Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Downs Industries Exits Street Rod Business

Sadly, after 20+ years of building fiberglass street rod bodies, Michigan based Downs Industries is heading in a new direction. They had built some of the highest quality bodies in the industry, and in recent years, started producing other non street rod bodies, such as the 67 Vette and 69 Camaro. I had actually hoped to one day build their 67 Corvette, as it would be somewhat more affordable than the real thing.  Hopefully another reputable company picks up their molds and continues their high quality tradition. Their street rod body business is for sale, according to the press lease below.



Our Street Rod Body business is for sale!

We have decided to move in a NEW direction here at Downs and focus on the advanced composite industry.  As a result we have decided to sell our well-known, established street rod and muscle car manufacturing business.  We have 30 molds for sale including the following:

1932 Ford

Ford Roadster

3-window coupe - made last August

2 inch chop Victoria

3.5 inch chop Victoria

3 inch chop laid back Cabriolet

Stock height sedan

All related fenders, roll pans, and acc.

1933-1934 Ford

33 Victoria 3" chop

33 Custom Downs 5-window - 1 yr. old

33 Custom Downs Laid Back Roadster

33 Custom Downs Laid-Back Vicki

3'' chop 3 window Coupe

3'' chop Cabriolet

3'' chop 2 door Sedan

3'' chop Sedan Delivery

All related fenders, roll pans, and acc.

1937 Ford

37 Cabriolet and '37 Convertible

Custom Downs '37 Pickup

3 Window coupe 3 inch chop

Hard top coupe custom

3 inch chop slant back Sedan

3 inch chop Pheaton

All related fenders, roll pans, and acc., custom dashes, consoles, hood, and hood sides

1934-35 Chevy

3 inch chop Cabriolet

3 inch chop 3 window Coupe

3 inch chop Vicky Sedan

All related fender packages, 106 and 112 inch wheel base, hood and hood sides

Muscle car molds

1967 Corvette Coupe

1967 Corvette Roadster

1959 Corvette Roadster

1962 Corvette Roadster

1969 Camaro


1948-53 Pickup

Chassis fixtures: '32 Ford, '33-'34 Ford, '35-'40 Ford, '34-'35 Chevy

We are including all our tools and equipment related to the car business in the sale.  This includes:

Paint booth (deeply discounted to allow for set-up at your shop)

Welders, grinders, sanders, hoists, jacks, hand tools, racks, bins, shelving and carts.

Plus MORE!!!

We continue to receive daily phone calls and hits on our website about parts and body sales but our future business is in a different industry of advanced composite work.  We are willing to forward all inquiries to your business as well as link your website to ours.  A listing of our customer base established over 20+ years will also be included.

Contact Jenny


Downs Industries

Moser M9 Painted

One Moser M9 painted and ready to go.  Still waiting on my friend to assemble the center section.  I also need to reroute and clamp a fuel line prior to installing the rear, but I'm getting close!  This Friday, I'll be working on cleaning up my 68 Firebird, and taking an assessment of what we have to work with. 









Saturday, April 20, 2013

1968 Firebird - Future Race Car

Chesher-Benedict Racing is born.


Until a week or so ago, adding a car to my collection wasn't even on my radar.  I had stopped to ask about this car as a favor for a coworker who was looking for a 67-69 Camaro or Firebird. The car sat on a vacant lot in the precinct I patrol, and had been there I believe all of the 4+ years I've been there.  I spotted the car on a police run a few years ago, though never brought myself to track down the owner until recently.  After inquiring, I took a quick walk around, a few photos, and inquired about possible cost.  When the owner stated "I don't know, probably $500," my ears perked up, and I had a pretty good feeling then and there, this car was going to be mine.


First thing first, I had to secure a place to store it, which was easy enough.  Once storage was secure, I pondered for a bit what to do with the car if I were to buy it.  I already have a 69 Camaro, which has a 12 point cage, 700 HP big block, and is getting a Moser M9 before it hits the road this year.  It however, is a street/strip car, and so far since it's engine, a 100% street car.  With the rear in place, I hope to make it to the track this summer, and even more often next year.  So I asked myself, what do I do with the Firebird?  Well, the difference is I'm not willing to give up the creature comforts with my Camaro.  I want the interior quiet, more quiet than it is now.  I want a stereo, one louder than it is now.  I want to retain my windshield wipers, even after sacrificing my heater awhile back.  So what's the plan for the Firebird?  A designated race car, one that doesn't need to retain any of the creature comforts.  One that is stripped to the bones, light, fast, and not meant, or even registered for the street.


