Here we are, it’s 2014 already. A lot has changed since this project began back in 2006. It’s hard to believe this much time has passed. I’m now married and have moved to another town. I’m in a new shop of almost equal size to the last.
The Impala is finally back in my new shop, after having been in storage for several months while I got the new shop sorted out. The project is now finally back underway! The photo below shows how it looks right now. Not very different, huh? Well, I have purchased an engine for it from my brother Marty, who will be building it for me and doing the installation. The engine chosen is a 5.3l LM7 v8 from a Chevy pick-up. It may end up with a cam from a Z06 Corvette to add a little extra horsepower. Undecided yet, is weather or not it’ll stay with the factory fuel-injection, or go with a 4bbl carburetor. For a transmission, unless we decide differently, will be a Turbo 350. This keeps the cost low, while still offering good fuel economy.
So my job, before I can hand the car over to Marty for the engine install, is to get the firewall painted. Right now, I’m figuring out how I’m going to build a make-shift paint-booth “tent” around the car so I can do the necessary paint work.
Ok, I’m not going to be making any more predictions about WHEN I’ll be getting something done. It just never seems to happen. Perhaps I’m jinxing myself? Whatever… Not much was accomplished on the Impala this past summer. I’ll be getting married and selling my house this year, so my focus has changed. If I do end up with any precious “free time” It’ll be spent fixing up the house, organizing things, selling off un-wanted/needed items, etc. I have a basement and shop full of stuff I’d rather not take to my next place, so I need to get rid of it. Also, unless my next place already has a kick-ass shop built on the property, I’ll be having to build a new one… so do the math. I’m not complaining, because the future is bright! The Impala is just taking a back seat to life. I haven’t lost enthusiasm for it though, so don’t worry.. I won’t be abandoning it. It WILL get done…. eventually.
As for my planned sequence of priming, blocking, and painting parts such as the doors, hood, fenders, etc… I’ve decided that I’m going to focus on the body of the car so that I can have it in finished paint first, THEN work on the doors, hood, etc. That way, when they are finally painted, they can be installed on the car. This will elminate any un-necessary handling and storage of painted parts, which would be an invitation for disaster… chips, scratches, etc. I have to give my dad credit for this idea. I mentioned to him my dilemma of where to store the painted parts… he said “paint the body first, so you can just install them as they are done”. I thought to myself, DUH! A fathers wisdom! Also, It’s July and the weather is great… I don’t have a full size paint-booth so I’ll be doing something “make-shift” to paint the body. (possibly even painting it outside! Egads!) I can do the smaller parts in my booth anytime, even in the dead of winter. So by focusing on the body now, I’ll get it done while the weather is nice. Sound good? I thought so. SO, this means, I’m going to get this body painted SOON! Reality is, its already pretty close. All the filler work is done for sure. It needs more high build, blocking, etc, which will consume quite a few hours… but, I’m getting there, slowly but surely! Sometime in the upcoming week, I’ll do a thorough cleaning of the car, blow all the dust out, etc. First thing… prep the roof and paint it! Why? because its a nice flat, horizontal surface and will be easiest for me to paint in one session, rather than trying to tackle the whole body at once. Up to this point, I’ve painted lots of smaller objects… classic bicycles mainly, but my experience shooting color on LARGE things like a car? Honestly, never done it! Another reason is that the roof skin will be very easy to mask off while I work on the rest of the body and paint it. I think I’ll follow that with doing the inside of the trunk, followed by the firewall/jambs/rockers/quarters. I am not going to paint the dash yet, because I haven’t decided for sure what color the interior will be. It’s going to be either black (like was when new), or red. If I go with red, I need to find a match for the correct shade. Was it Roman red like the exterior color? I would assume so, but???
Tonight I finished applying some high-build primer to problem areas on the bottom of the hood, and on the drivers front door jamb. Yes, real progress! Last night I finished scuffing everything and wiping it down with some wax and grease remover, then I shot it all with some PPG DPLF epoxy primer. I want to leave the bottom of the hood in primer until the top is finished and in paint, that way as the hood is handled stored, any finished black paint on the bottom won’t get scuffed. The idea is, just prior to installing the hood on the car for the final time, I’ll scuff and shoot the bottom of it, so it’s next stop will be actually on the car.
Hood and Door in the paint-booth
Bottom of hood and front door shell (jamb) in epoxy
Problem areas of the hood bottom in high-build primer
Jamb area of door shell in high-build primer
No, I haven’t given up on the project! Many other things going on in life and business have left me with very little time to put into the restoration of this car. But, yes I HAVE been working on it. A little here and a little there. The bodywork is getting much closer. Filler work is finished on everything but the trunk lid. I’m cleaning up the bottom of the hood and the door jams (on the doors) before I put on some high-build primer. My goal is still to get SOME paint on this car before the summer is out. Maybe it’ll only be on a door or a hood or whatever, but there WILL be some paint on it, damnit!
The latest work I’ve done, involves prepping the underside of the hood for semi-gloss black paint (as per factory). A while back I stripped most of the undercoating off with the use of a propane torch to lightly heat it, then scrape with a putty knife. This did a pretty good job, but still left traces of it that needed to be removed with a rag and some lacquer thinner. Once I had it clean, I used the DA sander and some 80 grit paper to strip it down to bare metal. Some hand sanding in areas where the DA wouldn’t reach was required.
The underside of the hood before I cleaned and stripped it.
