ordered my Checkmate cover the next day for less than half the Gaylord price. They were friendly and helpful and were quite willing to sell a cover. Since one of my fishing holes is only an hour from them, I drove down and they installed it free - a 20 minute job.

They added an angle aluminum piece to the front to "square up" the round front bed tube for mounting. If you order one, make sure you mention the bed has the round tube in front. I really like the cover. It has buckles on the inside if I want to tie it down, although they aren't required if I want fast access. The struts lift and hold it - even in the wind. I ordered the optional removable hinges in case I ever need to move a fridge. While at their shop, I saw the textured (like Rhino lining) cover and it was impressive. I may have mine done to eliminate the waxing.

They told me I could walk on it -but I don't know if I will. I'm just wanting something that won't buckle under the snow load.The rear gasket doesn't meet the tailgate, not an issue for me. They did mention they had other size weatherstripping available, but I didn't want to wait - there were fish to be caught! I don't know if I gained any MPG since I had to fight a powerful headwind all the way home but even so I netted 17MPG coming home. How strong was the wind? Headed down, no tonneau, I got 20MPG with the tailwind.

I must've damaged the crank seal during one of my cover R&Rs. On this last trip it sprung a leak on the way home. On a hunch, I ordered up a new balancer from Master (Dorman 594-014) with the timing cover kit. Comparing the two, I know why my timing was so far off - the balancer had slipped (Old = bottom, new = top).

I don't know if I'm getting lazier or smarter, but I did not want to pull the radiator. I had seen on Ebay a balancer puller advertised that would do the job without pulling the rad, but I sure didn't want to buy one. I started thinking that the only reason to pull the rad is the length of the screw on the puller and the screw only needs to be as long as the required pull stroke. I measured the available clearance, cut down the forcing screw, and it worked great. The pic shows the modification. The screw is 3" long instead of 6" originally. Why I never thought of this years ago.....? Of course having the crank drilled and tapped is required to get the balancer back on with the rad in place. Glad I did it when it was apart for the cam change. The leak is gone and my initial timing is currently at 14BTDC, vacuum advance adds 20 degrees, and mechanical another 10, so cruising I'm at 44 BTDC. It sounds like a lot from reading Hot Rod and their V8s at 34-36 total, but it is working and NO pinging.

I got this note the other day, and I want to thank Mark for his help. I need all I can get:

"Total timing" does NOT include vacuum advance. So if you're numbers are right, you've got 14 initial + 10 Mechanical = 24 Total. You could probably stand a little more timing. But 10 degrees mechanical isn't much. 20ish is more typical. If you've really only got 10 mechanical, you probably ought to check your springs and weights to make sure nothing is stuck or interfering. WHEN is also important with mechanical advance, not just how much. Most SBC's like 20ish mechanical, in by 2500-2800 rpm. 14 initial is about right. But if this much total (initial + mechanical = ~34) gets you into pinging, it's good to limit the vacuum advance with one of the available adjustable kits.
See you on the road (or at the Stovebolt page),

So I went back out to the garage to check. I've got a MAC Tools dial back timing light but no tach. My initial was still at 14, so I revved the engine by ear to ~2500-3000 RPM and still saw only 10 degrees mechanical. It always sounds faster than it really is and it's scary to rev my daily driver, but I revved it higher and sure enough the timing kept climbing. I took as fast as I dared and got up to 15 degrees mechanical (29 total). I checked some factory curves online and saw that some went to 5000 RPM and I know I wasn't yet at that speed so there is likely more advance in there, just later than the 2800 RPM point.
When I get the time, I'll experiment with an advance curve kit and report back. 06/04/05 25100 miles.