Sill Patch Welding

Today I welded in the patch panels I fabricated yesterday for the lower sills, right and left sides. The stock I used to make the patches was 18-gauge galvanized sheet metal. Galvanized metal can release some toxic fumes when it is heated, as in welding, so I am always careful to work in a well-ventilated area and also take the precaution of removing the galvanized coating from the edges of the metal I’ll be welding. I used a wire brush along the edges of both panels on both sides of the metal before getting started.

My first step was to drill out the holes in each patch where the fenders mount onto the sill. I used a 3/8″ bit.

And I repeated the same on the driver’s side.

I found some nuts that seem to fit the bolts that held the fenders on the one side that hadn’t rusted out, though I’m not sure those bolts were original. In any case they were a 5/16″ 24-pitch nuts. I welded them to the inside of the patch panel using my mig welder and moving around the outside perimeter of the nuts using small spot welds.

Here you can see the nuts through the holes I drilled from the underside. The holes are oversized a bit but will allow clearance for the bolts to go through.

Then I held the driver’s side patch into place and tacked it with three spot welds at the corners.

And then I started welding across the top. My technique is to weld the metal into place using numerous spot welds, rather than trying to lay down a continuous bead. This way I am able to keep everything relatively cool and yet still get good penetration of the metal. I worked in three clusters along the top of the patch, welding a spot in each cluster and then moving on to the next cluster.

I worked my way all the way around the bottom of the patch in this manner. I had to do some hammering of the patch with my 5-pound sledge hammer to bring it into shape along the way.

Then I moved over to the passenger side. After ensuring it was a good fit I tacked the patch in the corner.

On this side I wanted to get the top welded in first so I could make the other edges fit and manipulate the shape of the panel as necessary. So I worked across the top with spot welds, allowing some time to cool in between welds.

Then I moved down the right side and then the left side of the patch.

And finally I welded the bottom.

And I finished off the process by grinding down the welds using my angle grinder.

Jack Hole Plug Repair

Tonight I made a quick repair to one of the jack hole plugs that was damaged. One of the little arms that holds the plug into the lower sill underneath the door was broken off and missing. The plugs cover up a small metal tube inside the sill where a post from the OEM jack is inserted to jack up the car. I’ve heard horror stories about the jack slipping out of the tube and gouging up the door. Maybe this happens and maybe it doesn’t, but to me it isn’t worth the risk so I will never jack the car using the original jack in the sill. But when I got the car it had only one plug in place, I was lucky to find the second broken one inside the car and will repair it and put it back into place for an original appearance. I started by stripping the red paint from the plug using a Clean & Strip wheel from 3M.

Here is the good side of the plug, showing one of the arms that holds the plug into the tube. The other arm was missing altogether.

So I just cut out a narrow strip of 18-gauge steel and welded it into place.

And with the repair made the plug popped right back into its rightful place.

Sill Patch Fabrication

Today I spent most of the day fabricating steel patches for the worst-rusted areas of the front fender sills, the area under the front fenders down close to the ground. This is the area where the front fenders bolt to the underside of the body, and an area where the fenders are apt to rust as well as the sills. Although relatively solid, rust holes had begun to penetrate the area and the best course of action was to cut out the rusty sheet metal and replace it with solid steel.

Starting on the driver’s side, I just drew up and cut-out a patch from poster board big enough to cover the rusty area, then I taped the poster board up onto the sill in order to trace the cutting perimeter onto the body.

I traced the outline using a black Sharpie marker.

On the passenger’s side I did the same, and it required a patch of a different shape.

The nice thing about using a poster board template is that I could then lay it flat on my steel stock and trace out the shape the patch would need to be before bending. I used 18-gauge steel for the patches. I cut out the patch using a pair of electric sheet metal shears.

I cut out both the left and right patch panels the same way.

On the driver’s side I made a rough bend in the patch panel so it would have a curve similar to the sill. I just sandwiched the lower edge of the steel between to short lengths of two-by-four and pulled up on the upper edge to bend it.

Then I cut out the rusted sill area from the body just using my Dremmel with the little cut-off wheel. The thin Dremmel cut-off wheels were used up pretty quick so I had to keep switching in new ones.

After cutting halfway around the top I could see that there was plenty of rust inside the sill. In fact, I could see where the bolts that connected the lower fenders into the sill had rusted and broken off in their nuts. I finished cutting out the rest of the area.

Here is the removed rusted-out sill area and a side-by-side with the new patch after I fine-tuned the shape of the patch a little more.

I cleaned up the edges of the remaining surrounding sill using a cleaning wheel on my drill.

Since I had to cut out the nuts that the fenders bolt into at the bottom of the sill, I will need to drill holes and weld in some new nuts onto the patch. I marked the location of the holes in the patch.

Then I moved over to the other side. Instead of using the Dremmel I used my angle grinder furnished with a metal cut-off wheel, which went much faster through the sill. This was definitely a better tool for the job!

There was less rust inside on the passenger’s side but I still had to clean up the remaining metal using a stripping wheel.

Here is the patch panel bent roughly into shape alongside the cutout.

I prepped the inside areas of the sills on both sides by washing them out using Simple Green and also spraying on some Metal Prep to address surface rust. Then I painted on a coat of Eastwood’s Rust Encapsulator. The Rust Encapsulator is supposed to seal in rust and prevent any further deterioration.

I just applied a generous coat of Rust Encapsulator using a brush.

And I did the same on the other side.

Hoodpins Body Filler

Earlier this month I repaired the area in the body where hoodpins had been installed by welding closed the holes and then using body solder to fill them in to level. This afternoon I finished them off by applying some body filler and then sanding the areas smooth. I applied the Metal 2 Metal filler to each side.

