Leif in Calif

Restoration vs. Preservation ??

Recommended Posts

I am one of the custodians of a 1925 Chevy truck which belongs to the City of Petaluma California. It runs well and I drive it in parades and use it to spark interest in city history. It was originally green but painted red I think in the 40's. It's got quite a bit of surface rust and the bottom of the shell of the radiator is completely gone. One of the other people involved with it thinks we should treat the rust and repaint the fenders and replace the radiator shell with a new one, trying to achieve a "rustic" finish.  I'm not totally against that but I do think about the truck as a historical artifact (It's in the museum's care) and while I certainly don't want it to degrade further, I wonder about what I would call cosmetic repair.  What do you all think? Is there a way to stabilize a rust?

 

Thanks in advance! 

1925.JPG

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW it looks just fine as is, issue is once you begin addressing part of it, you lose that even wear.  I would leave it as is, maybe hit surface rust wuth an oily rag but that should do it!  A great ambassador for local history!

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with the others--it's hard to fake patina. If the parts are serviceable and the truck is safe to use, then keep it that way without making anything too shiny. If the bottom of the radiator or grille shell is gone or damaged, maybe try to find one that's in good condition but unrestored and use it. I frequently buy used but good condition parts for my cars in an effort to keep everything looking consistent; when I recently had a distributor rebuilt, I asked them to leave the exterior as-is so it wouldn't look out of place on the somewhat used engine. The minute you repaint or re-chrome something, it will look very out of place and everything else will look shabby by comparison and then things start to go downhill pretty fast. So any part you need to keep the truck 100% safe and functional, try to find a used one and resist the temptation to blast it and paint it before you reinstall it. 


You'll also be surprised how many shiny, restored vehicles people will ignore to get a look at your unrestored truck. Patina is where it's at!

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will always vote for preservation over restoration if condition allows and your vehicle definitely qualifies.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do as Antiques Roadshow, and American Pickers, and the folks on this forum, and many others recommend: leave it alone and enjoy it.  I love old trucks with a 'patina' finish...they just belong together!  Here's mine-

 

 

1930 PU.jpg

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Leif,

                  I'm in the other camp on this one. I know Petaluma's climate can be tough on a vehicle. The deterioration has already begun on this great old truck and it will positively need to be adressed at some point if it's expected to survive. It has already been repainted at some point so the preservation of originality doesn't even come into play here. I say fix the rust issues now so others can enjoy it for another 9 decades. It would be a shame if a future custodian finds the truck is too rough to drive any longer and just makes a static display of it.

Patina be damned, save it while you can.

Good luck, Greg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems that there is surface rust on the belly. I personally hate rust, and depending on where you live,  rust becomes a serious issue faster than you think.

I personally like most other guys here, always try to leave things as original as possible, however I  believe rust is something that you NEED to fix.

 

There are 'rust converters' which you can buy in spray cans. I Live in Canada, and My cars all have thick rubberized asphalt undercoating.

This will last a lifetime.

 

I think someone mentioned spraying oil, howvere keep in mind that it will only last a few months.Also, a little rain, and a gravely road is all it takes to destroy the oil film and promote rust.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's not like rust gets a lot worse on a vehicle that is only used in good weather and stored indoors. A layer of surface scale will not typically get worse without constant exposure to the elements and will often protect the metal underneath under mild conditions. Often better to leave it alone unless you're driving it in the rain or storing it outdoors regularly. Once you start cleaning, stripping, de-rusting, and repainting, things change fast and you'll end up farther down the restoration path than you wanted. I'm not convinced that oil is the answer (not a bad idea but it will make any future refinishing that much more difficult), but maybe just put a layer of satin black paint of some kind over the undercarriage and hidden areas to seal it up. I think doing much more than that will be more work for a less desirable result on an original vehicle like this.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 Many years ago, I had a horse trailer that was beginning to surface rust.  I was concerned that using soap & water to clean it would only worsen the rust.  Someone recommended wiping it down with 20% Kerosene in water to clean and stabilize the rust.  Since kerosene is a water soluble cleaner, it worked well to clean all the surfaces and easily washed off in preparation for a new paint job.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Leif;

 

You are apparently a great custodian of this old Chevy truck, and while it remains in your care, it would probably be fine with efforts at preservation.  Once you have moved on to other things though, do you think that subsequent custodians will be as interested as you have been in its care?  A good restoration would give the vehicle some defense against possible future neglect or less than "stellar" care/maintenance.

 

Paint is the first line of defense against rust on metal and against rot in wood.  In my opinion, the decision between restoration or preservation is a tough one.  I tend to prefer preservation; however, a good restoration could add many years to the life of a vehicle over and above that of preservation. 

