Another step forward...

As this week winds down, I can report that work on Phiona has progressed forward.

For comparison sake, I am showing a photo from Monday, 7/23/12 and another from Thursday, 7/26/12. On Monday the car looked much as she has for several days. But on Thursday, I was very surprised and happy to see the changes with Phiona. I saw they had extensively taped off the car. Mike, the owner, was nearby and he greeting me, smiling broadly, and obviously very happy to show me how much work had been completed on my car. Steve, the painter, seeing me there, also came out and told me he was very close to starting the actual painting.We discussed, again, the color scheme, black fenders, running boards, headlights and spare tire cover, with a dark blue upper body, including the trunk. The car is taped so that the door pillars are exposed and will be painted in blue. Also, the window openings are taped from the inside so that the color overlaps into the openings. Steve further talked to me about the car being close to being painted and then the follow up steps to finish the paint job.

On friday, I also stopped in and Steve, I and a couple of the other guys chatted about a '65 or '66 Thunderbird they have finally painted and the wet sanding and buffing procedures. I asked several questions about how they did those tasks and Steve was very receptive and willing to talk about the procedures and how it applies to my Pontiac. He will be on vacation this next week, the last week of July, so he will probably start painting the first week of August. August, of course, is when I will be starting on my month long sojourn and explorations in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. It is looking like I will be away for this part of the restoration, but that I would really like to see in person.

Now I am contemplating hanging around here through the first week of August, so that I can witness at least part of the final paint stages on the car. I have made no specific plans on where I will be on my vacation, so it all is flexible.

Remember the damaged parts that were wood grained in Illinois by Crin Dima? Well, this week was frustrating in dealing with UPS and inspection of the package that held the items. Long story, UPS has some serious communication issues within its' organization. UPS's email to me said they would contact me to inspect the package, but instead the local UPS had their local route driver stop to pick up the package, this, naturally, while I stepped out. A call UPS to complain, resulted in them accepting that I send photos of the package and damaged items. This was to suffice for a physical inspection. Next day, guess what? the driver games by AGAIN to pick up the package. The notice on my door, said they would attempt a final picked up on Thursday. Another call to UPS and a promise to contact the local division to NOT come for a pick up. Can you guess the next? YEAH, a driver stops, yet again on Thursday to pick up the package. What a cat and mouse game that was, and a lot of wasted fuel and time all around. 

Shortly after the third stop here, UPS sent an email saying they declined the claim because the packaging was not adequately  cushioned. Crin called me shortly after I received the claim refusal to check that I had also received their notice. We both had to agree that the contents probably should have had more padding and Crin was content to accept the claim denial. But he reiterated that he would re-do the damaged parts. I sent the parts to him on Friday, and he will get them next Thursday. To avoid any conflicts with UPS and claim conflicts, I had my local UPS store pack the items. Crin, also had to agree, that in the future, he may have his UPS store do the packaging, which would hold them accountable for packing and padding. I will talk with Crin next week and also let him know that he can hold on the pieces after he completes his work and let them dry for several weeks. I'll be gone anyway and assembling those wood grained parts will be towards the end of reassembling the car.

Pertaining to my plans to escape the heat in Phoenix, I am really feeling the urge to go exploring and for adventure. That said, I've also been researching the areas that I plan to visit and what trails or places of interest are calling my name. For sure, I will visit the Arizona Strip, the area north of the Colorado River, which, in reality, is geologically more closely tied to southern Utah. Toroweap is the remote place, 61 miles on unpaved roads to the edge of the Grand Canyon. I've visited there several times over the years and it has no facilities, so I'll need to be prepared to really rough it with primitive camping. In researching more about trails near there, I came across a place that I have read about from online. This is a remote hike to ancient Native Indian rock art, pictographs, that they believe date back to 1000 B.C. The extensive mural of figures is colored and life-size. They were not reported until 1986, though evidence exists that cowboys were there around 1914 (ie, graffiti). Reading online, I found it is a real hike to find them and many have still not been able to locate them. I believe, after last night's internet investigation, that I now have reliable maps that will help me find this treasure. In many ways, I'm reluctant to broadcast about these ancient murals, so that fewer people will attempt to go there and possibly damage or disrupt what has been, until more recently, a place and creation that has escaped notoriety for 1000's of years. My stay near Toroweap (also known as Tuweap on the maps), will probably last about 4 days. 

