It must have something to do with the fact that I’m getting old, or am already old, but I find more and more things really irritate me. The first thing that comes to mind is road rage. I think I’d go mad if I had to drive in a metropolitan area on a regular basis. I find it difficult enough to drive in Burlington. All the lights, whether they are on cars or streets, are bad enough, but then you have people walking everywhere and bicycles everywhere, and cars darting in and out of strange places. Add darkness and rain to the mix and it’s not very good.
I don’t know about you, but I find more and more cars blatantly going through red lights and ignoring stop signs. I’ve even seen school busses doing this. It’s not just young people either! It seems like it is parents of these young folks. Not using directional signals is another problem. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t even trust cars that have their directional signals on.
I won’t even mention driving on the Interstate, where everyone is going about 80 mph. It’s almost unsafe to be going the speed limit. I guess I’ve been driving on dirt roads long enough where you can drive down the middle of the road, or even on the wrong side of the road, depending on the road conditions, without worrying about other cars. One needs to concentrate because of pot holes, ruts in mud season, or slippery conditions. After dark, you have very few headlights to contend with. Just an occasional deer or two. More often than not, there is more than one deer so you just have to look carefully. I’ve never hit a deer, but it seems like everyone else I know has, with minor or major damage to the vehicle. (I did hit a bear once, or I should say the bear hit me). It wasn’t hurt and I was driving the VW Thing which sustained just minor damage.
I do admit to not coming, to a complete stop, when there is a stop sign on some dirt roads. I do what they call a rolling stop, which seems good enough to me. Why there are even stop signs in some places is beyond me. Speed limit signs, too. The speed limit might be 35 MPH when you drive through a town, but then on a dirt road, some where there is a 25 MPH sign for no apparent reason. How about following a car down a road that is going ten miles below the speed limit? It usually is some older person that can barely see over the steering wheel. This might be all right on a back road but can be dangerous on a paved road with a fair amount of traffic. It seems like everyone is impatient and needs to pass these slow moving cars, usually on dangerous stretches of road.
Then there are the people who still use their phones and swerve all over the place and sometimes pull to the side of the road in weird places.
I think I’d best stop before I move on to another pet peeve. There seems to be no shortage of them these days.
I know what you’re thinking, oh great another story about a Mustang. A dime a dozen at the car show, just like a Model A or Camaro. We’ve seen them before and there’s nothing more to see and I suppose for some people that’s true, but we all have our preferences and interests. Which is why attending shows is so important, every car has a story behind it and every owner likes to share it.
Most of you grew up during the muscle car era of Detroit, so you recall seeing a Mustang on every street corner and parking lot, which is true. Over 1.9 million units were built between 1964 and 1968. With over 10 million built to date, you can’t deny the appeal of this American icon. The Mustang was the right car at the right time. Styling and performance that the baby boomers wanted. Gone are the huge land yachts, no more fins and massive chrome bumpers, the American car culture was changing. Everybody has a story about a Mustang whether they bought one new or had a family member that owned one. The automotive icon has touched the hearts and imagination of car enthusiasts nationwide since it’s inception.
In March of 1985 I purchased this 1968 Mustang with 62,711 miles from the original owner in Essex. I was a senior in high school at the time and my friends were all driving VW Rabbits, Volare’s, and Delta 88’s. I remember looking at a 1959 Oldsmobile Super 88, baby blue, with a missing head, quite the car, but my dad talked me out of it in favor of the Mustang. I think it was largely because he owned a Mustang while in the service back in ‘67. Little did I know that this decision would lead to a lifetime hobby. I have the original build sheet from the car which was taped to the wiring harness under the dash. This is the birth certificate and lists all of the options that the assembly line workers would add to the vehicle as it rolled down the line. My Mustang was born with a black vinyl top, white wall tires, hub caps, am radio, 3 speed transmission, and a 200 cubic inch six cylinder engine. The color was Sunlite Gold. Pretty sparse on the option list, especially since Ford offered over 40 options for the consumer.
