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fordrodsteven
09-29-2016, 08:50 PM
I started this same thread on another web site. When I signed up for this site I was invited to share my "story" here. It is a looong story and I calculate it will be a couple years from now (now = end of 2016) before I get this car done. Hope to be driving by spring of 2019. So, here goes!
I bought the car in the fall of 1975 (41 years ago) It was a running, driving car when I bought it. It had been converted to 12V and had a 289 - three speed manual in it. The exterior was and still is) primer gray. The interior consisted of a seat and a dashboard. No door panels, kick panels or carpeting. the soft top was in tatters and the fiberglass hardtop was repaired where it had cracked. The floors were rusted and patched with small pieces of metal tack welded in. When I drove through a rain puddle my legs were getting wet. The glass in the doors was cracked / broken. Probably because the 6V motors raised the windows up really fast and jammed them into the hard top.

I'm a pretty good mechanic and can fix most anything. I took a night course in auto body repair with plans to repair and paint the car. I planned on doing a frame on restoration. I pulled the engine and traded for a 292 automatic. I bought a set of windows for the doors. I bought the few pieces of chrome trim that were missing from the car. Then job, home ownership and family took over all my time.
I met a guy who was the president of the local area T-bird club and very much into the "little" birds. After much discussion I was convinced to stay with the resto-mod that had been started before I bought the car. A lot happened in the next 35 or so years. I got a job transfer to CA and took the car from MA to CA with no engine/trans in it. I then moved to SC and brought the car with me (still no engine/trans) In SC I finally figured out why I had to keep adjusting the doors to make them open / close properly. The bottoms of the door posts were rusted and the braces under the floor were gone. I bought a welder and repaired the door posts. I fabricated floor braces and put them in. I fabricated panels for the floors and both sides (inside) the trunk. I started working on the body (sanding and priming). I bought a non-running '81 Thunderbird. I stripped the '81 completely. I began putting in the wiring harnesses from the 81 Bird. I modified and installed the tilt steering column from the '81 into my '55. I put the 302 automatic into my car. I fabricated a bracket for the AC compressor so it would fit under my hood. I modified the power steering pump bracket so it would fit between the frame rails. I also fabricated a new cross-member piece for the rear of the transmission. It was at this point I moved from SC back to MA. Unfortunately I had no place to keep the car and I left it at my sister's house, under a tarp for a year. The elements were not nice to my car! The car was then inside my dark damp falling down garage for ten years. So here we are now. I retired in the spring of 2014. I built a new garage in 2015. This year I installed a two post lift and I bought a rotisserie. I began meeting up with the guys who are club members of CTONE (Classic Thunderbirds of New England). The car was originally white with a black and white interior. I plan to bring it back to that color scheme but probably not "snowshoe" white. I have many ideas of possible changes but mainly I want to make it a safe driver and finally enjoy it after these 41 or so years.
Hope I haven't bored you guys! There will be more to come. Now I just need to learn how to add pics to this thread.

simplyconnected
09-30-2016, 07:28 AM
I think you're smart for using a SBF engine instead of a Y-Block because there is a lot less maintenance, the newer engines were made for today's liquids and parts are everywhere.

YellowRose
09-30-2016, 07:51 AM
Steve, thank you for posting your account on your '55 Tbird! It was an interesting read for sure. Since you are a Paid Member, you can post pix by going down below the box you were typing in and you will find the Additional Options section that you, as a Paid Member, should see. There you will find the Manage Attachments section. Click on it and it will allow you to upload your pix directly onto our server. You MUST set them to no bigger size than 800x600pixels. There is info in our PC Help Desk Form on how to do that, or send them to me, or jopizz and we can downsize them for you and send them back to you to upload. Or we can upload them for you. You should be able to go into your big post and add pix there. Or you can start a new post in that thread and put the pix there. If you have problems, call me.