 Me at Toroweap overlook, August 2008.

If anyone is interested in joining me on this discovery and adventure, I'd welcome the companionship. Be forewarned, though, about the remoteness and primitive nature of the camping…

After Toroweap, I hope to go to a bit more civilized location further west on the AZ Strip.  That stop is Bar 10 Ranch. They have accommodations for guests and offer several activities including full meals. I hope to horseback ride, hike to the Grand Canyon and explore there for about 3 days. My dates are still undetermined. Their website: Bar 10 Ranch at the Grand Canyon

From there I hope to go to Zion National Park in Utah. I've visited there before, but this time may go to another "dude" ranch and while there possibly horseback ride, hike AND (this really excites me) do some canyoneering which would take me to a slot canyon in Zion and do rappelling down into the narrow canyons. Since these are guided hikes and adventures, I will be able to tackle this without much fear of injury or being stranded in case of some unfortunate mishap (think of the movie, "127 Hours", which some have already reminded me about). I would not attempt this type of exploration on my own, thinking that I do know my limitations. Here is a link to their website and the canyoneering activity. Watch the video: Canyoneering in Zion National Park - Hotel - Resort - Ranch - Zion Ponderosa 

Before I leave on my adventures, I'll note my plans and will update as I go, when I am able. Much of this trip will put me in places without electronic communications.

Boo, Boos


In quiet anticipation, I awaited the newly wood grained pieces and the running board trim moldings. Late last week Crin Dima contacted me that all the parts were done and were ready to ship. 

Early afternoon, Friday, 7/20 the UPS driver arrived. Being in my office, I heard and saw him pull up in front of the house. Jumping up I opened the front door and had him carry the two packages right into my foyer. I carted them into the kitchen and first opened the tube containing the running board moldings. 

(This felt like being a kid opening much anticipated  gifts, boy, oh boy!) That tube, with molding trims inside, was securely taped (I think it was some sort of iron duct tape), but, with much effort, I cut one taped end and slid out the pieces. First I unwrapped the original molding that Crin used for a template, then the two newly made parts. OMG! Superb! Highly polished, perfect to the original, and the attachment clips fit in them nicely too. A few photos for documentation, and back to the kitchen to open the BIG package. 

The large box's packaging tape had partially split open, lengthwise, right along the flaps, but the contents were still held in place. A couple of  layers of packing paper and there were the parts, all nicely wrapped in brown wrapping paper. First out was the rear window garnish piece and my inspection revealed nothing but an excellent restoration. 


Then the dashboard, and again, WOW, excellent work! 

Lots of wrapping on all the parts, but I next went for the glove box door which was under the other window garnish pieces at the bottom of the pile. I carefully unwrapped it and beheld a most beautifully wood grained part - except it looked like tape residue on places. Closer examination and touch did not indicate stickiness. What is that? This all seemed odd because a week earlier Crin had sent photos of the finished work and no markings were obvious in those photos. OK, so maybe some residue that can be cleaned off. Wetting a cloth, I tried to wipe it away. No, that didn't work. Next I tried some mastic remover, nothing, just some smudging for my efforts. No use making anything worse, so I quit, but with a now uneasy feeling, not mad but more of a mild panic. Reaching for the phone I began to call Crin in Illinois, but first decided to look at the gauge cluster panel which was on one narrow end of the box. Upon unwrapping this piece, again, more marred areas were revealed. Yes, now time to call Crin. 


Crin answered right away, and I told him I was happy to report the packages arrived and first that the running board moldings were outstanding. I couldn't be happier with them. HOWEVER…I then reported what I found with the marred surfaces on two of the parts. Crin assured me they did not have any marring when they left his shop, which I totally believe because of the photos he had sent. I told him what I had tried to wipe away the marks, but he told me to pack them up and he would re-do them. As I spoke with him I then looked at the gauge cluster more closely, and first saw part of the paper wrapping was sticking to the surface. Ahh haa!, it would seem the surface of the parts were not totally dry before he wrapped them. This was all happening as I talked with him on the phone. I believe, Crin being from Illinois, and even though he had let them cure for a time, that the humidity is the culprit. Crin says he may need to let them dry even longer on the next attempt.