For the next year and a half, I used the Mustang back and forth to work and cruising around town, plus a few trips down to Saratoga for summer concert events with friends. Every Thursday night you could find me at Thunder Road watching the Lamells’ race their two Mustangs, they were one of the few who carried the blue oval. Like any teenage car guy you need to modify and make the car your own. One of the first things I did was purchase a set of gold nugget rims. I didn’t want to keep chasing down the hub caps, every time I spun the tires, managing only wheel hop. The fat tires put an end to this antic, the increased traction was dominate over the 110 horsepower. So it was off to the salvage yard with a friend and his station wagon to locate a 302 V8. We found one out of a van and loaded it in the back of his Volare and off we went. The engine needed a rebuild so I spent the next few years putting the engine together. I ported and polished the heads, installed a performance camshaft, plasma rings, high volume oil pump, Offenhauser intake with Edelbrock 4 barrel carb. I didn’t want to deal with headers so I located a set of 289 hipo exhaust manifolds. These manifolds bolt right up and provide unrestricted flow. I soon set off for college leaving the 302 in my bedroom, serving as my bedside stand for the next few years.
Four more years would pass before the 302 found its new home. In 2000 the 302 was finally mated, to a toploader, 4 speed transmission. I removed the little engine that could, detailed the engine compartment and installed the V8. I had driven close to 50,000 miles with the six cylinder and three speed and now had mixed emotions about the swap. No longer a teenager, the rational side of me was coming out. Should I keep the car original? Well, the first turn of the key with the 302 quickly erased any of that nonsense. Just the sound of the dual exhaust made it all worth while. I enjoyed the new power and 4 speed, it was a new car for me. The feeling of wide open throttle in second gear is awesome, the little Mustang moves! The only down fall was the lack of overdrive, which many cars from the sixties needed. In 2006, I installed a Borg-Warner T-5 transmission out of a late model Mustang. The fifth gear was basically an overdrive and made driving the interstate comfortable.
Summer of 1986 I decided to replace the battery apron because of rust. I pulled off the fenders and front end sheet metal and soon realized that I was in over my head. I didn’t have a welder or the knowledge to tackle it. One of the good things about our hobby is the resources and experiences of fellow enthusiasts. A knowledgeable Mustanger provided me with the guidance and welding help that I needed. I made cardboard templates of the patch panels and had a local metal shop cut and bend them up for me. Back in 1986 there was a lack of reproduction sheet metal, not like today where everything is available. I ended up replacing the front frame rail, torque box and battery apron, this helped to restore the unibody strength. With the welding done and body panels back on, it was time for a new coat of enamel Sunlite Gold paint. The paint job came out ok for a teenager’ ability with no experience, plus it was painted in my parents garage. Enamel paint over spray everywhere!
Now fast forward to 1996, I had been driving the Mustang for another 20,000 miles, still with the 200 cubic inch. I had made many trips back and forth to college in southern New Hampshire plus Connecticut for work. The 302 still sat in the corner of my bedroom, but not for long. I located a V8 rear axle and front spindles to make a drivetrain upgrade. Ford had two different suspension set-ups for the Mustang, six cylinder cars had a four lug pattern with 9 inch drum brakes, whereas V8 setups had the traditional 5 lug pattern and 10 inch drum brakes. I was use to brake fade on hot summer days with the 9 inch brakes, an unsettling feeling in traffic and I don’t miss that at all. Another benefit to the V8 set up is the number of after market upgrades available.
By now it’s been 25 years since the garage enamel paint job. It was dull, tired and worn out. I was in a parking lot one day just getting out of the car when I heard a couple talking about my Mustang. “Yeah, nice car but it needs a shine” I stepped back and looked at the old girl and concluded the same. Now 2011, I stripped off the Sunlite Gold enamel and started an exterior restoration replacing a door and rear quarter. It was repainted with a modern urethane metallic gold, from the 2009 Ford lineup. The color is a little more brighter than the original but it still pays homage to its roots. Hopefully this paint will be as durable as the enamel.
My future plans for the Mustang include power disc brakes, I think it is a wise upgrade from the 10 inch drums. The Mustang will continue to be my daily summer driver in a world of throw away cars. I hope to accumulate many more miles and memories through out my travels. Just another Mustang, too many yes, but now you know how this little Stang is a part of my life. It’s not how much they are worth or how well they shine but the story behind the steering wheel. When you ask a long time owner about their vehicle it will always include memories.
It’s winter, the snow swirls around my storage barn, just feet away from the Lake and safely tucked in among the cedars on Isle La Motte. I enter, almost tentatively because I’ve not been in for several weeks. I flick on the lights and suddenly the 35×75′ space is alive with all my summer friends: 3 antique cars ranging in age from 67 to 88 years and two boats ages 96 and 64 as well as two 61 and 67 year old tractors, several newer boats, carriages and assorted lawn machines etc. The 1955 Shepard mahogany runabout sits in the middle and I’m drawn to it because I’ve promised it a spring coat of varnish. I’m already imagining the task with a pad of 220 grit paper in one hand and a soft brush in the other. I try to remember to varnish before summer humidity so the drying won’t blush and think about maybe adding some japan dryer to hasten the process.