Under the hood lip on the drivers side, the flat area with the holes in it was creased from the light collision damage that the hood recieved at some point in its past. I was easily able to repair the outer surface of the hood, but the inner was still creased. I could have left it, who would notice? I would! So I used the Unispotter and a body hammer to get the crease as flat and normal as I could, then skimmed it with some body filler (as seen in the photo). I’ve got the body filler blocked out and the whole underside of the hood is now ready for some primer (not shown). I’ve ordered up some Eastwood 2k Ceramic Underhood Black that I’ll use to paint the bottom of the hood, inner fenderwells, core suppoort and associated bits. As I understand it, this is supposed to be a very close match to the gloss level that the factory would have used. I’m undecided yet, if I want to paint the bottom of the hood now, or wait until I have all my primer/blocking work done, so that I don’t have to worry about masking it off.
The underside of the hood after it was stripped and some body filler applied to a problem area.
Here I am again, after another long delay between blog updates. Just haven’t had much time lately to work on the car. Finally though, I made it out there this past week! I was able to get the filler work pretty much done on the drivers side. The quarter panel was already done, but both doors and the front fender (side of it) were not. It looks like a lot of filler to the person who doesn’t know how bodywork is done these days. But the fact is… the filler is on pretty thin. No thicker than 1/8″ and for the majority of it, not even that. Its used to fill the waves in the sheet metal, not the dents! Dents you take out with the stud-gun/puller or body hammer and dolly. Anyway, its pretty level now. I’ll check it over again before I do the final sanding to prep for high-build primer.
So check it out… I had much of the filler work DONE when I noticed a TINY, and I mean TINY dark dot on the lower rear corner of the front door. Uh-oh! Rust? I poked at it with a sharp chizle and it punch right through, as shown in the pic. Just goes to show… you can THINK you have it all removed and replaced with fresh steel, but you can miss one tiny bit! If I had covered this up with paint, it would have certainly turned into a tiny blister under the pain in a short time. I tried to zap the thing with the welder, because the area around it seemed solid, but the metal was just too thin and kept blowing out when I tried to weld on it, so I ended up doing like Mike Holmes would do. Just tear it out and make it right! You can see what was behind it! Yuck! The lesson? From now on, whether the metal seems solid here or not, cut it out and re-do it, you cant see it but its going to be rusting away behind this area of EVERY door on EVERY ’59-’60 Chevrolet!
After welding in the new patch, I finished the filler work. Sheesh! Still have to do some more filler work on the hood in a few areas. Very mild waves in it, what a pain that will be! Then, the trunk lid needs a lot of work… ouch.
One last rust dot found, just in the nick of time!
Rust hole in door, opened up!
Filler work done on drivers side.
So about a month ago, the chance to buy a ’60 Impala convertible project came up. I’ve wanted one for a long time, but always assumed that I’d have to buy from out of state, as I have NEVER seen one come up locally. I assumed I’d fly to where the car was to inspect, then have to pay to get it transported back here. So here was my chance to buy it locally and avoid all that! Not only that, the factory color of the car was Suntan Copper… my favorite! However, I couldn’t afford it. I would have had to sell my ’60 Buick convertible in order to raise the funds. So I decided to just let it go. A few weeks pass, and I assumed it would be gone, but I got news that it was still available, but was going to be loaded on a trailer in a few days and transported to a swap meet in Monroe, WA where NO DOUBT it would sell. In fact, a few guys from the Seattle area were planning to see it at the swap meet. SO, I just went into debt some more! (damnit). The car is now mine, for better or worse! NO, I WILL NOT start on this project until the Flat-Top is finished. I promise!
So it’s been a long, long time (again) since my last post to this restoration blog. My plan this past spring was to get the car in paint before winter. Well, this is clearly not going to happen. I got a little bit of work done in April and May regarding getting the hood and fenders lined up nicely. There is some body filler on the hood now, and it’s about ready for some high-build primer. This is where things stalled. Lots of stuff going on over the Summer, but now I look forward to getting back to work on the car. Shown below is a photo of the car as it sits right now, neglected with junk stacked on top of it along with a lot of dust! Shameful, I know.
Just scored a Guide-Matic (previous to 1960, known as the Autronic Eye) automatic headlight dimmer for the Impala. Found it on eBay and paid $275 after shipping. These were more commonly installed on Cadillacs. You very rarely see them on a Chevrolet. It was available as a dealer installed option. The unit appears to be complete, but it probably doesn’t work.. and I guess it doesn’t even matter. Even when they were brand new they apparently didn’t work worth beans, so there is little point to it. It’s cool to have anyway! Installing just the Phototube “eye”… the part mounted to the dash without having the rest wouldn’t be kosher… that would make me a poser. To earn the bragging rights associated with a rare accessory like this, ya gotta have the whole thing, even the parts you don’t see. It obviously needs restoration and a new rubber gasket, but it should be pretty neat to have on the car. Should be a conversation piece, as many people don’t know what these are.
Find a Guide-Matic or Autronic Eye for your car on eBay!
According to an article posted in various places on the web by John Oldenburg, a veteran at restoring Guide-Matic and Autronic Eye’s, these units were very specific to each vehicle and year that they were installed, even though many of them may look very similar. The units can be identified by their model number tag. This units model number is 160. The first digit, 1, means Chevrolet. The second two digits are the year, 60 for 1960. The other numbers are a sequential serial number.
Finished prepping the fender today. Got the back side painted with semi-gloss black and welded a plug into the antenna hole since I won’t need it with the deluxe rear antennas on the car. Everything lines up great! There is a bit of a high spot along the crown of the fender that I need to figure out, but other than that its looking real good.