Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Some Sad News

Well gentlemen, I've been putting this off but since time is rapidly running out, I need to come clean. If you remember, last year I spent some time working in Australia on a robot project. Just before this past Christmas, I was contacted by the university we worked with to see if I was interested in continuing on with the project down there with them. Talked it over with wife, daughter, parents, siblings, friends, etc as at our age, one's life is not to do with as one pleases. There are duties and responsibilities to others that must be considered before you can consider your own. But the general consensus was 'Are you crazy - GO!!!!. It's actually a good time - Daughter Julie is out of grad school and working at her first 'real' job. Both sets of parents are in good health and gave us their blessing for taking off. Off we go then - for at least 2 years.

So we've been scrambling to reorganize my own business here since January - and to try and wrap up SusieQ so she was in some movable form. In a Herculean effort last week, we got the front/rear valances installed, the taillights in, the rear bumper on, the front fenders on and the stone guard bolted up. Bought a one-stall garage from a local Amish building company and planted it in the backyard. Last Saturday, we loaded up the car and transported her about 5 miles from the shop to my house.

Right now then, she is sitting about 50 ft from me, snug in her new home and wrapped up for a 2 year hibernation. A shame as it looked like we would have probably gotten her on the road this summer. But she'll be here when we get back and I'll probably get a few weeks worth of work on her when we come back for vacation. Here then is your last look at SusieQ for an extended duration. Of course, I expect you all to continue your own work, and look forward to your postings as I live vicariously through your work while I'm gone. Take of yourselves then and keep those wrenches warm!

SusieQ heading towards hibernation - March 29, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tail Light Recovery

Finally got back around to those tail lights buckets that I managed to mangle last month in a fit of impatience. I'm blaming it on cabin-fever and the need to see sunshine again :/ Anyway, during the cooling off period, I went ahead and purchased a set of the satin-finished tail light bezels from Scott Drake.I would have rather de-chromed the originals and powder coated a matte-silver - but de-chroming stuff is such an environmental disaster if you do it at home - and expensive if you send it out. The Drake option seemed the best choice as I was looking for a little less chrome to start with. 

Once the bezels arrived, I used them as the color template for picking a powder that would match them. The intent being to strip the chrome trim that attaches to the rear 1/4 caps and deck lid and powder coat in a color to match the bezels. I've read that these pieces are stainless but I'm pretty sure they are just anodized aluminum. Being such, I decided to try the oven-cleaner trick to remove the anodizing prior to powder coating. Surprisingly, it worked fairly efficiently. I placed them in a shallow tray and just kept them 'wet' with the cleaner for approximately an evening of shop time. You could literally see the anodizing sloughing off the pieces. Once I got the anodizing off, I took them to the weld table and VERY carefully tapped  a few nicks/bumps out of them using a small hammer and various small round pieces of scrap metal. A quick trip to the blast cabinet and they were ready for powder coating. I ended up sending to Prismatic Powders for 5 different color samples, and the one that seemed the closest was Silver Satin. So I ordered a pound of that and a pound of Casper Clear (Sven recommended) to topcoat with.

While waiting for the powder to arrive, I sucked it up and went after the buckets. First step was chemically stripping as much of the damaged powder coat off as I could. Took three applications to finally get to a point where I could finish them in the blast cabinet. Even then, it was a long hour for each one. That powder coat is TOUGH stuff!!! I took my time this go-around - did the proper surface prep - set the oven for 400 deg and let 'er rip. Happily there were no surprises when I popped the oven door this time. Beautiful, mirrored surface like I was looking for the first time. Lesson learned...

Tail Light Bucket - Satin Silver Powder Coat

Tail Light Assembly

Monday, March 3, 2014

Front Fenders and a Quiz

Got a rare window of above 40 deg temps on Saturday in this 'Winter That Will Never Quit'. Took advantage of the 'warm' sunshine and dragged the front fenders outside for final prep of the inner surfaces. Another glamourless job that no one will ever appreciate save for the few of us crazy enough to do it. Used my standard protocol for jobs like this:

1. Scrape old undercoating off with putty knife

2. Remove residue with solvent

3. Scour with SOS pads. (I like using them for this as you get the combination of soap and steel wool. Leaves a nice clean, smooth surface.)

