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Old 11-10-2020, 03:56 PM   #1
Thearne3
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Default How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

Hi all,

I need advice for restoring a previously ‘restored’ set of Phaeton top irons. The set seems solid, but I’m wondering what I can’t see (internal rust, dry rot in the wood, etc). I’ve included a link to a set of pictures.

My goal is not a show car, but I want to stay with original as much as possible. I want to be sure the top is solid, looks ok and is ready for a new top.

The top (and the car) was restored 50 years ago:

• Metal was (probably) sandblasted and painted. Some evidence of welding. Heavy pitting evident throughout, but paint has held for 50 years.

• Wood cross pieces appear to be solid.

• Curved portions of steel filled with wood scraps and covered with plastic wood-like material. In areas that were tacked (#1 back bow and #4 front bow), ‘plastic wood’ is cracked and breaking up. (See pictures)

• Bolts holding front bow to the rest of the top are not original (Sources?)

• Cast end pieces lack distinct notches, etc, for locking in correct position.

• No evidence of water damage since restoration – roof material was intact, but unusable.

Recommendations for restoration? Here’s a list of possibilities - are all necessary?:

1. Complete disassembly: remove all rivets and wood, remove all filler material
2. Inspect hollow sections, treat with rust remover, seal with epoxy paint/fill.
3. Fill curved/hollow sections (with what? I assume original manufacturer pounded metal around wood pieces?)
4. Fill and sand pitted metal
5. Cast end pieces - not sure what these looked like before significant rust.
6. Rivet new wood cross pieces into place (still available anywhere or need to fabricate?)
7. Replace all rivets and cotter-pinned bolts
8. Check for symmetry
9. Paint


https://photos.app.goo.gl/VvdzmWET8DuGakH59

Last edited by Thearne3; 11-10-2020 at 09:40 PM. Reason: Clarify title
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Old 11-11-2020, 06:33 AM   #2
updraught
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

They usually rust where the tube meets the sold end piece like photo 2.
You might want to check that a broken off end piece hasn't simply been welded on and is now a bit short.
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Old 11-11-2020, 07:09 AM   #3
Mike Peters
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

Here is a way to repair the nailing strips within the top irons. Started with a plastic mud flap from an old U Haul truck. Cut into strips that will fit the top iron. Tap into place so that it is tight. Holds nails/staples very well. If the original wood is rotted in your top irons, then you can replace with plastic strips of some sort that you can salvage. This is much easier than trying to bend wood to go around a corner.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 1-P1150026.jpg (67.4 KB, 32 views)
File Type: jpg 2-P1150028.jpg (67.4 KB, 34 views)
File Type: jpg 3-P1150029.jpg (65.6 KB, 32 views)
File Type: jpg 4-P1150030.jpg (67.1 KB, 33 views)
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Old 11-11-2020, 09:12 AM   #4
Thearne3
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

Quote:
Originally Posted by updraught View Post
They usually rust where the tube meets the sold end piece like photo 2.
You might want to check that a broken off end piece hasn't simply been welded on and is now a bit short.
Good point. Will do!
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Old 11-11-2020, 11:52 AM   #5
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Peters View Post
Here is a way to repair the nailing strips within the top irons. Started with a plastic mud flap from an old U Haul truck. Cut into strips that will fit the top iron. Tap into place so that it is tight. Holds nails/staples very well. If the original wood is rotted in your top irons, then you can replace with plastic strips of some sort that you can salvage. This is much easier than trying to bend wood to go around a corner.
Thanks for pointing out that hard rubber will hold nails/staples well. There must be an epoxy or similar that can be injected/pressed into the curve that would have both strength and staple holding power (like wood!). If not, some combination of rubber strips and glue should work.
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Old 11-11-2020, 01:53 PM   #6
BRENT in 10-uh-C
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thearne3 View Post
Thanks for pointing out that hard rubber will hold nails/staples well. There must be an epoxy or similar that can be injected/pressed into the curve that would have both strength and staple holding power (like wood!). If not, some combination of rubber strips and glue should work.
I cannot get my print to come out clear enough, but I have repaired and restored enough Phaeton top assemblies to suggest that you NOT use the rubber matting inside the sockets. While the A-37400-*, 37404-*, 37406-*, et/al Top Socket Reinforcements were used as tacking strips for the top, their main job was to be the structural integrity of the top assembly. As mentioned, when the sockets are cracked/broken down at the bottom, this is because the structural portion of the top assembly was allowed to rack from wind pressure and vibrations when being driven. While I am not wanting to cause stress or hurt feelings for Mike, I am going to suggest that you restore the irons correctly.

