After working their arses off to get both classic car projects done in time for Viva Las Vegas, many of you have been eager to hear how it went! (Insert sorry excuses here for why it took so long for an update!)

Well… it didn’t.

Wah, wah, waaahhhh. But not getting the car projects completed doesn’t mean Ethan and Kristin didn’t have tons of fun and make worlds of progress during Operation Viva and their mad rush to get both their cars ready for this car show! Here’s what went down…

Ethan’s 1957 Ford

Ford 5.0 Engine Swap in 1957 Ford

Admittedly ambitious, Ethan is never one for doing things halfway – he’s going to do them right or he’s not going to do them at all. His ’57 Ford project was no different. Rather than just p0pping in the new engine and checking that the brakes worked, he forged forward with a complete firewall-forward restoration. With work just beginning six weeks before Viva and he being gone on business for half that time, it’s amazing how much progress he did make. At the end, there was just too much work to be done and trying to rush it or pull an overnighter could result in un-safe circumstances on the road – so the decision was made to leave it behind. But(!)…

Here’s what got completed:

  • All front body  sandblasted and repainted
  • Firewall and chassis fully cleaned, sanded, rust-removed, and re-painted using Eastman products
  • Original engine removed and new pushrod  5.0 engine installed
  • Installed engine using 5.0 motor mounts drilled to fit original mounting hole
  • Automatic overdrive trans fitted to engine, bolting to original crossmember
  • New custom-length driveshaft made and installed
  • Sandblasted and painted control arms
  • Brand new suspension bushings installed
  • New inner & outer tie-rods installed
  • Re-built steering center-link
  • Fatman Fab lowering spindles installed
  • Front brakes converted to disc with drilled & slotted rotors
  • Converted from single master cylinder to power-dual master cylinder
  • B&M floor-mount shifter replacing a column-shift
  • Fan and fan-clutch installed
  • CVR Racing pulley kit fitted to 5.0 engine
  • Converted 5.0 engine from fuel injected using Edelbrock Performer Air-Gap intake and carburetor
  • ARP head studs installed
  • 17×7″ front wheels, 17×8″ rear wheels with rear fenders rolled to fit
  • 225/50/r17 Vogue tires front, 235/55/r17 Vogue tires back
  • Lokar gas pedal and assembly fitted
  • Lokar throttle valve cable installed

Kristin’s 1955 Studebaker

Small Block Chevy Engine Reubild - Valvetrain Swap

Valvetrain swap in progress with old parts still in place.

Less ambitious of a project than the Ford, Kristin’s busy schedule and a week-long parts delay put the Studebaker’s valvetrain change and transmission work in danger of missing the deadline. She pushed herself to work at her fastest; getting the valvetrain swapped within a weekend , just in time to get it to the transmission shop with hopes they could turn it around quickly.

Here’s what got completed:

  • Learned how to choose a cam and did it!
  • Old camshaft, rocker arms, lifters, and pushrods removed
  • New Lunati Voodoo camshaft, rocker arms, lifters, and pushrods installed (look out for more details on this)
  • New 700R4 transmission built and installed by Art Carr at California Performance Transmissions (Kristin’s tired of changing transmissions!)


Friday morning, their slated departure from SoCal, Kristin picked the Studebaker up from California Performance Transmissions with its super awesome new 700r4. However, since the tune post-valvetrain swap was done with a non-operating transmission installed it was waaaayyy off. This resulted in extremely bad backfiring under driving conditions, necessitating a tow back home. Even though it was only hours away from being complete, with another rocker arm adjustment and engine tune, So Cal’s Friday-afternoon traffic demanded they leave immediately or much later into the evening. Badly wanting to just relax and start their vacation, Ethan and Kristin decided to escape L.A. in their handy commuter car, the Scion iQ.


While their classic car projects didn’t quite make the deadline, they got so much closer to being done – No regrets in this garage! Ethan and Kristin had a great time at Viva Las Vegas and now both their cars are getting ready for an August road trip to Bonneville for Speedweek! In the meantime, we’ve got plenty more to share on these project’s progress and learnings… stay tuned!


