Thursday, November 1, 2012

1971 GTX - Drive Train and Final Assembly By Roman Sobilo

Ten months ago we started documenting and disassembling the GTX.  It has been a long journey of disassembling, metal work, ordering/ tracking parts, and component restoration.  However, we have enjoyed every minute of it and we are honored to be entrusted by the owner to perform the restoration.

After five long months of being at the body shop the GTX was brought back to After Hours Restorations the first week of September.  During those five months we have been busy restoring all major components preparing for assembly. 

Of course the engine and transmission was coupled together and set on the K member.  From that point we began to assemble some accessories.  As seen in the pictures not all were installed.  Some were still on order and many were left off for ease of joining the drivetrain to the body.

For example the RV2 A/C compressor was left off which decreased the height the body had to be lifted.  The fan was also left off intentionally to allow more room to move the drivetrain forward and aft. 

The complete rear end assembly was built and also set on a movable stand.  The complete dash assembly, heater / AC box, e brake pedal, brake pedal assemble were also built and set aside awaiting their turn to be installed.

The five months of preparation really paid off.  By the end of the first day we worked on the car it was sitting on four tires. 

First, we put the shell on the hoist and installed all of the brake/fuel lines and gas tank. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

1971 GTX - Body and Paint Work By Roman Sobilo

Body and paint work is usually the most costly expense of a restoration.  In my opinion dealing with body and paint work is also the most difficult part, both selling the job and knowing when to call it good enough. 

We must keep in mind that these old muscle cars were never engineered to look as good as they do these days.  By yesterday’s standards we are over restoring these cars.  Body gaps were not always consistent, color depth and shine was nowhere near what they are today.  Today’s paint products have the capability of laying down flat, with a deep shine that brings out every imperfection. 

A few weeks ago at Carlisle I had the pleasure of taking pictures of a Superbird.  It was a documented original 6500 mile car.  All of the paint work was original and untouched.  The door to quarter alignment was terrible, there were paint runs on the rear tail light section, and the entire body was loaded with orange peel.  However, it was an awesome car and I would love to be the owner!


There are many tricks used to make these cars look better than they did when new.  However, these tricks take time and time is money.  So when a customer restores his/her vehicle they must decide what level the paint work should be when completed.

Since most customers do not have extensive body/paint knowledge it is sometimes difficult justifying the expense.  As a restorer one of my biggest fears is delivering a car to a customer that would later be scrutinized by others at a show. 

The customer may be satisfied with the paintwork at the time of delivery due to their lack of body/paint knowledge.  But after showing it at a few shows and receiving negative feedback they will realize why cutting cost on body/paint work is not recommended.  For that reason After Hours Restorations will only take part in museum quality restoration work.

It is standard practice to install and properly align all body panels once the car has been stripped down to bare metal. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

1971 GTX - Interior and Component Restoration By Roman Sobilo

The GTX restoration is progressing well here at After Hours Restorations.  We are slowly achieving our goal of completing the GTX for its debut in November at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in Chicago.  Ever since the shell was transported to the body shop we have shifted our focus to restoring components.  The main goal is to utilize the time we have restoring all of the components while the shell is at the body shop getting painted.

In this issue we will be discussing interior and component restoration.  There is a lot to say on both of these topics but unfortunately I only have a certain amount of space in Chrysler Power.  I will do my best to cover the major areas of these topics using the currant GTX restoration as reference. 

Restoring a classic Mopar is just like putting a puzzle together.  The restored components are pieces to that puzzle.  The quality of the puzzle depends on the pieces which it is made from.  It is easy to say “that’s good enough” when you are working on components especially if it’s a part that is concealed or partially concealed.  Looking under the dashboard on a restored car can give you a general idea of what type of workmanship was put into the restoration.  Was the heater box properly restored?  How about the driver side vent box on a non-a/c car?  What about the pedal assembly, wiper linkage, e brake assembly and so on? 

Disassembled for restoration.                                                                     Restored ready for assembly.

