STEPPING BACKWARDS...

APRIL 6, 2012

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Last week, on Friday, March 30, Custom Auto Body Shop moved the rest of their shop from down the street near my house to about 2 miles south on Cave Creek Road. The owner of the nearby building did not extend their lease, but the new location was already operating under a new name, 1st Class Collision Service, thus continuing the business. 

Of course, Phiona was not yet completed at the shop right by the house, so they had already trucked her to the new place, where she has been kept inside. Mike Griesa, the shop owner, showed me the extensive video camera security monitors which eased my mind, knowing the place is under such thorough surveillance. 

A few things had been happening at the shop when it was still down the street, namely, that they had a ton of cars and projects that just seemed to keep backing up and work was slow in being completed. That included Phiona, being put on a back burner as they tried to work on the other vehicles. Salo put in time on the Pontiac, but work on her really had slowed to a crawl.

I had no problem with the job not being completed here, as I had hoped it would when this restoration began, believing instead, that it would take however long it took. Putting an end date on this restoration, before work even began, would have been futile and frustrating. I’m glad I had that thought implanted in my head from the start.


I’d heard from some of the guys at the shop when it was nearby, that their painter had not been producing very good paint jobs over the last several months. Further, I found he had been arrested for DUI and that seemed to put the guy in a downward spiral, resulting in an attitude and poor workmanship. His problems were a major factor in backing up the work in the shop(s) both here and at the new location. 

In the past week I saw that they had spent some time on some of the accessory parts, ie, the trunk, hood and back fenders, but work otherwise was still barely evident on Phiona.

I’d also heard that their painter was going to be fired and that they had an excellent new painter who was getting the work caught up and out the door. That then led to Mike calling me this week to let me know that Steve, the new painter, wanted to meet me and discuss Phiona and how to proceed.

Steve and I met on Thursday, and first off, he told me Phiona should have been soda blasted to remove all the old lacquer paint, not all the sanding that has been done over the past 3 months. The old lacquer paint, ALL of it, every speck, HAS to be gone. Lacquer paints are outlawed due to environmental issues, and enamels are now the preferred paint type used. Lacquer and enamel (which I have been told over the past 2 weeks) are not at all compatible. If enamel is applied over lacquer, there will be a reaction, namely that the new enamel will bubble up or crack. 

The sanding process did remove a majority of the lacquer, but there are a multitude of nooks and crannies that would not be reached and with ANY of the old paint still adhering to Phiona would only open a can of worms, with resulting paint problems not far down the road after the finish was applied. With soda blasting, the fine soda will scour out the hard to reach areas assuring we are down to bare metal over the entire car surfaces.

Apparently shop owner Mike, Salo (body man), nor the former painter knew this ( this vintage of car is the first they have tackled, so it’s excusable, I guess). Thankfully, Steve has had extensive painting experience and he thoroughly explained his suggested strategy and method in completing Phiona’s restoration. 

They will be contacting a company to do the soda blasting, hopefully, as soon as next week. Since a majority of the old paint has been removed, Steve thinks they should be able to do their work pretty quickly.


As a result, this restoration is, in many ways, starting from scratch. Steve, in his good conscience, will not allow even a mediocre product to leave his shop. He knows full well that a poor product will only reflect badly on the shop and those who do the work. Also, an excellent finished vehicle will bring good word of mouth and more business to the shop.

Further, Steve convinced me that the only, effective way to finish the door jambs, inside and out was to remove the doors, just as they did with the fenders, running boards, hood, etc. That will allow them to get “right in there” and do the close up detail work, plus produce a very fine finished job that will enhance the whole car.

Additionally, Steve also switched the auto paint supplier from DuPont to another paint supplier telling me their paints are superior to DuPont’s.

As I’m listening to Steve inform me how this restoration SHOULD have been going and now WILL be, I felt perturbed that IF, all this new information had been known 4 months ago, then Phiona’s rehab would have been much closer to completion by now. That and I realize that the total costs are now going to, probably, exceed my initial expectations.

Upon meeting with Mike and Steve, I relayed that concern. I told them I am retired and do not have bottomless pockets. Somehow, though, I will pay the price. (I may be working the streets though... or selling lemonade in front of my house). 


The new upholstery kit has already been delivered and is waiting in my garage. I may have the upholsterer do the seats soon, so that I can have a place to sit after the painting is done. 

I have some woodwork that needs to be done and I hope Mark Howard will be able to help construct a small piece to replace a rotted window sill.

Likewise, I’d like Steve M’s help with re-wiring the dome light and switch, now that the upholstery has been removed.


All of this new information about the surface prep and painting, presents one of those times that I knew would likely raise it’s ugly head with challenges and setbacks. In the beginning, approaching this after the accident, I prepared myself, mentally, for obstacles along this journey. This does concern me, but, in trying to keep a positive outlook, and, now knowing that I will have Phiona looking like a million bucks, I am optimistic that you all will share in the upcoming rebirth of Phiona