Jump to content

1969 GS 400 Convertible


Recommended Posts

This is my first posting for my GS on this Forum. I purchased it in late summer 2003. I never posted about it before because I could never make up my mind what to do with the car. To shorten this post, let me sum up the picture for you: I knew the car existed but had not seen it for close to 10 years. I really wasn’t looking for another car at the time but one day I made a contact that resulted in going to look at it. It appeared to be a low milage car with less than 28000 on the odometer. One of the two partners claimed to be the nephew of the original and second owners. It was mostly complete, but it was not at all what I would have bought had there been other choices.

There were several problems that made me want to walk away. First, although the milage was low, there was that nagging feeling that something wasn't right. The drivers side of the brake pedal was worn. I always understood that to mean the milage was high. Then there was the body damage. Every panel on the car had some damage except the drivers door and trunk lid. There was the after market single exhaust, the burnt up A/C clutch, no power brakes, and a torn bench seat. It also has a cigarette hole in the roof and other evidence of cigarette burns inside. Add to that the total lack of documentation for the milage, the now single and very banged up exhaust, lack of the Protect-o plate, and I was a bit scared that I would never get my money back if I bought this car.

But it is a relatively rare car, with 1200 made, and it was a nice color combo, and I always wanted one since graduating High School in 69. Still, I was ready to walk away when Redwind89 goaded me into jumping in with both feet by telling me what I wanted to believe... It's a 69, A GS400, Convertible, Red, 340 HP!!! And, you know you want it! I did get it for a very reasonable price.

So, here it is. And now what? A car like this in all reality should be properly restored. But why buy a 27K car that needs total restoration? The retirement fund I do have could not be blown on a car, not any car. Besides it’s probably not enough to do the car right and complete either. So, I decided I would undertake some refurbishment of a few things and then drive the car for a while so I could make up my mind.

Well over the last 8 years I have added about 18,000 miles to this car. Along the way I have repaired, refurbished and replaced some of the damaged parts so I could drive the car. I want the car to look stock, with just a few mild modifications to facilitate ease of maintenance and improve long range driveability. I definitely will not break open my piggy bank. But each year I try to do something else to make the car more presentable. This has lead to doing some refurbishment in what I would describe as user level repairs. Meaning it looks alright to me, and is standing up to the wear and tear as the car is used. I know I will probably never sell the car, and even if I do I would not hide what I did to any purchaser. The car is what it is. I hope my story encourages others who find themselves in similar circumstances to undertake seemingly impossible tasks without breaking their bank either.

The Pics below are from a few days after dragging it home. It ran, but had broken brake lines so it had to be trailered home.

post-31834-143138778402_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138778405_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138778407_thumb.jpg

post-31834-14313877841_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138778412_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138778415_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

The car was owned by two partners when I looked at it. I knew one of them, who said he had not seen the car for several years. He was ready to sell. The other partner, who was the reputed nephew of the original owner had the car. This fellow was not so inclined to let the GS go. But he agreed to show me the car at his partner’s request. As we looked the car over and the damages began to sink in the nephew told me the following tale.

The GS was originally purchased by his wife’s Uncle, at a Bronx NY Dealership ( a fact later borne out by the build sheet we found). Uncle #1 was “eccentric”! Virtually all the damage was inflicted while he owned the car. Besides the body damage all around, he had installed a Police Spotlight through the Drivers side A pillar and stainless trim and a Jaguar hood ornament by drilling two holes trough the hood directly between the ram air hood scoops. Both the front and rear bumpers were damaged because this Uncle parked by the sense of feel. Interestingly the Uncle did order the GS. But what a combo. Factory A/C, remote drivers mirror, and an AM radio. Otherwise the car had non power brakes, bench seat, steel wheels with the full disc wheel covers. And no other power accessories. Since I grew up in the general vicinity of the Bronx, know that the general trend of the time was “More Power”. Get the biggest engine you could get. Of course, in the Bronx you had to beat everyone else to the next stop light so I figured the impetus for the GS was simply the 400 engine in an A body.

Anyway, over the first Uncles remaining life span he proceeded to damage every panel on the car, except the trunk lid and drivers door. Most damage appeared to be side swipes except for the rear drivers quarter which had a major dent from just before the wheel opening to the rear bumper. The Nephew had already removed the offending spotlight and Jaguar hood ornament but he didn’t close the holes. There was rust behind each rear wheel and on the bottom of the drivers front fender. But a close inspection of the undercarriage sold me on the car. There were no visible holes in the floor and only surface rust on the frame. The floor pans were still factory black and the tranny cross member was not rotted.

