I was tired of bumping into the fenders and hood in my basement storage room. And the grille, bumper, valence panel and other assorted front end pieces were on the verge of getting lost in the corners of the garage. They had to move. Now that the heavy work is done up front I figured the best place to store them might be actually on the car! With a color change on the radar… a return to the factory-sprayed Ermine White…. I had work to do before I could install sheet metal. So here’s your long-delayed recap.
Prior to hanging the front fenders, the inside edges and areas around the headlight buckets had to be shot with the new color. And the top of the cowl needed a similar treatment. The idea is that when I finally get around to painting the exterior, I can simply back-mask the already painted areas. I’ll let you know how that works out – but basically, I’ll do about anything at this point to save myself a little time and work. Sanding, prep and priming: Done. Paint: Applied. Progress.
The front bumper filler panel was another story. That needed a coat of white too, and a whole lot more. After doing what I could with a hammer, dolly, pliers, vise and a few slathers of filler, I finally decided “Good enough!”. At least part of it will be hidden by the grille and bumper so the fact that it’s somewhat straighter than it was, all one color and mostly shiny certainly works for me. The bumper’s also going back on so maybe the dings and scratches in that piece will distract the eye? Yes. Divert attention away from something that’s not so good, use something even worse. Great idea.
Now the inside of the hood has been painted as well, but that will likely remain on the sideline until the engine is running again. To avoid the mess of cleaning and painting the grungy old hood hinges though, I briefly considered a set of billet aluminum hinges from the likes of Ring Brothers or Eddie Motorsports. Uh-huh, briefly: about as long as it took to close the catalog and set it aside. My credit card does have a spending limit.
New paint on the cowl meant new weatherstrip. That was a bit of a trick since the new weatherstrip had no holes for the attachment clips. So I laid the new and the old side by side on the workbench, marked the spots for the holes on the new rubber, and punched ’em. The attachment clips were wrestled into place and new weatherstrip found a home.
So the fenders are installed, as are the front bumper and freshly-painted bumper filler. The fasteners are in but everything is left loose at this point to allow for minor panel alignment. You’ll also note the new jewel in the front license plate recess. Saw one on a newer Nova SS in the pits at Indy during Drag Week, thought it was a great tribute to legendary Chevy drag racer Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins and eBay came through.
Inside the cabin, the instrument panel and dashboard is nearly road-ready. In a previous update I mentioned needing to patch the gaping hole in the dash from a past owner’s stereo mounting transgressions. Well, after searching for an original radio delete plate for awhile and coming up empty I decided to make my own. Made a cardboard pattern, traced it to a sheet of aluminum, cut and formed it to cover with the intent of painting it black to match the rest of the dash. Done and ready to install, when on a whim I decided to do another quick eBay search. Guess what I found? Yep, it was a “Buy It Now” listing with a “Best Offer” option. Made an offer, offer was accepted and after some minor polishing it’s now in place and looking way better than a jagged hole. Now, I’m reasonably sure that if I had not already made that home-brew cover, the original piece I really needed would not have been found. It’s the same principle that applies when you lose a tool: buy a new one and the original one you lost will then show up! Timing is everything. So with the exception of some control knobs and wiring, the dash and instrument panel are now wrapped up.
The crowning touch: I found an original and very lightly used Sun Super Tach II and it was in “Super” shape, That’s now mounted. The traditional “knee-knocker” position is low on the left side of the steering column. I’m happy.
Meanwhile, back at the leading edge of this machine: the bent grille bars were mostly straightened, then lightly sanded and hand-polished. Support brackets were cleaned and painted. In lieu of a 300-plus-dollar reproduction, this grille will fill the space between the headlights just fine. Once the bugs get splattered all over it, not many folks will be able to tell the difference or even care. Recycle and re-use, that’s my motto. (Yes, I’m cheap.)
From there, we moved on to the headlamp bezels. The driver’s side was worse, so I started there, dinging out a flat spot along the edge and working across the surface first with a fairly coarse 3M rubbing compound. Followed up with a finer polish, then chrome polish and a coat of wax. Although the sorta-fixed flat spot is still highly visible, it’s better than it was, and the shine is noticeably brighter than the un-touched bezel on the left. I figure all the up-front pieces we’ve covered here match the road-worn vibe of the car pretty well, and their piecemeal cosmetics can always be improved upon once the car is on the road and the budget permits. Admittedly it’s a tightwad’s approach to restoration but that’s how I roll; I stretch the dollar whenever I can.
And yeah, you’ll note that the front bumper is missing from the last photos. Turns out that it blocked access to the attaching hardware for the lower side of the grille and hood latch reinforcement brackets. So, off it came. Getting the cart ahead of the horse, as usual, got me into that small bind but at least I know the bumper fits. Once it’s back on, park lamps, headlamp bezels and final adjustments will follow. Then, back to the wiring…. and the brakes…. and the engine. Will it ever end? Although I’m keepin’ my head up so someday, I just know it, I too can say “I dig the drive”!
Thanks for following along, and all the best to you in the coming year!