Auto Glass Goes Old-School: Classic Cars Require a Special Touch

Replacing glass on classic and vintage cars takes different materials and a little extra know-how than replacing glass on modern vehicles. Michael Nichols, owner of Innovation Auto Glass in Bent Mountain, Virginia, knows this from experience.

One of the classic cars that got new glass at Innovation Auto Glass is a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.

Innovation Auto Glass offers various auto glass services, not the least of which are services for classic cars. Nichols says he’s worked on everything from a 1937 Rolls Royce and a 1940 Ford Coupe to Mustang Mach 1s and Fastbacks from the 60s.

Installers who work on classic cars often have a challenge finding near-obsolete windshields and side glass. Nichols utilizes PGW Auto Glass and Mygrant Glass Company for most of his parts. Pilkington Classics also has a large inventory of classic parts, and Glass Seekers finds and offers hard-to-locate parts.

Many of the classics Nichols works with require custom-cut flat glass, especially the older vehicles.

“Stuff (older than) ’60 will still have a split window in it where it isn’t just a one-piece windshield, it’s actually two little square pieces,” he says.

When he needs to custom-cut glass for a vehicle like that, he frequently draws his own template on cardboard by tracing the space where the glass needs to go. He then traces that template onto the glass.

This 1950 Ford got both a new windshield and a new backlite.

The adhesive material originally used on classic cars is very different from the materials we use today.

“Before ’70, it was a gasket set … and right around the ’70 range, they switched over to butyl,” Nichols says. “Butyl is no longer a safe product if you’re in a collision on the road. Anything that has butyl in it, you have to do a full removal and switch it over to urethane.”

Jeff Olive, Director of Safety and Training for the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC), says there’s more information surrounding the safety aspect of sealants in vehicles like classic cars in the Automotive Glass Replacement Safety Standard™ (AGRSS).

“If the OEM installation was butyl and the vehicle is licensed for highway use, the installation must be performed using urethane,” Olive says. “The same holds true for gaskets sets in vehicles under 10,000 pounds that are licensed for highway use. The gasket must be bonded to the body and the glass must be bonded to the gasket using urethane.”

Nichols says one big thing to remember while replacing glass on a classic car is the amount of money the car’s owner has put into restoration.

“A couple of these cars that we’ve worked on, just the paint job alone has been over $30,000, so you’re taking extreme measures to be super careful,” he says.

The money poured into these classic cars reflects the owners’ passion for them, something Nichols says he loves hearing stories about.

In one of the latest stages of its restoration, the 1955 Chevy Nomad got a new windshield.

One customer has a 1955 Chevy Nomad that he’s been working on himself for 21 years, starting as an after-work hobby when he was a Norfolk and Southern Railway employee. Nichols says the owner estimates he’ll have a little over $200,000 put into the car by the time he’s done.

“He asked his wife that, if something did happen to him before he finished the car, she would use that as his casket,” Nichols said.

The owner didn’t let anyone other than himself work on the Nomad until bringing it into Innovation Auto Glass to get a new windshield installed.

This article is from glassBYTEs™, the free e-newsletter that covers the latest auto glass industry news. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Auto Glass Repair and Replacement (AGRR) magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

This entry was posted in glassBYTEs Original Story and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *