November 2003 Archives

Where did I go?

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This is going to be a pretty long entry, I guess.

What do you do when you take six months off of logging progress on your car, and instead just work on it? OK, I haven't spent the entire last six months working on the car, but I have been working. My apologies for those who were following along who think that all progress has stalled. It has not.

I have learned some lessons though. Listen to people who tell you that car restoration is going to take longer than you thought. Way longer. probably two to three times longer than your worst-case estimate. There are various reasons for this: your own lack of time, the need to order parts (and wait for them while they ship or come in from back-order), relying on other people to do various "sub-contracted" work like media blasting or painting that to not have their schedule synchronized with yours, nor share your sense of urgency to get the project done, etc. etc. Everything compounds to slow the overall hobbiest restoration process down. I guess the pros who stock all the common parts, and have paint and blast facilities, and of course the benefit of experience can move orders of magnitudes faster than the rest of us.

So where did we leave off? I had gotten the new engine. I was partially disassembling the front suspension. I was sand blasting some rusty stuff, had decided to paint the car Ruby Red, and thought that there was still a chance I would make it to the 356 Holiday in Asheville in September. Yeah, right.

Well, I did go to the holiday, without the car (Katy and I took the Audi TT Roadster instead) and we had a blast. Everyone was very nice and encouraging, the multitude of cars to drool over re-invigorated my commitment to the project, and no one cared that our 356 wasn't finished. Next year is going to be in Colonial Williamsburg, and we will be there. With the car this time. I swear.

I'm not going to paint the car red. I think. Crap, I really still haven't decided on this one. I'm leaning towards Irish Green right now. There were really too many red cars at the Holiday.

Back in May the car still needed a bit of disassembling. We did manage to get it all done. The transmission came out, and I built (welded up) the dolly from the 356 Registry web site to support/move the rear end of the car. It works great. Various other odds and ends were removed, the car was completely stripped except for the wiring harness and front axle (sans shocks). I figured since I was going to have to go through everything up front anyway, not removing the tires would save me from building a full body dolly. In hindsight, I still think that was a fine decision. I did remove the steering components (tie rods, steering box) and rebuilt them. Transmission removal was pretty easy, I have Alex Maiolo to thank again for assisting on that. Once the car was stripped, there was the matter of waiting for Frank Gibson's time to become available, so that we could coordinate body work and media blasting and primer and all that. It didn't happen until October. But That's How It Works.

In the meantime, I continued to gather advice and knowledge from the 356talk e-mail list. I sand-blasted all the stuff that needed sand-blasting. I rebuilt the Zenith carburetors that came with the new engine, which looked to be in great shape (although I haven't used them yet). I painted tons of random small parts (suspension, brake parts, wheel hubs, tie rods, air cleaners, engine sheet metal,
etc.). Went through lots of cans of Dupli-Color gloss and semi-gloss engine enamel. I figure that stuff will stand up to high (not extreme) temperatures and is pretty tough. It sure has had enough time to air-cure!

I got a zinc plating setup from Caswell Plating and re-plated a bunch of stuff. Lots of nuts and bolts, front hood latch mechanism, carburetor parts, if I could fit it in the plating bucket and it needed new zinc (or it used to be "cad" plated), I did it. Amazing how good most of the stuff looked when it came out.

I sent all the chrome, such as the door frames, window surrounds, front turn signal bezels, shifter and the like to Chrome Rite plating in Fayetteville, NC. They took their own sweet time, but I suppose that isn't an issue because I'm still not ready to put the chrome back on, right!?! Anyway, it all came back looking nice and shiny. Pretty good job! I don't have any other "show chrome" to compare it to but I think it is up there. It's all stored inside for now.

The new leatherette upholstery and oatmeal carpet were ordered from Parts Obsolete. The upholstery was installed locally by a place called Autocraft Upholstery. Not a concours job, but really not bad, and better than some jobs I have seen on the Internet. You be the judge. The best part was it only cost $250. I am considering whether to let them do the headliner as well, when the time comes. I still feel I will try to tackle carpet and side/rear panel installation myself.

As I mentioned above, the car did get picked up for media blasting back in mid-October. Ellis Media Blasting in Greensboro did the job. $700 in and out. I think that is about average, and
they were the only game around. They used plastic media for the outside, and on my instructions, used sand for the undercarriage and interior. No warping of note was detected upon completion. The damage hiding under the paint was as I expected: a previous repair with thick filler at the rear of the car, it will need to be re-done. Some repairs to the rocker panel areas. A repair where the right part of the hood/fender meets the A-piller was the worst one though. Done with fiberglass, and not holding up well. It will have to be re-done with real metal from scratch. Inside, a few more areas got "perforated" from the blasting in the rear seat area than I had originally thought would, but all looks repairable. The engine compartment needs some serious attention too. I have my work cut out for me with body panel repair. I plan on tackling all the under-body stuff myself, except for maybe the rockers and lower lock-posts. That's for Frank Gibson. Frank did finally get the car cleaned up (the media/sand does tend to stick around, like everyone says) and primered; I had the car delivered back to the house today by flatbed.

I've started working on the new "C" motor a bit as well. I got a special 912-series oil pump drive gear and some new seals from NLA Ltd (Brad Ripley). To install it, you need to remove the 3rd piece of the engine case. Doing this, I neglected to remove the oil seal and oil slinger washer from the crank. Make sure you carefully read each paragraph of "Secrets of the Inner Circle" two or three times before attempting something. I didn't scratch the crank, but I totally trashed the 4th main bearing. Luckily, this bearing isn't nearly as essential as the other 3, and I was able to obtain a replacement from Stoddard for the insane price of $60 or so. That probably won't be the last, or cheapest, mistake I make. I have put the engine aside for awhile now that the car has returned.

There is much welding to be done.

I am at a turning point in the project of sorts. I am no longer taking things apart or taking things off. I am putting things back together, replacing bad metal, making the car start to become whole again. It is a very good feeling. I'm at about the 1 year anniversary of when I bought the car, so it seems fitting in a way. I'll try to be better this Fall/Winter about updating the log as I go and posting pictures. E-mail me if you have questions or advice! Make sure to check out the more detailed pictures available in the gallery.