Project Tiger’s Eye: The Background, The Plan, And Where We’re At

Before I started working at Rod Authority I’d already been taking steps to realizing a plan that had long been in the works. While attending California State University, Long Beach I had made a promise that I’d get my hands on my first classic car soon after graduating. At 24, a year after graduation, I’d put enough money away to start searching for what would be my first project car.

Read on to learn more about the background on Project Tiger’s Eye, the plan for the car, and where we’re currently at with the build.

Where we’re at with Project Tiger’s Eye as of August 2014. Lots more to go, but with the help of good friends we’re moving along at a steady pace.

Background On The Project Name

What I do with a car that I have to literally bring back from the dead will determine how much grit I’ve got in me and gauge whether or not I can really say I’ve got a passion for this culture.

The project name stems from several avenues–styling cues that I want to include in the car (such as a tiger’s eye shift knob, door locks, radio knobs, and matching switches) and the overall motivation of the project have equal influence over the project name. To understand better we’ll take a look back at how my interest in hot rods and customs formed.

My first exposure to hot rods was during the revival of the 90s when I was growing up in the city of Long Beach, California. Magazines, lowbrow art, and this manifestation of 50s and 60s lifestyle was very apparent. From the bombs that I’d occasionally catch while attending school in Anaheim, rolling down the street after the 2:30 p.m. bell rang, playing their oldies love songs, to the Baja bugs and hot rods I’d see zoom past while sitting in the passenger seat of my parent’s car–I had a subtle fascination with these special looking automobiles that I knew nothing about.

Spent a couple of hours on a Sunday morning getting the body off the frame.

I remained oblivious to this culture through my grade school years. I didn’t have much of an enabler or someone in the family to show me the world of hot rods and customized cars. It wasn’t until middle school that I met a friend who would completely open up the world of kustom kulture to me and thereby help me understand the roots of 50s and 60s car culture.

I’d always been into drawing and artwork. My buddy whose name is also Andrew, saw this and showed me the artwork of Ed Roth and his visceral brand of caricatures for the very first time. I was floored. From the artwork, I became more familiar with the time that Ed Roth lived during and the sort of work that customizers of the day were producing.

After graduating from the eighth grade I’d put the thought of hot rods and customs in the back of my mind and focused more attention on honing my interest in punk rock and other brands of sub-genre rock music.

I think that high school would have been the perfect time to have gained more automotive knowledge, but being that most of my friends were musicians and not gearheads, it’s just how things went down. I was truly surprised when, after high school, my interest for cars returned full force like I’d never forgotten about it. I knew then, that there was an obvious passion for the culture if it still hit a nerve and got me excited after all these years.

The 350 small-block Chevy came out of a '93 Suburban. Spent a night breaking it down to a bare-block. The rearend was sourced from a 2003 S10 Blazer.

It took an afternoon to get the step-notches in. The next step is to get the 4-link, over-the-axle mounting plates for the airbags, and the shock mount crossmember welded in.

Towards the end of college I’d worked up the brass to start saving for a classic of my own. Looking back, it doesn’t seem that daunting, but when you aren’t surrounded by a group of friends or family that are diehard car folks, it takes a bit of going back and fourth in the head to put your foot down and say, “I’m going to buy a project car.”

While getting my bi-weekly haircut, my barber had told me that one of the members in his car club was selling a 1950 Chevrolet Fleetline 4-door. Being a fan of the VW Bug I was taken away by the fastback styling of the car when I’d looked up reference photos. I was hooked on the look of the car so it was time to check it out.

I headed down to Escondido where the seller was at and checked out the car. I’d seen cars in worse condition, but this ’50 was definitely weathered–it was exactly what I was looking for!

The college promise that I’d made to myself included a clause–the first car that I bought had to present a challenge. It couldn’t be a running car–the first car I would buy would have to be resurrected. I joke with people and tell them that I’m a sadist in the sense of subjecting myself to something like this, especially for my first attempt, but that’s exactly the point.

