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1931 Chrysler CD8 Roadster Rebuild Diary


Gunsmoke
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So we begin a New Year, time to get back at the old CD8 Roadster. Spent 6 months renovating the main house and guest cottage, will show photos shortly, but today spent a few hours fitting the dash gauges. As mentioned earlier, the dash had been completely cut out of this car when I got it, only scrap of old dash lying in the rumble seat area. A PO had cut it out and replaced it with a dash from a '33 era Chevy (see as found photo from 2014)! Anyway, with new dash in place, it took quite a bit of fine tuning to get all the gauges fitted, alignment of new welded studs, gauge hole diameters need to be perfectly aligned. Also fitted choke (C) and manifold butterfly (H) pull cables and dash lights, all factory originals. Hole at left is for ignition switch. Gas gauge is a NOS one I bought 5 yrs ago. Water temp gauge shown is a bit dis-coloured, but it is a spare, I have a better one to eventually install. I also have the speedo cable. Tight quarters under dash, with steeling wheel bracket and cowl vent to work around. tomorrow will mount coil/ignition switch combo, and the small switch for dash light (mounts on lower turned under lip of dash).    

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Posted (edited)

A few pics of the above mentioned house renos that took me away from old cars for 8 months! I built main house in 1979, guest cottage in 1995, have now moved into guest cottage (it is above my garage workshop!) and my youngest son and his wife and children have moved into main house. Amazing what a new paint job will do!

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Edited by Gunsmoke (see edit history)
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Finished off the Roadster dashlight switch and ignition switch/coil install in new dash. Regards the dashlight switch, I had this old scrap of original dash a PO had saved (why?), and wondered for 5 years what these 3 holes were for. 2 years ago I found these cars had a dashlight switch, I found one (thanks Rob in MD) and used the old dash piece as a guide. The ignition switch/ coil combo mounts from backside thru a 7/8" hole, no bezel or any trim, so a carefully reamed hole and 3 steel studs welded to back side of dash (before installing dash) secure it in place. This good switch/coil came with a donor car, but no keys, locksmith made keys for $35. Not sure where I'm starting next.

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On the subject of 90 year old dash-mounted coils, I discovered that the good one I had only was good when cold, the spark went weak when engine was up to running temperature and the car would only run 25 mph on my test hill when it would do 32 with a cold coil. Ended up with zip-strapping a second (newish) coil on top of the OEM style and the car would do the testhill at 32 anytime. Marty Lum used to advertise a conversion, looks like Bernbaum has a replacement ignintion switch for the old mounts.

Have since found similar issues with the coil in my 1940, when the special firewall mounted coil was replaced with a correct replacement the car would continue running well after engine had heated up.

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Thanks for the advice NarveN, Rob in Maryland told me he had over time decided to use a modern switch (with a mounting bracket made to match original equipment)and separate coil on these cars as well for reliability. I started up the engine for the first time in perhaps 60 years last summer and it ran nicely up to temp with this coil, but never drove it or put it under power. I'm probably a year away from driving this car, so will see how it performs. The idea of zip tying a newer style coil to the old one makes sense, I presume one would just put jumper wires between the various connections and effectively be running the 2 coils in series if I was to use original switch which is part of coil assembly. 

Edited by Gunsmoke (see edit history)
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I have to deal with the steering assembly, as mentioned in an earlier post the steering shaft is bent about 10 degrees near steering box from an accident I assume 60-70 yrs ago. Figured getting steering wheel off shaft would be the easy part and easier with assembly still in car! Had to make temporary longer "hook holder" for pull hooks due to 5.5" diameter of wheel hub. Sprayed WD40 on shaft/keyway and put lots of strain (about 60-70 ft lbs) on puller with steering wheel nut backed off 1/16". Nothing moved, figured it would pop off. Rapped end of puller with hammer, but still nothing. Will leave under strain overnight, try again in am. I suppose a small amount of heat would pop it quickly, but don't want to risk any damage to steering wheel.  

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So this morning I turned up the torque quite a bit on puller but still no movement. I have a heat gun for removing paint (much like a hair dryer), and figured I'd carefully warm the steel part of the hub. After about 3-4 minutes of carefully heating area around hub and being careful not to heat the wheel itself.....pop.... off it came. taper and key are like new, shiny, no rust or deterioration.  I'll now remove assembly from car and see what to do about the bent shaft. Earlier I may have mentioned buying and paying for a second complete steering assembly, only to go and pick it up and finding some fool had cut the steering wheel off (and stolen it) the shaft just below the hub, destroying shaft, jacket and control rods. Anyway, I have what "remains", and it might be easier to use that straight shaft and cut the upper end of my bent shaft and use the upper 2"-3" and weld it to the straight damaged shaft. I'll take all the shaft pieces to a good welding shop/machine shop and ask what they think. Shaft at box end needs to be perfectly straight in order to work well. 

