In some ways this is the most significant posting since the first few covering the original restoration in 1973. Up until 2007 the car had always looked very smart, but mechanically apart from the rebuilt engine and transmission, was very average. I want to document the change into a car that can now be driven 200 plus kilometres in a day, with no problems, or a week long rally covering over 1000 kilometres with just topping up the oil and cleaning the plugs. Prior to the car being laid up in 1999, trips were always local, long distances were avoided and noise, vibration and "harshness" were plentiful.
To make it easier to recall all the events from memory I will lay out the restoration in the chronological order that I believed took place. There were many times due to availability of parts etc, that I was doing several jobs at the same time, but apart from not remembering anyway, I think it may confuse people.
Hey it confused me!
The following jobs were completed in the 8 months from February to the morning of the wedding in early October. The time spent was 4 to 5 nights a week, straight after dinner till midnight, 1pm to very late on Saturdays, and 9am till very late on Sundays. I could not have achieved this without the support and understanding of my wife Jan, and my employer at the time, Paul Grant from Baldwin Medical. We have since parted company, but Paul was a constant source of support, and tolerated my daily updates, and allowed me time off and long lunch breaks for the numerous trips for bits and pieces.
Jacking the car 3 feet off the Ground
I originally intended to cover this topic as a side issue, but being an important part of the process, I have dumped it right in the middle of the restoration. Also it may remind others not to under estimate the importance of safety in the workshop while working underneath cars. In previous years, working on several cars, I had survived 3 occasions where a car had fallen or slipped off the jacks while I was underneath. Knowing I was not a cat with 9 lives, the 2007 Chev Restoration was always going to be "Jack Safe"
Some people have secondary back up, I had triple. There were jack stands positioned to take the load if the car slipped on the main jack stands, and modern tyres and wheels on their side to stop the car hitting the ground if the worse happened. With the Chev being a heavy car, perched 3 feet in the air with no front or rear axle for approximately 4 months, I was never going to take any short cuts.
We are talking about 3 sets of heavy duty truck type jack stands, 4 modern car wheels and tyres, and several purpose built support stands. That baby was not going any where, and even then every day before I went underneath the car I went through a check of all the jacks in all the places, just to make sure.
If I ever did a restoration like this again or had my time again, I would remove the engine and transmission, then with no front and rear axle or hood, make up a rotisserie, and rotate the bugger.
Originally I had not planned on removing the hood, but after I discovered the poor condition of the hood irons, there was no argument. It was "Off with its Hood". I had made contact with Grant White, who specializes in Vintage Upholstery, and had arranged that he would refit the hood sometime around September. Needing a place to store the complete hood and hood bows, the pool table in the family room became the obvious choice. Well at least for me, not quite sure about how my wife Jan felt about it. Removing the hood greatly assisted the restoration process, as I was able to jack the car 3 feet off the ground without worrying about hitting the garage roof.
Rear Axle Housing
I decided to strip the axle housing back to bare metal as there were several areas that required welding repairs. This turned out to be a big task as there were several layers of black enamel,
several layers of zinc chromate, a layer of dirt, rust and then at last metal. Thank god for high speed heavy duty wire brushes and angle grinders. If I struggle to recall back in 1973, my only tools were a wire brush wheel on a Black and Decker drill, and rotary sanding discs. But what about the rust, did I not do a proper job back then. To be honest I can not remember, and why did I not have it sandblasted in 1973?
There were four problems with the housing, and were mainly due to me using a unit from a paddock bomb back in 1973, and not being fully aware of the poor condition it was in.
The first problem was the contact area where the axle saddles (which attach to the spring) rotate on the housing. On both sides there was sufficient wear marks to convince me to have the low spots filled with weld and ground back to an even surface.
The second problem was on one side where the axle saddle sits on the housing. There is a curved section of approx 1/4" thick metal riveted to the housing, which the saddle locates and rotates on.
ground the weld back to a smooth finish.
All welding repairs were done by a good friend Geoff from Knoxfield Welding Services, whose skill and attention to detail was a great assistance during this critical part of the restoration.
