BUYING AN OLD CAR - PART 2
Last month’s article on our newly-purchased ‘51 Packard 2 door “Mayfair” hardtop has reminded me that it can take longer to refurbish something than to replace it. But the results are worth it! We were going for a well-kept original equipment look–not perfect, but nice–something we could feel comfortable using as a daily driver. You know the old story, “I’ll buy this car and just “fix it up” for a diver”, then before yo know it, it’s stripped to the frame! Not this time! There, I’ve put it in writing! Our ‘51 has its original maroon leather and gold pinstriped nylon insert seats. The door panels are vinyl: cream trimmed in maroon. The carpet was maroon and had to be replaced, as did the red & white diamond patterned headliner. We decided to contract out the headliner and do the rest ourselves in our shop. We pulled the seats, door panels, carpet, kick pads and deck mat. The seat seams were coming loose, but the material was good. With the seatcover off, an iron-on interfacing backing material was applied for extra strength, then the seams were re-stitched. The door panel backing boards were coming apart on the lower edges around the kick pads, but the vinyl was good. The panels are di-electrically heat stamped, so they can’t be separated from their mounting boards. They vinyl had split along a few seams, but was too nice overall to replace. We laid the panels flat and squeezed glue into the separations, pushing down and wiping off the excess with PPG’s Acrylicleen. After the glue dried, we turned the panels over and, using the outline of the vinyl, made a template for the back cardboard side of the panel. The thickness was critical around the door handles, and, fortunately, the upper part of the panel was good, so we repaired only the bottom half by gluing a new board to the old. We used Thermoply for this, available at any building supply store, (ours came from Lowe’s), and a waterproof liquid adhesive. This made a strong panel out of what had been a crumbling mess. They next day, when we turned the door panels over, the vinyl had become strangely rippled all along the glued area. HELP! What’s this? We think that the vapors from the glue came through the back of the door panel and temporarily stretched out the vinyl. I use the word “temporarily” because after 2 hours of going over each channel with a hair dryer and gentle smoothing, the ripples came out. What a great way to start a Saturday morning! We then made a tracing of cardboard around the inside of each door and used an awl to punch out the holes for the door clips. We then laid the template on the back of the door panel, pulled back the vinyl from harm’s way on the front side, and drilled out the holes and put in the clips. All that was left now was the deck mat and kick pads. There were good, whole patterns for these, so we replaced them using the correct vinyl-grain cardboard called “finish board”, bought from a local interior shop. It comes in colors, but it’s also very easy to paint, and it comes in a standard size of 39” x 64”. On the back side of these panels, we used adhesive backed sound deadening material for added quiet. The floors were rust-proofed with P.O.R. 15 and then sound deadening material with insulation was placed over it. After the new headliner is installed, we’ll be ready to re-install the interior. With the interior out, the window rollers, hinges, door jambs, interior chrome pieces are all being refurbished before going back together. Progress has also been made in the engine compartment. All parts were removed and refurbished. The air cleaner was chemically stripped instead of sand-blasted, to keep any leftover sand from later getting into the rebuilt carburetor. We have found the best and most authentic semigloss black for the engine compartment is GM’s black reconditioning paint, part #1050104, available from your local GM dealer. The hood will have to be removed to paint the underside and firewall. The hood is a perfect fit, so we will scribe round the hinges for assembly alignment. Next month, we will start on the body. See you then!