OH, OH, then I saw something else - a crease in the metal. Another little sinking feeling and the joy of anticipation and surprise were as marred as the parts I was examining. As we talked I looked at the box and where this panel had lain. Remembering how the UPS driver brought the package to the house, he carried it upright, not flat (the box was about 4 feet long, a foot deep and 2 feet wide - think "coffin" -yeah morbid comparison, but you get the image). It would seem, then, that during transport, the package probably was set on the end and the weight of the other window moldings had been jostled and pressed down and creased this one vulnerable piece. Crin assured me he would redo them, and would file a claim with UPS, whereupon, I decided to forego unwrapping the rest of the pieces so that UPS could see exactly what the box looked like when it was delivered.

Later in the day, UPS sent an email that they would contact me for an inspection, which I hope will be tomorrow, Monday, or soon thereafter. Also I took pictures of the damaged pieces and sent them to Crin. He responded quickly saying they looked horrible and, again, to send them to him to be repaired. 

So, the majority of the pieces are still intact, in the box, wrapped up and still needing my inspection. When the UPS inspection is completed, I'll then unwrap and inspect them and, hopefully, no other damages will be revealed. 

While this, in the first moments, felt like a slap on the cheek (which cheek is up to you…), Crin's reassurances and professionalism has made this feel, now, more like just another bump in the road - heaven knows I've hit a few with Phiona's (and my) trips down life's highways. I'm leaving this in Crin's hands, trusting his abilities and integrity.

Finally, to report on Phiona, herself, the shop has made some progress this week, with fenders off the car again and very close to final primer. I also saw that more sanding and smoothing was completed on the body. Looks like things are still moving forward - slowly, but forward.


People have been asking...

so Don, what's the latest on Phiona? What's the progress on the car? Is she almost done?

The short answer would be, not much has been happening over the past several weeks. However, I can report that I expect things to start picking up speed over the next several weeks.

First off, I would like to relay a story to you relating to a friend, Kevin, his Bentley, my Pontiac (Phiona), and 1st Class Collision (where Phiona is undergoing her restoration). A couple of weeks ago I saw Kevin at the 5 & Diner where our group goes for Friday night dinner. As I sat down at his table, I could see he seemed rather subdued and asked how things were going for him. His reply was "that his Bentley and my Phiona shared something in common". This puzzled me, until he then told me a tale of misfortune, to which Kevin knew I could relate and thus he began to explain.    

A few weeks ago he attended a pool party out southwest of Phoenix near Laveen/Avondale. While there, a couple of younger punks, stole his car keys from his pants pocket and then stole his Bentley. They did not go very far but in a short distance they ran down a neighbor's fence, then, hit a pole or tree which threw the car into a canal. The car ended up four wheels on the canal bottom. With only about 1 foot of water, no water damages resulted. 

Now, the comment that my car and his had something in common, made sense, not just that they were now "roommates", but that his vehicle theft had similarities to mine. While I had been in to check progress on Phiona earlier that friday, I had not noticed Kevin's Bentley, mainly because I wasn't expecting to see it. But the following Monday, I did visit the shop and, sure enough, there was Kevin's beloved Bentley, sans the two front fenders. Surprisingly, the grill and hood were mostly unscathed. With both front fenders removed, the car did not look so terribly bad - to me. I expected to see the whole front end smashed. To Kevin who saw the damages first hand, I can relate to how he must have felt with crumpled fenders, broken headlights, etc. That had to have been heartbreaking, just as it was in my incidence. From what I gather, since then and talking with the shop owner, Mike, I believe they are proceeding with repairs to his car.

Certainly empathizing with Kevin, these situations can be so very upsetting, unsettling in that some jerks have no consideration for other's property and such heartbreak for something in which an owner had great pride. It is difficult to make any sense of such senseless acts, and I know, that in time, Kevin will rebound and once again have his beautiful Bentley back. In the meantime, Phiona, being a veteran of several battles, might be a comfort to the Bentley as it too undergoes it's own nips and tucks.

