Saturday, April 30, 2016

Weekend of Car Fun, Part 1

Well, the girls are off having fun at Astro Camp.  I'm having fun here.  It's am amazing how much progress you can make when no one is around to interrupt you.  Although I'd rather be interrupted, to tell you the truth.

It's a beautiful weekend for this kind of thing.  High of 85 and it rained a bit, bringing temps down to the 60s.  Perfect for applying filler.  The humidity is surprisingly low, even with the rain (I know, like, what?), so when it started I just pushed the car farther into the garage and kept going.  It doesn't seem to have been a problem.

First on Friday evening, I tweaked the windscreen to fix the rubber seal.  "Tweaked" in the sense of "took it apart, cleaned all the innards, then put it back together".  The folks at Anytime Auto Glass did a fine job, and I'm not complaining.  It's not their fault I'm anal about car things.  The seal fits better now--there were a couple of spots where the remnants of the old seal was pushing on the new one, so cleaning that old crud out made a difference.  And I learned how it went together.  But I'm not doing it again.  They earned their keep on this one.

The result...


On to the car itself...  I finished all my touchups with the welder and went to town with the filler.  It looks like a lot, but it's not--and when you run your hands over it it's like glass.  Or "buttah".

I had a booboo when I was fitting the passenger's door.  I managed to screw up the sill with a screwdriver, because who knew that prying on something made a dent in the thing you pried against.  Well, my $15 dent puller came to the rescue, and a "little bit of filler" took care of the few remaining depressions.  It looks like I never touched it, other than the fact that it's not metal colored.

I've got a little bit of work to do on the driver's side A post, and the bottom of the driver's door.  But I won't bother until I remove the wings since I've got to fix up a couple of low spots on the edge where the wing meets the post.  Same on the passenger's side.  Maybe I'll get to it tomorrow--but probably not.

Frankenbonnet is done, and only needed, you guessed it, "a little bit of filler".  The total thickness is less than 1/8" at its worst, and covers the scars quite nicely. All that where you don't see filler is beautifully smooth metal.  I mean it... it is really good.  And yes, I'm bragging, cause it's not bragging when you got skills.

The driver's side wing is also done.  Only a skim coat was necessary for most of it; a little more in front to finish off the welding magic that made everything line up so nicely.  The wing got smacked long ago (like the rest of the car, it seems... was this thing in a demolition derby?) and the filler covers up the remainder of the dents I couldn't get out.  Not too bad, though.

Look at these gaps.  Oooooooooh.  The driver's side wing looks just like the other one, shape-wise.  The curve matches and is oh so smooth.


The front valance, too.  It's not finished, but it's really close.  There's more filler on there than I expected, but I can sand it down a bit more yet.  The big fun was using my $15 dent puller to get a deep dent out, filling in the holes the puller made, and then smoothing everything over.  The panel isn't accessible from the back in that spot, or I would have just pounded it out--and I wasn't going to cut it off and weld it back on just for a dent.  Even I have limits.

So this took me 9 hours of (honestly!) back-breaking work.  I mean it--my back, really my everything, is killing me.  Good thing I did all the laundry earlier today, because no way could I bend over to take care of it now.  Same with the litter box.  Given that one of our cats practically lives in the thing, there's no chance I'd do that now.

Hopefully I can move in the morning.  I've still got over half a day to have fun in the garage; then I have to finish my chores and clean the garage before I pick up the intrepid adventurers from school in the evening.

Man, I have never been so glad to almost be done with something.  Good thing, too.  I ran out of 80 grit sandpaper (but I have 120 grit, which should suffice) and I'm almost out of hardener for the filler.  Better order some.
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Thursday, April 28, 2016

I Haz A Windscreen

Amazingly, I was able to get my windscreen (you know, windshield) replaced under my insurance policy.  But I couldn't find anyone that was willing to take on the job.  The folks at Anytime Auto Glass totally came through for me.  They even took some pictures.  Look how nice.



The rubber seal doesn't fit quite right in the corners, so I might dink around with it a bit.  But I am really pleased that they were able to do the job, and worked with me to find the parts I needed (ordered from Victoria British instead of a cheap glass house).  I recommend them to anyone needing glass replacement in AZ.
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wing Welding Fun

Short day today.  So I finished up Frankenbonnet by welding in the mount for the prop rod clip, and straightened out a couple of low spots. It looks really good, if I may say so myself.

I also tackled the front driver's side fender where it didn't quite fit properly after my last attempt to straighten it out.  I basically removed what I had done and welded in new metal.  I am really happy with the result, and even a little proud.  It looks just like the other side and the gaps are now nice and even.



For reference, here's a before/after shot of the driver's side fender and how much better it is.  Sooooo much better.


I'm getting there.  A couple of minor touchups with the welder, a little work on the front valance, and I'm back to filler, if the weather holds out.  This is the weekend I get to myself when the girls go to Astro Camp, so I'd really like to get the entire car done and ready for fine sanding.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016


You know the old saying, "You only have to be brave for a moment"?  Well, I was brave today.

After a week of agonizing over what I should do with The Pig, I finally manned up and made a decision. I decided to cut off the front of The Pig (the "head") and transplant it onto the bonnet that is good except for the front couple of inches (which I shall call "Scarface").

The brave part wasn't until about halfway through, but it was definitely an "oh man I better not mess this up" moment, because I'd end up with nothing if I screwed up.

So I started by cutting off Scarface's head.  MWAHAHAHA

Then, after measuring VERY CAREFULLY, I cut the head off The Pig.  (To tell the truth, that sounds kind of tasty.) This was the brave part. I spent something like $300 on The Pig, including shipping and blasting--what am I, nuts?  Yes.  I am nuts.  I was careful to cut right at the edge of the internal bracing, so you wouldn't see the weld from underneath unless you looked for it.

