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Hi All,
My 68 GT convertible that I've had for 25 years had an engine fire last week. Drove to work, parked in the garage and an hour later, smoke is filling the shop. It was probably an electrical short under the hood. Two months ago I had installed the Holley Sniper. While I was at it I added relays for headlights and electric fans. The relay box, bought from Amazon, looks like the culprit. I spent hours meticulously putting this together, soldering all connectors and using shrink covering. I used a new wire that has a silicone jacket on it and I'm thinking that the soft silicone may have chaffed somewhere and shorted.
Tomorrow the adjuster comes out to take pics. Nationwide has already told me it will be a total. Fortunately I have comprehensive, but my ins agent is not holding out hope for a good settlement.

Having owned the car for 25 years, I planned on passing this one down to my daughter in 8 more years. So I would like to keep it and get it back into shape. It's an original J code GT with many options: tilt away steering, tach, deluxe interior with the convenience lights in the dash. Just about everything except AC.

The motor is a 3 year old, Ford Racing crate Boss 302, probably has less than 3000 miles on it and it ran GREAT with the sniper. The fire lit up the engine compartment, melted everything either rubber or plastic. Blinker lights on the hood melted and the hood will need to be replaced. The hood is the only thing that has any warpage in it. Fenders are paint blistered but still straight. Windshield cracked from the heat. The fog lamp grill is broken. The fire got through the firewall and melted the dash and the convenience light bar (very rare). The tach looks like it survived. There is a ton of extinguisher powder and soot to clean on the interior. We went through 5 extinguishers and then the hose to get the fire out. All of this happened within minutes. Fortunately we were able to get the car pulled out of the garage before it ignited. A note to all, regular 16 inch fire extinguishers are exhausted in about 15-20 seconds, not nearly enough time to get a fire out.

My advice needed is: what is the best way to try and clean up the interior to get the smoke smell out or will it need new upholstery? The top survived fine. Also, anyone deal with metal fatigue and loss of strength from the flames. This is something I'm concerned about if passing down the car to my daughter. How to stop rust from forming and spreading. The hood has already started to rust, but it will be replaced. I noticed a small area of rust forming on the firewall.
No story would be complete without pics, so I'm posting a few.
739509

Any insights from anyone who's dealt with fire damage would be greatly appreciated.
 

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I'm no expert but cleaning and maybe products like frebreeze on the interior? The metal isn't anything but sheet metal so the lose of strength would be minimal. If it where mine I wouldn't be to concerned with the rust as it's all gotta be sanded down anyways, unless the car is going to set outside in the weather....
 

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So sorry that happened. I've had my car almost 28 years and a fire, crash, theft or natural disaster that separates us from our treasured cars is all our nightmare. Glad you're going to rebuild it. White distilled vinegar and peroxide based cleaners work well without bleaching and get rid of odors, but you may have to replace some upholstery or foam. Maybe she will help you with the build and it becomes a lesson in fortitude as well as love for each other, the history and passion of the car.
 

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Thats tough.

Vinegar for the smell. Soak everything and hope. Take the seats out and douse the undersides.
Where ever there is rust i would go ahead and hit it over load with rattle can something to try and just stop/seal it and deal with it later. Assuming it was mainly wires and hoses that burnt, and fire goes up I wouldn't worry much about the frame but when its stripped beat around on the cowl and firewall to judge better.

Look on the sunny side of life:)
 

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Replace ALL sheet metal that has been heated enough to lift the paint. It may not be warped to the eye but it has been compromised. Replace any structural members that have been exposed to high heat as they will have lost their ability to bend and will crack or break instead. Obviously all rubber, plastic & electrical, padding and insulation, carpet, windshield, etc. You might be able to make do with removing the seat cushions and washing them but padding will need to be replaced, as will door panels, dash pad, etc.
 

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Since you didn't have enough heat to melt the carb or valve covers, you don't have to worry about any structural components getting weak. If your existing sheet metal isn't warped, all that can be cleaned and repainted. My 67 Cougar was under the carport during a house fire and I was even able to use my torch to pull the warps out of the top (though the interior was toast). I did have to replace the rear light panel as it sat outside for a few years before I got it into covered storage.
 

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Sorry for your loss. Some cringe worthy pics there. Was there any protection (fuse, fusible link, breaker, etc) in that harness assembly? I wonder about the exact failure mechanism as I'm about to make a headlight and horn harness for the 65. Since you state the relay box looks like the start point I wonder if a relay failed or if a bad crimp in that assembly came free and touched something it shouldn't. Careful removal of the relay box will help in the forensics. I'm an electrical engineer and I see [email protected] crimps all the time which is why I suspect that in your case. Chafing of the jacket would require motion and a sharp edge. Silicone is generally good about not chafing. Harder jackets not so much.
 

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Talk to a restoration company like Serve Pro to find out what they use in fire cleanups. I would also replace the front tires since they were so close to the heat.
 

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Your story makes for a very sad day, wow. But as stated could be a great ending, your restoring it for and with your daughter! Just sucks seeing all your past work go up in smoke but let your time spent together bring it back be the silver lining.
 

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Years ago a guy I worked for bought a "death car". No, not the urban legend of a hemi Cuda convertible, just a plain Dart. But less than a year old, bought it basically at a parts car price due to the smell. Bought a few bales of hay and filled the car with it. After a month, cleaned out the hay, no more smell.
 

