Do It Yourself AAR Cuda

Getting the help you need with your do-it-yourself restoration

Everyone has a dream car. It’s the car that they fantasize about owning, driving and showing. But it’s out of their reach. That’s why it’s a dream car. And like anyone with a dream, they spend more than a little time thinking, really dreaming, about how to make it come to pass.

Actually, truth be told, most of the dreaming is about what it will be like to finally realize the dream. Some time is spent pondering how to get the dream started. This could involve searching for what is believed to be the right car or perhaps starting the restoration project on the one they may already have.

Unfortunately, far too little time is spent on determining both the cost and the time it will actually take to complete the entire resto. Oh there are vague mental images of rebuilding the engine and other mechanicals and of welding on new sheet metal and maybe even of finding someone to spray the paint when the body is ready. The reality though is that very few people have any real experience doing this type of work and so really have no way of estimating what it will take to complete the dream they see in their head.  

The reason so many restorations fail is because the dreamer doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what skills, equipment, space and time will be necessary to finish. In other words, few are willing, or able, to honestly evaluate their own limitations and realize what they can do well and what they should never even attempt.

Gary Warnsholz is dreamer and his dream car is 1970 AAR Cuda. He also had the patience to wait for the right time to realize his dream.

Gary purchased his AAR in 1975 and he’s pretty sure he’s the second owner. It was his daily driver during the summer until 1977 when job, marriage, family etc caused it to be parked – fortunately indoors. It’s rare that someone is able to keep a car from their youth but Gary went further in keeping it licensed, insured and running.

After retirement and a move to a property in the country with a building large enough to work on it, Gary set out to find someone to help him complete his dream. Being a very detail oriented person and an engineer, Gary knew he could handle much of the mechanical work and assembly but he also wisely knew that intricate rust repair along with the body and paint work were beyond his expertise. He wanted show quality paint and that’s not something anyone can achieve on their first attempt. Know your limitations and check your ego at the door.

So after carefully disassembling the entire car while taking lots of photos and notes, Gary turned the body and suspension parts over to MCR in 2018 and tasked them with building a rolling shell that he could take home and finish assembling himself.

While he saved perhaps a third of the cost over having MCR do the whole resto, the real reason Gary did it this way was because he wanted to do as much of the resto as he could himself but still end up with an MCR quality restoration.

In fact MCR did the very same work on the car as if they were going to complete the entire project. The sheet metal parts were all meticulously fitted. All the panel gaps were perfectly aligned. All of the external trim parts, taillights, bumpers, etc were mocked up before the body work phase to insure that everything fit properly. Weights were placed inside the doors to simulate the weight of the door glass and window mechanisms when the AAR stripes were applied to insure that they remained perfectly aligned after Gary installs the door glass.

In short, Gary will not run into any surprises as he assembles his dream car.

MCR finished the engine bay and front suspension as Gary requested which is essentially factory stock. MCR also mocked up a steering rod so the car can be easily moved about Gary’s shop. Gary has the original 340 and chose to manage the factory stock rebuild before putting it back where it’s always belonged.
Dynamat was installed on the firewall, in the doors and under the headliner for noise reduction. Note the T-handle that Gary can use for steering the car until he gets his column installed. Also note the sandbags inside the doors to simulate the weight of the door glass and mechanisms.
MCR installed all of the rubber weather seals as they affect how the deck lid and doors fit. Look carefully and you’ll notice the 3M Body Schutz rubberized coating on the inside of the quarter that accurately reproduces the factory undercoating. This is one of the critical benefits of having experts do the paint work.
MCR installed the AAR strobe stripes down the side of the car. This is one of those things that will forever stand out like a sore thumb if not perfectly applied.
The misalignment between the top of the fender and the hood was left alone. MCR could have fixed this of course but Gary wanted to leave this factory original as this was a common issue with these cars.
MCR will do as much or as little as each owner desires. Gary had them install the windshield and rear glass along with the associated trim. Those installations are doable if you have the tools and know the proper techniques but who wants to risk breaking the glass, tweaking the trim or damaging the paint? Again, know your limitations.
There are a number of options for the black portions of these cars. MCR’s normal practice is to use a single stage smooth satin finish product commonly referred to as Hot Rod Black. It looks close to the factory original but it lacks the course texture making it easy to maintain. Organosol is a single stage pre-mixed textured paint that is generally considered a better match to original but it is hard to clean, stains easily and water spots are difficult to remove. Also don’t get any wax on it because it won’t come off. Gary pressed MCR for another alternative so they experimented with a single stage black that they added various amounts of texture to until they were able to nearly perfectly match the original hood. (Well as perfect as possible given the original is now 50 years old) The surface has a feel sort of like fine sandpaper. Gary is thrilled with it.
The paint of course is Plum Crazy. Projects like these (well all projects really) are totally controlled by the customer. MCR will do as much or as little as the owner desires and will of course advise them on what they should prepare for in order to finish their dream.

Sources

Muscle Car Restorations, Inc.https://www.musclecarrestorations.com

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