I appreciate your continued interest in the Venus project, and thanks for hanging in there with me. Has been awhile since I was able to spend some quality time on the Venus, but working for a living takes precedent over one’s hobby. This work will allow me to get some of the tasks done that require outside help. You can never do a job like this all by yourself…that is unless you have an enormous and well-equipped shop with plenty of experienced helpers, but I guess that goes without saying. The “outside sourced” tasks include having the center grille sections welded, filled, and plated; having a new copper box fabricated that surrounds the fuel filler neck (done); and having the windshield posts machined. While I’ve given the green light to have these made, I can concentrate on the body and chassis work.
But before turning my sights on the body, I became worried about the engine cylinders and if any rust had developed on the walls. It has been sitting for quite awhile now. Normally, I would squirt in a generous helping of Marvel Mystery Oil and spin the crank a few times. However, on a flathead, the sparkplug hole sits above the valves, not directly over the cylinder. This makes squirting MMO into the cylinders abit difficult. And, since the cylinders are at a slant, the oil would gather at the bottom and not necessarily at the top. So, the only thing to do is remove the heads for a visual inspection. I was glad to find that there was no rust whatsoever in the cylinders, and they looked as pristine as the day I sealed them up. (Remember, you can click on ANY of the photos below for a much bigger photo to view)
With the heads off, I was able to re-treat the walls with MMO and spin the engine a bit to work it in. The only thing this cost me was a new set of head gaskets (cheap). Peace of mind means a lot to me. But looking back, I really wished I had left well-enough alone as this created a lot more work in getting the head gaskets off than what it was worth. Lesson learned.
Picking up where I left off in Update #8, I decided to first tackle the fuel-filler door. I touched on this in the last report, but thought I would expand it a bit. The first order of business was to repair the bottom lip of the opening that had been so unceremoniously cut out with a jigsaw. To start, I needed a bottom layer of fiberglass from which to build. I accomplished this by laying in a few strips of glass to a board that would be fitted and held to the underside of the opening.
After the resin had hardened, I was left with a “foundation” from which to build.
I laid in multiple strips of glass mat until I reached the right thickness, then shaped and finished with kevlar-bodied filler. The filler door now looks much better than the original in the upper photos.
The thought occured to me that rather than spend many fruitless hours trying to shape the old door, I could use the filler opening itself as a mold to fashion a new, precise-fitting door by simply filling up the opening with glass fabric and resin. My first attempt at this was near disasterous as the release compound I used was totally incorrect. As a result, a small portion of the resin stuck to the side of the opening. I purposely stopped filling the hole just to see how well the compound was working (not), and I’m glad I did. Imagine if I had filled this entire door opening in!!
The opening was then repaired and reshaped correctly. After a bit of research and speaking with some pros on-line, I got a tin of Rexco Formula 5 Mold Relese Wax, and some Rexco “Cover-All Film” that goes over the wax. This parting compound is like a liquid plastic, but the downside is that 1 gallon is the smallest amount you can get. With these components, I was now a bit more confident in doing this. I followed label directions and put 6-8 coats of wax first, followed by 6-8 coats of the plastic film. You have to let the film dry before each coat, so I used a hair-dryer to quicken this up a bit. Ultimately, your form will look like this:
The next thing to do was to seal off the bottom opening with a wooden board, roughly 6×6. This board was held in position by a pole and a hydraulic jack underneath. On my first attempt, I had this board covered with plastic, but the plastic tended to pucker from the resin, leaving a less than desireable finish on the bottom, so I went without it this second time around. But again, this board was heavily covered with wax and release compound. (By the way, if anyone wants this wax and release film, it’s yours for free….I’ll probably never use it again). I then began to lay in carefully cut sections of mat fiberglass, saturating each as I went. It is important that you have these pieces of mat pre-cut. Having a cardboard template is a great help in getting the shapes cut correctly every time. I built these layers up to the top, knowing that eventually, I would need a layer of filler to make it perfectly even with its surrounding surfaces. Please click on the link below to watch the short video that shows how this was done.
As noted, I stopped sanding just short of the top of the opening. The body/paint guys can take it from here.
With the fuel door “finished”, I decided it was time to take the body out for some bodywork and painting bids. My garage had an inch of body-filler dust everywhere, and quite frankly, it was so difficult to move around in there, I said “enough is enough”. It was so bad, I didn’t want to go out to my garage….and that’s counter-productive. It’s my hide-out or “man-cave” if you like, complete with air conditioning, a TV, stereo, and a small fridge of cold water and cold Shiner Bock beer. And I normally like to keep it spotless and well-organized.
