Reserved Seating

The driver’s seat in the Thunderbird is designed for a different age with upright seating high off the floor. They did not have tall people in mind. I’m well over six feet, so I was not only cramped in the driver’s seat, my head was firmly jammed against the headliner when I sat in the car.

Looks like most of the sound insulation behind the rear seats is just plain gond.
Looks like most of the sound insulation under the rear bench is just plain gone.

One of the first things I did when I got the car was unbolt the seat, remove the slider assembly and move it back as far as I could. It was a crude job meant to get me on the road. It worked tolerably well, but I have basically been sitting with the seat on the floor. Comfortable for driving, not so great for getting in and out of the car.

The rear seat backs I bought have been taking up space in my garage for a few months now, mostly because all the seats need to come out to install them. This weekend I had the time and energy, so I pull both front seats, the rear bench and the old rear seat backs.

The final rear seat installation.
The final rear seat installation.

The rear bench comes out easily with a tug once the arm rests are out. The backs are installed with two small screws through tabs on the bottom. The passenger side seat back was in rough shape. The vinyl on top was dried, flaky and cracked. I had to drill one new mounting hole to install the replacement, but it went together nicely. On the driver’s side, the replacement seat back wasn’t a good fit at all. The mounting tabs didn’t line up with the existing holes and the curve of the seat back didn’t nest into the frame. Since the original on this side was still decent (and a good color match with the other side), I reinstalled it.

Reinstallation was relatively simple, except for lining up the screws in the deep recesses of the armrests, which took some doing, and a little creativity.

Inside the seat sliding mechanism.
Inside the seat sliding mechanism.

For the driver’s seat, I removed the four inch riser from the slider assembly, then took the sliders apart to clean and re-grease them. With the sliders back together, I flipped them over (to allow clearance for the seat locking mechanism) and bolted them directly to the seat frame.

I did a test sit with the seat in this configuration and the sliders don’t add a lot of hight, but the seat is in a more upright configuration. It’s not easy to get to the seat latch, which is very close to the floor, but the new set up will allow for some seat movement forward.

To install the new set up in the car, I’ll be running bolts up from underneath into blind nuts glued to the seat rails. Yesterday, I clamped and glued the nuts in place, letting the glue set over night. Today, I expect to have time to get the seat back into the car.

Making a Dash for It

Old, but not that old, starter.
Old, but not that old, starter.

Seems like it was only about a year ago, perhaps longer, that I had to replace the starter. The one I put in didn’t last long, as I mentioned in my last post. When I got the old–but not that old starter out, it had developed some nasty rust and at least one thing had broken off and was rattling around inside.

Clearly, this one was toast.

I got a replacement from O’Reilly’s this time–a brand I had not heard of and a little more expensive than the Napa part I replaced. Installation, as before, is not difficult, though I did pick up a ratcheting box-end wrench to make that top bolt less of a chore. (And I was glad I did!) The new starter fires the car up with a “scchhhvooooom” that I hadn’t heard before, but is otherwise excellent.

A new (-ish) dash and assorted parts.
A new (-ish) dash and assorted parts.

Sunday meant a trip out to see a man about a dashboard. The dash he has was carefully uninstalled and in decent shape. It also came with a steering column, a better-than-mine steering wheel and a center console that I will end up trashing. The price was right, so we tossed it in the back of the truck and carted it home. Looks like most of the pieces are in place to get the dash out of the car and spruced up.

Polish and Grind

A panaply of polishing compounds.
A panoply of polishing compounds.

I often get comments on the rims on my Thunderbird. They are period-correct mags, and perhaps not the first style you’d think of when you think T-Bird. I like the look, and based on the comments I get, they evoke a lot of good memories.

These rims have been around a while and while not in terrible shape, they have some weathering and stains that have resisted my cleanup efforts. Yesterday, I marshaled together all of the polishing and cleaning compounds I could find in my garage, pulled a front wheel and set out to experiment.

After an hour or so–and lots of elbow grease–I found that a good scrub with Nevr Dull wadding followed up with a traditional “Mother’s” mag wheel polish cleaned up the stains pretty well. Under the glare of a halogen lamp on my work bench, the shine didn’t look like much, but once on the car, the wheel looked pretty good. One down and three to go.

The final shine.
The final shine.

Today, I pulled out the Autolite I’ve been wrestling with and dropped it on the manifold once again. Results were similar–easy to start, but won’t run unless at high rpm’s with a little goosing.

I kinda expected that outcome.

Starting the engine with a newly installed carburetor means a little bit of cranking to get gas to the carb. I don’t need to crank the motor much these days, and it looks like it was a bit of a strain on the starter today. While I was testing that Autolite, the starter failed to disengage from the flywheel and it seems stuck there pretty good. I went back to the Edelbrock, which started up fine, of course, but I didn’t let it run long with the starter screeching away under there. Looks like a new starter is in order.

At first, I was a little upset about the breakdown, but then realized I’ve had a long stretch of pretty reliable driving. The last unexpected problem was the coil, which I replaced back in early February–and that wasn’t even a disabling failure. All in all, that was a nice run, especially considering where I was with this car a year ago.