Fun time! The Twin Grille Roadster is back from the painter and we get to dry fit all the parts for an evaluation before going to final paint. The painter did an excellent job on the body work and painted the Roadster in a flat black primer. It really looks stealthy. The body is straight and the gaps were good. The first thing we did was to install the headlights and new chrome wheels and tires. We haven’t done a complete dry fit before, usually just the bumpers, tops, lights and other parts that fit to a painted chassis. But this is a rare 356 Twin Grille Roadster, one of 249 produced. The owner will sell it and we hope to get top dollar. It will probably go to a collector, so fit and finish must be excellent.
We recently ordered the interior and from the Certificate of Authenticity (available from Porsche Cars North America) discovered this 356 was ordered with green leather seats. We received some samples and had some original leather and got a very good match.
While we don’t do show cars as they take a longer time than driver level 356s we enjoy this kind of work. We call it “polishing the zerks” (A zerk is a grease fitting on the suspension that fits a grease gun), it means every part has to be cleaned, polished, painted or replaced. This takes time and patience.
Speaking of patience, we were missing a grab handle on the Shop ’54 Coupe. We assembled the dash; instruments, switches, etc, without the grab handle thinking it would be a simple job to install it when we found one. Well we found a nice one and it took over two hours to install it! The reason being the dash on a ’54 356 is removable and the grab handle is not on the dash but way at the passenger end and should be installed before the dash. There is less than an inch of room with the glove box in the way. We tried special tools but just could not get the grab handle installed. After two hours, we unbolted the right side of the dash and the glove box and by looking through the windshield we got the grab handled attached. So patience is important in 356 restoration. This is also the reason there are few shops that can do this work. Can you imagine charging a customer for two hours labor to install a grab handle?
Another issue in 356 restoration is reproduction parts . For the Twin Grille Roadster the owner had bought parts in the eighties and some may have been new old stock (nos). He had purchased two rubber hood seals. Upon inspection, both looked good; flatter than what we often see today. A bulky hood seal can cause the hood to sit high revealing the seal. Not a good fit and finish. We tried one hood seal and immediately discovered a problem. The shop that had “restored” the Roadster in the early eighties had not used the correct screws and finishing washers. The holes were too big. This means we had to make a nut plate for each of the thirty screws. A nut plate is a metal piece one inch by a half inch with a hole centered in it to receive and capture the correct screw. Of course, the nut plate has to be held under the hood lip as you insert the screw and finish washer through the rubber seal. It takes time. After an hour and a half we were done. But it didn’t look right so off with that seal and on with the other. Another hour and a half and we are satisfied with the result.
While, I work on the Roadster dry fit, we took the Texas ’60 Coupe “Goat Car” to the painter and put the Shop ’58 Cabriolet in the shop. BJ will have a lot of metal work on this 356, more than the “Goat Car”. After getting the bare chassis off its dolly, we hung the doors, While the doors both need extensive repair they can be used as jigs to see if the door gaps are close. They were not, as the complete floor had been removed and the Cabriolet had opened up. We used a come along secured to the rear and front suspension tubes to pull the chasses closed. We will keep it this way as BJ installs a new floor and we will continue to put the doors on and off checking that we maintain a good gap.
Back on the Twin Grille Roadster, I started at the front end for the dry fit. After the hood seal, we installed the fuel tank and saw we will have to reposition the filler neck in the filler opening as the previous “restoration” did poor metal work in this area. We also will have to so some body work to get the rubber seals to fit around the headlights. Reproduction headlights were used by the previous shop and it took some work to get the headlights to fit. Glad we were in primer and not paint. Then we have to try reproduction headlight seals which just like hood seals vary in thickness. With the front compartment almost done we are moving on to the interior compartment and the exterior parts. We installed the rear teardrop tail lights but had not cleaned the wires. We had protected them with aluminum foil when we painted, caulked and undercoated underneath. To clean old paint and undercoat off wires, you can carefully use lacquer thinner and craft sticks to scrape. Be careful with the thinner on wires with a colored trace as it can be removed.
On over sixty full 356 restorations we have only used two reproduction wiring harness. The wires don’t age often and ends and connectors can be repaired. Restoration wiring harness cost around one thousand dollars.
Alex and BJ played 9 holes of golf on Sunday. Alex likes putting but enjoys driving the golf cart more. Alex is paying very close attention to the calendar with the most important question being “How many more days until Christmas?”