Welcome to the inside of my head
C'mon in...wipe your feet
The interior swap went relatively well last fall. Since then the Roadmaster has been languishing in the garage waiting for the weather and free time to finish up the last of the work. One of the big hurdles for me has been the colouring on the steering wheel. Like most of these beautiful B-Bodies, the interior lacks quality both in engineering and installation. The colouring on the steering wheels is known to rub off making for quite an ugly mar on the interior. You can see the black marks on the wheel where the dye had rubbed off as part of normal wear and tear.
I spent the winter trying to find an appropriate paint to recoat the steering column. I didn’t expect that I would be able to find supplies suitable to recoat the flexible plastics of the steering wheel itself so I planned to leave that for another day. I had heard that SEM products were the best way to re-colour an interior but I had some difficulty in finding a supplier here in Canada that carried SEM. Thinking that Duplicolor’s Fabric and Vinyl paint would do the job I picked up a can in what I though would be a close enough colour. Unfortunately the colour was so significantly different that I just couldn’t accept it. Since the Duplicolor paint was intended for vinyl surfaces I tried it out on a spare airbag that I happened to have. You can see here that, while this is a really nice tan colour, it was far from a match for my wagon’s factory tan interior. It’s possible that I simply chose the wrong colour, but none of the retailers in my area carried anything other than a few basics.
Seeing this, I gave up on Duplicolor and moved on to just trying to find any paint that would let the steering column blend even a little bit with its surroundings. Unfortunately that turned out to be far more difficult than expected. It’s really surprising just how many different shades of tan there are out there. Not a one of the 13 different paints I tried out were close enough for me to live with.
After a little more digging, at long last, I discovered D&W Auto Body Supplies (www.dwautobodysupplies.ca) and managed to get in there for a look. As it turned out, D&W carries SEM paint products and even had Saddle Tan SEM Color Coat on hand right on the shelf. It’s pretty staggering how very nearly exact that SEM Saddle Tan paint turned out to be. It was so incredibly close that I went ahead and prepped the steering wheel once the column was done.
This turned out to be quite a project, and one that I never expected to have to undertake. Much like any project the right answer was perseverance, tinkering, and a little trial and error to find exactly the right solution to the problem. I’m extremely happy with how it turned out and that’s exactly the sort of result that provides the drive and motivation to move to the next project.
I’ve been doing a lot of work on the wagon’s interior this summer. Back in August a friend of mine and I decided to pick up an old Roadmaster and split the parts. He needed the powertrain and I was shopping for some interior parts. While my seats were in great shape, the carpeting was very tired and all of my door panels were beyond repair and in dire need of replacement.
I’ve decided that, since I’m looking at swapping most of the interior to freshen it up anyway, it might be worthwhile to change the colour altogether. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wagon with the same exterior colour as mine and a tan interior. I really like the tan interior that came with these B-Bodies and I think it would look great with my blue paint and really set off the woodgrain trim well.
The wagon that my friend and I found was in very rough shape from having been sitting in a field for an undetermined amount of time. Despite that, the interior was nearly in mint condition. The seller sent me some photos and I was very anxious to pick up the car and get started. Unfortunately someone showed up at the seller’s place and picked up the car before I could get to it. I went back to watching the classifieds for another wagon to donate parts to my project. Fast forward a couple of months and I found another donor. After seeing photos of the interior this time I didn’t hesitate and agreed to buy the wagon sight unseen. Upon picking up the beast, I discovered that it was the exact same wagon that I had missed out on earlier and it still had the same beautifully preserved interior.
I had the wagon dragged home and we began the process of hollowing out the two wagons to begin the swap.
It was close to a 50 hour process to get both wagons hollowed out and the new tan interior installed. It rained off and on throughout the entire installation process and ultimately started raining hard enough that we had to pack it in. Most of the interior is installed now with only a few pieces left to go. Stay tuned for more photos and updates.
The weather got a little bit warm last week so I decided to fire up the A/C in my wagon. It wasn’t necessarily warm enough that I needed the car to be ultra cool, but I like to turn it on every now and again to keep the seals from drying out and just to run a general test.
As many of you are aware, I had the A/C system rebuilt a couple of years ago after the compressor clutch came loose and threw the whole works out of whack. That repair included a new compressor, evaporator/dryer, refrigerant, etc. It was not a cheap repair but since I expect to drive the wagon throughout the summer it seemed like a required one. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the A/C and found only warm air coming from the vents! Took a look under the hood and discovered that my A/C fuse had blown but putting in a new fuse didn’t do me any good. From what I could see, the compressor wasn’t pulling in when the HVAC called for cooling. I contacted the garage that did the installation for me on the off chance that the compressor had a warranty as it certainly looked like I was in for another compressor.
