THE COPPER COUPE – From rough to diamond

October 12th, 2010

BY “ROTTEN” RODNEY BAUMAN

PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTNEY HALOWELL AND MIKE CHASE

Don’t be duped by “The Copper Coupe.” The moniker has nothing to do with the chosen hue: L.A. Copper Metallic. It’s more about the owner, Robin Welborn, a retired L.A. Copper who knows patience. Rob had to wait a long, long time to enjoy this car.

It all started in 1968, a young college student in need of money to pay for school offered up the tired coupe and it was Rob who the kid out by paying full market value for the car, $400. Remember it was 1968 after all! The car had a badly butchered frame and a small block Chevy motor of questionable origin dangling from an old Hurst cradle mount – to put it mildly, the coupe was no cherry.  The car spent the next almost 40 years tucked away safely in Rob’s garage waiting for its time to shine.

When it was rolled out of the garage into the sun for it’s initial inspection it was very apparent that a boulder-grit grinding disc had had its way with the precious metal of the coupe’s body at some point, leaving the panels badly scarred. This may have been an amateur attempt at fire-damage clean up, as the body wood would soon testify – it was blackened Cajun style. The trunk/rumble area had been brutally beaten and the rain gutters had been sloppily torched out of the quarters. It was obvious that before this coupe’s stint as a twitchy ‘50s hot rod it had also done time as a hard working pickup. You know, the kind with homemade wooden bedsides?

Building cars in our heads is quick and easy: “Do you want fuel-injection? How about air-conditioning? Two-speed electric wipers?” The verbal list of available options grew rapidly, and within a matter of minutes, the car was complete – in our heads. Our heads then had to farm the work out to our hands, which took about three years to achieve the same results.

Classic Street Rod Manufacturing supplied the brand new rolling chassis with a drilled, dropped beam, mono-leaf and hairpins up front with coil-over shocks and ladder bars out back. A new Ram Jet 350 crate engine seemed like the logical choice for Rob. The new motor was coupled to a TH-350 tranny and a Ford 9-inch out of a Versailles for many trouble-free miles and easy parts availability if they do break.

Replacing the factory bumpers are these one-off nerf bars that have been dipped in chrome to protect them from the elements.

All of the beating and banging to straighten out the body panels and the application of all of the paint was handled by yours truly (Rotten to my friends) and Mrs. Rotten between the Gopher Grove Garage and our very generous old boss Paul’s place. Just a little advise, all body panels 9both genie and aftermarket) should be considered cut-to-fit when lusting after uniform gaps. This includes doors, deck lid, rear body panel, etc. A box full of shims will only get you so far. Mrs. Rotten custom built the drilled and tubed front and rear spreader bars as well as modification of the nerf bars so that they would fit the coupe properly.

There are a lot of people we would like to thank for their help and generosity during the construction of Rob’s Copper Coupe: Classic Street Rod Manufacturing, Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, Doug’s Headers, Joe St. Louis, Mark Chavez of American Glass, Ed Martin Garage, LimeWorks, Hot Rod Works, Escondido Plating, TAG Motorsports, North County Cycle Salvage, Cap’n Williams, Lyle Fisk and a special thanks to Paul, Ann and David for shop-space, sponsorship, patience and the opportunity to show off a little.

World of RODS

Tech Block

Chassis

Frame/Manufacturer: Classic Street Rod Manufacturing, Ontario, CA

Wheelbase: 106 inches

Rearend: 9-inch Lincoln, 3.50:1

Rear Suspension: Aldan coil-overs & ladder bars

Rear Brakes: 10-inch finned drums

Front Suspension: Chassis Engineering forged I-beam, monoleaf, hairpins & P&J shocks

Front Brakes: GM disc

Master Cylinder: Dual/manual

Steering Box: Vega type

Steering Linkage: Cross-steer, dampened, with urethane-tipped stops by Rotten

Steering Column: LimeWorks

Front Wheels: ’50 Merc-alikes, 15” x 5”

Front Tires: Firestone 5.60 – 15 “Gum-Dipped”

Rear Wheels: ’50 Merc-alikes, 15” x 6”

Rear Tires: Firestone 8.20 – 15 “Gum-Dipped”

Fuel Tank: Modern repop from Tanks

Engine

Make/Displacement: Chevrolet 350 Ramjet

Machining/Assembly: Hecho en Mexico

Heads: Yes, 2

Alternator: Powermaster

Manifold/Induction: Fuel Injection

Valve Covers: Chrome-plated, nuthin’ fancy

Ignition: HEI

Exhaust: Doug’s Headers & glasspacks, custom-bent system by Joe St. Louis, Riverside, CA

Transmission: TH-350

Converter/Clutch: 2000 RPM stall

Shifter: Gennie Shifter, “the big stick”

Body

Body Style/Manufacturer: 5-window coupe by Ford

Hood: Rootlieb 4-piece with 4-door sides.

Radiator: Walker

Grille: Quality Repop by Obsolete Classic Auto Parts

Bodywork By: Rotten Rodney

Paint Type/Color: PPG BC/CC, ‘LA Copper Metallic’

Painted By: Rotten Rodney

Headlights: BLC

Tail Lights: ’37 Ford, grafted to ’32 stands

Other Body Modifications: Drilled & tubed spreader bars by Mrs. Rotten

Interior

Dash: Stock, but resplendent in bleach blonde ‘Real Simulated Wood’ TM.

Gauges: SW Wings

Stereo: AM transistorized

Wiring: By Guardrail Willie, Ed Martin Garage, Riverside, CA

Steering Wheel: Drilled 3-spoke Bell repop from LimeWorks

Upholstery: Yes

Fabric/Leather Color: 2-hue vinyl

Seat Manufacturer: Glide Engineering

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