GERALD´S CADILLACS


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RESTORING THE 1974 CADILLAC´S WHEEL HOUSINGS ONCE AGAIN

I do not know why I have such bad luck with my 1974 undercarriage project. I already had to do it twice and I just found out that I will probably have to do at least the inner fenders a third time... On Thursday, as a final step, I added a transparent stone chip guard to the wheel housings and it somehow reacted with the paint underneath and caused ripples. The manufacturer insists that this is impossible and has no clue what could have caused this, and I had to send them some samples for further investigations. Normally I never give up, but all I know is that I do not have the power, time, money and motivation to do it a third time all by myself.
I have already been so close to the finish line...
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I have no idea how to finish this project now, I will most probably have the 4 wheel housings done again by a professional restoration shop eventually. The rest of the undercarriage is finished and looks fantastic. I used the correct colors and replicated the factory new look.

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The finished undercarriage - I applied some transparent undercoating over the freshly painted underbody which is completely invisible. This is some great stuff!edge
The transparent stone guard reacted with the paint... Now it's peeling off...edge
The transparent stone guard reacted with the paint... Now its peeling off...

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SANDBLASTING AND DRY ICE BLASTING/CLEANING THE UNDERCARRIAGE OF THE 74 CADILLAC

The work on the undercarriage continues now after the problems I had last fall. As the new paint did not stick to the undercarriage at all, I have to redo the entire project I started in the fall of 2015 once again. The car already looked fantastic when I found out that I have a problem.
The paint shop wanted to have the undercarriage media blasted this time, to make sure that everything is 100% clean, and that the paint can stick to the metal much better due to a rough surface.

Personally I´m not a big fan of media blasting a non disassembled car, as so many things could go wrong and I do not recommend to do it to anybody else.
The paint shop really wanted to go this route though, and they said that they have a very experienced media blaster to perform the work.
They did tape the car for hours to make sure that the blasting media would not go close to any mechanical or fragile parts.
The blaster worked with very low pressure (1bar - 14psi) to get the old paint off and it really came off within minutes. He did not want to risk anything and so there were some areas with the old paint left after he was finished.

We then spent a whole day trying to get rid of the rest of the remaining paint, by hand. With 240 grit paper we worked on all the areas we could reach. After a whole day under the car it was clear that we could not reach all the areas and that the job would not be good enough.

I then contacted a dry ice blaster who took over to remove the rest of the remaining paint. Normally you cannot remove paint with dry ice blasting, but as the paint on my car´s undercarriage does not stick, it works. It took him a couple of hours to get everything off.
The undercarriage is now completely clean and back to bare metal once again. He even was able to remove some of the old undercoating in the rear wheel wells which the other dry ice blaster could not get off.

We will now degrease everything multiple times and then scuff all the metal. Then its time to mask all the necessary parts and repaint everything once again with 2k paint. I will keep you updated here on my website about the progress.

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The media blaster at work
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Media blasting the undercarriage.
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The bare metal wheel housing after blasting. The rest of the paint was removed later by hand and by dry ice cleaning.
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After blasting
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Ready for dry ice cleaning.
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The dry ice cleaner managed to get the last undercoating out of the rear wheel housings.
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Dry ice cleaning
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Everything is perfectly clean now.
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All the suspension parts were perfectly cleaned as well.

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THE 1974 UNDERCARRIAGE RESTORATION PROJECT - I HAVE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN

For the last three months I have been working numerous hours to clean up the undercarriage of my low mileage, all original 1974 Coupe deVille. As you can see here on my website and in this image gallery.
As I had put so much effort in totally de-rusting the underbody of this low mileage car, I decided to let a professional body shop re-paint the bare metal frame, suspension parts and floor pans this time. My goal was to have the ultimate quality paint job in the factory correct colors underneath the car. I´m not very good in painting and my attempts often result in runnings, which I have to sand out and other imperfections I wanted to avoid.
So I handed the de-rusted car over to the paint shop.

