This is the third part of a restoration series that appeared in the NASOC News. Since in the News there is not enough space for each article they are reprinted and greatly expanded here on the web site. They are MY ideas on restoration and not necessarily the clubs. Things and more importantly Products mentioned are not endorsed by NASOC, just by me (Mike Rambour, NASOC President).
Ok, by now I have bored you with the first 2 installments on automotive restoration, now that we have the car and the space along with some tools it is time to start tearing it apart. OOPS STOP! If it is running and driveable, take one last drive in the car and have a friend or spouse drive with you and take notes on squeaks/rattles/knocks/noises, pay particular attention to the steering and brakes, is the steering loose? Are the brakes spongy? Do they pull to one side? Is the rear axle noisy? Does it stay in gear? Shift smoothly? Any odd engine noises? Does the charging system work, is it charging or draining the battery? Ok, by now you are asking why I am bothering to take notes, we are going to take it apart and restore it anyway, well during a restoration you will forget things, you may rebuild everything but it is possible something will look ok to you and yet not be. If you know the rear axle was noisy you will look at every part a little closer than normal. If you know the brakes pulled to the left, you will look at that side a little closer and maybe find the reason. Although when it comes to brakes, I won't put a car together without new cylinders or sleeved cylinders but the brake shoe pivot points could be a little sticky or? By knowing how the car behaved the last time it ran you could spend a little more time on certain parts. Of course if you are like me and the last time the car ran was in the 60's then you just look at everything extra close.
So, lets take it apart! Start by gathering some boxes and designating space for the pieces, I prefer shelves to boxes but that is my preference and some things have to be boxed because of their small size and easy to lose pieces. Locate the car somewhere where you will have plenty of access to the various parts with lots of space on the sides and behind the car. It is usually easier to lift the body backwards from the car so make sure you have space behind the car. Your object of the day is to reduce the car to the minimum number of sub-assemblies possible and put the sub-assemblies aside until you get to work on them. Don’t take the sub-assemblies apart yet, put the motor aside as a unit, put the rear axle aside as a unit, don’t take things apart at this time. When you start the restoration you will work on sub-assemblies and that will be the time to take the motor apart or the rear axle or the steering, etc. Time for today’s fun to begin, its early in the morning you have the car prepped now put the coffee down and start by removing the spare tire(s) and all the parts most likely to be damaged when removing the heavier items. Remove the door handles, the turn signals/brake lights if you car has them, the mirrors and the windshield, take the windshield and its frame and store them under the bed. That’s the safest place for that large piece of glass. Now that all the fragile parts are off, take off the bonnet and store it along with the interior of the car, take off the grill and if it is in decent shape place it under the bed next to the windshield. Next is the radiator, if the hoses are even a little trouble getting off, cut them, you will want new ones anyway. Now start on the fenders (wings) if a bolt is stuck, set a timer for 3 minutes and fight with it, after the timer goes off, cut the bolt and make a note to buy new Stainless Steel BSF bolts when re-assembling. Now that you have the wings off, it’s time to consider if you want to remove the motor/gearbox first or the body first. I took the body off first but with the car at this stage either first is fine, look at it and see which is easier. On a Singer Le Mans and 4AD, 8 bolts to the frame hold on the body, these are usually rusty and I try to remove them but if they give me any problems, I cut them off. On Singer’s you need to figure out how to hold the steering wheel up since it bolts to the firewall yet its too hard at this time to remove the steering assembly, it can be done but it is time consuming with all the parts in the way. I just prop it up on a block of wood. Undo as many electrical wires as possible making written notes as you remove them and look around for anything that will grab the body half way up and make life difficult. Now call the neighbors kids and lift the body off, it’s actually pretty light just cumbersome. I do it with an engine hoist and a sling that I made to hold the body on 2x4 lumber. Prop the body on sawhorses in the back corner of the garage out of the way. Go back and undo the driveshaft and remove the motor/gearbox. Ok, now remove the steering assembly at the front hub, pop off the outermost ball joint and undo the steering box at the frame, now move the entire assembly out of the way. Cut the brake lines and remove the front axle (on Le Mans) or front suspension (on 4AD). Remove the rear axle with the wheels/tires as a sub-assembly and move the frame back into the garage where you will work on it. Voila, you took it apart in one day and have all your sub-assembly strewn all over the driveway. Move them to their appropriate safe places, remove any items left on the frame and you are ready to start cleaning it.
One note about cutting things that you need to consider. I tend to not fight things unless they can’t be replaced, by the time you break free that rusty bolt, you will have messed up the head or threads or who knows what, bolts are easily available so don’t fight with them. Another benefit of that, is that I use Stainless BSF bolts for underneath the car they are a pleasure to deal with a few years later. However, there are some things that are not available so don’t go cutting just everything without thinking. On the brake lines, you probably don’t want to reassemble the car with the old lines anyway but just in case check that new ones are available for your model prior to cutting them off. Last item is make sure you have 3/16” or ¼” letter punches, all you need is 3 of them, the letters, “L”, “R”, “F” don’t use a center punch on parts to make a bunch of tiny dimples to mark parts where they go. Use the letter punches for Left, Front, Right/Rear, I have seen parts with as many as 9 dimples in them to mark them, its ugly, do it right.Next time we start what my daughter calls the FUN PART! Warning, you took it apart in one day, the reassembly will take much longer.