Then later in the afternoon, when the filler had dried, I sanded it.

Front Apron Body Filler, Final Sanding

Last week I applied two coats of body filler to the front apron, sanding in-between. After the last coat the surface was rough, so I did a little sanding to straighten it out.

I applied some black guidecoat and sanded again to reveal the high and low spots.

And I also used the guidecoat on the top surface of the apron.

So I continued sanding to bring down the high areas to the level of the lows, creating a uniform surface.

Rear Fender Body Filler, Final Sanding

This morning I did a final sanding of the second coat of body filler I applied to the rear fenders yesterday. I started on the driver’s side, using a hard block with 120-grit paper to hit the straight areas, and then using some finer 150-grit paper in my hand so that I could get into the transitional curves along the fender flares.

Once I’d finished the area was pretty smooth, I’d say 95% of the way there. The rest of the finish will be accomplished in block sanding with the rest of the body.

The passenger side rear fender was a little wavier, so I used my random orbital sander with a 120-grit sanding disk.

To the touch it didn’t feel quite as smooth as the other side, so I applied some guide coat, just using black spray paint.

Then I sanded again using the hard block and the dark areas where the guidecoat didn’t sand off revealed the low spots.

Front Fender Dent Repairs

This afternoon I spent a lot of time doing bodywork on the front fenders. At some point in the car’s life it was clearly involved in a front-end collision on the front passenger side, and the resulting fender repairs left a lot of holes from the slide hammer used to pull out the dents. When I bought the car bondo was spilling through these holes inside the fender, inviting moisture to penetrate the metal under the filler. Also on the driver’s side there was a dent just below the headlight that had been pulled and it required more attention as well.

The first thing I did was to remove any remaining paint and/or filler or seam-sealer from both front fenders, and give them a thorough washing. I scrubbed any residue, grease, or adhesive from both fenders using a brillo pad and some Simple Green. Then I rinsed both well and parked them on the back patio to dry in the sun. After 90 minutes in the July Texas heat the front fenders were totally dry.

I started on the less-mangled driver’s side fender. Here is the dent in the fender and the hole probably used to try to pull the dent using a slide hammer. I used a Clean n Strip wheel in my drill to clean the metal.

With the area cleaned up I used my mig welder to patch the hole.

The welded area I then cleaned by hitting it again with the wheel to remove any scale and then wiping with acetone to get any grease.

The next step was to fill the dent with body solder in order to get it as close to level with the surrounding metal as possible. I brushed on the tinning compound that would enable the solder to bond to the steel.

Then I heated the tin with my propane torch until the impurities burned off brown and black. Those I wiped away with a clean white shop towel.

This left a thin coat of tin that bonds to the steel and the solder bonds to the tin. The body solder will not bond directly to the steel without this step.

Next I started applying the body solder, which comes in rods, by heating the solder and placing dollops from the end of the rod into the dent.

The repair definitely looked rough, but my strategy was to build up the solder above level and then bring it back down with a grinder to make it as smooth as possible. I have found applying the solder smooth when hot to be impossible.

So I used three stacked cut-off wheels in my 4 1/2″ angle grinder to grind away the excess solder to try to get it as level as possible.

And as you can see from the side the result was close to the profile of the original metal, albeit not a smooth surface.

After grinding I wiped the area again with acetone.

In order to get the solder repair smooth I applied a thin coat of body filler on top. I’ve been using Metal 2 Metal filler from Evercoat, which I like a lot. I put a scoop of filler about the size of a golf ball onto my board.

Then I added 12 drops of hardener per the instructions on the can, and gathered the filler on a plastic spreader.

I applied the filler without working it too much on the surface, which I’ve found just makes the surface rough. Once again I applied a coat that would be proud of the final surface so that I could sand it later in order to bring it back to flat and blend the edges into the surrounding fender.

And here is a shot from the side of the repair.

Next I repeated the same process on the passenger side front fender, which was in worse condition. I welded up all the holes used to straighten the fender (must have been a bad dent!) and then cleaned and applied tinning compound.

And I applied a mountain of body solder.

And I spent some time grinding the solder back. This shot was about midway through the process.

Rear Fenders, Second Coat of Body Filler

This morning I started by sanding down the first coat of body filler I applied to the rear fenders last weekend. I used a 100-grit sanding pad and tried to work the filler to smooth out the body lines of the fender flares the best I could.

Here are some shots after I finished the sanding. I tried to feather the filler in to the existing sheetmetal so the repairs would blend in to the body and eventually become invisible.

And then I applied a second thin coat of filler after sanding. In order to get these repairs satisfactory I will need to apply filler, sand, apply filler, sand, and repeat…

We’re Moving!

So yesterday was actually my last day of work; I’ve taken a new job that starts in mid-August and is located in BALTIMORE. Career-wise it is a tremendous opportunity for me and also I grew up and still have family in Maryland, so it will be nice to be closer to home.

I intentionally left a week to work on the roadster to get it as far along as possible before we move out. After this week I will need to focus on getting everything packed up and ready to move and getting the house ready to go on the market. As much as I appreciate the art in a roadster, I’m not sure that having one in hundreds of pieces in the garage would be seen by potential buyers as a selling point, so the first order of business is to get it stabilized and cleared out. Lots of work to do, but I have the next week or so to focus on the project.

Passenger Door, Second Coat of Body Filler

And I sanded down the first coat of filler on the passenger side door and applied a second coat. In addition to the large dent in the door, the bottom of the door was mishapen, probalby as a result of door dings created over many years. I sanded the first coat using my random orbital sander and then wiped away the dust using acetone.

After the sanding I applied another coat, trying to feather it out towards the edges of the dent so I could sand it smooth, only building up filler in the very center of the dent.