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OLDER ENTRIES PRIOR TO 9/21/15
Rust be gone!
All rust has been removed from the bottom floor pans from the underside of the body tub. I wasn't happy with some of the areas more prone to rusting so I reinforced those areas with another plate of 20 ga metal to hopefully prevent future repeats of rust.
The passenger side had a lot more rust, and I originally thought I would have to replace the front floor pan and even bought a panel for it, but upon further inspection, it wasn't as bad as I estimated. The rear pan needed help, but I had gained enough confidence and experience to know I could fabricate a new metal patch for the damaged areas. Worst case, if I failed, I'd order new pans, but if I could fix what was there, that would be a $500 savings. Worth spending a few hours- okay, a day or two, fixing what was there.
This required making a patch that was half of a cylinder with flanges to weld to. Also cut out and replace the flat drain hole area, and drill a new drain hole.
I'm also fixing any damage to the body tub including the seat track mounts where they had been torn at some point in the past. I reinforced one mount that was a bit dodgy. The captive nut was damaged so I cut it all out and replaced it.
The rear pan was full of pin holes and thin metal. Cleaned up the area, probed for good solid metal and patched to it.
Cleaned up the passenger side of the body tub floor front to back and degreased it. All undercoating removed down to good paint, all rust removed. It has been treated with a rust treating primer just as a preventative step. Once I get the driver side similarly treated, the entire bottom side will be coated with a bed liner.
I've been dancing around the body tub doing this or that small repair while avoiding the real issues- floor pan rust and side sill replacement. Yes, I know they are there, but I wanted to build up confidence on smaller repairs first. Maybe if I ignore it, they will automagically fix themselves, right? Tearing into the floor is scary. Once you commit, that's it, you're in for it.
I decided to just DO it. I have replacement panels to cut patches from. I have experience in welding this thin sheet metal. I've gained enough experience to know I could fix whatever mistakes I make, so let's just cut into it and find out what is there.
After marking all the known rust holes and damage, I moved another inch past those areas to good metal. I didn't want to mess with the sides or curved corners as they were in good shape and the replacement pan didn't have these nice corners. It took a bit of nerves to make that first cut with the cutoff wheel into the floor pan, but it had to come out eventually. I drilled out the spot welds on the sill flange and popped open the seam. Within five minutes and one full wheel used up, I had my opening cut and prepped. Holding my patch panel to this, I marked the hole from the inside of the vehicle and cut the patch panel about 1/2-3/4" larger than the opening. A bit of trimming and I realized this was just simple metal work. I hole punched the panel with a flanger/punch, then tacked the panel into place after spraying all seams with weld through primer. A few more tack welds and it was in place. Huh. That wasn't that hard.
Where it didn't quite fit, I used a small hammer and screwdriver to punch / adjust the metal to fit around the existing protrusions, making small tack welds as I went. When everything was happy, I was able to stitch weld the panel in with hundreds of small tiny tack welds. A flap wheel dressed the welds and I rewelded some weak areas that needed attention. I made a small patch for one area I wasn't happy with and burned that in as well. Overall, it was surprisingly easier than I had worried about. I credit that to the previous work on other areas of the car. This is one area where you want strong joints, but appearance isn't important as the floor pan will be undercoated below and treated from above and completely hidden from view.
The floor pan behind the seat is in good shape for the passenger side. The driver side needs help in front with a new panel, but the damage to the pan in back is something I think I can make my own patch for. It is neat to be able to address something that only a few years ago I would have gone with fiberglass instead.
Spin, baby, spin!
Got the body rotisserie mods to a pair of engine stands completed and mounted the body tub to the rotisserie. I had built one before and had the experience to know what to do differently this time. I had all the brackets welded up and ready when I brought the stands to the body cart. Surprising to me, everything actually lined up and didn't need any alterations. It was more like assembling a kit which was nice for a change.
Brackets were made to create an adjustable height and width mount that attached to the face of an engine stand. The engine stand itself was beefed up with angular support and extendable legs on the side when the tub needs to be rotated. It stands solid and at a good height.
Now the body tub is on the rotisserie and I've been working to remove an old temporary underbody coating I put on when I had to put the car in storage before the work was done. Power washing has removed the loose stuff. Plans are for a rubberized coating instead which will be much more permanent and should help to preserve the bodywork from future rust.
I turned my attention to the interior, intent on making at least a bit more ready for paint. The area in front of the fuel tank seemed like a good choice. The sound deadener mat had to be removed which took a putty knife, hammer, and mineral spirits. About an hour later and it was clean and ready. I sanded down any defects in the existing paint, even though it's all going to get coated later with bodyliner anyways. It's just a habit. If I see a ding in the metal and have the ability to fix it, I will do it.
