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Turning junk into beauty

Folks, I am including this 'proposal' to show the challenges restorers can face. We all look at a shining missile, launcher, elevator, ... and enjoy. It is actually difficult to imagine the lengthy, extended, tender loving care, that is often required to turn corroded junk into the lovely package we see on display.

Granted, some restorations/presentations start with better starting materials, but then there are the others, such as below -

Several people can spend an entire baseball season (and the price of the season tickets for supplies) turning a pile of junk into a gleaming missile, or launcher or ...

From James Fee Langendoen July 19, 2011
Permission to publish, and comments ;-))
Some follow-on messages
October 25, 2011 Report - Getting Started
Oct 2012, Hurricane Sandy - devastation :-((
Click on pictures to expand-

Ajax Restoration Project

This is an initial write-up of the two Nike-Ajax missile sets in the Fort Hancock Nike Site 56 A & S building #449. Bill Jackson brought me to the facility to see firsthand what was initially documented in Ken Braswell’s photos. I will include some of the photos I took in this report but they are only illustrative and not meant to be the total catalog for the project.

Building and Facilities

The building itself did not seem to have roof leakage or obvious security breaches. Much of the facility shows its age. The oil furnace much like the air compressor may be salvageable to function due to its simple design though exposed parts like the blower motor may need replacing. I mention this since it will affect the workspace with the advent of very cold weather. I did not spend much time checking the facility since my attention was to be on the missiles.

Nike Ajax Missiles, Boosters and rails

There is no getting away from the fact that these units are in a state of deterioration that has been going on for some time. Fortunately they are now under cover and in a place that they may be worked on. As near as we can tell we have a virtually complete pair as well.

The rails are in fair shape. There are some rust throughs and also some crude patches applied. There has been angle iron welded on and large diameter pipe welded onto the bottom of the rails. It is unknown how they were displayed previously. Possibly the 90 degree section was anchored into a wall, standing the missiles at sort of a “parade rest” angle. Regardless, there will be a necessary reworking of the steelwork. There should be some discussion of how we want these units displayed so that it can be designed and fabricated accordingly.

The booster sections are probably in the better shape of all the components (though they too are in rough shape). The primary issue we face overall is the amount of paint that has been slathered on these poor beasts over the years. The reason that I consider this the primary issue is because we cannot even calculate all the repair issues due to the coatings.

The screws and fasteners are buried deep within the multiple coatings. What we can see is the expansive decomposition of the fin material in places. My best guess is that the fins were some composite with an aluminum skin similar in construction method to a surfboard. We can use automotive repair procedures on these to clean and patch but we will need to research further as to what causes this to happen. Hopefully a fully patched and painted fin will not continue to undergo this type of breakdown, but I would rather not rely on hope. I have started checking out sites for more references but they are slim indeed. Any help in this area would be greatly appreciated.

Speaking of fins, I see no way to repair and refinish these missiles without removing the fins (and probably most of the panels).

In seeing the general condition of these units overall I have no illusion that this is going to be a simple or straightforward project. Many of the components that will be dealing with are old, fragile and badly corroded, not to mention embedded in many layers of different paint coatings.

The first order of business will be to get these units arranged in a suitable fashion in the building so that they may be worked on as a group. I have lifted an end of each piece so I know that 3 or 4 guys can maneuver them successfully. They need to be arrayed so that there is room to access each side of each piece with relative ease. If the existing cradles do not work well we can substitute a simple sawhorse arrangement. Since the rails will need welding, we should include a request for a working 220v receptacle. There is a welder there but I never looked for a working socket.

The first major task will be to chemically strip all the coatings from the missiles. I know I had talked about media blasting, and we may return to that in some form later in the project but the amount of substrate is too great and we run the risk of damaging the fragile parts. I will note that we are still taking a risk with chemical strippers but we cannot disassemble and repair without getting the bolts and screws uncovered. I am inclined towards using an aircraft type stripper but have not settled that issue.

The next step will be one of disassembly. This is likely going to be a nut buster and a heart breaker. Please understand that I am guessing that at least 2/3rds of the attachment fasteners will snap. This will require us to drill them out and provide a system of captive fasteners on the missile’s interior. Since I have not even seen the interior of these missiles this will be configured as we go.

After full disassembly the individual pieces (fins, transition pieces, etc.) will be repaired and refinished piecemeal awaiting reassembly.

The missile and booster shells will be assembled, tested for fin attachment and then painted.

All remaining parts will be attached.

The launch rails will be redesigned for whatever the group deems appropriate. They will be patched and refinished accordingly.

We will need to decide what configuration the display will appear in and insure that our missile attachment scheme will accommodate it.


