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08-06-2009 12:13 PM A years worth of catching up
Whoa, I'm really bad about updating journals! Okay, quick rundown...sorry about that.

First, the seatbelts are in now. The kit from Retrobelt USA is awesome. I found a guy at a local body shop who let me bring the car in & worked on it with me so we got to combine his welding skills & my vision for exactly what I wanted. There are 4 shoulder belts now, and they're just as comfortable as a modern car...but look like they belong.

The interior is bare right now. Just the dash, seats, and seatbelts, makes for a kind of loud ride & surprisingly hot with no insulation keeping exhaust heat from below or sun heat from above, but it looks cool & serves me fine since the metal is sealed & I never leave her outside in the weather anyway. Some time down the road I still plan to do the interior, but I'm in no rush.

Mechanically, she's starting to show her age & things start begging for repair from time to time. The power steering hose blew, and I had a heck of a time finding a replacement...finally found that NAPA can custom make hoses for you so I got that taken care of. Then the carb needed a rebuild, I just finished that & she runs so much better now. Still not perfect...I'm having a hard time adjusting it because I don't know exactly what I'm doing with a Rochester 4GC, if anybody out there has some tips for me, please drop me a line. The only issue I still have is that if I mash the throttle from a standing start, she'll bog down & stall on me. Otherwise, runnin' great though.

Current issue is the starter I believe. With the bad carb it was hard starting for a long time & I think I've worn out the solenoid. Now, there's no tellin' whether she'll crank or not when I turn the key. So that's next on my list of things to fix...I hope I can find the parts. Turns out a '55 caddy is kind of hard to find parts for. Who'd have thunk it?

  [Entry #6]

07-02-2008 09:25 PM interior exterior & furniture polish
Well, I suck at this whole journal thing so far...I keep forgetting to update it. I'll be as brief as possible without leaving out any details on whats been happening since my last post.

1st & most importantly, my new seatbelts arrived. WOO-HOO! Top notch product, beautiful chrome buckles & plates, 40 lbs of big ol' beefy bolts, washers, reinforcement plates, & other various mounting hardware, and very detailed instructions. After seeing the actual bits & pieces, I think what I'll be doing for the rear seats is mounting the retractors in the trunk & opening up the rear package tray big enough to pass the remaining hardware & webbing through, then mount the shoulder anchor point to the package tray itself with the supplied reinforcement plates. That'll make for the safest belt, best appearance, and actually not be much more difficult than mounting them to the package tray itself.

My girlfriend & I started stripping the interior, the headliner, roof insulation, door pillars, and trim pieces are all out of there now. I was surprised to find underneath the trim pieces that the "tan" headliner was actually a very nice shade of baby blue to match the original interior...and all soft & fuzzy. I bet it was quite nice 50 years ago. A couple things I learned in doing this:
1) Wear a mask & keep it on, the dust from that insulation is just plain nasty. I sent my girlfriend inside to feed the dogs while I ripped down the thick insulation so her asthma didn't flare up on us.
2) The early version of interior panel clips was some type of ribbed nail like a decking nail only smaller. Imagine my surprise when I pulled the fabric off the B-pillar interior panels to expose screw heads only to find nail heads instead! I got 'em off with a pry-bar that spanned either side of the nail & a very gentle touch so as not to bend the metal I was prying against.
3) old thread is fragile! My girlfriend laid backwards on the dashboard to reinstall the screws for the rearview mirror (gotta love a car big enough that your girlfriend can literally lay down on the dash) and when she sat back up the whole dashpad had split at its seam. Not the end of the world, its a blue dashpad now & we're going to recover it in white anyway.
4) Forget about using the old package tray as a template for a new one...its so brittle there was no way to lift it out of there in 1 piece. It came out in about 30...40 maybe. If I had it to do again, I think I'd score the thing so that it came out in the pieces I wanted it in. I do have 1 good radius intact, so I'll trace that on some butcher paper, measure the length of the shelf & estimate my new template of paper, then lay it down in the car & see how close I come...trim as necessary on the paper, & lay it down on the new backing for the shelf when the time comes. No biggy.

So, everything is ready now for the seatbelts to go in, I pulled the rear seat cushion out to plan where I'll be putting my anchor points, and now I can't get the dang thing back in again...I have no idea how to push it far enough back to get the little hooks back in the holes in the floor. So, I decided while its out I should take advantage of this opportunity & get a new carpet too. I ordered one from Trimparts & holy cow did it ship fast!!! It took like 4 days. I pulled the carpet out & its laying out on the floor right now to regain its shape. The package said 12-24 hrs, I'm at about 24 now & the rear carpet is looking good (trans tunnel raised up into form) but the front carpet is looking a little picasso-esque, so I think I'll give it a little more time to take its shape back. One nice thing about the molded carpets from Trimparts, I was worried about where I'd find the right type of padding to go under the carpet...but its already glued onto the carpet in the original places where it belongs, so thats 1 less hassle to worry about.

Next up, I'll pull the seats & sill plates out, remove the old carpet & padding, clean the mess out of the interior & see what I've got to work with. If I see what I'm expecting, which is a nasty 50 year old floor with maybe some light scaling or at least surface rust...I'll be wire brushing the whole thing & putting down a rust converter followed by some dynamat or some kind of insulation. Then the new carpet (after transferring all the holes for bolts & everything necessary from the old carpet of course) which they said is cut way larger than I need so I'll be able to trim it to fit. This is my first carpet so it might be a pain in the butt...but the instructions are good so I'm optimistic.

Then, I'll install what I can of the seatbelts (everything except the B-pillars which require welding) take it up to the body shop with a nice easy job for the guy to do, and be a step closer to a new interior.

