The GM era characterized by the big, round, fat-fendered cars came to an end with the '58 Buick. Harley Earl was retiring, and car designs were becoming longer, lower and ever-larger of fins during the late '50s and early '60s. The '58 Buick was an in-between car: It was big and round, had big fins and massive chrome. However it was not considered one of the best-styled Buicks of the '50s. Even one of GM's designers said it looked like we put the chrome on with a brush! But it, like many of the other cars of 1958 that weren1 t appreciated at the time, have now become icons of the period in America when cars were king and excess was the norm.
The ads of the day promoted the '58 Buick as the Air Born B-581 ; an aircraft reference, partly because of Buick's massive size, like a B-29 bomber, and partly because of its air-poise suspension called Miracle Ride. Instead of Buick's conventional 4 coil springs, the car rode on four air cylinders that raised or lowered the car as conditions demanded. That sounded good, but didn't work well, with many an owner coming out in the morning to find his car on the ground! Fortunately, it wasn't on all series, and our Special 1 doesn't have it.
Our car is a 2-door Special Riviera hardtop with a factory continental kit, wire wheels, in Red and White with Red, Black and White interior. It has the original nail head (named for its small valves) 364 V8 with a 2 barrel carburetor, Dynaflow and dual exhausts. We found it in the back of a car lot in Clinton, Tennessee about 15 years ago. It was Pink and White then, and needed some interior work, and minor mechanical work. We brought it home, repainted it back to its correct Seminole Red and White, rebuilt the brakes, changing the front cast iron drums to the optional aluminum finned ones. These help in cooling and reduce brake fade, a problem common to mid-'50s Buicks. We also replaced the headliner and repainted the dash and interior moldings in Red to match the car1 s body. We were amazed at how dependable the car is. It is an instant-starter and never gets above 1/3 of the way on the temperature gauge, even on the hottest North Georgia day! We have taken it to the coast of South Carolina, and find it cruises effortlessly all day at interstate speeds. It has the safety buzzer on the speedometer to remind us if we are going over the speed limit. All in all, it is truly a car you can drive every day. We don't have a lot invested in the car, and there'1 s a lot be said for a car you can take to the store and not worry about something happening to it. If it gets dinged, we just touch it up and it1 s back on the road!
Recently, I noticed some bubbles and paint flakes on the roof. When I removed some of the paint, I could see there was 1 rust pitting under it, just above the rain rail on the passenger side. When I removed the stainless trim over the back window, there were deep rust pits and a few holes. Normally, we would pull the headliner, strip the top, remove all top chrome and cut out the rusted metal and weld in new pieces. It's a lot of work, but it does permanently fix the problem. We had just put in a new headliner last year, and didn't want to remove it, plus, didn'1 t want to disable our car for the Holidays. About this time, I got a call from Jim Krolak, our buddy at KBS Coatings, to tell me about a new rust-preventative product line he was carrying. We had used a similar product before, which had worked pretty well, but I had an adhesion problem the last time I used it. Jim said he would send me a 3-step kit that would include a cleaner, a bond, and a sealer. I told him we wanted to use lacquer primer over this and paint with acrylic enamel with hardener, and he saw no problem with that.
To prepare the roof metal, we taped up all of the side stainless (roof rails) and removed the front and back window stainless. Using a grinder with a wire brush, we removed all of the paint and scale, taking the problem areas down to clean, bare metal. Just above the rear window was the worst rust, with heavy pitting and some rust holes where the water had collected behind the stainless over the years. STEP ONE was to use the Aquaklean, a heavy-duty degreaser, to clean the metal for maximum adhesion. We used rubber gloves and safety glasses for our protection. We mixed our Aquaklean with water. There are different dilutions for the degree of rust to be treated: One for heavy, one for moderate and one for light surface problems. Ours was moderate, so we mixed 1 part Aquaklean to 5 parts water in a spray bottle, then sprayed it on all of the metal surfaces (the warmer the water the better it cleans). We kept re-spraying for about 10 minutes, always keeping the metal wet, since this product is not supposed to dry before rinsing. After the 10 minutes or so, we rinsed with water and let the surface dry. STEP TWO was our use of the rust remover and pre-primer metal etch called Rust Blast. With the surface clean and dry, we sprayed Rust Blast on liberally, keeping the area wet for about 45 minutes, again not allowing it to dry. After the last coat, we rinsed with water, then allowed it to dry completely. The ideal working temperature for this is between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which worked out great for us since we had the shop at 60 degrees that day.
Now we were ready for STEP THREE. 1 Rust Seal 1 is the final stage. It is a moisture-curing Urethane made to stop and encapsulate rust, permanently sealing bare metal from moisture. We used our respirators on this one, and, using a brush, applied the first coat, getting down into all of the pits, holes and crevices. When the Rust Seal became tacky, we applied another coat, then let it cure. You must use at least 2 coats of Rust Seal, and you don't want to wait until the first coat is thoroughly dry to apply the second coat. After about 3 hours, the product was still a little tacky, so we sprayed our lacquer primer on. Curing time differs, depending on humidity; the more humid, the faster it dries. Average curing time is between 2 and 4 hours. Thanks, KBS Coatings (800-304-6740).
Next month, we will do our body work and painting, and have this driver back on the road by Christmas. Happy Thanksgiving! Keep 'em driving!
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