As the story continued, after the 2nd Uncle inherited the car, it became a virtual shut in. It was hardly used for a few years till Uncle #2 had to go to a nursing home. At that point the niece was contacted and given the first option of purchase before the nursing home got it. This fellow wanted it bad, but needed a partner to make the deal. The car was bought with the provision that possession would be swapped between partners each year, so they could both enjoy it. However, for the previous six years the car sat in the Nephew’s garage while financially things got tight for him. Although he agreed to send me all this in writing, I've never heard from him again.

Besides the torn and broken vinyl in the drivers seat, the interior was musty with light color mildew all over. And there was the rusted fuel line and the incorrect exhaust and a dead battery. The radiator had an obvious leak, and the engine was sporting a continuous coat of rust over it’s surface. The clutch for the A/C Compressor had caught fire but the system was still intact. And the frame for the roof had an obvious sag over the drivers door. Subsequently we learned that although it was parked in the garage, the vent for the clothes dryer was directly in front of the Buick, blowing all that moisture and lint right into and around the car for the entire time.

Miraculously, the chrome was not pitted, and all the special trim was still there. All that was left was transporting it home.

Link to post
Share on other sites

John, quite the story, I'm glad that you got the car, sounds like it made it to a good home!

My wife has a '68 Wildcat convert, and it has a similar sad story. My goal with that car is similar to yours, ie., make it into a decent driver, with doing the work myself. I am a competent mechanic, and have good welding skills, so I feel I can make it a good looking car with doing the vast majority of the work myself. This is not a common car, but not a really rare one either, so I don't think that it is worth spending a huge amount on, if we wanted a a top concours type of Wildcat, much better ones could be found to start from.

When we got it, it had the wrong seats, a 455 (430 is correct) that hadn't run in about 25 yrs, the passenger and trunk floor had been patched with sheet metal screws and roofing tar. The left rear quarter had been hit, repaired poorly, and was now rusted.

Other than the incorrect stuff, all of the Wildcat trim was there, and in decent shape.

I took great care in starting it first, but I got the engine running, and after a carb rebuild and some tune up work it now runs beautiful, and doesn't blow smoke! The engine oil was as black as ink, and after a couple of hours of running, it was very dark, so the poor 455 has suffered from neglect to, we'll see how it goes when we get driving it.

The passenger floor and left quarter is fixed, and I'm starting on the the trunk.

I suppose that this story deserves a thread of its' own, and perhaps I will start one.

Keith

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Keith, Good to hear from you. Happy New Year! For those who don't know, Keith and I met when we parked our 56's side by side at the Sandusky National meet in 1981. At the time I had 3 young kids, and Keith and his wife were just married I believe. Then in 2003 we met up again at the Buick Centenial meet. at that time our youngest son Redwind 89 drove his Lesabre t type to the meet while Keith and I were parked in the same vicinity with our 56's again. By then Keith had three kids as I recall. A nice Buick friendship.

Anyway I'd love to see the pics of the Wildcat Keith.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Once I had the GS home the first official ownership act was to wash it. Then the realization hit me. What the hell did I do? Reasonable price or not, this car needed a full restoration and I wasn’t sure I was up to the job. But it was here now and , if I couldn’t restore it, I certainly could drive it, and I was itchin for a ride. First it was off to the DMV to make sure I could get it in my name. The car came from a town in Connecticut 3 hours away, and a long time before this I lost out on a turbo charged 63 Corvair Spyder when NY and Conn did not see eye to eye on my documentation. I decided way back then that I was not putting anything extra into a car before I had it in my name. A few hours later I received a Registration Document from NY. In NY, vehicles manufactured before 1993 did not have titles. Your ownership document was a Registration. In the anxiety of applying for the Registration, what I failed to notice was that I did not receive a Transferable Registration. Technically I could not sell the car to anyone else. Not that it mattered because I was not planning to sell it, but the enormity of that piece of paper did not hit me till a few years later. But I digress. This story is about my refurbishment progress.

Once I had the ability to drive it I tackled the brake lines. At first I thought I should get some stainless steel pre-bent lines. But then, looking underneath, I figured I really should paint the frame before doing that and, to properly paint the frame I’d have to lay the car up for a while. So I got some straight tubing from NAPA and my Flaring tool and I bent away. The next day I pulled the radiator and sent it out to be re cored. I was totally floored by the $500.00 price of the re core. Granted, I did go from a 3 row to a 4 row copper core, but still, I wasn’t prepared for this. But it had to be done. I really wanted to be able to take this car long distances, and with the A/C I wanted reassurance that it would not overheat. While waiting for the radiator I changed the oil, Distributor cap/ rotor/ points/ condenser and plugs. Then with the rebuilt radiator in place I got to take my first ride.

