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ofi Classic Cars is an automotive restoration shop in the metro Atlanta area specializing in pre-1974 vehicles. We offer everything from minor repairs to full frame-off restoration of collectable cars and trucks, including chassis, drivetrain, electrical, body, paint, and upholstery

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National Mustang Club of America – Gold

July 11, 2013

National Mustang Club of America Show – Asheville, NC

I just returned from a trip to the National MCA show in Asheville, NC. This was the first Mustang show of any kind for our great little K Code convertible, Jack the owner, and me.

The event was plagued by rain & thunderstorms, but somehow the sponsoring club, the Blue Ridge Mustang Club, was able to pull it off flawlessly – an amazing feat.

Being somewhat “long of tooth”, I’ve become somewhat intolerant, & not much of a “club type of guy” but was overwhelmed by the club officials, members, fellow participants, and most especially, the judges, who seemed to bend over backwards to assist us rookies in preparing for the show. They said they were “here to help”, & having spent nearly 30 years in corporate America, I had my own interpretation on what that meant………..I was “dead wrong”. They were there to help, and help they did. Special thanks to Jeff, Fred and Richard.

It was a long weekend, and my own internal stress over the car & lack of sleep didn’t do much for my body, but a gold medal offered a lot of relief, a happy customer, a much better trip home, and the ability to focus on some of the little stuff we missed in preparing the car.   A great experience.  Will post pictures of the K Code soon.

By the way, our tip on correcting “warp” in Pony/Deluxe door panels outlined in a previous blog seems to have done the trick. Our girl Bella (67 Mustang S code GTA fastback), still displays flat (unwarped) deluxe door panels & is happy as a clam. So are we.

 

Pony/Deluxe Door Panels

April 16, 2013

Mustang

Pony/Deluxe door panels warping

These things have to be the curse of the interior restoration process. The problem seems to be that the panels themselves are thicker than standard door panels to accommodate the arm rests & other trim pieces, and when the vinyl and arm rests are installed on the panels, due to the adhesive or whatever process they are using, the panels warp. When they warp, the clips pull out of the door & leave an ugly gap, that is typically “corrected” by sheet metal screws through the panel & into the door.

After years of putting the panels on stands face down & then piling on steel blocks (about 50 lbs.), where they sit for a week or two, we would install them, only to find that eventually they warp again & pull out the front and/or rear clips.

We’ve recently had a “brain cramp” here & “may” have a solution. We recently took the usual “warped” new door panels, and, with a cut-off wheel, cut a series of vertical and horizontal grooves on the back of the panels so that they would “flex” more easily. We then taped off any holes or openings for the arm rests, remote mirror hole, etc., stuffed strip caulk into the aluminum trim “tang” holes, covered the panel with fiberglass cloth cut to shape, then resin, threw our weights back on (don’t glue them to the panel), & let it dry. In a couple of places we had to cut a slice or two in the stainless trim on the back of the panel where it began to buckle.

The next day, we pulled off the weights, sanded down any high spots left by the fiberglass & they seem to be retaining their correct shape. It’s been a few days & all’s well, and we’ll keep an eye on them.  Be sure to keep the fiberglass resin away from your clips as they may need to be moved around a bit for installation & you don’t want them fiberglassed into the wrong position.

As with most restorers, we’re always a little optimistic & always searching for “silver bullets” to fix age old problems, and if this “silver bullet” doesn’t work, I’ll let you know through future blogs.

A job you’re passionate about

April 14, 2013

Passion

I often hear, “it must be great to have job doing something you’re passionate about.” I’m never quite sure what they mean. Is it some sort of “grass is always greener” comment that probably says more about their job than mine? Or, as I sometimes fear, is it about the misconception that because I do something that lives in the realm of a hobby for them, working on great (and sometimes not so great) old cars, that my day is pure passion. Filled with rainbows and sunshine, free of worry and stress. Sure some days there is sunshine, every so often a rainbow, but there are also mortgages, bills to pay, families to feed.  So, passion? Yes, but tempered with ever present dose of reality.

That reality often comes in the form of the frustration at seeing the poor quality of previous repairs that have been performed on these cars.  You can’t believe the work it takes to undo this damage, to make many badly formed aftermarket parts fit, or to struggle with the scarce availability of the parts themselves. And it’s so painful to see new floor pans dropped in and riveted over the old ones that have rusted out. Leaking cowls that have been duct-taped and sprayed with foam insulation in a poor attempt to stop water from dripping onto the floor.  I could go on, but I’d just start weeping.

No matter what we see, the very first question is often, “what will it cost?” It’s a reasonable question, and I get it. People want to know what they’re getting into.  But cars, particularly old, excuse me, particularly classic cars are more like a person than a machine (and a “classic” person at that).