4. Treat with TSP, rinse with water, let air dry in warm sunshine

5. Coat with Rustoleum's trusty, rusty metal primer

6. Top coat with Rustoleum's Truck Bed Liner

Got the second fender top coated just as the sun ducked behind the hilltops and the temps dropped 10 deg. Nice to get that job done outside as the bed liner contains Xylene which is some really nasty stuff for working with indoors. 

Once I get the inner splash shields in place, I should be ready to mount the fenders. At that point she should start looking like a car again rather than a 20 year long high school science project.

 So for the quiz. Anyone wants to guess why there isn't an antenna hole in the top of the passenger fender? You'll be surprised by the answer. And no, I didn't weld it shut.

Mystery Fender

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Yeah...those things no one likes...

Well I finished installing 'the things no one likes' this afternoon. This will FINALLY allow those pesky quarter windows that have been out of the car for 15 years to make their appearance. I had to open up the trim holes from .201" to .25" before installing. Put a dab of silicone behind each washer to make sure I had a good seal with the body. I'm still happy with them despite the reception. A cool industrial look. 

Before I got too carried away, I decided to buff/polish the areas where they installed so that I didn't have to work around them when buffing the entire car. Which obviously should be done before any hardware is attached but due to some upcoming events, I'm in accelerated-mode to get as much of the car reassembled before the end of March.

Sven recommended going with a 3 step process called Perfect-It from 3M. I bought 3 bottles of the stuff from the inner-web and did a trial run on the rear valance. Stage 1 is rubbing compound, Stage 2 coarse polish and Stage 3 fine polish. Pretty much idiot proof. Squeeze the stuff onto the matching foam pad and have at it with your D/A. I was very happy with the results. I had a slight tinge of red to the rubbing compound pad which confirmed I was skimming a bit of color off the top - then diminishing color residue in Stages 2 and 3. If the rest of the car comes out as well as the valance, I'll be a happy camper. For a daily driver shot in single stage Dupont Centuri acrylic enamel, I can't ask for too much more.

Once I got the valance buffed/polished, I flipped it over and shot some truck bed liner on it just to protect the inner surface. Got the back-up lights out of  storage and dropped them in just for looks. Ended up media blasting the back surfaces and clear coating before installing. I'll get the gaskets installed then mount permanently next time I'm in the shop. Once that's done, the rear valance should be ready to mount. Will be nice to see some sheet metal going on the car rather than coming off of it for a change!!!

There's a quarter window track hiding inside that quarter panel !

Rear valance moving towards completion

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bad Day at Black Rock Canyon

Why, oh why, oh why did I hurry today ?!!!!!! Powder coating...it's easy...but it is still a form of painting and as such requires proper prep and execution. I choose to do neither today and have paid the piper for it. Arghhhh....

Decided to head to the shop after getting some early morning skiing in. Have been working the rear of the car lately, trying to get the valence, taillights and trim installed. Today I wanted to get the rear taillight buckets media blasted and prepped for installation. I hadn't decided if I was going to powder coat, re-zinc plate or just leave them natural.

I first wanted to see what was under all that dirt and grime - then make the decision afterwards. So swapped out the blast garnet for walnut shells as I didn't want to abrasive-blast the zinc-plated surface if there was a chance I could save it. The first bucket came out great. I couldn't believe how nice it was. I thought, if the other one looks this good, I'll just hit them with some satin-gloss clear powder coat and be assembling them in front the TV  tonight while watching the Olympics. 

But as all things in car restoration, nothing goes as planned. The second was dreadful. Under all that dirt, were a bunch of oxidation patches, deep scratches and discolorations. Always the story with zinc-plated parts. Here you have 2 buckets that have lived their entire lives, just 3 feet away from one another. One is pristine, the other a disaster. What to do? Decided, since the second was unsalvageable surface-wise, there was no reason to not powder coat it argent silver. Not my favorite option but for a part typically hidden from view, I just decided for the sake of efficiency and getting the car done before my wife is 80,  to press forward with that. So back to the blast cabinet - swap in the garnet and go after all the oxidation patches. An hour later, the zinc-plating now obliterated, it didn't look too bad. Cleaned it with solvent, pre-heated it to eliminate any outgassing from the oxidation areas and coated it with argent silver powder. And this is where the train came off the tracks. I typically like to preheat a part to at least 400 deg or a bit higher to get rid of any potential outgassing but the part looked so clean, I only preheated to 150. After a 20 min cure, I pulled it from the oven and was already patting myself on the back for a flawless surface....and then I turned it over. Noooooooo!!!!!!! Blisters all over the backside of the part. Then, like Dennis and his deck lid, God and I had a short, but intense discussion regarding my powder coating technique. Oh fudddggggeeeeee.....

