THE RESTORATION PROCESS
Evaluation: Alan Auto can of course
bring any vehicle back to viability; but in some cases this might not be
practical . So before any work starts candidates for restoration get a thorough
evaluation of mechanical and physical condition. The cost of this service is
only $110 and is called a
VMA (Vehicle Maintenance Evaluation).
Disassembly: Because most restorations we undertake have already had some restorative work done; and because most of this work has not held up; we believe that to do a lasting job the mechanicals should be removed from the vehicle before it can be effectively reprocessed. After removal all components are labeled and stored in a dedicated space separated from the processing area.
Diagnosis: Next the "shell" is attached to the rotisserie. This strange contraption is one of the most serious components of our restoration arsenal. It enables us to do a far better job in less that half the time than otherwise. The entire vehicle is suspended at working height, is portable, and can be rotated and locked into any position. So the usually difficult and time consuming operations like floor repair and sandblasting become much easier. Now the entire sheet metal surface can be examined; areas which require repair can be mapped out; and a work plan can be established. Over the years we've tried all the other restoration methods and come to the conclusion that our current practice is, in spite of its seeming extreme, actually most cost effective.
Rust Repair: This awful oxymoron needs to be driven to extinction here and now. To give your beauty the best chance of longevity as much rust as possible must be eliminated. We will either replace, or where the rusting has not deeply eroded the surface, sandblast the entire sheet metal surface. . . inside and out. . . . bottom to top. Of course this process is so easily accomplished once the mechanicals have been removed and the shell is on the rotisserie. Where possible panels are removed and replaced at factory seams by cutting and replacing spot welds. We use the most sophisticated spot weld technology available. Although rare in most auto body shops this unbeatable technology (when used with weld-thru primer) is superior in many ways. When available we prefer to use original equipment replacement panels (fenders, nose panels, etc.) Regrettably fewer and fewer of these are available as time passes. So to be able to continue to produce an excellent finished product we have established a metal shop . Using an English wheel, forming stakes, shot bag, box break, bead roller and other specialized metal forming tools enables us to create any part which may need replacement. In some applications we also mig or tig weld in patch panels where spot welding is not appropriate.
Rust Prevention: Along the way on the evolution of the automobile chassis there have been some major boners particularly after vehicle weight savings became a design factor. Lighter necessitates thinner and thinner rusts quicker. Worse yet, as unibody construction became deriguere enclosed box frame sections (a.k.a. rust traps) was the best technology had to offer. So some of the most exciting and interesting cars ever made were produced by the most rust promoting technology. To counter this we open up floor panels above boxed frame rails (which aren't being replaced ), sand blast inside the sections, prime with weld-thru primer, and spray with wax-based rust inhibiter (Cosmoline) after reconstruction is finished. Of course all new sections we install receive the same treatment. Historically (and still in new auto construction) the lap seam where panels are joined by spot welding has had to be perfectly clean, free of any coating even paint, to enable the welding process, which requires electrical continuity across the pieces being welded, to work. So in a car build of steel panels there is roughly one quarter mile of totally bare metal sandwiched into the seams just waiting to be exposed to oxygen to turn back to ferric oxide (rust). Yes, rust truly "never sleeps".
Seam Sealing: Inevitably the corrosion process gets its first footholds in these rust havens, spot welded seams. We follow conventional manufacturing technique for slowing this down by to first applying seam sealer to all exposed seams. This product has been gradually improved over time and is now (in the higher quality version which we use) urethane based and air pressure applied. But we go further than manufacturers in that we have already primed in between the seams before the application of seam sealer thus doubling the protection from rust in these areas, the most vulnerable parts of the car's body.
Waterproofing: Any welded outside body seams, such as those where the Volvo 1800 fenders attach to the nose, are, after having been welded, covered with fiberglass to eliminate any water bleed thru.
Filling: On parts of the car which show after stretching, shrinking, hammer-and-dollying, metal filing, and other techniques have been used to render the surfaces as close to original contours as possible catalyzed plastic filler is used to smooth out minor (one-eighth or less) imperfections.
Priming: The fact that the only thing between your car's several hundred square feet of raw steel and the elements waiting to turn it back into dirt is a micro-thin layer of paint makes paint's job very important. However not all paints are created equal. We use what we feel are the very best coatings money can buy. The first layer over the raw sand blasted steel is catalyzed polyester self-etching primer. Sand blasting, by the way, dramatically increases surface area (and potential for adhesion). The self-etching primer then "locks on" to the substrate, the car body, and also provides excellent adhesion for the next layer, another specialized product, sanding primer.
It is in this phase that all the minute (1/16" and smaller) imperfections are sanded out as successively finer grits of abrasive are used ending in 320 before the final priming and then color painting is done.
Fitting: After final priming and before painting every piece which was removed from the car must be processed in some fashion: cleaned, plated, replaced, etc. and refitted. Parts which may have been acceptable on your car in its previous condition may no longer be okay. That little ding in the grille which was barely noticeable before may now stick out like a sore thumb . New body panels which do not come with mounting holes for lights or trim will all have to be drilled. This, and all other guidelines I've discussed herein, we've learned the hard way .
Cleaning: Since the final paint is only a reflection of the condition of the surface being painted we attempt to remove any residual blast media, dust, finger prints, etc. by vacuuming, solvent cleaning, and compressed air blowing. Even our compressed air goes thru multiple filters, driers, and oil separators before we clean your car with it.
Masking: Every part of your car which is not to receive final paint is covered with masking paper.
Subassemblies: Typically suspension assemblies are either broken down into individual pieces or kept as a complete unit and sandblasted and painted with specialized paint like Hammerite. On high-end work (museum pieces and trailer-queens) individual engine bay parts are processed separately to bring each back to the original look. That factory original look can then be achieved with reproduction decals and plating .
Painting: The chemical composition of paint has changed dramatically over the years. Modern paint, base- coat/clear-coat urethanes will out perform any paints made in the past. We have chosen the Dupont system for a number of reasons such as technical support and durability. When today's paints are used as a system, i.e. all the steps in the process utilize paint products from the same family of paints, the layers chemically interlock to form a durable and long-lasting protective coating for the substrate , your cars body. Since all the mechanical components have been removed from the car before paint is applied the entire "shell" is painted, just like at the factory. We paint the engine bay, inside the door jambs, the floors inside and out, inside the fenders, everywhere. Because access to some areas of the car is difficulty we use a variety of methods such as the rotisserie to paint hard to reach parts.
Finishing: To achieve a more finished look the inevitable "orange peel" and dust particles in the paint surface can be eliminated by the wet sanding and buffing process. This renders the painted surface flatter than the applied paint can be gotten naturally and enhances the final product.
Reassembly: Next everything which came off the vehicle needs to be reattached. Each part , even each fastener, needs to be considered for condition . Here the level of restoration from functional to museum quality is determined more than at any other point in the process. The "Devil" is truly in the details. Trim can be polished or re-plated. Original fasteners can be re-plated or replaced (we prefer stainless steel). The condition of all rubber and fabric door and window trim needs to be considered and replaced if desired. This is the time to replace any pitted glass. The fuel tank should be reconditioned in any vehicle more than 15 years old. Engine compartment components having already been removed can be cleaned or detailed to like new . If the suspension components have been disassembled prior to painting this is the appropriate time to replace bushings. Carpet and other interior trim should be an minimum cleaned and refurbished or replaced if desired. Seats can be reconditioned , re-sprayed, or replaced. All steel brake and fuel lines need to be at minimum de-rusted for future functionality. We prefer to, if possible, use original lines; getting correct bends in replaced lines is difficult. For this reason we sand-blast and repaint original lines were practical. Rubber brake flex lines may look fine on the surface but may be collapsed internally causing brakes not to return (i.e. stick on). This can best be determined after the brake system is serviced. If this is the case these lines should be replaced. We have a full mechanical shop which handles all mechanical reassembly and repair. Any poorly functioning electrical components can be best done at this point. At minimum new brushes should be installed in alternators and generators to give them another 100k miles of service life. Typically brake rotors are at least turn. calipers serviced (or wheel cylinder rubbers replaced) , and pads or shoes replaced. And of course new (low moisture absorbing) brake fluid is added This is also the time to sand blast and paint wheels for function (so the tires don't loose air at the wheel bead) and for looks .If tires need upgrading now's the time. Next the front end gets aligned and air conditioning gets recharged. The cooling system is pressure checked for leaks, the radiator is checked for plugged or leaking condition and reconditioned as necessary and any leaking cooling system components are repaired or replaced. Unfortunately so many "cosmetic" restorations give too little heed to the all important mechanical aspects of the car like the above. We hope that your restored vehicle starts, runs, handles, and stops as well as it looks like it should.