Then it hit me.  The friend who I asked for storage had always wanted a race car, and without question, would be a great partner.  We attended the same college, got the same degrees in the auto industry, and both even worked for a few years at Ford Motor Company as designers.  We share the same passion, and same desires for the cars we own.  It was then and there, I knew that Chesher-Benedict Racing could be a reality.  My friend, Scott, was ecstatic about the idea.  So all that was left was to close the deal on the car.

These are some shots from where the car sat for several years.  I'm a dog lover, but I look at cars like this the same way many folks look at the starving, scraggly dog wandering the streets.  This isn't the first car I "rescued."  Back in 2002, I moved into an apartment complex in Dearborn, MI.  In the parking lot, literally right outside of my building, sat a 1970 Challenger R/T in Hemi Orange.  I knew then and there the car would soon be mine.  By mid summer, I settled upon $6,800, and the car was mine.  I enjoyed it that summer, then tore it apart more than I anticipated the following winter.  Years later, my dad would purchase the car from me, and the restoration is still ongoing.  So for me, it almost makes me sick to my stomach when I see a classic car sitting, all alone, with the tires sunk in the mud waiting to be rescued.

The car isn't perfect, but at $500, I consider it probably the best deal of my lifetime.  After the purchase was complete, I inquired about what the owner had paid for the car 5-6 years ago.  $2,000, and stated that he had probably put another $5,000 into it.  So here sits a $7,000 car, mine for $500.  I think the owner finally came to terms with not having the space and means to take on such a project.  Without a garage, I'm not sure how one could imagine a restoration being possible.  My friend Scott claims that the owner probably saw the passion in me, much the same as he feels many of his deals come about with his wheel restoration company.  People can see it in you, that you're not looking to make a quick buck, that you want to save this car from demise, and for that, you are rewarded with a great deal. Perhaps that was the case, as I promised to let him know how the car is coming along from time to time, as well as show him the finished product.







With a winch cable wrapped around the rear axle, the car willingly came across the soggy lot and onto the flatbed, headed for it's new home.


As we arrived at the shop, I was anxious to get the car unloaded and take a much closer look at what we got.  Most people would do that BEFORE buying the car, but I knew it was well worth the $500, so no surprises were going to steer me away.  The owner had already completed a substantial amount of mechanical work on the car.  He stated that the Pontiac 350 has been rebuilt, along with the trans (which I'm not sure if it's a powerglide or TH400 yet), steering box, and all new rubber bushings in the front suspension.  He has also ran new brake lines, fuel lines, and new exhaust...though it will probably be an open header car.  He also had an extra hood, the one that appears to have been the original hood as it's in Pontiac Green, and it appeared all of the removed parts, such as the heater box and other misc. items.


Here is the Pontiac 350, or so I was told.  We haven't made sure it's a Pontiac, let alone a 350 yet.  We have the original build sheet, thanks to the Pontiac Historical Society, and this was an original 350 car, so it's quite possibly a numbers matching car.

As you can see, it was also a power steering/power brakes car.  It has factory disc brakes on the front, with drums out back.

Here is the Fisher Body Trim tag under the hood

The fender extension is missing, though the fender appears solid with little or no filler in it.  Same is true of the doors, and the 1/4's have been replaced, sadly, with Camaro 1/4's.

My partner, Scott, owns Detroit Vintage Wheels.  Needless to say, he already has a sweet set of vintage slots in mind for this car.  14x6 fronts and 15x10's out back.

While hard to tell in patina'd primer, the body seems pretty straight.

Ah yes, the 1/4 panels. Quite possibly the most disappointing feature of the car is the 1/4's, lacking the Pontiac gills that helped differentiate the Firebirds from the Camaros.  That said, at least they appear to have been installed well, and the wheel well lips are solid.  The pinch weld between the 1/4 and inner fender may need a little work, as they didn't seem to line them up too well, but we will probably trip or roll them any way to help feet the wide meats we want under her.

Though it's hard to see, the rear of the 1/4 panel is either slightly smashed, or they simply didn't finish off the body work were it meets the rear panel.  Luckily, it looks like the area of concern would be behind the rear bumper any way.


