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Interview

1936 Packard 120-B Convertible Sedan

Part 3: Paint, Bodywork, and More...

By Jeremy Wilson

Paint and Bodywork

The Packard was yellow when Monte and Elaine purchased it. That is, yellow over red over black. And the yellow enamel created a problem.

“The previous owner had it painted with enamel over the lacquer, which was not a good thing,” said Monte. “When I got the car, I could peel the paint off. There were cracks and you could roll it up. Dave told me, ‘We’re going to fix this.’ and so we took it down to bare metal.

“We discovered the car had been hit twice; once on the passenger side fender and once in the back. The back body work was really good, but Dave didn’t like the previous work on the right front fender. One of Dave’s sayings is: ‘Any car that I restore is not going to look like a washboard!’ So he worked the dent out--it was neat. He stretched it, banged on it, and sanded it; if he did that fender once, he did it 20 times, I swear.

“At one point he was painting the other fender and the doggone air hose tripped him and knocked over the fender he had just finished, so he had to paint it over again. But Dave never quits. If you work with Dave, he doesn’t stand around and take breaks, he just keeps working. That’s the way he is.”

Monte learned that the best tool for installing rear-fender welting is a second set of hands.

“My job,” said Monte, “was to lie under the car, put the bolts in, and tighten them up while Dave aligned the fender and the welting. He told me, ‘I’m not having it wiggle all over the place and I want it to come down at the end and be there right where it should.’ He cursed me when I wouldn’t get the bolts on fast enough. That was funny!”

The Packard Grill and Hood Ornament

The striking Packard grills of the 1930s often had thermostatically-controlled shutters, which would open when the engine warmed up and close when it cooled back down. For the 120-B, thermostatic shutters were available only on special order, and this particular car did not have them. In any case, each vertical bar is held in place by a small square tab of metal. The tabs are slightly twisted to hold the shutters in place. To replate the individual shutters, they must be removed from the grill assembly, a tricky task.

“I took it all apart and was proud,” said Monte. “Then Dave told me how you can break the little retaining tabs off if you’re not careful. And when it comes back from being chromed, the metal will be even more brittle, so be more careful. So I put it all together and said ‘Doesn’t that look good?’ And Dave replied, ‘Wonderful, Monte, you just put the outside ones on backwards.’ Fortunately I was able to reverse them without bending or breaking anything.”

“We replaced the hood ornament before installing the radiator shell because it’s a devil to do afterward. When I retired, my colleague friends chipped in and bought this one for me, which I thought was very, very kind. Nowadays they are expensive, but Packard used to sell them for $12.95 installed.”

Lining Up the Front End

One of the biggest challenges of a restoration is getting radiator shell, front fenders, and hood to align with each other and the body. In Monte’s case it was even more difficult because the radiator cradle had been altered.

“There was a 1930’s Buick radiator in the car when I bought it,” said Monte. “They had welded little round of pieces of steel onto the radiator cradle to raise it up, so when we installed a proper Packard radiator, the fenders and hood were too high. We repaired the cradle and now it works fine. But getting it aligned was hard. There are two bars going from the radiator to the body, the bolt on the bottom of the radiator cradle, and the fender-to-body bolts. I tell you, it seems like you’re adjusting a dozen things at once. Dave did a good job of lining it up and it’s still aligned pretty decent. We’re happy with that.”

Continue to Part 4...
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