The 1955 Shepard is a 17′ (all original) Canadian made mahogany boat built to compete with US made Chris Craft. It is a “runabout” as opposed to a “utility” because the engine is covered by a hatch and not a box which you need walk around. Runabouts are considered more of a “sporting” boat while the utilities would more likely be used for maybe fishing. Shepard built their products first class. The 17′ runabout has a double planked bottom and is designed to accommodate 5 passengers in the same cockpit. To achieve this, Shepard installed the engine with the flywheel facing the stern (back) of the boat and powered the prop with a V drive transmission. Thus the engine is in the back of the boat covered with a hatch. Most boats are the reverse and their engines are of necessity in the middle of the boat forcing a split cockpit arrangement and, in the Runabouts, a very wet ride for half of the passengers! The engine, original to the boat, is a Chrysler “Ace” which develops 95 hp. These very popular marine engines were available as well in 125 hp as the Chrysler “Crown”. The engine is a 6 cylinder, in line flat head. The exhaust is a straight pipe which develops a most seductive and powerful rumble that reverberates across our bay, bringing people to their doors in awe! Shepard had an arrangement as well with Chrysler to provide accessories such as the steering wheel (also used in the 1955 Chrysler cars) and knobs, etc. The dashboard gauge cluster is one used in both US and Canadian boats for several years.
I purchased the Shepard, we named the M&M after my wife and daughter and alternately the candy (our candy ride), about 27 years ago. I found her in a field of vines and tall grass and covered with old carpeting and torn tarps sitting on an old hay wagon. The owner refused to uncover her until I paid for it. He claimed he didn’t want to sell…I bit. The fates must have been with me because when I uncovered my now purchased boat, the topsides, cockpit and engine were in fabulous condition. In fact, that year I didn’t even varnish!
There are many stories to follow thru the years including a tornado that flipped the boat upside down and sunk her under her boat lift. We were able to restart the engine before any further damage and I spent the balance of that summer with goggles and mask retrieving fittings at the bottom of the Lake.
I have another 1955 Canadian custom made, 36′ sedan cruiser that I rescued from the wrecking ball at a boat yard in Colchester. To my wife’s dismay, it resides in our driveway and necessitates some creative turning to negotiate around.
V-drive is a propulsion system for boats that consists of two drive shafts, a gearbox, and a propeller. In a “V-drive” boat, the engine is mounted in the rear of the boat and the front of the engine faces aft. Connected to the rear of the engine is the transmission. The first drive shaft connects the rear of the transmission to a gearbox mounted in the center of the boat. The second drive shaft extends from the gearbox to the rear and out the bottom of the boat to where a propeller is mounted
With no questions to answer this month, I thought I would share an interesting story.
Have you ever been putting off a big job, expecting it to be difficult, only to be pleasantly surprised at how simple it is? I have had this happen to me. I have also had what should be very simple job turn out to be a nightmare. I recently had what should have been a simple job turn out to be a much bigger job.
In August I lost the clutch in one of my Saab 900s. This car was from Southern California. It has never seen salt, and rarely saw rain. It is a fun car to work on. Nothing is rusted or frozen.
Now, on a Saab 900 the engine is bolted on top of the transmission, and the whole assembly is mounted backwards in the car. The clutch is on the back of the engine, which is up front by the radiator. I have done a complete clutch job in about an hour. It is a relatively quick and simple job.
I realized the problem with the Saab clutch was the master cylinder. I ordered a new one and attempted to install it. It is a traditional master cylinder attached to the firewall with two studs. I was just finishing the installation when one of the studs broke off. I was just tightening the nuts on the studs when the wrench came loose. I had just begun to snug the nut, I hadn’t even begun to apply much tightening force. I removed the part to find that the ear, the stud was threaded into, actually broke off. It was a defective casting. Ok. No big deal. I obtained a replacement and installed it.
When I drove the car to work the next day I noticed the cruise control no longer worked. Somehow while working under the dash I broke the cruise control. On the way hone, I lost the clutch again. A quick inspection revealed the hydraulic hose between the master and the slave burst. Ok, not a big deal. I replaced the hose. As I was bleeding the clutch, the slave cylinder blew. To replace the slave cylinder the entire clutch assembly needs to be removed. When I removed the clutch assembly, I noticed the rear main seal on the engine, and the pilot shaft seal on the transmission were leaking, the clutch had oil on it, and the pilot bearing was seized. I ordered a complete clutch kit, and new seals. I resurfaced the flywheel while it was apart, and installed the new seals and the new pilot bushing.
