Vintage Car and Truck Restoration and Repair Services in St Petersburg, FL

Author: billsautorestoration (Page 1 of 2)

Rare Jeepster Sighting – Twice

The Jeepster Commando is a pretty rare vehicle.  They were only made for a few years and not many survived to modern times.  The odds of getting two of them in our shop within the same month is extremely low, yet it happened.  The Commandos that came to our shop were at each end of the spectrum.  Don’s 1971 model was a true barn find and we got to see it basically in the   “as extracted” state.  This Jeepster was bone stock and about as original as you will ever find, right down to the factory floor mats.   Previn’s 1970 model was on the other end of the scale.  It had been restored and highly customized over the years while retaining the original power train.  We performed a variety of mechanical repairs and upgrades to the two vehicles and we look forward to the next round of upgrades the owners have planned.

Don’s 1970 Commando going for a test drive after some upgrades
Previn’s 1970 Commando after we restored the stock ride height

We Do Fuel Injection Conversions!

Are you’re tired of doing battle with your old or new carburetor ?  Do you wish your vintage vehicle would start and run as nicely as your modern car ?  The new fuel injection conversion kits  can really improve the driving experience of vintage vehicles. The prices have come down to the point where they are a viable option for many budgets.  Converting from a carburetor to EFI isn’t quite as simple as it looks in the ads.   I wrote an article that I hope will inform everyone about this technology.   It’s a long article, but it covers many of  the things you need to know before you dive into this project.  Check it out and decide if EFI is for you. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling this project yourself, give us a call.

electronic fuel injection conversion

We can convert carburetor to EFI (electronic fuel injection)

Bodega on Central- 1965 Chevy P10 Step Van is on the road !

The vintage step van for George and Debbie’s restaurant is back in their hands and ready for some fun.

It’s always interesting to step back  and see how these projects started out.  For that we’ll give you some side-by side before and after pictures.

Step Van

P-10 Step Van as delivered

Step van restortion

Step Van ready for its sign painter









The two tone paint is topped off with a matte finish clear coat.  Bumpers and trim items were painted with a gloss black for some contrast.

Beside all the cosmetic work we also  addressed quite a few items to make the van safer and more dependable.  The mechanical upgrades include rebuilt front suspension and steering , a new steering column, an upgrade to front disc brakes,  a complete rewiring, new lights inside and out,  upgraded alternator, carburetor, battery, radiator and conversion to an electric cooling fan system.  We also installed LED back -up lights and a back-up camera system.  The wheels were -upsized to work with the new disc brakes and painted to match the restaurant logo.

The interior has come a long way too.  As part of the interior restoration we added jump seats and LED lighting.  The engine compartment was sealed off and insulated to reduce noise.

Step Van interior clean up

We needed to really clean up interior

Step van interior restoration with jump seat

Ready for business…and a passenger in the jump seat








The driver spends a lot of time looking at the dashboard so we tend to put extra emphasis on making them look good.  The P10 had a very worn and tired dash when it came in.  You can’t get replacement parts so we restored the original instrument cluster.  Next we added real gauges including a tachometer to monitor the health of the vintage engine.

Step van dashboard

Original dash

Step van customized gauges

Restored dash with added gauges








There’s not much in the way of creature comfort in these vans.  You leave the doors open and enjoy nature as you cruise along.  We were able to restore the original heater- defroster system for those times when you just can’t do without.  It’s that odd looking white box to the right of the dash.

Step van heater box

Heater/defrost box to the right


Here a two more views of the van. The rear bumper is a one-off custom made from the original.  The van will soon have the restaurant signs on it.  If you frequent the  downtown St. Pete area, keep an eye out for this great looking van and swing by the Bodega for some seriously good food. You might also see the van at their new restaurant in Tampa.

Step van sliding door

Sliding door makes it easy to hop in the van

Step van rear doors

Rear doors open wide for loading and unloading

1965 Chevy P10 Step Van Restoration

We love working on unique projects and this is one we just couldn’t resist.  It’s a rare 1965 P10 Step Van.  We’re not sure how many of these vans were made but they are incredibly hard to find these days.  It’s possible they were just beat to death in commercial service and very few survived.  A local couple  found this one at a dealer in Texas and had it shipped to St. Pete.  Their plan is to use it for promoting their restaurants.   The dealer in Texas had done the difficult body work and it did run to a certain extent when it came to the shop.

