View Full Version : Opinions, please....

Don Wasley
05-06-2012, 01:13 AM
After telling my wife that I'm going to buy an Ambulance [a Hearse isn't an option], and she reluctantly agreed. The vehicles that I'm looking at either have a shot interior and a decent body or a decent interior and a shot body. Missing lights and siren, etc. or rusted body panels. I know guys like ED do their own work and others send their work out to qualified shops if they can't do it themselves. My question to you is: In your opinion, is it better to deal with trying to find interior trim and other stuff to finish the interior out and work with the surface rust or is it better to repair the rusted body areas and do minor work on the interior to get the vehicle looking like it used to be?
Since most, if not all, of you have gone through this in refurbishing your vehicle[s], I'm just looking for opinions so I can properly access what I'm getting myself into. Thanks for your frank and honest opinions ahead of time....:bonk:


Shawn Blyler
05-06-2012, 01:36 AM
I think it all depends on what you can do yourself, OR what would be the least expensive to have someone else do. As for myself, I am NO body man, so I bought a car that is very solid (although it needs a paint job), and has just a little minor rust in the lower front fenders. It is still presentable, so the paint job can wait a bit.

I have found that personally, it is cheaper to re-do an interior than an exterior. I was lucky, my dash and door panels were very good. Yes, the original upholstery material was expensive, and it sure wasn't cheap to have the seats redone, or have a headliner made, but.....I think it was way cheaper than having to deal with rusted out rockers, fenders, floors, etc. You can really get into some major money having a rusted out body fixed and then having the car painted on top of that. Just a normal, everyday car paint job around here will run around $3,000-$4,000. So, if you had to fix rusted out places first, you would have to add to that price. My interior re-do was cheaper than that, and it is a limo.

As for mechanics, I can do simple stuff. For the large jobs, I have a mechanic friend that helps me. I pay him, but of course it isn't garage prices, so I get a bit of a deal there.

All in all, I would say if you really want a certain car badly enough, weigh your options as far as what would be easier or cheaper to do. There are some members cars that when you see the before picture of them, you wonder if it was even possible to make it look like it does now. There are true miracle workers out there (Ed Renstrom), if you know where to go and who to get to do the work.

I don't know if I have helped any, but remember this: No matter how much you estimate it is going to cost to do something to your car, figure on at least double that amount by the time it is done. That is personal experience talking there. Good luck to you, I hope you find the car for you.

Martin Harvey
05-06-2012, 08:20 AM
I agree with Shawn, I would never but a car from a picture only, especially cause you don't get the smell by a single picture; I think it's something important when you buy a car. I found a super clean car on picture but owned by a farmer who never removed his boots when he just came from the cows....

All depends of the job you can do yourself. A paint job can cost thousands of dollars just in materials and you double it when you don't do it yourself. About the lights and stuff, depending of the year and make, I paid almost the double of the buying price of the car just for the emergency equipment on top, and something like 8 months of research for the good parts.

It depends also of how your interior is deteriorated? Missing trims inside is not so bad, I saw a lot of not completed cars inside with a nice paint and nobody never complain about. Im a detail guy so to my opinion if it's an ambulance you will need at least some basic equipment from that era... like a cot !!... or close the curtains haha

One way on another, choose the car that will need less investment, inside and outside.

Steve Lichtman
05-06-2012, 12:10 PM
I have the opposite opinion. While not cheap, it's fairly easy for a restoration shop or even a body shop to repair rust damage. Replacement body parts can be found - or even made.

On the other hand, finding replacement interior components, particularly for an ambulance, can be very difficult. Where are you going to find the flooring material (like the elusive Armstrong Colonial Classic vinyl used in many ambulances)? Or the cabinets, or the side walls, or the jump seats, or the headliner? Not every upholstery shop can or will make replacements.

It's expensive to repair rusty body parts, but in my experience, it has been easier for a good shop to do that than to replace bad interior items. Not cheaper, but easier.

John ED Renstrom
05-06-2012, 12:50 PM
in my opinion I'm with Steve on this one. once the interior is missing or altered you out of luck. if you don't have a parts car close by you can get the missing pieces from they can't be put back together. stock. one can put a interior in just not a superior,S&S etc type interior. they just don't look right with a different style interior. the option list of lights is long as are the accessory you can put in. but you will look forever for one missing part. damage panels can be repair, torn upholstery the same but once any hardware is missing you in to some expensive looking. I have been looking for a long time for a taillight for a 53 pon. Steve looked for years for a part or two for his Henny. me I only look for one that has all the trim damaged or not and the interior is still all there damaged or not. but for me the Ideal car is a strong runner with a good interior needing just a little body work. come on up Ill hook you up with one.