Joe Johnston
09-30-2016, 09:06 AM
You have done a lot and now you have a place to work and a plan of attack. I also know how "life" has a priority and stonewalls a project car. I lost interest in my 57 and it sat basically untouched for 17 years. Fortunately I had dry climate controlled storage and eventually I picked up right where I left off. Enjoy your project!

fordrodsteven
09-30-2016, 10:26 PM
I saw a friends '56 where he put in a '57 dash. He said it's a direct bolt-in. I've been toying with the idea of installing the dash from the '81 into mine.

scumdog
10-01-2016, 06:52 PM
I saw a friends '56 where he put in a '57 dash. He said it's a direct bolt-in. I've been toying with the idea of installing the dash from the '81 into mine.

I guess THAT swap won't be a 'direct bolt-in'!!

fordrodsteven
10-02-2016, 12:47 PM
I guess THAT swap won't be a 'direct bolt-in'!!

No. It definitely wouldn't be. Although it would match up much easier to the wiring that I have in the car (from the '81). I had to cut the ends a little bit but I have it sort of just hanging in the spot where it would end up. The reason I'm considering it is for the AC vents "in the dash". I would probably also custom make some thing to go in the speedometer opening incorporating a full set of gauges. I don't like the gauge or AC vent units that hang down below the dash and thought that this approach could work. I would also make it so the "original" dash could be put right back in. Like I said I'm toying with the idea. The '81 dash is really a little too much plastic (not very close at all to period correct).
Another idea I had was to send the original speedometer pod to Bob;s Speedometer and have them put in gauges where the OIL and GEN idiot lights are located. That would leave me with needing to figure out where to put AC vents. I'm just kind of brain storming for now. (possibly brain farting). That stuff is really a long way off.
I think I need to first get my bumpers re-assembled, fitted, aligned and straightened then get them out to chrome plate.

fordrodsteven
10-03-2016, 08:37 PM
Here's a couple of pics of what the interior looked like when I bought the car.

Joe Johnston
10-04-2016, 08:52 AM
A member on one of the forums showed pictures of the AC vent unit he made. I think he salvaged some narrow vertical vents but used them horizontally in a long thin box he built that went across the bottom of the dash. Painted to match the interior and looked very nice without hanging down in the way. Digital dash panels are available for 57's, not sure about 55 & 56's but should be a do-able project.

fordrodsteven
10-04-2016, 11:02 AM
Thank you Joe. I think I saw something on "Second Chance Garage" web site. They did a whole series on a '55 resto-mod. Maybe I'll revisit the article and look at it again.

fordrodsteven
11-27-2016, 05:10 PM
I have been going out to the garage for short times when the temperature gets to be over 50 degrees. That won't happening for much longer. Anyway, I have been scraping the paint and bondo off the car one section at a time. So far I have done both side rear quarters and the doors. I am getting off four or five layers of paint & bondo. I have been getting down to the original snowshoe white color. I have a question.... I have been finding a layer under the white finish that appears to be a "skim coat"? Is that how it was done at the factory? In the spots where I went to bare metal I am not finding a primer (unless it was white). It seems to have this thicker skim coat applied directly to the metal and then a thin layer of what looked to be the original paint. Is that how they were done? I tried to resize my pics but they are still too large (277KB) to put on the web site (145KB limit)

fordrodsteven
11-28-2016, 11:06 AM
I took a closer look at what I am finding. I carefully cleared away material until I got down to metal. I have a brownish / black layer at the metal and then what looks almost like a "skim" coat then white finish (smooth / shiny) paint. I am going to the local "old Birds" brunch tomorrow and I will be talking with guys who have done a few restorations.

jopizz
11-28-2016, 11:29 AM
You may want to send a PM to Dave Dare (simplyconnected) in case he doesn't see your post. He might have some info on how the bodies were prepped before painting.

