01 July, 2009

Dawn Patrol

I went up to the garage today. Ended up working for quite a few hours, just as I've done for the past few days straight (which is partially why I haven't been on here updating things). The past few days have involved little else aside from going up to the garage and doing random things, but the work is far from over. Let's see, where to begin?

Regarding the Maxwell, the rear leaf springs finally have primer on them, which is a neat feeling seeing something other than rust on that car. It really brings out some of the lines in it that have been lost over time, so I'm excited to get more rust-free and primed. Speaking of exciting, whilst randomly showing my mother some pieces I've found from that car, I happened to be holding an unknown part directly over the place where it is normally affixed (which, in turn, suddenly made a couple of other unknown fixtures on the transmission make sense). It was one of those "...Oh my God!" moments when a century's old fog lifts and suddenly the machine takes one step closer to life. Otherwise, though, there's little to report on the Maxwell.

Another side project to update is the hard top. Now through grits 3,200, 3,600, and 4,000, I am on to the 6,000 grit sandpaper, which has already made a huge difference over the 4,000---and I'm not even remotely done with it! Over the last two grits I have been amazed at how much clearer the plexiglass got after each upgrade. I can't imagine what it will be like when I'm done with the 12,000, but even if I had to stop here the top would be quite usable.

The soft top is also progressing with each day. In the past few I have started taking the old weatherstripping off of the bare frame, spraying the leftover residue with adhesive remover. Once I did that, I also removed all of the chrome parts and any screws and bolts that I do not want painted. From here I will continue sanding and priming, alternating between the two until the frame is pretty smooth and primed. If I can do this in under a fortnight, that leaves some time for us to paint the frame gloss black before the fabric top is affixed (by someone who knows how to do it professionally). It's interesting: While there are always down times in any car restoration, so much of the build being successful lies in timetables and schedules. As much of a hobby as this is, to some degree one must always be aware of the inevitable passing of time. I've spoken of this regarding knowledge of the Maxwell (just yesterday my mom sighed while looking at that car and said "Your grandpa died too early." How true that is, in a number of ways), but it also applies whenever you get into crunch time like we are for the Corvette.

I realize that we won't have a soft top to take with us on Friday, but it is nice knowing that we will soon have a soft top for it. Through my research, I've found that fewer than 35% of all 1961s had both tops; I like that ours is one of them. Perhaps I have gotten the cart ahead of the horse, though.

On Friday, after nearly four years of planning, and after nearly four years of saying "Next year we'll be there," we're taking the '61 up to the Goodguys car show. Over 3,000 cars will be there (mostly customs and hot rods), but our task is merely making it up there and back. The 40-mile drive will be the car's longest in its newest incarnation, and its longest trek since at least the mid seventies. My dad's been taking the car out on what he calls "Dawn Patrol", on which he drives outside of town and back, putting an average of 20-30 miles on the car. These trips normally take place between 6:30 and 7:00 am, and tomorrow morning I'll try to be up to accompany him (since it will be the last patrol before the journey). That jaunt will serve a couple of purposes, though, since today we managed to fit an air filter on the engine. That, let me tell you, was no easy task.

Due to the engine swapping that we've had to do on this car in the past, coupled with two carbs going bad over the years, the standard air filter would not allow the hood to close, so we've been searching for a custom one for a while. Having no luck anywhere in town, though, today my dad sent me to a tractor place to get a filter that was at least the right width. From here we knew we would have to trim some off of it. Little did I know, though, how much of an ordeal that would be.

Some two hours later, after employing the use of a Dremel tool, a grinder, a die, wire cutters, scissors, an Exacto knife, a board, and the biggest rubber mallet I have ever seen, I had been forced to improvise a few times. After making my initial cuts on the filter, I found that the hood still wouldn't fit, so I continued cutting on it (requiring the use of another tool). When that still didn't fit, I was forced to measure sections of the metal plate on which the filter sits, and I ground the bottom lip away. After another no-go, my dad hammered the raised area on the top plate down, I ground some more, and soon we were ready to try again. As my dad was working on the threaded bolt (that goes into the carb on one end and holds a nut on the other), a washer came out of his hand and dropped straight down the small barrel of the carburetor. We proceeded with incredible caution, then, as I bent a wire and tried to extract the washer. One bump of the throttle, which presently rested right below my wrist, and any hope of making the show would have been gone.

I felt like I was in surgery; my hands stayed steady as the dim light shone down into the barrel, and with each bump of the wire, I waited for the disemboweling sight of the barrel opening and the washer plunging into darkness. After about five minutes with my father cursing the car in the background I managed to get the washer out and put the air filter on. Tightening the nut and putting hand cream on the top plate, I closed the hood completely, then raised it back up. I could not find a trace of cream on the underside of the hood, meaning the grinding and trimming had worked! Now the true test will come on Dawn Patrol tomorrow where we'll find out if the new filter is choking the engine at all. If it is then we'll run without a filter to the show and back, but if it isn't, then we're good to go (although heaven forbid we even THINK about opening the hood, according to my father...).

Well, this post is long enough for now. I'll try to stay updated tomorrow as we really hit crunch time for detailing, then come Saturday (probably) you'll find out whether or not we made it to the show and back. Wish us luck, because Lord knows we'll probably need it with this car!

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