Members Projects => MEMBERS Project Cars in Progress => Topic started by: Dan Cluley on March 25, 2008, 03:38:54 AM

Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Dan Cluley on March 25, 2008, 03:38:54 AM

..or how I learned to stop worrying and love the convertible.
Since Spring seems to be trying to show up, and I might actually get some work done at some point, so I thought I'd lay out the backstory first.
This car was built in December of 1965 and sold to someone in Detroit.  (who buys a convertible in Michigan in Dec?!!)

The original owner passed away around 1980 and his son sold it to a man named Robert Dixon, also of Detroit.  In the mid 80’s he had a fair amount of work done.
 Replaced the top, switching from black to white.
Had some rust repair done to the rear quarters and had the car repainted.
Had the engine rebuilt at around 100,000 miles.
In 2000 he sold it to a man in Jackson Mi.
In the summer of 2002 it was sold through an auto-auction in Parma (small town near Jackson)  and ended up at King Motors (a small repair shop that sells also sells a few cars) in Mason MI (where I live just outside Lansing) with 142,000 miles on it.

Meanwhile, in the spring and early summer of 2002, my minivan was in the shop for a week getting the transmission rebuilt, and again for almost that long when the waterpump blew. The second time, I borrowed a co-workers beater truck.  A chevy pickup he bought from the neighbors for $100, and looking for a similar back-up car  seemed like a good idea.  After a couple of weeks keeping my eyes open, the best I’d seen was an ’83 Olds 98 2 door.  A pretty rare beast, but it had some issues, and the seller seemed a little flaky, so I passed.
So on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in July, I’m out running some errands, and I happen to so the car sitting out at King Motors and I stopped to take a look.  I wasn’t seriously interested, in fact, I wasn’t really sure exactly what it was (I knew it was some sort of Chrysler product from the 60’s but not much more)  What I was thinking was that it had been years since I’d driven an old car, and years since I’d been in a convertible, and that it would be a really, really nice day to take a test drive. ;)
It obviously had some issues, but he was only asking $1000.  This was about twice what I was looking to spend, but somewhere in the middle of my drive, I started trying to do the math in my head, to see if the budget could be stretched enough to make this work. 
So I told the dealer I needed to talk to my insurance guy, but that I would probably be back.
Monday morning,  still half convinced that I’d lost my mind,  I stopped at the insurance office, the bank, the dealers, back to the insurance office and then headed off to work before noon with my new convertible.

After a few days exploration, I had pretty much determined what you get with a $1000 Convertible.
It started up, ran, drove, and stopped just fine.  Steering was reasonable, but a little bit of wandering had me assuming that it needed tie rods (turned out to just be the old bias-ply tires)
The dash looks pretty cool, the door panels and carpet are marginal, and the seats are pretty nasty.  A lot of splits in the vinyl along the stitching, and the much of the foam in the front buckets is gone (you could actually see all the way through to the floor in one spot of the drivers seat)

The top went up and down perfectly, but was pretty useless as an actual top.  It had a couple of pinholes over the front seat, large tears in the C-pillar areas, and the rear window was 90% gone.
The passenger door window did not roll up.  The quarter windows did go up and down but were fussy and didn’t really seal very well.
The holes in the top had allowed enough water in that the floor around and under the back seat was pretty well rusted through, and the frame rails/front spring mounts were pretty crunchy as well.
Rear springs were sagging.  Combine this with a very long trunk, and driveways are not something to be taken lightly.  Also, putting 4 friends in the car and attempting to go for a ride didn’t work real well either.
The lumpy bits above and behind the fender skirts seemed to be bondo over rust.
The electrical system was a disaster.  It is easier to describe what did work properly.  The basic ignition/charging system, headlights, front turn signals, radio, about half the dash lights, the ammeter, and the top motor.  It did come with two boxes of fuses in the ashtray. (I used most of them before getting the interior lights, and the taillights working right)
            Amazingly enough the bulkhead connector was pretty decent.  It just had a lot of bad grounds, and rust in the fuse box!!!!!
It does however look pretty presentable  â€“  at dusk  –  if you underexpose it a little (

Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Steve on March 25, 2008, 05:20:44 AM
Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Arlen Vander Hoff on March 25, 2008, 05:22:11 AM
All I know is that it has made it to Grand Rapids at least twice!
 And a good time was had by all!!
Hey I've seen worse that people wanted more money for Dan!!
Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Dan Cluley on March 26, 2008, 07:27:10 PM
Before I start in on my projects, I need to include a confession and disclaimer.
Given the extent of the rust, in, on, and under this car I decided very early on that it is going to be a “driver” plain and simple.  To seriously restore it would basically involve removing the convertible top and putting a new car underneath.  Even if I had the time, skill, patience, and money to do this car properly, I would have a hard time justifying completely cutting up a better car to fix this one.
Therefore, I have done some very “creative” bodywork over the years, including using hardware store angle iron, and expanding spray foam.  I am certainly not suggesting that these are ideal techniques, however my goals are repairs that are structurally sound, weathertight, and cosmetically decent from normal viewing angles (no promises about the inside of the trunk or underneath)  I think in each case my end result is better than what I started with.