Parts storage, along with what appears to be a rats nest and a bunch of misc garbage.

The deck lid is actually in better shape than the deck lid on my Camaro, which has had a few bumbles pop up since repaint.  This one has ZERO signs of rust on the under side.

The Camaro 1/4 on the other side, which appears finished off in the rear better than the driver side.

The Passenger side looks just as straight.

The rocker panel on the passenger side had a few pin holes, nothing of major concern, but may need either welded up or a small patch panel welded in.

This fender will either need a lower patch panel or replaced.  I'm leaning towards maybe fiberglass fenders, hood, deck lid, and bumpers.  So good or bad, it may be replaced regardless.

The front lower valence is missing, and the front bumper appears a bit tweaked.  We need to take a closer look at it.


Both doors are very solid, with only minimal rust around the lip.

Though dirty, the seats are surprisingly in great condition.  I'm not sure if we should save or sell them.  Though it's a race car, I can't help but think if some day I decide to end the racing days, and return it to the street, I may want the back seat at the very least.

Dog shit, possibly rat shit, and one serious funk in the interior.  At least the drain plugs were removed, so any water would not have sat in there.  The floor pans have all been replaced, it appears with the correct factory stampings.  The installation appears to be simply screwing them in though, no welding, so at the very least we will weld them in.  Worst case, we'll start from scratch and install all new pans.

You can barely see the line of screw heads on the trans tunnel.



We are a little concerned about the driver side rear floor pan, as it seems to have an unusual sag to it.  That said, I replaced all four sections of pans in my Camaro, so pans that need repaired or replaced don't intimidate me.

Aside from a few switches and the radio, the dash cluster seems complete.


This is the driver side door, which has a little rust on the lip.  The bottoms of the doors are extremely solid though.

So as you can see, I think this car is likely to be the best deal I ever stumble upon.  A solid enough car that could easily be restored back to original if one so desired.  For us, there is no such desire.  I have to get any such thoughts out of my head, as my wife says, I tend to hoard things.  If this is going to be a race car, there are certain things that can simply go.  This is going to be a long term project, and depending upon what we decide for the powertrain, we may or may not make it to the track in 2014.  I think a much more realistic timeline would be 2015, as I'm already thinking Pontiac 455 for power, which would be the largest investment of the project.  What fun is building a race car if it isn't fast, right?  I also finally have something to bolt my 250 hp nitrous kit on!

Initial work, in the near future, will be cleaning the car to get an even better assessment of what we are working with.  Then, start with the basics.  We will likely removed the whole from of the car, media blast everything, and start from scratch.  It may not be a pristine car when it hits the track for the first time, but at the very least, it will have spray bomb flat black or primer to at least make it uniform.  The underside and engine bay WILL be finished off no different if we were building a resto-mod car.  We have a car, and it's a cool car, so step one in building Chesher-Benedict Racing is complete.  Stay tuned in the near future for progress on the car.

Monday, April 15, 2013

1968 Pontiac Firebird - $500

I spotted this car while on a police run a few years back.  I'd been by it many times since, though hadn't bothered to try and find the owner.  Curiosity got the better of me, and I knocked upon the door today.  The car is a rough one, no doubt about it.  I really had no idea what the owner would be asking for it, or whether it even had an engine or one that ran.  These cars always seem to be the "I'm gonna restore it one day" or "I want Barrett Jackson price" types.  After finally greeting the owner, I found the car to have a Pontiac 350 which ran, and was started about twice a year.  Backed by a TH350, I didn't inquire about the rear, and was unsure if the owner would have even known, as he repeatedly referred to the engine as a "Rocket Motor," which was exclusive to Olds, and I doubt had found it's way between the fenders.

I was honestly inquiring for somebody else, whom stated they were looking for a 67-69 Firebird or Camaro.  I had forewarned them, I knew where one was, but it was a project car.  I was somewhat shocked when the owner responded with "I don't know, probably $500."  Having restored my 69 Camaro, I'm already well aware of the aftermarket that offers pretty much every part needed to restore such a car.  $500?  That almost seems like a no brainer...even without knowing just how bad the rust is under the car. For $500, at the very least, it could be cut up and turned into a race car on the cheap, without thinking twice about it.The ideas running through my head are endless, and I already have one, perhaps even two, places in which to store it until a full on restoration in the VERY distant future.  $500, man, I don't see how I could go wrong.