: New here; 1968 Coupe needs help



Whalom
07-19-09, 01:24 PM
Hi - I am new to this forum.

We've had a 1968 Coupe de Ville in our family since my grandparents purchased it new on Long Island (still have all the paperwork from when it was ordered in Nov. '67 and delivered in Jan. '68.) My father purchased it in 1973 when my grandfather passed away and then he gave it to me in 1988 when he was going to junk it. The car has been in storage since then. It is in decent shape appearance-wise as a driver, as it was maintained regularly until it went into storage. It has deteriorated moderately since. The interior is decent but needs a little help, mostly with upholstery if it's to look really nice. The sheet metal has some salt corrosion that was improperly repaired in 1980-81 and which has re-emerged with a vengeance, but is probably repairable. The vinyl top is dry-rotted, probably from age and five years in Florida sun. The engine and drive train, aside from being in storage for so long, appear to need only fairly routine maintenance to be restored to roadworthyness. I expect to have the engine running before the week is out. (It has been started periodically, but not for two years.)

The big concern I have is the poor condition of the frame. It already had major corrosion back when my dad was still driving it in Florida and between that and the fact that routine maintenance was nickel-and-diming him, he was going to junk it.

The frame appears solid both ahead of and behind the wheels. It's the straight run between wheel openings that has a considerable amount of metal loss; so much so that it would never pass state inspection in this condition. I have heard that it is the number one cause of death for Caddies of this vintage.

I have a lot of sentiment attached to this car and would like to keep it and in fact put it back on the road as an occasional driver, if such is possible. But I have limited funds and the idea of spending $20,000 or more for a ground-up restoration is not in the cards right now.

What sort of options, if any, are available, and what kind of money am I looking at having to spend, to ensure that the frame is serviceable for the time being? I suppose that the long-run solution would be to replace the frame, but I figure that would be cost-prohibitive at this time.

I'd hate to have to junk it, but can only put money into it a little at a time, for the next two years or so until other debts are paid off and the budget improves.

Thanks for any help!

Mark

drmenard
07-19-09, 01:42 PM
you wil get advice from one end to the other here.. restore it 100% to junk it..If it were me, I would try to do the work myself...If the frame is the big issue...scrape,grind and paint with POR-15... if you post some pictures of the car and its trouble spots, you will get better advice...

Whalom
07-19-09, 04:10 PM
You're right; a picture speaks a thousand words. Here's a photo showing the worst area of the frame; about a two or three-foot section beneath the driver's side door. Aside from a similar area on the opposite side, most of the rest appears solid; the car sits straight and even the floor is solid. But in the worst sections, there isn't enough of the frame left to scrape and paint. Perhaps it could be boxed or otherwise reinforced for the short run. Long-run I think would require a frame-off job with a new frame. But I am not competent to do any of that sort of work; while I can do basic mechanical repairs like pull a radiator or rebuild brakes, my auto body skills are limited to touching up paint or cutting out rust.

cadillac_al
07-19-09, 06:21 PM
That's a close call. It may not be that hard to fix and reinforce that section of the frame but it would have to be done very very well to pass a state safety inspection. So well that it would have to be almost unnoticeable. It would probably be just as cheap to change the frame IF you could even find one.

Bro-Ham
07-19-09, 07:20 PM
Hi,

Post some more pictures that show the exterior and interior. You may get even more opinions. I agree that if it is a black hole the car would really need to be your absolute all time favorite for it to be worth spending your valuable time, blood, sweat, tears, and $$$.

Dave

sven914
07-19-09, 07:42 PM
I've seen pickup trucks get holes like that under the bed, and to fix them, people remove the bed and cut out the section of bad frame. They then weld a section of new frame into the hole.

I really don't see any way the holes can be repaired without the body coming off the frame. I would take the car to body shop or a restoration shop and see what they say.

If there is no way you can fix it on your budget or with your time restraints; I would not junk it. I would go as far as I could with the restoration; get it running and driving, fix some of the body (maybe throw a cheap coat of paint on it), get all of the electronics working, get new brakes and cheap white wall tires. I would keep a running tally of all my expenses in the car and then put it up on eBay as a "Partial Restoration," with the starting bid/ reserve being my interest in the project.

