December 17, 2002
Here we go--no turning back now. Until today, I was mostly puttering around the car, not really diving in and getting my hands dirty with real restoration work. Well, tonight I decided it was time for the front-end sheetmetal to come off. I started by examining the way everything was assembled, and taking a lot of pretty uninteresting pictures (uninteresting until I wonder how to put this thing back together again!). I decided that a wise move would be to document everything as thoroughly as possible, perhaps even more than necessary. Every bit of restoration advice I've read has said that you can't document too much, so that's what I'll do. It might slow me down a little, but it should make reassembly in a few years much easier.
The good news is that I didn't strip, break or give up on a single bolt--they all came out pretty easily, which is not what I expected. I guess it just goes to show how easy the car had it living in Colorado most of its life.
Most of the front end is held together with sheetmetal screws and clips, and they're all the same size, which will make reassembly much easier. Everything on the front of the car is interconnected, so removing the screws that secure the front belly pan also removes the splash apron behind the bumper and loosens the fenders. The sheetmetal is all sandwiched together, then held with a single screw. Elegant and simple--the sheetmetal pieces support each other without the need for a lot of braces and brackets.
Please bear with me as I describe some of the stuff I did in detail--it's mostly for me, since this is my primary diary on the restoration. If it's boring, you can skip it, since there's nothing really vital here.
The first thing I removed was the left side headlight. The stainless trim ring was only secured by spring-loaded clips, so I could take it off with my fingers. Then there were eight sheetmetal screws holding the headlight bucket to the fender with blind clips, and I removed those with a flat-bladed screwdriver. Then I could pull the bucket out of the fender. I disconnected the wires at the junction block (the insulation crumbled in my hands) and removed the headlight bucket and bulb as an assembly. I don't know if '41 Buicks have inner fenders, but mine doesn't, and the headlight bucket shows what 60 years of road grime looks like:
I also managed to get the grille off, which was my main goal for tonight. It is a three piece unit, and it was easier to get it off the car by separating it. Once it was off, the opening it left was HUGE! The good news is that there is only some slight surface rust, nothing major. And the collision I was worried about doesn't look like it was anything more than a minor fender-bender that clipped the front bumper and left front fender. The car sure looks strange without its grille, though. Take a look:
Tomorrow, I hope to have the front bumper and splash aprons off, as well as the hood (if I can get a friend to come over and help me lift it off and into the rafters of my garage). Then the fenders can come off and I'll start looking towards pulling the engine and stripping the front suspension.
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