The fourth problem started as a minor job and turned into a marathon. I noticed there was significant rust inside the axle housing, at the top. I found this very strange as you would think that the oil churned up inside the axle and diff would splash and coat all internal surfaces with a coating of oil. How long it had been there? Don't know, could have been before it was restored in 1973 or later, but I cant be sure.
Got right into cleaning the rust out with a heavy duty circular brush on an extension rod on a power drill. Cleaned up the inside areas where the axle shafts are located, and set to work on the diff housing. Next problem. Inside the diff housing, is a complete inner layer or steel ring. This appears to be for two reasons. Firstly to provide extra strength for the diff housing and extra thread material for the diff bolts that hold the cover on one side and the torque tube on the other. Using long telescopic lights I found heavy rusting running underneath this inner layer, and the only logical solution was to remove it. This would not be easy as this inner layer appeared to have been inserted before the axle housing had been pressed and formed into a complete unit.
So its out with the Dremmel and countless mini cutting disks. About 5 hours later on a Sunday afternoon I managed to cut the inner layer into several sections and removed it. Next time if there was a next time, think I might go for chemical dipping. My hard work was rewarded by locating and eradicating a deep seated layer of rust that covered the entire inside surface of the diff housing between the inner and outer layer.
Where did this rust come from?
How long had it been there?
How can metal under oil rust?
Has there been water in the diff at some stage?
Never really found an answer and other Chev owners I have spoken to where none the wiser.The job was done, everything went back together all ok, and this axle housing will never rust again, I hope.
This presented a simple problem with an involved solution. There had always been excessive slop between the torque tube and where it slides into the uni joint bell. I had been aware of it for a few years, and had been avoiding it. With the rear end was out of the car, it was time to fix it. The job required the torque tube being mounted in a big lathe, and the area of the torque tube that fits inside the uni joint bell, being turned down minimally, but just enough to achieve a constant diameter over the entire area. The end result combined with a new section being made and welded to the uni joint bell was perfect. The job was finished with the rear of the bell machined to fit a modern oil seal. Many thanks to "Geoff the Machinist"for a job well done.
No this is where the restoration gets a bit lumpy, and the reason why the car was up on jack stands for many months. As I mentioned previously the tail shaft was cracked where the pinion fits, and was unserviceable. I had 5 spare shafts, but they were all in poor condition, and could not be used. I had been told about several companies in the States who were making reproduction mechanical parts for early model Chevs, and after searching the net, I came across Billy Possum. Rather than me try to explain the wonderful story of Billy Possum, let me list their email address below. Its great reading.
Emails went back and forth to Bill Chestwood at BJChestwood@aol.com and I found that all the parts I needed for the drive line reconditioning were available ex stock, except for the most important item, a Tail Shaft. Bill advised that tail shafts were currently out of stock, with no production run planned for several months. This was a set back, but pushing this to one side I arranged with Bill to ship the following parts, by FedEx, costing a small fortune. About 2 weeks later, after many more emails, and arranging international money transfers, the package finally arrived containing the following parts:
2 x Rear Axle Bearing Retainer
2 x Rear Axle Keys
2 x Rear Axle Inner Seals
2 x Rear Axles
1 x Propeller Shaft Installation Kit
1 x Propeller Shaft Bushing
1 x Propeller Shaft Packing
2 x Front Brake Cam Lever Adjusting Nut and Collar
2 x Carter Carby Bowl Gasket 23A-14
I can not recommend highly enough the great service I received from Bill. The prompt turn around in processing my order, and the quality of the parts supplied can only be described as first class.
But I still had no tail shaft, nothing was available reproduction ex stock from the States, and time was ticking away. In desperation I looked up a dealer that I knew from back in the 1970's. A guy called Tony Noonan from Obsolete Auto Parts in NSW. I emailed Tony who was not well at the time and took several weeks before he was well enough to check his stock and get back to me if he had a tail shaft or not. The good news came through that he had located a tail shaft, and after several emails, bank transfers and arranging TNT to pick up, I finally received the tail shaft and a few other items in the second week of May.