One little side note on these is to make sure the wooden bows have the correct shape both from side-to-side, and on the side curvature. Also, you can make the tubular rivets that connect the wood to the sockets from brake line tubing and peen the ends which will look just like what Ford did.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf 35A Top Drawing.pdf (1.18 MB, 31 views)
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Old 11-11-2020, 05:09 PM   #7
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BRENT in 10-uh-C View Post
I cannot get my print to come out clear enough, but I have repaired and restored enough Phaeton top assemblies to suggest that you NOT use the rubber matting inside the sockets. While the A-37400-*, 37404-*, 37406-*, et/al Top Socket Reinforcements were used as tacking strips for the top, their main job was to be the structural integrity of the top assembly. As mentioned, when the sockets are cracked/broken down at the bottom, this is because the structural portion of the top assembly was allowed to rack from wind pressure and vibrations when being driven. While I am not wanting to cause stress or hurt feelings for Mike, I am going to suggest that you restore the irons correctly.
Thanks, Brent. I will check the crossbows as you suggest. However, I'm still confused as to what to use to properly support the curved internal portions of the bows and also have something to tack to. My confusion is partially because I'm not sure what was there when made? It looks like the steel started flat and was pounded or formed around curved wood?

In the prior restoration it looks like they just stuffed wood fragments into the space and covered with some sort of plastic wood filler. Obviously, that didn't do much for structural support! Also, I'm not familiar with the Top Socket Reinforcements you reference.

Is there any online information on 'proper' restoration?
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Old 11-12-2020, 04:55 AM   #8
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

I'm also looking at such a restoration. What I'm seeing as I remove the material in the hollow curves seems like masonite/fiberboard. I'm thinking of using damp strips of masonite, bending and drying them then pressing them down into the hollow of the irons.
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Old 11-12-2020, 11:25 AM   #9
Thearne3
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

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Originally Posted by S2artH View Post
I'm also looking at such a restoration. What I'm seeing as I remove the material in the hollow curves seems like masonite/fiberboard. I'm thinking of using damp strips of masonite, bending and drying them then pressing them down into the hollow of the irons.
Promising idea! Any structural support is going to be a function of how well the inserted material conforms to the interior. I keep wondering if there isn't a high density closed cell expanding foam that would serve the purpose? (Of course you'd have a problem removing it!)
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Old 11-12-2020, 12:01 PM   #10
BRENT in 10-uh-C
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thearne3 View Post
Thanks, Brent. I will check the crossbows as you suggest. However, I'm still confused as to what to use to properly support the curved internal portions of the bows and also have something to tack to. My confusion is partially because I'm not sure what was there when made? It looks like the steel started flat and was pounded or formed around curved wood?
The top socket was crimped around a hardwood piece originally. The wood was the structural support for the top, and the surrounding metal was the protector of the wood.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Thearne3 View Post
In the prior restoration it looks like they just stuffed wood fragments into the space and covered with some sort of plastic wood filler. Obviously, that didn't do much for structural support!

Also, I'm not familiar with the Top Socket Reinforcements you reference.
Top Socket Reinforcements was the nomenclature that the Ford engineers used in naming this piece. This is the wood inside of the sockets. Had the intent been solely as a place to tack the pads and top decking to, they would have named it a Tacking Strip.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Thearne3 View Post
Is there any online information on 'proper' restoration?
Unfortunately, there is not any online resource that I am aware of.

I will tell you from personal experience that restoring a 35A/B Phaeton top assembly is a fairly large undertaking if you are going to do it correctly where it folds without binding. To do so, it kinda seems like you need to be able to weld thin sheetmetal, shape blocks of wood, and have the patience of Job in biblical proportions! I am definitely not saying that you can't do it, ...however I am saying be prepared that it really is not just a Saturday afternoon project.

Additionally, you probably need to purchase copies of the factory prints of both the sockets and the roof bows so you can get the measurements correct. I did this some years ago and they are invaluable. I can give you the individual Ford part numbers if you like.



Quote:
Originally Posted by S2artH View Post
I'm also looking at such a restoration. What I'm seeing as I remove the material in the hollow curves seems like masonite/fiberboard. I'm thinking of using damp strips of masonite, bending and drying them then pressing them down into the hollow of the irons.
Let me start by welcoming you to Fordbarn. I personally would not do them out of Masonite or any soft-wood. Use a hardwood that will have structural integrity. The last thing you want is for the top assembly to break or bind when raising/lowering as it will likely tear the fabric.

The best way we have found is to fixture the socket so it retains the correct curvature (-i.e.: shape) when the wood infrastructure is added. If you do not support the socket before installing the wood, the drying wood will try to distort (straighten) the socket metal. We use ¼" strips of Ash that we have steamed. Then the strip is inserted into the socket once it has been dipped in a water soluble marine glue. The issue you will find is you must work quickly as the glue tends to become sticky as you are trying to push each of the strips into the socket which does not allow the strips to slide amongst themselves. You will also need to deform part of the socket prior to installing the wood and then use heat on the metal to allow it to form around the wood. Once everything has dried and taken set, you may need to put the socket in a press to 'tweak' it back to the factory dimensions.

I put some photos below that kinda shows a little of the process.