argent silver

blister city

Disgusted but undeterred, I swapped out the silver powder in the gun for satin clear, figuring I might as well  finish the other bucket while the oven was hot. In then end, it was the direction I wanted to go anyway. Long story short, another disappointment. The gloss was uneven and there was a slight yellowish hue to the clear. So 4 hrs in the shop - score 0-2. I cleaned myself up and went home with my tail between my legs. I now have 2 fubar'ed parts coated in impregnable powder coat - totally unusable for the moment.

satin-clear with just a hint of warm yellow :(

I have 2 more spares in the basement, so I might try and media blast them and see where they stand - then pay attention to my prep and execution and get my head out of my butt and focus on what I'm doing. Double fudge....


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Zen and the Art of Sandblasting

Sandblasting is one of those car restoration tasks that typically falls under the 'necessary evil' column. Right there with rust repair, undercoating scraping and fixing things under the dash while upside down and backwards. But occasionally...when one has had a stressful week of work - complete with angry customers, unmotivated employees, a leaky roof and a sky that hasn't seen the sun in 10 days - sand blasting can actually be a welcomed relief. Today was such a day. 

Woke up early, got my bike ride in and headed directly for the shop. Gathered up a handful of parts that have been waiting in the 'to-be-sand-blasted' pile, set the compressor at 60 psi and fired up the blast cabinet. Went with a my favorite blend - 80 grit garnet from GMA Abrasive. Not too harsh with a subtle hint of holly and evergreen. 

I always like sliding into the blast cabinet. Reminds me of those science fiction movies from the 60's. You got your respirator on and those cool looking rubber gloves that are built into the cabinet face. Easy to imagine you are operating on some poor monkey that has been infected with Element-X - or manipulating nuclear pellets needed to defeat Godzilla. Unfortunately today it was nothing more exciting than a couple of front grill brackets and a quarter window regulator track....so Godzilla is safe for at least another weekend.

Other than taking a nice uninterrupted 1 1/2 hrs to complete, nothing much to report. Hit the foot pedal, point and squirt, repeat as needed. As mindless as it can be, it's a great way to unwind - especially if the radio station is playing a nice grouping of Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and The Who. Once I had everything blasted, I went over them all with some solvent to remove any traces of oils/waxes in preparation for powder coating. Went with satin black for the grill parts and argent silver for the regulator tracks. There is probably a better color for the tracks but I've used it before on other tracks. It is a close match, looks good and I typically have it is stock - so that's what goes on.

I've been a bit unhappy though with Eastwood's black powders as I can't seem to get any repeatable stock of what they call 'satin black'. Sometimes it comes out flat, sometimes glossier than I like. This used to not be a problem but I've noticed the last 2 or 3 batches have been inconsistent. This go-around then I tried ordering what they call 'semi-gloss' black. Which is normally the same as satin. But since they are discriminating between them, I thought I'd give it a go. Happily this time, it came out exactly the color/gloss level I was looking for. For now then, I'm going with semi-gloss rather than satin for underhood / chassis parts. 

So hopefully with the track powder coated, I'm ready to assemble the driver's side quarter window. I've read over Alex's instructions a couple times and printed out the factory assembly diagram so I think I'm good to go. Will be nice to have that assembly back together as it has been apart for at least 10 years!!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Quarter Trim Solution

Well, I've probably built more suspense into this than it deserves. But in my defense, it has been a niggling problem that has bothered me for quite awhile. In review, I've been looking for a alternate solution to the factory external quarter trim. Those goofy-looking, backward-facing chrome "C's" that reside just behind the doors. Unfortunately there aren't many options available. You can delete them and weld the holes shut - but then you have this featureless 1/4 panel that looks...well...featureless. You can add the brake scoops. The choice being the CS/GT's that are non-functional - which seems a bit silly. Or the Shelby scoops, which require drilling a large hole in the panel for ducting the air hose back to the rear brakes. For a RT66 cruiser? That seems a bit silly as well. Which leads back to the factory set-up - which for me, has too many styling cues from the 60's that really date what is otherwise, one of the most beautiful designed bodies out there. There's a very good reason why our 60's Mustangs are still seen in movies and commercials. Good design never ages.