For example, I have seen rotisserie restored cars that have body color brake pedal assemblies in them because they were never removed during the restoration.  The actual pedal was spray painted black while still attached to the car and it was called good enough. 
There is a huge difference looking at a restoration than looking into a restoration.  Looking into one requires a person to really dissect and analyze a restored car inch by inch.  That’s when you will notice all of the fine details that go into a quality restoration.  
Most of this stuff is pretty simple to deal with.  With a little more effort and a few extra bucks you can make your restoration standout amongst others.  Remember everything adds up! 

In our case we shipped out all of the hood, trunk, and door latch assemblies to Jules Daddio ( in Canada the first week we began disassembling the car.  Jules services usually take anywhere between 2-4 months.   Jules is an artist and his work speaks for itself.  His work is defiantly well worth the wait.

However, shipping out the door latches did create a dilemma.  We had to find a loner set since they are needed to hold the doors in place while body work is being performed.   
Jules is also restoring the wiper motor, wiper transmissions, wiper linkage, and steering column.  All of these components were completely stripped down, repaired, detailed, and reassembled.  It is not uncommon to see metal and plating colored paints used on these components.  Not in our case.  

Working with Jules you can be assured every part will be properly plated just like it was by the vendors Chrysler used back in the day.  Jules is always After Hours Restorations first choice in component restoration!

Steering column ready for reassembly

Moving on…  The heater core box was completely disassembled.  All of the metal brackets were removed by drilling out the tubular rivets which hold them onto the box.  These brackets are bare steel and will most likely be covered in surface rust.  We soak the steel brackets in Evapo-Rust to remove the rust.  Once the brackets are clean of rust we simply apply R.P.M. (rust preventative magic) to keep them from rusting again.  R.P.M is available at ECS automotive Concepts ( 

These boxes are very fragile and can be easily damaged.  When media blasting you must keep the air pressure turned down very low and use a less abrasive media such as glass bead.  If you have any doubts it may be a good idea to practice inside the box before you proceed to the exterior side.

Once the box is media blasted it will have a dull finish.  Lightly spraying a quality semi-gloss clear over the heater box will restore that factory appearance.  At this point we install all of the metal brackets using the correct style tubular rivets.  The blower motor was also sent out to Jules for restoration. 

The heater core and A/C condenser will be replaced with new parts.  However, just because they are new don’t assume they are good.  We always pressure test both units before assembling the heater box.    We started testing them a few years back when we found that a brand new heater core was defective in a freshly assembled car.  There is nothing worse in the restoration business then disassembling a fresh museum quality restored car, especially for an avoidable cause.

All of the screws and J clips were replaced with new ones.  All of the foam, gaskets, and seals were also replaced.  If you decide to tackle a project like this on your own remember to take tons of pictures during the deconstruction of your heater box.     

The brake pedal assembly was also left bare metal by the factory.  To restore this assembly we simply disassemble it and soak all of the bare metal parts in Evapo-Rust.  Once it is free of all surface rust we treat it with R.P.M.  The bare metal section of the actual brake pedal gets taped off and the black painted part is media blasted.  It is important to cover the bare metal section up to avoid dulling it with the media blaster.  Repaint the black portion of the pedal and reassemble.  This is one of the easiest parts of the car to restore!

 When it comes time to restore the interior in your pride and joy must of us turn to one of the two biggest muscle car suppliers in the business.  We open up their colorful catalogs and just go crazy ordering away thinking this is just too good to be true.  Look at all of these parts available for my interior!  Well, it is too good to be true. 

Don’t get me wrong we are very lucky to have these suppliers developing, manufacturing, and supplying us restoration parts.  I have a lot of respect for these companies but feel that they need to do a better job advising their customers of the type of part they are actually purchasing.

For the GTX restoration I called a major interior supplier and ordered lower door and rear interior panels.  I also ordered a set of bucket seat backs.  All of these panels are molded hard plastic parts with a coachman type grain finish.   

Once they arrived I was not impressed with the quality of these parts.  The grain is completely off and not consistent.  The driver side door panel had light sanding scratches directly above the inside side door handle.  The molded channels and valleys were bigger than and not as defined as the originals.  The color was also off on the seat backs being glossier than the originals.

However, there is an alternative option to purchasing substandard reproduction interior parts.  Just Dashes ( in Van Nuys California offers a re-skinning service for original interior pieces.  They have the ability to re-skin original interior panels with a thin vinyl that resembles the factory grain.

