1937 Buick Special Business Coupe: A Restoration Journal — Part 16
By Chris Ritter
When I wrapped up my last journal entry I still had to paint my fenders, cabin vent and hinges. So, during the last few weeks I did just that, and finished spraying final color on everything that will be blue. I completed the color application just before the weather turned too cold so I was very pleased that I was able to complete the project this season.
Newly painted sheet metal on display.
My fenders originally left the Buick factory painted the same blue as the body and the underside was bare metal. Since I will be driving my car regularly I sprayed the underside of my fenders with 3M's Rocker Schutz undercoating. This somewhat flexible coating will repel dirt buildup and, most importantly, it will protect the metal from stones, gravel and just about anything else my tires will pick up as I'm logging thousands of miles across America. I initially had also planned on painting the underside of the fenders black so I could save my expensive blue paint for the rest of the car. As it turned out, however, I have more than a gallon of blue paint remaining so I went ahead and sprayed my fender undersides blue.
With blue undersides, I flipped the fenders over and began the long process of wet sanding my 2K primer with 320-grit sandpaper. You may recall that one of my favorite features on the '37 Buick are those big pontoon fenders up front. While they may look nice they have a deceptively large amount of surface area, they are tough for one man to move and there are areas (especially where the fenders meet the body) where attachment brackets lay hidden and jump out and bite your hand while sanding! As with everything, patience is the key along with fresh paper and lots of soapy water. I spent about 90 minutes wet sanding each front fender and when I was finished the surface was smooth as a baby's bottom â€“ an ideal platform for fresh paint. My rear fenders are much smaller so they didn't require nearly as much prep time as the front pair.
A front fender.
The actual painting of the fenders was fairly straight forward. Rear fenders were spread across tables and raised with blocks so no wet surfaces touched the table. The front fenders were slightly tricky just because they are so heavy and large in size. I had to rest each of the front fenders over a sawhorse to ensure that no portion of the fender was touching the ground. It didn't create a whole lot of space for me to work around but I was happy with the final results. There were no runs and the orange peel that haunted me at the beginning of the paint project was kept to a minimum.
With my fenders painted blue, my attention turned to the front grille bracket and nose. This is the piece that holds the actual grille pieces, hood ornament and headlight mounts. It is particularly tricky to clean and paint because it doesn't break down into multiple pieces. I first sprayed the piece from the back and came back a day later to spray the front. There is some angle iron in the support structure so I had to shoot from multiple angles to get full coverage. This isn't easy getting your paint gun, hose and regulator into tight places without touching wet paint!
The front grille section. Notice the orange peel at the very front — this will be color sanded and buffed in the spring before assembly.
When the front grille section was finished I was on cloud nine when I realized I had everything in color! I did it and I did it with warm weather to spare!! If I could insert audio here that sounded like a record player needle scratching a record I would. Unfortunately I would soon discover, there were still more pieces that need blue paint. These pieces were hidden in bags with other parts of the project and included the cabin vent, window drip molding and door hinges. Sure it wasn't a lot of material but it was a little punch to the gut going from "finished" to "just a little more to go" again. Things turned out just fine and within a week I had found the time to strip, prime, wet sand and paint everything. By the end of October I was finally finished spraying color!
A look at my cabin vent.
Rear fender with cabin vent.
I should note here that in early October I switched from "medium" reducer to "fast". Medium is good between 70-85 degrees whereas the fast reducer can be sprayed in air temperatures as low as 50 degrees. Depending on who you talk to you can even spray it in colder temperatures — luckily I didn't need to find out!
So, with all of my sheet metal painted blue before cold weather rolls in I guess it is time to take the winter off, right?? No way, it is time to color sand and buff the car body!! You see, temperature is still a factor for me because I want to get all of my glass back in the body. The warmer the temperature, the easier it will be for the flexibility of the rubber gaskets.
I've had some experience installing window gaskets on the Buick before. You see, before I decided to paint the car I thought I could just spruce her up a bit.
New gaskets that weren't cracked or leaking were ordered and my father and I removed the old gaskets. Removal is easy because all you need is a razor blade. The installation isn't necessarily difficult but it does require some patience.
New window glass and gaskets!
To install these gaskets you need one guy on the inside of the car who slides the glass panel into the inner channel then inserts a wet, soapy 1/4" rope in the outer channel. As the man on the inside of the car pushes the glass against the window opening, the guy on the outside (my dad) pulls on the rope. This pulling motion makes the lip of the gasket extend outward and around the window channel of the body.
This sounds simple, right? Well it is, but, when rookie glass installers do it there is some yanking, pushing and an occasional swear word. There could even be some "Dad, take it easy" or "Christopher I have to pull this hard". There might be some cracked glass or maybe even some ripped gaskets! At around $100 for each window gasket or over $300 for new glass panels it is something you don't want to experience. Of course those scenarios are for rookies not experienced guys like me and my dad (wink).
Somehow I found myself in the position of ordering new glass and gaskets earlier this Fall. The window gaskets are one-piece units from Steele Rubber and readily available. You can buy the gasket material by the foot for much less money than a one-piece unit but then you have to worry about that seam and the trick of holding the gasket onto the window. The one-piece units are extremely convenient.
Regarding my new glass, I didn't have to replace all of my panels but I decided to anyway since a couple of them were showing signs of delamination at the edges. I would have hated to have them fully delaminate a year or two down the road. It will be much easier to install the glass now when everything is stripped off of my car. I shopped local for glass and had the local glass company in Hershey cut me new panels. This took about two weeks for them to order the glass, cut it and polish the edges. All of my glass will now be perfect and, most importantly, be 100% safe.
Stepping away from paint, glass and sheet metal completely it is time for me to update you on the status of my engine. In my last post I told you that I dropped the cylinder block off for work at a machine shop that is relatively new to me. My standby shop full of old-timers had closed its doors and sold their equipment to the "new" shop, Wenger's of Myerstown. Wenger's has been in business since 1946 but their specialty has always been tractors. My block needed only basic work so I dropped it off and a month later got the call that it was finished.
While at Wenger's, the block was cleaned in the hot tank then magnafluxed and inspected for cracks. Finding no issues, each cylinder was then bored +.030" and new freeze plugs and cam bearings were installed. When I went to pick up my block the first words out of my mouth were "It's so clean!!!" The block I took to them was rusty, oily and full of sludge. The block I got back was beautiful bare cast iron.
The engine block back from the machine shop.
Backside of the engine all cleaned up.
Cylinders freshly bored to +.030”.
While the bare cast iron looked great there were a couple areas were surface rust was already forming so I knew something had to be done relatively quickly. Within two days of getting the block home I scrubbed all of the surfaces with a wire brush, then washed it down twice with lacquer thinner to remove dust and any residual oil. After that I sprayed the block with a light/medium coat of Marhyde Etch Primer to protect the surface from rusting. After I reassemble the engine I will clean and scuff the block again then shoot more etch prime followed by engine enamel purchased through Bill Hirsch.
Cylinder block in etch prime.
Cylinder block in etch prime.
Since it looks like engine reassembly is truly right around the corner I called Terrill Machine in Texas, bit the bullet, and bought new rod and main bearing sets. The rods are .020 and the mains are +.010". After I finish installing window gaskets I will get the torque wrench out and tackle the engine. In the meantime I still need to send my radiator out for cleaning and make a dreaded trip to Librandi Plating to get an estimate on all of my chrome. (Gulp)
These are the new rod and main bearings.