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https://elementfire.com/pages/models

I just picked up 2 of these, one for my car and one for my sons, they are under the Christmas tree. Kinda pricy, I paid $140 for 2 and that was with a 20% discount. Small but powerful with no residue left over to clean up and no bulky extinguisher to carry around.
 

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Interesting. Is that just a nitrogen charge? Have in the past thought about a nitrogen 'sprinkler' system for around the engine bay.
Using something like this:
Nitrogen
Hook it up to a cable controlled valve and a manifold that follows the inner fenders.

On a side note, my wife's early 90's Ranger XLT caught fire years back just trying to start it to go home. Spinning starter for a long time - FOOMPH! Flames and smoke. She grabbed her purse and bolted. Figured it was a bad fuel line. They shoveled the remainder of things from the engine bay on to the flat bed. Total loss. Even the Patsy Cline tapes.
 

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Fuel injection leaves pressurized fuel in the fuel system. Up to 60 PSI with TBI, depending on how long it's been sitting. When heat causes a rupture burning fuel pops everywhere. I recently watched a Chrysler 300 that had black smoke coming from the front. Then there was a pop sound and big flames.
 

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So sorry for your loss. But thankful no one was hurt. Cars can be rebuilt and/or replaced.

Tomorrow the adjuster comes out to take pics. Nationwide has already told me it will be a total. Fortunately I have comprehensive, but my ins agent is not holding out hope for a good settlement.
This is an excellent reminder to make sure you insure car car with an "agreed value" policy, like the ones available from the specialty car insurance companies like Hagerty, Grundy, etc. With an agreed value policy, the insurance carrier agrees with you on the value of your vehicle, so in the event of a total loss you're covered.

The typical auto insurance policy on your daily driver is a "stated value" policy, in which you state the value of your car and then pay premiums based on that value (often for years...). Then, in the event of a total loss the insurance company whips out their depreciation tables and tells you that your cherished classic is a grossly depreciated hulk worth substantially less than it's actual value, and you have no recourse.
 
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I have built several cars in worse shape.

If I was working on this car, here are a few steps.

1) I would cover the engine (carb) and power wash everything that even thought about smoke, just to get a better view.
2) I would pull the engine and have it washed again, and off to a COMPETENT machine shop for a check out. It could be accessory replacement (wires, carb, etc. basically everything bolt on and a redetailing. If the upper and lower ends check out, put it back together, hook it up on a stand, and let it run for a couple days.
3) I would remove everything from the engine pit, fender, hood, everything. Power wash again. Tap the snot out of it with a light hammer and see what happens, Hammer break through, oil canning, weak areas, etc. If you run into very many, plan on having to replace core support and front and rear aprons (Save the VIN's.) and possibly the firewall.
4) Alternatively, just cut the car at the windshield posts and straight across the car near the shifter hole. Save the VINS and just weld on the front clip from another car (I don't know where you are, but I am in Texas and front clip are not that expensive, in good shape. I sold one 2 weeks ago, a 1968 C code, sliced off where I mentioned before, no rust, for $200. The entire car was bought for $600, rolling, with AC and PS, interior, etc. and stripped.
5) Have a body shop check all dimensions and put it back together. Think about adding the shock tower reinforcements, and 69 firewall to shock tower braces.

It really is an easier build that a rust bucket.

Fenders are iffy to me, as a warp is a beast to remove.
 

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So the fire wasn’t bad enough to melt the spark plug wires or the air cleaner but he needs to replace the whole front half of his car? Am I missing something?
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. This weekend I'll be tearing into it. Wet carpets out first, then I'll pull motor/tranny and start to scrubbing.

The adjuster came out and told me the insurance co. will definitely total it, said anytime there is fire or severe water damage, it's a total. I'm definitely keeping it either way. If they only offer a few thousand, I'll probably stop the claim and just forge ahead on my own. If they come in with an offer of 10K or more I'll take it and live with the salvage title, otherwise it's not worth it. And once again, an insurance co. will win. Have to wait and see.

What do you think would be the best media to blast to bare metal in a burn situation, or should it be a chemical strip like Jasco? The engine compartment was painted with POR15 about 10 years ago and it's held up fairly well. It looks like it has just bubbled off in a few places with bare metal below.

How does the windshield trim come off? In 40 years of tinkering on these cars, that's the one thing I've never done.

thanks,
Walt
 

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Go to any auto parts store and get an windshield trim tool.

There are clips under the bright work about ever 6-8" that you slide this tool under the bright work until you feel the clip, release it, and move onto the next clip. Pretty simple.

I haven't checked but I'm sure there are some videos on YouTube or Google showing how it's done.

Sorry this happened to you Walt.
 

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Boy that is a tough choice, $10k vs Salvage title on a GT convertible. I was going say, get an appraisal from photos if the insurance co lowballs but a salvage title will probably hit teh value pretty hard. You might try offering a half price to not total it, e.g. if they offer 10 say you will take 7 and walk away if they don't total it - see if there is a number. One trick to use on the fenders is to strip and paint rattle can gloss black. That will give you an idea how straight the surfaces are. It takes a gloss surface to show imperfections. I always say the trick is not to get a fender looking nice, the trick is to get teh world to reflect in the surface correctly. The reflected world always shows sins. Once they get waves, man it takes a real professional to get it right. You can get close but anyone with a trained eye will see...

Good luck,

M
 
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