First Color!

There is PAINT on the car! Yes, actual finished paint has been laid down after far too many years!

For the past few months I’ve been too busy to work on the car, so it has just been sitting. I had sanded most of the firewall in preparation for final primer/sealer and then paint. There wasn’t much left to do to it really, but the big hang-up was the logistics of spraying the PPG Concept Acrylic Urethane in the shop, since I don’t have a paint-booth to roll the car into. Everything I’ve read (and to some degree, experienced) with Acrylic Urethane, is that the overspray stays wet longer than primers and enamels, so it ends up sticking to everything you don’t want it to. Supposedly, you want to mask and seal off the entire bottom of the car, because the overspray haze will get through the smallest openings and end up dusting parts that are already finished, making for a lot of clean-up work. Not to mention messing up everything else in the shop! I was hung up on thinking that I would need to build a temporary paint booth before I attempted to spray any urethane.  But the past week had me feeling anxious to make some progress on the car, so I figured I’d throw caution to the wind and just shoot it anyway, right there in the shop… but with all three roll-up doors open for good ventilation. Of course, I took some precautions and moved the vintage bicycles I had in there outside, just in case.

I shot the DPLF epoxy primer a few days ago. Never had any problems shooting this stuff in the shop. Overspray/fog dries quickly after leaving the gun, so it doesn’t stick to other stuff nearby. Then today I mixed up the Ermine White “Concept” urethane from PPG, including some flattening agent (DX685) because I didn’t want the firewall to be too shiny. I’ve seen high-gloss paint on door jambs and firewalls many times, and it doesn’t typically look good.. The factory metal stampings in these areas are less than perfect. Often with plenty of lumpy areas and even wrinkles. The high gloss makes these imperfections stand out quite a bit. This isn’t such a huge problem with a color like white, but even so, I wanted to do it anyway. I’d never used the DX685 before, and have read in various forums that it can be difficult to get consistent results with it. Depending on how wet it’s shot and how well agitated you keep the paint while spraying will all play into the final sheen of the finish. The “P-sheet” for DX685 gives mixing instructions for how flat you want it to be. I opted for “eggshell”… what % gloss that actually is, I don’t know. I ended up using just 8 ounces of urethane, but since the mixing instructions call for a high % of flattening agent (which replaces the reducer) and hardener, I had 17oz of sprayable material when it was all mixed. This was just the right amount for 2 good coats on the entire firewall and down inside the cowl vent area. I totally lucked out with this, because I mostly just have experience mixing up quantities for painting classic bicycles, not things like car firewalls! After the first coat, I let it cure for about 15 minutes before applying the second coat. The first coat flashed off and had a nice satin sheen to it… perfect!  The second coat, I made sure it was nice and wet all over since I wanted this to be the final coat. It came out out very nice, no runs! However, after 15 minutes it was looking very glossy still… not like the first coat. 30 mins, still glossy! Even an hour later, very glossy. By the evening however, it was dulling down finally with a very nice egshell finish… just what I wanted. I couldn’t be more happy with the results!  And guess what? NO overspray problem at all. Doing this “small” part of the car, I didn’t end up fogging up the entire shop, and there is no overspray sticking to anything. Wahoo! Just goes to show… sometimes ya gotta just say “screw it!” and spray the damn paint!

Firewall Paint-1 Firewall Paint-2 Firewall Paint-3


Trunk Lid v2.0

Having given up on the original trunk lid for the car, I ended up buying a replacement from Classic Auto Parts in Hayden, Idaho. The replacement lid is nice and straight with very few dings… probably about as straight as one could expect to find. As for rust, well it does have the typical surface rust on the inner structure, particularly where it overhangs the licence plate pocket. It doesn’t appear to be too bad though, so I’ll give this one a go.

Trunk Lid - Top Side

Replacement Trunk Lid – Nice and Straight!

