1953 BUICK RESTORATION
Last month, we introduced you to our new project car, a 1953 Buick Roadmaster 2 door Riviera. Over the next few months, we will cover disassembly, sandblasting, body repair, upholstery, primer, paint, mechani-cals and reassembly. The first thing we usually do before buying a car, is to get every bit of literature obtain-able on the subject car. Fortunately, there is a lot available on the '53. We found factory owner's, shop, parts and body manuals, along with service letters (product school) and original sales and promotional brochures and color chips. Over 35 years ago, the color for this car was already chosen in my mind. That was when I saw my first '53 Buick Skylark. I was a senior in high school and was sitting in my '56 Chevy at Jerry's, a local drive-in restaurant (backed in on the back row, of course), when a '53 Buick Skylark, White with nice wide whitewalls and wire wheels came idling through with a slight rumble of the nailhead V-8 coming from its exhaust. You can't forget a sight like that, so the color of our '53 has to be White.When the car first arrived, we photographed it at every angle, then took inventory of any missing parts. Some stainless side pieces were missing. The Buick sweep spears are used by street rodders and restorers alike, and can be very costly and hard to find. That's where friends come in! After making a few phone calls, I found all of the missing pieces, including a set of V-8 wire wheel covers.The underside was not rusty, and the body at first appeared solid, but we found some rust later on. With our photo documentation of the car, we made detailed notes of each piece of chrome and stainless before remov-ing them for plating and polishing. We always send a set of photos with notations along to our chrome plater to help them (and us) keep up with all of the parts. The parts came off without any major trouble, with the exception of a few grill pieces. Using a torch, and flowing a little beeswax into the threads of the stubborn bolts, we were able to remove all of them without breaking anything. The condition of the car was too good to need total disassembly. Even the greenhouse area was excellent, so we decided to leave it alone and tape it up using duct tape to protect it during the stripping of the paint.There are two primary ways to strip a car: Chemical stripping or sandblasting. We chose sandblasting. It is a process we feel comfortable doing ourselves. Over the years, we have come up with a formula of tools and materials that works very well. We find that if you use an air compressor with too much CFM (cubic feet per minute) and coarse abrasives, you can easily warp or blow away detail on your metal. Conversely, if you have too little CFM and too fine an abrasive, you can become frustrated with the job because it takes SO long! For most paint removal, we use our 7 HP, 24.6 CFM air compressor at 125 PSI, with several in-line moisture traps (The moisture/oil traps are very important, because if you get water in with the sand, it will clog up the nozzle), and 1/2" air hose to our 100 lb sandblast unit. We have tried several different nozzles, but the best one we have found is a Cougar valve with a 5/32" nozzle. It doesn't clog, and puts out a good consistant flow with very little startup waste. These are available from Brut Manufacturing, 888-533-2693. For protection, we always use a fresh air respirator with hood and rubber gloves. The '53 Riv had its original Red and White lacquer with a thick coat of alkyd enamel over that, resulting in a very difficult finish to remove. Normally, we would use Biasill, a medium-fine abrasive, but this time, a more aggressive one was needed, so we used Black Beauty. This abrasive comes in a range of cutting consistencies from 10-40 (coarse), 12-40 (medium), 20-40 (fine) to 30-60 (extra-fine). We chose the 12-40 to strip to white metal, leaving a coarse finish, then went back over the car with Biasill, which gives a velvety-smooth finish. We like the Biasill for several reasons: It doesn't kick up a lot of dust, it flows well, it comes in 50-pound bags that are easy to handle, and it removes most paints. We have been sandblasting since the mid-70s, and have watched the availability of abrasives change over the years. Silica sand has been outlawed for sandblast-ing in most areas of the country. Our supplier doesn't sell it any more at all. It cut well, but created a lot of dust that, over time, could lead to silicosis, a lung disease that can be fatal. Even with the new, less harmful abrasives, we always follow all manufacturer's safety precautions and take periodic breaks, especially on a hot summer day!With the car down to bare metal, it was time to blow the car off with air and clean the hood, door and trunk jambs to remove all the sand. We had covered the engine with plastic and had removed everything else from the car, so this was easy to do. PPG's Metal Prep, an acid metal conditioner that stops the oxidation of rust, was used to wipe down the newly-cleaned metal. This was washed off with water, followed by wiping with a tack-rag, and a coat of epoxy was sprayed on the car to prevent the metal from rusting. Acrylic enamel paint will be used later, and the epoxy is a compatible under coat (not so with lacquer).Once we pulled off the duct tape from the windows, we could finally see what body work would be required. We pulled the hood to check our front fender-to-inner fender channels, finding rust along them near our radi-ator-to-fender support bracket, then more rust was found on the body at the left and right rear quarter panels.Next month, we will repair the rust, prime and more! Enjoy your summer and drive your cars! I had the '58 Buick Red and White Rivera out the other day, and someone came up to the car and told me, "Thank you for sharing your car with us and not keeping it home in the garage!" Keep 'em driving!