BACK FROM THE PAINT SHOP
When I got the car back, everything looked o.k. as you can see on the pictures below. I was not too impressed by the work they did, as there were quite a few imperfections and some sloppy paint work visible, if you looked very closely. At this point I was already worried that they maybe did some shortcuts before painting, when they should have properly cleaned the bare metal, before they sprayed the primer.
They used some high quality epoxy primer and 2k paint for the job though.

THE MESSED UP ENGINE BAY - OVERSPRAY HELL
There was a terrible mishap at the shop, as they did not mask off the engine bay properly, so all the paint dust and overspray collected inside of the engine bay, and the entire engine bay looked like somebody emptied a spray can into the engine compartment from about 5 feet away. Everything was covered with paint overspray.
I was so shocked when I opened the hood that I almost passed out. The once perfectly clean, all original engine bay was a total mess. It looked so terrible that I could not even snap a picture. Last year I had spent weeks to clean it to my standards…
I had no idea how I could remove the overspray without damaging the original finish of the engine, rubber hoses, cables, wires, accessories and engine parts. This was a terrible situation for me.

REMOVING OVERSPRAY WITH CLAY
I then remembered that detailing clay can be used to remove overspray from paint, but I was not sure if it would work with this heavy amount of overspray. The paint shop gave me a special clay towel to clean up the engine bay, which works like detailing clay, but can be cleaned more often and is easier to use and more aggressive. This thing really works well, but I had to do so much scrubbing on some parts, that some painted areas, like the wheel wells or the air filter housing, turned a little dull after this tiring work. To get them shiny again, I had to hand polish each and every part after claying it. It took me about 25 hours to remove all the accessible overspray from inside the engine bay. I had to thoroughly scrub each and every part, wires and hoses with the clay towel and all purpose cleaner as a lubricant. The areas which I could not clean good enough by hand will be cleaned with dry ice soon. I´m 100% confident that it will look as good again as it did before this happened - I have already achieved 90%, the rest will get perfect again with some dry ice cleaning…

TIME FOR UNDERCOATING
My plan is to protect the undercarriage with a transparent undercoating, which is as good as invisible if properly applied. It will provide a perfect protective shield against road debris, stones and is rust prohibitive. This high-tech material is far superior than the original tar based undercoating which is normally used, and as an additional bonus you can always see what is going on underneath the undercoating. I decided to use a product from a german company called "Timemax USB Clear". Timemax is one of the leading specialists for rust protection, and their products have won some independent tests, done by classic car magazines.

THE PAINT DOES NOT STICK!
Before spraying on the undercoating, I had to mask off the areas like the frame, drive shaft, axle, suspension parts, fuel tank, brake lines, hoses and brakes. After a day of masking off all the areas, I discovered a small paint chip on the frame. When I inspected it with my fingernail, a bigger chunk of paint flaked off the frame. I then used a scraper to scrape the paint, to see if it was just a small area where the paint would not stick properly. The area where the paint came off got bigger and bigger, and soon it became clear that the paint does not stick properly anywhere…
Of course this was another big shock for me, as this meant that 3 months of work were completely destroyed… When I inspected the areas underneath the removed paint, it quickly became clear that the paint shop did not treat and clean the bare metal before painting, as they should have done. They just did a quick wipe with silicone remover.
Of course the bare metal underneath a 41 year old car is full of oil and grease and needs a lot of cleaning with strong chemicals before paint will adhere to it. Unfortunately they skipped this most important step. Although I brushed away all the rust and everything looked shiny, the oil and grease is in all the pores of the metal.

I HAVE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN - REMOVING THE FRESH PAINT AGAIN
This now means that ALL the paint they sprayed on has to come off once again. Also the brown paint on the floor pans has to be stripped again as well.
I asked a dry ice cleaner to try if it can be removed with his method, and it soon became clear that it is possible, but will take at least one full working day, and this will cost a small fortune.
There will probably be some areas left which I will have to rework by hand.
As you can imagine, this is a huge step back for me. I worked so hard and so many hours, often till late into the night, to finish this project for nothing …
The paint shop knows that they did a lousy job and is very supportive to resolve this issue.

