"A Restoration Begins"
With the '41 Packard LeBaron home and in the garage, we have started going through the parts. Although we inventoried everything before we bought the car, now we are taking each piece and checking its condition. Example: The grill center is the functioning shutter type and has just been chromed. It looks and works great. The side grills looked good, but close inspection showed the right grill edge to be broken and missing (need another one). We are photographing each piece and making notes for repair or replacement. The time taken to keep a log, photographs, articles, contacts, receipts and other pertinent information gives you a free mind to enjoy the building or rebuilding of the car. This one really excites me! I have always liked the '41s, but had trouble with the design of the roofline on factory cars. On this Sport Brougham, LeBaron raised the roof about 2", then arched it, creating entirely a new green house area with razor edge roof pillars, and framed the door tops in stainless steel around the windows. On the car's sides, the running boards were deleted (available by special order), and the trunk was shortened and re-sloped, thus changing the entire car from the cowl back.
Other details were added, which I will show you later, including real burled walnut and mother of pearl inlay on the power window frames. These fortunately are already restored. The car had been bead blasted with all paint removed and had been primed in Dupont (yellow) 2-part primer. Since we are using all PPG Ditzler products, we decided to sand off the Dupont primer and re-prime with PPG K-200. The primer was easy to sand using a DA, however caution was necessary, because of extensive lead filler on the door edges and top. You can literally sand away the design. When all of the old primer was removed, there was a film of rust under it as if the car had been wet before being primed. Using PPG's metal conditioner DX520SG, then wiping down with a damp cloth, new K-200 primer was applied. This primer goes on thick and can eliminate a lot of filling and sanding, bit it can also fill in details you may not want filled in, such as stampings in the metal, concentric lines in a side mount, etc. We find it best to use a reducer (make sure it is for the correct temperature), and then the primer slowly builds coats, not losing any of the body details. We are ready now to begin our bodywork, which will cover welding, fabrication and panel straightening. Watch for coverage in future issues.
With the weather staying in the high 90s here in the South, we decided to take a break and get our '54 Cadillac Coupe DeVille out. It has factory air conditioning that works! We have installed a temperature gauge under the dash to know exactly what temp we are running. The problem has always been heating up to 215 degrees in traffic with the a/c on. Our remedy has been to put on an auxiliary fan to blow air through the a/c coils and radiator when needed by switch activation. But unless the fan is properly shrouded (we don't have shroud space), it doesn't work very well. So, we are looking for a more permanent solution. The most obvious and easiest thing to do was to change the thermostat to a 160. On the Cadillacs, the thermostat has to be turned so the spring strap runs fore to aft on the car. If it is put side to side, it restricts water flow to the left and right water banks. A rag was stuffed into the water inlet hole to keep pieces of gasket from falling in while removing it. After cutting a new gasket, everything was assembled and a five-blade flex-fan was installed. This dropped our running temperature to 195 driving, and to 210 idling. Not good enough. We are now switching to a 6-blade flex fan (the flex fans are designed to pull additional air through the radiator at lower RPMs). We are also going to rod out our radiator. (We had considered going to a high-flow thermostat but this would allow too much water to flow through the system too fast, cooling the water, but not the engine, giving a lower "water" temp on the gauge, while the heads & block temp would actually be higher!) This hopefully will drop the temperature another 7-10 degrees, which will be just about right. We'll let you know the results next month. Keep 'em driving!