Coming back to Phiona, starting before July 4, on two occasions, I had gone to visit Phiona in the shop and was seeing next to nothing being accomplished. Since I am going to be away for the month of August, camping and exploring the wilderness in Northern AZ and Southern Utah (Grand Canyon North Rim, Toroweep {also N. Rim - western end - but VERY remote}, and possibly Bryce and Zion National Parks in Utah) I felt it necessary to let them know I would be out of touch. Also, if they finally got moving more steadily while I am away, I was afraid that my absence would only stall work on Phiona until I came back to Phoenix. Trying to avoid putting work on hold, I let them know, that IF any final work was to begin on Phiona that it would be best while I was still available this month of July. Friday, after July 4, I again went in to the shop but found most of the employees and Mike were on vacation. I saw that the lift under Phiona was not properly positioned so that part of the car was resting on the actual body, ie, the running board and front fender. To me, this could lead to damages to the car that would only further delay the work to be done. Being upset with the car's positioning on the lift, but finding no one to whom to complain, my feelings began a slow boil. I pray for more patience in my life daily (a decidedly good endeavor, considering all the extended delays and setbacks during this restoration) but was feeling really stressed that I could not remedy nor get help to remedy this situation. Since I was headed to the gym for a workout anyway, the physical exertion, sweating and refocusing of my attention, significantly subsided my worries. As the day went on and over the weekend, I reminded myself that further obsessing about how I felt would be pointless. More deep breaths, calming the negative energies, and focusing on the positives helped lead me to a peaceful place. On Monday this week, I again went to the shop and, once again, reminded them (for the third time) that I would be away and out of touch for all of August. Both Steve, the painter, and Mike, the owner, acknowledged that they had heard my plans and were preparing to tackle the last line blocking and prep work prior to the primer being applied. They assured me that when I came back later this week that I would see progress.

This morning, Thursday 7/12, once more I stopped in to visit Phiona (not really expecting much had changed). Surprisingly, I saw that Phiona had been removed from the bay where she had been for several weeks. In that space was Kevin's Bentley. As I started looking in other bays, Mike called out to me and, with a big smile on his face, told me Phiona was in the back of the shop and work was nearing completion for the car to get primer applied. Actual painting would, then, be soon thereafter. We walked to the back area and there she was, sans the right front fender and apparently, sanded and smoothed out. I talked with Zeke, one who did line blocking and sanding and let him know that when the fenders and other detachable parts were ready for re-assembly, that I had the other parts to assemble the front end clip. Mike told Zeke that it is necessary for me to help re-assemble the car and that I would be there to help. 

As I left, I felt good that, this time, I am going to see some major changes over the next several weeks and told Mike that I was relieved and felt good about their efforts to complete work on Phiona. I guess that must have relieved Mike also, as he reached out to shake my hand, he drew me in and gave me a big bear hug. (Mike is a pretty big fella)! 

And as to the parts that were sent to Crin Dima, in Illinois for woodgraining, I can report that those 11 pieces are finished. Thursday, July 5, Crin emailed me to let me know the woodgraining is done and posted photos to his webpage*. (Check out his website, Undercover Upholstery and Paint, click on the link below).



Here are the original dashboard,  gauge cluster panel and glove box door. 

Woodgraining 1934_Pontiac_1_WG_0033

I think the "new" parts look very good. The parts may look a bit lighter shade than the originals, but that is due to the camera and lighting used. Crin has the original woodgrain patterns and colors, so he was able to reproduce the restored parts just as they would have been in 1934.

And, here are the newly re-woodgrained dashboard, glove box door, gauge panel and left front window garnish molding.

Gauge panel 1934_Pontiac_1_WG_0034 Window garnish moulding 1934_Pontiac_1_WG_0026

Additionally, he has nearly completed the two running board stainless trim pieces, which he and a friend remanufactured based on the one good one that I sent to him a few weeks ago. 

Photos follow of the one of the original trim moldings on the running board and the new moldings nearing completion. They will be polished to a nice shiny appearance.

With work seemingly picking up speed now, I've got a little nagging feeling that most of the painting and finishing work will be closer to the end of July. Conceivably, this could mean, come early August, that my vacation and escape from the intense Phoenix heat might be delayed, even cancelled. Mentally, I am preparing myself for this possibility, and, while I'd rather not be stuck in the heat putting Phiona back together, if it comes to be, then so be it. I will adapt and be happy to be getting Phiona's re-hab completed.