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Attached Images
File Type: jpg IMG_2146.jpg (78.8 KB, 28 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_2147.jpg (75.5 KB, 24 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_2415.jpg (62.3 KB, 27 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_2137.jpg (69.4 KB, 26 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_0617.jpg (39.9 KB, 26 views)
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Old 11-12-2020, 03:20 PM   #11
Thearne3
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BRENT in 10-uh-C View Post
Additionally, you probably need to purchase copies of the factory prints of both the sockets and the roof bows so you can get the measurements correct. I did this some years ago and they are invaluable. I can give you the individual Ford part numbers if you like.
Yes. Definitely! With the part numbers, where do we go to get prints?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BRENT in 10-uh-C View Post
The best way we have found is to fixture the socket so it retains the correct curvature (-i.e.: shape) when the wood infrastructure is added. If you do not support the socket before installing the wood, the drying wood will try to distort (straighten) the socket metal. We use ¼" strips of Ash that we have steamed. Then the strip is inserted into the socket once it has been dipped in a water soluble marine glue. The issue you will find is you must work quickly as the glue tends to become sticky as you are trying to push each of the strips into the socket which does not allow the strips to slide amongst themselves. You will also need to deform part of the socket prior to installing the wood and then use heat on the metal to allow it to form around the wood. Once everything has dried and taken set, you may need to put the socket in a press to 'tweak' it back to the factory dimensions.
This is very helpful - and daunting! What would you say to using a 2+ pound expanding foam? It would definitely provide structural support and conform completely to the inside of the steel. The goal would be: hard enough to support, but not so hard that staples can't penetrate.
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Old 11-12-2020, 03:37 PM   #12
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

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Yes. Definitely! With the part numbers, where do we go to get prints?



This is very helpful - and daunting! What would you say to using a 2+ pound expanding foam? It would definitely provide structural support and conform completely to the inside of the steel. The goal would be: hard enough to support, but not so hard that staples can't penetrate.

Prints are available at the Benson Library for $35 a piece as I recall.

I would think that expanding foam would not be a prudent idea. Again, you need something as strong as wood ...however as flexible as wood.

I tried to return your call.
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Old 11-12-2020, 03:53 PM   #13
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

Mistake in repeated message

Last edited by Thearne3; 11-12-2020 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 11-12-2020, 05:22 PM   #14
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

Ok...
Found the parts you referenced above at maffi.org, eg, 37400: TOP RIB SOCKET #4 SHELL REINFORCEMENT - LOWER. They are $35 for each print. Any suggestions on which drawings will be needed?

It looks like the picture attached in #5 above is a good rendition of how the parts are supposed to line up.
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Old 11-12-2020, 05:52 PM   #15
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

Its been a number of years since we re-did the top on our '29 touring car, but a couple of quick observations. Moving from left to right and then down on your attached photos, I noticed in photos #4,5,12,13, and 18, that the irons do not appear to be fully extended, as the hooked end of the #2 bow (from front to back) that attaches to the long straight iron that is attached to the rear iron, does not touch and lock into place. While this may just be that the irons were quickly raised for purposes of taking pictures, the failure of these two pieces to "lock" together will affect not only the positioning of the rear bow (and the resulting angle of the top at the rear bow), but it may also show once a new top is installed since it will hang down lower accordingly (I've seen a number of these cars where this connection shows, especially if the top has shrunk at all).

It also appears that the driver's side front bow socket (photo #2) may have been re-welded in the past. If so, I would recommend at least grinding the weld down to where it would be less obvious when viewed (if memory serves me, I don't believe that this portion of the iron is typically wrapped at that point and can therefore be seen when the top is in the up position).

As for that portion of the irons that contained wood for tacking pads, etc., we cut narrow strips of pine, soaked them in water until they were somewhat pliable, and then tapped these into place before installing the bows themselves. So far this method seems to have held in place and held tacks well for the most part.

Finally, as for filling rust pits in the frame itself, I would recommend the use of a high build primer rather than using a body filler. On serious pits or perhaps minor rust-throughs, I have heard of folks using something like a JB Weld rather than bondo, as it seems to have more strength and adhesion.

I hope these thoughts may be of some benefit. Regardless, good luck in getting your top back to a condition you are comfortable with.
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Old 11-13-2020, 10:58 AM   #16
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Default Re: How to Restore ‘29 Phaeton Top Irons?

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I hope these thoughts may be of some benefit. Regardless, good luck in getting your top back to a condition you are comfortable with.
Thanks, Dick.

You are quite correct, when I set up the top, I had no idea that the hooked end of the the #2 bow was supposed to lock - like you, I've seem a number of pictures where it had dropped!

The weld you point out is not only obvious, but is not perfectly straight, so I will need to repair it.

Brent's approach with strips of hardwood sounds very similar to your description (noting that pine is a soft wood, however). The message I get from both of you is that wood strips with additional glue, etc are important as much for structural support as being a good tacking surface.

i've got to do some planning for this big project over the winter months!
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