2010 Restoration Series Articles
Paint by Numbers
2010 Issue 6: Paint by Numbers
When restoring a vehicle, you can do all kinds of customization under the hood and in the interior, but what truly gives off a lasting impression is the final element: the paint job. The famous painter Vincent Van Gogh once said: "I dream of painting and then I paint my dream". Well, with some careful thought, you can also be a Van Gogh and create your own dream ride. Old Cars Weekly takes you inside the professional shop of Jon Hantsbarger, Precision Restorations, LLC, for his top 10 steps to creating a masterpiece.
As more vehicles today are computer-controlled and fuel-injected, the word “carburetor” is going by the wayside in the same direction of the Beta Max, dial telephone, typewriter and 8-track stereo. Bring an older car that isn’t running right into a shop manned by our younger generation and the technician may scratch his or her head and say; “That’s old technology… we’re not equipped to work on that.”
"Pinpointing carburetion problems" by writer John L. Bellah provides you the 101 of carburetor systems, with a basic explanation on how they work, and what you should look for in diagnosing problems, along with some do-it-yourself fixes.
2010 Issue 4: Repair Without Paint
A small dent or a mild crease caused by runaway shopping carts, kids on skateboards and other minor mishaps is a matter of fact for all car owners but of special concern for owners of collectible cars who want to keep their classic looking classy. On a custom-painted body in particular you may wish there was some way of fixing the sheet metal without having to repaint it.
There are ways of making paintless dent repair by using leverage and skill without having to use fillers and paint. But you need to learn how to read the dent and how to reverse the impact and iron the dent out by using your brain, not your muscles.
Read Issue 4 of the 2010 Old Cars Weekly Restoration Series: Repair Without Paint
2010 Issue 3: Door Support Build Up
Sagging doors caused by extremely weak door hinges is a common problem on many older vehicles, particularly 1930-’49 cars and trucks. Not only does this make the doors difficult to close, it can also chip the paint if the door overlaps the body or cab.
Learn how to upgrade the door hinge area by demonstrating panel alignment, as well as the process of slicing and building up the metal around door openings to achieve perfectly even gaps around the doors.
No more chipping after paint!
Read Issue 3 of the 2010 Old Cars Weekly Restoration Series: Door Support Build Up
2010 Issue 2: Front-End Overhaul
OK, it’s time. The steering is loose, a funny wear pattern is showing up in the front tires, the wheels vibrate like crazy at freeway speeds and it won’t stay in alignment. Time to overhaul the front end!
But before you get "down and dirty," make sure to do some planning. If you do your own work, you will need to have the proper tools available, if you don’t already have them, and the proper shop manual for your car.
If you don’t do your own work, select a shop that is knowledgeable in vintage vehicles, as the technology has changed over the years.
CLICK HERE to read Issue 2 of the 2010 Old Cars Weekly Restoration Series: Front-End Overhaul
2010 Issue 1: The Basics of Spraying
Learning to get the paint from a gun onto a surface without it sagging, running or being too dry is not a skill, it is an art and an art that can only be perfected by practice, practice, practice. Even after numerous practice sessions you still may not be able to acquire the touch.
Your first paint job will not be a pretty sight, and your second or third jobs probably won’t be award winners, either. If you stick with it, you’ll probably get very good at buffing, because you’ll have a lot of imperfections to try to fix. But stick with it. Remember that the early cars had their paint applied by brush and were sanded and rubbed out, so it can be done.
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Bodywork consists of all of the steps required to repair a damaged panel up to the paint prep stage. These steps include assessing the damage, grinding, repairing or reshaping the metal, molding and filling, and sanding the surface until it’s smooth and even with the rest of the panel.
In a perfect world, the autobody repair and refinishing industries would not be needed. Cars would never break or rust out, drivers would never have accidents and paint would last forever. But the truth is that auto repair and refinishing are big businesses in which many people are able to make good livings. Autobody repair, customizing and painting skills are valuable commodities in the automotive workforce.
However, since we all know that bodywork is a major part of any quality restoration…
Sheet metal work falls into two realms: manual arts and technical skills. The strategies for and operations of removing complex deformations (a.k.a. “dents”) from sheet metal body parts are so variable as to make choosing between them an art in itself.
There is usually no single correct approach to such a complex task, and various approaches may produce virtually equal results. Of course, there are also numerous substandard or incorrect approaches to this work that can hide original damage while actually producing further, hidden damage.
Because elements of judgment, efficiency, experience and even inspiration are possible in sheet metal work, it borders on being an art. However, other aspects of sheet metal work, such as hammering, welding and knowing the effects of heat on this material, are highly technical and require a clear understanding of cause and effect before you can understand and perform them successfully. These are really technical areas that can be demonstrated scientifically.
The result of all of this is that good sheet metal work requires a study of basic technical factors, experience in the actual work and imagination and ingenuity in approaching some of the more difficult problems posed by sheet metal repair.