 The rest of 2002 basically involved new tires, a new top and a whole lot of little stuff.  Hoses/belts, rubber fuel lines, and getting pretty much all of the electrical stuff working.


Spring 2003 –
            I bought a 2 door New Yorker as a parts car.  It had been in an accident in the early 70s and the repairs were never finished.  I suspect they got the new quarter tacked on and realized that the car wasn’t quite square anymore and gave up. 


The convertible seemed to be idling rough, which turned out to be a couple of burnt exhaust valves (one cylinder had no compression) so replaced the heads with a set of freshly rebuilt 452s
Summer 2003 –
            Replaced pretty much the complete braking system including stainless lines.  This went well I took it down off the jackstands and it rolled into the street.   I had left it in neutral, and of course the brakes weren’t bled/adjusted enough to stop the car.  Then realized that in order to install the front lines, I’d removed the battery and tray, so couldn’t move the car until I put those back.  Fortunately it’s a very quiet residential street.  This is probably the dumbest stunt I’ve ever pulled with a car. (
Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Steve on March 26, 2008, 07:52:41 PM
Classic Question
IS IT DONE YET??? ( ( ( (
Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Dan Cluley on March 26, 2008, 07:57:54 PM
What, you want me to ruin the suspense? ( Cluley2008-05-10 06:39:14
Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Dan Cluley on May 10, 2008, 01:37:15 AM
Done yet? 
 I can't even finish a thread, let alone a car. (
Spring of 2005, we installed the hover conversion.
Actually that is my friend John replacing part of the drivers side rear frame rail, and fabricating a new spring mount, so I could replace the sagging old springs.
Chased down most of the leaks, cleaned and painted up the engine and accesories.  Yes, I went back and painted the oil filler cap black.  No, it has never looked that clean since. (
The original manual quarter window regulators were worn and pretty sloppy, so I installed the power ones from the New Yorker. 
Then when I replaced the left front quarter, I drilled the holes for the wiring and added the power window to the drivers door.  I painted it with spray cans in the driveway, but it looks pretty decent from 10' (better than the rest of the car at least)
D Cluley2008-05-10 07:12:32
Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Steve on May 10, 2008, 03:55:12 AM
So what's left and the future plans?
POLARACO2008-05-10 08:57:24
Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Mike on May 10, 2008, 04:52:58 PM
Good Stuff Dan! Keep up the progress.(

Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Dan Cluley on May 11, 2008, 02:25:49 AM
"It's a buck and quarter quarter panel but don't tell him."
Fall 2005, I decided to tear into the right rear quarter, since it was marginally worse than the left one.
Looks like in the '80s they repaired rusting quarters by grinding out the rusted bits, brazing in a flat piece of sheet metal, and applying large amounts of filler to re-shape.
By this point, the metal underneath was rusting again, and causing the bondo to bubble out and crack, and fall off.  What it probably needs is a whole new panel.  What it's getting is another  repair.
This is what I started with.
After attacking it with a wire wheel, to get back to clean metal, I riveted a piece of square stock in to hold everything together, and provide a secure mounting point for the fender skirt.
I then filled in the holes with expanding spray foam, carved to a rough shape, and then applied filler over that.
Realising that my working season was going to end before I completed the project, I sanded the filler roughly to shape and sprayed it red to seal things up untill I get a chance to do the finish work.  I used the trim (aluminum?) from the New Yorker as a starting point to repair the lower quarter panel behind the skirt.
It has been in this half finshed state for 2 years now, and seems to be holding up ok.  Hopefully, I will get this part finished this summer.  Don't hold your breath(
D Cluley2008-05-11 07:31:13
Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Johnny D. on May 11, 2008, 06:23:50 AM
nothing like ingenuity... i like it... good stories make this hobby... this one makes me wanna do some work on the NYer...

Title: Dr Rustbucket...
Post by: Dan Cluley on May 15, 2008, 12:36:30 AM
Somebody forgot to replace the plastic watershield that goes on the back of the door panels at some point.  So, by the time I got the car, the hardboard on the back was seriously warped, and the vinyl on the lower part had come loose, and gotten damaged.(

Replacement panels are obviously available, but would cost close to what I paid for the whole car.(
So, I decided to see how much I could improve what I had.
This is what the back looked like.  Warped, rotted, and crumbling.(
A couple of sheets of posterboard made a good pattern. Then cut and drill a new piece of hardboard.(
The trim pieces are attached with tabs that go through the board and are bent over.   The board itself is attached to the metal at the top with a bunch of little prongs.
I decided that getting them all straightened out, and everything alligned perfectly when pounding the board onto the prongs was asking for trouble.
My solution, was to drill holes into the new board to clean the prongs, and use some hardware to attach the two parts.  On the vinyl side of the panel, are flathead screws, with a couple of layers of duct tape over the heads to provide a smooth surface for the vinyl.  The wood side is just washers, nuts, and locktite.(
Once everything was aligned, I trimmed off the damaged lower vinyl, and replaced it with new vinyl from the fabric store.
Since I wasn't going to be able to exactly match the maroon, I went with a red, that is a pretty close match for the upper part of the panel.  The new piece was attached to the board with a staple gun, and the seam is hidden under the chrome trim strip.(