Whalom
07-19-09, 08:27 PM
If it's possible to revive the car, I want to keep it because of the sentimental value, and it is a cool looking car. Here is what I plan to do. I have just had the generator rebuilt so I can run it without constantly discharging the battery (as it has been, which has hampered starting it regularly.) The radiator is out now being repaired. Those were the only problems I recall under the hood from the last time it was started. With the radiator out, I've flushed the cooling system and am replacing the hoses. New coolant/distilled water mix will be put in once the radiator is back and after it's flushed once more. Last time it was started, all of the electronic stuff worked fine and the a/c even blew cold air.

That leaves brakes, body work, vinyl top and minor interior repairs to have it looking and running fine, barring any hidden defects inherent in a car which has not been driven in 21 years and been started only infrequently. I can afford to spend a couple hundred a month to get those things taken care of over time. I'm going to start with a rebuilt master cylinder and work my way down the line to the wheel cylinders to ensure that the brakes are good. Right now, the rear brake shoes appear to be frozen to the drums as I can't remove the rear drums or depress the parking brake pedal (which is currently "up.") I've been advised to try "rocking" the car to break them free, but that won't happen until the radiator is back in, perhaps in the next day or two. I am thinking my total expenditure to the point where it starts, runs and has good brakes will be under $500; so far I have spent about $200.

But then comes the real money once we're talking body, top and frame. All will need something done to pass PA inspection; no body rust is allowed and certainly no rotted frame. I have a good relationship with my mechanic and he can tell me what will pass. There is a vo-tech school in town with an auto body program; perhaps they can do a frame swap for less than an arm and a leg (if I can find a frame.) Or repair what is there, if possible. But I don't want to pour good money after bad if the car's deteriorated frame renders it not salvageable. However, if it is salvageable, then I consider money spent on things like rust removal, top and other "weatherproofing" repairs to be a good investment for the short term, until I can get the frame sorted out.

Oddly, in PA, if I get the cosmetic stuff done, I can get antique auto plates, which limits driving to one day per week and requires no inspection. But I still want the car to be safe; I don't want it to break in half if I go over a speed bump a little too fast! Right now it won't qualify because of the body rust and tattered top. It's registered as a driver, but can't be driven on the road without safety inspection. And frankly, as it is, I would be leery about putting it on a lift, unless the mechanic really knows what he's doing.

The long-term possibility of a frame swap has lifted my spirits and at this point made me lean in favor of making necessary repairs as funds permit, with some confidence that I am not throwing my money away. That is my immediate concern. I just didn't know that that sort of thing could be done.

Angry Matt
07-20-09, 08:11 AM
You can apply for a classic plate. You would be able to drive the car more often (at night and weekdays) and they don't check you're miles. It would only be subject to a safety inspection once a year. No emissions or registration. Just watch when you send the pics in, they kicked mine back for a AAA sticker on the bumper. I've heard of people sending pictures of other people's cars, I didn't have the balls to try it though. Where are you? There are people in the area that will sticker just about anything.

Whalom
07-20-09, 09:34 AM
Hi, Matt: I'm about fifteen minutes from Limerick, in Phoenixville. Yes, I looked into the classic tags as well as antique, and determined that if I had to get it inspected I might as well have it registered as a regular driver since it would be exempt from emissions testing either way. But it's cosmetically too rough for me to get antique or classic just now.

Angry Matt
07-20-09, 11:21 AM
I lived in Phoenixville until I was 27. I think I know of a '67 in a junkyard about an hour north and they have a few 472/500's also. Maybe some of the interior parts interchange. The '67 is pretty rough though. I got a buddy in Collegeville that does hydraulics and can reinforce frames. It might look stock, but if it'll help let me know.

Whalom
07-20-09, 11:46 AM
Thanks! I would like to check out the '67 and see whatever I can use. I'd also like to consult with your friend in Collegeville and see what can be done about that frame. ~Mark

Whalom
07-24-09, 10:06 PM
Angry Matt: Thanks for the message; the messaging system would not let me respond since I am a new member. Anything you can find out about that '67 on your trip up there is appreciated.

akimball442
07-25-09, 12:43 AM
Yikes. Being an upstate GM rotbox driver for a long time, that frame is in trouble and that car is a deathtrap in it's current condition, period.

If the body is in good shape and the rest of the car is mechanically sound, a complete frame replacement would be possible.. It would be worth looking around in junkyards trying to find a car that was damaged in an accident, high mileage, or burned in a fire with a still solid frame. It's tedious and time consuming, but the frames are what go on old GM's up here in the rot belt.

That being said, I've welded plates to more than a few of those cars and they do hold up well. It's just not ideal, especially if you want to keep the car for the long haul. It's one thing to weld up the frame on an old Delta 88 that's being used as a winter rat, it's something entirely different if the car actually means enough to you that you want to make it last.