6 Responses

  1. Ted

    I’m sorry to learn that neither car made it to Viva. I’m sadder that I didn’t make it, as it would have been fun to meet you. Oddly enough, Kristin, you are (sort of) responsible for my own failure to make Viva this year. You see, last winter I rescued a cat from my parents’ ranch in Wyoming. My wife an I decided the cat would become my shop cat. Since I drive a ’55 Champion Coupe like yours, I decided to name the new shop cat after you. Grease Girl is a calico, who looks a bit like someone used a yellow cat to wipe up a greasy mess. Her name is appropriate, then!

    When it came time for Viva I was waiting on parts for the Studebaker too. My parts didn’t arrive in time, but far more importantly, I was also waiting for kittens! I’m glad I stayed home, because the kittens would have been born in my absence if I’d gone to Viva. We now have three lovely kittens, the progeny of Grease Girl and a solid gray tomcat, who roams the forest nearby. All three kittens are solid gray like their dad, so their names followed the pattern you started: Axle Grease, Grease Monkey and Greased Lightning ( or Axle, Monkey and Lightnin’ for short. )

    I thought that story would give you a smile. Maybe next year we can get both our Studebakers together at Viva!

    • Kristin Cline

      And I never knew I had a cat out there with my name on it! It sounds very appropriate for her.
      Sometimes life gets in the way of our car project plans, but that’s okay! Glad you’re enjoying the kittens and I hope your Studebaker parts are now installed and that you’re on the road too!
      Next year, the plan is to skip Viva and make a grand road trip to Austin, Texas for Lone Star Round Up! You’re welcome to join our classic car caravan if you decide to go the distance 😉

  2. Russ Bellinis

    I have a 1985 Firebird T/A sitting in my driveway waiting for me to replace the heads on the 350 with a set of Vette aluminum heads, and to replace a set of the plastic or nylon (not sure) pads that fit on the ends of the shifting forks of a “World Class” T-5 tranny. Just wondering if you have gotten any farther on the Stude? My favorite cars are the “slippery” Studes from ’53-’55. The next favorites are the ’56 Flite Hawk (6 cylinder) and the ’56 Power Hawk (base model V8) both had no fins! Silver Hawks and Golden Hawks had the ugly fins!

    I’m looking forward to seeing shots of your Studey back on the road.

    By the way, it is a bit pricey, but if your 700r4 fails, the answer is the 4-80L with the computer shifter, or a standard turbo 400 with the Gear Vendors overdrive. The problem with the 700r4 is that it only has one pressure setting on the trans, but the 1-2 shift need to have pressures set at 1500psi, while the 3-4 shift needs it set to 4000psi or so. If it is set high enough for the 3-4, you can’t take off in first or make the 1-2 shift without breaking the tires loose. If the pressure is set at 1500psi, the clutches slip on the 3-4 shift. The result is that 700r4s are forced into a compromise pressure setting. The 4L80e has a computer control that allows low pressure for the 1-2 shift with a higher pressure for the 3-4, problem solved. Those were the automatic transmissions found on the 1996-2002 Z28 Camaros and GTA Firbirds. If you can find a good used one in a junk yard, get the trans. computer with it. I think that you can have a custom harness made for the trans.

    A good rebuilt 700r4 should be good for @ 70,000 miles between overhauls if you don’t abuse it and take care of it. I would recommend that you invest in an auxiliary trans cooler mounted inline after the trans cooler that is built into your radiator, to help keep the trans fluid cool. Excessive heat is the worst enemy of automatic trannys.

    • Kristin Cline

      Thanks for the info Russ and power to ya in restoring that ’85 Firebird of yours. Have you heard about the company that’s re-making some of the old Firebirds? They’ve recently released some Smokey and the Bandit editions and they’re pretty rad!

      My new transmission also go a new auxillary cooler with it and is working better than ever! I think this one should last me the long haul, and if not… it’s finally warrantied!


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