Sarah Snook
05-06-2012, 01:35 PM
I'm with Steve on this one too. These cars are so unique and so few were made that finding interior parts can be close to impossible. Interior parts are more coach builder and color scheme specific. If you potential car was unique when it was built in any particular way (a rarer cabinet setup, odd interior color, etc) finding the parts that you need may never happen.

In my case, I've owned my my Cascade Green '66 M-M for 11 years now. Though the interior is certainly presentable, it's far from perfect. The original owners were hard on the car and the owner after that had a cat living in it for many years. This all resulted in a front seat that has several dime sized holes from battery acid and scratches on the one side where the cat used the seat as a scratching post, curtains that were in rough shape and that reeked of cat pee, a rear linoleum floor that was completely painted over in avocado green with all of the chrome and aluminum parts in the back compartment painted over in a silvery gunmetal gray paint and a broken glass partition.

Most people would consider all of this a disaster, but I've worked through it. For the floor, the easy fix would have been replacing it. Armstrong no longer makes the linoleum pattern that's in my car though. I searched for it and had no luck. There isn't anything on the market nowadays that's quite like it, so I had to peel the paint off of the entire floor by hand. This was awful, but doable. I tried using tools to speed up the process, but it only scratched the floor, so I had to wait for really hot afternoons and pull the latex paint off by hand, with the help of a hair dryer sometimes too. Now that the paint is gone, the floor looks a lot better, but it's not perfect. There's still wear on the floor, some discoloration in some areas and scratches, but it's better than both of the alternatives - having new, but incorrect flooring or having that horrible avocado painted floor.

Taking the gunmetal paint off of all of the metal pieces in the back is much more annoying and time intensive. So I've just cleaned up the most visible bits and the parts that were peeling. The rest is still there and I just take care of it gradually by removing it from parts when it's flaking off. It's not incredibly noticeable like the paint on the floor was, so it doesn't bother me too much.

As for the curtains, the fabric isn't made anymore either and it's tough to find anything similar. Cascade Green just isn't a popular color and it hasn't been for decades. Even living 10 minutes away from the Jo-Ann Fabric headquarters and superstore didn't help much. After searching on and off for fabric for six years, I finally found something close enough. The color is right but texture isn't quite right. I know it's not correct, but a random person doesn't so it's all good. They might not be completely perfect, but it's much better than driving something that smells like a cat litter box on wheels.

The easiest thing to deal with was the broken glass partition. I found a '67 M-M at CW Coach that was going to be scrapped. I went down there the day before it went to the crusher and pulled random parts - including the partition. M-M slightly changed the partitions between '66 and '67 and I know the difference, but it still fit.

And then there is the acid burned and cat scratched front seat. Good luck with that one. After talking to Tom Caserta, the old sales manager for M-M, I know that there were literally THREE Cascade Green M-Ms made in all of 1966. Am I going to be able to find one of the other two? I seriously doubt it. And if I did, is it going to have a perfect front seat in it? I really doubt that too. 1965 had a different design for the seat and 1967 had a different design too. I'd maybe settle for a seat from one of them even if it was the wrong year and wrong pattern, but I can't find a green '65 or '67 M-M so it doesn't matter. Getting a green seat from a different coachbuilder won't work either and it definitely wouldn't match the rest of the interior, so that's not a viable option. Because of all of that, the acid burned cat scratched seat is just something I will always have to deal with.

The outside of my car was a disaster when I got it too. It was five different shades of green, the rear quarter panels were so rusty that they were non-existent, all of the belt line trim was gone and replaced with some horrible stick on boat trim that used to be sold by the roll and the rear bumper was rusted out so bad that you could see through it in some places.

How does the exterior look now? Pretty awesome. The body shop had no problem welding in new metal for the quarter panels and they had no problem getting Cascade Green paint made for my car either. I even had a friend of mine send me a partial set of belt line trim for free. The free trim was from a '67 M-M in Texas (thanks Alex!!), but it didn't matter because it fit anyway. The rest of the trim was off of a '67 S&S that I pulled myself from a car at CW Coach. It all looks great on my car. I even got a new bumper for my car from that '67 S&S at CW Coach too. Sure it's technically from the wrong year and the wrong coachbuilder, but it was very easy to modify into a correct '66 M-M bumper.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that my car will never be perfect on the inside because the parts I need just don't exist. The outside was pretty easy to fix because the parts were used on other cars too.