John

Yadkin
11-28-2016, 03:16 PM
Not sure how the factory did it back then and the resto process went through many different methods over the years. Lacquer primer, Bondo, etc. The modern way, at least according to my body man, is that the old paint gets sanded off with 150 grit and don't let the steel get hot and warp. Then repairs as necessary. Then uses a two-part epoxy primer followed by a light skim coat of polyester filler and block sand, block sand, block sand, block sand.

fordrodsteven
11-28-2016, 03:35 PM
Not sure how the factory did it back then and the resto process went through many different methods over the years. Lacquer primer, Bondo, etc. The modern way, at least according to my body man, is that the old paint gets sanded off with 150 grit and don't let the steel get hot and warp. Then repairs as necessary. Then uses a two-part epoxy primer followed by a light skim coat of polyester filler and block sand, block sand, block sand, block sand.

Thank you! What about any treatment of the metal to protect it? Is the epoxy primer the thing that does the trick?

Yadkin
11-28-2016, 04:04 PM
Thank you! What about any treatment of the metal to protect it? Is the epoxy primer the thing that does the trick?I'm not sure, and I know that I've left out several steps. I just wanted you to know that methods have changed, so looking through old layers may be interesting from a historical perspective, but not much help on how to go about it today. Also, chemical compatibility between steps is very important.

fordrodsteven
11-28-2016, 04:11 PM
I'm not sure, and I know that I've left out several steps. I just wanted you to know that methods have changed, so looking through old layers may be interesting from a historical perspective, but not much help on how to go about it today. Also, chemical compatibility between steps is very important.

Yes I agree. That is my plan. I thought about buying rust retarding materials from Eastwood but then I worry about compatibility. I might just go to the local Auto body supply company and work with their recommendations. That way If I have any questions I can do show and tell with them. I still have some work to do replacing rusted out areas. I will have to get something to put on the metal to stop surface rusting. Of course I will have to wait until it warms up enough because my garage is not heated.

simplyconnected
11-28-2016, 07:18 PM
'Body Shop' metal is filthy, with draw compound oil, hand prints, weld flash, etc.

Ford cars are treated with phosphate to etch and clean steel frames and body assemblies. Phosphate also leaves a black-ish film which protects it for a short time (especially here in the rust belt). Because of the phosphate process Ford never paints on bare steel because paint is porous. That's why some aftermarket paint jobs rust sooner. Ford then used a red (almost rust color) primer before the top coat. Our ovens are set to 250F. That is far too hot for any plastic, vinyl or soft materials but it does a great job of curing paint in a hurry.

As soon as the car comes out of 'Paint' it goes to 'Trim' for wire harnesses, headliners, glass, carpeting, moldings & windlace. Trim also inserts the dash and console, lights, connects wiring and troubleshoots any faulty electrical. Then, on to 'Chassis' where the engine and trans are assembled to the rear axle. The Final Line decks the body onto the chassis, installs the front suspension and brake assemblies, steering wheel and tie rods, exhaust system, fuel tank, fuel and brake lines, radiators, wheels, seats, tires, battery and fills all the liquids.
The 'Drive-away Garage" adjusts suspension with the steering wheel, aims headlights, runs the driveline to 60-MPH, leak tests all the interior and repairs any damage (especially to the paint). At the back door, a Security Guard weighs each wheel and he checks the options against the build sheet. If ok, he slaps the window sticker on then Ford hands the car over to the transportation company who then assumes all responsibility for the car including damage or lost parts until it safely arrives at the dealership.

I skimmed over many subassembly lines like 'Dashboard Build', engine and trans build, tire and wheel combinations, axle build (with different springs and ratios), seat build combinations, etc. Everything must meet the Build Sheet spec's. - Dave

fordrodsteven
11-28-2016, 07:41 PM
Thank you. The phosphate is what I am seeing and questioning. You have helped me greatly!

fordrodsteven
06-11-2017, 08:07 PM
I have been working on the car a little whenever I get a chance. Along with a few other projects. Any way I have been chemically stripping the paint to get to bare metal then shooting a primer to help stop from forming any rust until I get further along. The car is half done. I also found a couple spots rusted through on the frame so I have purchased a nice '56 frame to replace my rusted '55 frame. I don't have the pictures of the frames at this time I will post them later.
The front bumper is on the car because I have to straighten it on the drivers side corner.