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Rusty Ragtop, Part 4--How the Pros Do It

Restoration Tips From the Gold Class Shop

Tony Kelly May 2, 2003

Over the long restoration process of the Rusty Ragtop, the crew at Ron's Restorations showed us what is really meant by the old saying, "The devil is in the details." Much of what we've covered in previous installments has been centered on floor pans, suspensions, tops, and sub-frames. This month we're taking some time to look over the pros shoulder to see what they do that makes one car a show winner, and another just a very nice collector.

Some Chevy models are popular with manufacturers making reproduction parts, others are not. Nova parts, especially trim, are getting harder and harder to find. If you're lucky, the old stuff on your project can be saved with a little work. If you're not, then you need places such as Chevy 2 Only who we were fortunate enough to have help us when our old parts were absolute junk. Still, if you can save it, the original trim can be the way to go, if you know how to salvage it that is.

For whatever reason you are building the car, Gold Class, show car, driver, cruiser, or grocery getter, take the time to do it right. Follow along as we point out some basics of making the car as good as you want it.


With a nice piece of trunk trim, the only thing missing is the black accent paint. The outer edges are masked.

A little spray on black paint for the insert.

Then a clean up on the BowTie and it's ready to install.

Brace everything! During the body buildup phase, it's important to keep the body supported in a manner that is as close to the way it would be supported if it was finished sitting on the ground. As the engine goes in and the subframe gets more complete, stands need to be placed under the drums, front and rear, to simulate the load placed on the tires. Don't ever try to fit the doors without the proper support because if jacked up wrong a convertible body will flex so much that the door gaps will never be right.

In building the engine, some might assemble it and then paint it. In Ron's shop, the engine is sprayed before the manifold and valve cover go on so that the gaskets are not the same color as the engine. It's little things such as this that can make a difference.

In order to properly support the bare body Ron uses these "turnbuckle" type wire supports to alleviate body flex while the subframe and suspension aren't attached. Some cars even benefit from having turnbuckles in the engine compartment. Notice also that the silver paint on the exterior of the rearend hasn't been carried inside to the lip of the trunk. That isn't correct as the exterior trim color appeared on the lip of the trunk and Ron's Restorations will soon have it redone.

This engine is so pretty it shouldn't be covered by a hood. When it comes time to install the engine the front clip is wrapped up like a baby. Going slow is the key, and having plenty of help is critical; there's a third person manning the cherry picker to move it forward and backward. To avoid scratching the paint on the engine, the valve cover was removed so the chain could be attached to bolts that won't be visible later.

Just in case you're wondering if you have all the parts in the right place, here's what the underside of the engine compartment is supposed to look like with the steering components in place.

Everything that can be scratched will be. This paraphrase of Murphy's law is what the techs think about when they apply tapes and cloths to edges before they work around them.

Unless you're restoring your car to compete in concourse judging, you might want to consider using bolts such as the bright one on the right. It has a flange or skirt instead of a washer. Ron's Restorations have found that the washers have a tendency to spin in an uneven circumference that can leave a noticeable chip in the paint.

Unless you absolutely, positively have to remove them, leave the gauges in the panel. The fine wires used in vintage Nova gauges can be brittle and break easily if they're put in a baggie or packed loosely in a box. The wire is about as thin as the filament in a light bulb and once it's broken there's hardly any use in trying to repair it.

When it comes time to detail the dash pieces that came with plastic-chrome...

...Ron's uses Bumper chrome spray, which is nearly identical to factory finish.

Don't use a primer, just clean and spray.

Exterior trim is getting very hard to find, especially for SS models. There are ways to possibly save the piece, but a great deal of patience is required. Some of the tools used at Ron's by technicians, such as Kevin Parker, include these small hammers...

...and the Quick Steel (we photographed the plastic repair but the same brand also has a steel repair).

Before attempting to straighten trim, remove any anodizing or other plating. There are several good products on the market that can be sprayed on with a trigger-bottle and then wiped off. Use the Quick Steel to fill a portion on the backside of the trim that is undamaged.

This will create a mold that can then be pulled out and used as a buck on the damaged portion. Slowly and meticulously "peck" out the small dents and wrinkles. There are no guarantees so we suggest a practice session on a trim piece that can be easily replaced before working on the rare ones.

When finished with straightening, polish the trim with a product such as Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish to restore the brightness. There is no reason to re-coat the trim as any oxidation can be polished out with more Mothers.

This rocker panel trim has been straightened and polished. The recesses must be painted black so it has been masked. Use a narrow scuff pad to rough up the surface to ensure the paint will stick.

When it came time to mount the rocker trim, we found that some of the holes had either been filled, or weren't there. This is not unusual because parts from various models and years may have been used to restore your particular car, and not all of them had the same trim. We were lucky and found a forward mounting hole, and one at the extreme rear, so we used those and it worked out. If you can't find any holes, find another car from which to take measurements. Once the mounts are in place, the molding will cover them up, anyway.


Chevy 2 Only
Mt. Washington, KY 40071
Siloam Springs, AR 72761,

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