Here are some pictures of the van as it was delivered to us.

P-10 Step Van restoration

P-10 Step Van as delivered

Step Van side window

It had a side window already added








P-10 Step Van dashboard

Original P-10 Step Van dash

Step van restoration

Step van interior before restoration








This is another instance where we’re  behind on our posts.  We’ve had the P10 for a couple of months now  and we have almost finished it.  It has been upgraded in every area and has been on the streets of St. Pete.  We’re wrapping up some of the final restoration items now and will be posting the completed restoration photos soon.

1957 Chevy 210/ Bel Air Project Update

OK, this is a little embarrassing….. We’ve commented before that we don’t update our website as often as we should.  We get so wrapped up in the actual car building that we tend to forget about sharing this adventure with others.  Back in May 2017 we did a post showing a “new” 1957 Chevy 210 project.  That’s the last you heard about it.  I guess some updates would have been nice considering that the car is almost finished now…

We left off with some pictures of the floors and rockers being replaced.

After all the steel work was finished we removed the body, installed it on the  rotisserie and really took it to the next level.

1957 Chevy Belair restoratioin

57 Chevy body and chassis

1957 Chevy body restoration on rotisserie

57 Chevy body on the rotisserie








The chassis was completely stripped down and rebuilt.  This included a rack and pinion steering system, all new suspension,  a lowering kit and four wheel disc brakes. Here are some shots with the body back on the chassis and the car going back together.








The drive train is a 385 hp small block mated to a custom built 700R4 transmission.  We went with an aftermarket fuel injection system and supplied it with an in-tank pump system.  We left the original rear axle in the car but upgraded it with a posi unit.  We also installed a custom AC  system and upgraded to a programmable  electric cooling fan.


At present the car runs and drives, and is mostly assembled.  Here’s a teaser shot from a month ago so you can see the color.  The paint on this car is incredible.  The silver is difficult to look at in full sunlight.

We’ll make a point of doing another update on this beautiful car soon.  It has about half the trim on it right now and the combination of the chrome on silver is pretty amazing.   We carried the gray metallic from the roof down to the dash and wrapped it around the interior trim.  We hope the owner has a big trophy case…..




Vintage Truck Rack and Pinion Steering

Vintage trucks of all makes are incredibly popular and a lot of fun to own.  They do tend to lose some of their charm when you actually have to drive them and maneuver in places like parking lots with the stock steering system.   The original steering can be very difficult, if not impossible to turn with the truck stationary.  This problem is exaggerated if you’ve installed wider tires.  The original steering designs also had a fair bit of free play in them which can make the trucks a real handful in traffic at higher speeds.   Many people are of the belief that the only way to solve this problem is to transplant an entire, modern front end into the truck.  Granted this does solve all the problems and provide great handling but it’s expensive and takes away from the originality.

I was dealing with the classic steering issues on my 1951 Ford Panel truck and began looking for solutions.  I wanted to keep the original front end and steering column on the truck but have precise, power steering.  I came across a kit being sold by Performance OnLine that looked like a perfect solution.  I’ll jump ahead here and tell you that it was !  They sell a custom made power rack and pinion kit that bolts to the stock straight axles using custom machined clamps.  You have to supply your own power steering  pump and lines.  This was not a problem for me.  My truck has a 351 Cleveland with all the factory accessories  on it.  I had been running the steering pump with a by-pass hose.

I won’t bore you with a step by step installation story.  You can go to their web site and download the instructions.  You have to remove the old steering box, tie rods, drag link assembly and modify the spindles a little.








With all the old stuff out of the way, the rack literally takes five minutes to install.









In my case I had to work around some front disc brake brackets to get the new arms on the spindles.  Those are 1970’s Dodge van brakes installed on the original spindles by a creative previous owner.








If you have an updated column in your truck this conversion is very easy.  I wanted to keep my stock column and steering wheel so there was a bit more work involved.  You have to cut the shaft off the old steering box and modify the end of the column to support the shaft.  Have no fear !  POL also sells a “column saver kit” with all the goodies to  make this conversion.  I wouldn’t call this an ameture level project but anyone with reasonable wrenching skills could pull it off.