Denny Shira
05-06-2012, 03:42 PM
I'm with ed and steve on this one. A good runner with a nice interor is your best
bet. there used to be a superior dealer in rochester that had alot of old
coaches and ambulances sitting outside with some good parts and interior
stuff,but they went out about 30 years ago.the cory's were great people
who would sell you a used rig on a handshake and little or no money down.
I bought 2 1967 superior caddies from them that way. also locally we had
:Chicken man" who had a large collection of old ambulances and parts
which he had stored away in a corner of the old pierce arrow plant.
if i only knew then what i know now i would have bought up some
of that stuff.:pat:

Jacob M. Fournier
05-06-2012, 03:55 PM
Although fairly new to the hobby, and still early in my first restoration, I'll just throw in that I'm in agreement with Steve and the like. The sheet metal can be repaired, but a car that has had the interior modified or removed maybe impossible to replace. Nothing turns me off to a car quicker than finding out some one hacked up the original interior. One reason I bought my car, even though the body was so rough was that the patient compartment was intact (although after purchase, I found a few modifications which are going to be hard to find the correct pieces to repair.) Best of luck in your search.

Terry Lange
05-07-2012, 05:06 PM
I'll have to agree with the last handful of posts. Rust can be repaired, body panels can be fabricated, but no one is making interior fabric and trim pieces for these vehicles, anymore.

I am finding it impossible to locate the correct fabric (in an appropriate color) for my '59 Comet funeral coach. I know this same material was used in S&S coaches in '59 as well. It may have been used by other coachbuilders, and in a wider range of years. One of the companies who specializes in old car interiors calls it "hearse material", so it appears it had limited applications.

There's probably rolls of this stuff stashed away in old upholstery shops across the country, but if I can't find it, it's not doing me any good.

Richard Vyse
05-08-2012, 01:21 PM
I highly recommend you find one as complete as possible, not an easy thing I know. Body panels can be cut out and repaired whereas interior items are a bit more difficult to track down. It depends on how much you want to pay. My newest purchase was very reasonable and the interior is in outstanding shape but the body will require some work. Also remember that ambulances were "Driven Hard and put Away Wet!" so they tend to be in a much rougher shape than a hearse.

Good luck and post some pictures of what you get.

Brendan Martin
05-08-2012, 10:36 PM
Don, I was lucky to be able to send my car to Ed for restoration. He did an awesome job, and my car was rough, inside and out. It was however mostly complete. It was missing a medical cabinet, which I was able to find thanks to a certain PCS member and his keen eye. He has a knack for finding many elusive items. Other members have helped me find items as minuscule as a plastic heater control knob, and curtain rods. As far as the interior, it had to be redone, and was done as close to original as possible. Sometimes in order to save these cars, certain changes must be made because of time gone by. Good luck on your search, and if you do find what you are looking for, I hope I can help you as many here have helped me.

Mike Boyer
05-10-2012, 11:47 AM
I think it would be much easier finding a good funeral coach to restore then an Ambulance.... you can talk the wife into it !

do what I did ..... just bring it home while she is at work and then tell her ! lol
she can't stay mad at you for ever ?

Richard Vyse
05-10-2012, 11:54 AM
I think it would be much easier finding a good funeral coach to restore then an Ambulance.... you can talk the wife into it !

do what I did ..... just bring it home while she is at work and then tell her ! lol
she can't stay mad at you for ever ?

Now you're talking. That's how I got my 75 Criterion but question just how long the wife can stay mad! :yankchain:

Russell Dalziel
05-10-2012, 12:25 PM
Now you're talking. That's how I got my 75 Criterion but question just how long the wife can stay mad! :yankchain:

Richard. in your case FOREVER LOL


Don Wasley
05-10-2012, 10:44 PM
Mike, it's not a case of getting or asking her permission.....it's a cultural thing. Read my 'Hello from Georgetown, CO' posts in the Welcome threads...that will explain my situation. I wish I could do what you suggest but the vehicle that I'm looking at may or amy not be drivable from the get-go anyway......


Don Wasley
05-12-2012, 02:45 PM
Thanks, Everyone, so much for the valuable input! I'm sure others that will read this thread in the future will gain some good information when they make a decision on the kind of condition the pro-car that they're contemplating on buying! Hopefully others that also read this thread will post their opinions as well....... :applause: