Over the years, I've seen, heard of, or invented solutions to assist in restoring my Pontiacs—GTOs actually, with the exception of a '68 LeMans for one of my sons. Many of the problems I've encountered in the last 30-plus years have been eliminated by the extensive amount of Pontiac aftermarket parts now available. However, there are a huge number of simple tricks that can help save you money, get the end results you are looking for, and make a great difference in the restoration process. I'm using my '70 Judge and '65 convertible to demonstrate them.
Due to space considerations, we'll break these tips into two parts; the second will appear in the next issue. Hopefully by then you'll have tried a few of these.
1. Can-Opener Capers
Roof-rail moulding is difficult to remove without crimping or bending the thin metal, which basically ruins it. Use an old-fashioned can opener with masking tape on the nose to prevent damage. Position the small tab under the bottom edge of the moulding. Carefully pry it up every few inches until it is completely off. A pain-free, damage-free removal is accomplished in a few minutes.
2. Sticker Shock
For a concours-style restoration, the correct factory-parts identification stickers should be installed. I made the engine-block stickers on my computer and printed them on adhesive-backed label paper. I cut out the OK-5 and stuck it on the head. For all the other engine and suspension parts, reproduction stickers are available; I'll show you more of them later.
3. Forever Stamps
I made the letters on my computer to the right size, printed them out, and took them to an instant print business. They sent them to a stamp maker and you can see the results. For a few dollars, you have a permanent stamp for your parts. Notice the XB on the stamp and on the alternator. I spread a little paint on a smooth flat surface, carefully touched the stamp into the paint and then stamped away. Remember it shouldn't be perfect. The originals certainly weren't.
4. Tower Power
Correct tower-style hose clamps, as opposed to the standard screw-type clamp at the top left, make a big difference. There are sizes for heater and radiator hoses, and they are available with the correct date stamp for your Pontiac. Mid-'60s vehicles used the round, crimp-style clamps (top right) for the heater hoses. They were installed with a pliers-like tool, but you can do it with normal pliers. They were usually positioned at the most convenient angle for the installer.
5. Firewall Graffiti
Most cars received markings on the firewall during manufacturing. I've seen white, yellow, and red, or none on cars made at different factories. My Judge was made in the Fremont, California, plant and had only one small X on the firewall in white. I have used regular crayons in the past for color markings and this tire- lettering marker for white markings. If your Pontiac didn't come with any firewall graffiti, don't add any bogus markings you might see at a Pontiac show. It is better to leave it blank.
6. Top It Off
Your radiator cap might be a small item in the engine compartment, but it is right in your face once you open the hood. A standard auto-parts replacement looks totally out of place in a restored or even semi-restored engine compartment. Make the small investment and get the correct AC reproduction from your favorite Pontiac parts supplier. Use 0000 steel wool to keep it shiny and the little brass button in the middle glowing.
7. Oil Spill
Here's another cap that can cause problems. The gasket on an original oil-filler cap is usually trash after a decade, and results in oil leaking on the valve cover. I took a piece of 1⁄16-inch cork gasket material, carefully measured the inner and outer diameter, and cut my own gasket with an X-Acto knife. Since the inner hole was too small to go over the prongs, I cut a slit in one side, installed it, and super glued the cut together. This has lasted leak-free for three or four years.