I have always had great results using Just Dashes services.  They were a huge help in restoring the 66 Hemi Charger interior which was featured in the last issue of Chrysler Power.  They re-skinned every interior panel and dyed it to the factory correct color.  As of this writing they are in the process of restoring the bucket seat backs, lower door panels and rear interior panels for the GTX.

Next issue we will be discussing body and paint work.  As always questions and comments are welcomed at 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

1971 GTX - Beginning the restoration By Roman Sobilo

Hello everyone.  My name is Roman from After Hours Restorations in Detroit.  In these next four issues of Chrysler Power I will be writing about a currant restoration that is taking place at my shop.  I will divide the complete restoration up into these four categories:

  • Deconstruction & metal work
  • Body & paint work
  • Interior & component restoration
  • Drivetrain & assembly

The car I am currently restoring is a 1971 GTX.  It was an unmolested car retaining its original numbers matching 440 engine and 727 torque flight transmission.  The body had some patch work done to the lower fenders, doors, and quarter panels.  It was repainted once in the original color and some minor repairs were done to the interior (front seat covers and carpet). Besides the repairs mentioned it was just a nice original car that read 23000 miles on the odometer.  Although it is not verified I do believe this is a 123000 mile car that somehow was able to avoid headers, an aluminum intake and a Holley carb. 

Each restoration has its own special circumstances.  It is important to take a step back and analyze the current situation before any crucial information is disturbed.  Deconstruction is one of the most important parts of a restoration.  Some of the most important and helpful information will be obtained in this first part of the restoration.

A digital camera is the most useful tool in the deconstruction process.  When I began disassembling a car for restoration the digital camera is always within arm’s reach.  I typically take approximately 500 pictures during this process.  Factory inspection marks and date code stamps are the first things I document. 

Body panel and glass fitment are two other important items I recommend you document.  During the assembly process, adjusting quarter and door glass is where I spend most of my time.  At the end of my struggle I usually realize an optimal adjustment was achieved hours ago.  This is a good way to weed out preexisting factory issues during the assembly process that can have you beating your head against the wall. 

Once I have all of my documentation completed the actual deconstruction starts.  I must admit busting out the air tools with a five gallon bucket to catch all of the fasteners flying of the car sounds like a good weekend but the end result would be awful. 

So, before you start disassembling your car purchase a few boxes of plastic baggies and a pen.  Bag and label everything!  Don’t fool yourself into believing that you will remember, because you won’t. 

To keep the disassembly process simple I take the car apart in the opposite order the factory uses to assemble the car.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a clip board with step by step factory procedures to check off once completed.  I just try to use common sense. 

For example I will not start the disassembly process by taking the hood off and just pulling the engine out of the engine compartment.  My approach would consist of dropping the complete drivetrain out from the bottom of the car.  I usually perform this step after the fenders are off of the car to prevent any accidental damage.

I fabricated a metal fixture that bolts to the front frame rails using the bumper bracket bolts.  An engine puller is then used to lift the car high enough to roll the drivetrain out from under it.  The fixture is nice but not necessary.  Before I took the time to make the fixture I used a set of old bumper brackets hooked together by a chain.

Once the drivetrain is rolled out from underneath the car separating the engine, transmission, and all of the front end components has just become that much easier.  If available, document important information on the drivetrain assembly.  Note what components were on the engine when the factory painted it and look for any factory markings.

The dashboard is another part of the car I prefer to tackle as a subassembly.  Once the front windshield is out of the car pulling the complete dash is easier than disassembling it with the frame bolted in the car. 

Remove the center support brace and loosen the two bolts above the kick panel.  The two steering column studs must also be removed from the brake pedal assembly.  Remove the five bolts on top of the frame and use a hook made from an old coat hanger to keep the dash in place once it is rolled back.  Now with the das rolled back you have plenty of room to disconnect the defroster tubes, heater box cables, the radio antenna, and bulkhead.

Once everything is disconnected simply remove the coat hanger and pull the dashboard assembly out of the car.  Now you can have the comfort of disassembling the dash on a bench instead of lying on your back!  