A bit of a scare when the tail shaft finally arrived. Nice heavy coating of rust, but after several hours of cleaning and polishing, all was well, we are in business.
So its mid May, the car is on jack stands with no front or rear end. The rear axle and diff are spread across the garage floor, in various stages of repair. I was so pleased to finally have a tail shaft that it over shadowed any feelings and or concerns that I may have been running out of time. After all, its May, plenty of time till October?
Re-Assembling the Rear Axle and Torque Tube
With the tail shaft arrived the assembly process commenced, in the following order:
1. New bearings were fitted to the tail shaft
2. A good second hand pinion was fitted to the tail shaft
3. A new bushing was fitted to the torque tube.
4. The tail shaft was fitted to the torque tube.
5. New bearings were fitted to the diff carrier.
6. A good second hand crown wheel was fitted
7. The diff assembly was fitted into the torque tube
8. The torque tube was bolted to the axle housing
9. New bearings and retainers were fitted to the axle shafts
10. New seals were fitted to the axle housing
11. The axle shafts were fitted to the axle housing.
12. The back cover was fitted to the axle housing
13. Job finished, at last
The Hood Irons were pretty sad, especially the "Horns", which is where the timber bows fit into. I contacted Richard Walton in Eastwood, NSW, who advertises in Restored Cars magazine. I had peace of mind straight away. We worked back from the wedding date in October, and settled on Richard having the repaired Hood Irons back to me by June, July at the latest. I knew the job was beyond me, so I told Richard to do what he had to, and we agreed on a maximum worst case cost. When the Irons came back on time, I was very pleased with the quality of the work, and also the cost was cheaper than anticipated. The repaired Hood Irons looked brand new, and in 2011 still do. With several coats of acrylic primer and acrylic full gloss black enamel, they were ready to go.
The front axle received the following treatment:
1. Stripped back to bare metal
2. Checked for straightness
3. Primed and painted in black full gloss acrylic.
4. Brake arm pivot points were re bushed.
5. New King Pins and bushes were fitted
6. U bolts were cleaned,. re threaded and plated in Gold Zinc
7. Stub Axles were checked, and replaced with more serviceable units
8. Brake backing plates were cleaned, zinc plated, primed and painted in black full gloss acrylic.
9. All nut and bolts were either replaced or zinc plated.
10. All Grease nipples were replaced
All grease nipples were replaced
Stripped back to bare metal
Checked for straightness
Primed and painted in black full gloss acrylic.
Tie rod ends were replaced with later model Chev sealed units.
All balls were replaced with new units
Replaced with a more serviceable unit
Ball replaced with a new unit.
Painted in Black Full gloss acrylic.
Front and Rear Springs
Stripped to individual leaves
Sanded to remove rust
Primed and painted in Black full gloss acrylic.
Bushes were all replaced
Re-assembled with new bolts
If it doesn't Move Plate it
I liked the look and corrosion inhibiting benefits of either Gold or Blue Zinc plating, so I went crazy and plated the following parts:
Spring shackles and Bolts
All under body Nuts and Bolts
Brake rods and Fittings
Front and Rear Brake Drums
Radiator / Cooling System
I did a rough fit with the radiator as I suspected a small leak. Well actually there was a small leak when I packed the car away in 1999, so one would presume it was still there. I was not disappointed!
No time to muck around, so I pulled it out, stripped the core from the housing and took it down to the local Radiator shop who also did rods and vintage cars. I did not get a very positive reaction. There were concerns about how thin the top and bottom tanks may be on a 79 year old radiator, and if they would survive the de-soldering and re-soldering process. Both tanks needed to be removed to gain access to both ends of the core to clean it out and try to fix the leak.
I left it with him for a week, and another week, and again. Finally got the call to come over and see him as there was a problem. He could not get into the part of the core where the leak was, without destroying the frontal appearance of the core. The leak had been reduced to a seepage but it was still there. There was one other thing he could try, failing this its a new core. Ouch. The core is immersed into a tank of solution containing a high level of metallic particles. While submerged the solution is pumped through the core at low pressure, and hopefully the metallic particles are attracted to the hole and plug it. Did it work, bloody oath it did, and has never leaked since (2007 to 2011).
