Ranch Wagon DONE!

Posted: May 6, 2019 in Uncategorized

Back in January, on a day when the ground was snow free and frozen, I decided to pull our son’s ’65 Ford Wagon out of the ShelterLogic tent and into the shop to start the bodywork. I’d be able to leisurely get it ready for paint and ready by mid May.

Good thing I started early.

It’s finally done, although some of the things I thought I’d have time to do, like replace the too long squealing alternator belt didn’t get done.

It looks great, we didn’t paint the roof to safe on material and time, the color match is good. I’m happy to have gotten it done for them, they’ve got a summer of camping fun booked using it.

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I’ve been busy this past month and half working on our son Craig and his wife Kathleen’s ’65 Ford Ranch Wagon.  Craig bought this car a year ago in Detroit, from a Craigslist ad.  It was an unfinished, apparently abandoned project, the 352 supposedly freshened up, ran great but no brakes and typical rust on the bottom edges.  The body had been off and frame repaired, very well done.  They drove the car all summer after having the brakes gone through by our friend Baron, pulling their canned ham camper,  trips to the UP, camping throughout lower Michigan, and evening runs to the A&W.  Mechanically great but definitely needing some bodywork.

56945981706__5bf62540-be6e-4d9d-855b-3f0427f3cb4eI got it in the shop in January, and started working on the body.  It’d been the victim of a “used car lot” type “repair” years ago, plastic about an inch thick that was letting go around the wheels, the dog-legs were gone, and the bottom 4″ of the tailgate were AWOL.  In fact, the left side hinge had torn loose, causing the right side hinge (die-cast) to break from the extra load.  I bought a shrinker/stretcher set from Harbor Freight,  made my own sheet metal brake from scraps of steel I had, and set to work making the dog-legs, lower quarter panels and wheel openings, and bottom of the tailgate.

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I knew how much work it was going to be, the only surprise was the top of the right front fender, which had some blistered paint that turned out to be cancerous.  I’m pretty proud of the repair to that, and the wheel opening flare and dog-leg panels, all complicated compound curves and beads which I was able to make accurately with my limited tools and a sheet of 20 gauge.  From there it was a matter of grinding down what seemed to be miles of weld (which Kim helped with, holding the dolly in back of the weld while I hammer welded the joints.  Thanks Kim!) and then the rather tedious job of filling and then sanding, filling, sanding, filling, and sanding until the panels were perfect.

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I wrapped up the bodywork today.  There’ll be some little spots I’m sure that will need a tiny bit of finessing that we’ll find as we prep for paint, but it looks really, really good.  I’m proud of the job, it was fun expanding my skill set, and very gratifying to do something for Craig and Kathleen.  The deadline for paint is the first part of May, they’ve got reservations for the Tin Can Tourist Spring Rally with us the third weekend of May, and plans for lots of fun this summer with the wagon, which will now look as good as it runs.

I had repaired and lubed the front power window motors a couple of months ago, an easy job, but neither of the rear windows worked. I had hoped it was just the switches, but it was more than that.

Both of the rear motors turned out to be completely seized up. Getting the motors and regulators out was a real challenge, as the regulator should be run up and down to access the screws that connect the arm to the window channel. I eventually got the right one out and replaced the seized motor with one of a pair from some mid ’60’s Cadillac regulators I’d saved for 35 years. I didn’t realize until I’d spent almost an hour unsuccessfully trying to reinstall it that the motors are right and left hand. I’d put the left motor on the right and it wouldn’t go back in.

So, I started over. Once I had the correct side motor on the regulator, it went easier. Aligning the glass was easier than I thought, that part of the job went smoothly.

The drivers side was a piece of cake after the right side. After it was done and aligned, I found the switch on the drivers door didn’t operate the passenger door window. It would lower, but wouldn’t raise, and the switch felt “loose”.

Turned out the points for that switch were literally welded together, the plastic wire housing was melted, and the contacts (little metal pegs that plugged into contact sleeves in the housing) were rusty. I was able to repair that, and after reassembling the switch, all the windows work from the drivers door and their individual switches.

Another big task completed, next up, fuel and brake lines. One thing at a time.

Riviera Custom, Light ‘em up.

Posted: November 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

Wow. I struggled with where and how to mount parking lights and turn signals after I moved the headlights. My first thought was to cut out the blanked out area behind the fins in the lower part of the bezels, but I thought it’d be too difficult to do well.

I was wrong.

I drilled a hole at each end of the blanked area. And sliced it out with a diamond cut off wheel in the grinder. A little touch up of the finish and polish, they’ll look perfect.

After that I made mounting brackets for the rear seat and set the original speaker grill in the armrest.

One step at a time.

But wait, there’s more…

Posted: November 20, 2018 in Buick, Riviera
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I was having trouble with the idea of hiding the beautiful headlight nacelle’s behind the (admittedly graceful) front bumper.  I toyed with the idea of cutting the bumper ends off and grafting them to the center, so it “floated” between the fender tips, but that seemed like it’d still hide the lines Bill Mitchell laid out for the car 55 years ago.  What to do?  A little masking paper gave me an idea…

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Why do I even need the bumper?  It’s strictly an ornament, in fact it bolts to not only frame, but the sheet metal fenders, AND, the fragile die cast bottoms of the headlight tower grills. Even a tiny bump would take out the whole front end.  Not only that, the soft curve of the thin bumper clashes with, and mostly hides, the crisp, sharp lines every where else on the front end.  Why not just eliminate it, and let the design of the that front end stand on it’s own?

