In October 1998, somewhere in the vast sea of Hershey vendors, I was looking at fabric samples assembled in book form by Bill Hirsch. My all-original 1952 Buick Roadmaster had seen some miles under its two prior stewards, which had caused the fabric behind each door handle to fray, while the floor carpet and driver’s-seat back had seen far more glorious days. With a snippet of the car’s upholstery in my hand for comparison, the debate running through my head was, “Which do I start with; what would be the easiest?”
At 26 years old, I was determined to take the next step in automotive restoration. I had replaced the brakes, fixed a power steering fluid leak—the system an option on the Roadmaster that year—and replaced a few weather seals. Upholstery seemed simple enough. Especially floor carpet. Frankly, I was a little more than proud to own, drive, and display the car—I wanted it looking its best, despite my meager budget.
As I pondered my ability against a “close enough” color match, I was asked if I needed help by—I assumed—a staff member. Instead, I found myself talking to Bill Hirsch himself. He must have taken a keen interest in the plight that I had to have exhibited. After explaining the situation, Bill asked, “Do you enjoy driving your Buick?” Yes, was my quick reply, to which he said, “Then drive it. I’d love to sell you upholstery today, but honestly, I can tell by your enthusiasm that you enjoy using the car. You’re young; there will be plenty of time to restore it later when the whole car needs to be done, and we’ll still be making upholstery for it. When it’s ready, call me.” And with that, he shook my hand, slipped me copies of the samples I had been ogling, and flashed a reassuring smile.
Do you remember Susie, the Little Blue Coupe? As the title hints, it was an animated short about a cute sporty car that flirted its way out of a dealership window and into the hands of its first, proud owner. During the 8-minute flick, produced by Walt Disney and originally released in June 1952 by RKO Radio Pictures, Susie‘s care eventually slipped, and her owner reluctantly sold the rough-running coupe. A cigar-chomping, gruff-looking chap became Susie‘s next owner, though his lackadaisical attitude eventually left her painfully disheveled in a cold and scary scrapyard. That is, until she was rescued by a young lad with a dream, a touch of know-how, and a boatload of ambition
.It’s pure coincidence, but the basic elements of Susie‘s thought-provoking yet lighthearted automotive tale parallel the real-life adventure of the 1965 Chrysler Newport two-door hardtop gracing these pages. This entry-level luxury car was sold new through a New Haven, Connecticut, dealership, after which it lived many years of pavement tranquility in nearby Branford. But, by the end of 1985, the Newport silently fell into a stagnant existence that left it in complete disrepair.
According to its current owner and Lee, Massachusetts, resident Tim Schaefer, who purchased the Newport in September 2012, “It was basically a parts car. It had weeds growing off the floor in the back. The grille areas at the top of the cowl were filled with decomposing leaves, sticks, and dirt — all of which held water that slowly leaked into the interior that, after a quick glance, you wouldn’t even want to get in. It was just roached beyond belief. The headliner was hanging out of it and there was a wheel thrown on the back seat wearing a rotted tire. Really, the car was just a mess, but I bought it. Somebody had to save it.
A magnum opus is an artist’s most important work. It is the work that truly defines that artist’s sensibilities and demonstrates his or her skill and craftsmanship at its best. This 1957 Ford Thunderbird F-code is Don Antilla’s magnum opus. It may be the most perfectly restored ’57 Thunderbird in existence.Don, who lives in Southbury, Connecticut, is truly an artist.
He has perfected his vision and craft for decades, with a string of immaculately restored Fords to show for it. For much of that time, Don’s been holding on to this car, waiting for when he could do it justice.It was not too distant (geographically and temporally) from the Three Mile Island incident, back in 1979, where and when Don acquired this car. It had already lived an eventful life as a hot rod and harbored a Corvette 283 in the engine bay.
Don knew his T-Birds, however, and recognized that the serial number, beginning with the letter F, indicated a car that had come from the factory equipped with the 300-hp, supercharged, 312-cu.in. Y-block V-8. (The other letters, incidentally, were C, for the base, 212-hp 292; D, for the 245-hp 312; and E, for the 270-hp, dual-quad 312. Ford also supplied racing kits for the E- and F-code engines, which would boost their power to 285 and 340 hp, respectively.)
That F in the serial number is actually how Don found the car to begin with. You see, back in those days, it was still possible to track down cars through various states’ departments of motor vehicles. Don spent a lot of time doing just that and, in the process, he says he also took the opportunity to document many F-code Thunderbirds “before they got taken apart for restoration.”
A deceptively deteriorated driver turns into a full-scale restoration – Part I
“Love the one you’re with,” is a tough directive for a car enthusiast. It seems like no matter what vehicle you start with, it’s always in worse shape than you imagined starting out. The temptation to get rid of a project car and begin with something nicer is immense, so it’s refreshing when something the average hobbyist might consider beyond economical restoration is given a new lease on life.
Consider our feature car here. When it rolled across the auction block at one of the major Scottsdale, Arizona, sales, it was what you’d probably call a 20-footer. Something that might make you go, “Ooh, a ‘Bandit’ Trans Am!” Get closer, though, and start picking away at the details, and that “ooh” might have turned to “oh.
