Automotive Preservation and Restoration


Shelby2The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, PA houses an impressive collection of cars a stones throw away from an oil refinery and an eclectic array of automotive scrap yards.  The local industrial scenery is a nice counter point to the collection of preserved automotive history inside the museum.  Saturday December 12th, 2015 Dr. Fred Simeone gave a presentation on the preservation of the Museum’s Shelby Daytona Coupe and the work that went into bringing the vehicle to it’s current condition.  The discussion centered around explaining preservation versus restoration and chronicling the process taken to preserve the Shelby Daytona Coupe.

Dr. Simeone characterized restoration of a vehicle as an activity who’s goal is to return the condition of a car to like new or better.  He sees the tendency to restore beyond ‘like new’ condition as problematic from a historical perspective and more a reflection of the restorer’s craftsmanship.  A restored vehicle is significant in its representation of a specific vehicle from a particular era, but the vehicle itself may not be inherently significant.  The historical value of a restored vehicle is further clouded when it is modified with modern equipment for safety and performance reasons.

The concept of preserving a vehicle relates more to the treatment of classic artwork or furniture.  The intent is not to recreate a vehicle as it came off the assembly line, but to preserve a rare and historically signficant automobile as it existed.  In this case the 1964 Shelby Daytona Coupe.  It was one of six built to be a world beating GT race car and this particular chassis number, CSX2287 set a speed record on the Bonneville salt flats in 1965.  The slide show walking through the preservation detailed the process wonderfully.  Dr. Simeone’s commentary provided a generous dose of anecdottes related to the car’s history and kept the discussion more than purely technical.  It was a great education on the process, theory and the vehicle itself.  I look forward to future offerings on the preservation and restoration process from the museum.

The rest of the museum does not dissapoint either.  The vehicles are well preserved or restored and driven at demo days throughout the drier months of the year.  If you appreciate vintage sports cars and sports car racing it is worth the trip.



Official trailer: Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman (VIDEO)

Looking forward to seeing this.


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This Thursday in Hollywood, Adam Carolla’s upcoming documentary on the late Paul Newman, “Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman” will be shown in a private screening.

While we can’t quite offer you a ticket to the show, we can show you the official trailer of the documentary that looks at the actor’s transition, adaptation and eventual starring and winning in racing.

Among those interviewed and featured in the trailer include legendary actors Robert Wagner and Robert Redford, former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, actor/driver Patrick Dempsey, and legendary drivers Mario Andretti and Sam Posey.

Additionally, just today, Nissan has been named a presenting sponsor of the documentary’s charity screening premieres. More information is linked here, via BusinessWire.

Carolla spoke on The Dan Patrick Show last month about the project; that interview is linked here.

Full release is set for May 22, the Friday before…

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Datsun Frame Rail Repair: Part 1


IMG_2792When I first picked up my project car I was struck by a few areas of primer and the odd looking fitment of the fenders.  It wasn’t until it rolled off the tow truck and into my driveway that I realized the car was midway through numerous rust repairs.  The initial plan to address the car’s immediate mechanical issues and try to get it to start were scrapped.  This prompted an ambitious, somewhat misguided, complete disassembly of the vehicle.

With the car gutted the poor rust repair quality was evident.  The extensive corrosion in the unibody had been addressed with a combination of ill fitting metal and fiberglass patches.  The welds, rivets and sheet metal screws holding those panels in place looked generally dubious.  The frame rail repairs were particularly concerning.  The original frame rails had slowly removed themselves from service through oxidation.  The replacement rails were roughly bent channels that matched up with the remaining orignal channel half way down the driver side and completely replaced the original on the passengar side.  They were constructed from three pieces of sheet metal.  Two L shaped pieces on the sides and a U shapped channel cap.  The lap welds joining the cap to the side pieces were inconsistent, unfinished and rusting.  The weld along the base of the L shaped flanges to the floor pan was equally questionable with the added bonus of burn through along the weld and into the floor.


Initially I considered keeping the rails and touching up the welds, but the more time I spent reviewing the repair the more I questioned its strength. The repair’s construction left many areas to trap moisture and rust had already started.  It looked like alot of work to clean off the existing rust followed by alot of welding and grinding to make a bad repair look mediocre.