So I get the question, I do, but we’re not psychics. Believe me, I wish we were. I wish we could use some of the fancy tools that your BMW dealer can plug in to tell you in a moment what’s wrong.  Not us – that would dispel our passion, spoil the fun. That would take away our rainbows and sunshine. So, we dig in.  Hell, it could be a brain tumor (similar to wiring problems with all of the synapses and stuff), or maybe you just need to take an aspirin and have an adult beverage or two. But we won’t know for sure until we get in there.

Passion, yup, we’ve got plenty of it, but I’ll tell you this, when I was a much younger man it meant something different. Now if you’ve read these blogs before, you know that I’m a “glass is half empty kind of guy”, so take this rant with a grain of salt. Because I also know we have a lot of glasses here. Now I gotta get back out to the shop and explore my passion. Rent’s due.

Car evaluations – the good, the bad & the ugly

April 12, 2013

Car evaluations – the good, the bad & the ugly:

Please, please, please, help me help you. Twice in 2 weeks we’ve had cars in here and have been asked to “look over” them AFTER they’d been purchased.  Both times the results have been ugly. We frequently look cars over (sometimes at no charge if the car is brought to us and it doesn’t require a lot of time and sometimes at a modest charge)  But even at that, it’s money well spent for several reasons.

1. If the car is relatively sound but with a few problems here & there, it’s grounds for some additional negotiating on price.

2. If there are major issues, you have grounds for some big time price concessions or you are free to walk away if the cost of repairs exceed the car’s value.

3. If the car’s everything it’s represented to be & the price is right, we’ve just confirmed & reinforced your astute mechanical & business capabilities ( that’s a cheap ego boost).

We don’t “appraise” cars, as it’s between the buyer & seller to determine value, but we, and other shops like ours, can put it on a lift, check it out from top to bottom & tell you what we see, including the good, the bad & the ugly.

While we like to think that we’ve just about seen it all, we are frequently surprised at what we find, such as duct tape or metallic HVAC tape applied & covered with undercoating and/or bondo to give the illusion of a solid body or frame component.  We’ve discovered tar paper glued to rotted frames & then heavily undercoated to give the appearance of solid steel, floor pans made of wire screen & bondo, shock towers literally built with bondo & painted.

I know “necessity is the mother of invention”, but I’m not quite sure what the necessity is here except a cheap cover-up for a quick sale.

Again, please help us, & shops like ours, help you. “Ready, fire, aim”.

Bella’s Got Heart

February 23, 2013

After a couple of months of chasing parts (interior, exterior, wiring, etc.) & associated installation, we finally dropped in the newly rebuilt 390 and C6 transmission. Yes, she’s a real “S” code GTA.

We broke the engine in on Saturday & had more than the usual fun and excitement. Engine “break-ins” are always kind of a high point, but in this case, it was a bit over the top. The customer, who is currently working in Kuwait, just happened to call on Friday, to say hello & see how things were going with her Bella. When I told her about the engine “break-in” on Saturday, she wanted to hear it, so we arranged our schedule accordingly. Now keep in mind that we’re old guys here (ofi stands for Old Farts Incorporated……..name picked up from my children) & we “get” carburetors & such but are not up to speed with a lot of modern technology, especially video/smart cell phones, etc. (We have a tendency to dislike anything smarter than we are.) Anyway, with my mechanic, Ted, managing the throttle & rpm’s, I’m running from the engine bay to the tail pipes with a cordless phone in my hand, holding it so that the customer can hear it all. I’m glad I wasn’t on someone’s YouTube video as I probably would have been committed for having some syndrome where the patient thinks inanimate objects want to make phone calls……………….We’d call it the “Congress Syndrome” where everybody talks but no one listens.

The break-in went flawlessly, with no strange tics, noises, nor squirting of fluids. We’d already been through the “smoke test” & all lights & electricals are working fine. She runs like a Swiss watch & with 2 1/4 inch pipes vs. the stock 2″, combined with 2 chamber mufflers, she’s got just enough growl to get your attention, but still be considered civil.

Interior’s pretty much complete (headliner, overhead console, dash, gauges, etc.) & we’re waiting for luxury door panels, new door glass & handles & cranks, etc. Seats have to be upholstered, 15″ styled wheels are on order & we’ve installed a wood Lecarra steering wheel. Please “purists”, don’t go off on a tangent on this. The car has a family history & although nearly 100% correct from an originality standpoint, we’ve done a few things to improve it from 1967 specs. Back then, they didn’t have DynaMat, & the floors & interior were not coated/sealed with UPol Raptor bedliner, but we did it anyway with agreement from our customer & the 7″ x 15″ wheels will allow us to put a little more “meat” on the ground. This car will be driven & will probably never see a show, although I suspect she would fare pretty well in a driver class.

Our sincere thanks to the owner for giving us this car to work on. It’s been an absolute joy & we’re now facing the obvious fact that she will soon be gone.

Bella, stage II

October 2, 2012

 Bella’s got her gown & now she’s ready to learn how to dance.

              

She was completely stripped, nearly all sheet metal & the frame rails on front & rear were replaced. She was then epoxied, primed & blocked repeatedly.  All parts  were “jambed” & clear coated, her engine bay was painted, the underside and floor pans were sprayed with UPOL Raptor, she was assembled & aligned (doors, fenders, hood, decklid, etc.) & she then got sprayed with plenty of base coat and several layers of clearcoat. Color sanded thru 2000 grit & polished. A new front suspension has been added and the 9″ rear-end re-built, painted & hung with new leaf springs. New brake lines, hoses, wheel cylinders, etc. have been installed.

  

Lots of parts (Bella’s jewelry) have been detailed & incredibly, most of the interior panels, vents, aluminum trim pieces, etc., were in excellent shape.   Simple cleaning, detailing & painting have put them in “new” condition, and, being original pieces, they will fit! 

 

Power steering is next.  I sure wish Borgeson had a system for big blocks, as it eliminates a lot of clutter & hoses, is an easy install & provides good handling. 

A man of vision

September 7, 2012

A customer brought in a 1937 Ford that his Dad had worked on over the years.  We cleaned up the distributor contacts & discovered that Dad had done an upgrade so that an universal coil could be used rather than the old type that was built into the old distributor.   Good idea.  Originally this car had mechanical brakes & not hydraulic brakes.  Dad upgraded to hydraulics.  He also added brackets (excellent welding job) & regular shocks, but left the old lever shocks in place in case someone wanted the original set-up later. Obviously a man with vision.

Headlight switch on 1037 Ford blows fuse

September 5, 2012

The headlight switch on the ’37 Ford is attached to the bottom of the steering column – a unique switch that turns power on & off and runs lights, low beam & high beam when the lever on the steering wheel is moved. A long rod runs from that lever down through the middle of the steering column to the switch. The wires are factory “soldered” into the switch & run to the lights.  If the insulation is gone from the wires inside the switch (and it probably is), when the switch is turned the fuse will blow because the bare wires are grounding.

Introducing Bella

September 3, 2012

Bella (beautiful in Italian) is being resurrected & we hope to capture some pictures of the process. We’re not too good at taking pictures, but this car is definitely worth the effort.

 Bella started out as a 1967 “S” code fastback & has had a rough life. All sheet metal (including her roof) and frame rails have been replaced. We were able to save her VIN #’s on the aprons, which were “double stamped” (same #’s but actually stamped twice, which we thought was kind of unique).

 A lot of stripping, cutting, welding & grinding, but she’s been through epoxy, primer, blocking (more epoxy, primer & blocking), has been “jambed”, floors have been sprayed top & bottom with UPOL Raptor, engine bay painted & she’s now in the paint booth as I type getting her “layered gown” of burgundy & clearcoat.

 Her 9″ rear end & other parts have just been returned from powder coating & we’ve been cleaning & detailing other parts for several weeks so that things are ready for the long assembly process ahead.

 Look for pictures posted under “Bella” (although I sometimes refer to her as the Beautiful Phoenix).

Car evaluations – the good, the bad & the ugly

August 31, 2012

Car evaluations - the good, the bad & the ugly:

Please, please, please, help me help you. Twice in 2 weeks we’ve had cars in to “look over” AFTER they’ve been purchased.  Both times the results were ugly. We frequently look cars over (at no charge if the car is brought to us or at a modest fee if it requires a lot of time.)  But even at that, it’s money well spent for several reasons.  

 1. If the car is relatively sound but with a few problems here & there, it’s grounds for some additional negotiating on price.

 2. If there are major issues, you have grounds for some big time price concessions or you are free to walk away if the cost of repairs exceed the car’s value.

 3. If the car’s everything it’s represented to be & the price is right, we’ve just confirmed & reinforced your astute mechanical & business capabilities ( that’s a cheap ego boost).

 We don’t “appraise” cars, as it’s between the buyer & seller to determine value, but we, and other shops like ours, can put it on a lift, check it out from top to bottom & tell you what we see, including the good, the bad & the ugly.

 While we like to think that we’ve just about seen it all, we are frequently surprised at what we find, such as duct tape or metallic HVAC tape applied & covered with undercoating and/or bondo to give the illusion of a solid body or frame component.  We’ve discovered tar paper glued to rotted frames & then heavily undercoated to give the appearance of solid steel, floor pans made of wire screen & bondo, cracked & broken shock towers literally built with bondo & painted to look solid.

On these types of repairs, I know “necessity is the mother of invention”, but I’m not quite sure what the necessity is here except a cheap cover-up for a quick sale.

 Please help us, and shops like ours, help you. “Ready, fire, aim.”