The garage was good enough to book the car in very quickly and gave me a loaner to drive to work for the day. Strangely enough the final resolution was simply a recharge. Apparently the A/C system has a slow leak. The system holds a charge just fine once it’s refilled but here I am two years later with an empty A/C system and no sign of a leak anywhere. For those of you who own one of these B-Body cars, bear in mind that the compressor will not pull in if the refrigerant doesn’t have sufficient pressure. That’s what prevented me from having to put in another compressor, but it’s cold comfort really. A fresh dose of refrigerant, some dye in the hopes of finding the leak, and a hefty bill had me on my way again. Hopefully I’ll get lucky this time and it will hold but I think it’s more likely that this will repeat in 2 years time.
This seemed to be a particularly long winter from a car guy’s point of view. I tried very hard not to bring the Roadmaster out before I was absolutely certain that there was no sign of snow. The Great White North was a precocious mistress this year and each time it looked like Spring was well and truly here we would get hit with another mess of snow.
Yesterday I finally got the wagon out and drove it to work. There’s no better feeling than cruising in a much beloved car. The entire drive seemed over in a heartbeat and yet absolutely nothing about it seemed rushed. My Roadmaster eats up road like nothing. There’s almost no sensation of speed or movement, it’s simply a paused moment in time. While I had to take it out of the garage twice for pickup trips this year, yesterday was really the first drive of spring and it was a good one! My buddy Silverfox puts the joy of getting into a station wagon best in his terrific dialogue on “What a wagon means to me” over at stationwagonforums.com Here’s a quote from his thoughts.
When I walk up to my wagon, look at its beauty, touch it, I swear, it’s like it’s alive and knows I’m there. It smiles with appreciation and I can feel its loyalty. When I turn the key and hear the soft rumble of power it’s like…….well………it’s like that dog you had that was your best friend that smiled and wagged its tail with love and affection, his only mission in life was to please you. It’s like that. I sit there inside and hear the blub of the dual exhaust and the purr of the engine just waiting to please. Drop it in gear and it responds with anticipation and I drive sealed in that space of time gone by.
I couldn’t agree more. It’s like driving with a good friend. I couldn’t resist popping outside to take a photo of the Roadmaster’s first day outside in months.
Snowy times are imminent here in The Great White North so my wagon has been packed away in the garage awaiting the warmth of summer. Part of the allure of driving a station wagon for me is being able to strap a Christmas Tree on the roof Chevy Chase-style. Last year I foolishly forgot my tie down straps and had to bring the tree back inside the wagon. The couple who were parked beside me at the tree lot were having considerable amounts of difficulty finding a way to get their tree into the trunk of their tiny little Honda. While there was a certain satisfaction in simply opening the back of the wagon, sliding the tree in, and driving off while they continued to struggle it wasn’t what I was looking for. This year I was well prepared. I had my straps ready so I dragged the wagon out of the garage and shined up the rims for one last mission. I was even able to ignore the strip of trim that had fallen off of the rear fender.
After driving around for a little while with the new Magnaflow’s installed, I wasn’t entirely certain that I liked the sound. It wasn’t quite as deep as I was hoping for. I wondered if it were possible that it might sound better outside of the car than it does inside. I decided to make some video clips of the car at a few different throttle levels to see what the sound was like. Ultimately I found that I’m quite happy with the exhaust note as it sounds from the outside of the car. I’m still not a huge fan of how it sounds from the inside of the car, but I think I can live with that. I’ve shared some video files with the gang at StationWagonForums.com as a number of them have FlowMaster muffler’s installed. From what we’ve discussed, the FlowMaster mufflers wouldn’t have sounded as good as these Magnaflow’s do.
Below are some links to the video files that I made of the car.
Click here to watch a video of the car starting up.
Click here to watch the car driving off at low throttle (At the end of this video the car can be heard rounding a nearby corner)
Click here to watch a drive-by at low throttle
Click here to watch a drive-by at higher throttle
Click here to watch a video of the car reversing into the driveway
I’ve been looking forward to replacing the exhaust on the wagon for a while. It hasn’t risen to the top of the list of importance so I’ve just been doing planning and researching.