This video shows how badly the paint sticks to some of the frame parts. It can be blown off with the pressurized air on some areas…

WHAT´S NEXT?
Before dry ice blasting the undercarriage once again, we will try to get the paint off with a powerful high pressure washer. Once the paint is gone again, we will clean the bare metal multiple times with acetone, marine clean, a special metal cleaner and metal prep. We will also sand everything with some coarse sandpaper to get a little rougher surface to make sure that the paint adheres much better next time.
I also want to go for a black with less gloss, as it was too glossy and did not look correct.

I hope that the weather will be good enough in January 2016, so that I can start all over again. At the moment I do not have the motivation to do anything on the car, and I do not even want to look at it, as it hurts too much. I still have to recover from the things that have happened. This is so frustrating. I hope that it will look like it should after the second attempt.


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The 3 stages of the project so far.
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Everything looked o.k. after painting, but the paint does not stick to the metal due to poor cleaning by the paint shop.
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This is the transparent undercoating I wanted to apply when I found out that the entire paint on the undercarriage does not stick…
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Unfortunately the paint does not stick to the bare metal… I could scrape it of with a simple scraper. You can see all the flaking paint on the floor…
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The paint is peeling off in big chunks…
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So ALL the new paint has to come off again. Here the dry ice blaster is trying if it can be removed with dry ice cleaning.

BE CAREFUL WITH ZINC PLATED PARTS AND RUST REMOVAL SOLUTIONS
Due to all the problems I had, I completely forgot about some fasteners from the rubber splash guards, which I had soaked in the rust remover solution for more than a week. This long time in the liquid removed all the surface rust, but the acid also ate away the zinc plating. So whenever you try to remove the rust from anodized fasteners and screws, make sure not to soak them for too long.
As I can´t get the fasteners and screws very easily here in Austria, I had to brush away the remnants of the zinc coating with a wire brush, and then painted everything with Eastwoods Silver Cad paint. This does not look 100% correct of course, but will have to do until I find some original replacement hardware. Besides a few washers, these fasteners won´t be visible anyway.


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I forgot some of the fasteners for the rubber splash guards in the rust dissolver solution. It ate away the zinc plating. So I had to remove the remains of the zinc plating with a wire brush.
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The cleaned fasteners. I spray painted them afterwards with Eastwood zinc paint.

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THE 1974 ´S UNDERCARRIAGE GETS REPAINTED

I´m restoring the undercarriage of my 1974 Coupe deVille at the moment.
Now that I had removed ALL the rust over the last few weeks the underbody needed a fresh coat of paint.

After dry ice cleaning some light surface rust also showed up under the rear quarter panel ends, the fender skirt area and the lower front fender. All these areas were attacked by water, road debris and other stuff coming from the wheels. These areas suffer the most. Also moisture got trapped underneath the body moldings in this area.
When we removed the moldings fortunately nothing really serious showed up, but only some small spots needed a little attention, more as a preventive and cosmetic measure to make sure that rust can´t spread underneath and show up when its too late to fix it.

The downside of this repair is that I had to sacrifice a small percentage (maybe 5%) of the original paint on the rear quarter panel up to the belt line molding. I do not like this fact very much, as I prefer original paint over repaints, but the other option would only have been to wait for rust damage to happen eventually, but therefore have 100% original paint on the car… As I intend to drive the car I wanted to have everything fixed as good as possible.

A friend of mine is a professional body man, and I asked him to take over from me and do the painting and body work, as I do not have the expertise and skills to do this myself.