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Edited by Gunsmoke (see edit history)
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Thanks for showing your method. I have been putting off pulling mine for almost 2 years. Someone in the past has done a pretty good job of screwing up retaining nut so I will have to address that first. Thanks to you I am more confident I can tackle mine.

 

Kurt M

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Pulled steering box and assembly from car today, removed jacket (it is only a "slip-on" over shaft and into large hex nut at box), also took box apart including removing sector gear. On close examination, it appears "wobble" may not be due to bent shaft but to faulty install of bearing at upper end of worm gear. Tomorrow plan to try getting bearing out to have a better look. Any one done this? First I will have to turn the large hex nut off (it is in there pretty firm (large Stilson wrench won't turn it) so will apply some heat tomorrow. I assume then upper bearing will come out, it's a press fit I assume. May have to tap on lower end of shaft to get bearing moving. Is this best way? I have 2 complete boxes, so hoping I have enough original parts to make one good assembly. All new job to me so advice appreciated.

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Grrrr....Secret to loosening large bearing retainer was to first loosen the housing lock bolt....duh! Sure enough, the original steering shaft is bent, in fact it appears at some point it got bent and a PO tried to straighten it and so it now has a small S shape, not easily seen, but a straight edge placed along shaft shows a bend of about 1/32"-3/64" at upper cone/worm gear face. First pic shows worm gear at slight angle to shaft. Regardless, it is useless. The bend over time caused the bottom thrust bearing to distort, and the upper cone to become abraded. Note the original jacket is also bent/distorted on lower end, an easy fix as it is just a cover, serves no other function. I took the second steering box apart and the worm gear and bearings are perfect, no signs of any wear/play. Both sector gears are perfect as are both worm gears. As mentioned and shown in a photo, some fool cut about 3" off the second shaft, cutting it about mid-point on the jacket bushing. So my plan (unless someone has a brighter idea) is to find a good welder who can cut 3-4 inches off top of original shaft (threaded end/taper and keyway down to about middle of bushing location) (finished weld will be in bushed area thus not affecting alignment down at box) grind a bevel on both mating pieces, and neatly weld to shortened shaft. Correct length will be established using original shaft. I'm assuming a skilled welder will be able to have both pieces in straight line and on center with each other, and avoid getting weld in hollow part of shaft. Nothing is easy! Wish me luck. If this does not work I have a line on a good used box/shaft assembly.417588815_IMG_7882(2).JPG.1ecd82a28f022d9361d40d994804dcaa.JPG

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The CD8 steering wheel bracket has a 3 position height/angle adjustment so height of wheel is not a problem. Length change would mean shortening control rods as well. I like where I have it now, but I'm only 5-11 175. I have a friend who has been helping me who is 6-3 and 230 and he has sat in car and was able to operated clutch etc, but did find it a bit tight. I have no adjustment option for seat. 

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Dropped both shafts off to machinist today, meeting with him next week to confirm just where to cut and splice, based on detailed dimensions of steering wheel hub (1.125" depth), bushing length, sleeve length, etc, and using a slip/sleeve as Tom suggested. Will keep you posted.

 

 

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If your cork and brass bushing is loose /worn out . Have them make one out of delrin or nylon press in . But what have drawn is what I was looking to do .

  Also bottom tube felt can be split off the thicker model A new repo ones . And there o-ring washer system works nice to seal pitman . Did change to smaller o-ring .

Edited by ArticiferTom
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15 hours ago, Gunsmoke said:

The CD8 steering wheel bracket has a 3 position height/angle adjustment so height of wheel is not a problem. Length change would mean shortening control rods as well. I like where I have it now, but I'm only 5-11 175. I have a friend who has been helping me who is 6-3 and 230 and he has sat in car and was able to operated clutch etc, but did find it a bit tight. I have no adjustment option for seat. 

The seat adjustment should be the back cushion moving forward or backward by means of a worm gear mechanism, which the handle that turns it is on the small ledge behind the cushion. The bottom of the seat does not move.

