Posts Tagged ‘chopped tops’

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The initial plan for the roadster was to use the “patina’d” tan Haartz canvas on the top bows that came with the car.  This proved to be impossible when this morning I set to take the canvas off the (beautiful chrome) bows.  While the material was rotten, it WAS held on by what must have been thousands of staples and tacks.  These were driven into the solid wood bows, and pulling them wasn’t like pulling staples out of a convertible tops tack strip.  Oh no.  These refused to yield.  I ended up cutting the canvas with a razor, where it didn’t just tear or pull apart, removing it, and then pulling each individual staple and tack, first prying them up a bit with a small, sharp screwdriver, then yanking on them with pliers.  It took forever.

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That, however, ended up being a good thing.  The old, frayed, stained top would have looked TERRIBLE against the new paint.  The top had to come off anyway to trim the back edge and curtain owing to the 2″ chop, so it would have had to have come off intact.  Which NO WAY was it going to do.  The wire on was so rusty it wouldn’t close back up and would have had to have been replaced, which also would look out of place with the old material.

So, I’ll make a new top.  No big deal.

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Taking (OK, stealing) an idea from a fellow HAMB member with a lovely 34 roadster, whose top construction was outlined in detail in Street Rodder Magazine, and available on-line, I then notched the 2nd bow in the curve, to let it drop down further over the iron bow.  Taking 5/8″ out of the curve (seen above) let the bow drop almost 1 1/2″, which really improved the loft of the top.  It no longer looks like a buggy top, but like a hot rod.

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I mocked up the new profile using masking tape, It looks great.  The old window opening I didn’t like, it looked to “antique-y”, this is much more pleasing to my eye.  Again, the loft is much prettier, without the center arching WAY up over the drivers head (like I’m gonna wear a fedora in this thing!), and I even like the tan color of the tape against the black paint.  So the color is “mocked up” as well.

All in all, a pretty productive day, and one more thing checked off the list!

IMG_4173Building a custom car is not just building a giant model car kit, nor even like restoring a car back to original.  It’s taking each and every little part of the car, modifying it to suit ones own taste, and then modifying the parts so that they’ll fit back together in the form of a car.  Every little change impacts something else, or SEVERAL somethings, and every part has to be modified to work and/or look proper.  The dashboard of my ’59 T’bird is a case in point.

The windshield of the car is chopped, not by cutting the glass, but by sinking the entire windshield and it’s steel frame, down into the cowl as far as I could, a fraction shy of 2 inches. The dash mounts to a lip on the windshield frame, which moved down a like amount.  That meant that the dash was too low in the cockpit, both to see the gauges behind the steering wheel, or to get ones legs under the edge comfortably.  To remedy those ills, and to have it not look goofy, I cut the gauge and glove box pods out of the dash, moved them up and forward.  This accentuated the aircraft design of the dash, makes the pods more pronounced, the end result being that the dash still looks like a ’59 T’Bird dash, and makes it echo the design of the tonneau covers twin headrest pods.

It also meant a LOT of work.  For the past week, it seems I’ve done nothing but work on the dash.  First, I cut out some previous work I”d done that I wasn’t happy with, then hours of grinding welds.  After that, I spent hours spreading and sanding filler on the dash, spreading more filler, sand, spread, sand, ad infinitum.  I finally got the dash to the point that it looks good, and have the “eyebrows”(made of squirt can foam on the dash pads original steel morning lips) shaped and fitted to the dash.  It’s been a long, tedious project, I’m tired of working on it, and was excited to get the dash mocked up in the car.

It was at that point that I realized the original gauge pod, which fit as it was supposed to in the dash while it was out of the car, wouldn’t fit over the steering column when mounted in the body. The reason for this was two-fold.  First, while I’d raised the gauge pod, it was a little lower still in relation the steering column, which did not move in the w/s chop.  The second problem was that I inadvertently moved the pod over to the right about 3/8”, which meant the gauge panel was no longer exactly centered over the steering column, which meant the nice cut out at the bottom of the panel for the column to nestle into, was too far to the right, and too low to let the column snuggle up where it should.

