Where does the time go? Years ago I made a list of the cars I wanted, then bought a ¾ ton 3+3 Silverado and a dual axle car trailer and traveled the USA to get them. Some were ready to go, and some were brought home in boxes. For the restoration cars, we would strip them, send the chrome and interior off for reconditioning and we would go through the mechanics, strip and paint the car. When we had everything done except assembly, the car was put in the back of the garage along with all parts. They were started every 3 months, the gas was changed at this time with non-ethanol with stabilizer, and a battery maintainer was kept on. With that car safely in place, we would buy another. Now, many years later, all the cars are done except four: A 1948 Packard Custom 8 Club Sedan (Coupe), 1949 Buick Roadmaster Sedanet, a 1951 Packard Mayfair (2-Door Hardtop) and a 1953 Buick Roadmaster V8 2-Door Hardtop. (See www.southernwheels.com and click on Archives to see what was done to these cars.)
We are now starting to finish these cars. The '51 Packard Mayfair is going first. It is a 36,000 mile car with Ultramatic (Packard's automatic transmission 1949-54) and it's ready for assemblywell, almost. It's amazing how even being stored in a garage and being regularly started, the engine compartment, paint, etc., need checking and freshening. We started the assembly of this car in January, 2016, beginning with the chrome. Matt took on this job, taking each piece of chrome and stainless, cleaning them with soapy water and a fine brass pad, then clay-barred them and buffed with a fine compound and wool pad, then waxed. This chrome is OEM and was done around mid-'51. In '52, according to most reports, the car manufacturers used Korean chrome which would have never stood up to our buffing, as it eliminated the nickel step in the process of binding the chrome to the copper, as nickel was tightly controlled by the War Department through 1953. Everything cleaned up to a 9+ except the eight grill teeth, so we had them re-chromed. When we began to assemble the grill, we realized that we couldn't just buy a bag of correct nuts, bolts and studs for our application. Each one we needed would have to be found. The grill used mostly #10 & 12 coarse thread studs to fasten it to the car and splash pans, and 3/4" coarse thread bolts to attach the grill teeth to the grill. The bumper bolts are ovals with a curvature to match the bumper, and all were replaced. We had Motors manuals, sales brochures and service letters to help assemble the car, and they were very useful.
When we mounted the grill to the car, we used assembly tape (blue masking tape) on the car to prevent scratching. To prevent pulling the paint off, we lay a piece of tape onto the windshield first, then pull it off which removes some of the adhesion, then stick it to the car. We used a fender cover and laid the grill face down on it. I remember when we assembled a 1948 Packard Custom 8 center grill years before, and laid it face down on cardboard. There was grit on the cardboard that we didn't see, and it scratched the grill!
When we first disassembled the car, we removed the fender bolts, radiator shroud bolts, trim clips, etc., we bagged and tagged them, even though they were rusty and needed to be replaced. That way, we knew what to buy. Most of the under-hood bolts are zinc hex washer head bolts (flange bolts). These were relatively easy to find from our vendors. Hardware stores mostly have thread-cutting hex washer head bolts and these are incorrect.
As the grill was being put in, it was a good time to refinish the hood latch. It was originally cadmium plated. We stripped it with a die grinder with wire wheel, and I used an Eastwood chroming kit and chromed it, but didn't polish it, so that it looked like cadmium. This way, it will be tough, look good, and hold up to many hood slams!
With the grill back on, the car started to take shape. Fifties cars had grills that looked like people, and the '51 looks like someone you'd like to know. The stainless trim takes two kinds of fasteners: 1-"B" shaped push-in metal wire molding clips that measure 1" long x 1 1/4" wide with a 3/8" push in that goes into the fender hole, and 2-A fastener with a stud that is secured on the back side of the fender with a molding trim nut with sealer. Ours are 10-24. The stud fasteners are available, but the "B" push in clips would prove to be a challenge. We have some Buick "B" molding clips that measure 3/4" x 3/4", but we couldn't find the 1" x 1 1/4" that we needed. These are heat-treated, so you can't bend them or they will break. *Specialty Fasteners, and *Restoration Specialties and Supply are vendors in Southern Wheels and both have a great supply of OEM fasteners and can supply printed or online catalogs. But sometimes, you must go beyond the catalog, so I called Jeff at Restoration Specialties and he found all that I needed. The fasteners slide into the track of the stainless and snap in tight to the car body. It is great to work with people who know their products. I tend to keep things forever, and it was helpful to refer to the fastener catalog dated 1990 that showed the correct "B" clip.
The next fastener we needed was for the interior chrome door caps. They are chrome phillips #8, 2" long interior screws. Most interior screws are 1 1/2" long, maximum. Two-inch long interior screws are readily available in #12's, but very hard to find in smaller sizes, so I had to get "marine" stainless phillips deck screws for the 2" #8's. Just a note, I did find a 2" #6 available in a screw kit for 1955-57 Chevy Nomads that could be used with a #8 countersink washer.
With the chrome on, we moved to the engine compartment. It's amazing how dirty and dusty an engine compartment can get just sitting in the garage! After cleaning everything, we numbered the spark plug wires, removed the distributor cap, air cleaner, (covered the throat of the carburetor), and removed everything on the engine and firewall, marking the voltage regulator terminals for re-installation. (When a part of the charging system is removed, the generator regulator must be polarized. This is done on the '51 Packard by momentarily touching the battery and armature poles on the voltage regulator (not the field!) This is done with the key OFF. Fords and a few other makes polarize differently. Check your Motors manual. (Once I touched the battery to field voltage regulator poles together and fried the voltage regulator and armature in my generator. It was on a '36 Packard Standard 8 and cost me $600!) Each one of the engine compartment pieces was repainted.
Most inner fender wells and radiator shrouds are painted a semi-gloss black. I bought some actual GM Chassis Black and found that semi-flat spray cans, available at Advance Auto Parts, are the closest to the OEM finish. For the air cleaner, radiator tanks and oil filler cap, I used a gloss black enamel.
They were originally semi gloss but the gloss holds up better and doesn't leave finger prints. On the radiator, I used *Eastwood's Gloss Radiator Paint on the tanks, #10040Z and Satin Black on the radiator core #10340Z. This is a special thin spray paint that allows the fins to get more air and cool more efficiently.
The straight 8 327 CID engine was painted medium gray with engine enamel from *Bill Hirsch. I like it because it's rated for aircraft and he has OEM colors. (See the press release in our August 2016 issue, page 16.) We put three coats on and it looks thick and glossy. The intake is painted engine gray (this is from factory photos) and the exhaust manifold was stripped with a die grinder/wire wheel and painted hi-temp cast, also from Bill Hirsch. We still have to paint the firewall car color (Corona Cream) but will wait until final paint touch-up for that. Engine decals will be put on last. The car runs great and is an instant starter. Now the engine compartment reflects that. The interior will stay original except for a weathered head liner and new carpet replacement, and we have now removed everything to clean and leather treat the seats in an effort to bring back the softness and color to the leather.
See you next month with more on the '51 Mayfair assembly.
Keep 'em driving!