Jim inherited a 1963 Volvo from his Dad in 2002. It had 300,000+ miles, sat in a barn for 16 years and was in bad...bad condition. A request to restore the car from his future daughter-in law and son began a 5 month project to get the car ready for their Nov. wedding. Yes, "five months" was the notice to get it ready for a "get away" car after the wedding. The car had been sitting in our greenhouse/workshop that was eventually transformed into a car garage/paint booth all to rebuild the Volvo. Jim named his father's Volvo "Buddy" a nick-name given to his dad when he was a child. Buddy was in bad..bad condition and the request was something he had been wanting to do, but was dragging his feet to get started. The request was a spark that lit a fire to make Jim go forward with the restoration. Oh my...five months to get it ready? That five months consumed every moment in our life. From ordering parts to researching leads to get it done. Most parts had to be ordered from Sweden and Jim was literally finishing the restoration of the Volvo the day of the wedding. Now that it is done and Jim's labor of love is complete, we have memories of restoring the car and making memories with "Buddy" at our son and daughter-in law's wedding. The following pictures are of the restoration and I end this blog page with a letter Jim wrote to his son and wife a few months after their wedding. His thoughts about the project and completion is a beautiful conclusion to a project that I never thought he would complete.
Original Title and "Buddy" brand-new in 1963
In honor of I.A Nicholson.. Lt. Col
Buddy and his Antique tags.
Grandma sees Buddy for the 1st time, in a long time.
Josh & Mel,
I have been contemplating writing this note for some time.
First, let me say the wedding was as perfect as any wedding could be. The love you two expressed for each other was incredible. Every aspect of the wedding ceremony pointed to Christ and the sanctity of marriage. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, I spoke to had never witnessed a wedding like yours. It was a tremendous witness of God’s power and grace.
Now I would like to discuss Buddy. This caused me much thought and reflection because I did not want you to think I was seeking more accolades for completing the challenge you laid before me. Sure, I liked the many complements from all the folks at the wedding, but I did not want it to diminish attention on your special day. Grandma was very concerned that I was making Buddy the focus of the wedding. I assured her many times that was not my intention and I was not driving that log. Read on.
Back when you asked me to “restore Buddy for the get-a-way car”, I had some reservations. Was the engine in decent shape? The radiator? The generator? The transmission? The rear end? How in God’s name would it get painted? Could I really completely deconstruct the car and reassemble it? As I thought about it, I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of the project. I committed to have the car ready for you, but was quite terrified of failure. Two things crossed my mine. Since his death, it had been my goal to restore the car to a drivable condition as a tribute to my dad. And, I wanted to fulfill your request to use the car on your special day. “What father, who loves his son, would give him a stone if he asked for a loaf of bread?” The Lord encouraged me to try.
I knew much of the mechanical stuff would need replacing. Disassembly was quick and I began to order parts. I soon learned that some of the parts, although available, were very long-lead. At one point the pieces were stuffed in any available space I could find. Parts were cleaned, but reassembly was not happening and I began to panic. Also, upholstery and window/door seals were ordered, but the best delivery date was projected to be “early November”. How would that work with the wedding scheduled for 14 November??? I was devastated, but, the Lord encouraged me and that still small voice urged me to keep going with whatever I could find to do.
Suspension parts began to come in and I was making some progress at reassembly. However, everything took at least twice as long as I had anticipated (I’m getting old). And, so much time had passed since disassembly it was imperative to rely on memory (such as it is) and excellent photography by Jeanine. She also sketched electrical schematics! Rather than just cut the wiring harnesses, we disassembled them at the connectors. That was the only way to get the fenders off.
Once the suspension was done, I turned to the Mighty Mouse engine. When I got it disassembled, there was plenty of good news. There was also what appeared to be bad news. One of the rod bearings was totally shredded and the crank journal looked very bad. Once again discouragement set in. After a few days of prayer and contemplation, I attempted to determine how bad the crank actually was. Several hours of polishing with various grades of emery cloth resulted in a shiny journal bearing. I consider that a miracle. Some of the engine parts were on back order, but the still small voice urged me on.
While I was waiting for the Mighty Mouse engine parts, I looked toward the body. I knew the fenders would have to be removed and prepped for paint. The doors would need to be disassembled and removed for paint prep. Front, rear and side windows would also come out. Side window seals were showing 46 years of sunlight exposure, but they had to be removed. I had discovered the seals were no longer available and if the old ones were damaged (or crumbled to pieces) it would be a major problem. There was a considerable amount of body prep to be accomplished; dent removal, rust removal, rust treatment, etc. I was about to order the primer and paint, but was greatly concerned about: 1) my capability to paint, 2) the adequacy of a “greenhouse paint booth” and 3) wondered if the weather would cooperate. The still small voice informed me that the three items listed were irrelevant if the body prep was not done and that I should concentrate on that.
Body prep moved along well in spite of my minimum experience and ability. The days were hot and humid, not conducive to painting a car. I was afraid the heat would cause the paint to dry before it hit the car and humidity in the air would cause an undesirable effect on the paint finish. But guess what? I still did not have the paint on order!
The worry turned to determination when the remaining engine parts arrived. Mighty Mouse would be assembled at last! The first order of business was to install the piston rings, then install the pistons. During assembly of the last ring on the last piston, the ring broke. My excitement degenerated into frustration. Another set of rings was three weeks away; so many road blocks, so little time. I was still debating on whether or not to rebuild the carbs myself, or have them rebuilt. (Mel will come to understand that I rarely trust anyone to work on my stuff, especially my mechanical stuff. I will never forget the famous words of my father, “If you want someone to screw it up, do it yourself!”) Well, the still small voice said, “You do not have enough time to do carbs. You will need to rely on someone else. Seek and you will find.” And found I did – ZTherapy was a phone call away. They did a top-notch job and I was relieved.
