A Layman's Guide to Restoration Part 2
Dismantle the Car
by David Grainger
President, The Guild of Automotive Restorers
So let's get cracking and start to dismantle the car. You're still not allowed to run at it like a bull in a china shop. Dismantling a car is a fairly lengthy business and it must be done in a methodical manner. Try to separate all of the different kinds of car parts one from another as you take the car apart. At times this will prove a little difficult. Take for instance the first thing that you will likely strip from your car, the trim and chrome.In many instances in order to remove the exterior trim from your doors and rear quarters you will have to remove your interior side and door panels. Make sure that you are ready for this. Don't just throw the door panels, their clips and other annoying bits in a pile separated from where the rest of your interior will end up and don't mix up clips and hardware you will need to re-install your interior with the hardware you will need to re-install your interior panels. Make sure that you tag and describe all of the unusual hardware that you will encounter as you remove things. This is a good time to try to source some of the more unusual clips and fasteners while they and their purpose and method of use are fresh in your mind. There are a lot of very specialized pieces of hardware that are quite difficult to find on most fifties and sixties cars. These are usually found holding on exterior trim and interior trim and panels. It is a bit annoying at the other end of the restoration when you are assembling the car to suddenly find that not only do you not remember what the hardware looked like or how it worked, everyone tells you that it is on back order or not available and it could be several months before the situation will improve. I have seen more than enough cars in a nearly complete state languishing for weeks because they lack a bag full of little stamped clips.Chrome and stainless trim are the first things that you should remove from your car. This will allow you to send them out right at the beginning of the restoration for repair, rechroming and polishing. Make sure you do this early because chrome shops will often take three months or more to do your chrome. I have some pieces that have been out for ten months and still show little sign of returning. More about chrome in a later column. Don't let the kids read that one as there are likely to be words used you don't want them to know.After you have removed the chrome you can start on pulling out the interior. Decide on which interior chrome you are going to send out, if any, and send it at the same time. Lots of guys forget that they have interior chrome and send it months later with the result that they end up waiting for months to finish the interior. If you are going to have an upholsterer redo your interior and most of us do, then he or she should be the one to remove it from the car. Barring that, you should take a lot of pictures that you can make available to the upholsterer as they work. Beauty pictures are nice, but not too helpful. What the upholsterer is going to need is fine detail shots of the way things went together.Once you have removed the interior and the trim you are going to start to get a good idea of what you are going to have to cope with. Pulling the carpets, consoles and panels will reveal any corrosion to the floors and pan damage and the extent of it.
On a lot of cars you will have the joy of finding all kinds of innovative repairs. I have discovered plywood sheets screwed in place and then liberally doused with fiberglass resin, tin pop riveted in place, tar used to hold in sheet metal and even pieces of a bed frame with two by fours filling the holes on which the front seats were fastened.At this point you will have to determine what you are going to do with the electrical system as well. You are going to have a rat's nest of wires all over the place but most especially under the dash, which you can at least now get to. My considered opinion with wiring harnesses is to replace rather than repair. It is actually quite easy to replace a harness. It is largely a matter of plugging everything in. It may look a little intimidating to start with but with a little perseverance you will prevail. Fixing old harnesses is a pain in the butt and rarely worthwhile. You will only think you have made all the repairs you needed to make. Once you put the car back together and try to drive it is when you will find out just how much you missed. As with the chrome now is the time to start finding out where you can get a new harness and how long it will take. It is better to have it sitting on a shelf in your garage waiting to go in the car after paint than to be waiting for it while it sits on a supplier's shelf somewhere in the southern US.Once you have the interior removed you can take out the glass. Side windows are easy if a little fiddly to remove and if power they may test your patience a bit but they will despite appearances actually come out without cutting a hole in the outside of the door. The windshield and rear window might be a little different. You may want to get a glass guy to come in and remove them if you want to reuse them. In some cases they will just be held in with a rubber seal which has a rubber locking strip running down its middle. If the rubber is still supple you can find the end of the lock strip and pull it out. This will allow the window to pop out of its rubber mount. If the rubber is old, hard and brittle this will not be as easy. Chip out the lock strip but then carefully remove as much of the old rubber as required to loosen the window. Don't get two friends to push with all their might from the inside. Finesse, not brute force, will win the day. With some windshields you will have to cut out the glass, and if this is the case I would strongly suggest getting in a glass service. If you insist on doing it yourself, what you can do is feed a piece of stainless braided wire through the seal so that the wire is both in and out. Wrap the wire around a couple of screwdriver handles or other suitable handle substitute and then with a sawing motion gently work the wire all the way around the window until the seal is completely cut. Then gently push out the window from the inside. This, unless you have incredibly long arms, will be a two or three man operation. Don't get excited and push on the inside of the window without someone acting as safety outside. I have seen a large piece of hard-to-get glass pop out, skitter across a previously un-dented hood and smash all over the floor.With all of this stuff accomplished you are getting close to the real manly stuff - pulling out the old engine. Next column I'll outline this process in such a way that you won't drop anything too heavy on your foot.