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I know the proper type seat you refer to Greg. There were no seats with my car when I bought it and I have not found any of these rare if non-existent seats! I got some 1932 Dodge Coupe seats from Rob B in Maryland and the fronts are very similar overall dimensions as the Roadster would have had, except they were a standard bench type. I've separated the seat and back into two sections, removed the lower adjustment mechanism (it made seat 2"-3" too high), and after some tweaking, plan to have both seat and back fixed in place where shown. I'll eventually re-upholster them in leather (removing the pleats/ribs) with appearance much like a CD8 (3 types shown including an original I think) as shown, but without the adjustable back section for driver's side. Nothing is ever simple when rebuilding a scarce car like these. You have a line on seats (Main and Rumble)for a roadster?

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Hi Gunsmoke, 

 A tip for you, which I hope will help when fitting your control rods back inside your welded steering column tube.

 

I had to cut a bunch of 3 control rods in half to post them from USA to Zimbabwe, as they were too long for USPS or Fedex to ship. I then had to weld them back together once they arrived, and one of my concerns was there would be a build up of weld inside each tube, which being a meter down would be almost impossible to drill and it then would stop the next tube from passing inside.

 What I did was to weld the tube together, then make it red hot all the way around at the join and I then rammed a suitable sized rod up and down the inside of the tube to remove any internal weld or slag. In my case, I started with the thinest tube, removed the horn wire and welded it , I then used a 2mm steel wire to clear out the inside of this horn wire rod and then used the horn wire tube to ram out the next sized tube and worked my way out to the biggest tube using the same technique, it worked a treat.

 

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Thanks for interesting approach viv w. The tubes for mine are complete, but they are kinked where the steering shaft had bent (about 6-7" from lower end). I will take my time and separate them and straighten as best I can, should be able to as you suggest push a slightly under-sized rod in to make sure they are round in the end. The Chrysler only has 2 rods plus the horn wire, so not a big deal. BTW, seeing how bent the rods are (and I already have put them in a vice and took about 1/2 the kink out) gives you an idea how crooked the shaft must have been at some point.

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While steering wheel shaft is out for splicing, decided to have a look at where I am with the top iron and bows assembly. I may have mentioned that the car came to me in 2014 with only the 2 front corner clamps, heavily modified top irons and some rough metal bows. The top irons were original pieces, but a PO, likely in mid 50's, cut them considerably, lowering roof canvas by an 1" or 2", and changing shape at back of folding top so instead of being vertical as per original, has it leaning forward 2"-3". correct original rear window came with car. The drawing shows comparisons for the 6 top iron pieces of each side, 5 pieces out of 6 on each side are shortened, some by as much as 3". Also show a complete chromed original off internet. Since the end result is 70 years old and lowers the top for a sleeker look, I've decided to leave them largely as they are, and top canvas will be made accordingly. The windshield has also been lowered by about 1", which I will also leave. As photos show, I had to do a lot of cut and paste with 3 old windshield frames to get shape correct, car came to me with a windshield from a 1938 period truck roughly fitted. I've explored buying a new repo windshield frame, about $1000 landed here in raw steel. Can always go that route.

 

To make wood bows, I started with a set of oak bows from a 120 year old buggy top I found that had virtually the same curves as the ones for a CD8. I had to splice in some new oak to get side to side width correct, stiffen with stainless U channel, and laminate some additional thickness in a couple of spots to get overall look close. I don't yet have proper round nuts for securing these, nor do I have proper thumb nuts for folding windshield stanchions.  I still have to make a thin 4" by 44" soffit for underside lead edge of folding top. Plan is to use a piece of 18 gauge stainless steel directly screwed to underside of front bow )so top stays as low as possible) and stiffen it with a piece of 1/4 plywood cut to fit around front top corner clamps (it will be covered by canvas top material as shown in one photo). 

 

As mentioned earlier, my goal in re-building this car is to: (1)do most work myself, (2)stay solvent, (3)keep the car original where feasible, (4)leave 1950's modifications in place where they don't affect overall appearance, and (4)not do anything that will limit someone down the road going to a full factory spec, if they can track down proper parts.  

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Edited by Gunsmoke (see edit history)
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I really have to commend you for taking on and sticking to this almost impossible journey. You are a testament to the argument I always hear from people who say, "There wasn't enough of it left to restore, or I couldn't find parts, so I street rodded it." I hate it when old Chryslers, especially pre-war rare cars, fall to rodders because they choose to take the easy way out. I have nothing against street rods, or rat rods, if the car is a high production car like a Ford or a Chev, but rare cars need to be saved. Thanks for doing what you are doing.

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Thanks Greg for your kind words, we share a belief in going the extra mile to save cars that deserve it. This specific car of course has some sentimental attachment for me. As I indicated at the outset of this post it is really the only "old car" my Dad and I ever talked about (other than his '36 Auburn), and one he had not seen for a long time when he passed away in 1999. It has also led me to meet in person or on-line some great "Chrysler People" like yourself, something which otherwise would never have happened. That's what makes life so pleasant.

