Though Carter reproduced the...
Though Carter reproduced the roadster's distinctive pipes to a tee, he stopped just short of chroming them, citing the impending deadline to get the car ready for the Grand National Roadster Show's 50th Anniversary. He said he plans to re-restore the car, at which point he said he'd plate the pipes.
Carter's resistance to sublet work and willingness to tackle new methods makes him pretty versatile, and the bellypan proves it. "That bellypan was one of the hardest things of the whole car," Carter says. "I learned to shape aluminum on this project." Though gas-welded from several sheets, vibration and neglect cracked it into about a dozen.
"I didn't have a template of what it's supposed to look like, so I measured everything and sat on the floor and made what I thought the bellypan should look like. So I spent hours and hours drinkin' and welding and cussin' until I had it to where I thought it really looked nice. I had the car apart so I turned everything upside down and put the pan on, but it was about 10 inches too long, and it didn't go back the way it should've. It's actually the original pan that's on there, but I spent a lot of time shrinking it back down to size," he says.
Time-the decades on dry land and the three months underwater-pretty much wrecked all the chrome too. At the same time, "Prices for plating were ridiculous," Carter says. "I'm also kind of cheap-not really, but I just don't like people doing my work. I couldn't get it on time, and two of the pieces that I sent out right off the bat didn't look much better than the way I sent them." So as improbable as it sounds, he learned to plate.
"There's an outfit [Caswell Plating] that sells a kit so that you can do your own electroplating," he says. "It's a full copper with nickel and chrome over it. As I went along I figured out how to do long pieces. It's very time-consuming because the better the polish, the better the chrome turns out. But if there's a scratch on it, you might as well hang a sign on it that says, 'Here it is.' I found out real quick that good enough just isn't."
He also learned that adage applied to much more than he expected-or at least wanted. "Like that tube grille," he says. "I put a tube in the tank to de-chrome it, and when I pulled out the wire, only the wire was left. It was so rusty that by the time the rust came off there was no metal at all. I bent the next one, and it just crumbled. So luckily, I didn't put 'em all in there at once. I ended up hand-bending every one of the bars for the grille. Those bars were tricky; they're not a continuous radius, and they also bend outward as they go down. I bent the new ones over my knee. They each fit in a particular place in the grille ring, so I just bent 'em and tested as I went along. They used steel tubing, but I used 3/8-inch stainless steel. It's been chromed, but it'll never rot."
About the only thing Carter didn't do on the car was the upholstery. "I didn't do it because I didn't have a sewing machine at the time," he says. Making matters worse, "There was no upholstery at all; I had to build all the boxes and such. All I had was one halfway decent picture and that was it." Dante's Modern Auto Top Shop in Stockton improvised a new interior based on that one photo and Carter's hunches. "According to everybody's recollection, I came pretty close, too."
As strange as it sounds for a car that won the biggest award and appeared in the biggest magazine for its time, there was nothing definitive about the car's engine. "Now there's a good story," Carter says. "When it showed, it had no engine. It was all covered up and it had a full front end on it, but they didn't have the time to get the engine in. And that is, from what I understand, part of how the ruling came about for driving them in." Rick Squaglia says, "You know, that's what I heard too. At least that's what I understood, and I think my father did tell me that years ago."