Well, disappointment is not a strong enough word for that ride. The non power brakes were scary, the exhaust, which was rusted, and also mangled, kept hitting the bottom of the car, and the top would not go up without assistance to get it started off it’s seat. That plus the mildew smell and I was feeling like an idiot for buying this car. After a fill up I brought it home and squirrled it away in the garage. Once it started snowing I just began to plan what to do next. Over the next few weeks I spent some time polishing the exterior and I washed the interior again, hoping to cure the mildew problem with a special soap product from a marine shop.

In the spring I knew I had to get the exhaust done first, and I wanted raised white letter tires. Although the tires it came with were relatively new, personally I do not care for white walls on chrome road wheels. Also I wanted wider tires for that muscular look. First off to Pete’s, a local custom exhaust vendor that came with good recommendation. Pete gave me a price of $300 to install new dual exhaust, using Turbo mufflers. They didn’t make appointments however. With the mufflers in stock they advised it was first come first serve. So early one Saturday I brought the car down. After numerous delays, during which I found out around noon that the best custom pipe bender they had called in sick that day, I had exhaust but it sounded terrible to me. It was already so late in the day I paid the bill and left. All the way home I remember thinking the car sounded like it had no mufflers but I saw them put them on. Ugh! This was not going so well.

The next week it was off to get the tires. Dunlop GT Qualifiers. 235 60 14's. That ought to do the trick. While it was on the lift I got a chance to look around underneath and again I was impressed with the solid floor boards and frame. So at least I had the underpinnings of a great car. It was starting to run nicer as well now that the fresh gas was getting through the system. And, by now I was beginning to enjoy the ownership experience a lot more because the shop workers were remarking how it was in such nice condition. The ride home from the tire store was an uplifting experience, even if the exhaust still seemed exceptionally loud.

That summer I drove the car to just about every local event I could.

post-31834-143138780364_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138780371_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138780376_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138780381_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

As I drove the GS more that first summer, eventually the water pump succumbed, and began leaking. It’s nice that you can easily acquire new water pumps today and, with Redwind’s help, we started this “easy” task. Yeah, right! Easy till you inevitably snap off one of the small bolts in the aluminum timing chain cover. To make matters worse, we snapped off an “easy out” within the broken bolt, and both the bolt and easy out were sheared off flush with the cover.

Up to this time I had not considered the need for a rotary drill with it’s titanium bits. I was still using the old fashioned Black and Decker hand drill with some new cobalt bits. Honestly after an unimaginable amount of time with the old B&D routine that Easy Out did not look much different . That’s when a good neighbor came by and got inquisitive. He had just the solution, and a few minutes later he returned with the aforementioned rotary drill and titanium bits. Wow! That high drill speed and bit combination worked like magic. The unfortunate part was you have to be careful to go straight and, well, I wasn’t as spot on as I had hoped. A helicoil to the rescue. Went right in and salvaged my timing chain cover. Then we finished up the easy job.

Now I had a shiney water pump and rusted valve covers and air cleaner and it really looked, cheesy under the hood. Also the valve cover gaskets were leaking, so I acquired some engine paint from Bill Hirsch and had at it. Starting early on a Saturday morning I told myself I’d just paint the covers and be ready to go in a few hours. A few hours indeed!

A week later, and with some new vacuum hoses and another set of plugs, I was satisfied that I could now open the hood at car shows. I was really lucky that the inner fenders and firewall were not so damaged that I had to paint then as well.

Also at some point someone put a coat of paint on the fibergalss fan shroud parts. This coat of paint came off using just Meguliars polish, leaving a perfect set of shroud parts. Now I just had the ugly A/C compressor and brake master cylinder marring the underhood. Those would just have to wait.

post-31834-143138781072_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138781076_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138781079_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138781081_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138781084_thumb.jpg

post-31834-143138781086_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Starting to look pretty good.

A GS 400 Convertible with A/C is worth the time and money. As the price of the 1970-72 GS cars keeps going up and up, our 69 models are becoming more desireable and collectors are reading the writing on the wall, and the price is starting to show it.

You may want to consider doing a disc brake conversion to the car, I have done it on almost all of the 68 and 69s I have owned, and it really makes a difference in the stopping ability and your peace of mind. The kits are not expensive and not difficult to install. Once you make the decision, you may as well install new bushings and front suspension parts. total outlay for parts is $600- 800, a bit more if you install the Delphi 600 steering box during the conversion. All of it is worth every penny. My 69 now handles closer to what a modern sports car feels like, no wander, and very tight steering.

Enjoy it this summer, as it will be a wonderful car

Edited by WWS (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

I hear you on the brake conversion Mark, but that won't be in my plan. I've become confident and satisfied with the non power drum brakes. It does take more effort to stop, but I prefer conservative driving and I just leave myself a lot of extra room. Another Chapter Member gave me his old power brake booster, when he converted to disc, and I may opt to install that in the future. As for the suspension, that has yet to be done. I'm hoping to do that next summer. I'll tackle the bushings then along with the springs and shocks.