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  • 2 months later...

So after sitting out a month or so, got back in garage this week and spent a few days "remaking" the top bows. As mentioned in an earlier post, I had nothing as a pattern (and had modified side irons) so began with old buggy bows, but once body was finally in place realized my first effort resulted in bows that were too narrow at back bow by about 1.25" and middle bow by about 3/4". After some grumbling and a few swear words I took them back apart and added the extra length, not a simple job, and had to tweak angle of front bow, but I'm happy with the overall result. Bows now fold nicely and overall shape of roof and eventually canvas should be good. I'm not sure what anyone else would have done when you are likely 1500 miles from the nearest similar car and making bow patterns would be a tough exercise. Down the road I may take the 3 "homemade" bows off and have someone make a proper set from oak. But these will do for now. Personally I prefer look of car with top up, but most photos I see have top down. Engine remains as it was when I brought car back from body shop a year ago, hope to put carb etc back on soon and fire it up again. Steering wheel column/shaft is still at machine shop for splicing (mentioned above), made the mistake of telling my guy there was no hurry!! Anyone ever make that mistake? Talked to him this week and said he had been swamped, but would get at it this month. In meantime, my son and his wife who now live in the main house (also mentioned above) have delivered the latest heir to the throne, baby Ted born Feb 26 2022, all are doing well. Life is good

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  • 2 months later...
Posted (edited)

I'm just getting back at the Chrysler after a couple of months of "everything else in life!' sure you all know what that means. I'll be posting some photos of progress on the steering assembly soon. In meantime, as some may know it takes a lot of space to restore one car and even more to do 2 of them. So last summer jammed for space, I decided to sell my 80% restored 1931 Chevrolet Deluxe Coach, and here is a series of photos as I found it, as it was when I finished my frame off work, and now as new owner has painted it. As can be seen, he elected to do all the brightwork in black to avoid the heavy cost of re-chroming. I like finished results, an economical way to keep these "common" cars on the road. Used blue denim for interior seats and panels. BTW, for those wondering, while USA cars were 2-tone (blue body, black above belt line), all Canadian built cars such as mine were one color, in this car's case originally Oshawa Blue with black fenders.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As mentioned, I got the steering shaft back from the machine shop, spliced as planned. I assembled the shaft in box (fitting thrust and top bearings)and had to sort out how to seal it as both original felt washers top and bottom of worm gear were shot. I used some heavy (5/16" dia) graphite "packing" to make lower seal, and some plumber's packing for upper seal once bearing retainer nut was in place. I've installed assembly back in car for further stages. First thing that showed up was nut that secures pitman arm. The sector shaft is threaded for 7/8-16 thin nut shown and heavy lock washer. Nut that came with donor chassis would not go on more than 1/2 turn. On examination, it is a 7/8-14 nut. As background, this chassis had been in a left front accident many many years ago and came to me with a badly crushed fender, fender bracket, and bent steering shaft. It now appears while temporarily putting car back together a PO used an incorrect pitman arm nut (it was barely on when I disassembled the car). Have not been able to find a similar nut in 7/8-16, so am using a 7/8-16 pinion jam nut for now (from a late 60's GM). 

 

When I disassembled the headlight/throttle levers at steering wheel, I see the light lever is broken from its base. White metal of course, so will have to do some thinking on how to make it usable. Current thinking is to make a thin steel backing piece and affix to rest of assembly with 2 original screws, and a 3rd screw and adhesive into the broken piece. before doing do, will check if there is a reliable way to weld/fuse the old pieces.

 

 

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As noted at outset, this car was in very rough shape when I found it. I made the decision to rebuild it to a near 1931 Chrysler level where reasonable, while recognizing it will never be pure because of what I had to start with, including shortened windshield and stanchions, altered top irons, and badly repaired tub/cowl. So plan is still to use cycle style front fenders if I can find suitable fenders to work with. I may simply buy a set of 4 new rear fenders for something close to same dimensions and have body man adapt to suit proposed design. I placed a rear one on front in this photo so I could get a sense of what it might look like. I have a rough pair of original large clamshell style ones, but they need thousands of dollar work to be usable.

 

I also cannot find any Chrysler CD8 taillights despite 7 years of looking. I show here a car off internet with a nice pair. These models only came with a single taillight and production was limited, so the use of 2 for many restorations probably contributes to their rarity.  I'm told a god Chrysler unit will sell for $2000! I recently found a pair of nice 1929 LaSalle lights that can be modified as shown to fit, and with a Chrysler Script film over top lens would do in a pinch while I continue search for something better. 

