PHASE I – HEADLIGHTS, BACK UP LIGHTS AND KICK PANELS
A week or so after arriving at our winter destination, I had the Judge shipped down from home. It was time to tackle the list of small items that would make the car a quality restoration.
Fortunately, a short time before the car arrived, Gene, my car knowledgeable friend from last winter’s Camaro project, also arrived. Gene had proven to be a invaluable addition whose considerable skills were very welcome. My impression, mostly gathered from his wife, was that Gene also looked forward to our afternoon sessions.
We decided to first tackle the balky driver’s side headlight door. After removing the two piece grille, we removed the vacuum hoses and checked for correct vacuum. Moving the headlight switch between the on and off positions showed seventeen inches of vacuum alternating between the two hoses. It was clear that the problem was in the actuator, so I ordered a new actuator from Ames Performance.
While waiting for the actuator, we tackled the non-functioning backup lights. In order to pass the annual Pennsylvania inspection, the previous owner had installed a toggle switch under the dash to activate the lights. Although this may have been an acceptable way to get through the test, it was certainly not what the factory delivered. Since it was much easier to work on the car on the lift, I purchased the correct switch and installed it on the transmission before the car was shipped from home.
Our job now was to wire the new switch. After carefully checking the car’s wiring diagram and field testing the chosen wires, we ran them under the carpeting and connected the backup light switch into the circuit. With the ignition in the on position, we checked the operation of the switch and found that it worked great when manually pushing in the plunger. With a little adjustment of the switch, we were able to get it working as designed when the transmission was shifted into reverse.
The original kick panels on the car were brittle and had been further damaged during removal for painting the door jambs. I ordered new ones, and, while waiting, went on line to get advice on installation. Unfortunately, to my surprise, nearly all of the posts on the subject spoke rather negatively of the whole experience. This apparently wasn’t going to be a lot of fun.
After receiving the new panels and gathering sufficient courage, we decided to tackle the passenger’s side first. That one appeared to be the more straight forward and the easier of the two. We felt it was important not to destroy our confidence this early in the restoration.
The first step was to remove the grille that covers the air opening. It easily snapped out and exposed five screws that held the kick panel to the car. After removing the screws, it was necessary to detach the two cables that control the upper and lower vents. After successfully disconnecting the cables, we removed the panel. What should have been fairly straight forward ended up being quite a struggle. The air vent opening had been very heavily sealed with a tar-like adhesive/sealer. It took a considerable amount of pulling and twisting and ultimately breaking the old panel into pieces to finally get it out. All of our frustrations were compounded by the need to contort ourselves to get to the kick panels. Hindsight being 20/20, it would have been a good idea to remove the passenger’s seat before tackling this part of the project.
After cleaning the caked sealer from the body, we coated the area with silicon adhesive/sealer and reversed the removal process. With a little twisting and pushing we were able to get the new kick panel positioned properly. It was now time to take on what was clearly the more difficult of the two panels.
The on-line discussions had indicated that, when replacing the driver’s side kick panel, it would be a good idea to first remove the parking brake pedal and the dimmer switch. After dutifully following that advice, and removing the driver’s seat, we still had to tear the old panel into pieces to get it out. The old adhesive/sealer was a formidable obstacle in removal.
Replacing the driver’s kick panel proved to be little more problematic than the passenger’s side. Even with the parking brake and dimmer switch out of the way, it was a struggle to get it to pop into place. With silicon adhesive on our bloodied hands, and with impure words emanating from our mouths, we finally got the panel into place. The next car chosen for restoration will have good kick panels to start with.
The new headlight door actuator arrived while we were working on the kick panels, and we immediately installed it and replaced the grille. The headlight doors worked just as they were intended. Our confidence and enjoyment had returned! Now it was time to move on to the other items on our list.