Saturday, September 28, 2013

Time Flies

In a frantic search for some unrelated paperwork, I recently stumbled onto the bill of sale for the Nautilus.  Dated 3/3/2007, I was confronted with the fact that we're closing in on a 7 year relationship with the craft.  I was overwhelmed in turn by waves of sentimentalism and self recrimination--feelings possibly amplified by the importance of my search for the other information and my frustration at not immediately finding it.  And beyond any forward movement with the Nautilus as a project, I was clearly reminded of my initial introduction to the craft.

I mentioned previously that I received the Nautilus as not much more than a body shell.  That's really only true if one were to discount all the 'treasures' that were stuffed into the body shell's nooks and crannies. Nearly none of these ancillary parts will be used during the craft's restoration due to their decrepit condition, however I remember the seller being bound and determined to use their presence to leverage the sale.  Being a realist...ok...a pessimist, I suspected these parts spares would ultimately be useless to me.  The restoration grade I am going for with the Nautilus is something a friend of mine laughingly refers to as 'the new car experience'.  The main reason for parts uselessness was the 'open-air' ambiance the craft had taken on in its previous role as a Yard Ornament.  Nevermind that these parts had likely led a full lives on other vehicles, within the hulled out shell that later became the Nautilus, these parts were exposed to elements that had driven insects and vermin on to better digs.

The initial unpacking of the craft did hold a few pleasant surprises.  The seats were still there, with their original pads.  In looking at the underside of the pads and between the springs, I found the original paper manufacturer tags, of all things.  How those survived is beyond me, but years later Lee Hedges was interested in collecting data on them, so was able to provide it.  Nothing of the exterior vinyl or fabric insert remained.  The seat back panels, on the other hand, were still present and will likely be re-used during the seat restoration.  Knobs completely destroyed.  Plastic front and outer edge 'kick-panels' well and truly kicked.  While I've been able to source all of the adjuster knobs, the 'kick-panels' have been a tough find and I will likely have to make these.  Fortunately for all of us early Type 34 restorers, years ago the intrepid Scott Taylor took on the thankless task of having the early insert fabric seat material reproduced in the three most commonly used colors.  I think I bought enough to do two cars, just in case.  Hoarding at its finest.

As for the rear jump seat, there is not much to say...because there was not much there to talk about.  Like the Type 14 Ghias, the rear jump seats are primarily made of wood.  And some of that wood is actually "wood", which means particle board.  Just periodically mix "wood" with water and bake under the sun to make sawdust.  And of course vermin like to chew on things wooden and bugs enjoy it, as well...so...not much was left.  Even the upper jump seat hinges were masses of rusty and fused material, no longer capable of truly ascribing to their original intent.

The door cards were not in their original locations.   To better appreciate their condition, I have to tell you in all honesty that the only one that could truly be said to be present at all was the one for the driver's door. I'm being generous in this assessment because in truth whatever was left of it was wrapped around the driver's side armrest like a vinyl cocoon.  I remember laughing as I found the armrest, still bolted to its inner reenforcement frame--replete with masonite remnants--unwrapping it like a large cob of corn to find the armrest perfectly preserved within.  What a stroke of luck, there.  I did keep the door panel material, too.  Despite its unusable state, how often do you get a chance to see the original texture and color of this two-tone Type 34 material?

The headliner, headliner rods and sound deadener were simply gone, along with 80% of the interior light lens.  The rear package tray liner under the rear window was likewise gone, however large remains of its vinyl covering were still present.  The rear window itself was still in place, so as I cut the inner rubber lip off to safely remove this relatively nice piece of glass, I salvaged this package tray vinyl.  While it's in no way usable, it does give me an idea of the original interior colors and vinyl grain used.  It also confirmed for me that the factory did originally tuck the edge of this vinyl under the inner lip of the rear window rubber during installation.

While the door top and quarter window top pads were missing, there was a box full of these in a decomposing cardboard box tucked away in the rear luggage area under the package tray.  They were all very sad examples, but will serve as templates to make new ones.  The two top q-window 'caps' were present, still nailed in place, one smashed and the other quite sun baked.  No reason to discuss the dash pads much because the elements and the natural tendency for these to swell and crack had taken their toll.  If anything, dash metal repairs were required because the pads had taken on water, festered and promoted dash rust.  Sadly, this is not an uncommon malady.