It CAN be done, but in the long run, it'd probably make sense to have metal welded in as a band-aid fix until you can afford to put the big bucks into it later on. A 68 Coupe Deville is a really cool car, and it's not like it's an easy car to replace. Certainly not with any sort of sentimental value. It's one thing to say 'My grand-dad had a car like this', vs. 'This car has been in the family since new.'

I'd keep it and fix it. Do what you can do yourself, and work on the rest slowly. Even if you can find somebody to put a sticker in the window, I'd still suggest you do something about that frame, because it's dangerous, and the weight of the car on it over a couple railroads is a disaster waiting to happen.

Do you have any further pics of it?

Whalom
07-26-09, 09:54 AM
Hi, akimball, and thanks for your reply.

I will be taking more pictures of it soon and will put them up here.

I really never planned on junking the car, although my dad has repeatedly urged me to do so, but the big question is whether it's worth putting money into it to prevent deterioration, and even further, to spruce it up, if it is ultimately not salvageable.

From what I have read here, and your reply confirms it, it is feasible to replace the frame if need be, so if I am in it for the long haul, whether a frame replacement is necessary or not, it makes sense to preserve what is there, economically as well as sentimentally.

During the past week since my initial post, I have had the generator rebuilt and the voltage regulator tested; it's putting out 15.4 volts. . I have replaced the radiator and hoses, removed the leaky heater core, flushed the cooling system, and generally spruced up inside the engine compartment. The battery has been charged, the engine turns over and starts easily. But the "GEN" light stays lit and the battery still isn't being charged. I have to check all of the connections.

I do plan to remove the fuel tank and have it checked over, but it's low priority right now since it holds fuel and the fuel obviously reaches the engine, although I assume my filter will need changing. During the cooling system flushing it appears that the water pump is noisy; I don't know whether it's because the flush water lacks the lubricating quality of good coolant, or because the bearings are going.

I also purchased a used car cover and a pair of clean fender skirts (the originals are quite rusty and have been poorly repaired once already.)

The car won't move, and since I can't remove the left rear brake drum (haven't tried right rear yet) or depress the parking brake pedal, I assume the brake shoes are frozen to the drum, so now that the engine runs I will try to break that loose and do a complete brake job.

Best news of all is that it dawned on me that there is a tech school near here where they have a good auto body program and do work practically for the cost of materials. I have a friend whose son is a senior in the program and he's going to look into getting this car into the shop for them to work on. My friend also has a car trailer so that we can transport it there, if they will take it in. The previous poor body repair was done by a young kid just starting out in business, 27 years ago, so in one sense the thought of young students learning on my car makes me cringe. But since the instructor is a stickler for things being done right and he wants the students to learn the right way to do things, it may be a good thing. Certainly the fact that the car needs so much labor-intensive work done means that this is a very feasible way for me to get it at least road-worthy, if not even thoroughly restored, for something that even I may be able to afford. Can they do a frame replacement is the big question; it appears that they can at least perform the work to reinforce the existing frame if the frame can be saved. At least, for me, time is not an issue and if they can do what the car needs to eradicate rust and have it looking its best, they can take as long as they need.

akimball442
07-26-09, 08:40 PM
I would start looking for a frame right away. Search, make phone calls, keep an eye on craigslist and try to find a good parts car.

The only legal and safe way to make that car road worthy is to replace the frame, and in a classroom situation, an instructor is going to explain that to the students. Frame damage in those days totaled a car. Rot is the most severe form. PA does not even allow them through inspection with rot holes, as far as I know.

Once you have dealt with the frame you're not necessarily on easy street, but it's all down hill.

You've undoubtedly heard the term 'frame off' restoration- and it means what it says. The body is removed from the frame. My boss is doing one right now on a 66 Pontiac LeMans which I suspect is in far worse condition than your car. He did find another frame that's solid for his car. The body is just as big of a mess as the frame was- every panel is being replaced.

If you can do that kind of work yourself, it isn't that expensive, but if you have to pay someone, then it is. It comes down to how much space and time to you have?

As for your question about whether or not it's 'worth it'- financially speaking no, it's foolish and vintage cars are horrible money pits and you'll never get out of them what you put into them if you were going to sell it.

It's not about that. If the car has sentimental value to you and you want to preserve it for that reason, then there's no way you could ever assess a dollar figure on its value.

If you have a fairly dry environment to store the car, and you can work on it slowly over time, you could do that.