The subject is INTERIORS as work continues on our 36,767 mile, 1951 Packard two door hardtop. We have completed body stripping, paint, mechanical, chrome refurbishing, and many more phases to bring this Packard back to life (see www.southernwheels.com/Archives). Its been fun working on this car because even though it had sat under a shed and hadnt run in many years, the car wanted to be back on the road again.
When working under dash, we found that all of the wiring was like new. The front and back sides of the dash still have nitrocellulose dark red lacquer that looks like it was just painted. I love being a part of the cars experience, where I am continuing where the last craftsman left off.
In 1951, the publics tastes were changing. During the 1940s, fast backs were popular, but by the early 50s, hardtops were taking their place. The 51 hardtop was Packards first year for one. They made it available in two tone color schemes with a 327 straight eight/automatic and a very pleasing interior in leather and vinyl with patterned nylon inserts in the seats, giving the passenger a cooling effect, compared to the wool seats of old.
Everything in the interior could be saved except the carpet and headliner. Even it was solid, except for the area right above the sun visors, which had a section torn out. We removed everything except the headliner. It is crucial in these old cars to save, mark and bag everything. The chrome door caps have 2-1/2phillips #8 ovals. Finding a #8 2-1/2long can be a challenge. I had to get them in a marinestainless sheet metal screw. The door handles and window rollers are attached with lock pins and the arm rests have special screws. Parts cars are almost non-existent and its hard to ask someone to send you a screw for an arm rest. Save the fasteners!
We removed all of the interior and cleaned up everything: the floor, inside of the doors, etc., were coated with rust preventative POR 15 silver. I like the silverit brightens things up, especially in the door, making it easier to see down in them, and I was told years ago that silver was the best choice. I know Ive never had any rust to come through it in over 15 years. After the POR-15 rust coating, we laid down adhesive back rubber sound deadening material, then foil insulation. All door mechanisms, linkages, rollers, etc., were cleaned and greased. With the seats out, we cleaned them and treated the leather with elephant wax. It is made in Germany and is available online. It is rubbed on by hand, the heat from your hand interacting with the wax and the leather to permeate the leathers pores. It must be done over and over until the leather softens. We also bought some dark red leather dye to rub into some areas where the color had faded. I would suggest using rubber gloves for this, as it will dye your skin and take days to wear off. I know!
The golden brown nylon seat inserts were in good shape and just needed cleaning with upholstery cleaner. Underneath the seats was clean, and the seat adjuster on the front seat just needed a little grease.
The back side of the door panels had several mounting clip holes reamed out. We made a patch panel with new holes and sectioned our old panels carefully, peeling back the door panels vinyl covering. The covering was new for 51 and foreshadowed interiors to come. They have a rolled and pleated effect that is not sewn in but set with heat, known as heat sealing.
Carpet can be a problem. Quality is the cheapest way to go. This carpet was a middle-range, pre-cut dark red nylon with maroon edging and it came with a heel pad in maroon. It took a lot of trimming, and I had to supply the accelerator, brake and dimmer grommets (rubber, of course). I found that certain areas of the carpet, seat and door panels had to be glued, and for us, the best glue for this is E6000. Its a gel that is not sloppy, and holds great. We let it sit overnight.
The only panel that had to be made was the deck mat at the back glass. Woody laid white paper in the area and cut out a template that was transferred to panel board that will be spray glued and covered in dark red leather to match the seats.
As with any car, there is a protocol to taking it apart and putting it back together. The window rollers and door handles attach with a lock pin. Assembly involves putting a tension spring on the door. We used some glue to hold it in place, then put on the door panel. The regulator holes in the door panel are smaller than the spring, so the spring must be behind the panel. When we pushed the panel on, some clips didnt align up, so off came the panel. Over the years, the panel had shrunk. There were five clip holes that we had to mark and re-drill in the door. Now the panel went on with no trouble!
When we put on the door panels, we made sure that handles on the left panel were set to the same angle as handles on the right. The goal is, with the spring on, to put the round escutcheon on, compress the spring while pushing the handle on and dropping in the lock pin. This takes practice. We finally used a wooden paint paddle to hold down the escutcheon evenly and the pin dropped right in. Care must be used not to let the pin come out on the bottom end. When the spring is released, the pin cant come out.
With the seats out, it was a good time to check under the dash for wiring, disconnected linkages, etc. We had the clock rebuilt and it is made to install with the gauge cluster out but we installed it with the cluster in The screws are very small #6 1/4long and heres where a slotted screw starter, Craftsman #40124 comes in handy. I couldnt find mine, and was surprised to see that they are being phased out. I bought the last two Sears had. They are easy to use. You place the end in your slot head screw, twist and the screw is locked in place and wont come off. Once the screw is in, you release the tension.
Before the seats were to go back in, we needed to put an access panel flap in the carpet on the transmission hump, just forward of the front seat. Packard introduced its Ultramatic (automatic) transmission in 1949 and had, like Buick and others, not provided an under-hood fluid filler. It was inside the car in the position mentioned above. Once I located the position, I cut a flap in the carpet, removed, cleaned and re-installed the plug. Fortunately, I had a section of carpet that was intended to go in the back, under the front seat, that I didnt use. It worked great to cover over the flap. Packard used a metal cover over the filler plug that I replaced with a rubber one. A 51 Chevy master cylinder floor plug fits pretty well. We were now ready for the seats, but first had to punch holes in the carpet for the mounting stands. To do this, we got under the car, found the seat bolt nuts that were mounted in the floor board, pushed an awl up through the holes and through the carpet. Then, using a metal hole punch heated just enough with an acetylene torch to get it hot, using a hammer tapped a 1/2hole through the carpet. Heating the punch fuses the carpet fibers around the hole to keep it from unraveling. We put in the seats using new grade 8 bolts. There are still a couple of things to button up: wind lace and headliner. We are using maroon vinyl 3/8wind lace instead of the 1/2maroon cloth that was originally used. It holds its shape better and will be more durable getting in and out of the car. The original headliner was cream cloth with a dark red check. We are replacing it with a cream perforated leather that fits in harmony with the cars interior colors. Our hardtop has the chrome headliner bows that really set off the leather. In an upcoming issue, we will continue with finish engine detail, touch up painting and headliner installation. Keep em driving!