Cowl Tag Reinstalled

Early on in the restoration process, I removed the delicate aluminum cowl tag. It was, and remains in perfect condition. I wanted to keep it that way, so I drilled out the original factory hollow rivets. These are special rivets used just for the purpose of attaching cowl tags on GM cars. Fortunately you can buy new ones. I found mine on eBay.

I stripped the paint off the tag, applied some JB Weld to the back of it for extra secure attachment, then inserted the rivets. Since I didn’t have the original style tool to press them in, I just made due with a punch, then bent the back side of the rivets over. Turned out nice!

Cowl Tag Installed

The original paint, being lacquer, it didn’t come off with paint-stripper like you’d expect. It just gets wet again, but never curdles or bubbles up. I scrubbed the now-wet paint off and wiped it clean with lacquer thinner. The primer is more durable and resistant than the paint, so it’s still mostly intact. I figured I’ll leave it on there… its stayed on this long, I don’t think it’s going to come off without extra effort at this point!  The tag and rivets get painted with the car, just like the factory did it. I see restorations where people have the cowl tags polished like a mirror… that’s fine if you like it. I prefer to keep it stock and inconspicuous. Why bring attention to it? It’s not really a showcase piece, is it?

Speaking of cowl tags. There is a film produced by General Motors in 1960 titled Up From Clay – A Car is Born that shows a worker putting the appropriate codes on a cowl tag, then installing it on a fresh body at the Fisher Body plant. Here are some frame grabs from that film.

Cowl Tag Mfg 1

Here is the workstation where cowl tags get their information stamped into them.

Cowl Tag Mfg 2

Here is a close-up of the machine used to press the letters and numbers into the aluminum tag.

Cowl Tag Mfg 3

The tag is placed onto the cowl and the rivets are pressed in with what looks like an ordinary awl/punch.

Cowl Tag Mfg 4

Notice the bare steel body has had some brown primer applied to the area where the tag was to be placed.

Play Taps for the Trunk Lid

The trunk lid is toast. I tried to straighten and shrink the warps/dents out of the skin with not much success. It was better than before, but still in the “awful” category. I won’t even show you a picture, I’m too embarrassed! The trunk lid skin and inner structure are now in the scrap pile behind the shop.

Having removed the skin from the inner structure as more of an experiment than really expecting good results from this process, I can’t say I’m too disappointed, however it does kinda suck to think that I wasted quite a few hours on this thing since the beginning. I stripped the paint off both sides, fished all that rotten insulation out of it, welded up a few pinholes, applied seam-sealer and primed the bottom. Plus the recent efforts to repair the “oil can” in the skin and subsequent removal of the skin. That’s a lot of time and effort wasted. Not to mention the materials too!  Oh well, I learned a few things I guess.

So now I’m on the lookout for a replacement lid.

Peeling Skin…. The Trunk Lid

The trunk lid that came on the car was kinda beat up, but at the time I didn’t think it would be a problem. I’ve put a lot of effort into it, which at this point, I feel like is possibly a waste of time, as I should have used a better one to start with.

The first way I went wrong was in removing all the insulation padding that was sandwiched between the outer skin and the inner structure. This stuff was torn up and looked ugly, so I pulled it out… even taking the time to fish the stuff out from behind the bracing were you can’t see it. It was flopping around in there anyhow, so it had to come out. This took a fair amount of effort! Problem was, little did I know at the time… this stuff actually helps hold the outer skin of the trunk lid ridged, so it doesn’t flex so easily when you push on it. Oops!

The second way I went wrong…. really wrong, was with attempting to repair an “oil can” effect on the outter skin, near the front right corner. I tried to heat-shrink it out with the shrinking tip on my Unispotter. OOPS big time. I basically effed it up! Then trying to fix it, I just made it even worse. Basically, I ruined the whole thing. And damn if I didn’t sell the one spare that I had, several years ago!

With nothing to lose at this point other than my time, I decided to remove the outter skin from the inner structure. I have heard of this being done before, and figured I’d give it a try. First, it would allow me access to the back side of the sheet metal skin, so I could possibly fix the warp damage that I had caused. Second, I could inspect for any hidden rust and treat it properly. Third, I could install a new insulation pad, solving the problems I caused when I removed the original… provided that I can even find a suitable replacement.

