Monday, July 3, 2017

A Good Shop, Part 5

A few weeks ago, I made my way down to A Good Shop in Commerce City during a lunch break for a 'surprise visit'.  I figured I might as well check on progress and point out any remaining issues prior to the craft's delivery home, which was scheduled a few days later on the following Saturday.  The surprise was on me, however, because I found the Nautilus sitting in the shop parking lot.  After a quick inspection it was obvious that absolutely nothing had been done for 3 weeks.  I went from being cautiously optimistic to instantly pissed.  I found a new ding on the passenger hatch and a small scratch across the center rear raised section of the deck lid.  It looked like it hadn't seen water in years.  I couldn't tell if there was paint overspray--but there really shouldn't have been because the craft's cover was sitting inside...unused, but incredibly available to anyone with sense to use it.  I had to take a moment to calm down--but that didn't help because some idiot drove up to check out a piece of crap car the shop has for sale and parked next to the Nautilus and said idiot decided that is was ok to rest the damn door of that car against the Nautilus.  I asked the person to please stop doing that, and walked away.

My trek across the parking lot was done slowly, because I really didn't want to bring an attitude with me to the shop foreman, Phil.  In this I was only partially successful.  My mood soured further as I got a good look at all the populated bays, the paint booth and overflowing side garage.  The shop was completely packed.  We had a big hail storm roll through Denver back in mid-May and this caused all the body shops in the area to fill up rapidly.  Insurance companies want quick turnaround for their customers, so the Nautilus quickly became a 'shop liability', taking up needed space for the other insurance work.  Insurance work is the real 'money maker' for body shops.  A Good Shop also became a Hagerty Collector Car Insurance preferred body shop over the past month, so more work flowed in from that source, as well.  Rather than my car being finished first to get it done and out of the way, the shop made a decision to unfavorably 'prioritize' my car.

I spent a few minutes in the shop waiting room...fuming...and found a magazine Hagerty publishes called appropriately enough 'Hagerty'.  For June's issue they featured the Corvair.  Waves of envy and irony washed over me as I thumbed the pages.  There really are a lot of styling queues between the Corvair and the Type 34.  In the article, comparisons were being made between a completely restored metallic green '60 4-door and the actual yellow Corvair Ralph Nader used to make his classic 'Unsafe At Any Speed' observations.  Interesting article, but it didn't take the edge off my mood.  Once Phil finished up a quote for a commercial customer, he turned his attention to me, 'the prioritized customer'.  I asked him to accompany me out to the parking lot so I could show him the newly installed damage and talk about the other work that still needs to be done to finish up the sunroof installation.

Throughout my discussion with Phil, I mentioned the 'first-in-first-out' concept, which went nowhere.  I then took another tact--which I felt was a really generous concession on my part:  I'll take the car back unfinished, with the new damage, and pay them only half of what I owe.  In turn, I give them 90 days to re-schedule the completion of my car.  If they don't, I don't pay them any more money.  Phil told me he'd take this offer to Al.  I was left to develop an understanding for the situation I was now in.

By the following Saturday--and having heard no word from anyone--I arrived at the shop with the intentions of paying for and picking up the Nautilus.  I was again ready to move on, but no one was there. I contacted Al by cell phone and he apologized and gave me permission to pick up the car--NO CHARGE--because his policy is that no one pays until the work is fully complete and customer is happy.
 
Honestly, I was stunned by Al's shop policy.  In the face of my disappointment, he still managed to exceeded my expectations.  The both of us agreed that we would follow up each week and eventually we'd arrange for the Nautilus to return to the Thornton location to be completely finished.  In the meantime, the craft is at home in my garage and I have something nice to test fit parts to...bumpers and carpet, for example.  The project really is still on track and moving forward on all fronts.  I knew this restoration was going to be a challenge.  I just need to keep a cool head and keep looking up!  I still think I'm dealing with a good shop, but I hope to be able to call it a great shop before this is over with.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Good Shop, Part 4


Today was my birthday and I was allowed some freedom to do what I wanted with my time.  I started off with a stop at Denver Balancing to drop off the Nautilus' engine internals...for balancing.  Again.  This version of the engine will use a 15lb lightened flywheel.  The new Sachs pressure plate will be balanced to this slightly lightened flywheel, along with everything else that rotates or is otherwise flung around by the crank.  Other new key components are a set of Kolbenschmidt 85.5 pistons.  This version of the engine will also use a 74mm crank for a net displacement of 1700cc's.  It will also use dual port heads.  That's right--this will be a mild performance engine and there's no reason to choke it with single port heads.  I'll have the engine internals back next Tuesday evening and the new heads will arrive on Wednesday.  I'll re-start the engine build the following weekend, just in time for the car to be delivered back from the body shop.  My timing is never very good and once again the garage will be short on space with all the projects in simultaneous flight.

Engine configuration aside, I've definitely forsaken the path of originality with some other recent modifications to the craft.  The sunroof addition is definitely going against the standards for an M343 model designation as represented on the craft's VIN tag.  The sunroof still looks the part and I think it will be a wonderful feature.  To verify the sliding steel panel's fit and finish, I drove over to the body shop today and spent a couple of hours installing it.  I got it pretty close to perfection during the test fit and can probably do even better during the final fitting.



