The closer we get to finishing this restoration, the harder it is to be patient, especially when we look at all the newly-chromed parts, hear the rebuilt engine purr, and see the interior pieces being beautifully crafted. We still have to put in our new roof antenna, refinish the dash, and put in window sweepers before being ready for the interior.
Our roof antenna and outer escutcheon were bad and needed to be replaced. We had some nice NORS pieces to put on, but had to remove the old ones first. The mechanics of this antenna are simple: Just pull out and rotate an interior knob (just above the windshield), following a pointer on the knob for up or 180 degrees opposite for down These antennas were used by Buick, Packard, and others in the '40s and early '50s. Parts are becoming scarce, for example the interior knob, plug, mast and base, especially for the convertibles and Rivieras. Even though they look similar, there are differences in the sedans vs. the Rivieras in design and assembly. And as we found with ours, (a '53 76R model), there were slight installation differences from the Buick Motors Manual.
It is important to know all of the components of the antenna assembly and their relationship to each other before removing them. The lead-in wire comes from the radio up the right side behind the windshield molding, and care must be given when removing these moldings because the lead-in wire is held in place by clips that prevent the wire from being pinched or damaged by the moldings mounting screws. To replace the mast and escutcheon plate underneath, it is not necessary to remove these moldings or the lead-in wire. The lead-in wire is attached to the antenna knob assembly, and not directly to the mast itself. To disassemble, start on the inside of the car by inserting a slot screw driver into the knobs cover plate (or plug, Buick reference). Some knobs use set screws. Unscrew the cover, exposing the hold down screw on the mast. Remove the screw, washer, spacer and spring. This allows the knob to come off and the mast assembly to be removed from the front. At this point, the inside knob, outside mast and escutcheon plate can be removed. Looking into the mounting hole from the inside you can see a lock nut which can be removed with a deep socket. Now the insulator and lead-in wire (which on our car loops from the right to left side) attaches to the antenna assembly with a 1 fahnestock* terminal. If the lead-in wire or insulator is broken, it must be removed and replaced. Here is where we found a discrepancy in the positioning of the fahnestock terminal.
The manual states it must be on the right and ours is on the left. What matters is that it should be checked for ground. This can be done with an ohm meter. It should show an open circuit if it is in the correct place. Ours is on the left at the 9 oclock position. Once the insulator is in place and the lead-in wire is correctly positioned, put the new mast and base in place from the outside, making sure all parts are in order (see illustration). Push the base back into the mounting hole, install lock nut and tighten until snug. Place mast in its retracted position and turn mast in down position (the end of the mast should be 1from the windshield glass). Have a helper to hold the mast in the vertical down position while the lock nut is tightened and the knob assembly is installed in reverse order of disassembly. You are now ready to enjoy the bassy-full sounds of the Sonomatic tube radio!
One of our interior features I like is the machined center of the '53 Roadmaster dash. Buick had used this effect since the early 40s rendered in various techniques. In '53, they created the look by using a Di-Noc (decal) transfer. It was available in red, green, blue and gray, to harmonize with the Roadmaster interiors. The original Di-Nocs were flexible sheets of lacquer film, applied to lacquer surfaces with a special cement. Through the years, many of these Di-Nocs have been damaged, needing replacement. Fortunately, ours was in excellent condition, needing only minor touch-up. Since we are totally restoring the car, we did consider replacing it, but decided the condition and 50-year-old patina would not let us do it at this time. However, here is what we found that would be needed to replace it if we wanted to, later on. We found a company that will make the decal for you: Art Plus Signs & Designs, 541-924-9055. The manager is Mindy Palamaris, and she is excellent to work with. What you need is a color sample and a macro photo of your dash (an undamaged area). Using a Pantone color number is the best way to match your dash color. These Pantone color selector books show printers ink samples with corresponding numbers, and are obtainable at art supply stores or on eBay. Specify the coatedsample book. Once the company has the sample pattern and color, they silkscreen it on glossy, adhesive-backed vinyl, which can be installed as is, or can be clear-coated as the original Di-Nocs were. Here is how to do the installation:
1. The dash surface must be smooth and painted.
2. Wipe down with Acryliclean or other grease remover
3. Rough trim the decal sheet, leaving at least 1/2of extra material on all sides
4. Peel adhesive backing paper off decal and spray adhesive side with water containing ½ drop of dishwashing liquid
5. Work with clean hands (no gloves) when positioning decal
6. Once decal is in position, squeegee out all air bubbles, starting in the middle and working out to the edges, using overlapping strokes. The goal is to get all the fluid and bubbles out from under the decal, which would break down adhesive
7. Use a heat gun or hair dryer to stretch the decal around curves, instruments, etc
8. Use an X-acto knife for the final trim around edges.
For best results, apply at room temperature
These are similar to the directions for the original Di-Nocs.
We thought the machined dash article might be of interest to restorers and street rodders alike. It really has a great look. We will show a finished dash detail in an upcoming D.O.C. when our interior is installed. The Fall is great time for great old cars! Enjoy your cars and keep em driving!
1 *Fahnestock clips were used on early radio receivers. They consist of a single piece of flexible metal with a rectangle punched out of one end and a loop punched out of the other. The clip is bent so the loop can be pushed through the rectangular opening. Then the lead-in wire can be inserted through the loop and the spring force of the clip holds the wire in place, similar to the way speaker wires are hooked on the modern-day component systems.