Once the GTX was a disassembled shell I had it media blasted before the metal work began.  Chemically stripping the shell is also an option.  There are pros and cons to both methods.  I have heard horror stories about both.  I have also used both methods with successful results. However, there are a few points I would like to discuss.  Media blasting is a great way to strip a shell.  I use this method 90% of the time.  As you shop around for a media blasters don’t get caught up on the price.  Focus your thoughts on who is going to be doing the work.  Let’s face it; media blasting is not the most desirable work out there so it is common for a big turnaround in employees.  The new employee has to learn on someone’s car so make sure it is not yours.

SS Media Blasting in Sterling Heights Michigan is where I take all of my shells.  Since flat outer panels are easy to warp they use one experienced guy to blast all of the outer flat panels and all the new guys to work on the secondary panels such as the trunk, engine compartment, and undercarriage.
Again you must step back and analyze your current situation.  Media blasting cannot effectively clean the inside of a frame rail or rocker panel.  If you have a severely rusted car you may want to consider chemically stripping it.
Chemical strippers are usually more difficult to find due to EPA regulations.  Submerging the shell in chemicals will strip the metal of any rust.  However, the shell is constructed of spot welded overlapped sheet metal.  Once submerged in liquid the overlapped sheet metal can trap the chemical causing it to seep out at a later date.

Seeping can be avoided if the shell is properly cleaned, rinsed and dried.  If you decide to chemically strip the shell you must use some sort of coating or rust inhibitor inside the frame rails and rockers.

The size of the shell or car body must also be considered as you shop around for a chemical stripper.  Many strippers don’t have tanks big enough to fit a uni-body without putting it in on an angle or its side.  Doing so increases the chance of damaging the shell.

So once I brought the GTX back from the media blaster I asset the damage and decided to replace the driver side quarter with a full replacement panel.  Since the passenger side was not as bad it was repaired with patch panels. 

The first thing I did was cut approximately 8 inches off of both quarter panels exposing the inner rocker panels.  I cut just enough to expose the inner rocker and no more.  This will keep the cars integrity and strength so it can be transported back to the media blaster without welding in any special braces or supports.   

Since the GTX was media blasted the inner rockers were covered with surface rust.  At this point I took the shell back to SS and had them blast the inner rockers I exposed.  Once the GTX was back at the shop I used a strong bonding chassis paint to cover the inner rockers.  Notice no paint was put on the surface that I will be welding on.  All overlapping welding surfaces were covered with weld through primer.

Inner rocker coated with chassis paint
New patch panel installed
A huge amount of water is drained between the inner rocker and the quarter panel when the car is washed or driven in the rain.  It is important to clean this area of any rust and coat it properly to avoid any future issues.
Since the driver side quarter was repaired with a full panel I was able to weld on areas that would not be visible once the car was assembled.  Drilling a hole through the top panel and puddle welding it was the method used.  The passenger side patch panels were butt welded.  After I ground the weld down on both the inner and outer side it is very difficult to detect any panel replacement.

Now that all of the metal work is done the shell is ready to go back to SS Media Blasting for a third time to be cleaned of any rust which reappeared while the metal work was performed.   Once SS is finished freshening up the GTX it will go directly to the body shop were the transformation from a bare hunk of metal to a beautiful GTX will began.
I hope you found this restoration talk helpful.  Comments and feedback are always welcomed at

Next issue body & paint work!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

1966 Hemi Charger Feature

In the late part of 1965, an unknown person walked into Miami Valley Dodge in Dayton, OH and created this beautiful 1966 Hemi Charger.  By simply checking off boxes with a pen, they created one of only 250 Hemi 4 speed Chargers that would be built in the 1966 model year.

Aside from the plush and detailed interior that came standard on 1966 Chargers, this wolf in sheep’s clothing was light in the options department...  a heater and  AM radio covered them all.

Our unknown buyer went all out in the drivetrain / suspension department though.  The Charger was optioned with the 426 Street Hemi, trak pak (18 spline Hemi 4- speed, 3.54:1 Dana 60), HD drum brakes, maximum cooling package, and the Hemi suspension package.