Fitting the sliding steel roof section was a fairly straightforward affair.  No nicks, dents, scrapes or scratches.  I had previously cleaned all parts and put things together dry.  During the final assembly, I'll use white lithium grease or Vaseline for the cables--or maybe a Teflon dry lubricant from Dupont.  More research is needed, but these are used most commonly.  The other thing that will be done is the installation of perimeter seals around the outer edge of the sliding steel panel.  The stuff I have is grey and is pretty good, but it's too short and I need more of it.  I think I got it from Wolfburg West, but whatever I use will have to be glued into place, two-thirds around the front and side sunroof opening, and the remaining third around that back edge of the sliding steel panel itself.
 
The picture to the left is of the cable drive gear housing mounted to the underside center rear of the roof.  Attached to the drive gear is the emergency crank handle which I used during the sliding steel roof section installation.  I wanted to make sure the cables weren't binding and the outer roof section didn't get scratched, so running it all manually by hand seemed to make the most sense.  There is no electric roof motor or drive shaft installed.  It all worked well.
 
Also note in the picture that the bottom of the roof was painted L514 Emerald Green.  The same is true of the sliding steel roof section.  Originally, none of this would have been very well painted and might even show signs of surface rust.  I wanted metal protection and a dark surface for the perforations in
the headliner to contrast with, so I chose the body color as the finish.  Much of the underside of the roof will be covered with a modern sound deadener, so in the end it won't really matter that much. 
 
One interesting piece of Karmann factory originality was that the roof color was written in very large letters on the underside of the sliding steel roof section, usually in a contrasting grease pencil, much
as the body color was originally written in the left headlamp bowl on both the Type 14 and Type 34 cars.  I might do this in yellow or white grease pencil for both the roof and body before final assembly.

Another interesting point of authenticity is the roof number '519' stamped into the cable drive mounting area on the main roof, as well as into the rubber bumper bracket on the tail of the sliding roof section.  These numbers would have originally matched, as they do on my car.  This is due to the fact that the roof opening shape matches the sliding roof section, as well as the curvature of the roof itself.

I left the sliding steel roof section installed into the car so the final paint cut and buff could be done with the sliding steel roof section in place.  Unfortunately, I also found some problems that need to be resolved.  I managed to fill one side of an 8.5' X 11" sheet of paper with my notes and received no arguments from the shop manager when I presented the for review.  All of it is fixable and should all be sorted by June 10th.  I made some progress today!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Good Shop, Part 3

More pictures from Al arrived this morning.  Phil and the guys from A Good Shop on Commerce City have moved forward and paint has been applied!  Things are really progressing and getting close to completion.  Delivery is scheduled for May 25th, but it might slip a day or two.  A delivery by next Saturday would be fine by me.

What's astounding is the work they've done in my absolute absence.  As usual, I've been thrashed at work and have had two on call rotations while this car has been in the shop.  I've also been battling a severe cold at at times not much use to anyone, frankly.  Even though Commerce City isn't all that far away, life's complexities make Commerce City seem like a continent away.  A big challenge to make it there by closing time.

One thing that's pretty obvious in the picture to the left is that the hood remains separate from the vehicle.  I didn't go for details on this when I spoke with Al earlier, but it still causes me a little anxiety, to be honest.  I actually see the hood resting horizontally on a rack in the background of the picture above, so I know where it is--but not how well it's going.  Also, the sliding steel roof is missing from the picture.
The suspense is killing me, but I don't want to seem too pushy.  I think all my questions and concerns will be addressed soon enough.

Though the shop didn't mention it previously, I know there was at least one challenge they faced when fitting the sunroof clip.  Below is a picture that illustrates this challenge. 
It looks like the 'A' pillar had to be tweaked a little to make things line up.  In studying the picture above, it looks like they've addressed the paint in this area, too.

Mentioned in a previous post are the rubber retainer strip/trim pieces were provided to the shop to help with the alignment of the roof, particularly at the top of the 'A' pillar to roofline weld.  I hope there isn't too much tweaking of the side windows to make things fit.  I mean--beyond the normal adjustments.  I might have brought on a bunch of adventure I didn't reckon upon.  We'll see...

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Good Shop, Part 2

I received these pictures from Al over at A Good Shop this afternoon to my phone and I couldn't wait to get them over to my PC for better viewing.  I'm scheduled to be at his shop in Commerce City at 10:00AM tomorrow morning and I can't wait to see the work in person.

They didn't much disturb the 'A' and 'C' pillar paint, as can be seen in the picture to the right.  I'm going to bring along the 'A' pillar aluminum covers and the top and 'A' pillar rubber retainer strips just to make sure it all still fits, but it's looking really, really promising.  The rear weep holes are there and Al assures

me that the 'A' pillar front drains were done to my specifications.  I can't believe it...my car finally has the sliding steel roof I've always wanted.  An electric sunroof!  I'm so delighted I nearly forgot about the hood.  Honestly...I just about don't care.  Just about.  Will follow up tomorrow with Ken, the body man actually doing the work.  I hope I have nothing but praises for everything after I visit the shop tomorrow.  I will definitely get some more pictures and find out if the overhead interior light wiring can still be routed through the 'A' pillar, or if I'll have to add it to the sunroof motor wiring loom that will be run up the left 'C' pillar.  Either way, it won't be a problem because I already need to do something for the tachometer, backup lights, oil temp and pressure gauge wiring and can just add it all to a new loom.