Our three-car series featuring major, moderate and minor restoration/preservation continues this month, covering the second car in the series, a 1951 Packard Mayfair 2 door hardtop. The history of the Mayfair was covered in Pop's Garage last month (see the Archives section of www.southernwheels.com).
My wife Karen and I found our '51 on Thanksgiving Day in 1997. It was sitting beside an old Victorian house on Missionary Ridge here in Chattanooga. After several months of negotiating, a deal was made and we were at the old Victorian picking up the '51. We thought it was a little strange that there were two fuel pumps on the ground in front of the car. When we asked why they were there, we were told that the carburetor wasn't getting any gas, so we proceeded to hook up an auxiliary fuel tank and prime the carburetor, and the old straight 8 started. It ran smooth, so we knew we had made a good deal as we drove it upon the car trailer and headed for home. We immediately put it on the lift and started checking it out.
Its a 36,000 mile car with many of its parts in excellent condition, which should be the case with a low mileage car. The chrome was nice, needing only the grill teeth to be chromed. The stainless, hubcaps and all of the glass were nearly perfect, as was most of the rubber parts. Inside the trunk was so original and just too nice to touch! The spare tire was a Firestone 8:20-15 that looked like it had never been on the ground, and all of the side panels were nice inside. We found the owners manual and a radio tag, long hidden away in the pull drawer glove box.
The body still had its factory paint in Ivory with a Matador Maroon top, but there was rust. An original Pennsylvania car, it had rust holes in the lower areasnothing major, but it would have to be stripped and all of the chrome removed. Even on a driver, it is best (if possible) to take it to the metal. That way there wont be any surprises to come through your paint later on.
The interior was better news. The seats were factory leather and nylon and the door panels were pleated originals and very nice. The dash matched the Maroon top and was almost perfect. The gauges, knobs and steering wheel just looked like a 36,000 mile car should look. What would be needed were a headliner and carpets and minor stitching here and there. With the car on the lift, we photographed everything and checked everything out bumper to bumper. The engine number was correct, a 327 straight 8 with a 288 head. Packard did that to boost compression when coupled with its Ultramatic (automatic) transmission, as our car has. We did find that the transmission was a 1953, not a '51, probably a dealers upgradea common practice in those days because after Ultramatic's 1949 introduction, its bugs were worked out each year, and by 1953 it was considered a smooth and reliable transmission
After cleaning everything on the bottom side, we painted everything chassis black and painted the exhaust system with high-temp exhaust paint. We had previously pulled the gas tank to have it cleaned and sealed. When the pickup tube was cleaned, a piece of black rubber came out, about 7-8 inches long. It was very old, dried-up gas and, of course, the cause of the fuel supply problem! We replaced the entire gas line, rebuilt the fuel pump and carburetor, and replaced the AC fuel filter element. The gas problem was solved. Note: It is important on these straight 8s to make sure that the head shields are on the fuel pump and carburetor. If left off, they usually vapor lock. Fortunately, new ones are being made. Check with Packard Seattle Company for these.
Mechanical: We checked engine vacuum and compression (all good), cleaned and flushed the cooling system, replacing all hoses and clamps (the '51's used the wide squeeze type and installed a new 180-degree thermostat and new freeze plugs. We then moved on to the oil pan; cleaned it and replaced the gasket, refilling the crankcase with 30-weight non-detergent oil (the oil the crankcase was born with). The 30-weight non-detergent you buy now doesnt have as much ZDDP (zinc) as it did a few years ago, but the manufacturer told me it was very close, and would be fine for an engine whose cam had already been broken in. It is crucial to break in a new cam with oil that has the correct amount of ZDDP. Check with your engine builder for the amount.
We also replaced the spark plugs with non-resistors (for more spark), stranded spark plug wires (more volts to the plugs), a new distributor cap, rotor button, points and condenser. We also replaced the coil, making sure the polarity was right. Our ignition system is 6V positive ground, so the wire from the positive side of the oil goes to the distributor.
We also put in a new choke spring to assure the choke would be almost closed when cold, for easy starts, and fully opened when hot. The engine and fire wall were cleaned up and made ready for paint later on. The transmission pan was cleaned out and painted and put back on with a new gasket and filled with Dexron III. The rear end was checked and found to be okay (it uses 90-weight gear lube). The chocks and springs checked out okay, but the brakes required rebuilding. The shoes were good, but the master and wheel cylinders were replaced (available in new manufacture).
With the mechanics done, we started on the body, which turned out to be the biggest challenge yet. The entire car was stripped, windows masked, chrome removed and the body sand blasted down to the metal. The rusty areas were cut out and replaced with fabricated patch panels welded in. All of the metal repairs were cleaned with metal prep to remove all residue left from the welds, which can burn through the paint months later. We chose a Ditzler (PPG) paint system using a two-part primer and acrylic enamel. Restorer Jeff Coe spent hours filling, blocking and sanding, resulting in a factory straight finish. The freshly-painted Ivory and Maroon were first color-sanded with a range of 600-3000 grit, and then buffed and polished, resulting in a deep rich shine. The chrome and stainless were polished and are ready for assembly.
We hope that this gives you an overview of what might be necessary for a car needing moderate restoration; preserving what is good and restoring the rest. If you would like to read more on the '51's rebuild, check out the Archives at www.southernwheels.com. See you next month, and keep 'em driving!