So I loaded the body into the trailer and made my plans. But you know what happens when you get in a hurry? Stupid stuff happens, that’s what. I failed to make sure the body was sufficiently anchored to the rolling body dolly. I just assumed it was okay. So I took the short trip up the freeway to park the trailer until the next day when I was heading to my first appointment. I happen to open the door and UH-OHH! The body had shifted around, and was off it’s supports.
So the following day, I spend three hours carefully moving the body back straight on the dolly, and then two more days to fabricate some more supports out of cheap jack stands. The body is now VERY secure.
I’ve visited a few shops with the body, and have made my decision on who I would like to do it. However, this guy’s shop is pretty busy right now, and he won’t have room for my Venus body until end of October. But I sure will be glad to get a professional to work on it. Not only is there an extraordinary amount of bodywork to do on the fiberglass, there’s the painting and blocking that goes with lacquer. He will also mount the body on the chassis; mount new instruments in the panel; mount headlight buckets and front rings; mount rear tail lights; mount the doors with external hinges, and mount the latches for the doors. So you see, there is a great deal of work that needs to happen. Needless to say, it won’t be cheap….but it will be a gigantic leap forward.
So while the Venus body sits in my trailer biding its time, I’ve turned my attention to getting the chassis ready to accept the body. But before doing so, I need to send some stuff off to the chrome platers. This includes the hinges, hubcaps, front headlight assemblies, and rear tail light housings. I think I’ll hold off on the bumpers until I get closer to finishing the car. Here are a few miscellaneous items for discussion:
Above is the chrome “finisher” for the steering and shift columns that mounts on the dash. Note the welded area on the left. A previous owner installed a turn signal, cutting out a jagged hole for the mechanism. The original Venus prototype did not have a turn signal. Even though I bought a new old stock turn signal (still in the box, and very pricey) and was thinking about installing it for safety purposes, I decided against it. So I had the jagged hole welded in, and the hole machined back round (thank you Tom). I will need the chrome plater to make this surface all the same texture to hide the weld. Bubbles on the lower lip are pits under the chrome.
These are the 4 outside door hinges that will get fresh chrome. Although I really hate to do so, I may have to drift out the pins on each. I would surely hate to break one of these.
These are the inside door latches. They’ve been de-greased and still look like crap. I’ll be sending these out for bright zinc plating. Most of this mechanism won’t show anyway. (This is also testament that even though you have a fancy digital camera, you can still take horrible photos.)
Above are the striker plates that the above latches mate with, and mount on the back door jamb. These have just been bead blasted and look pretty good. I have all new hardware for these as well.
These are the “parking” light lenses for the front lights. The one on the right is what came off the car; the one on the left a new replacement. I had to do a bit of research, but I’ve determined that the one on the right is NOT correct for a 1953 Buick front parking light lens. If it is correct, then perhaps some Buick expert can let me know. But every photo I’ve seen of the front lights show the stubbier lens on the left. Plus, it fits perfectly in the lens bucket. The one that came out of my car is a sorry sight…..wood glued to the bottom and resin tracks all over it. Even if it IS correct, it’s not going back in.
These are the small “buckets” that house the above-mentioned lenses. They’ve been bead blasted clean; will be zinc plated, and the exterior painted gloss black.
Below are the 4 “sombrero” hubcaps, and the headlight surrounds from a 1953 Buick. Both the caps and the headlight trim are in great shape. I bought the caps several years ago and they are authentic Cadillac. Originals are now expensive and hard to find in good condition.
The Parking / Hand Brake:
This is a slightly more involved topic, delving into the minutia of the hand brake (eyes glaze over about right now). To recap just a little, it turned out that there was a Mopar rear end in this car, not Ford. A friend on the H.A.M.B. forum pointed this out to me when I was asking a question about why I couldn’t get the rear brakes off (or something like that). This then led me to a salvage yard where we yanked a Ford rear-end out of a 1953 Ford junker. Gee, I sure hope it works okay because I didn’t do anything to it in regards to a rebuild….just replaced the front seal. So, I had 2 sets of handbrake cables to each rear-end, and both had been cut through with a torch. So today, I was very glad to find that a complete set of front and rear cables, with sheathing, and with rubber pieces cost only 60 bucks or so….what a bargain. Had this been an old British car, each cable would have been in the hundreds, and the rubber pieces unavailable.