I needed to do it right. Doing it right meant establishing the work-ethic, dedication, and testing my determination for restoring old cars right from the start. I told myself, “What I do with a car that I have to literally bring back from the dead will determine how much grit I’ve got in me and gauge whether or not I can really say I’ve got a passion for this culture.”

As a dedication to this self-inflicted promise, task, labor, or whatever romanticist word comes to mind, the project was deemed Project Tiger’s Eye–I’ll need nothing less than it if I’m to succeed.

When we first got the body off and before cleaning up the frame.

The Vision Of The ’50: Big-Body Luxury Cruiser

In typical Andrew Almazan fashion, I’m a fan of style over performance. Therefore, the physical flare, soul, and design aesthetic will highlight the build.

In terms of drivetrain and suspension, the keynote of those components is stout-reliability over smoking the competition. A motor and transmission combination that can handle long distance cruises to Las Vegas, or running the span of Route 66 is what will determine my drivetrain. Suspension needs to brace against the variant road conditions that cross-country/state-to-state travel will present.

Alongside style over performance, I’d call myself a semi-purist. The Fleetline will be a traditional mild-kustom built in vein of what was coming out of the 50s and 60s, with no major updates or amenities afforded by modern technology–save for air suspension, radial tires, and a sound system.

When it’s all said and done the car will have styling cues from both kustoms and accessorized bombs that came out of East Los Angeles, with an obvious nod to how we do things in Southern California (when it comes to a big-bodied cruiser)–low and slow.

With the fact in mind, that designs change constantly during the build process the following are some aspects that are 99% set in stone. 15-inch smoothies with baby moon caps and trim rings painted cream, or camel will off-set a Spruce Mica paint job. Spruce Mica is a 2014 Toyota color which features a dark forest green highlighted by gold pearl when the sun hits it. Right now, Spruce Mica is neck to neck with satin black. It is the timelessness of black that is giving Spruce Mica a run for its money.

Top Left: Doors will be radiused and shaved. Top Right: Bare-block is ready for machining. Bottom Left: Traditional 15-inch smoothies will be painted camel. Bottom Right: '50 Fleetline taillights will be swapped out for '49 Olds 88s. The bezel is a perfect fit for the end of the rear quarters and the trim spears that connect to the taillight bezel are a perfect accent to the shape of the rear quarter.

Lake pipes will run right under the rocker panels and help give the kustom a lower look. The stock taillights will be swapped out with 1949 Oldsmobile 88 taillights and the headlights will be frenched. The front end of the car will feature a decked out assembly; amber fog lights mounted to the bumper panel and the OE grille outfitted with a set of nine ’53 Bel Air teeth will give the front a more aggressive look. To top that off, the addition of a truck-style Fulton visor and functional spotlights will round out what will be a truly visual front end.

No lift? No problem.

Air suspension will offer three stances, or ride heights; “show stance” which will have the car laying on the ground when parked, “taildragger” which will allow for cruising on level roads at a lowered ride height, and “clearance” which will raise the car up to a height that can safely clear speed bumps, steep driveways, or any anomalies presented by the road.

What’s Been Done So Far

As of right now, the body of the ’50 is off the frame. I’ve sourced a 2003 S10 rearend and Gambino Kustoms taildragger kit to dial in the rear suspension. Once that’s finished we’ll move onto the front suspension and mounting of the motor and transmission.

After break lines and air management lines are secured, I’ll move to body work and getting the exterior of the car patched, ground down, primered, and wet-sanded to a presentable condition.

Sound deadening, insulation, and upholstery will then be taken care of as well as getting the gauge cluster, sound system, and the rest of the interior squared away.

Even though room in the garage is a little cramped with the body and frame taking up two car slots, there’s nothing like having a couple buddies over during the weekend and getting this thing dialed in and closer to being on the road. Stay tuned for more!

About the author

Andrew Almazan

Andrew Almazan is a graduate of CSULB with a degree in English and a passion for traditional kustoms and hot rods. His first exposure to out of this world vehicles was through the prevalent low rider, baja bug, and kustom culture of LA county.
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