I still have a little “finesse” work to do on the dash, and none of the new switches or gauges are wired.  When I built the car originally, I used the complete wiring harness from the donor ’87 Mustang GT, including the gauges and switches, and decided all this had to go, along with the crappy looking Mustang steering column and wheel.  I have a nice new stainless column, had a steering wheel custom-made, and have the wiring sorted out and labeled for light switches, turn signals, and the cruise control.  I DO have the new, old style ignition switch wired in and started the car and let it run long enough to discover that all the pieces of rubber fuel line in the fuel system to 5.0 HO engine are brittle, cracked and leak.

Once I get all that sorted out and the finish work on the dash done for paint (it’ll be body color), I still have to cut down the original vent window frames to fit the new lower windshield frame, and extend the cowl panels between the hood and windshield, because the windshield not only went down 2 inches, but back almost 2 inches as well, leaving a big gap between the glass and these panels.

Other than that, it’s almost done!

Sand, fill, sand, fill, sand some more...

Sand, fill, sand, fill, sand some more…

Aircraft inspired dash.

Aircraft inspired dash.

The gauge panel now fits around the new column.

The gauge panel now fits around the new column.

Like the old CS & N song “Almost Cut My Hair” says, “I think I got the flu for Christmas, and I’m not feel’n up to par…”, I have been felled by the flu bug.  Started with an achy feeling in my feet driving to work on Christmas day (?), which led to an annoying but not horrible cough later that day, to feeling like I’d been worked over with a baseball bat by Friday afternoon and feeling as if I was somehow floating several inches off the floor.  I considered calling Kim and having her come and get me, but I managed to drive home, collapsed on the couch and got up only to go to bed, and spent all day Saturday and Sunday on the couch shivering under quilts.  She was going to take me into our Dr’s office this morning, but by then she too felt too sick to drive, while I, on the other hand, felt so much better (by comparison) that I deemed it not necessary.   I say “by comparison”, because I realized that I still am not up to par.  I felt like I needed to lie down and take a nap in the grocery store when I went to get Kim some Cranberry juice, and even though it was sunny and beautiful, I wasn’t even tempted to go out to the  garage and do anything.

I do have the week off (of course, I would be sick during a vacation time), but at least we are home, and I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything.  Aside from bringing Kim a glass of juice now and then and feed the pets.

Meanwhile, I can hopefully get a couple of days worth of work done on the T’bird.  For Christmas, Kim got me a Bluetooth speaker for my cell-phone, and I’ve learned how to purchase and listen to music.  This made me sorry that I’d just cut a hole in the dash of the ‘Bird for a radio/CD player.  Now, when I’m feeling up to going out to the shop, I can entertain myself by filling that hole back in and finishing up the dash, smooth and devoid of out of date tech.

In my head, I’ve also completed lots of other tasks, like, getting a decent interior and a new top on  the ’48 Pontiac convert, getting the Riviera done, fixing the blistering rear fenders on the wagon, working on the “new” Spartan Manor, and maybe even cleaning up and painting the inside of the garage.

Or, that may have just been the fever talking…

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'47 Spartan Manor

’47 Spartan Manor

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Sanding, sanding, sanding...

Sanding, sanding, sanding…

Feeling a burst of creative energy and ambition, I went out to the shop and actually accomplished quite a bit today on the T’bird. I (almost) finished up work on the lengthened tulip panel (between the trunk lid and backlight), and on the shortened tonneau cover. After I’d gotten most of the sanding done, I put the tonneau cover back on the car, set the top back on in order to check the fit and alignment of the panels, and to get a visual of how the car will look.

The result, I think, is that it looks fantastic. The shortened top and tonneau cover now meet right where the backlight (rear window) will be. The car looks SO good with the top on, with the tonneau cover inside, that may be the primary way I use the car, although it looks KILLER without the top too.

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Right side.

Right side.

In addition to that, I took a close look at the fit of the rear bumper on the driver’s side, and decided that I did NOT need to cut the bumper apart (again), but that there was enough adjustment in the brackets to take care of the “droop” at the leading edge of the bumper where it meets the body. It’s much better now after adjusting. I also took some time at the right side quarter in back of the wheel opening, where the new character line for the quarter and fender skirt didn’t quite match up. A little tweak here, and a little more ‘glass reinforced filler there, got the line right where it should be. With the car on the ground, there will be a shadow that would have made the little mis-alignment almost unnoticeable, but I know it’s there, and since I’m doing body work, it may as well be “right” before paint.

