Inspection and Documentation

  1. Taking pictures

Now that we have your car the time has come to thoroughly check it out. We get our best digital camera and a pen and pad of paper.  The camera is to the highest resolution setting and start walking around the car taking pictures of the entire surface. Camera memory and hard drive space is generally pretty cheap these days so we don’t worry about wasting space. We take as many pictures as we can from all possible angles and make sure we have good light or a good camera flash.  Pictures of the engine hood, doors, windows, trunk lid, top, bottom, engine compartment, trunk, wheels, springs/suspension and everything in-between are taken. On the inside, we take pictures of the steering, dash, doors, seats, floor, windows, roof, and under the dash.

A break is taken and come back again later to take some more pictures of anything we thought we might have missed. We jack up the car and take pictures of the underside too!

The goal is to visually document 100% of the car’s condition and placement/fitment of parts and systems. We can’t stress how important this step is. These images will come in handy when we’re scouting for missing or replacement parts, or when we are trying to describe to parts suppliers what we need. They will also come in handy when reassembling the car. A missed picture could mean much wasted time; possibly hours researching parts manuals and/or the Internet, talking to others

You really can never have enough pictures!

After we’ve finished taking pictures, go back and take some more.  After, we save them as organized into folders and sub-folders. The neater, the better, since organization will help us save time later when we are searching for that single necessary photo.  We Create folders with sub-section names (for example, Engine Compartment), and sub-folders with dates to store the images we take.

2.  Visual inspection

Next, we walk around the vehicle and start documenting.  We write down everything we see that stands out as a potential problem or area requiring repair. For example, the surface is documented (painted, rusted, coated, etc.) Any damages or missing parts are documented too. We document anything that we think will need to be ‘completed’ or any work that will need to be accomplished during the project. We open the car doors and document everything we see inside. The cracks and crevices are all looked at .  In this step, we review all of the systems we can visually get to without taking things apart. We don’t want to take anything apart at this point – the time for disassembly will come later.

3. Dismantling

The objective for this phase, as you probably have figured out by the title, is to take the car apart. We don’t necessarily have to take everything apart; we strip the car down to the bare essentials as required for restoration.  How far do we need to go? It depends on many factors to include budget, level or amount of deterioration, and level of restoration. How much do you want to restore?  If you’ve decided that you want to perform a full or complete restoration, this means that almost everything has to be dismantled.

As you discovered, documentation is vital to a good restoration. As we dismantle the vehicle, documentation is extremely important so that we have a real-world reference during the reassembly process. Again, we take good quality, high-resolution digital images of the interconnectivity of the components as we dismantle them. We take pictures before and after removing each part, component and/or sub-component.

When we remove a part, will label where it came from with the best possible description. For example, if we remove the left front headlight, we mark it “left front”. We do the same with nuts and bolts.  Also, we try not to assume that parts from opposite sides of the car are the same shape or size as often this will not be the case.  This is true with brackets and other various components.

4. Tagging and bagging

For everything removed, it is ‘tagged and bagged’ and stored in a cardboard box. If parts are too large, like fenders and doors and such, we will still tag them and set them aside.

For any components with electrical connections, we are sure to take clear images of how the wires are connected and routed to the part.

We begin by dismantling the exterior components first. Everything that was attached to the car that could be removed is removed. Examples of this the chrome strips and emblems, fuel cap, lights, etc. Next, we work on smaller parts that we could reach from the bottom side such as the mud flaps, clamps holding on various brake/fuel lines, and lower protector shields.

Once I finished with the smaller exterior parts, we begin working on the engine compartment. Since it is much easier to get into the engine compartment area with the front nose and fenders removed, they are removed first. These are of course tagged and set aside.

5. Parts Acquisition and Restoration

The primary objective of this phase is to clean, inspect and restore the individual parts. We need to acquire replacements parts for those that are missing or beyond repair because they are badly worn, rusted, or damaged. Also, during this phase, we have bodywork performed and painting.

It is vital to inspect your vehicle for missing or damaged parts, we must have a parts manual to help with this process.  We use parts manual as a ‘checklist’ to ensure we have all the parts required to get your car back on the highway once again.  Without this manual, the process of determining what parts are missing would have been nearly impossible.

6. Determining Missing Parts

This is a relatively simple process, which requires reviewing the parts manual, investigating each sub-section, and ensuring we have all the parts listed.  This process does take significant time.