 

Final decisions on these 2 items are months away. 

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Hey Gunsmoke,

You have come a long way in your project that we have followed with interest, and what you have achieved is highly commendable. Don't give up on sorting out your original fenders, at least you have them, no matter how bad. As a suggestion, see if you can find a technical college that offers collision repair/panel beating courses and go and talk to them. You may find they would like to repair your old fenders as hands on training for their trainees and the guys teaching them may welcome the challenge.

 I know Macpherson college in USA  do full car restoration courses, they may be too far away from you but ask around and see if there are similar training faculties near to you.

  On your tail lights, someone will have them lying around. Keep searching on ebay.com and ebay.com.au and other sites. Looking at ebay for just 1930 chrysler parts is fine but also try on ebay looking at 1920's old car parts, 1920's old car tail lights etc, some guys don't know what they have and list them wrongly, so try different years and descriptions.

 If all else fails, look at similar tail lights, such as the Nash and Buick ones shown below. The Nash or Buick lenses can be removed and replaced by cutting up old modern plastic tail lights to make a plain lens. You will find most people will not know the difference and if someone does say to you those are not Chrysler, then ask him if he has the right ones for you.

 Keep plugging away, the car is going to be awesome.

Best regards

Viv.

 

1930 Nash below

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1929 Buick below.

 

Vintage 1929 Buick Script Stoplight License Plate Light Taillight Trilite |  eBay

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Just a follow up on what viv w said about taillights. I have seen the Buick taillight shown in the previous post at Hershey many times. Russ Crook in Washington state makes reproduction lenses for the 31 CD. They are very close to the same as the Buick taillight, and are very good quality. I haven't called him for many years, so hope he is still doing them. Possibly his lenses would work for the Buick bezel. It is worth some effort. I had five taillights in the 90's to sell, and I could have sold many more. I didn't even keep one for a spare, which I may regret someday, but with all three of my CDs in the museum now, they should be safe.

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I have watched eBay and other sources for good Buick/Nash and other large round similar taillights with chrome buckets, and typically a very good one sells for about $500-$700USD delivered (nearly $1000 here in Canada). Not interested in paying that for a non-correct light. I bought the 2 LaSalle's for $100 total locally. Rob down in Maryland provided these photos of the mounting brackets/plate holder stanchions (L&R) he has ready for his '31 Chrysler CD8 Victoria. Not an easy make, but can be copied.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Spent past few days on the Roadster. First had to raise body from chassis to fit the rear apron. For what it's worth, re-securing the rear mounting bolts is a nightmare, they are in blind spots and would be impossible if gas tank was on. I think I counted a total of 27 bolts securing body to chassis on these cars. If I recall, my 1931 Chevy had 8 mounting points. With apron in place I could now finally fully bolt body down, lots of shimming etc to get door gaps right.

 

I then tackled the toe board area. All of these pieces were missing from the Roadster but were on the sedan donor car, so this is first time in perhaps 70 years that cowl has had correct parts. Everything went together well, had to make some gaskets to help eliminate fumes from engine bay. Still have to make a couple to go around steering column.

 

While at it, decided to fit the rear fenders to see what I'm dealing with. As I may have posted earlier, these fenders came from the sedan and were narrower on top than needed for roadsters. 2 yrs ago I  added about 3" of material from the original roadster fenders which were in much worse condition. They still need work, but finding decent original ones is impossible. With rear fenders on, the big butt of this car becomes obvious, 72" fender edge to fender edge. 

 

I also have some fitting work to do with Rumble Seat lid. A nearly 80 year old friend made the rear body panel, and it is very well done, but overall opening for lid is about 1/4" too large. Gaps are too wide at bottom and top. Will likely make top gap correct by loosening the hinge bracket bolts and sliding lid forward about 1/8". Then will have to deal with gap at bottom/back end, perhaps have a body man add 1/4" to rear panel. 

 

Finally I pulled out the firewall pad that came on the sedan. It is in so-so shape, but not something that can be easily found or made. So I plan to spend some time on it in next few days, repairing a couple of cracks, etc. The sedan had double paddi9ng, a layer of homosote type product, 2 layers of insulation and this pad. Nor sure how much I'm going to put back. Cheers.

 

Never a dull moment around here! 

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1 hour ago, Gunsmoke said:

Thanks K31, I've been following that topic, will have to search thru for the part on cowl pad.

It's nearer to the end than the beginning.

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