Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Box of Learning and some notes on Perspective

I was clearing out space in the garage and cleaning up a bit when I came across my Box of Learning -  really just a collection of all the metal I've had to cut out of the car and patch. I thought it would be interesting in the sense of 'full disclosure' to show a little bit to future and aspiring amature restorers (such as myself) an idea of what can be lurking beneath the surface of that 'clean, rust-free' example they came across on Craigslist. Even in the case of my particular car, which was remarkably complete and mostly rust-free, there is still plenty of work hiding under the surface.

This is what it looked like in Brett's backyard before I trailered it home.

Here's what is in the Box of Learning - all the rotten metal patches I've pulled off the car so far in my restoration efforts. What's funny is that I know where each little piece came from and what was involved in getting it fixed. Little concentrations of corrosion from a fender, a frame rail, a floor pan, a toe board, a strut rod mount. Most of those stories have already been told here. Anyone who's had an actual 'rusty' Mustang would openly scoff at this paltry collection of patches. Some folks out there are doing serious frame and structure work on their cars due only to rust.

Don't forget the bent floor support...

And this one - which, to be fair, is really six different pieces. 
I guess this counts as structural as well,

I still have the radiator support and the passenger side quarter panel (!) to go. And I would bet there is still some hidden rust hiding in the car, just waiting to be discovered.  

So here's the lesson - any car you get from this vintage will have some issues like this. Much like people, some of these issues are visible right away, others only after you live with them for a while. The more you dig, the more you'll find.  But hopefully, all the time and effort will pay off in the end.

I'm throwing away all the metal from the Box of Learning. It's really just a tetanus shot waiting to happen. However, I'm still considering putting the shock tower assembly in the yard, called something deep and philosophical like "Untitled #3" and see if anyone bites on my approach to Art. Who knows, maybe I can sell it for enough to get that disc brake upgrade package I've been eyeing...

Friday, January 22, 2016

Prepping the new Front frame rail/shock tower assembly - old stuff cleaned up, new stuff prepped for installation

Getting the old damaged shock tower assembly out of the car felt like a pretty big step in the project - a sort of inflection point in the trajectory of the project, delineating the "tearing it all apart" phase from the "putting it back together" phase.

Then I realized how much work still remained just to get the new part installed...from cleaning up the metal interfaces on the car where the new part will be welded in. plus all the test fitting and measuring of the new part to ensure proper placement, plus identifying and prepping all the new plug weld locations on both the car and the new assembly. It's a surprising amount of work still to do.

Here's where I left off last time - the shock tower assembly is out, but I'm nowhere near ready to install or test fit the new one until I clean up a little bit.

First off, the radiator support is in the way. The new part will slide in from the front, but this piece is in the way (I should have seen this coming, actually). I am going to replace this whole assembly a little later on as well, so I can whack it up as needed to make my life easier for this part of the process. Two easy cuts remove most of the interfering parts on the passenger side and the top brace.

This is the remaining piece of the frame rail still welded onto the strut rod (the diagnoal piece here). I need to remove the remnant so I can test fit the new assembly, and I might as well just clean and prep the metal for welding while I'm at it.

I already had the spot welds drilled, they were just stubborn and wouldn't separate. Now that I could see the top, it was easy to clean up the drilled holes and remove the piece. Then I ground down the remaining bead welds, smoothed it out, and put some weld-thru primer on it. Notice I left the area around the holes bare metal - I don't want anything contaminating the welds, to the primer is just used to protect bare metal. I also took the time to strip the paint off this piece on the sides and top as the whole engine bay will get primed with epoxy later as well.

After a little weld cleanup on the firewall where the old rear apron was attached, we're left with a "car" that's ready for test fitting. The old cowl brace is attached here to help hold the new assembly during fit-up.

The sexy new assembly. I love shiny new parts. 

Fitting the new piece with clamps and the cowl brace. There's also a bar under the frame rails to help level and support the piece. Shown here, it's nice and stable, even though there aren't any screws or welds holding it in place yet.

The view from the engine bay. This is after a lot of measuring and tweaking for fit and dimensional harmony. I scribed all the plug weld locations on the new assembly so I can strip just The e-coating. It is fine protection for metal that is hidden from view post-welding, so I only want to take off what's needed for welding. It looks like a great fit....except...