Tools for peeling

Removal of the skin took about 2 hours of work using a drill to drill out the spot welds on the inner edge where the skin is folded over the inner structure, and a grinding disc to remove the edge of the skin where I wasn’t going to have access to peel it back (I’ll have to weld it in these areas). I used a chisel and hammer to peel the edge of the  skin back, which looks kinda ugly but it’ll flatten right back out with the hammer and dolly easily. I did ruin my chisel though… chipped both corners of it off before I got don’t… oh’well it’s a Craftsman, I’ll turn it in for a free replacement with the lifetime warranty!

Trunk lid peel back

Starting to peel up the edge

Trunk lid peel back 2

Edge peeled up, revealing very little rust.. that’s good news!

trunk lid ground edge

Had to grind the edge off in this area. It was at awkward angles and would have been difficult to peel it back without doing a lot of damage

Once I had the edges peeled back and the rear portion of the skin ground away, I gently pried it off with the chisel. Easy breezy! Easier than I thought it would be, actually.

The inside of the support structure is in good shape, with surface rust but no bad rust to speak of, except a couple of tiny spots were I welded up some pinholes before at the rear edge. I’ll wire-wheel this clean and treat it with Picklex-20 before putting it back together. That is, if I am able to successfully straighten out the skin.

trunk lid inner structure 1

The inside of the skin actually shows a lot more rust pitting than I expected. Anywhere that the original insulation padding was, has rust. Some of the pits are pretty deep, maybe even deep enough to poke through without much effort. Interestingly, the areas along the edges were it had no primer, no insulation, nothing… just bare metal, its in excellent shape with only a very light coating of surface rust. It’s still actually mostly bare silvery colored metal! Amazing!  The runs you see in the pic are from the Picklex-20 I had applied years ago when I was working on the bottom of this lid, neutralizing some rust. Of course, the gray patches were what was showing through the big holes on the inner structure. All the debris is what was hiding in there, waiting to pop out one day! Yuk!

trunk lid skin 1 trunk lid skin 2

The rear portion of the skin shows a lot of rusty dusty buildup. Nasty stuff, waiting to cause problems in the future! This goes to show ya… even the nicest restoration on an old car probably has this sort of nasty stuff hiding in places you can’t reach, unless you go to extreme lengths, like removing the skin from the structure! Lesson maybe?

trunk lid skin 3

Finally Back to Work! Seam Sealer

WOW, it’s been over TWO YEARS since I last did any work on the car. My last post where I reported actually having done some work, was on July 21, 2012. Since then, I’d moved to a different town and got married! Big life changes,to be sure! But never once did it even cross my mind to give up on the project. I still have a passion for it, and really look forward to finishing it… no matter how long it takes.

This summer, I posted my 1960 Buick Invicta Convertible for sale on Craigslist, but didn’t have any luck selling it. I had hoped to get about $10,000 for it, which was money I was going to earmark entirely for finishing the Flat Top. But, I still have the buick, and not $10,000. I’ll have to do it the way I have been all along… a little here, and a little there. For example, I ordered a Classic Performance Products CPP 600 power steering box for it, which will make for a nice, easy upgrade from the original power steering.

The first thing to do, was to get all the parts out of the inside of the car. I had put the inner fenderwells in it, along with some other parts for its journey to the new shop. It had also collected a lot of dust sitting around in the old shop, and at the new now for a year and a half until now.

Talking with my wife, we decided that it was a good idea for me to dedicate one day a week to working on the car, when practical. That day is Saturday. So, unless something important is going on or I have a critical deadline for a customer job (with my bicycle business), or something else important, I’ll be spending the time in the shop working on the Impala!

So what did I do today? I applied some seam sealer to areas that still needed it. Most notably, the firewall, inside and out. I wanted to do this first, because I need to get the firewall painted so Marty can install the engine as soon as it’s ready. I also applied seam sealer in areas of the floor pans where the original stuff was missing or crusty.

The sealer on the firewall, while technically not necessary for this restoration, went on anyway… just because, thats how it was at the factory. Yeah, I know the car is getting a modern engine, so whats the point? I dunno, just wanted to do it. It’s the black stuff in the pics below. It was super sloppy looking from the factory, gooped on very thick with drips and all. My job is much nicer, but still far from show perfect. It’ll get painted body color.

firewall seam sealer 1 firewall seam sealer 2

State of the Restoration – 2014

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.

1960 Impala 1-22-14

No More Predictions!

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.


Painting the car – THE PLAN!

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???

Hood Bottom and Door Jamb Primed

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

July 2012 update, and prepping the bottom of the hood

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.