I had a bear of a time installing the new clutch, it just did not fit. I couldn’t align the pressure plate quite right to install the bolts, and the pilot shaft just would not fit in the clutch disk. After wrestling with it for over two hours, and cutting my hands several times, I realized I had the wrong parts. They were boxed wrong. I had ordered the right parts, but the parts supplier gave me the wrong parts. After a conversation with the parts supplier I received the correct parts, and again attempted to install the clutch. I had it almost installed, when I realized one of the dowel pins fell out of the flywheel. I had to take the assembly apart to get the pin out of the bell housing. After reassembly I was installing the slave cylinder bolts when one of them stripped. I could not understand how it stripped, as I never snugged the bolt. Again, the whole assembly had to come apart to fix the stripped threads. I realized someone had installed the wrong bolts at some point, these bolts were too short, and one was cross threaded.
The project is almost done. Hopefully I just have to bleed the clutch and finish putting it back together. Should be done this weekend, almost four months later…
Welcome 2019! As we head down this new year’s road, I’d like to tell you a little bit about a very special per-son. She has shared duties of contributing articles for “The Softer Side” for a number of years but has decided to officially retire, and Wheel Tracks Editor Gary Fiske asked me if I would take over from her, and I’ve accepted. I knew immediately what my first article was going to be about or, more specifically, who it was going to be about.
Mary Noble was brought up as a true farm girl in Plymouth, New Hampshire, and eventually made her way off the farm to the University of New Hampshire where she graduated with an English Literature degree. And you might say, now what? What does one do with an English Literature degree? Well, she got married to one, Wendell Noble whom she met while at UNH, but during their engagement, she just didn’t sit still waiting for the big day. Talk about stepping outside the box in the day: In true Mary style, she went on to the prestigious Katharine Gibbs School.
After Mary and Wendell married in 1963, they moved to State College, Pennsylvania. Mary found employment at the HRV Singer Sewing Company as secretary to, in her words, a “big honcho.” This was during the time of the Vietnam War, and Singer was a defense contractor to the U.S. government where they were making the Norden bombsight, which was a tool that bomber plane crews used, to accurately set their sights on targets. And you probably thought Mary was dealing with sewing machines, didn’t you?
In 1966 Mary and Wendell found their way north to Vermont by way of Bennington, Jericho and, finally, Milton in 1971, settling into a beautiful old farmhouse where they raised their three children and are now proud grandparents to three grandchildren. Wendell tells me that the farm-girl upbringing paid off when they got to Milton. Over the years they’ve raised beef cattle and pigs, along with maintaining flower and vegetable gardens where, I understand, Wendell “does what he is told to do!” You go, Mary!
Mary and Wendell joined the VAE in 1997. I first met Mary at an annual car show a couple of years ago and was drawn immediately to her quiet, welcoming demeanor and, of course, that ever-engaging smile of hers. Asking if there was anything I could do to help, she immediately put me to work!
So how does she like the car club? She says that the very best part of the VAE are the people, all the people she meets along the way. She also loves craft fairs and flea markets, so she made a deal with Wendell many years ago that he could go to car club functions with or without her and she was going to the craft fairs and flea markets with or without him! Isn’t it lucky that the yearly car show has an expanded flea market AND NOW a craft fair? And you know what she brings home from the flea markets? Matchbox cars. I didn’t get a chance to ask her how many she’s purchased over the years, but you can ask her yourself the next time you see her.
And speaking of cars, her favorite vehicle is the 1928 Dodge Coupe in their garage which was given to her (and Wendell, I presume) by her father. I’m going to ask her for a ride in it this coming spring. We’ll be “Thelma and Louise” tooling down the highway!
I was speaking with Marion Thompson recently, who has known Mary for a number of years now, and I asked her, How would you describe Mary? Her response: “Mary untiringly and quietly goes about the business of the VAE always with a smile on her face. Whatever needs to be done, she just does it.” She can be found at the registration table or the souvenir booth going about her tasks always with that smile. Who better to have on the front line helping all our VAE show guests?