The engine block was sealed top and bottom and filled with undiluted rust cleaner / converter, and allowed to stand for 6 hours. The engine block was then flushed out with high pressure water. The end result was that no signs of rust remained, and the block was cleared of any obstructions.
The water pump was cleaned repacked with grease and refitted.
The thermostat housing was replaced with a more serviceable unit.
The engine was relatively left untouched during this pre wedding restoration and would enjoy its own dedicated cosmetic revamp in 2008. Items such as plugs, points, oil, oil filter, rotor cap and button were replaced as part of a routine service. I must again sing the praises of George Russell who reconditioned my short engine back in the 70's. It has always been strong and continues to do so. It may moan and groan now and then, and have various noises at different times, but there's still a few years good motoring left in it. (2011)
Similar to the engine, not much attention was payed to this area, and would happen in 2008. The only work done was to tidy up the engine bay wiring and repair the chassis cross member under the radiator.
The Uni Joint
A new replacement was fitted
The Fuel Tank and Vacuum Tank
Both enjoyed a four stage process to eliminate what little rust was present, and to ensure they would remain in first class condition for many years to come.
The product I used was POR Fuel Tank repair kit
Over a period of 2 weeks the POR kit enabled me to restore the tank to as new condition, and by following the instructions to the letter, the tank was thoroughly cleaned, rust treated, etch primed and sealed with a smooth ceramic type lining. I also treated the Vacuum Tank the same process. That was back in 2007, and so far (2011), I have every expectation that both items will last for many years.
Relined all wheels
All linkages inside brake drums replaced
Brake rods were re bushed
Replaced front brake cam adjusters
The Exhaust System
Hot Air Intake re welded
Replaced exhaust straps and hangers
Wooden Spoke Wheels
Rims sanded back to bare metal, primed and painted full gloss black acrylic
Spokes sanded and filled
Stained and lacquered spokes
Primed and painted wheel rims in full gloss acrylic enamel.
Blue zinc Plated
Tyres, Tubes and Rust bands
Purchased full set for 5 wheels from Antique Tyre Supplies
Replaced Top glass section
Sanded, filled and painted surround in full gloss back acrylic enamel
To the Upholsterer
It was early August when the Chev was loaded on a trailer for the trip across town to Grant White Motor Trimming in Rosanna. The drive was done during peak hour, and the Chev looked very prominent on the trailer, facing the rear, with no hood. I arrive at Grant's place and would have been concerned with the steep and narrow drive if I had not seen it a few weeks prior. The Chev is driven off the trailer and up the street to turn around. Very slowly mind you as there was no oil in the diff, and the brakes, well lets not talk about that as they had only been connected the night before. Managed to get the beast up the drive and into the workshop with no drama, except the butterflies in my stomach.Never had any thing less than full confidence in the work that Grant would be doing and I had arranged for the following jobs to be done:
1.Refit Hood Irons
2. Refit Hood Bows
3. Refit Hood
4. Replacement perspex in the rear window
5. Replace clear plastic in side curtains
6. Replace carpets front and rear
Picked up the car about a week later, what an improvement. The hood was looking more "tight" than it had for many years. The side curtain windows were clear instead of yellow. The new carpets looked great, and Grant also installed a vinyl scuff pad under the pedals and had made carpet mats for front and rear with left over material. I have seen many examples of Grant's work and have no hesitation in recommending him.
Its a Blur
I have limited recall of the work that was done between the Upholstery and the Roadworthy, but I am sure it was a mad rush as I was still working all the hours I could. I expect there was a lot of time spent trying to get the brakes working, sort of, just a bit, forget it. And its probably around the time I worked on the lights, switches, fuses, and connections which had not yet awoken from the 8 year sleep when the car was laid up.
The Roadworthy on the 16th September 2007 went ok. A quick chat, walk around the car, up on the hoist, check a few things, test drive, ask me a few questions, check a few more things, fill out the paper, pay the money, on my way.
