For years, we have restored rust buckets. Both shop 356s we bought cheap and customer projects. Recently the customer 356s have been in good shape with minimal metal work. George’s ’60 Roadster just had door bottom/lower skin rust damage and the typical battery box damage. The door damage had been previously repaired with brazing and bondo. The battery box damage was caused by the use of a wet cell battery which vented acid and exposed metal to rust.
Kit’s ’64 Coupe had been very well maintained and just had minimal rust damage to one threshold. This is under the rubber step plate where the factory adhesive could fail and allow rust to form. But the real neat thing about George’s and Kit’s 356s is that we are able to reuse original parts. For example, we assembled Kit’s bumpers in one and a half hours. Using reproduction parts this takes almost a day. The repro deco strip doesn’t fit the curve of the bumper, and the repro bumper guards have wrong length studs. So it is a real pleasure and a time saver to be able to use original parts.
George’s Roadster windshield was a challenge however. We first installed his original windshield and rubber. Took about an hour as the old rubber had set to the curvature of the windshield and cowl. We could tell we would have to replace the cowl rubber as it was torn and also replace the windshield as it had wiper scrapes.
We were able to trim the repro cowl rubber using the original as a template. We were also able to reuse the windshield seal rubber which was great as it fit the windshield corners which repros do not.
It took four hours to get the new windshield in. The problem of course was the repro cowl rubber which wouldn’t set at the correct angle to receive the windshield. And then there was the cowl rubber deco strips. These are left, right and center pieces of bright work which are suppose to slip into a slot in the cowl rubber and then are secured by clips that attach to the windshield wiper posts. We bought new decos at a sizeable cost and spent two hours trying to make them fit. No go! We compared them to George’s original deco and they were of a thinner gauge and incorrect curvature. We found some replacement original pieces in our stash to replace George’s damaged pieces, cleaned them up and installed them in one half hour. They are not as pretty as the reproduction pieces but they fit.
Now, we’ve said before we don’t bad mouth reproduction 356 parts as without them we would have some pretty sad looking old cars. But we take pride in our work and if reproduction parts manufactures did also they would use their parts to determine and correct problems.
Many 356s have been restored with the cost of restoration exceeding the value of the 356. The reason of course is the time it takes to make reproduction parts fit. So the message is ~ Keep your original parts in good shape. Maintain your 356 like Kit did.
On every 356 we restore, we recommend and install an electronic turn signal flasher. They are easy to install, needing only a ground connection. Your turn signals are brighter and work consistently. There is also an audible click to let you know they are working. The original turn signal flasher used an element that would heat up and cool down to create the electrical flash. You can imagine what shape an original is in after forty plus years. Plus the repros just duplicate the problem. The electronic flasher solves the problem. We buy ours from Zims (817.267.4451) for about fifty bucks shipped.
So, Jim’s ’61 Sunroof Coupe went to the mechanic for installation of his rebuilt engine. We expect it back soon for final electrical checkout and installation of a few parts. Both Jim and mechanic were very complimentary on the restoration we had done.
Slate Gray is one of our favorite 356 colors. With the Wyoming Speedster on the ground we noticed the left front was three quarters of an inch lower than the right. Lots of measurements point to a possible front suspension problem. We know it took a hard hit in the left front as we had to replace the entire front closing panel and fender. We took the Speedster to the mechanic who has the jigs and tools to check the front suspension.
George’s Roadster is all together just waiting for the top to arrive. We also need to install the engine which checked out good on the test stand. We started assembly on Kit’s ’64 Coupe and mentioned earlier it is a real joy to reinstall original parts.
BJ started on the disassembly of Caroline’s ’62 Coupe. Who? Well she had been after us for a year to work on her 356. With Jim’s 356 at the mechanic when she called we said we had space and three hours later her 356 was delivered from Boulder. What started out as a hood and door repair now looks like a complete restoration and a color change back to the original Ivory.
We missed the Concours D’ Elegance at Arapahoe Community College as we were racing our 1952 356 Coupe at Pueblo for the eighth annual Trans Am invitational. While the big bore cars are the stars, the small bores did real well. All the 356s ran great and Bill Frey, in our ’52, broke the two minute barrier he had been trying for for two years. Congratulations Bill!
Alex loves the pool. She recently advanced to the next level in her swimming class. She can do the crawl for 25 yards and dive for rings. She had a check list of a dozen or more things she passed to get her green ribbon. She is a fish! Olympics in 2020?