Most parts manual or parts catalogue are sorted as follows:

  1. Engine
  2. Electrical Equipment
  3. Fuel and Exhaust Systems
  4. Power Train
  5. Front and Rear Axles
  6. Brakes
  7. Operating Controls
  8. Chasses and Body Units
  9. Miscellaneous Equipment

At the end of the catalogue is what is called the Alphabetical and Numerical Registers section, which includes as you probably guessed, a listing of part groups alphabetized by name, and another list sorted by part number.  Each of these sections is extremely valuable as we work through to find missing parts.

This results in a complete, working list of parts comprising the front hubs.  From this list we reach out to our parts sources and inquire, along with a picture from the book for any parts that appear worn, damaged, or missing.  This, along with your chassis/serial number and vehicle year provides our sources with everything they need to help us find your part or a suitable replacement.

Some parts you are simply not going to find new or used.  For example, we are at times unable to find the heater control panel label or the rear window vent seals.  We have to make them by hand.

Depending on what level of restoration we are working to perform, we will need to review and restore the various parts and components of your car in order to get it back on the road again.  Clearly, all major systems will need to be investigated for worn or damaged parts, such as the engine, transmission, drive shaft (propeller), wheel hubs, brakes, and other operating controls to include the accelerator, clutch, and lights.  The body, and especially those spots prone to rust such as the trunk and spare wheel well, are inspected and repaired.  Doors and windows are reviewed to ensure proper alignment, functionality, and sealing.

7. Reassembly

Here is the general order of reassembly that is used on most project:

  1. Front suspension cross member (complete) to frame
  2. Track rod to lower control arms and frame
  3. Steering gear box to frame
  4. Steering rods to control arms and steering gear box
  5. Brake master cylinder, brake lines
  6. Propeller shaft to differential housing
  7. Engine (complete) with transmission to cross member, prop shaft, frame
  8. Fuel tank
  9. Exhaust system
  10. Handbrake and cable
  11. Complete wiring harness
  12. Foot dimmer switch and housing
  13. Brake, clutch and throttle linkage components
  14. Wheel housing plating (engine compartment)
  15. Engine protector plates – left, right and forward
  16. Front end (nose) and grille
  17. Radiator
  18. Engine compartment electrical components; fuse box, coil, charging relay, horns, etc.
  19. Heater components
  20. Engine cooling system hoses
  21. Sound deadening paper in front, trunk
  22. Dash instruments
  23. Headliner, sun visors, interior light
  24. Rear interior side panels, armrests
  25. Rear seats
  26. Front and rear window seals and windshields
  27. Rear vent window seals and windows
  28. Wiper system, washer system
  29. Front seat rails, front seats
  30. Steering wheel housing, steering wheel
  31. Gear shift lever, shield, boot
  32. Rear fenders, front fenders
  33. Headlights, tail lights, turn signals
  34. Trunk seal, hood seals
  35. Doors, trunk lid, engine lid
  36. Front door panels
  37. Floor covering – sound deadening
  38. Rubber Floor Mats
  39. Wheels and tires
  40. Mud flaps
  41. Bumper brackets & bumpers
  42. Moulding
  43. Battery
  44. Fuel

This list is stored in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and crossed off each major section as we complete it.

If you have the choice, if you live in America, restore an American car.  You will have many more part sources and thus less expense. You shouldn’t need to pay for shipping from the Netherlands or from other foreign countries.  If you live in Europe, and particularly Northern Europe where Volvos are most common, you should have no problems finding and restoring such a beauty or the required parts.

8. Painting and buffing

Power-coated parts will generally last longer and resist the elements longer.  We prime and paint parts (such as the front-end suspension components) black as this will make it easier to “touch up” later.

9. Replacing worn-out engine parts

If we are not working on a high-mileage engine, we tear it apart and replace whatever we can; pistons, rings, cam shaft, etc. We bore the cylinder liners and re-line.  Some engines need new pistons, rings, or cam shaft.

We don’t allow our body technicians to use body filler.  Most classic don’t need much filler. Overall it’s generally better to have little to none.

We Don’t use a windshield replacement business to fabricate glass. Need I say more? We stick with a glass fabrication specialist; one who deals with older-model cars and restorations.

Texas auto restoration