COAL: 1962 Dodge Lancer, Part IV • A Stop

The Lancer was being doted on in Northern Michigan, as much as it’s possible for a man with too many cars of his own (and a day job seeing to customers’ cars) to dote on mine for fun. He installed the Australian backglass venetian blind and de luxe trunk mat, shown in last week’s chapter.

He tried some fun experiments in the engine bay. Find me another 1962 with colour-matched radiator hoses, I dare ya!

He repainted the black parts black, and wrapped the positive battery cable so it would be red as called for in Scripture.

He masked the grille and headlamp bezels (Chrysler said “doors”) and painted them à la ’62 Lancer GT. This came out great, and there were enough spare parts on the shelf that if it hadn’t…eh! It’d’ve been no big deal.

I visited and drove the car from time to time, and did my own doting. Here I am adjusting the valves (engine hot and running!) in 2002, before my beard even started thinking about going white:

The engine compartment never got fully primped and detailed, but there was a whole lot of good stuff in there. Here we see the aluminum block, the aluminum –Mopar Performance– Direct Connection 2-barrel intake manifold, the refinished heater box, the 2¼” exhaust headpipe attached to the new old stock factory exhaust manifold, the unnecessarily-large-gauge battery cable feeding the Australian starter motor, the dual master cylinder, and the evidence that this air cleaner didn’t quite clear the closed hood:

We swapped on an air conditioner compressor clutch with a heavy iron “inertia ring” (flywheel), which did smooth out that paint-shaker V2 compressor a bit:

I collected not one, not two, but three different Slant-6 triple-SU intake manifolds (Cain, Lynx, Warneford):

Think I had a twin-SU intake, too. We fantasised about various builds with them, but none of them ever went on the car.

When you have an old-old car, you wear out stuff most car owners never have to think about. There was a close call with the instrument panel faceplate, though I think that might’ve been back in Denver when the car was in daily service: the lower half of the faceplate was vacuum-metallised, along with the rims round the whole faceplate and each instrument. The clearcoat over the super-thin metal began to yellow and lift. I took the faceplate off and carefully chipped at the clearcoat with a pinkienail, and a big flake of it came off. I took the faceplate in the house and ran it under hot tapwater, and the rest of the clearcoat quickly and completely flew off with just light finger-rubbing. Miraculously, the super-delicate metal film stayed perfectly intact on the plastic faceplate; by rights it should’ve either floated off down the drain with the clearcoat or otherwise been marred, then I’d’ve had to send the whole thing in for re-metallisation by one of the specialty outfits advertising that service in Hemmings and the like. But this gossamer-thin aluminum was not going to stay shiny very long without a new topcoat applied quickly. I don’t recall what kind of clear paint I used, nor how I masked the black parts, but in the end the only difference was that all the metallised parts were shiny, instead of just the rims—the lower half of the faceplate originally had a matte clearcoat, as can be sorta-seen here (pic definitely taken in Denver):

In early 2005 I found that an outfit called Blue Star Spares in Australia (previously Chrysler Spares, until Chrysler cleared their throat at the owner about it) had a bunch of new reproduction parts for early Valiants, which have long been much more highly prized down there than up here. One item that caught my eye was new armrests. The armrests in my car had been growing a little dowdy—the vinyl had split on three of them, and all four were kinda wavy and warped. I ordered a pair of the new ones from Australia to see how they were, and they were quite good:

They were patterned on the ’63 armrest, with vertical lines in the embossed face, rounded contours in the grip area, and a sturdier grade of vinyl and thicker shape than the ’60-’62 items. Here’s a good pair of original armrests I pulled from a ’63 Dart at the yard in Denver in the mid ’90s (along with an extra-scarce ’63 aluminum 225):

The only major visible difference between the new armrests and the ’63 items was that the repros had a moulding seam line along the contour of the grip area on the armrest’s top surface. It was far more visible in these pics than in real life.

And here are some pics of the one unsplit original ’62 armrest, which really does look chintzy versus the subsequent-year item; a lot of bits and parts of Chrysler-built cars got a lot sturdier in ’63:

I was apprehensive about trying to get the new armrests to match the metallic green colour, but I took one of my original ’62 armrests to a reputable local auto body and paint supply store; they had a handheld computerised colour scanner, which they pressed against a cleaned part of the armrest. The scanner flashed and clicked five times. Ten minutes later, they handed me a custom-mixed aerosol can of plastic-and-vinyl paint formulated for adhesion and flex on parts like armrests (or radiator hoses, ahem). The cost was very reasonable.

Back at the house, I set up my painting surface, an upturned shipping box, and shot the repro armrests, starting with a few thin base coats which I allowed to flash off (begin to dry) for about four minutes each, then laid down a couple of heavier coats at ten-minute intervals. Sometimes my spray paintwork is a mess, but not this time. Here’s a shot in mid-job on the repro armrests:

I would learn a few minutes after this pic was taken that it’s best not to set even a touch-dry paint surface down atop oversprayed paint—it stuck, and I had to do a bit of touchup.

And here’s a shot in mid-job on the original ’63 amrests:

Defying gravity…? No, I just used one of the armrest attaching screws to thread the rest to my boxtop’s edge. Worked perfectly and allowed me to hit all the necessary surfaces without danger of sticking to the boxtop.

The match turned out great; I was not expecting the results to be this good (yes, I needed to clean the driver’s side door panel).

The extremely blue light of the sky coming from overhead, contrasting with the extremely yellow light reflecting off the fields behind me, made it difficult to show in photos just how good the colour match was. In person, it was basically impossible to tell these replacement armrests were anything but original equipment. The original ’63 armrests and the new repros matched each other nicely, too.

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