After doing the mechanical parts I had some custom hoses made up and was on my way.  You could probably find off the shelf hoses and some adapters to connect your system.  For me it was faster and easier just to give the specs to my local Goodyear hose shop.

The end result is absolutely amazing.  There is zero slop in the steering and the rack is actually a quick-ratio model.  I have sports car steering in my old Panel Truck !  Driving and maneuvering in tight parking lots is effortless now.  I  don’t need that giant steering wheel any more but I’m keeping it to preserve the look of the truck.  If you’re thinking about a steering upgrade it’s well worth investigating the POL kits.

1972 Ford Bronco

Late last year a customer brought in his newly purchased 1972 Bronco.  Over all, it was a nice looking truck that made it to the shop under its own power.  It had some dated items on it and the drive-train needed some attention but many people would have been content to just drive it the way it was.  Our customer however had bigger plans in mind.  Andy’s vision was to take the truck to the next level in terms of safety, reliability and appearance.  We wish we could take credit for all the upgrade ideas but most of that came from Andy.  We just had the fun of executing his plan.

There is an impressive list of upgrades on the truck.  We started with a power front disc break conversion and rear brake rebuild.  This also included new hubs.

We serviced both axles, transmission, transfer case and did some engine repairs.  To tighten up the steering we replaced the steering box and installed a new tilt column.  The old leaky PS pump was replaced along with the hoses. The fuel tanks had suffered the wrath of ethanol fuels/moisture and were replaced along with all of the hoses and sending units.

Next we installed a Classic Air AC system and upgraded the engine fan to an electric system with programmable controller.  Here’s the engine compartment before and after.  And yes, power brake boosters for early Bronco’s are strange looking.








Andy had ideas for a major dash upgrade.  Here are before and after pictures.  As bought, the dash had  diamond plate covering and some tempermental  gauges and switches.   We stripped everything down to the bare factory dash and built it back up from there using Andy’s vision.  We rebuilt the gauge cluster and installed an original factory style radio with modern features.







The build continued with rust repair (a standard operation on old Broncos…) body and paint work, custom lighting, new upholstery, door panels and custom console, a new soft top and nerf bars.  All work was performed by our shop.  Here are some shots of the final product.  Needless to say, this truck gets lots of attention everywhere it goes.








Swamp Buggy Repower

We made you look, didn’t we ?  You don’t see swamp buggies every day, especially in the middle of an over-built city like St. Petersburg.  This is Shon’s buggy and it drew a lot of attention when it was outside.This buggy has all sorts of cool features and custom touches but the old Buick V-6 that powered it had seen better days.  The compression was so low that you could turn the engine over by hand.  That’s not a good thing for a machine this heavy.  Shon decided it needed a major upgrade in the form of a small block Chevy motor. That’s where we came into the picture.

Here’s the old V-6.  Note the creativity that’s needed to make one of these buggies actually work.

Here’s the new motor ready to go in and a shot of it sitting on the new motor mounts.







You can see in the two photos above how well designed this thing is.  The entire front section tilts forward to give you complete access to the engine area (left photo). In the right photo you can see the front tilted back in place with the floor now covering the motor.  Working on it was a breeze.  No lifts needed !  All you had to do was have a seat underneath it and go to work.  If you look closely you can see my feet sticking out.

Here is a shot of the completed installation.

While the buggy was in the shop, Shon decided that he wanted a dual shock set-up for for each corner.  Steve and Shon worked out the design and this is an action shot of Steve welding in the new shock mounts.

This was the final test and tune.  You can appreciate the size of this thing when you see people on it and around it.  And yes, the buggy was “accidentally” driven on the street as part of the testing process.  Hey, these things happen….

Got something unique you want to have modified ?  Give us a call !




We’ll HOT ROD Anything !

OK that’s a bit of an exaggeration but we’re not afraid of new challenges.  Check out this monster !

Those of you who aren’t from southern regions are probably wondering “What the hell is that ????”  That my friends is a Swamp Buggy.  As the name implies, it is designed to drive through swamps and just about any other obstacle that gets between you and your destination.  These are all one-off, custom creations.  We didn’t build this but we did do a major engine upgrade to it,  We probably tripled the horsepower. That’s Hot Rodding in my book.  Check out the Swamp Buggy Repower post for more details.

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