Mary’s first love, of course, is Wendell and her family, but cooking/baking runs a very close second! If you haven’t been on the receiving end of her cooking, I can tell you for a fact you’re missing out. Wendell tells me that one of his favorite dinners is something called a hamburg/cottage cheese pie. Well, okay. So I challenged Wendell to get me that recipe, and he somehow managed to invade Mary’s kitchen domain without her knowing, and we are now the lucky ones!
Mary’s Cheeseburger Pie Recipe
1 cup + 2 TBS Bisquick® baking mix 1/4 cup water 1 pound ground beef 1/2 cup chopped onion 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce 2 eggs 1 cup small curd cottage cheese 2 medium tomatoes, sliced 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
Heat oven to 375°. Stir 1 cup baking mix and the water until soft dough forms. Gently smooth dough into ball on floured cloth-covered board. Knead 5 times. Roll dough 2 inches larger than inverted 9-inch pie plate. Ease into plate; flute edge if desired.
Cook and stir ground beef and onion until beef is brown; drain. Stir in salt, pepper, the 2 tablespoons baking mix and the Worcestershire sauce. Spoon into pie crust. Mix eggs and cottage cheese; pour over beef mix-ture. Arrange tomato slices in circle on top; sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Bake until set, about 30 minutes.
I think the best way to tell the story of the car is in two parts – first the part I know is actually true, and secondly the part that might be complete bunk…
The car is a 1935 Packard V-12 limousine that my grandfather, Bert Pulsifer, acquired sometime during the 1960s from a man named Charles Barnes. Charles was renting a house from my grandfather at the time and, having run out of money to cover rent, offered the car in lieu of of rent. My grandfather was a collector of cars and took him up on the offer. He kept the car and entered it in local parades from time to time and my Uncle Scott drove it occasionally- although I’m guessing a V-12 limousine wasn’t something anyone could afford to drive regularly even then! I do remember it sitting in the garage at Grandpa’s farm and pretending to drive it when I was little – as a kid that was the most impressive car in the world!
I also remember the whole family washing and waxing it in preparation for a parade. This must have been done many times because even then the paint was worn through in places. The parade I remember best – and I think it was the last time it was driven, was in 1982. The Packard had a tendency to vapor lock and I recall it did it at least twice that day. The first time was at a gas station on the way to the parade. We had stopped to fill up, but couldn’t get it to start after. Fortunately, one of Grandpa’s friends was also on his way to the parade, with his similar vintage Jaguar, and offered to push start the Packard with it. This worked and we made it to the parade.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it THROUGH the parade. About halfway through, she vapor locked again and had to be pushed aside to let the rest of the parade go by. I’ll have to dig out the picture of me, with my Grandpa’s Mason’s ballcap on, leaning against the fender, waiting for it to cool down. My grandmother wrote on the back “Thomas guarding the Packard”. (This picture never made it to Wheel Tracks).
When Grandpa passed away, he left the Packard to my Uncle Scott. Uncle Scott didn’t really have a good place to keep it, and knew that I had always admired the car, so he gave it to me. I’ve had to move it a few times since then and it has remained my “someday” project that I plan to get going as time permits. The first project will be to get the gas tank cleaned/rebuilt – 30 year old gas does some bad things to the inside of a gas tank!
The part of the story that might be bunk, is the detail of Charles Barnes – I was always told that Charles was of the “Barnes and Noble” Barnes from Rhode Island. Apparently he was the black sheep of the family and had a girlfriend that the family did not like or approve of. The family told him he needed to leave the family estate, but that he could take any car he wanted as long as he left and didn’t come back. The car he chose, of course, was the Packard. He headed north and ended up near Plymouth, New Hampshire and began renting the house from Grandpa.
From Lester-Steele Handbook & Standard Catalog of American Cars “Packard Twelfth Series- Twelve”
*Bore & stroke…3.44 X4.25 *HP….175 @3200RPM
*Weight…5900lbs *WB– 144.25 inches *Carburetor….Stromberg-Duplex
*Gear-ratio options,4.41, 4.06, 4.69, 5.07
*3-point engine rubber suspension *15 12-cylinder body styles offered with the limo being #835. *Engine, 67 degree V-block, modified L.
*Displacement, 473.3 cu. in.
*Four main bearings
*Trans, selective synchromesh 3F/1R.
*Clutch, single plate, vacuum assist.
*Brakes, mechanical, vacuum assist 4W *Options…dual sidemounts, bumper guards, radio, heater, spotlight.
*Introduced August 1934.
*V-12 model choices, series 1207wb139” & series 1208wb 144.25(the limo)
* Total factory production for all models including V8 & V12…..788
Recently I have had two cars in the garage for rust repair, a Saab 900 and an MGB.