I see some more dings on the tunnel cover that I thought were spot welds originally, but might be worth taking out. Not sure though. Harder to reach around both sides at once. Might need a helper there to hold the dolly. It's in an area nobody will see, so maybe just skip it.
Got more work to do on the side sills, rear wings, and the floor. But I can see progress. I can fix this.
The back of the car fell off!
After examining the rear valence closely, I found more rust in areas that would need attention. I had put in a lot of time already in fixing the rear valance, and it was good practice, but since I had the entire valence panel already to cut peices out of for patches, I decided to just cut out the panel and replace it all in one piece. It would give the best result, if a bit drastic. It is held on with a bunch of spot welds, but very doable with easy to access spot welds and no finish welds needed.
Once all the spot welds had been removed on the outside seams on each side and the bottom, I attempted to split the sheet metal apart at the seams. This took a bit of work with a cold chisel to avoid damaging the metal I wanted to keep. I recommend the use of a seam splitter. I might order one even though I don't think I'll need one now. It could be very handy in the future.
The inside corners of the top area next to the tail lights has a spot of brazing that will need to be drilled through. The spot welds from the wing to the replacement panel also must be removed. There is one hidden spotweld *inside* the tail light panel with a small sheet metal tab that is accessible if you drill down verticaly through the bottom hole in the tail light panel to the side.
Once you get all the spot welds removed, the entire panel can be pulled free leaving what looks like a very scary situation.What have I done?
It's not that bad. Once you clean up all the rust, nasty ragged metal, and look it over, it's just metal. I found the bottom vertical lip of the floor was too far gone to attach a new panel to, so it had to be cut back and a new piece welded in. It's a simple piece to fabricate. I cut a piece of 20 gauge sheet metal to the width and clamped it to the existing lip, then traced the shape from the back side. I cut it to shape and then tack welded it to the lip with a few holes punched in the replacement panel to get good adhesion. After that, it was 6,000 tiny spotwelds along the right angle joint of old and new metal on the boot floor. Take your time and use an air gun to cool all your weld joints quickly as you move. Weld, cool, move an inch, repeat. When you get to the end, go back to the beginning and lay a new spot weld next to an exisitng one. Keep at it and you'll eventually create a continuous seam.
Once this was done, I was able to use a flap wheel to clean up the joint, round it over, and make it disappear. You can't tell there was ever a seam there. I'm very chuffed at how well it turned out. It really built up my confidence that this can work.
I took advantage of the rear panel being out to have easy access to the boot floor and rear wings. I cleaned up the metal, removed the dings and dents from things in the boot, fixed a metal tear where the bumper brackets mounted, and brought everything back into shape. All rust was rooted out and removed. Body seam filler was removed and will be replaced once primed. Bare metal was treated with etching primer, dried, and then treated with a filler primer. It's been sanded down and made clean. I had to keep reminding myself this is the boot/trunk, and won't be seen when done. I plan on using a rubberized truck bed lining to avoid rust in the future, and all of that work will be hidden from view, but *I* know it is fixed. And with the photos here, now you do too.
Test fit the rear panel in place. A bit of massaging the metal and cleaning up the mounting areas allowed for a good fit up on top, but the bottom was pushed out from the bottom seam. If I clamped the top in place, I could push it in at the bottom pretty close to the right shape, but not without potentially damaging the surface metal.
I came up with a solution. I tack welded the top on each side and a couple on the seams on the side. I then used a ratchet strap that ran from the fuel tank mounts inside the boot, out over the panel and down around under the body tub to a mount below. This allowed the ratchet strap to sit flat on the panel and gently pull the panel into shape in the right contour. I thought there might be a problem, but this method worked well to bring everything into alignment. A few tack welds at the bottom and the panel was fitted correctly.
I wasn't happy with the left side fit and ended up redmoving the tack welds to reposition it. This is why you only tack things in place!
Once everything was good, I did the full welds around all seams, then finised the welds flat. Since these raised seams are covered by a piece of trim, I wanted them to be flat to get the best fit. Even on the bottom seams where they are exposed, I cleaned up and finished the area just because iI know it's there.
It is amazing how much rigidity this adds to the back of the car. The entire bottom section of the boot floor was rusted out where it connected to the rear valence and I didn't notice how much the body could flex there, but now that 'it is solid, the back of the car feels 'tight'. It's solid. I'm very pleased.
All the joints were treated previously with weld through primer. I scuffed up the black coating and shot it with more primer, getting everything matched up, including the back side of the panel.
There are couple of spots that need some glazing putty to address a scuff or two with the grinding wheel, but otherwise, the boot is done. Next up will be making body rotisserie mounts to get this onto the rotator so I can address the sills and floors.