BTW, your 69 GS is awesome! Would you mind posting an interior picture showing the stick shifter. I just would like to reminise

Link to post
Share on other sites

2005 came, and went, without much change in appearance or performance. Actually, the more I drove it to Cruises and shows, the more irritated I got with it’s visual appeal. This led me to feel like the performance was also off. The two things that were constantly on my mind were the split in the drivers seat, and the dent in the drivers rear quarter. I didn’t want to make the seat worse by sliding over it, but I couldn’t find a way to avoid sliding. And every time I passed that drivers rear quarter I had to look at that damned dent. To make matters worse, what little polishing I did do, I now had to stop doing on the rear quarter because the paint was thinning out on a previous patch just under the rear quarter window and the black primer was beginning to show through. So much for it having it’s "original coat of factory Signal Red paint"!

Late in the calendar year I managed to acquire new front seat upholstery from Legendary Interiors. Those folks are very good, and willing to give you just what you want. My rear seat, factory rugs/door panels and padded dash were in very good condition. And they were accommodating when I said I just need the front seat. I happened to be going past their place (about a 3 hr trip westward) for my job, so I picked it up on my way through, saving shipping costs. In the early months of 06 I managed to buy an AM/FM radio off E bay. Then, I also found a new front and a rear seat speaker kit. Unfortunately I failed to research the radio faceplate, and I wound up with the silver colored 68 face as opposed to the black face for the 69. Oh well, I had it and it was going in to replace that stock AM radio.

I did not document the process but found the easiest way to install the radio speaker was to pull the padded dash off and remove the center A/C vent and duct. The rear speaker could only be installed with the rear seat removed. While I had these things apart I cleaned all the surfaces of the years of accumulated dust and dirt. Also, with the rear seat removed I was able to remove the side panels and clean under there as well. Then I inspected the top mechanism and after reading up on how to adjust the top, I found a few loose bolts. I can’t explain why anyone would have ever done that, but once the frame was pushed into place and these bolts tightened, we were happy to see no more sag in the roof. The top also functioned better. That encouraged me to bleed the top hydraulics and now it worked up and down without any human intervention. I was starting to feel pretty good about getting something done, but I knew I had to tackle that front seat before driving season.

The people at Legendary gave me some installation tips when I bought the upholstery. One was to heat the seat upholstery so it would stretch easier upon installation. The second was to cover the seat back padding with an old sheet so the upholstery would slide over the frame and padding easier. Last was to start with the listing at the rear of the seat bottom, then stretch the rest of the upholstery over the frame. All the tips were invaluable. Before pulling the seat I looked at how to get the seat backs off. It was apparent that the seat had to come out first and then the caps, on the pivot axle of the seat back, could be pulled off. Redwind helped me unbolt the seat from the floor and we brought it inside.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The cap on the pivot axle is just a push on cap.

gs_front_seat_refurbish_001.jpg

With a little work I was able to remove and reuse them later. The set backs then slide to the outside and off the inner pivot axles and voila, your ready to go.

For reference I took quite a few photos of how the original upholstery was laid over the frame before I tried to remove it.

gs_front_seat_refurbish_008.jpggs_front_seat_refurbish_009.jpg

gs_seat_two_003.jpg

gs_seat_two_001.jpg

I decided to move things outside so the new upholstery could warm up under the sun. This was most effective considering it was a dark color. And I started to disassemble the seat.

[You'll notice that dark stain on the underside of the Upholstery. I have no idea what that was but it was pretty much surrounding the split in the vinyl. Kinda looked like blood to me or something else equally unpleasant. But I wasn't too worried because when I purchased the upholstery I also discovered a local fabric wholesaler who sold me a bale of seat cushion cotton. It was $12.00 and I still have most of it available.

Edited by JohnD1956 (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

I started at the bottom, and hog ringed the rear listing wire to the seat frame

The listing wire is a loop that's sewn onto the upholstery, and you remove the metal wire from the factory cover and slip it through this loop. The hog rings then get pushed around that wire-loop combination and attached to the cut outs provided on the frame. Quite a bit easier than I expected.

Next I pulled the new upholstery, which had heated up a lot in the direct sun, over the front edge of the seat.

gs_seat_two_009.jpg Then I tucked the rear flap of upholstery under the back of the frame.

gs_seat_two_007_819610.jpg

Note, I laid the seat belts in place before hog ringing the front or back.

I forgot to mention that at the start the seat had felt like it sagged under the driver, so while the upholstery was off I hog ringed the center seat spring to it's neighbors so that all three supported each other. I only put two rings in a line across the middle of the seat area.