I had a permit and was able to drive the car around for testing purposes. On the 18th September 2007 the car was driven to Vic Roads for the registration process. I had to stop every few minutes on the way to adjust the brakes, that were very hot and smelly. Spent 5 minutes under car outside Vic Roads prior to appointment wiping any trace of oil. Because as we all know 1928 Chevs don't drop oil?
The registration process was certainly different from the first time. You have to make an appointment these days. My number was called up and I saw a young bloke who was very pleasant, and pretty interested as it was the oldest car he had registered. We did the paperwork and went outside to inspect the Chev. No problems, back inside. I was able to get the registration number that I reserved back in 1999. But it cost me an extra $90.
All done registered, road legal, insured and put to bed. The only problem was the brakes were still pretty average and would remain that way till April 2011, but that's another story.
Pin Striping the Body
Two weeks before the wedding my good friend and bike riding partner, Warren Hedges, a very skilled sign writer, did the pin striping. Four years later (2011) I still get positive comments about how good it looks. And of course the completed pin stripping required testing and inspection by Warren's clan, as per the following photos. To highlight how few miles the Chev had done at this time, in the photos below you can still see the remains of the labels on the front tyres:
The Running Boards and The Week Before The Wedding
I arrived home after having the pin stripping done by Warren. My wife and daughter joined me to look over the car. I mentioned that it was a shame that I was running out of time to do a few finishing touches, such as fit a new set of running boards that I had purchased and originally planned to have fitted for the wedding. The more we talked, and I looked at the original running boards, they stood out, looking very sad and needing to be replaced. They were slightly bent, and the rubber matting was perished. Clearly there was no option as they were detracting from the appearance of the car.
So with a week and 6 days before the wedding I pulled off the running boards. This was not a simple process as I had to take care not to scratch the valances, front and rear guards. I believe it took me from Sunday till the following Friday, by the time I primed, sprayed, and fitted the running boards. And it was probably around his time I was starting to feel a bit tired from the whole restoration process. I still had to glue on the new running board rubber matting, but I had other plans.
Melanie and I had arranged to see Phantom of the Opera a few months earlier, and this turned out to be on her last Saturday as a single girl. It was a great afternoon together for Father and Daughter, and a welcome break for me from the Chev.
After all, it was Saturday, and I still had a week before the wedding, with the bonus of being on leave for the next week. I decided I would do the gluing on the last couple of days prior to the wedding as I still had several other jobs still to be done. Don't ask me where that week went, but there were jobs here and there that just soaked up the hours, even working all day. Thursday morning came around, and I set up to glue on the rubber matting, the final restoration job prior to washing polishing. Finished the job by mid afternoon and went for a Thursday night bike ride with my friend Warren, the first in a few months as I had cancelled them to devote more time to the Chev.
Arrived home around 10pm, and thought I would check the running boards before I went to bed. Disaster, as the matting had reacted with the contact glue, and strecthed out of shape so much it could not be salvaged. Luckily I had a spare set of mats, but that was the least of my problems.
I spent most of the Friday cleaning off the old contact glue, sanding, priming and repainting the areas of the running board metal surface that would be seen. While I waited for the Acrylic paint to cure I did the cut and polish as time was running out big time. We are now talking about 4pm the day before the wedding. The car had to be ready to drive to the chapel by 8am the next morning.
Very carefully glued on the running board rubber mats, and made sure there was minimal glue and no tension that would cause the rubber to stretch. Luckily fate was on my side and they both dried in perfect condition. Touched up the black acrylic here and there, put in the last few bolts, and declared the car mechanically finished.
But it was now around midnight, and I still had to wash off the cut and polish residue, clean the hood, vacuum the interior, refit the carpets and black the tyres.
I remember my wife coming out about 2am to check on how things were going, and shortly afterwards we decorated the interior with a garland of flowers, which was to be a surprise for Melanie.
A few more things to do, things to check, and finally turn out the lights and climb into bed at 4am. Its all over, I have done as much as I can, and if it's not done its too late.
The wedding is about 10 hours away.