At this point in time, you showed up for Labor Day. I watched you walk around the car, look at each other and look back at the car. No seats, no hood, no doors, no fenders, no trunk lid, no engine and no transmission. The looks on your faces were priceless. Then the proverbial icing on the cake: Mel turned to me and said, “Jim, It’s OK if you don’t get it finished in time for the wedding.” Mel, what were you thinking? I had eight weeks left! (If I were you, I would have said the same thing. In fact, I was thinking the same thing, or wondering if it would be OK to miss the deadline and shatter your dreams.) I put on a strong front, but completion was looking doubtful to me. I had been developing plan “B” for upholstery – cheap seat covers from Wal-Mart, buy material and wrap the seats and even saddle blankets draped over. Plan “B” for the floor mats was carpet scraps from the local flooring store – sort of cut and paste.
I managed to get Mighty Mouse assembled and back into to his cradle. Carbs came and were bolted on, followed by fuel pump, distributor and generator. Oh yea, the generator. It looked good. It felt good. It smelled good. But, was it good? No place in Magnolia to get it checked. The kids at the auto stores don’t even know what an automobile generator is. That Saturday was long and tedious, but a confidence builder. Buddy roared to life. What a sweet sound, just like I had remembered. The still small voice said, “Finish the race.” But I said, “No upholstery. No paint. No window seals.” (Oh me of little faith!) My Better Half (I’m sure you have noticed that I married above myself) asked, “What do you need for your greenhouse paint booth?” Of course I had prepared a list. “Is that all?” was the reply. “Yes”, I said confidently. She asked, “Why don’t you build it?” I said, “Because the weather is not right.” She said, “Build it and the weather will come.” I laughed (to myself – I’m no dummy).
Well, we built the “paint booth” and continued to piddle about the greenhouse making sure everything that could be done was done. The primer & paint arrived and we waited – rainiest fall season we have had in 6 years. As the days passed, there was vanishing hope. Then an email form Swedish Treasures; the floor mats arrived sooner than expected. That was great news, but the mats would be stuffed in the corner until installation at a later date. One week later another email; the upholstery arrived sooner than expected. More great news and I turned the Chicken Coop into an upholstery shop. I had done all I could do until paint was on the car. The still small voice reminded me to be ready to paint at a moment’s notice.
Time was running out. Then with three weeks left in October, I awoke to a gorgeous Friday morning – no dew, no wind and NO RAIN. The still small voice screamed, “Paint now!”, and paint I did. The first few guns full of primer were a challenge. What is the best gun pressure? What is the best gun distance from the panels? What is the best gun speed across the panels? What was I thinking? No matter how much you search the internet, some details are self-learned. I suffered through the fenders and the trunk lid. Not bad, but a little rough and slow. I was tired after about 2 ½ hours, so I decided to clean the gun and spend the afternoon sanding the “rough” out. It was the cleaning of the gun that set me free. I thinned the remaining mix in the gun to clean the nozzle and discovered a thinner mix sprayed like a dream. I sprayed Buddy’s nose (just to get rid of the remaining paint in the gun), it went on fast and smooth. The paint man (expert) never mentioned thinning the primer (details, details)! The still small voice said, “It’s all good. By Sunday you will be a pro.” Well by Sunday I had primer complete and felt reasonably good about the prospects for successfully spraying the top coats (total of 8-10 coats was my goal). The following weekend was a carbon copy of the previous. I put 4-5 coats on everything followed with sanding, then 4-5 more coats with the fenders attached. The paint was on, but there remained the final sanding and polishing. The still small voice said, “You’re on the home stretch. Finish the race!”
The last 2 weeks were almost around the clock. If it had not been for a loving wife and a wonderful daughter, I would not have finished. They polished chrome, devised a method to make the sun deck, determined how to cover the dash cleaned up after me and packed the “finishing kit” we took to Tampa to complete the job. Above all, they were like cheerleaders encouraging me to finish.
I said all of this not to dangle the challenges I faced in front of you, but to explain why God must have wanted you to have the car for your special day. He wanted to once again show me his power and grace.
1) God’s demonstrated power – Without some miracles and the Lord’s Spirit continuously encouraging me on, I would have failed. God has blessed me with some special skills and abilities and without them this would not have been possible. I had ample opportunity to use them all!
2) God’s healing power – I got to relive several moments I shared with my dad in Buddy; vacation trip to PA with Jenny, Jill and dad; a trip in Buddy to see the Harlem Globetrotters; a trip in Buddy to the DMV so I could take my driver’s license test. These are just a few. It was therapeutic to rerun these memories and remember the great father God blessed me with. My dad was instrumental in developing the skills I have.
3) God’s return blessing – I was privileged to see the looks on your faces when you cast your eyes on Buddy for the first time in Tampa. That was a blessing for me. If you give selflessly to others, you will receive a blessing!
4) God’s direct blessing – God reaffirmed the true love of a tremendous wife and a wonderful daughter. What blessings both are. I have been blessed by God because He allowed them to be in my life. What a wonderful God we serve!
Finally, God has blessed me with a wonderful son. In spite of my shortcomings as a father, the Father in Heaven has molded him into a fine person and will continue molding him into His perfection. Josh has chosen wisely for his covenant partner. Mel is what every father prays his son will find. May the God of all creation bless you and seal your covenant until the end of this age. May His grace continue to build your union into His perfection. Amen.