I finally got back to work on the Venus after a very long hiatus. But before I get down to the nuts and bolts of the restoration, there has been some big “news” concerning the Venus. The Houston Chronicle came out and did a photo essay on the Venus, and the article appeared in the March 2nd edition. The on-line article can be read here:
I thought the Venus might make a good story for the paper, and I sent a short letter to the editors about the Houston connection of the Venus, and apparently, they agreed. No, they didn’t beat a path to my door. The only thing I need to elaborate on is the ending of this article. What I meant was that eventually, I will probably sell the car, but that’s only after enjoying the Venus and showing it for several years. This car really belongs in a museum so others can see it, not stuck in a 2-car garage. (I kept a Jaguar XKE for 37 years, and that was about 10 years too long.) But I’m very glad that my Dad’s dream got some press; I think he would be proud. But realistically, it’s an eggshell on 4 wheels, and irreplaceable, so with pot-holes and uninsured drivers, I really don’t know how much actual drive time the Venus will see.
This article has brought forth a lot of people who either owned a Venus; worked on Venus'; or new about them in some way. I heard from Charles Dunn and Claude Hunter who used to build Venus bodies one-by-one, laying layers of glass into the mold and trying to keep bubbles out. Claude also had a great deal to do with finishing the actual “plug” (positive) of the Venus from which negative molds were made. Both of these guys have been a tremendous help in my understanding the timeline of things.
I also heard from Roy Cason who used to work with my Dad and a Mr. “Tex” Nance at Vector Cable Company. Thanks to Roy, I have been able to track down Mr. Nance, and although I have not yet heard back, it is my belief that Tex was the eventual owner of the original prototype Venus as seen on Motor Trend magazine. Perhaps….just perhaps….he still has that car or knows where it might be!!
I heard from Ray Jones who ran an auto trim shop on Harrisburg, and who installed the interiors and custom folding tops on the Venus cars. The shop is still there….Jones Auto Trim Shop… and is now run by his grandson Jim Litzman. Ray sent me a scan of an old washed-out photo of a Venus that he has just completed. From this photo, I was able to determine that TWO Venus cars received a custom convertible top, not just one as I had previously thought. I do believe this is the only Venus to have received a Continental kit.
I heard from a couple of guys…Cecil Tipton and Bill Morris… who said they had a hot-rod club called “The Rebels” back then, and they used to hang around the Venus shop. Bill drove a Venus on occasions (parades), but did not own one. Bill still proudly displays his “Rebels” plaque and wears the Rebels jacket at car shows. Cecil Tipton has one of the club shirts that he is going to donate to the Venus memorabilia collection. This shirt is very cool, and if I’m not mistaken, reads “Venus Test” on the right-side pocket area. Cecil tells me that the club and the shirts were sponsored (paid for) by the Venus Corporation, which would have been the second “ownership” group (Eddie Kovar). Whether or not they actually had anything to do with testing the car (speed) is unknown. But having this small connection to a hot-rod club, and having a shirt for display is simply far too cool! I am very appreciative to Cecil for this gesture.
Last but not least, I heard from a lady, Mickey Stifter, who said she and her dad Oscar used to own and drive a Venus back in the early 60’s. She was going to dig up some old photos, but I haven’t yet received anything. She said it did not have a folding top, nor a continental kit, but had a lever on the floor to shift in the overdrive. She said it was a black and white car, and that she had rolled & pleated interior put into it. Oscar ran a lumber company back in the 40’s and 50’s. She said he bought the car already on a frame, but that it did not have an interior. I am interested in knowing if this is a car that I already have pictures of, or, if it is perhaps an un-documented Venus.
To wrap up this portion of the post, I hope I didn’t leave anyone out, nor do I mean to minimize anyone’s involvement by not writing enough detail. These are on-going correspondences, and I am simply keeping this short for the sake of this posting. I really hope to hear from Tex Nance soon!! IF that Venus prototype still exists, and IF the original windshield posts are available, then I (hopefully) will be able to use them to have a new set (or two) cast out of bronze or perhaps steel.
Of course, I wait until the end of the year when average temps are in the 40’s and 50’s….too cold to apply resin without heating up the garage to 70 or so (which is relatively easy to do with my propane heater if need be). I decided to concentrate on getting all of the mechanical fittings pre-mounted before resuming with the body work.
I finally got the hood hinges installed; these will look much better when the hood receives final body work and paint.
I also started blanking out the instrument panel. Previously, I had resined-in scrim material that would serve as a backstop for pieces I would be installing on the front.
I cleaned the sides of all holes with a small Dremel tool, exposing a fresh resin area. I pre-cut all mat pieces using cardboard templates, and had each size and shape ready to grab during the fill process (no photo). I built up each large hole with fiberglass, and small 3/4″ holes received the Kevlar-reinforced filler material. By the way, I’m using regular polyester “general purpose” resin from Fibre Glast (#77…wax-free) which costs at $54 per gallon. I generally allow it to sit overnight for a good hard cure. And if you think general resin is somehow sub-par, think again. This stuff is really hard to remove…..just try to sink a screw into it and you’ll see how hard it really is.
After levelling down the resin disks, a thin layer of Kevlar body filler was used to cover the entire panel. The main point here is that the holes were filled with glass and resin, not just body filler. Ultimately, the entire panel will be smoothed with the Kevlar filler.
I gave some thought to this green filler, and although hard and durable, I really don’t want to use it to fill large areas on the body. I ordered some white gelcoat from Fibreglast and will be experimenting with it first.
Although I am not yet ready to give a visual update on these, I am also working on the hood latching mechanism, a very important piece. My good friends at Inland Machine Shop are currently machining the attachment block for the lower latch assembly. Can’t wait to get it for fitting and installation!
In the meantime, I have also started body work on the gas-filler door assembly, and a new gas filler box to be made out of copper. I’m still trying to find a small sheet-metal company to make this simple box for me. If I had a sheet metal brake, I could do it myself as this is 10th grade metal-shop stuff….but I can’t justify buying a brake just for this box. Below is the filler neck I made. The box will be sandwiched between the upper copper piece and the lower steel piece.
The gas compartment door has received a new fiberglass skin (top part showing in photo). The hole where the key lock occupied will be filled in, as I don’t see this hardware on the original photos. There is no need to lock the compartment door on this show model. I expect to be making a custom hinge for this door which will look similar to those used on the hood, but on a much smaller scale, of course.
The door opening required work as well. As seen in the before and after photo below, a previous owner didn’t pay too much attention to aesthetics. Note the right upper and lower corners receiving a 90 degree cut, not doubt with a power jig saw. What should be there is the same curve as is seen in the outer opening. So I rebuilt this lip with glass and then re-cut and filed the gentle curves at all four corners. This took about 4 hours to do.
I am now shaping the door for a near-perfect fit, and afterwards, will shape and install a custom hinge. Although I can use a spring (or even magnets) to hold the door closed, I am not quite sure what to use to actually lift the door up. Again, the lock mechanism is being deleted.
So, that’s all I have to report for now. With spring’s warmer weather filtering in, the days are getting better to continue the glass/resin work.
Thank you for your interest, and sorry for it taking so long for a new update.
PS: I just had a brainstorm last night….grated, they come few and far between these days. But the thought occurred to me that there is NO reason to spend countless hours trying to trim and fit the old door to match the new opening. Instead, I simply block the bottom opening; spray down the opening with mold release compound, and lay in new glass and lots of resin, and viola! A new door with corners that fit EXACTLY!! Of course, it’s a bit more involved than that. I’ll report the success or failure of this procedure in the next update.