I found some pretty nice seat upholstery kits online for like 300 bucks that have the tuck & roll look I want, a headliner for like $150, and matching pleated vinyl & flat vinyl to stitch my own door panels together with at 20 & 10 bucks per yard respectively. Still haven't decided if I'll be making my own dash pad or find a premade repro somewhere online, and I'm a little clueless about the steering wheel. Its badly cracked & blue/light blue...I want it in good shape & black/white, so hopefully I'll find a good epoxy putty to fill the cracks with or somethin' & then like a plastic dye or really really really durable paint. I dunno, we'll see.

Last, but not least (well, maybe least effort), I had started a thread in the exterior forum asking about ways to make a flat black paint glow nicely without botching it up. I've heard WD40 from some people, but most say that its the worst thing int he world to put on flat paint. So, after discussing it at great length in the forums, I decided to use an alternate suggestion, lemon pledge. It came out looking BEAUTIFUL! Only problem is it takes a lot of finesse to get even coverage & no streaks. That & the fact that when you start putting it on a big ol' '55 cadillac sedan, it takes almost an entire bottle of pledge & like 2 hours of rubbing to do the job. But check out the pics, it came out gorgeous!

(click photo to enlarge)

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  [Entry #5]

06-17-2008 01:40 PM seat belts
Today I took Betty to a body shop I was referred to by a friend of a friend of a hotrodders member who helped get me in touch. He's going to handle the welding for me on my seat belt installation project. I ordered my belts today, the plan is for 4 3 point shoulder belts from Retrobelt USA. I ordered black webbing & chrome aviation style buckles in anticipation of my interior one day being black & white...and they won't look too bad with the blue interior I have now.

Look or my thread in the forum called "seat belt installation" for details, but basically the plan is for the front seats to be a true 3 point with the retractor & anchor at the floor and a shoulder anchor up the B-pillar welded in place on a reinforced plate. The rear seats will be either a true 3 point with the retractor in trunk, shoulder anchor on package tray, and anchor on floor...or a 2 point with retractor on package tray and anchor on floor. Both are safe and the retractor will function correctly according to the manufacturer...but the 3 point installation would obviously be much more secure because of the 3rd mounting point to the frame of the car.

Over the next week, I'll be disassembling & cleaning out the interior so that the body shop has an easier task of welding (saves me some bucks to do the prep work myself) and waiting impatiently for the UPS guy to come with my new belts. Woo-hoo!

Oh, and regarding the pinstriping, I went to every local art supply & hobby store & none of them carry Mack striping brushes, so I'll order one online, pick up some paint & start practicing. I think I'll start off with a 00 sword, the pictures of it just look like thats the profile I'll be most comfortable with. I could be way off though, I've never tried this pinstriping junk before. My doodle stripes are getting better with each one I try though, can't wait to give it a shot with real paint.

(click photo to enlarge)
  [Entry #4]

06-16-2008 12:01 AM To Stripe or not to Stripe
That is the question. Since I saw the ad on craigslist for my Caddy long before I owned her, I've wanted to see some green & white pinstriping on there. Something to tie that obscenely bright green roof in with the flat black body. I planned to just wait until I saw a striper who's work I liked at a local show & hire him to stripe it for me. Tonight while surfing the net I stumbled across an idea I hadn't thought of yet, vinyl decals that look like stripes. Seems like a decent option. We're talkin' 15 or 30 bucks, I know exactly what I'm getting, and its instant gratification. But I dunno, somehow, it just feels dirty.

So, while eating take-out with my girlfriend tonight I showed her some of the designs I found online & wanted her opinion. I explained I hadn't found exactly the design I want yet, so I grabbed a sharpie & started doodling on a to go container to try & show her the kind of stripe I was thinkin' of...and ya know what? I think I might hold off on buying stripes OR hiring someone, and just go buy me a brush & practice doin' it myself on every hard surface in the house until I can call myself a striper. It'll be a lot more fun, a lot more rewarding, and Betty (my Caddy for those who don't know her name already) will be more personal if I do it I'll spend at least the next few weeks practicing & see what I can come up with. Here's a picture of my first ever attempt at striping tonight. I think with some guide lines to keep it symmetric, some practice, and hmm...maybe a brush instead of a sharpie, I may be able to pull this off. It'll be fun tryin' anyway, and I promise not to touch a brush to the sheet metal 'til I'm sure it'll come out decent.

(click photo to enlarge)
  [Entry #3]

06-04-2008 03:17 PM Wow, good start so far
So far so good, for one a project is shaping up to be easier and cheaper than expected. Who'd have thunk it?

First, I emailed the previous owner to ask him more about the primer on the car...wanted to figure out if it was an epoxy based sealer that wouldn't really need to be top coated right away or if I needed to do that immediately. To my surprise, his response was "Its not primer, its actual paint with flattener mixed in. I called it primer because I don't like explaining the difference to people over & over when they're looking at buying the car." So, there's a couple thousand bucks saved...I don't need to send it off to a paint shop!

Next, The interior is shaping up to be a smaller project than I thought. I found a thread in the bulletin board with some good references for vintage looking seat belts and installation tips, so thats a much smaller beast to tackle than I thought it was going to be. I also found a full molded carpet for like $150 on ebay and am hunting down some interior door handles as we speak. Nicki (the girlfriend) emphatically vetoed the house of colors green interior accents I was back to the drawing board on that. I may photoshop it and try to convince her from there, or maybe I'll just do flat black inside as well with pinstripes continued and white tuck & roll upholstery with either a green or black piping. But dammit, if I find offensively bright green fuzzy dice, I'm all over 'em!

So, thats pretty much it. The hardest 2 of my 5 initial goals are shaping up to be no brainers. if only the whole thing could go this smoothly.

  [Entry #2]

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