 

Cheers,

Grog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Focus on it mechanically and just have a really good time with it cosmetically - if you have to do a cosmetic project, I would source a better radiator shell and then hang the new shell on the garage wall (never install it).  Make sure tires are good too and that it has seats that are suited to keep passengers clean and not poked with springs or anything like that. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not this truck but there is a Packard which attends the Old Car Festival they say has patina.  Holes rusted through the fenders and running boards, the body colour and hood are different and badly weathered everywhere, runs and drives though.  I think sometime a car is too worn out to be displayed, sometime there is too little left of the original to be interesting, when is the line crossed?  Every owner of every car has to decide for themselves.

 

Again not this truck, I vote, if I had one, to preserve the local history and use the truck sparingly.

 

Thanks, Gary 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While I agree preservation is the way to go "generally," you do need to consider that if the bottom of the radiator shell is missing, there is nothing left there to preserve.  It should not be difficult to find a replacement radiator shell in unrestored condition that maintains a degree of "patina" similar to the rest of the truck.  Keep the old one so it stays with the truck though.

Sounds like you are preserving a piece of local history and the red paint is part of that.

Terry

Edited by Terry Bond (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks to all...the decision is not mine to make but your thoughts will be forwarded to those ultimately responsible (the Museum board). This vehicle has over head valves but no oil supply or return to that part of the engine. You oil it before each use and the excess just runs down the engine block. It leaves a trail where ever it goes but it also coats the undercarriage so there's no noticeable rust in that area. It's currently stored in a hanger at the airport which seems very good.    

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Leif in Calif said:

Thanks to all...the decision is not mine to make but your thoughts will be forwarded to those ultimately responsible (the Museum board). This vehicle has over head valves but no oil supply or return to that part of the engine. You oil it before each use and the excess just runs down the engine block. It leaves a trail where ever it goes but it also coats the undercarriage so there's no noticeable rust in that area. It's currently stored in a hanger at the airport which seems very good.    

There should be a felt or canvas covered felt pad under the valve cover to absorb and hold the daily oiling. Some will still leak out down the side of the motor but the pad helps retain most of it while keeping the valves lubricated. If the pad is old, sludgy and compacted, it should be replaced.

     By the way, do not run the motor without oiling the top end. Which leads to another story pertinent to your thread. I had a perfectly running 28’ Chevy 4cyl motor, all original that I offered for sale a while back. I was contacted by a mechanic from a shop who was working on an all original car who’s owner didn’t like the oil dripping down the side of the motor so he stopped oiling the top end. He made weekly trips down a backroad highway to his family’s cabin and at max speed. Needless to say, the motor went and the owner wanted an original, unrestored, natural patina, excellent running motor. I was able to help them out and shipped my engine to them over 1000 miles. The top end now stays oiled and has a new fresh pad.

Edited by chistech (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good luck with the great old truck, Leif. I have an old car that I refurbished, and another I've left original. (I also have a third which I'm deciding which way to go with.) The original car has almost no body rust, but does have surface-only rust on the bottom/chassis of the car and the fender wells that had been exposed to the elements by the original owner. I can say that, in my experience, when moderate surface rust is not exposed to rain (to any great degree) or snow (at all), the progress of the rust is greatly reduced, almost to the point of being brought to a standstill. Having said that, I'm thinking I will probably start oiling the underside of my car once every few years, because the rust progress can still take place, however slow. (I put  no more than a few hundred miles a year on my old cars.) I would say that the top side (body) of a vehicle is less likely to have rust advance than the underside because moisture more easily evaporates and the top side receives less direct moisture/condensate from ground or concrete where it's being stored. It looks like your truck isn't the type of vehicle that's going to be exposed to the elements much.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right O Christech....we'd never start it with out lots of oil! We have  pads we put in a zip lock baggy and soak before installing. The truck is only used for parades and displays so it only goes a few miles at a time and I always re-oil if it stops for more than a few minutes . Better to much than too little (sorry about the mess). Can't imagine what a nightmare it must have been when it was new and most roads were dirt!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you feel compelled to put something on the steel to stop rust, spray it with mineral oil.  It's harmless to paint, it stops rust for a long time, and it can be removed at a later date if so desired.  Mineral oil is commonly used to treat machining equipment and tools (like Starrett Instrument Oil).  This stuff is so safe, it's repackaged as 'Baby Oil'.  I know what your thinking at this point...no, that's not rust on a baby's bottom...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bear in mind that if you choose to just preserve the truck it is important to document whether you are preserving it as it was originally built or as it was at some random point in time after who knows what modifications, repairs, repaints or upgrades were done. If you have evidence that the truck is pretty much how it was originally built then preservation is in order. If it has been changed substantially over the years you have to ask "What exactly are we preserving?". As others have said, rust is not cancer. In the absence of excess moisture rust does not grow. If you are having a rust issue the truck is not properly stored.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How about a product designed for the problem? WD40; water displacement formula, 40th mixture.  Designed to be wiped on originally.

 

Larsen aimed to develop a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry. He succeeded at the goal, Water Displacement, on the 40th attempt, hence the name.

Edited by chistech (see edit history)

Share this post


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