Taking all that into consideration it was determined that the existing replacement rails needed to be removed and replaced.  These channels seem critical to the integrity and dimensions of the unibody.  So their repair will be the last metal work completed on the project in hopes that my skills improve as I work my way around the car.

The plan:

  1.  Shim the  vehicle with large washers and attempt to level the chassis.
  2. Measure the body distances to try and determine if the body is straight.  The garage floor is not level and the existing frame rails are poor, so it would be nice to know what we are starting out with.
  3. Source quality replacement channels from Zedd Findings ( for the 280Z.
  4. Reinforce these channels with caps made by Bad Dog (  The plan is for this thing to be fast someday and need more chassis rigidity.
  5. Remove and replace one rail at a time in order to keep the chassis as straight as possible.

The plan feels reasonable, but there are a few nagging issues.  First of all, I have yet to successfully weld updside down and I don’t have a rotisserie.  A rotisserie is a large investment of time and space that I’m not ready to make.  I could use cleco’s to pin the rails in place from the inside of the car and plug weld the rails in place from the interior down to the top flange.  A jack could be used to apply pressure to the frame channel against the floor pan to help insure the welds are solid.  The second issue is that we got impatient and tried to remove the passenger side replacement rail before doing steps 1 -4 of the plan.

What we learned from our impatience was that removing the replacement channels is ugly and causes quite a bit of damage to the existing floor boards.  The replacement rail was not connected with spot welds to the floor pan.  A rough gloppy bead held it in place along the edge of the flange.  We initially tried grinding through the weld and eventually resorted to a combination of grinding, chisel blows, and air chisel assualt.  We removed the rail and what was left of the damaged floor pan in short order.

IMG_2803 (1)

The next step is to patch the holes we created when removing the frame rails.  Once the floor is solid again the intent is to go back to the orignal plan and level the chassis so we can take measurements per step 1.



Datsun Z Sheet Metal Rust Repair: Stamped Patch Panels

Never purchase a vehicle without inspecting it and avoid vehicles with rust.  This is really good advice that I did not follow. Most of the parts were present, but there were a few rust problems.  We stripped the car completely down to the shell once we grasped the extent of the issues.  It did not make sense to build upon the shaky foundation that we discovered.

The previous owner attempted quite a few repairs.  Some of the repairs look good enough and others look questionable. One of the chaIMG_2051llenges with this car is making those decisions. In some ways starting from scratch with honest rust holes might have made the project easier. My experience with rust repair was nonexistent prior to the Datsun, but is slowly growing as the project continues. In an effort to avoid becoming completely overwhelmed and with respect to my limited spare time I’m trying to work on one section of the car at a time. Up to this point I have touched up a few previous repairs with additional welding and grinding. I am avoiding the intimidating problem areas and have shaped a few of my own patch panels.

Forming a patch panel for the driver side dog leg proved a time consuming challenge and my final results were disappointing, but still better than the original repair.  Purchasing a stamped patch panel would have been a better use of my time and given me a superior end result.

Below is a summary of the retailers and websites that carry replacement panels.


Motor Sport Auto

Z Car Source of Arizona

Black Dragon Auto

Zedd Findings

Rust Panels

Most of the retailers all seem to sell the same line of rust repair patch panels with the exception of Zedd Findings. Zedd findings offers replacement floors and rails for the 240Z, 280Z and 280ZX. My current project requires partial panel replacement and the above suppliers offer solutions to panels that would prove more challenging to hand shape.  I believe TABCO is the manufacturer of the repair panels. A post on Classic Z Cars from 2008 documents a trip to TABCO in Cleveland, Ohio and paints an interesting picture.

Pricing from TABCO is generally lower than the other retailers. In my opinion the only advantage to ordering from one of the other retailers might be inventory availability or customer service.  A few posts on the forums alluded to TABCO waiting for a minimum production run number before processing back ordered items.  I was able to find a TABCO dogleg panel on EBay and ordered a lower Rear Quarter panel direct from TABCO.

Both items arrived in good condition and in a timely manner.  I’m looking forward to getting them installed.