Spring Makeover

The older you get, the faster time flies. That truism hit me in a big way when I realized that six months have slipped by since I last posted here. That’s half a year—an embarrassingly long time. Visitors over the past months may have gotten the impression that “Sweet Chariot” is just another blog that fizzled, like so many that begin with good intentions but aren’t sustainable.
I don’t have a good excuse. Certainly it wasn’t my intention to let six months pass between posts. Probably the biggest factor is that I turned my attention away from my hobbies to concentrate on other writing projects, including a major deadline for a book. That project is now in production, I’m happy to report. If you’d like to learn more, please visit my author site: www.brucegamble.com.
Because of my writing schedule, I spent little time driving or working on the convertible during the last six months. But now, with spring approaching, I find my attention drawn to distant places. It’s easy to indulge in sunny daydreams of exploring scenic, two-lane Highways to Somewhere. And so, as the old wanderlust begins to percolate again, I’m making plans for at least two lengthy road trips. The Mustang will have to be safe as well as reliable, and this year it needs more than the usual end-of-winter care. On February 20, it was taken to a trusted shop for a “punch list” of small repairs and improvements.
New windshield. Over the past two summers, after getting caught in heavy downpours on a couple of occasions, I discovered a leak at the bottom corner of the windshield on the driver’s side. I ordered a new gasket and arranged to have a local body shop pull the glass, make necessary repairs to the window opening, and then reinstall the glass. However, a bit of good fortune intervened prior to the scheduled appointment. During a cruise to the Tallahassee Antique Automobile Museum with the Bay Mustang Club on February 11, a rock or piece of debris was kicked up and cracked the windshield. So now the glass replacement and labor is covered by insurance. As the photo shows, the sheet metal around the window opening is in fantastic shape for a 45-year-old convertible. A small rust area—the culprit of the leak—will be repaired before the new windshield is installed. Interestingly, removal of the stainless steel trim revealed that the upper frame needed additional repairs to the damage caused several years ago by Hurricane Ivan (see “Many Returns Part II, ” posted June 25, 2011). 
17 years after the previous restoration, the windshield frame is still in great shape.
 New hood hinges and springs. Modern cars have lightweight hoods, often made of fiberglass, that are easily supported by piston-type lifts. But most cars of the 1960s were equipped with heavy steel hoods that swung upward on articulated hinges with heavy springs. The springs, which are under tension when the hood is closed, gradually weaken after years of use. When that happens, the back of the hood creeps up—it no longer fits flush with the surrounding body panels when closed. The hinges and springs on my Mustang were at least seventeen years old, installed at the time of the first restoration, and when the hood was closed it jutted almost half an inch higher than the cowl. I ordered new “premium quality” hinges made by Dynacorn, the company that manufactures brand-new steel bodies of early Mustangs, Camaros, and other classics. The hinges look good and should hold the hood flush at the back.
The new hinges await the fitting and adjustment of the hood
New export brace. This is a purely cosmetic improvement. Years ago I purchased a “chromed” export brace to dress up the engine compartment, but it was a poorly finished example. I subsequently learned that all of the foreign-made braces were of the same low quality, so it made no sense to exchange the part. Fortunately, the Scott Drake restoration company began making a show-quality export brace—an improvement that is worth every penny.
Rust in driver’s door. Several years ago I noticed a small bubble in the paint of the driver’s door in the lower front corner. Originally about the size of a thumbtack, the bubble has gradually enlarged and spread into an ugly, cancerous blister. Danny Hutchinson and the guys at 231 Paint and Body in Panama City will cut out the offending area and patch in a new piece of sheet metal.
This spot of cancer has been growing for about three years.
 Stripe kit. A black racing stripe will be installed along the lower sides of the Mustang, which will simplify the blending and finish of the repaired rust spot.
Once the repairs are completed by the body shop, the convertible will receive some interior improvements such as new carpet (to replace the 17-year-old carpet from the original restoration), intermittent wipers, 6 x 9 rear speakers, and sound-deadening material in the doors and hood. At that point, the Mustang known as Sweet Chariot will be ready for the spring cruising season and some adventurous road trips.
Let’s roll!