As usual, my wagon decides what it wants and when it gets it. A hanger on the drivers side tailpipe broke some time ago and the previous owner must have caught that hang-down tailpipe on something and loosened the intake pipe on the drivers-side muffler. I’ve been tuning it out but it’s been getting steadily louder for some time. Last week it started to get raspy enough that it was pretty obvious that the volume level wasn’t by design and was actually a hole somewhere. I adjusted my priorities and went ahead with the exhaust replacement. I found a guy in town who does brakes and exhaust and was the only guy with a listing for custom exhaust. I told him what I wanted and he agreed to tackle the wagon the next morning. I had planned on 2-1/4″ pipe and a pair of Flowmaster 40’s. Pete recommended Magnaflow’s based on my description of how I wanted it to sound so I went with his judgement. I desperately wanted the long rectangular exhaust tips that he had on hand. Unfortunately they were best suited for rear exit as they just didn’t look right at the sides of the car. Fortunately I read the recent exhaust thread over at StationWagonForums.com and opted to keep the exhaust exiting at the side to stop CO from building up in my back window. I went with a set of oval chrome tips instead.
The set that they had on hand were double ported but I had it cut in half and used one port on each side. The twin pipes on each side wouldn’t have looked right in my opinion. I quite like the way it looks now. I managed to stroll in and get a few pictures of the installation while no one was actively working on the car.
For the last few weeks the brakes on my wagon have been giving forth an unholy howl. It became pretty obvious that some brake work was in order. This worked out well as I’ve been very frustrated since installing my aluminum rims. The openings in the new rims allow the brake drums to be seen, and those are really rusty. This picture is sort of poor, but it’s pretty obvious that these rusty drums don’t exactly improve the esthetic of the car at all.
I was unable to find drilled and slotted rotors in a reasonable time and I really wanted to see this cleaned up and doing a brake job was really the only way. I picked up some OEM equivalent rotors, pads, calipers, drums, and shoes. Having everything on hand ahead of time allowed me to put a coat of black caliper paint on the drums and calipers so that a more reasonable colour might show through my rim spokes when I was done.
It was sunny and hot outside today and those conditions aren’t particularly suitable for us computer geeks. Given that, I opted to tackle the rear brakes today and leave the front brakes for another day. The swap was pretty uneventful apart from my car’s brakes deviating slightly from the ones depicted in the service manual. I had to play a little trial and error to determine how to get everything reassembled correctly once I had done the teardown. I completely forgot about having purchased a drum brake spring kit until I had reassembled one wheel. I wound up tackling that wheel again to get all of the springs replaced with new hardware. Apart from keeping me out in the sunlight a little longer this wasn’t a major issue.
By the end of it all, I was hot, sweaty and immensely pleased with myself. So much so that I cleaned up and totally forgot to finish torquing down the lug nuts. That made for some tense moments once I got the car a few blocks from home but no real harm was done. I got the nuts torqued down properly and all was well. I’m really quite pleased both with the look of the car with it’s new black drums as well as having finished up my very first brake job.
I haven’t done a great deal of work on the wagon recently. Work and household projects always seem to get in the way. After working around the house for a week during my holidays I decided to take a day off and entered my Buick in it’s first car show. The downtown core of my hometown has hosted an annual car show for a number of years. For some reason, the show hasn’t been held for a little while and the Lions club is trying to resurrect it and give it a little momentum. The rain and limited advertising kept many of the cars away, but the weather cleared and the crowds were there. There were around 80-90 cars there in total and loads of people enjoying the Elvis and Johnny Cash impersonators. I was really impressed by the number of people who were really excited to see my station wagon. There were a lot of car guys who wanted to talk engine and powertrain as well as lots of folks marveling at it’s size and faux-woodgrain while showing their kids the super-cool rear facing seats. I didn’t get a lot of time to prowl the rest of the car show due to the traffic around the wagon, but I managed to get pictures of almost all of the cars. Enjoy!
A friend of mine once told me that it’s always the little details that make a car stand out. I try not to think of any aspect of cleaning and repairing a car as being too small to pay attention to. The interior construction on GM’s B-Body cars from the 90’s really is poor. The plastic pieces wear and crack something terrible. I’m not entirely sure just how it happens but even the dash emblems wear off after a while. The logo on the passenger side of my dash was looking pretty bare and it’s one of the many little things that I know I’ll feel better about after getting it fixed.
After some digging around online for the best method of repairing silver plastic trim in cars I came up empty. Once I stopped looking for it, I discovered some guys chatting about the very same thing over at stationwagonforums.com. Lo and behold, it seems that several folks had run into the same issue that I had and solved it cheaply and easily. The answer was…a silver Sharpie marker. The silver coloured markers work very well for re-doing the silver plastic parts on the interior of cars. The marker isn’t a replacement for chrome but for something as simple as the Roadmaster badge on my dash it worked perfectly. It seemed pretty silly but I was really quite surprised at how well it worked. Sharpie’s are permanent markers so it should last a while, and if it doesn’t it takes nothing to simply repeat the process. You can see below that the difference is quite dramatic.
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