One of the essential skills of body repair is the ability to attach two pieces of metal together. While this can be accomplished with rivets or adhesives, the most common and preferred method is welding. Welding is the process of heating metal up to its melting point, allowing the fusion of molecules between two separate sheets.
There are a number of ways to achieve the heat required to weld metal. One way is by igniting a combination of flammable gases; another is through the use of electricity to create an arc by grounding the rod (or wire), or by creating an arc with an electrode to melt the metal, then adding a filler rod of a similar material to the open gap. Fortunately for those who are starting out in autobody repair, welding is not difficult to learn. Once you acquire some fundamental techniques, you’ll find that they’re applicable to all forms of welding. You’ll also discover that familiarity with the different types of welding equipment is just as important as knowing how to use them.
From the salty tip of Texas to the moist summer air of Maine, sheet metal can take a beating. With precious few exceptions, the metal floors of most cars turn to swiss cheese after 50 years and tens of thousands of miles of exposure to water, snow and salt. Though floor pans are seldom seen and sometimes forgotten, most restorers know they will have to repair them on cars that enter their shops. Among those restorers is Jerry Kopecky of Kopecky’s Klassics in Iola, Wis.
Kopecky has restored several types of collector cars, but his restoration business has evolved to specialize in finned MoPars, especially convertibles. Thanks to his attention to detail, restorations out of Kopecky’s shop have commanded record prices for finned MoPar convertibles at Barrett-Jackson’s January auction. Kopecky’s latest project car is a customer’s 1960 Chrysler 300-F convertible, one of today’s hottest postwar cars. That 300-F is the subject of this article, though the principles that Kopecky undertook to repair the floor pans apply to all finned MoPars, as well as most other metal-floored vehicles.
Perhaps your collector car doesn’t want to start on cold mornings, runs roughly, or some electrical systems refuse to function. Perhaps it may be time to replace the wiring harness, or convert the vehicle over to 12-volts. On the other hand, especially if you intend to keep the vehicle in original condition, a 12-volt conversion, complete with an alternator, may not be the way to go.
Automotive electrical systems are usually either 6 volts or 12 volts, with the exception of many military vehicles which are 24-volts. Most older U.S. vehicles manufactured prior to 1956 are 6-volts. A 6-volt vehicle will have three vent caps on the battery. There are exceptions to every rule, and the exception is some imports (along with some GM and Chrysler vehicles) beginning around 1953 that were 12-volts. Volkswagen continued with 6-volt systems up to 1967. A well-maintained stock automobile that was originally 6 volts will probably function well on the stock electrical system. However, if you plan to install a lot of modern accessories, such as an 800-watt super-mega sound system, or to restify a 1952 Chevrolet Bel Air by installing a 454-cubic-inch Chevrolet engine, you should consider converting over to 12 volts as the 6-volt electrical system will not have the required energy to handle spark requirements on a high-compression engine.
One way to restore leaf springs is to “re-arch” them using the cold-setting method. Cold setting is done by bending spring steel back to its original shape while cold. There is some debate over how well cold setting works, but first let’s talk about how it’s done and what it costs. There is a Web site that talks about cold setting springs by working them manually with a big hammer. However, the best work can be done by a professional using a precisely controlled, electronically operated 50-ton (or larger) press.
First, you must remove the leaf springs from the vehicle. If you’re working with rusty original parts, you’ll want to spray everything with WD-40 and let it sit a few days. Then, get the car up in the air and make sure it’s safely supported. The old nuts and bolts will come off with an air-powered impact wrench, but try not to snap them. A spring shop may be able to find replacements, but don’t count on it if you have a rare or foreign car.
The planishing hammer and English wheel are two tools that look somewhat alike and are often confused with each other. Of the two, the most commonly used is the English wheel. It is ideal for rolling a sheet of steel or aluminum into a particular shape, such as for a fender or motorcycle gas tank. But the hammer has its applications which differ from the wheel in very distinct ways.
Since the planishing hammer is one of the tools that I designed and now manufacture for The Eastwood Company, I’m able to let you in on a little secret: the planishing hammer is little more than a pneumatic rivet gun with a hammer head installed and mounted on a “C”-shaped frame with a radiused anvil mounted opposite the hammer head. The term “planishing” means to smooth up metal with gentle hammering. The concept is that the heads of the hammer and anvil will both lower the high spots and raise the low spots simultaneously as the metal is fed between them.
Issue 8: Automotive Refinishing: After the Paint Dries
Most of our experience is, or course, with dried or cured paint. Refinishing an old car is a complex, time-consuming and expensive proposition, and most of our efforts are necessarily directed to making existing paint work. Sometimes this is paint that we have recently sprayed and that needs further work to produce an acceptable finish. At other times, it is possible to work with an older, existing finish in a way that allows us to improve its appearance to the point that it becomes acceptable.
Occasionally, the problems of an existing finish or of a new finish are so great that the only practical approach is to refinish. All of these situations differ from those discussed in the previous two chapters because they involve existing finishes. Finally, after a finish has dried, it must be maintained and sometimes repaired if it is to have a reasonable service life.