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CruZin Magazine August 2000

Project '56 Thunderbird... Ready for
Gene Winfield's 'Blended Touch'

By David Martin

It's happening, even as this is being batted out on the keyboard. The final prep work is under way, the CruZin' Magazine 1956 Ford Thunderbird is nearly ready for the "Rumblin' Raspberry" blended paint job to be applied by the one and only Gene Winfield.
As usual, the project brought with it the "unusual" surprises. The most significant (and expensive) of those surprises evidenced itself in the usual fashion.
Da Bird, as it was known in it's previous life was delivered to Chris Odom's Extreme Metal and Paint, Mukilteo Washington, mid March and disassembly commenced immediately. A few days later the car, minus chrome and trim, found its way to Jon Wilson's Alternative Blasting shop in Marysville, Washington. Off came the old paint and primer, revealing an impressive amount of incredibly bad body work, bondo and the most insidious of culprits, rust. "It was really out of the ordinary," says Chris Odom. "The bottom 10-inches of most of the rear of the car was gone, just rusted to the point of Swiss cheese."

The real "chuckle" (to keep from crying) was found in the previously applied body work. It seems that at one point in time on the East Coast, Georgia or thereabouts. Assigned to sea duty, the previous owner left the car with a "body shop" and that's very loose usage of the terminology.

This shop completed repairs (chuckle, chuckle), and applied a coat of black paint. The aforementioned repairs included a slab of aluminum, riveted to the back side of the quarter panel and wheelhouse, then smeared liberally with bondo. But wait, that's not all....in a corner that wasn't backed by the aluminum, some yokel stuck a couple of inches of duct tape on the backside and smeared the front of the duct tape with bondo, then painted over the whole mess. I kid you not, duct tape, regular duct tape, not even 100 mph duct tape. Unbelievable.
The previous owner came back from sea duty, wasn't particularly impressed with the job, but it was OK. The paint looked decent on the outside, seemed a little lumpy in places, but OK, and the inside had been sprayed with undercoating so that looked OK as well.
Well, a day at Alternative Blasters and it looked grim.

No one had expected perfection. There were bubbles around the wheelhouse and we know cars rust from the inside out, so we knew there would be some rust. The short story is that we've invested in just about every patch panel known to man, door to door, all the way around the back of the car.

Shopping door patch panels was an adventure unto itself. Duly advised as to the parts and pieces by Chris, we set about finding the best deal. We jumped on the Internet and found many places from New York to California. They all had the parts we needed and prices were comparable. Then a subscriber happened to mention an outfit called Bird Brains, located in Portland, Oregon. We called and talked with T-Bird parts wizard Johnny Morris. Johnny is knowledgeable, helpful and will go out of his way to get you your parts and get them quickly. He hooked us up with everything we needed, including NOS rocker panels (with the factory stickers in tacked), and even a pair of NOS fender skirts with all the hardware.

A few days later most of the necessary parts arrived and within a week everything was in hand. During that time, out came the grinder and off came the rusted sheet metal. From the dogleg at the rear of both the passenger and driver doors, the wheelhouse and quarter panels were removed above the "rust line". The front of the car, mint when compared to the rear, was massaged, the hood was fitted properly to the engine compartment opening and the entire front end was primered and block sanded to "paint ready" status.


The "Team CruZin'", Extreme metal and paint crew of Chris Odom and Rick Federmeyer, ably assisted by Jim Nelson then turned attentions and considerable talents to the "disaster area"... the rear of the car. Good-bye rust, hello new patch panels. Clean properly fitted, professionally welded and in a timely fashion. All the elements you should look for in a quality shop. The result just in primer, is a pleasure to behold. Ready for the "Rumblin Raspberry" blended paint job to be applied Tuesday July 11 and Wednesday, July 12, by the legendary Gene Winfield. Thursday, July 13, with an assist from Race Glaze rep Ray Cosio , we'll sand and buff out the paint, hang a little of the Star Bright chrome and trim. Then we'll cruise the car to the Goodguys Northwest Nationals at the Western Washington Fairgrounds at Puyallup. At Goodguys, we'll have the car on display at or near our booth. That's the plan. At least, that's the dream. July 14, at Puyallup, we'll all see just how close to reality we can get the dream. Gene Winfield will be there too, visiting folks, signing autographs and sharing his wealth of knowledge with everyone. We're hoping you'll stop by and check out how we do.

EXTREME TIPS: Working with Chris Odom and the Extreme Metal and Paint crew is a real pleasure. They're friendly, knowledgeable, talented and professional, essential ingredients to the successful completion of any four- wheeled project. Condensing his knowledge down to simple tips, Chris advises "do-it-yourselfer", "If you don't sand it, it won't stick", and, "If you can feel it, you can see it".

As to selecting a shop to work with your project Chris notes, "Look at their work, price should not be the only consideration. Check both finished and in-progress work, check everything from the quality of the welding and the alignment of parts and materials used."

Chris also advises that the consumer must decide "what is good enough", and he must be really clear in letting the shop know how far he wants to go with his particular project."

"You can go first class or you can go coach," Chris says. "My reputation is on the line with every job at Extreme Metal and Paint. We'd always rather do the job right, in a way that will last. If you go first class you can expect the best possible results. If you go coach, you get what you do or don't pay for. You can't expect a quality restoration on an Earl Shieb budget".

When selecting a shop, it is also worthwhile to question whether they're willing to let you, the consumer, work on the project as well.

There are several ways the project owner can save himself money," Chris explains, "The most significant savings can obtained when time comes to reassemble the project. If the owner can handle that work himself, he can save significant dollars. There's lots of time involved there and time is money. The owner can save by handling the disassembly himself, and by chasing down or finding his own parts."

Another item to keep in mind is that professional shops will work to the owners' specification. If the owner wants an inexpensive job, the shop will do it, even though they know it won't last. "It's a buyer beware" world out there. Gleaming paint can hide a multitude of sins for a period of time, so if your looking at buying a car, ask the owner to provide photos of the restoration. If can't or isn't willing beware.

Perhaps the most important "tip" anyone can give us is that you, the consumer, be comfortable with the shop you select, and, be "extremely" clear on exactly what you are purchasing. That done, everyone should wind up happy.