And the bottom was done.

gs_seat_two_006.jpg

gs_seat_two_005.jpg

Edited by JohnD1956 (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

The seat backs were a bit harder because at the top of the seat is a hard fiberglass like material that gives the seat upholstery it's shape. But I followed the tip. I cut up an old sheet and wrapped it around the frame on the one side. After battleing with the upholstery to get it on even over the sheet, I hog ringed the sheet on the other side. This held it in place better and the second upholstery slipped right on.

gs_seat_two_pass_seat_back_002.jpg

gs_seat_two_pass_seat_back_001.jpg

Of course I used some Mothers Mag and aluminum polish and cleaned all the external accessories before reinstalling

gs_seat_two_pass_seat_back_004.jpg

gs_seat_two_pass_seat_back_006.jpg

gs_seat_three_all_done_003_218443.jpg

gs_seat_three_all_done_001_394893.jpg

Just one thing more I'd like to close with. The seat cover from Legendary really was well done. Look at how they matched the "rumble strip" pattern in the corner. Just quality work alltogether.

gs_seat_two_pass_seat_back_008.jpg

Edited by JohnD1956 (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Rob, LOL... If that does occur, then Redwind can simply refer his grandkids to this thread for the truth. HAHahaha...

Mike and Ben, thanks for the kind words. It really wasn't hard to do Ben, but I am very lucky that there is a vendor who produces such good stuff. If I had to make it myself then I'd just toss a lit match in there with a quart of alcohol.

Link to post
Share on other sites

By 2006 I was beginning to think I'd like to fix the A/C. I know just enough to get in trouble with a repair like that, but I spent quite a bit of time figuring out how I would approach that. This chapter will span a few years in narrative, and I have no pictures to back it up. However I just noticed my seat pics are not working tonight so seems like no big loss. I need to find a better way to re document that section later.

By early 2007 I decided the first thing to do was see if the system would hold with vacuum. My brother Ray had given me a spare A/C compressor he had salvaged once and I figured the first thing to do was have the system drawn down and see if it would hold vacuum for a half hour. My local garage accomodated me with that, and advised the system did indeed hold it's own.

So I replaced the compressor with the burnt clutch and installed the spare from my brother. I bought a 134a conversion kit with freon and pag oil and brought it back to the garage. They installed the kit and flushed the system. Then they charged it and I had a working system. So I was good to go.

The system kept working till 2008, on the way home from the 2008 National. After a 600 mile trip using the Air for most of the ride, two hours from home the compressor seized while we were cruising at 65 MPH on the NYS Thruway. Talk about smoke! The belt never broke but it was probably close by the time I stopped. Oh well, the system did work, this was a known.

In 2009 I went to a shop specialing in A/C repairs. This guy wanted to charge $1500 and replace the compressor and condensor. That was way out of my comfort zone. So I priced compressors at the NAPA. I could not make up my mind on a rebuilt compressor or a new one. I was quoted approx. $600 for a new A-6 compressor and $175 for a rebuilt. Old Tank on this site advised against the rebuilt. But money was a factor and I opted to save a few bucks.

The first compressor came in and was leaking oil from the side of a metal seal on the rear of the unit. So that one went back. The second one came in and while it was thoroughly dry on the outside, it did seem to be very tight on 3/4 of the rotation with the last 1/4 feeling like a snag internally. I was torn. I started this too close to a Meet I wanted to attend and was out of time to await another compressor. I took it, and more 134a Freon, and Pag oil, and went back to my garage. This time I bought a set of oil rings for the 134 a Freon. After another flushing of the system and compressor replacement, evacuation and recharge I had a pretty good system. The A/C was much colder although I still don't think it would have cooled the back seat area. Also the belt had a wobble in it when the unit was running but it was working. It worked for 2009 and part of 2010. It worked like a charm on the way to Rochester for the NYS Chapters Invitational. A hot muggy day but we were very comfortable inside.

When we arrived at the hotel and then went out for dinner an hour later, the compressor was making an odd noise when it was not in use. I figured the bearing had gone bad on the pulley. I happened to have one in the car so when we got home I went to a good friend who, as a certified GM mechanic, knew a lot and tackled a lot in his spare time. This is the same fellow who I helped do the head gaskets on my wagon earlier. He put the bearing on for me. When it was back together the system was great for one mile, then the compressor locked up and that was all she wrote.

I was ready to pack it in and forget about A/C alltogether. However, we wanted to attend Danvers this past summer and, for health reasons, my wife did need the A/C. So we took the plunge, and bought a New A-6 compressor in 2011.

Edited by JohnD1956 (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

John, working A/C is nice to have!

Our Wildcat doesn't have it, but as you know the '56 does. After 20+ years of generally trouble free service, I've a myriad of problems with it. I now have a bunch of new stuff and hope to have it going again sometime.