While filler was setting up on the quarter panel, I started to finesse the seam on the roof where the backlight was moved forward, and on the front bumpers weld seams. A couple more days of filling and blocking will have the car ready for primer, and I can move on to replacing a couple of pieces of rotten fuel line, get the brakes bled, and finish up the wiring behind the dash for the new, original gauges and switches. It’s coming along!

You sexy beast!

You sexy beast!

Time slips away.

Posted: December 19, 2014 in cars
Tags: , , ,

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I was out in the shop a while ago, working on the tulip panel of the T’bird, when my ancient Makita variable speed grinder wheezed to halt. Aggravated to spend time working on tools instead of the car, I pulled the OTHER non-functioning Makita grinder out of the cabinet and robbed the brushes and power cord from it to make one out of the two.

While doing this, I had some time to think about how long it’s been since I started on the T’bird, where it’s at right now, and how much work is yet to be done before I get it finished. Plus, the ’63 Riviera for Kim is calling me, and I want to start in on the ’47 Spartan Manor, and there is an ever growing pile of parts for the ’27 highboy roadster I want to build.

It seems like a long list.

I felt kind of overwhelmed for moment, then I tallied up in my head the other projects I’ve completed during the time the T’bird has been stalled. It goes like this…

1. 1962 Impala hardtop for Craig, a total repaint and minor mechanical stuff.

2. 1936 Ford roadster, total build, from a pile.

3. 1951 Pontiac wagon, total build.

4. 1948 Diamond T pickup, total build.

5. 1946 Spartan Manor, complete restoration.

6. 1954 Tini-Home, frame up build.

7. Painted Craigs ’68 Mustang convertible.

8. Major body work and repaint on a buddy’s ’59 Edsel wagon.

9. ’76 GMC dually pickup, frame off.

10. Del Ray truck camper for the GMC.

11. 2006 Ford Fusion, a total, for a daily driver.

Plus, myriad other homeowner and maintenance projects on the above, vacations, travel, life in general. It’s a long list, and I feel pretty productive when I stop and think about it. The T’bird will get done, the Rivi will get done, and the Spartan will get built.

Relax.

An episode of chest tightness, mild headache and general “Well this doesn’t feel quite right” last Tuesday morning at work led me to go down to the ER, which lead to being admitted, and nearly ending up on the heart cath table. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, everything ultimately pointed to no cardiac injury, the (extremely) high blood pressure I had initially was probably stress. After a stress test, which was OK, I was discharged late Wednesday afternoon and we made it to my sisters for Thanksgiving without any problem.

As part of my new stress relief program, I got a little but done on the T’Bird. The new tulip panel is completely welded in, and the shortened tonneau cover is also sporting a new lip at the rear edge. I got all the welds finished and ground down this afternoon, and am ready now to start slinging some filler on. It feels good to go out into the shop and get lost in a project for a while.

Before...

Before…

After...

After…

Tulip panel lengthened 8 inches.

Tulip panel lengthened 8 inches.

Tonneau cover shortened 8 inches and a new rear lip.

Tonneau cover shortened 8 inches and a new rear lip.

'47 Spartan Manor

’47 Spartan Manor

I moved the ’47 Spartan up from its hiding place way back in the woods, next to the temporary garage the Tini-Home is taking its long winter nap in.  Here, it’s possible to run extension cords from the shop to start pulling the panels out (I’ll save the corner panels for patterns), and it’s close to a brush pile, to dispose of said panels.  It’s exciting planning the work and the new interior.

Continuing the planning and getting ready for work, I moved the T’Bird over in the shop to the opposite side, where I can work on the driver’s side, as opposed to it being up against the junk covered bench on the other side.  In doing so, I was painfully aware of a major styling gaff I was overlooking before.  The newly shortened roof exposes what had been the old package shelf area.  This is about 6 inches now outside the rear window, and while it looks natural with the roof off, it looks wrong with the top on.  So, I think I’ll have to pull the tonneau cover off, shorten it, weld the cut off rear section the body, and create a new lip for the back edge.  I sort of hate to cut into this finished panel,  but I think it’s going to make a big difference in the look of the car when it’s painted and done.

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