Bringing An Old Car Back To Life
We have received a lot of mail asking us to do a series of articles about taking a solid old car and bringing it back to nice driver condition, without doing a frame up restoration. We are in the middle of several comprehensive restorations: A 1941 Packard LeBaron, a 1951 Packard, and a 1949 Buick Roadmaster Sedanet, but we thought it would be fun to interweave some driver restoration articles in with those. So, for the past four months, we have been looking for a late 40s two-door coupe. We like the post war fastbacks with straight 8 engines and overdrive, but really didn't expect to find a Packard, since the production figurer were low to begin with, and the few that are left are rarely being sold. Then, a couple of weeks ago while going through one of the classified car magazines, there was a 1948 Packard Custom 8 2 door Club Sedan (fastback). Even in black and white, we could see the egg-crate grill and double stainless strips running horizontally just above the rocker panels. It was a Custom 8 2 door! Almost in disbelief, I called the seller (John), who assured me that it was indeed a Custom 8, with 55,000 original miles and had been parked in a barn for the past 18 years. It had been recently started, and even had a new battery. We made him a deal and wired him the money to his bank the next day. There are various ways to handle payment, but using a bank or an auto broker works well for both parties. We generally pick up the cars ourselves, but it was Memorial Day weekend, and would be hard for us to make the trip. I called Sam at Autobahn Transport who told me that they had a truck in New York and could have the car to us in 3 days! Great! I got the garage ready and located all the shop manuals. Sunday came and Autobahn was right on time, arriving in a 6-car enclosed transport. The driver opened the back doors and lowered the hydraulic ramps, as my adrenalin flowed. I got out the old Packard and turned the key. It started right up, and drove out of the truck, no brakes at all! But the emergency brake worked, so down in the driveway I went!
The first thing was to check all the numbers. All were correct. Then we went through the car bumper to bumper. In the front seat were all manuals and paint chips, and the trunk was full of cloisonn hubcaps, just as John had said. The car was just as he had described it. It s great to do business with honest and nice people! We photographed everything and made a preliminary list of parts needed to put the car back on the road. The engine ran good, but had a miss. We checked com-pression, which was fine, then replaced all spark plugs and plug wires, which elimi-nated the miss. Now that we knew the engine was good, we changed the oil and filter, 30-weight ND, and the engine idled beautifully at 40 pounds of pressure. Next, we began to go through the engine compartment. The radiator was removed to be rodded out and pressure checked. All coolant hoses were replaced, and every-thing was taken off the engine, stripping it to the block so we could pressure wash it and prepare it for painting. The engine compartment will be first, and this will be our article for next month's issue: Doing an engine compartment while leaving the engine in the car. It s really a lot of fun, bringing a car back to life, especially one that doesn t need to have a frame off restoration. I'll be driving this car by Labor Day what do you think?
See you next month keep em driving!