I hate making predictions, as I'm always wrong!

Good thing I'm not in the fortune telling business!

Keith

Link to post
Share on other sites

I used to try to keep the AC working in my cars, but it was futile..finally stopped worrying about it and let it go. R12 gets expensive, too.

I converted my convertible to R134a and never really liked the way it worked. After the compressor clutch literally exploded when I was driving on I-70 in Indianapolis, I gave up on that one.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sympathetic to both you guys. Keith, Ii figure if I ever try to do a 56 A/C I will try to incorporate a new A-6 compressor with the factory system. Adam, i fully understand your frustration. If mine goes again I don't know what I'd do with it. It's all expensive!

Link to post
Share on other sites

John,

A friend of mine is a retired mechanic, who specialized in A/C. He was originally from Arizona, and took his apprenticeship at a GM dealership there in the late '50's and early '60's, told me that there was a retrofit kit available from GM to fit the A-6 compressor to the older systems that came with an A-5, like my '56.

The brackets are different, but the fittings will match up apparently, so this might be a possibility. Not for a show car, of course, but for a driver it could a good solution, rather than to try to get a repair for the A-5, and this work get rid of the clutch bearing that always gives trouble on the older compressor too.

Keith

Link to post
Share on other sites

As I left off we had decided to take another shot at repairing the A/C in 2011. This time I acquired a new A6 compressor from my NAPA parts store. My friend Adam, with the GM training offered to help me out since that last repair only worked for one mile. So we reviewed the Manual and discussed what to do.

With Adam describing the theory of the syatem and the Manual to look at this really did not look like rocket science. Since the system had been working , but the compressor locked up, Adam wanted to flush the system again, install a high side filter plus a new reciever drier. I also wanted to try the POA valve adjustment which is supposed to improve the cooling function when using 134a. Also Adam wanted me to buy the GM style Pag oil. Unbeknownst to me, PAG oil comes in three viscosities. I believe the heaviest oil is the one for GM cars.

I purchased the freon, pag oil and two cans of flush solvent. But then I figured since my mechanic had already disassembled the system to install the 134a "O" rings, that I could do that and save myself some labor costs. I figured with Adam as a resource it would be a low risk operation. But then as time got tight headed towards the Danvers meet, Adam got bogged down on a job and he would not be able to take the GS in till after the meet. However, if I got the system ready to be flushed and reassembled, he would do the flushing and evacuation and recharge. Enter my BCA friend Ed Allmond.

Ed is such a great guy. Always one willing to spend some time wrenchin on others cars, he offered to provide some backup labor, and it was sorely needed.

Now once again, I failed to take a lot of pictures of this project. As I got greasier I didn't want to handle the camera so much, but I'll try to describe the efforts.

Adam was concerned about debris entering the system when it was disassembled, so I wiped everything down with some paint thinner and clean rags. Then we loosened the bolt holding the two hoses to the rear of the A/C but did not disconnect it. Then we moved to the condensor. There are an inlet and outlet pipe, and naturally the connectors are squeezed into a totally inaccessible area. The reciever dryer came off with no problem. each time the A/C was repaired I installed a new one. They are certainly reasonable cost wise and each compressor warranty required a new drier too. But the inlet connector was not giving up so easily. No problem, we'll just remove the grill.

Here's where I discovered the grill was badly cracked. There are 6 bolts, two on each side by the headlights and two on the center support. Except mine had one on the center support and the grill was cracked practically all the way around the hole for the stud. Some pb blaster and support with pliers and the center bolt came off. The outers were easy. But the grill was stuck. Remember when the seller said the original uncle drove by feel? Well I was told the uncle would pull into his garage and when the car struck the cement block wall in the front he knew the car was in far enough. Over time that action served to crush the bumper into the grill and now there wasn't enough room to tilt the grill out. So we took off the headlights on one side to try and slide the grill out that way. No joy! Then we had to loosen the bumper, to pull it away and release the grill.

Now we went to work on the inlet connector to discover this was never apart.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ed and I worked that connector ever so gentle, with generous shots of Blaster, and it finally gave up the death grip and came apart. Whew!

img_1125.jpg

The condensor had to be removed from the front, that meant the center bracket for the grill and hood latch had to come out.

img_1124_2.jpg

then the condensor was removed with the 4 surface mount bolts and we were on to the next challenge, the muffler behind the battery.

img_1129_1.jpg

Once again we found these connectors had not been removed as I thought, and once again there was very limited room. Of course the battery had to come out and we again worked the connectors with generous shots of blaster and they too relinquished.

Next we took off the main hose assembly which did come apart easily. One line went to the Muffler which was already disconnected, and the other went to the POA Valve assembly.

img_1126.jpg

So far so good.