The floor pans are now repainted in the correct shade of satin brown, which he had to custom mix, based on "Chocolate Brown" which is a little too bright and contains too much red.
Then the floor had to get taped off again to paint the frame and suspension parts in satin black.
We will even go so far to replicate the factory flaws like green overspray in the rear wheel housings for the authentic look and to remember how these cars were built in 1974…

Next up was the repaint of the repaired areas of the sheet metal in “Persian Lime“. He found the formula for this special green in his computer database and he sprayed a test sheet which was an almost perfect match. He then had to find the perfect match by himself. He succeeded and found the perfect color and the repairs are now invisible. It was my biggest concern that he would have trouble to get the color right and gave me some sleepless nights…

Once the car will be back home, I will re-paint the brake parts in a bare metal look and rebuild the brakes while everything is apart. I also already have new shocks waiting for installation, I will put in new brake hoses, repair the radio and heater core and do a good general tune up and change all fluids. So next spring I should have a car which looks and drives like new :-) You can find all the pictures of this project in a gallery here.

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This are the areas on the sheet metal that needed some attention. Nothing serious - but better to fix it now before a problem arises eventually in the future. Here the lower trim is removed to see what is going on.
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The lower edge behind the rear wheels had suffered a bit over the last 41 years... I decided to have it fixed properly and sacrifice a little of the original paint for this. Also the area around the fender skirts needed a little attention to look like new again. No real severe rust issue, but more of a preventive and cosmetic measure... Fender skirts will be repainted as well... On this picture you can see the primer and a very small amount of filler for a perfect surface.
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The floor pans are now repainted in the correct shade of brown. It will get a little less glossy once the 3 coats of transparent undercoating are applied.
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The wheel housing after the first coat of satin black.
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The rear axle is back in black. I will paint the rear brake drums in a bare metal look later once the car is back home.
I will also install new shocks and paint the tank with Eastwood Tank Tone paint.
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Finding the right shade of Persian Lime for a perfect match. The computer had the color in the system and it already was a very good match.
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The paint shop found a perfect match for the Persian Lime paint. Great job Jürgen!


You can find all the pictures of this project in a gallery here.

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DRY ICE BLASTING THE UNDERCARRIAGE OF THE 1974 CADILLAC

I´m restoring the undercarriage of my 1974 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. See below.
As I want to do it as perfectly as possible, I wanted to remove all the undercoating which was applied when the car was new.
I do not like rubberized undercoating, as you cannot see whats going on underneath. It can trap moisture and once it flakes off due to corrosion, there is already some major damage in the metal underneath.

There are different methods for removing the undercoating and most of the methods are a pain in the a**.
This stuff can be removed with a scraper and chemicals, or with heat and a scraper. Both methods will damage the metal underneath and scratch the paint on the underbody, and it takes forever…

As I did not want to use any of the methods mentioned above, I decided that I wanted to try dry ice blasting.

Dry ice-blasting is a form of carbon dioxide cleaning, where dry ice, the solid form of carbon dioxide, is accelerated in a pressurized air stream and directed at a surface in order to clean it. An alternative media for non-abrasive blasting is water-ice, known as ice blasting.
The method is similar to other forms of abrasive blasting such as sand blasting, plastic bead blasting, or soda blasting but substitutes dry ice as the blasting medium. Dry-ice blasting leaves no chemical residue as dry ice sublimates at room temperature.
Dry-ice blasting involves propelling pellets at extremely high speeds. The actual dry-ice pellets are quite soft, and much less dense than other media used in blast-cleaning (i.e. sand or plastic pellets). Upon impact, the pellet sublimates almost immediately, transferring minimal kinetic energy to the surface on impact and producing minimal abrasion. The sublimation process absorbs a large volume of heat from the surface, producing shear stresses due to thermal shock. This is assumed to improve cleaning as the top layer of dirt or contaminant is expected to transfer more heat than the underlying substrate and flake off more easily. The efficiency and effectiveness of this process depends on the thermal conductivity of the substrate and contaminant. The rapid change in state from solid to gas also causes microscopic shock waves, which are also thought to assist in removing the contaminant.

Unlike abrasive media blasting you can not remove rust with dry ice blasting.

I found a company through the website of a classic car club, which is only a little over an hour away. I wanted to have it done before the first snow and as soon as possible, so that I could continue working on my car during the winter. The owner of the company did a great job. He is a very friendly and competent gentleman and it was a pleasure working with him.
Here is a short video how it was done: (make sure to watch in HD for proper image quality)

You can find all the pictures I took today in my restoration album.