Fast forward to 2008, the Charger’s past is virtually unknown.  It was apparent that the years of use had left the Charger with bumps, bruises, and battle scars, and in the mid 2000’s it was the victim of a poor quality restoration.  The Charger was basically fixed up in the cheapest way possible and sold for a profit.

In the fall of 2010, the Charger’s luck had changed when Mopar collector Rich Warner found the car for sale.  Recognizing a diamond in the rough, Rich decided to purchase it and add to his collection.  Rich is a dedicated Mopar fan that has collected approximately 60 vehicles that range from a 1926 Dodge Brothers truck to a modern Dodge Viper and about everything in between.

After owning the Charger for a few weeks, Rich decided it was time to have the Hemi completely restored.  He shipped it to After Hours Restorations near Detroit for a complete OE rotisserie restoration.

In November of 2010, Roman at After Hours Restorations began the process.  The Charger was completely stripped down to a bare shell and sent out to be media blasted.  Once the body returned, it was apparent that both quarter panels needed to be replaced.

This was a huge issue since 66-67 Charger quarter panels are not being reproduced.  Embarking on an intense quest for anything good enough to be used, both quarter panels were finally procurred from two separate donor cars.  The quarter dilemma did not end there.  Since both replacement quarters were 44 years old, they too needed repair before they could be installed.

The front fenders where also replaced with a rust free pair.  Both doors required lower patches and the center of the trunk pan was replaced.  After the metal work was completed, the body was taken to the body shop for paint work.

While the paint department was doing its thing, it was time to concentrate on restoring all of the components of the Charger.  Fortunately, and which doesn’t happen all that often, this was a no expense spared restoration.  For those people who are familiar with first generation Chargers, they can relate to the amount of money it requires to properly restore this car.

Tackling the interior was one of the most difficult tasks of this restoration.  First generation Chargers have one of the most beautiful interiors of all old mopars.  This Charger is loaded with stainless steel trim and chrome throughout that required all to be professionally restored and plated. 

The gauge cluster and the electro-luminescence lighting system were completely restored.  This gauge cluster is absolutely stunning when viewed at night.   All of the interior panels were professionally recovered and reassembled with new aluminum trim and restored chrome/stainless with Legendary materials.  No details were left out resulting in a breathtaking interior.

The gauge cluster and the electro-luminescence lighting system were completely restored.  This gauge cluster is absolutely stunning when viewed at night.   All of the interior panels were professionally recovered and reassembled with new aluminum trim from Winslow Motorsports.  And of course, Legendary seat covers were used to bring back the unique four bucket seat arraignment to its former glory.  No details were left out resulting in a breathtaking interior.

The drivetrain was also completely rebuilt.  The Hemi was bored .030 over and fitted with new Keith Black pistons.  A stock Mopar Performance Street Hemi replacement cam was used as well.  The carburetors were both restored to stock specs and sit on top of the correct dual quad intake manifold.

Stock exhaust manifolds were used with a stock Hemi exhaust system.  Since this was an OE style restoration, the Charger was converted back to the factory direct drive starter system.  This required specific parts like the flywheel, bell housing, throw out bearing, and starter to be located. (Many times we see cars converted to the later 10.5 clutch/bellhousing so the more reliable, interchangeable and plentiful gear reduction starter can be used.)

The original Dana 60 was completely torn down, stripped, cleaned, painted and reassembled.  Special attention was given to details like phosphate coating the backing plates, and nickel plating the pinion yoke dust shield.

The Charger returned from the body shop finding all of its original counterparts restored and waiting assembly.  At this point After Hours Restorations was under the Gun.  The Charger was only a few short weeks away from making its debut at the Muscle Cars show in Beverly Hills, CA.

Several intense and long nights later, this pristine beauty was meticulously reassembled even better than the factory did it in the winter of 1965.  The impending Hollwood show debut was not the only cause of stress at the shop… more importantly, the Charger had to be ready to impress Rich who had not seen his car since the day he dropped it off eleven months prior.

If done right, the reactions from the owners of restored cars always makes the long hours and hard work well worth the effort.  You cannot put a value on the smile Rich had on his face when he first laid eyes on his beautifully restored Hemi Charger … After Hours does it right!