Aside from its rust issues, the rest of the dash metal was a simply a continuation of the same sad story.  Seized by a fit of 'creativity'--much as I have been with this blog post--the previous owner had drilled a ragged hole just above the pushbutton switch mounting hole, right above the headlight switch, presumably to support a high beam light because they couldn't fix the light provided for this purpose in the multifunction gauge.  The low water mark for shoddy workmanship didn't end there, and the dash was not spared the indignity of a hacked radio hole, abused comprehensively.  If these 'metal smiths' had left the radio in place after their abuses then I might have been able to partially forgive them.  And with the evidence in hand, should I have held even the faintest of hopes for anything wondrous and rare behind the glove box door?  The eternal optimist in me briefly rose up and over the dark pessimist as I attacked the glove box door edge with a flat blade screwdriver and thumbed the door lock...with all hopes dashed on the rocks of reality.  There was no glovebox...or, rather...no backside to the glovebox.  Just a gaping hole, with streamers of decomposing paper product...and about as welcomed as the mouth of an unkempt gas station toilet.

The only redeeming aspect of the dash was the presence of the electrical wiring and wiper motor and frame.  The electrical wiring was actually used to reproduce the wiring harness for the Type 34, project I took on years ago.  The wiper frame was very nice and components will find their way onto the Nautilus.   Unfortunately, the air boxes were rotted clean through and were binned immediately.  I've never seen an ashtray rotted so comprehensively and actually managed a chrome splinter during its removal.  Good thing tetanus shots were up to date.  The dash air controls were actually nice...unaccountably...but the chrome decorative plate was a mess.  Years later, I tried to have it re-plated, but was so pitted it ended up in the trash.  The gauges were redone and will be used, so really--not a total loss.

The pan was a complete disaster.  Once I had everything out of the way, I discovered rust and more rust, and then gaping holes where there was no rust.  Good solid metal on the the passenger side was nowhere to be found, which is not too surprising when you consider that the battery is mounted on that side.  The heater 'mufflers' under the jump seat area had been abused, too--no parts spared the indignity of a previous owner with sub-par mechanic's skills.  I removed everything I could stomach removing.

After I cleared things out of the passenger's cabin and ran a shop vac nozzle around, I finally noticed an interesting anomaly with the seat rails.  I had been so distracted by the condition of the pan that I failed to notice the previous owner hackery that had gone on with these seat rails.  Or, maybe I'd been hit by so much stupidity and disappointment all at once that I was becoming somewhat inured to it.  Either way, someone had taken on and likely been successful with one aspect of the Type 34 that plagues some of its more diminutive drivers as Type 34s approach advancing age:  the ability to easily see over the top of the dash pad.  Strange as this seems, the seat springs and seat pads break down over time in any vehicle, and so people who are short in the body sit lower.  The effect is exacerbated a bit as the seat is pushed back to accommodate folks with longer legs, as the seat rails rake back and lower towards the rear of the vehicle.  Being also a heavy person, I have actually experienced this due to additional seat compression.  For me, the resolution was to get the lower seat overstuffed a bit, which actually changed the shape and look of the lower seat.  On the original pan for the Nautilus, the previous owner had done a good thing and had used thick walled square tubing to bring the seat rails about an inch or so higher.  When I had the pan restored, I had these removed but did have to admit that this might be a solution to this problem, rather than a 'hack'.

A pair of rocker trims were also present within the car.  Normally, I would consider this a blessing, particularly since there were clearly labeled and are clearly Type 34 specific.  But, these trims are incredibly hammered.  Frankly, they are another money pit for this purist because I am tempted to have them restored.  As a parts stash item, I try to ignore them but I can't bring myself to throw them away, either.  The last set of NOS units I saw on German ebay went for $1000.00 US Dollars.  I do have a reproduction set that I was planning on using and maybe they will be good enough.  We shall see.

Exploration of the front and rear trunks was largely uneventful, once I got them opened.  Up front, opening a Ghia trunk without the release cable is the same as it is for any Ghia.  Once opened, I harvested the fuel tank, horns, lock, latches and hinged front trunk shelf.  I also pulled the front wiring harness, since no lights or turn signal housings were present.  Out back, a challenge presented itself immediately with the inability to get the rear trunk opened.  I ended up having to literally unscrew the rear pushbutton lock out of the body.  There are other ways to handle this, but this was the best for me and resulted in little damage to anything other than the pushbutton itself.  I have a NOS pushbutton assembly, so had that in my favor when making the decision.  There was no engine for the car, so stripping out the parts and wiring was a breeze.  There was no trunk liner or insulation, which made it even easier to strip down.  I finished removing the rear wiring harness by hacking it at the access hole at the leading lower edge of the interior driver's side door opening, then called it a day.  Since a lot was already missing, it was fast work.  If I didn't already have Type 34 parts, I would never have considered purchasing this car for a basis of a restoration.

Beyond that, the windshield was kept.  It is delaminating quite seriously, so reproduction windshields have been sourced.  I kept the original to compare size and shape to both the tempered windshield I took from another car, and to the reproduction units.  Have yet to fully make this comparison, which I will detail in another blog post.

In retrospect--and despite all the silliness--I remember being very happy with the craft as a starting point.  This morning as I write this--and despite all ensuing turmoil--I still feel exactly the same way about the Nautilus.