Trunk Lid - Bottom Side

Bottom Side – Typical Heavy Surface Rust


Even though this lid has all of it’s original insulation pad intact, I’ve decided to remove it. I’ll dig it out a chunk at a time, which will be a pain in the butt. I did this before with the original lid and thought I’d made a mistake, but here I am, with another chance at leaving it alone, and what am I doing? I’m goona take it out! It’s just…. crusty and nasty! This stuff soaked up moisture for decades and trapped it against the outer skin of the lid, causing some pretty deep surface rusting. It’s gotta go, I need to have access to treat that surface rust and seal it up, to prevent it from getting worse. I’ve got plans on what I’ll do to replace it (for factory appearance) but I’ll save that for another post.

I’d contemplated separating the skin from the inner structure, like I did with the last one, but this time grinding the edge where it’s crimped over so it would separate without doing any damage. I’d have to weld the entire perimiter… a lot of work, but it would give me the chance to properly treat any rust inside 100%. However… it’s just too risky and too much work. Thousands of cars of this vintage have been restored to concourse quality without their deck lids being separated. I think I’m going to roll the dice and do the best I can with keeping it together. I need to just move on with the project. If some years down the road it has issues with rust coming through, well I’ll just re-do the lid or replace it… again.

One BAD thing that I found on this lid after poking at it with an awl, was a series of about 10 pinholes of rust-through on the outer skin, passenger side toward the front where the inner structure pinches the insulation pad against it tightly. Why it only rusted through here and nowhere else, I have no idea. But it did. This did worry me a bit, but I decided to tackle it with the use of some Eastwood Anti-Heat Compound. With it, I was able to easily control the heat so as not to warp the panel… this thing is stamped from some THIN metal… 22g I think it is.

Eastwood Anti-Heat Compound

Eastwood Anti-Heat Compound Surrounds the Area to be Welded

Rust Pinholes Fixed

Pinhole Rust Welded Up and Ground Smooth

After completing the welding, the deck lid is free of warping and ridgid. Success!

I’ll be carefully stripping the rest of it with paint stripper and the D.A. with 80 grit paper. I want to keep the heating to a minimum, otherwise I’d use my Makita buffer on the slowest speed with 80 grit paper, like I used on the rest of the car. Maybe I’m paranoid and it would be just fine with the Makita, but after ruining the original deck lid, I don’t want to take any chances.

Rear Door Power Window Conduit

Today I installed the drivers side rear power window conduit. Easy, right? Not so much! I got some pics from the guys at showing where and how they are installed. Interestingly, they look kinda “back yard” the way the holes in the doors are cut with a hole-saw. Guess not many 59-60 Chevrolet 4-doors were ordered with power windows.

Here’s a photo from Chevy Talk member Chris Johnson, showing the conduit as factory-installed on his wifes ’59 Impala Sport Sedan:

CLJohnson - power windows - 2-edit

As you can see, it looks like a pretty big hole in the door, cut with a hole saw. Nice! The conduit itself is open at the bottom, with some bend-over tabs, so you can stuff the wires in there, then bend the tabs over. Pretty crude setup, and I imagine there were failure problems with this setup back in those days, with wires chafing on the jaged metal edges… again, nice!

So here are the conduits that I have to work with. One of them (drivers side rear) has a cut in it, where the person who removed the door was about to be lazy and just saw the conduit in half. Thankfully, they thought better of it and removed it properly. I’ve got all the wiring too, even thought it’s kinda chopped up. It’ll still serve as a good pattern to make new. You can see it in my previous blog post after I bought the power window stuff here.

Power Window Conduits

Power Window Conduits. Media Blasted and Ready for Repairs and Fitting.

My conduits will need repair, but I’m not complaining. I’m lucky to have them! Some rear conduits were actually made out of rubber! I have a pair, one is completely deteriorated, the other not so bad. I opted to use the metal ones for obvious reasons. You can buy reproductions for the front doors, but I’ll just repair the damage to mine and use them. Original parts are better anyhow!

So after studying the photos I had of the original power-window car and finding dimples in the metal telling me where to drill, I went ahead and cut the holes. The size of the hole in the door was a guess and I think I got it pretty darn close.

Dimples Indicate Where to Drill Holes for Power Window Conduit and Wiring.

Dimples Indicate Where to Drill Holes for Power Window Conduit and Wiring.