Next up was the high pressure line. Coming off the drier which was already removed and traveling down by the frame to the Suction Throttle valve, it also yeilded with little resistance.

img_1127.jpg

Last up was the POA valve.

Edited by JohnD1956 (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

If you'll notice in the last picture above, there is a small capillary tube on that POA valve. I worried about that tube breaking. You can see that it looks like this car still has it's original A/C hoses and lines. I don't have a parts book but the numbers are easily readable on them so I think they are the originals. So we worked this fitting gingerly, again with a lot of blaster, and it came off much to my relief. Then we went for the rear facing connector on the POA valve. The one I thought least subject to oxidation but the one most stubbornly stuck.

Again, with limited room for large wrenches and with no desire to puncture or ruin the POA valve we worked on that connector for what seemed like hours. We even had to stop for a half hour break and then when we went back to it it finally relinquished. That's when we discovered a second capillary tube on the underside of the POA valve. The connector was sitting in a hole through the mounting bracket and was virtually impossible to get any wrenches I owned on there. Ed dug out his tool kit, and we found a wrench that would go on the fitting but it could only turn mere fractions of an inch at a time. After what seemed like an eternity the fitting was off, and the POA was removed.

The POA valve has an adjusting screw inside the end by the capillary tube. That was the one fitting that would not give up.

At this point only the evaporator and Suction Throttle valve remained in the car. We brought everything to Adams for the flushing.

The next day Adam brought everything back and with a few of his tools tried to remove that fitting to adjust the POA. But we were unsuccessful. Still, Adam reported that everything removed was flushed and only a very fine rust debris was removed from the system. With all those compressors breaking down, apparently nothing left the compressor. We flushed the evaporater in the car and again found only a fine rust dust, so little to speak of Adam felt there would be no problem with the system. Ed and I reassembled everything with all new O rings and later the next day, brought the car to Adams for the final steps.

Evacuated, and charged, we were attaining 45* in the center vent at roughtly 1200 RPM. Adam asked me to check the temps with the car moving, and thought we might get down a few degrees more with air passing over the condensor.

On the way to Danvers we ran the A/C virtually the entire trip. We recorded center vent temps as low as 42* on a pleasant day in the low 80's. At one point my wife asked me to raise the temp a bit cause she was getting cold! Wow! This was a very satisfying project.

As a side note, on the way home from Danvers we decided to drop the top and leave the A/C off. We left Danvers around 4 PM for the 2-3 hour cruise home. Along the way we realized that at one point we were being paced by a young man on a rocket motorcycle. As he advanced to the fron t of the car, he suddenly shot about ten yards ahead of us, turned around and gave a big thumbs up, then promptly lost control of the bike for a few seconds. He recovered and zoomed on ahead.

A short while later we heard some yelling from the other lane and we looked over to see an SUV with some young girls waving their arms wildly. As they pulled ahead the one in the passengers seat suddenly flashed her boobs and I said to my wife what do you think of that?

Linda said you know those young kids really seem to appreciate the old convertibles. I of course memorized the scenario for posterity. The next night I said to Linda, you know, I think those girls only did that because we were older and they wanted to see our reaction. She said, what are you talking about? I said when the girls flashed us. She said I didn't see them flash us. I said yea, I must have been dreaming.... What a cool ride....Keep an eye out for a 2010 Black Nisan SUV fellows. You never know.

  • Haha 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice work John! My friend who used to do the work on my '56's A/C was nearly paranoid about breaking something. He actually told me that in the old days they never worried about something breaking, as there was always another on the shelf, and that way he got to charge the customer for another part too!

Keith

Link to post
Share on other sites
Nice work John! My friend who used to do the work on my '56's A/C was nearly paranoid about breaking something. He actually told me that in the old days they never worried about something breaking, as there was always another on the shelf, and that way he got to charge the customer for another part too!

Keith

The old days? I'm pretty sure they still follow this practice at some places. LOL

Link to post
Share on other sites

Flashback to 2009, when that rear quarter panel was really getting under my skin. Everyday I walk past this car going to, and returning from work. It was so annoying to look at. Again, unable to decide on a long term restoration I began to look for a way to fix the damage. I originally thought the car should have a quarter panel replacement. This would have been way out of my comfort zone with body work. Up to now my body work experience was in painting full cars with little, if any, body damage. The thought of cutting up a vehicle like this was, scary! So I went to two body shops and asked about repairing the rust damages. I just wanted the holes patched and I would tackle the rest.

