Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Nautilus is going back under the knife

The posting I do to this blog is pretty much an indication of the progress I am making with the Nautilus.  No blog posts, no progress being made.  My wife often attempts to prod me into action, but I really haven't had my heart in it.  Maybe it's time I discuss my thoughts and frustrations on the matter.

I initially hired Motorworks Restorations to do bodywork and paint on a Type 34 body shell nearly five years ago.  That first car was cut up for parts when a better car--the Nautilus--was found about a year later.  Despite the false start, one would still think that in all that time and with all that money spent that the results would be both perfect and spectacular.  It's true, there's some amazing work in the Nautilus, but I'm also sad to say that despite my input, direction and criticism, there are at least three areas that are sub-standard and cannot be overlooked.  The problem areas involve replacement panels.  The front hood alignment on the replacement hood, the right rear fender upper wheel well arch shape on the replaced right rear fender and the decklid all have issues.  A previous post discussed how the front hood alignment issues might be addressed, but the front angle is a bit off, too.  The Motorworks crew gave the right rear fender wheel well opening a bit of a 'fat lip', in that there is no symmetry to the right rear fender lip repair when compared to the wheel well opening on the left hand side.  When comparing that fat lip to the lips on the front wheel well openings, it obvious at least to me that something is a bit 'off' with the body lines.  I spoke with Jeremy of Motorworks Restorations back in November '10 about these and other problems, but he felt I was making too much of them.  We had no communications from them between November and May '10, until I approached them at the Colorado Volkswagens on the Green show about the project.  Jeremy seemed receptive to new work, but having heard nothing back until I called them the other day, I'm left with a mixed message.  The Nautilus still appears on their web site as a "work in progress"--but they've done nothing recently because the car has been at home in my garage, untouched for over a year.

There are of course other options out there.  We had my wife's car painted in 2009 by a local body shop and it turned out nothing short of amazing.  It was sort of a spontaneous improvement process that was the result of some very disappointing new car shopping.  We took a portion of the money intended as a down payment and made her old one look and run like new.  A side effect of that bodyshop experience was the realization that I have some potentially better local options available for overhauling or improving upon the Nautilus.  The results on my wife's car were cost effective, delivered on time and have proven to be high quality repairs, often remarked upon by folks who see the car.  It was the best and most positive body shop experience I have ever had.  They also have a division that works on older or antique autos and are willing to take on the Nautilus.  They use Dupont materials, which are compatible with the body and paint materials Motorworks Restorations used on the Nautilus.  Overall, it looks like a good fit to moved the project forward, but again their long term interest in taking on the project has waned and I'm having to remind them to keep in touch, which means they've got better things to do.  While I have two other restoration shops in mind, it still means that I'm going to have to get the Nautilus loaded up on a trailer to shop it around.  More time and money down the drain.

Over the years I've had to hit up a number of sources to get good results for every aspect of the Nautilus' restoration.  Chroming was one, as was engine balancing and machine work.  Body rubber parts, interior pieces and upholstery materials are still not right.  It goes a ways to explain why I've had to accumulate so many parts, as people sometimes have differing opinions on parts grading, the definition of NOS and the 'correctness' of reproduction parts.  The same goes for body work.  Obviously, Motorworks does show quality work done at a high enough caliber to become magazine features.  That's fine, but I'm looking for something that sometimes falls well beyond that, and has that certain quantity and quality that's not just 'good enough' for the masses.  I also want the job done right.  And when I use the term 'right', what I really mean is 'correctly'.

As mentioned earlier in this post, I called Motorworks a few days ago to open a fresh dialog and get my car in the queue.  I'm working on sourcing a good right rear fender and a decklid.  I want to give Motorworks one more shot at the bodywork, and I think we've got something scheduled for the third week of January.