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Nose Job, Rear End Exam and More- May 2011

I haven't owned this car long, but that didn't stop me from promptly tearing the front end off of it! You see, I had to. This car was in dire need of a nose job, and the great thing about having an ugly nose is that we have the means to fix it! In addition to fixing the very sad schnoz were a variety of other tasks that when listed on paper read more like an exhaustive medical checkup than a simple wrenching to do list. It's what's required when you see a new patient in your office for the first time- you need to get aquainted by checking them out from top to (ahem) bottom. Now then, I'm all washed up and have slipped on the gloves, let's start the procedures...this won't hurt a bit.

I had taken front ends off of cars before, but never a car like this. Luckily the online tips were very helpful and made the job go smoothly. At the time of this picture, the parts were really piling up along the wall of my garage. I had just removed the stock steel bumper and bumper reinforcement and was amazed by its incredible heft. I really could've used a nurse to help remove that abcess. Also, that big black tongue hanging down is an air dam, which I found to be an "interesting" piece of engineering.


Here are some of the parts I was referring to. Headlights, trim and bezels, parking and turn signal lenses, a bumper air dam doo-hickey, lower air dams and the various bits of hardware that were in the process of being cleaned up and painted. You can also see the newly cleaned up and painted turbo heat shield, which I installed in the last update.

At this point in the operation I'd officially gone from involved to committed! The entire nose has been removed and I'm wondering if I'll see it all back together anytime soon.


Here are a bunch of parts that I painted with Dupli-Color trim paint. The headlight retainers were originally a dull silver, but I thought they'd look much better in black like the rest of the front end parts. To the far right is the windshield cowl trim, which had faded over time. Oh and my 1991 Talon Tsi is not amuzed by playing the role of "storage rack." While all of this was going on, I also polished the turn signal and parking light lenses, which had become dull over time.


So my plan was to rip all of the front end pieces off and restore them back to their factory-fresh glory. Since I know the limits of my talent, here are the items that I'd take to the professionals at the paint shop. Everything else would be painted by spray can in my state-of-the-art paint booth, which also doubles as the area directly outside of my garage.


Why am I doing this?!? Take a close look at this header panel- heavily damaged from rock chips and corrosive Florida Love Bug guts. The pictures make it look better than it was, trust me.


Here's a shot of the passenger mirror. Practically all of this damage had been dealt by the hand(?) of the dreaded Love Bug. According to the Wikipedia Love Bug entry: "This species' reputation as a public nuisance is due not to any bite or sting (it is incapable of either), but to its slightly acidic body chemistry. Because airborne lovebugs can exist in enormous numbers near highways, they die en masse on automobile windshields, hoods, and radiator grills when the vehicles travel at high speeds. If left for more than an hour or two, the remains become dried and extremely difficult to remove. Their body chemistry has a nearly neutral 6.5 pH but may become acidic at 4.25 pH if left on the car for a day. In the past, the acidity of the dead adult body, especially the female's egg masses, often resulted in pits and etches in automotive paint and chrome if not quickly removed.


Before taking these items to the body shop for fresh paint, I took them outside for a good bath. All of the parts are in excellent condition besides the paint.


With the parts clean and dry, I loaded up my truck and took my odds and ends to get some quotes from a couple local body shops that I'd spoken with. Pretty simple job right? Well it would be if our town hadn't been attacked by softball size hail en masse a couple weeks ago. This caused a serious backlog of work at every body shop in town. Most folks were telling me that they could get it done sometime around September. That wasn't the story I got over the phone! I guess it was more work than they expected once they saw the various chipped up parts. I expected this, but was still kinda bummed until I reached my last stop, which was just down the road from my house.


After my less than successful day of shopping around my truckload of parts in need of painting, who knew that the guy down the road could turn them around IN THREE DAYS!?! Well incredibly he did and they turned out beautiful!


I got right to work, bolting up the fresh header panel and re-assembling the bumper, inner reinforecement, newly painted rubber trim and little "bumperettes" that were great for nudging other cars and stuff out of the way back in the 80s. It's a shame you can't use your car as ram anymore without airbags going off, OnStar calling you up, etc, etc. It was a simpler time back then.


I ordered a new set of hood emblems to replace the broken ones that were on the car. It's common for the "3" to break off when towel drying the car after a wash. I'll have to remember that!


The previous owner included a new GM driver-side door handle in the spare parts bin, so I bolted it up to replace this broken one. This job wasn't too bad, especially since I already had the door panel off for the mirror painting.


Here are the paint products I used on my end of the 'nose job' project. I highly recommend all of them. I also highly recommend using a body shop pro when you need professional results on bigger, more noticable panels and parts. If I tried to paint the bumper, header panel, mirrors, etc. myself it would've looked awful. The spray paints were perfect for the small trim pieces though.


I took a break from the nose job to examine the rear end. My plan was just a quick oil check, but after sticking my finger in the 'ole fill hole and seeing the grayish color, I decided to drain it.


Blaaarrrgg!!


Now we can see what's going on in there. Upon closer examination the wear pattern on these gears isn't ideal. That would explain the gear whine until the car gets good and warm. I'll replace the fluid for now, but will have to come back and address this someday.


Eeewww! Lots of metal in there.


While the differential cover and bolts were off, I hit them all with the wire wheel and gave them a coat of low gloss black. When it comes to working on cars, my philosophy is a simple one: improve everything you touch. Not a bad credo to apply to life in general either, eh?


While I was waiting for the 'Terminator 2' style liquid metal goop to drain out of the diff, I bolted in a new AC Delco fuel filter.


After sealing everything up with a new gasket and a nice slathering of Permatex's excellent "Right Stuff" sealant, I torqued the cover down to factory specs. In the future I plan to detail out the undercarriage with POR15.


If Redline heavy shockproof gear oil didn't look like blood, I wouldn't like it nearly as much.


Here's a little tip that may help you, use an old coolant jug and pump from your local parts store to keep and then fill your drivetrain fluids. I have a jug for diff oil and one for Synchromesh manual trans oil, which my other cars use.


I got everything back together later that night and was lovin' the results! The 'nose job' transformation was incredible and totally changed the look of the car. The combined effect of the restored trim, parking lenses, buick emblem, bright new headlights and professionally painted pieces was dramatic compared to the faded, chipped look everything had before.


Here's an outdoor shot I took the next day. Gloss black is one of the few colors you can do this sorta thing with.


The new hood emblems look great too.


Here's a pic of the newly painted driver side mirror and new door handle installed. The mirrors blend in now, when before they stuck out like a sore thumb. You can also see the kid seat back there.


One last picture of the completed work.


I'm going to rest, then go for a nice long drive. Thanks for reading!

-Tom