One shop estimated $800 to repair the rust and do some additional welding on the panel. Remember the damage under the rear quarter glass? This appeared to be a dent pulled out by drilling holes and using an ice pick to pull the body back close to original shape. The holes were subsequently plugged with Bondo. The second shop estimated $1500 to repair both sides with the explanation that it appeared the rear body to frame mounts were deteriorated. He never really looked at those, just said with similar damage on both sides like that, this was his experience. In both cases they would hammer out the dents and in both cases they advised I would still have to skin the repairs with Bondo.

Well, I did have considerable success removing and replacing a rear quarter extension on my former 69 Electra. And even though that’s an entirely different story, I figured I might as well see what really is the problem here before blindly shipping the car off. So I finished documented the current condition, which I started to do in 2008, with the camera.

gs_rear_quarter_damage_march_2008_006.jpg

gs_rear_quarter_damage_march_2008_003.jpg

gs_rear_quarter_damage_march_2008_001.jpg

69wheel_opening_damage_march_2010_009.jpg

By 2010 the above situation had not gotten any worse. But I wanted to see what it looked like close up under that wheel opening molding.

69wheel_opening_damage_march_2010_009_thumb.jpg

69wheel_opening_damage_march_2010_008.jpg

69wheel_opening_damage_march_2010_007.jpg

And inside:

69wheel_opening_damage_march_2010_001.jpg

69wheel_opening_damage_march_2010_003.jpg

69wheel_opening_damage_march_2010_004.jpg

69wheel_opening_damage_march_2010_005.jpg

Quite frankly, it did not look like $800 worth of work was called for here.

Edited by JohnD1956 (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Given the overall condition on the inside I figured there was no way I’d replace that quarter panel. I checked underneath and determined my body mounts in the area were still in very good condition. So overall, I figured I might as well try to repair this myself because the worst that could happen is I’d screw it up and I’d have to send it out to be fixed.

First I took a hammer and dolly to it. I took my time, a little each day, obsessing and reassessing where to hammer next and judging how close I was to original.

gs_rear_initial_hammer_work_001.jpg

gs_rear_initial_hammer_work_002.jpg

gs_rear_initial_hammer_work_003.jpg

gs_rear_initial_hammer_work_004.jpg

I got to this point and decided, enough, before I make it an external dent instead of an internal one.

2010_04_09_status_002.jpg

The next step was to do some sanding to see how extensive that exterior rust damage was. Small holes opened to larger ones but nothing was so big that I lost confidence I could do this.

2010_04_09_status_003.jpg

2010_04_09_status_004.jpg

2010_04_09_status_006.jpg

I discovered that the damage to the area in the center of the wheel opening appeared to be caused by the piece of sound deadening material factory installed getting wet. That I surmised was probably an after effect of all those years with the dryer vent dumping laundry moisture on the car. Besides the external damage, there was some rot in the wheel house too. I started with that figuring it could not be seen from the outside so I had some leeway to be creative. This patch covered all the unseen wheel house rust.

2010_04_09_status_007.jpg

2010_04_09_status_010.jpg

Then I set about making patch panels for the other major holes.

Edited by JohnD1956 (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

When I had these built I was at an impasse. This next operation may be controversial but I don’t have a welder, so I decided to glue the patches in place.

2010_04_09_status_018.jpg

2010_04_09_status_014.jpg

100_0817.jpg

100_0819.jpg

100_0818.jpg

I used this particular glue on the Electra’s rear quarter extension and it held without cracking over the one winter I owned it after the repair. That plus I keep this car in the garage most of the time, and I don’t even consider moving it unless it’s above freezing outside. So why not?

The glue is sold by Ace Hardware Stores, and is a polyurethane glue. Water resistant, it can be applied over the self etching primer so all surfaces are coated before assembly with no heat to burn that off. Just like 2 part epoxy, I used a continuous bead of glue, and initially held the pieces together with small self tapping sheet metal screws. A day later I pulled the sheet metal screws out and installed pop rivets. In the holes. I then coated the pop rivets with glue to prevent water infiltration.

When this was all dry, I tapped the patches with a hammer to see if they would rattle or pop loose. In each case they held tight, and I proceeded with a layer, or I should say a lot of very thin layers of body filler.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Now here’s where things got tough. Filler and sanding. I pretty much knew what to expect, I just did not expect it would take so long to accomplish. The curve of the rear fender on this car looks like a nice flat surface, top to bottom the length of the fender. Nope. It is slightly curved on the top with an increasing angle approaching the center line and then flattening some on the bottom to a similar curve as the top. While I had noticed this when hammering it out, sanding it in at the end was difficult. I don’t think I nailed it, but I got close. And I called it complete.

2010_04_09_status_012.jpg

2010_04_09_status_013.jpg

img_0008.jpg

img_0034.jpg

img_0035.jpg

I kept at those high spots on the fender but didn't take more pics before going on to the paint. I should have kept at it more. I didn't because I have to paint outside on my driveway and I had a shot at a few clear days.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...