So, a couple of hours later, the paper pattern turned into:

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The bottom valance panel, the part of the bumper that bolts to the fenders and headlamp tower grills, remains as a “rolled pan”.  I made a simple filler panel, from the valance panel under the grill, that’ll bolt (it’s clamped on for now with Vice-Grips) to that.  It was a very easy panel to make, all straight bends (which I did over the edge of the bench with a couple sticks of 1/4″ 2×2 angle, some Vice-Grips and a rubber mallet as a brake).  That chrome piece will get painted body color, which will let me fix the little dent where one of the original bumper guards got tweaked.  I have some extra door stainless trim pieces that’ll make a nice trim over the little “flat” I added to the valance panel extension were it meets the Riviera’s original part.

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I’m pretty proud (obviously) of my design, which focuses the eye to the headlamp nacelle’s and the wide ’65 grill.  The bright Halogen headlamps will be fine behind the grills and plastic lenses, as the grills are so close the bulbs.  Shining on the shop wall, they look like they’ll be more than adequate for actual night-time driving.

The only drawback to this modification is that now I don’t think the original pale blue color, which I’d decided I’d use, won’t look right with this new, rather sinister look.  Which means, I guess, that the door jambs and cowl will now have to painted some other, suitably menacing, color.  Maybe gunmetal grey, satin?

I can’t believe I just said that, but it would look great with the black leather interior I have for the car…

I’m approaching my 64th birthday in a couple of weeks, Thanksgiving is coming right up, and I’m pretty thankful for my wonderful family,  beautiful grandson, great home with a (semi) warm shop, a collection of some pretty neat cars, a couple of fun projects, time to devote to them, and a wife who supports this obsession of mine.

The Riviera is coming along pretty well, the brake conversion is done.  I got the correct pins, and the spindles and brakes are on the car for good.  Lines are next, and the new master cylinder needs to go in.  I pulled the original gas tank, and have the poly ’93 Cadillac tank that was under our old ’48 Pontiac convertible to replace the original.  A new sending unit and Walbro fuel pump compatible with the pressure requirements of the LS is an easy swap, then lines for that, and the car will be, hopefully, a runner.  It turns over with the key, all the systems are “hot”, so I think I’m getting close.

I’m very happy with the headlight installation behind the parking lamp towers in the fenders, it’s a HUGE improvement of the clunky, last minute botch the factory did with them in the grill.  The ’65 finally got the clamshell lights, and the clean grill (I used a ’65 grill), but this will be a good, low dollar substitute for that one year only, complicated and hard to find conversion.

I used the headlight buckets that came out of the ’59 Thunderbird (which were replaced by ’63 Cadillac units), the were on the shelf, complete with the Halogen bulbs.  I’d originally thought of new projector style bulbs, but they ‘re expensive, they’d be hard to adapt and make the adjusters for, and might look odd behind the lenses.  This seems to be a more sensible approach to what’s going to be a period style car.

Happy Holidays everyone, get out in the shop and make something!

 

Name that part…

Posted: November 3, 2018 in Riviera, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

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More specifically, name what vehicle it came from, so as to be able to obtain the missing caliper pin, and maybe a set of shoes in the future.

I’d had these on the shelf, saved for who knows how long, from what I remembered as being an ’83 Chevy conversion van that I’d bought for it’s 350 engine.  It turned out I didn’t use that part of it, but I did use a bunch of other stuff from it for the Diamond T, the front suspension, the gas tank, the master cylinder and power booster, steering box and and so on.  I remembered saving the front spindles and brakes, having swapped the 5 bolt, 1/2 ton parts for heavier, 8 lug 3/4 ton pickup items when I put the suspension in the Diamond T.

They’d  been sandblasted, the spindles primed with epoxy, I kept them thinking I’d use them someday, on something.

Evidently my memory is unreliable, as when I went to O’Reilly’s to get a replacement caliper pin (one had gone AWOL in the shop during the 10 years or so I’d been shuffling them around), and we couldn’t match it with what I thought they were.  A set of oversized GM pins were ordered as they were the correct length overall, but when they came they didn’t work due to difference in the head and length of the threaded shank.

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A trip back to the store today and a VERY patient counter-man revealed they are really mid 70’s full size Cadillac parts.  The pins are available, the calipers themselves are not, at least from O’Reilley’s,  For the life of me I don’t know where I got these, what I intended them for nor why I saved them.  I do remember, vaguely, deciding the set of van spindles and brakes weren’t worth saving, and taking them on a scrap run, thinking these were the same parts.

They aren’t.

They DO fit the Buick ball joints, and I CAN get the missing pins I need, they have a brand new set of shoes and the pistons are free and don’t leak, so I’m  using them.  I’ve got the spindles mounted and the right side all assembled, the left I’m now waiting for the pins.

The moral here is twofold: 1.  Don’t use what you have on hand just because you may have it on hand, and, 2.  If you save something, label it to identify what it is and put it away carefully so as to not lose difficult to find bits.

Of course, I won’t heed my own advice, and I still don’t remember how I got those…