Getting it to fit was kinda scary… I was thinking I had to be exact and that I only had one shot at it. Don’t eff it up! Right? Well, it’s really no big deal. Once I cut the hole in the door, using the provided dimple to find the center of where it should be, and looking at the picture given to me by Chris, I mounted the door and found that the conduit is pretty bendy… that is, I could easily adjust it up down, in or out to center it up in the hole. Door opened and closed without interference first try. EASY!

Rear Door Power Window Conduit Installed.

Rear Door Power Window Conduit Installed.

I don’t know how the factory did it, but I ended up tapping the screw holes for 8/32 screws because the pillar metal is pretty thick, and I couldn’t get sheet-metal screw that small to go in.

I think the real challenge will be fishing the wiring into the pillar and out the access hole on the inside!


Floor Rust Behind the Rear Seat

Finished repairing the last of the rust in the car. I should have done this a long time ago, but for lack of knowing exactly what to do, it kept getting put off and even sort of forgotten. I’m talking about the sheet metal that is over the top of the body mounts, directly above the rear axle, behind the rear seat. I had done repairs to the body mounts years ago (read about it here) but didn’t address the top side. At some point, I did put a piece of flat sheet metal over the top of the drivers side to replace the rusted out area, but I was never happy with how it looked.


Previous repair that I wasn’t happy with.

When I parted out the silver ’60 Biscayne, I used the plasma cutter to chop out those body mount sections, including the sheet metal/floor section with intent to use them to do a proper repair.


Body mount sections from the 1960 Biscayne parts car.

I drilled out the spot welds and chiseled them apart. I’ll save the body mount box sections just in case I need them when/if I ever restore my ’60 Impala Convertible. In spite of how crusty these look, the pieces I need are in good shape. For the drivers side, I need the whole length. For the passenger, I only need the front half, which is lucky because the back half was rusted out. After media blasting, they look good!


Body mount box section with the top removed.


The sheet metal piece I needed. They don’t reproduce these!

I straightened out the edges, trimmed where necessary, then welded them in through the holes that I made when drilling out the original spot welds. Along the inner edge, I stitched them ever couple inches. After that, I ground the welds smooth and applied some fiberglass-strand body filler, which is supposed to be water-proof. For body repairs on the outside of the car, this is cheating and not the best way to do a repair, but for the inside floor section, it’ll be just fine. I haven’t finished sanding the body filler yet, but when I do, I’ll be doing a skim-coat of lightweight body filler from the edge of the repair panel, out about 6 or 8 inches, then blocking it smooth. I want this repair to look total seamless and original, since this area is visible from the trunk.


Replacement patch in place, but body filler not finished yet.

I did the same repair to the other side, except I only needed to repair the front half of it. When the body filler work is all finished, I’ll prime it with red-oxide epoxy primer to match what I’ve already done, then apply seam sealer between the floor area and the wheel wells. I’ll have to do more primer after that to cover the seam sealer and achieve a factory original look.

Bring Home the Crap

When I moved back in April of 2012, the majority of the parts for the Impala, including boxes of fasteners and do-dads were all stored in my shed in Davenport. This is now 45 miles away from where I live. So it’s not exactly convenient to dig for parts when I need them. However, I don’t exactly have room for all of it here at my new shop. To make room, I hauled a bunch of my bicycle business inventory (the stuff I rarely need) out to the shed in Davenport and did a swap. Dragged home a pickup load of stuff! Pretty much anything I figured I’d be using soon. It’s all a jumble and will need sorted. This is mostly small bits from parting out about 3 cars. Fun huh? Work to do before I can work!


This front bumper is mostly for reference. I want to assemble all my best pieces so I’ll know that nothing is bent before I paint anything and have the three bumper sections re-chromed. As you can see, I have a decent selection of drivers side ends, but only a couple of passenger side ends. Is this because the passenger side was the first to hit stuff, being furthest from the drivers view? Passenger front fenders are harder to find too. Hmmm.


Sill plate covers! These cover up the wiring that runs alongside the rockers under the carpet. These things are notorious for being rusted out. I still have some others besides those pictured here. Hopefully I can pick out a decent set of four from the bunch.


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 500 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