So what is one to do? Well turns out, as most discoveries do, that it took an accident to lead me to the solution. Not a painful accident, just an incidental accident in the sense that I didn't mean to do that on purpose. I was sitting there pondering the factory trim for the nth time. As you guys know, the chrome part of the trim has 3 pins that go through a body-painted base molding then into the 1/4 panel where they are retained from the inside by sheet metal nuts. I was thinking, 'why don't I toss the chrome piece of the trim and just use the base molding? It's body color and adds a subtle feature to the 1/4 panel w/o too much clutter. I wanted to see the molding-only look, without the chrome trim, but of course it wouldn't hang there as the method of attachment requires the chrome part. So I reached over and found a button-head screw lying on the floor and stuck it in the top hole of the 3-hole pattern and stepped back for a look.  I went back to the car, pulled the screw out, tossed the molding, and put the screw back. Close but not quite there. Headed to my fastener bins and dug out 3 flanged stainless button-head screws and stuck them in the 3 holes. And bingo, there was the answer - maybe not 'the' answer, or even 'an' answer - but it was 'my' answer. For a few weeks, I just left them sitting there in the holes. Occasionally, I would stop and take a look and see if they continued to float my boat. I was happy but not 100% happy. Then one night while shopping at Ring Bros for their door strikers - I spotted a line of machined washers they make that come with a corresponding unique button-head screw - in stainless of course. Bought a couple for a test run and liked the results.

Even better, it ended up solving another design problem I've had - those equally ugly rear quarter reflectors. I tossed those as well and put the machined washer/button-heads in their place. In the end, I'm going with the motto, simpler is better. For my tastes, it is a cleaner look and feels a bit more industrial, a bit more racy. I like it. Feel free to throw rocks. I'm still open to alternate suggestions. Maybe this will stimulate an even better answer. Gosh knows, we've all sat on the floor staring at those quarter panels long enough :)

Apologies for the photos. It looks much better in person. The flash ruins the look.  I've also stuck some of the button-heads in the 1/4 end caps but I think I'll end up going with the standard trim back there. That part of the car is one of my favorite views of  the 67/68 bodies. The long, thin trim across the deck lid and the 2 hockey sticks on the end caps.

Ring Bros - 304 stainless steel button-head and machined washer

Quarter trim holes filled with button-heads

Rear reflector holes filled   

End caps with button-heads...hmmmm...maybe not...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Christmas Bling

Well, like Dennis, I've been occupied elsewhere lately. But got a little Christmas cash from the in-laws and thought what better place to spend it than on SusieQ. As you know, I've been wanting to button up the rear quarter area but needed to figure out what I'm doing with the quarter panel trim. I think I've finally got that figured out and bought some parts for a test run. I've tried them, and although not 100% happy, I'm happier with the results than anything else that is out there - that being, simply weld the holes shut, install the OEM trim, add the Shelby brake scoops or make something from scratch. Ideally, I'd like to make something from scratch. I have it in my head what I would like to see there but realistically with a business to run, there just isn't time in the pipeline for it. And like Alex, I have a porch falling off the back of the house as well :/

In preparation for sealing up that area, I wanted to rehab the door strikers first. I didn't want to seal that area up if for some reason I needed to get to the back side of those strikers screws to get them out. Been there, done that. Those door striker screws are notorious for not coming out. I have a REALLY cool impact tool in the tool collection - specifically bought for having fought that battle before.

But I got the strikers out intact and was trying to decide what to do with them. Blast and powder coat, blast and zinc plate, blast and chrome - or drop $65 and buy a pair of billet stainless ones from Rings Bros? Since my solution for the quarter trim was coming from Ring Bros, I just decided to splurge a little with my Christmas money and spring for the billet pieces as well. They arrived this week and like everything from Ring Bros, are perfect. I should just hang them on the wall than install in the car. Beautiful craftsmanship. Here's the pieces in the flesh. Hopefully I'll have the 1/4 panel solution installed soon and I'll post to gauge your reactions.

Of course, now I'll probably have to lay out for the billet scuff plates as well!!!