Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Raptor Liner: Fuel Tank & Rear Valence Treatment

In between new shop general contracting duties, I managed to sneak in a few hours of work on the Boss project this week.  I have been working on a few details at the rear of the car and the time finally came to finish the bottom surfaces of the fuel tank and rear valence to match the rest of the lower surfaces of the car.

Some followers of this blog may recall that I am a HUGE fan of U-Pol Raptor bed liner and protective coating material to finish the underside of my project cars.  This incredibly durable, waterproof, semi-flexible and easy to apply sprayable coating is an awesome choice for a very clean, custom appearance on the bottom of the car and it is very easy to maintain and keep looking fresh for years to come.  Truth is:  There is practically no limit to the applications you can dream up for the stuff, but in this case, we keep it pretty simple.
A few months back, I prepped and primed the bottom of the stainless fuel tank in preparation for the Raptor liner application.  Since then, I have been working on the fit and finish of the rear valence and with that work now complete and the entire valence primed in PPG epoxy, the time had come to finish the bottom exposed surfaces of each part in Raptor.

Like just about any paint prep, Raptor requires a moderate “tooth” on the surface to ensure optimum adhesion of the product.  To achieve this, I scuffed all of the surfaces with a red Scotch Brite pad and wiped everything down with prep solvent to ensure the surfaces were absolutely clean.  Then, a few run downs with a fresh tack cloth and it was off to masking.
After the masking work was complete, it was time to suit-up and apply the Raptor coating to the tank and valence.  To match the texture that was applied to the rest of the floor, the “triggered” air pressure at the applicator “Schutz” gun was set to 45psi.  Once that was set, the process is very simple:  mix the catalyst with the product according to the instructions, shake for 2 minutes and shoot!

To ensure the texture was a perfect match, it was critical to maintain a shooting distance of about 16-18 inches.  I find this provides a medium-fine texture with a non-directional finish that looks great.  The first coat will generally provide about 75% coverage and acts as a very solid ground coat that needs to be left to flash off for one hour before the second finish coat.  By alternating the spray direction between coats, the finish is absolutely non-directional and coverage is 100% on all surfaces.
After letting the second coat flash for one hour, I carefully remove the masking being very careful to avoid dragging the tacky Raptor material on to clean surfaces.  The benefit of removing the masking when the Raptor is still a bit tacky is that the mask edges will pull very clean and sharp and the edges will “lay down” and provide a very nice finish.

With the tank and valence bottom surfaces finished, the bottom of the car is now fully finished and looks fantastic.  This finish is far more durable and easy to maintain than any factory undercoating option and the ease of maintenance is far and away easier as well.  Consider this finish option on your next project!

The top of the new stainless steel fuel tank will remain in bare metal, however the flange will be the base for the back-taping that will begin our masking work.

Here is a shot of the primed, scuffed and masked tank bottom, and the rear valence in the background.  At this point, I wiped down the parts with prep solvent and tacked them off in preparation to spray the Raptor material.

Apologies for the bad picture quality, but here is a shot of the tank right after the second coat of Raptor has been applied.  The glossy sheen is normal for the wet coating and mutes considerably during the curing process.

Here is another poor shot of the rear valence after the second coat of Raptor has been applied.  After about an hour, the masking is pulled from each part and they are left to dry overnight before any further handling.

Fully unmasked and completely dry, the tank fuel sender hole contrasts very nicely against the fresh Raptor coating.  This is now a perfect match to the rest of the underside of the car and will look seamlessly integrated under the car.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Quantum Leaps & Polar Shifts: New Shop on the Way!

This time, I think I might actually have a legitimate excuse for the excessively long interval between updates.  For over a year and a half, I have been designing a new shop and going through the rather painful process of getting approvals to build it.  This process has been unbelievably demanding on my time and resources and we are several months behind in the process due to numerous administrative hiccups out of my control.  However, as of mid-June, we were finally able to get the process of building started with full approval of the local township and much gnashing of teeth at the hands of our local self-righteous, unscrupulous gang of HOA egotists.  But first, a little history on how this all came about…
In the earliest entries in my blog, you will find that my uncle was an instrumental element in getting my Boss 302 transported from its lifelong home in Texas to its new home here in Michigan.  Without him and all he’d done, the car would likely still be in storage and nowhere near the project it has evolved into today.

As a kid, my Dad and Uncle were my very first automotive mentors and motivators.  So much so, that I decided at a very young age to make a lifelong career in the automotive industry.  “Cars” most definitely run long and deep in the family and over the years, my mom & dad picked up a 1956 Thunderbird in the early 80’s and my uncle a 1932 Ford 5-window coupe way back in 1974, and I've picked up a few wheeled money pits over the years as well.
Unfortunately, my uncle’s service in Vietnam in the late 60’s would come with a cruel, hidden menace that would unknowingly stalk him for over 40 years, and ultimately take him from us far too soon.  On April 23, 2014, my uncle passed from this life to our God in Heaven; a victim of ravenous complex of cancers confirmed to be the work of Agent Orange exposure at the hands of our government, just one month shy of his departure from Cam Rahn Bay, Khanh Hoa Province, Viet Nam.  His name added as another tragic casualty of the Vietnam War.