Permission to publish, and comments ;-))
Reformatted into HTML

James Fee Langendoen e-mailed saying
I was a fulltime NG TTR operator (though more of a guard and generator operator in reality) at NY94 in Franklin Lakes, NJ (my hometown) from mid 68 until decommissioning. I didn't really think much about it over the years. Then, a few months back I went to take the tour of the Fort Hancock site NY56 in Sandy Hook NJ. The volunteers there are amazing and really good guys. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was helping them giving the public tours.

We have two Nike Ajax missiles that I have offered to restore or at least make presentable for public display. I have had some experience in the automotive refinishing field but there are several features of these missiles that are significantly different from anything I have worked with. I found many helpful things on your site but I was wondering if you could help point me in a direction for the "bodywork" of these? While you may have it on your site, I haven't found it yet.

and included a very organized "proposal", see above

So I sent the request for information to "the usual suspects", and asked for permission to web publish his "proposal".

The "dialog" follows:

> Sure you can post the proposal
    Thanks much
>                   - maybe it'll help keep me from coming to my senses.

Who wants to be full of sense? - doesn't even sound good -
I claim crazy people
    - live longer
    - and have more fun
Look at me, 80 in a few months,
and still complaining about the government
    which we crazy people elect

Enjoy, heck, why not ??
   Ed Thelen

Some follow-on messages
Subject: Nike Restoration
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 2011 15:04:50 -0400


I have been quite successful in getting the local vocational -tech school with a paint and body shop program to take this on as a class project. Not only do they get experience, but they are acknowledged by the local media (TV and newspapers) at an unveiling ceremony. Win –win!

We are currently having a Nike Hercules transported to Miami for display at Everglades National Park. Our partner in restoration is the George T. Baker School of aviation at Miami International Airport who does the same thing for the same reason.


Hi Charles,

I thank you for your input regarding a vo-tech but for this project I am committed to the task done in place. That is, of course, provided that the existing arrangements with the NPS hold up. On a personal note, I am actually looking forward to the project and will be the primary tech. I have experience in automotive bodywork and painting and have no illusions about the depth of "trouble" I am getting into. However it is primarily that reason that I would be hesitant to farm it out. This should be a delightful chellenge.

I honestly appreciate your input and will pass your information on to the others in my group. That way they will have an option if I get hit by the proverbial crosstown bus .


October 25, 2011 Report - Getting Started
Ed & Charles,

I just wanted to electronically “stop by and say Hello”.

I finally got the Ajax project started. I figured that the best way to document the project and to keep me honest I would start a blog. You can see it here:

I’ll be the first to admit that the pace is painfully slow, but hell, I’ve got a full-time and part-time job while doing this. No lack of ear to ear grinning enjoyment though! There are certainly more than a few genuinely tough obstacles but that’s what makes it a challenge.

What is probably more amazing is the way stuff tends to snowball. The guys at Sandy Hook NPS finally connected on a deal they started brokering in 1998 with Picatinny Arsenal. All of a sudden my project has more or less doubled. Last week they delivered 2 more Ajax missiles. I went down on Sunday and started to photo document them.

I will be going back this weekend to work on the original missiles and will post the results in the blog.

Blazing Skies!


Here’s a copy of the album invitation of the new missile pictures I sent to the guys I volunteer with:

You are invited to view Jim Langendoen's photo album:
Picatinny Missiles
If you click the "Slide Show" button, you will get a slide show

Message from Jim Langendoen:

Hi All,

I want to apologize for not doing a write-up yet (we brought home a new puppy Saturday from a breeder in Massachusetts). I went to the Hook yesterday to start documenting the new missiles' initial condition and start formulating a plan to refurbish them. I did not spend a lot of time as I was dog tired (pardon the pun). Here are the pictures I took. It will give you all a better idea of what's ahead.

Big picture observations:

  • The mounted missile is missing its lower booster fin

  • The container missile may well be missing all its fins (I couldn't crawl deep enough in to see)

  • The container is NOT a clamshell design and is in pretty rough shape.

  • All in all I am not deterred by the overall shape of them.

  • The next discussion should be do we want to get them into the A&S bldg. for repair before the winter?

Oct 2012, Hurricane Sandy - devastation :-(( - from James Langendoen
It occurred to me that you fellas might not know the state of my Ajax Restoration project. The Sandy superstorm (or whatever adjective you might choose to use) left my project in shambles. The damage was so catastrophic at Sandy Hook that the National Park Service has denied permission to go back until further notice. They are concerned that the storm could have uncovered unexploded ordinance. I was able to go in one time and get some pictures. The storm surge swept through the A&S building and raised hell. I found one of the booster fins partially buried in the overwash sand but no idea how many others are out there. I hope I can get back in before they move in heavy equipment to “clean up”.

It’s been two months and I still have not updated my blog. It just leaves you feeling really empty




Tidal Pond

Charles Carter e-mailed Jim Jim Langendoen that he has a lead on another missile -