...except for that gap between the firewall and the rear apron! The new piece is properly located, so I can't just slide it rearward to close the gap - it's 0.33 inches, more than 5x the dimensional tolerance for this part. Upon inspection, there are two things going on.

First, it's common to have a little gap here apparently, but most folks just 'force' the gap shut with sheet metal screws and weld it down. I'm not interested in that because this gap is just too wide.

Second, I think some of this gap is due to the force of the front end collision. The firewall is shoved aft ~ 0.2 inches. I'm not going to be able to pull that back, and I'm not going to replace the firewall, and since everything else lines up an this wont affect anything else, I'm going to come up with a solution...later.

I pulled the new assembly out and starting the cleaning process. The firewall is pretty gross. There's paint, dirt and sealant all over it. It also looks like someone waved a can of black spray paint in here at some point in the past. Ick.

Nothing provides quite the rush that stipping does. Look at that clean, bare metal. 

The other side was just as bad. This is where the steering column, brake booster and wiring looms come through the engine bay. 

Stipped bare. This is a messy chore, but I love the results. 

Time to prep the new assembly - stripping off all the e-coat from my earlier scribe marks. Again, the factory weld/sealant manual describes where and how many welds for each junction.

These are for the strut rod support to weld to the bottom of the frame rail.

 Here's where the frame rail joins the toeboard/firewall.

The two holes for the sway bar bracket to strut rod support.

This is the flange on the rear apron that is supposed to be welded to the firewall. I have a cunning plan - so I won't need this particular flange.

So I zinged off the flange at the bend a left a nice straight apron. Stay tuned for the cunning plan.

During test fit, I noticed the holes in the toe board didn't fully overlap the frame rail flange. I needed more metal. So I cut as strip of metal and butted it up for welding.

Now the flange will completely cover the holes in the toeboard.

This section of toeboard where the frame rail fits will be hidden forever, so it gets a coat of primer - again, leaving the hole perimeters bare for good weld purity.

After all that, NOW we're ready to start fitting for installation.

Next up - dry installing the new assembly, test welds, and body panel fit check.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Removing the Front Frame Rail/Shock tower assembly

Probably the most intimidating part of the project so far is the removal of the frame rail/shock tower assembly. As I've noted everything on the right side of the engine bay is damaged in some way and needs to be replaced.

Fortunately, this entire assembly is now reproduced as a single piece, so I'm going to remove my old broken parts as one assembly and install the new one in its place. After this, I'll remove and replace the radiator support as well, so I don't have to worry about being careful in during the removal about causing any collateral damage to the radiator support.

The new piece is has the full frame rail, the front (battery) apron, the rear (hood hinge) apron, shock tower with extra support plates (based on what Ford installed on big-block cars - but you don't get a choice in this, it just comes this way), the sway bar mount, a coil spring cover, and the rear apron-to-cowl brace. It's all assembled in a jig to correct dimensions (right?) and covered in e-coating. The new assembly weighs in at 50 lbs, whereas the original I remove here is only 45 lbs, about 5 lbs lighter. The shock brace plates on the new assembly are most of that difference I bet.

The diagonally-mounted strut rod support (connects the bottom of the frame rail to the radiator support) will be kept since it's already in the correct place per the frame shop measurements (and mine). So it will stay mounted to the car by at least one end through this entire process. I'd worry about getting it mounted wrong If I took it off, and that's bad - the strut rod location is critical for proper suspension alignment. If it was welded back in all cockeyed, the car might never track straight as it went down the road.

So, let's get to it - lots of pictures in this one, I'll keep the commentary short and point out mistakes/pointers as we go.

Where the front apron met the radiator support was already a mess from a poorly-repaired previous accident. Those aren't factory welds, and notice the big gap - these pieces should be in contact all the way top to bottom. I cut these welds and the few remaining spot welds holding the front of the apron to the rad support.

At the very front of the frame rail, I had to cut an access hole to get to the hidden 4 spot welds that connect the rad support crossmember to the inner frame rail. I thought about this for a while and finally decide since all these pieces are being replaced, this was the best answer.

Access hole opened up and now you can see the hidden spot welds. Of course, now you have to reach in there and drill them out...

This sucked - no two ways about it. And, as I'll soon show, possibly entirely unnecessary. 

Still at the rad support/crossmember interface at the front of the frame rail. There are spot welds on top, on the front and on the bottom still to drill out. Here you can just see the little indentions where the factory welds are located.

And on the front of the crossmember... 

And on the bottom of the frame rail. I followed along with the factory weld and sealant manual and found it pretty accurately described the location and quantity of every spot weld I needed to remove. Starting to drill out the welds...

Once I had all the welds drilled out at this interface, I still needed to separate the pieces with a 5-in-1 painters tool to get some daylight in between the parts.  Interior of the frame rail doesn't look too rusty, no real rot in there. Pity it's all bent up...

More prying/cutting of drilled spot welds for final separation... 

Here is where to sway bar mount connects to the strut rod mounting. There are two spot welds plus a bead weld on the front  that needed to be cut (yellow chauk).  The spot welds were easy, but the bead weld resisted all my clever tricks...

Here's how I finally got around that stupid bead weld - I just sectioned out the part of the sway bar mount that was in the way. My new assembly also comes with a new sway bar mount, so no worries.

 This is the bottom view where the strut rod mount connects to the bottom of the frame rail. 5 spot welds - I drilled them all the way out because I'll use the holes on the bottom for my plug welds later for reassembly.

This is the brace that holds the top of the rear apron to the cowl. There's only about 8 spot welds here to remove but I have other issues - I think the collision damage has pushed this back a little and creased the end of the cowl where this brace connects to it. I may have to beat the cowl panel back into shape before I can install the new brace here.

I love that everytime I remove a piece I find dirt/crud/rust underneath it. No, this doesn't make me worry at all...

Old vs. New apron brace. Again, new part was included in the assembly I ordered. 

The frame rail also attaches to the firewall/toeboard area. I drilled these all the way out from inside the cabin so I could to my welding at a regular 45-degree angle. My hope is that the new frame rail will line up its assembly flange with these holes, just like it did at the factory, and I can plug weld through these holes to the frame rail.

 This is where the rear apron meets the firewall. While there are lots of spot welds holding this interface together, I just zinged a cut from top to bottom so could remove the flange after getting the big assembly out of the way first. As it is here, I can't really get to these welds from the outside, and drilling them from inside under the dashboard would be just awful.

The weld and sealant manual is very handy BUT you really should thumb through the whole thing before you start just disassembling the car with reckless abandon.  While the spot weld assembly pages are pretty much in order of how the car was built, there is a section at the back that has a lot of supplemental bead welds, fillet welds, and other miscellaneous welds that you may not know about. This one above, where the rad support meets the inner frame rail is one of those little nuggets in the back of the book. Again, no good way to cut that, but both pieces will be replaced, so again I just zinged a cut around the vertical bead weld.

Ok, blog confessional time. I had planned on drilling all these welds and just pulling the assembly out to the side. But the jig was in the way. Oops. So I decide to pull out forward - but now the radiator support and crossmember are in the way.

No big deal - just cut all the way around the perimeter of that interface with a whiz wheel and we're done. Please note however, this just made all that spot weld drilling and cutting I did earlier up here totally unnecessary. I could have just made these 6 cuts and been done with it instead of screwing around with the 15 spot welds. Frak.

Cutting crossmember just inside the superfluously-cut spot welds. 

See how much easier this is?  

Here we go. All the welds are cut. Now all that's left is the pulling... 

Blamo! The car is now officially undriveable. I finally found a theft-deterrent that works. And in my town, that's really saying something.

The old assembly in all its glorious mess. I plan to surprise Good Lady Wife and turn this into a piece of yard art. She's a creative, right-brain girl, I'm sure, she'll love it.

Total time to do this removal was about 16 hours. I burned up two spot weld bits in the process and managed to get metal shavings in my eye despite double-eye protection. No harm, but sorta irritating (wait, are puns still allowed on the internet?)

Next up - the radiator support falls under the knife.