Somewhere along the line, my uncle decided he wanted me to have his entire shop & the Deuce and made that happen a few short months before he passed.  Having never had children of his own, I suppose I was the closest thing he had to a kid, and in that, I am quite sure he got the short end of the deal.  Growing up, I was certainly no angel and he was a career Texas State Trooper.  As polar opposite as that combination was, one of the greatest rewards of my life was to find just how similar we had become in our later years in terms of tastes, perspectives, and general outlooks on life in spite of many years conspiring to the contrary.
Now, a year following his passing, I am on my way to a promise kept.  After our Street Rodder Magazine road tour in the coupe a few summers ago, I think he knew I had a love for the old car and a respect for what it is and where it came from.  In a manner of speaking, I “grew up” with this car and maybe that was yet another confirmation to him that it would always remain loved and cared for.  I promised him it would always have a proper home and the past year has been spent designing a space where ALL of the hot rods can live in peace and harmony in a dedicated facility to care for and preserve them for my family to enjoy long after I fall off the perch.

Like all big projects, planning ahead was the key to getting a lot of things figured out ahead of time and putting together a proper budget.  I knew ahead of time that the cost of this particular building project would be quite a bit higher than “average” due to a number of unique challenges and the peripheral upgrades I wanted to make that would benefit more than just a new shop, like a whole house generator, a 2-post and 4-post lift, and upgrading the house breaker panel to a more modern and safe setup.  Additionally, the main electrical service to the house and shop would have to be moved and while doing so, I upgraded to a higher capacity service to ensure I could power my house and shop to supply all of my needs with plenty of reserve left.  All told, these preliminary requirements cost about two months of valuable construction time before any “real” work could begin on the building itself.
As I write this, the preliminary work is finally complete and preparations are being made to have the concrete contractor put us in the queue to have the footings dug and 6" reinforced concrete foundation poured.  Once that critical bit is done and dusted, the building materials will be ordered and delivered to the site and the real work will begin.  Up to this point, I have been pretty much at the mercy of other contractors as the work required was nothing I could do myself.  However, with a foundation in place, the focus will be on me to make the best out of the next 3-4 months to get this baby up and dry before the snow flies here in Michigan (again).  As you can imagine, work on the Boss will come in short bursts between “down time” and not of substantial quantity.  However, I will document every piece of progress on both fronts right here, so there is plenty more to come!  In the meantime, here is a load of pictures to document where we are:

Hated to remove four beautiful oak trees, but there was no choice based on our limited building site availability.

Although hard to see in this shot, there are four large stumps left after the trees were removed that need to be ground out before we can get going on the first phases of the build.

This stump grinding machine was nothing short of impressive!  It's like a giant R/C car!  The operator stands clear of the machine and controls all functions of the machine via a wireless remote control that looks like a giant Nintendo controller.  Cool stuff!

The business end of the stump grinder.  That grinding wheel is about 24" in diameter and will grind most root balls out completely.  Nasty beastie.

With the trees and stumps cleared, we were able to lay out the trench that would be needed to run the new electrical line from the new meter panel that will be located on the shop wall to the house service panel.  That's about a 60' run from the corner stake in the lower right of the frame to the wall under the deck where the service enters the wall.

Here is where the new electrical service will enter the house.  All of what is in the shot will eventually be replaced with a much cleaner and simpler setup.

Our first trenching job out of the way.  We hired this work done as the roots and other obstacles were just too much to hassle with.

New service cable in place and ready for inspection.

Here is where the cable "jumper" will connect to the new meter panel.  The white stake marks the northeast corner of the new shop floor.

New panel and meter box in place.  These upgrades are a much needed improvement to the electrical service and includes a master cutoff that the house did not have before.

With the first trench filled in, we are ready for the electric company to continue the trench to the pole where the new electrical service cable will be laid in and connected.

These little mini-excavator machines are just about the coolest thing.  They make unbelievably quick work of trenches and are worth every penny given the tremendous amount of work they save.  This one is about to get down to business!

15 minutes and this little dude has trenched about 100 feet without breaking a sweat.

The power company liked what they saw when it came time to prep the new meter box for connection.

A half hour into the job and the trench work is out about 200 feet!

The last 60 feet to the pole was a little more challenging as there was a stump that needed pulling and some pretty serious roots in the way.  All told, the 260 feet of trenching took a tick over an hour total.  The rest was pretty textbook.  Cable installed, trench inspected, connected at the pole, connected at the panel, trench filled in and we went live.

The guys running the excavator were kind enough to fill in the remains of our trench too, making our job MUCH easier.  With that, the new electrical service is in and the old cable can now be cut without danger when the footings are dug and the foundation poured.  In the mean time, the new panel is ready for a full 200-amp service for the new shop!