The interesting thing is, on each car the rust was caused by poor body work. Each car had plastic body filler repairing a dent. The body filler was applied to bare metal. At some point, the body filler cracked and moisture seeped in. Body filler does not stop water.
Water can creep down through the filler to the bare metal, and cause rust. On each car the metal behind the body filler had rusted away, leaving rust holes.
After I do the hammering and welding, I coat bare metal with epoxy primer BEFORE I apply any body filler. I also start with aluminum body filler first, then transition to traditional polyester body filler. Aluminum body filler does offer some resistance to moisture.
To fix these rust holes, I used a cut off wheel to cut out the rusted metal. Next, I traced the cut out piece on new sheet metal with a sharpie marker. I carefully cut the piece out, subtracting about 1/16” on each side. The new piece was carefully mig welded in, only welding about 1/4” at a time to prevent heat warpage. After the weld-ing is finished, the welds are ground flush and the metal is hammered flat. Next I apply a layer of epoxy primer, followed by a light skim coat of body filler.
As I ‘mature’ it seems that I become more aware or should say irritated with things happening around me, i.e. the idea that school should start an hour or more later in the mornings, to allow our children to “get more rest”, and thus they will certainly do much better in school. Poppy cot!! What is keeping these children from going to bed at a reasonable hour? I fear it is TV, iPods, computers, tablets, smart phones and NOT reading, homework, household chores, or even a job. Let me say here that I am sure there are some out there that do work or have household responsibilities that prevent an early or even reasonable bedtime hour, but I believe this is the exception and not the rule.
One of my concerns is that every generation (for the most part) are getting ‘softer’ and it will manifest itself in ways that are not good for us or them. I am part of the problem, as I expected less of my children than was expected of me. I am sure my brothers and sister didn’t think so at the time, but Mother expected less of us than what was expected of her. At age ten she took over as chief housemaker for her Dad, 3 older brothers and 1 younger than her. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry and went to school. Because she was 10 and not very tall yet, her brothers made her a box to stand on, to make rolling pie crust easier! Now wasn’t that a nice gesture? She never talked about it as a burden, in later years, but something she did because it was needed. My 2 brothers were up in the morning at 4 or 4:30 to go to the barn and help feed and milk the cows, home about 6 to bathe (so they wouldn’t smell of the barn) and still had a mile to walk to catch the bus for school, only to reverse the process when school was out. Walk home, change clothes and back to the barn. Did I mention that the bathroom time was scheduled, so 5 of us could get in and out on time with only 1 bathroom, to some, this would be third world conditions! And believe it or not, there were some people at the time, that didn’t have that in Athens, Vermont in the early 50s.
It was barn work that I threatened my boys with, when they were young, if they complained about doing some chores. Also, just an update, my brothers graduated from school, got jobs (now retired) and survived their early years just fine. I don’t know if they regret it, but I feel bad they didn’t have time for the school sports, etc., that most have access to today and wouldn’t want that to change.
Have school start later? Not in my opinion. Make it mandatory that children work 6 months on a farm; definitely! You can’t know what work is until you do some.
Is Grandma’s opinion popular with her grandchildren? NO WAY! They are thankful I am not raising them, and I am not their school teacher, but I do hope that there will come a day when the 4 of them are sitting around camp swapping stories and they decide that Grandma had a lot of things ‘spot on’.
Dave, I would love to read a little dissertation on automotive paints. I recall a day when GM cars were all painted with acrylic lacquer and Fords were acrylic enamel. Now we have polyurethane base coat with clear coat, single stage urethane and even some water based stuff. What is an antique car guy to make of it all? Should we use what was on the car when new or get up to date? Will environmental laws make the question moot?
Let me first briefly explain the history of automotive paints. The early autos were painted with the same paint people had been painting carriages with for years. There was no “automotive” paint. Not paint in the traditional sense we think of when we talk about paint today. Early paint was basically linseed oil and a binder, with pigment, or crude shellac. This paint was applied with a brush and took a long time to dry. These paints were not very durable, often literally falling off the metal in a year or two. These finishes offered very little U/V protection and broke down quickly.
The biggest challenge with producing the Model T Ford and other early cars was the time and space needed to paint cars. The parts were laid out on the floor and took days to dry. This bottle neck in the production was a huge problem.
Nitrocellulose Lacquer paint was developed to alleviate the time/space problem. Nitrocellulose Lacquer paint is made from the nitration of cellulose plants (boiling down plant fibers and mixing with nitric acid). This is also how celluloid film was made. The solvents evaporate from the paint, leaving a glossy durable paint finish. These paints need to be “rubbed out” to produce a shine. This paint does not “cure” and will return to a liquid state when solvents are applied. A popular early nitrocellulose lacquer paint was DuPont “Duco” paint.
Nitrocellulose Lacquer dominated the automotive paint market from the early 1920s well in to the 1950’s when it was displaced by Acrylic Lacquer, a synthetic polymer acrylic resin based lacquer. Acrylic Lacquer dried quickly, however, still needed to be buffed to a high gloss.
Enamel paints used enamel resins. This type of paint takes much longer to dry than lacquer and actually dries in two steps. First, the enamel reducer evaporates and the paint becomes solid. Next, the resin oxidizes when it reacts to the air. This is why the new finish cannot be waxed for 30 days after application. The enamel paints dry to a hard, glossy finish and do not need the rubbing out as lacquer needs. The drying of enamel paints could be accelerated by the use of a baking oven.
Enamel paints required the need for clean spray booths. The paint took so much longer to dry than lacquer paints; the finish was much more susceptible to damage from debris before it dried.
Lacquer and enamel paints were much more durable than the paint they replaced, but still offered minimal protection against U/V light and corrosion.
Lacquer and enamel paints are very unstable, and begin a color shift almost immediately. This fact makes them very hard to color match. People go to great lengths to match original colors. Unfortunately, the reality is the “original” color was so unstable there really is no true original color. Two cars painted the same color at the same time would not match each other after a few years time.
Today’s urethane paints offer much more protection than the lacquer and enamel paints they replaced. Urethane paint cures in three steps: evaporation of the reducer, oxidation of the resin and an irreversible chemical reaction between the resin and the isocyanate catalyst. Urethane paints began to be widely used in the late 1980s.
Base/clear paints offer even more protection. The color coat is completely buried under a protective clear coat. The clear coat provides the gloss in the paint.
Modern catalyzed urethane primers and paints offer a finish that can easily last the life of the car. I have found bare metal painted with epoxy primer and top coated with urethane paint offered very effective protection against corrosion.
So, what is an old car person to do?
Nitrocellulose Lacquer is almost impossible to find today. It also cracks easily, and will return to a liquid when exposed to solvents. Lacquer requires sanding and buffing to get a good gloss. Enamel paints are harder to paint, do not have stable color pigments, and oxidize quickly.
An authentic restoration would require the use of the original type of paint. Modern urethane paints do not have the same gloss and color hue; however, they are much more stable. Enamel paints are still available, although somewhat hard to get. Given the time and expense involved in a proper paint job, you have to consider the service life of the paint. Do you want to paint it again in 10 or 15 years?
Modern urethane paints are very forgiving to paint, and last a long time. Modern urethane finishes have a fantastic shine, and require minimal maintenance.
If you want to exactly duplicate an original car, you may want to consider a period correct paint. If you want the best shine, great corrosion protection and minimal maintenance you probably want a modern catalyzed urethane paint. I guess it is ultimately up to the user to decide which way to go.
Just to complicate things, there are new paints being used now which are replacing urethane paints. Waterborne paints are now on the market. Waterborne paints do not have the Volatile Organic Compound exposure of urethane paints. Use of waterborne paint, is being mandated slowly, due to environmental concerns.
This is Len & Jeanne Pallotta’s 1966 Stingray Corvette.
This is part of the Corvette story written by Len Pallotto in 2005 for Wheel Tracks….
My interest in Corvettes probably started back in 1954 when some friends and I attended the General Motors Motorama Show in Boston where the highlight of the show, for me, was the fairly new Chevrolet Corvette display. However, it would be 21 years later that I would become the owner, of one of these cars.
One day a family friend, told us that a relative of his, was going to sell his 1966 Corvette convertible and asked if we might be interested. The next thing I know, the car is in our drive, with instructions to drive it a few days. This we did and after looking the car over and considering the condition of the paint and body and how badly it seemed to handle, we sent the car back and with a definite no answer.
During the time I had the car, I had rolled the driver door window down several times, the last time, the thing failed, I ended up replacing the entire assembly inside the door. (I guess you could say this was the start of the restoration of this car, though I didn’t even own it yet.) About a week later, we were on our way to the airport in Burlington, to catch a plane to Disney World with the kids. As we turned off Williston Road, parked in the lot of the gas station on the corner, was this same Corvette with a For Sale sign on it. I don’t know what sort of chemistry took place, (I think I actually felt sorry for the car, it looked like it never had any TLC) but when we arrived at the airport, I found myself in the phone booth calling the owner and telling him we would take the Corvette.
When we returned, the long road to this year started. My first project was to get the handling, to a point, where I could at the very least, keep the car in my lane of the road. Someone had put wide Craggar alloy wheels and tires on the car, which was a misfit. I replaced them with OEM wheels and tires with original wheel covers and spinners. Wow, what a difference! Little did I know this was to be the beginning of my continuing Corvette education.
I very soon learned that mid-year Corvettes have a parking brake system that was unique to them at the time. Although this design is used on many GM models currently, back then they were not compatible with Vermont weather and when they fail, the procedure in the service manual didn’t really help. When I finally was to the inside where the working parts resided, I couldn’t believe what I found; it was one solid mass of corrosion. Thankfully, I learned of a supplier who produced these parts in stainless steel. Great, the parking brake now works but the jubilation was short lived, as I found more problems, and all went down hill from there. As I drove the car, it seemed that every couple of weeks I would have to bleed the brakes. This led to research and learning, because of the design, using solid mounted calipers with constant contact pads to rotor, plus corrosion caused by moisture absorbed alcohol based brake fluid, pumps air into the system. This required a complete disassembly of all four calipers and master cylinder, which I did, and sent them to a vender to be sleeved with stainless steel. One more problem solved, but the list continued. Over the next few years I replaced ball joints, springs, shocks, stabilizer links, all front and rear rubber bushings, rotor and pads.
Since the very beginning the engine ran smoothly, but smoked moderately, however, eventually I detected a slight noise in the lower end. Before things got worse, I pulled the engine and transmission. It took a year to complete engine and transmission overhaul. A new radiator and rebuilding the wiper/washer, the carburetor, the distributor and the fuel pump was also done at this time.
During this one-year period, the inspection sticker had expired, so the day we completed the project, I made an appointment for an inspection. On the way a trooper stopped me for the expired sticker and gave me a ticket. It took a while but an assistant D.A. later dropped the charge.
One thing that always bothered me about this car was that the electric clock never worked. So one day I took it apart and found the manufacturer’s name. To my surprise, I was able to purchase parts (at a car show). I had the face silk-screened and reinstalled it. This was great, but it made the rest of the dash look terrible. You guessed it, out came the main dash, matter of fact, out came the whole interior, seats, carpet, belts… every-thing. This was the point where we decided that we could not reinstall a new interior unless we had the body repaired and painted. Since I didn’t really have a place to do the work or the paint and my own body was now needing some restoration of it’s own, we had no choice but to have this done by an outside source. While this was being done I totally restored the seats and recovered them. In 1966 some of the options available were seat headrests and shoulder belts. These were available through Corvette restoration parts suppliers so I added these two features.
While my car was being worked on, we found the frame was very weak in some key areas, so the decision was made to remove the body and restore the frame. Again, the parts were available through suppliers.
We completed this phase of the restoration in mid May of this year (2004), as you can see, this was an on going project from day one. However, we did ,on occasion, have periods when we could drive and enjoy the car. Even when the car was off the road being worked on, we still attended Corvette shows to search for parts and network with other Corvette people to learn and exchange information. In spite of all the pitfalls, it’s been a great ride. Many thanks to my wonderful wife Jeanne, the kids Wendy and Greg, and a lot of other people, who all have either bought parts or pawed through many boxes of used parts at car shows. Thanks for just being there when I needed you for support on this project. Right now, there are left over parts still in each of our bedrooms.
Ray Tomlinson was president in 2004 and presented the Pallotta’s with the “President’s Restoration Award” that year.
That engine that was rebuilt had the factory engine pressure gauge on the dash that was fed by a tiny plastic tube from the engine. In 1984, when Greg and his date were in high school, in formal dress on their way to an event, that tiny tube burst. The engine ceased after losing its oil. A replacement 350 Chevy engine was found and installed. The car’s proper engine is a 327 and about 12 years ago, Leonard and Greg found the engine that belonged in the Corvette. It will be going into the shop soon to make the swap.
Thank you Leonard for your story. This teaches all of us who have an old car that needs “tweaking”, to have patience….. and fun, for that short time that we are in that old car’s life. Your story is why the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts have been around sine 1953 with a very bright future. Old vehicles keeps us all young.