So I turned my sights on the hand brake itself. It has this really cool pull handle on it. It also had a weird bracket attached that didn’t make any sense to me. Of course, it has been nearly 5 years since I originally disassembled this piece from the body, and no doubt, that bracket was probably needed. But as I’m learning with this car, the guy who put it together wasn’t exactly an automotive genius. So I’m having to re-invent better and more practical ways to mount stuff like this.
Without getting bogged down with details, you have to first remove the old cable from the handbrake mechanism by removing a pin. It is this pin that keeps you from fully rotating the shaft to expose the end of the brake cable. Since the pin would not come out, I cut it off with a Dremel tool. I later discovered an access hole in the back of the shaft that would have allowed be to drift it out with a punch….oh well. I will probably replace this pin with a roll-pin, unless I can find a suitable substitute like a steel rivet. (see below) Conversely, this is how the new cable will be installed.
I intend to have the outer slide section zinc plated, then painted gloss black. I could not find a way to remove the handle from the shaft. There is one pin drifted flush through the handle and into the shaft; no exit hole on the other side.
Thinking I might drill out this pin, I attempted to set a center punch. The pin was so hard, it flattened my center punch, so there was no way it was going to drill out. So I’ll leave it up to the chrome plater. More than likely, I’ll first have the rod zinc-plated, then give to the chrome guy for chroming the handle only….shouldn’t be a big deal to do that. This handbrake is quite pitted, and the more I look at it, the more I want to find one in better shape.
Hopefully you can see just how pitted this hand brake is. But I wanted to point out the small and fragile mechanism that ratchets against the shaft when you pull it out…that old familiar “zip” sound. These two angled pieces are held in contact with the shaft by an impossibly small and complicated double-spring. Without this small, tiny spring, the whole thing won’t work!!
Moving right along, I’ve decided to go ahead and use the “Standard” Stewart Warner gages in this car. They most exactly match those in the publicity photo. I toyed with the idea of using their “Wings” series….very nostalgic and art-deco looking….but they just aren’t right for the Venus. And besides, I see the Wing-series gages everywhere….very widely used! I thought about some custom-faced gages with “Venus” written across the bottom, but nah, I can use that money elsewhere on the car. I do wish my Dad had used a large RPM gage next to the Speedo gage though. Staying correct to the prototype prevents me from doing so myself. And I’m still trying to figure out what all of the gages are for…there’s one or two in that cluster that I just know what they are.
Below is one of the gages that came out of the Massachusetts Venus next to the photo of the original Venus gage layout. Note that I have NOT been able to identify the gages in the layout…they don’t look to be Stewart Warner.
Last but not least is this thing….the throttle linkage that attaches to the firewall, and connects the foot pedal to the accelerator shaft on the carburetors. It is quite ugly, and even worse, cannot be taken apart for plating and / painting. I will more than likely go with something more sophisticated, with most of the mechanism behind the firewall. LOKAR makes some nice stuff. I’d like to have a singled sheathed wire coming strainght out of the firewall to the carburetors…not this big-ass ugly thing!
I’m glad to report that while writing this, the guys building my new fuel filler box called and said it was finished and ready for pickup. Here are some shots of the old box and the new. The flaps on the new box will be used to attach it to brackets underside of the body. This is a great improvement, and unlike the old box, the filler tube is removable from the box.
Thought I’d add a little about the steering wheel. My Dad used what I believe to be a 1951 Ford steering wheel. These came in two flavors, depending on model I assume. One has a horn ring that goes all the way around, the other, just the lower portion of the wheel. Both are 18″ in diameter. I have one of each, as seen below:
The metal center on the wheel that I need leaves a lot to be desired, while the center on the wheel I cannot use is much nicer…you can even see a slight gold tinge on the FORD letters;
The chrome ring will have to be restored as well as the finish one the steering wheel itself. I’m pretty sure I can build one good and correct steering wheels from these two. I found a place on the Internet that restores them, but I don’t yet know the cost.
So that’s it for now. Again, thank you for your interest, and don’t hesitate to scroll down to read some of the other entries. You can also click the “ABOUT” tab that will give you links to the “History of the Venus” and “Restoration of the Venus”. I would welcome any comment anyone would like to make.