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The car was lifted with a forklift and then covered in plastic.

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One of the rear wheel-housings before blasting - you can see the undercoating everywhere. edge
The same wheel housing after blasting - all the original paint was still very well preserved under the undercoating. As you can see originally the wheel housing was brown. During painting a lot of overspray from the body landed in the wheel housing. Then Cadillac added rubberized undercoating to protect the metal from stone chips and to keep the car more quiet. Luckily there is no rust to be found anywhere.
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During blasting.
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The original brown paint showed up underneath the undercoating. The paint is still in perfect condition.

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The original paint showed up underneath the undercoating in the wheel housings as well.
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After cleaning - it came out really nice! I will touch up some areas and conserve the others with a special transparent coating.
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I´m very happy with the result of the cleaning and will now have to protect everything and paint some areas.

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MY WINTER PROJECT FOR 2015/16 - I WILL FRESHEN UP THE 74s UNDERCARRIAGE!

This is my winter project for 2015/2016: Cleaning the undercarriage of the 74 to look like new again. The plan is to remove the surface rust, change the shocks, do some brake work like replacing the brake hoses as a safety measure, change the heater core, rebuild the AC, change all fluids, give the car a good tune up, and to change the lights to be street legal to get the car on the road next year.
Some other smaller things could happen as well…
The plan is to make the car to look and drive like new until next season. It's such a great car!
I think there are many different approaches for removing the rust from the bottom side of a car.

My personal method and plan so far, was to scrape any loose rust off with a wire brush.
I then steam cleaned the undercarriage.
Next step was to apply a rust removing gel, which I let on over night. Then I steam cleaned the car again to get rid of the gel. The gel is a quite a bit of pain to remove if it's getting dry, especially as I had to do the steam cleaning with the car on jack stands and limited access to the undercarriage. (I can't do this inside the garage over the pit)
So a lot of manual cleaning is necessary after the pressure wash to get rid of the gel on areas I cannot hit during the pressure wash... I then applied the gel once again and did the same routine all over again.

I will now mechanically remove the more stubborn rust with some pneumatic tools and wire brushes of various sizes I borrowed from my dear friend Richard.
Once the rust is completely removed, I will use the gel for a last time.
I will then use fine sandpaper to achieve a smooth surface of all metal parts.
If afterwards there is still some minor corrosion left I´m planning to use a rust converter and rust encapsulator to paint everything.
The oil pan and transmission oil pan will be painted in Bill Hirsch Cadillac blue again. I will completely clean up the fuel and brake lines as well.

The frame and chassis parts will most probably get painted with Eastwood Extreme Chassis Paint in satin black. As a last step I will cover everything in a transparent undercoating wax. This project will keep me busy until next spring as I want to do it very thoroughly and as perfectly as possible. The most common approach most people would do, is to knock off any loose rust, and then paint it with rust converter and rust encapsulator. Thats perfectly fine as well - but I want the underside of my car better than new and in perfect show quality like the rest of the car

You can find all the pictures of the “Restoration“ here.

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The 74 has some light surface rust on the undercarriage as most areas were left bare metal at the factory. The original owner did not have the car undercoated. Its nothing major - it is more a cosmetic thing than anything else. I want the car to look as good on the underside as it looks from the in and outside. I will remove as much rust as possible with a wire brush and then use rust removal gel to get rid of all the rust. It´s a messy job - but I want to do it as thoroughly as possible. After everything is clean I will paint the frame with rust preventive paint in semi gloss black paint.edge
The pit in my garage - this is how I will see my car most of the time for the next months… You can see that I applied some rust removal gel to some areas already. I steam-cleaned the undercarriage before.
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A small test spot after only one application of the gel - 2-3 more are recommended.
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Thats the gel I´m using - it seems to be a great product. I got it through www.rostio.de . edge
After the first coat of rust remover gel. It looks very promising.

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