Restoring Ms Scarlett—a Member’s Labor of Love

The calendar has rolled around to April and Daylight Savings Time is here. That can only mean one thing—It’s Spring and time to get that project car out of mothballs and ready for show season. Read below to see how one LCOC member lovingly restored his 1962 Continental convertible.

Restoring Ms Scarlett

By Tim Finnegan

Before you begin a project of this magnitude, you must ask yourself some very important questions. If you do not, your project may become an emotional and financial disaster. Why do you start a project like this? How do you begin? How much money are you willing to spend? Why not buy an already completed car with the $25,000 that you will be spending on a project and save yourself a lot of risk and very hard work? It is usually less expensive to buy a car that the previous fool restored with his money.  

A project like this can only be successful if you gain fulfillment, enjoyment, and satisfaction in the process itself. It is even better if you have a plan for how you will use and enjoy the car for years after you spend the next couple of years working on it. 

In 2010 when I purchased this car from the estate of Rod Billings, a member of The Freewheelers car club, I was saving for a home, so I had little money to spend on this project.  It was a solid, 100% rust–free California car–but mostly disassembled–yet running. Bags and boxes of labeled screws and other little parts were included. Even before spending a lot of money on the project, there are a lot of things you can do that cost almost nothing, but completing such tasks can accelerate your project’s completion.  

I started by taking the dash apart, cleaning and painting all the gauges and accessories. Then I worked on cleaning and adjusting all the door interiors and window motors. Hint: I learned that spray window-tint is perfect for correctly re-darkening the gleaming brushed-aluminum of your ‘61-‘62-‘63 dash–module facias! 

Original panel on top with new panel in work below.

The finished product looks original!

This car came with factory walnut veneer on each door panel and the dash and glove box. The 50 –year old wood was an awful mess. So were my first several attempts at replacing it with new walnut veneer. Finally my trials and errors were rewarded when I discovered a process and the right materials to use for a long-lasting authentic look. Mine look absolutely perfect after many trials and errors:  

I went to a woodworking store and bought real walnut veneer. First sand it with 400 grit sandpaper…you MUST buy a bottle of veneer relaxer solution. Spray it liberally and let sit overnight. Otherwise it will bubble and warp!!!  Learned that the hard way. Let it dry under heavy weights …select a light stain…and a light coating. Then adhere with epoxy after you trim. Mind the grain …must be horizontal. My wood looks AMAZING and original!!!!

 If you don’t have the wood option I also have a SPECIAL way of reproducing the aluminum door panels with the correct brushing!

The main process began October 2014 at Maaco in San Jose. By this time, I was 3 years into a more lucrative career. Since this was a color change and a complete restoration, the car had to be more disassembled before being taken to paint. 100% of the trim and bumpers removed. The engine and everything attached to the firewall and the engine bay were removed. Dozens of detailed photographs were taken to assist in the reassembly to come months from then. Compounding the complexity was the fact that the Lincoln convertibles have moving flaps and trays for the top-up and the top-down positions. In all, about 20 pieces large and small were delivered to Maaco unattached. I know that you’re thinking. Maaco?  

This particular franchisee did a lot of work for the Freewheelers and did an excellent job. I hear that this shop does not do these high quality jobs any more. The key is clear communication with the manager and the men who are doing the painting on each and every detail. Don’t assume they can read your mind…or else they may paint your door latches and fill-in the mounting holes for trim and emblems. Your attitude as the customer and how you treat these people that are working very hard trying to please you will have a direct impact on the quality of the final product. For a project of this size, expect that your car will be there about 60 days. 

…moving ahead to 2019…even after its big restoration in 2014, I have spent many weekends fine-tuning the top, the vacuum door locks, re-doing the carpet, improving the clock and all the gauges on the dashboard.  I recently decided to enhance the safety and reliability (with a professional’s help) with electronic ignition and front “correct” 14” disk brakes. 

Ms. Scarlett is a work in progress that will always be so. But the joy is the journey, more than the destination. 



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