“Still, that initial impression was correct about something: This is a real Y82, the black-and-gold Special Edition that looks like the ones driven by Burt Reynolds in the hit 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit.
That’s what attracted owner John Prenzno of Paradise Valley, Arizona, when he saw it at auction nearly four years ago. Having owned a brand-new one just after high school, the pull of nostalgia was strong and John bought it, warts and all. As you might have guessed, the warts were extensive.
That much was evident from even a casual inspection. The first problem made itself known even without taking a look, when a leaky fuel line caused it to run out of gas before it could be driven away from the auction site.John took the car straight to Ward Gappa at Quality Muscle Car Restorations LLC, in Scottsdale. QMCR made a temporary fix to the fuel line (extensive rust demanded complete replacement) and gave the car a thorough going-over so John would know exactly what he was up against to get his Trans Am up to snuff.
On July 8, 1965, my Dad purchased a brand new 1965 Chevelle Malibu SS. This was his first new car purchased off the lot and, oddly, has been the only new car he has ever purchased. He paid $3,262.45 for the car.
He then married my Mom in November of that same year. This car was very special to my Dad and Mom and we have great pictures of their adventures.
Shortly after their honeymoon, my Mom became pregnant and my oldest brother was on the horizon. He was born in ’67 and soon after, Mom and Dad learned of twins coming. The discussion turned back to the two-door coupe, and my Mom and Dad decided to sell the Chevelle to accommodate the future family.
My Mom shared with us kids growing up that she saw Dad’s emotions only a few times. One of those times was the day he had to sell his Chevelle.
As it often happens, life throws a few curves at families. My Dad’s youngest brother Paul was killed in a car accident in 1970. This event, and a few others, changed my Mom and Dad’s lives and began to shape our family’s future in ways we had yet to understand.
By 1971, our family now had three boys and one girl. My Dad was working a solid career with a Minnesota-based company and had the typical Minnesota family.
My parents attended a Lowell Lundstrom religious crusade, and through the message they heard, they committed their lives to serving God daily and through ministry. In 1974, my Dad left his job and moved the family to Dallas, Texas to attend Bible college and become a full-time pastor. He arrived back in our hometown of Sunburg, Minnesota, in 1976, and pioneered Sunburg Community Bible Church.
For me this is the best rescue build series on YouTube, you see Ronnie buy the Fiero for $100 and drag it out of a wood, and two years later he’s nearly finished the restoration. He learns all the skills required along the way, it’s a truly inspiring series. Don’t get me wrong even though this is his first car restoration he had plenty of skills already in many areas, as you can see in the rest of the videos on his Fingerprints Workshop Channel.
A Labor Of Love: The Story Of The Revival Of A 1985 Pontiac Fiero is one of a numberof articles about Ronnie and the Fiero by Bryan McTaggart at BangShift in which you can follow the build along.
I’m amazed to see how many people have jumped onto the car rescue bandwagon, especially on YouTube. Each video of somebody diving deep into an engine bay, scrubbing lichens off of body panels, or spends time detailing an interior back to life feels like one gigantic middle finger to every claim that nobody under the age of 35 can be bothered to look up from their phones long enough to do something. Far from it, many of these people are actively putting in the work needed out of a desire to either make it big on YouTube, or to share the passion they have for a project. Making it big on YouTube isn’t easy, but sharing the knowledge learned from diving head-first into the deep end of the pool is always cool.
Here’s the process we used to restore the seat base on the Sport Coupe
Removing the cover, foam and padding which was attached via a combination of nails and hog rings. Once the cover was removed the details from LeBaron Bonney were found and the production date was 1997
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The seat base had clearly been worked on before and as we began the strip down we found that some interesting repair methods had been employed, now it may be that some of the repair work had been carried before the aftermarket luxury that we enjoy today.
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The chicken wire or fencing had been wired onto the springs of the seat base, this was very sharp and not easy to remove.
Once all the wire and other detritus was removed if was found that a number of the springs were broken. These were repaired using metal brake pipe
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To add additional support to the springs they were stuffed with high density foam which also has the added advantage of making the seat more comfortable and quieter in operation.
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Once the foam was added to all the springs webbing was added and the hessian base was applied via hog rings.
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The layers of of foam and padding were then added and secured with hog rings and stitching
Before the cover was refitted a number of repairs were required, including a new piece of material dyed with tea to match.
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The cover was then put into place and secured with staples from an air powered staple gun and the edges stitched in place, rather than the previous effort which was damaged by the use of hog rings. Some tape was added around the edges for a neater finish. Once this was completed the base was test fitted to the car.
This is not the way that everyone would do this but it works!
Once the trims had been cut to fit the next task is to refit them and the rumble seat. There were a few areas that needed painting and an arch bolt to be ground off as it was too long and was fouling the trim
The rumble seat floor mat was the first item to refit once it was given a bit of a clean up with trim cleaner.
Next up were the side trims, these were also given the clean up treatment
Once the seat spring was inspected, the wear and tear and the damage was repaired
The broken springs were repaired by clamping metal brake piping to repair the breaks. The clamps that clamp the coils to the seat spring were removed, straightened and refitted. The missing nail securing the seat spring to the wooden frame was replaced and the others tightened. For a 90 year old spring set it’s not too bad!
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