It was kind of a pain.  Removing the front of The Pig was a simple as cutting straight across and then removing the remnants of the underside bracing. But I needed to save that bracing intact on the Scarface bonnet. It took a while, but it turned out okay.

Then I set the head of The Pig on the body of Scarface. Behold my measuring awesomeness.

Then, some welding. I still haven't mastered welding long seams without distortion.  I tried really hard to keep things lined up and cooled off.  But it came out well enough and I will only need, you guessed it, "a little bit of filler" to make it right. It will be less than 1/8", so I'm OK with that.

The end result...


I'm happy. The bonnet is straight and solid throughout, and no hills or gullies anywhere except at the weld line, which is not too bad, actually. And it lines up pretty nicely.  The driver's side is a little off, but I know what I need to do to fix it, and it's not the bonnet.


This time, it really will only need a little bit of filler to look good.

So the head transplant is complete, and the patient is still alive and looking good. I have to remove the little bracket that holds the prop rod from the body of The Pig and weld it to Scarface (which I christen thee "Frankenbonnet"). Then, I'm back in business with the filler.

I might get one more weekend, maybe two, before The Man Upstairs turns on the broiler that is Arizona in the summer. If I do get two weekends, that would be great--I have a long weekend all to myself at the beginning of May when Juliette and Julia go to Astro Camp. (I wish I was going too. I mean, Astro Camp!  I never got to do stuff like that when I was a kid, because they didn't have that stuff then. So I'll console myself with a long weekend of car stuff.)
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Monday, April 11, 2016

Rain, Rain, Go Away (On Sundays)

No progress on the Midget this weekend.  It rained all day Sunday (which we desperately needed!) and I didn't want to mess around with filler while the humidity was so high, or risk water splashing onto the car.  It's probably going to rain this Sunday, too, so I'm not sure if I'm going to get any more work done on the body this spring.

I has a sad.

I fiddled with The Pig a bit, and I'm beginning to think I can't straighten it out enough to meet my OCD standards.  It flexes way too much and the entire middle section is weak.  I am contemplating sectioning off the front 8-10 inches of the bonnet and grafting it onto the other bonnet I have stripped, of which all but the front couple of inches is perfect.  (I wish I could still find a front bonnet repair patch panel, but they haven't made them for years--the only way to get a patch is to sacrifice another bonnet.)

I bet I could do it and it would look good, and then I'd have almost no filler at all on the bonnet.  It's probably 6-8 hours of work, though.  I definitely want to sort out the bonnet before I finish up the front wings so I can get all the gaps correct.

This definitely would push me into 'primer in the fall' territory.  Oh well.  That gives me time over the summer to sort out the transmission and start cleaning up other parts.
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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Counting the Miles, But Not Too Many

I also spent a little time experimenting with my speedometer.  I have a 3.90 differential to rebuild and I definitely plan to use it.  However, it changes the gear ratio (from 4.22) and therefore the speedo won't clock properly.  I bought a speedo for a later car that works with that ratio, but of course it is smaller and has the trip reset out the back instead of the bottom.  I also have 3 or 4 "correct" extra speedometers (the "good" one is tucked away just in case).  So I figured, why not swap insides with one of those?


Not so simple.  There are just enough differences between the two that it's not a direct fit.  By the time I was done screwing around, I had taken both speedos completely apart.  I finally figured out that one important piece is the same--the base.  The base for the newer speedo also has the correct ratio gear for the odometer and the screw holes for attaching stuff line up the same.  But the disc and shaft for the newer speedo (the part that moves the needle with the magnet) only works with that base, and the spring on that one is attached differently than the original.

After staring at it for a while, I figured I had gone too far to turn back.  After a beer for good luck, I teased the springs off the old and new speedo shafts and swapped them.  I actually managed to do this without breaking the springs or the shafts.  I put the new disc with the old spring back on the new base with the old odo/trip assemblies and trip reset.  It all fit, and spinning the input shaft makes the needle move and works the levers that actuate the odometer and trip meter.  It's not exact because the new shaft is a little different, and the adjustment for the old shaft doesn't work too well, but it moves and returns to 0 like it is supposed to and doesn't bind up.

Theoretically, this should work with the 3.90 diff.  If it doesn't, then I'll resort to something else I wanted to try--a GPS speedo input.  There's a company that sells an electrical-to-mechanical drive kit, and another that sells a pulse driven counter attachment where the cable attaches to the transmission.  So I could make that work too, and it would probably work better--but I like my one-off speedo and I really hope it works properly.  

I should have taken pictures because it was a fascinating job and I learned a ton about how the speedometers in older cars work.  Maybe next time.
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Pieces and Parts

Along the way, I've been finding some luck on eBay.  I have bought:

  • Vinyl seat kit (with white piping)
  • A NOS Robbins convertible top with all the fittings
  • Triplex window glass for driver and passenger
I figure I've saved about $750 just on those three items.  I was really sweating buying the seats and the top.  I still need wiring and carpet and panels, but I have a lead on the wiring and I figure I can make my own panels since I kept all the originals and have enough black crush grain vinyl to cover a house.  A small house.  The carpet... while I could have it fabricated, it would probably cost me less to just buy it.  I want really nice carpet, like wool.  It will be expensive--like $500--but it will last forever compared to the cheap poly loop stuff I had before, which literally vaporizes in the Arizona sun.

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More Mud Slinging

I'm making rather good progress now.  I had to spend some unplanned time fixing the driver's door; it cracked by the latch.  It was cracked before and I thought I'd fixed it, but this time I fixed it good with 16 gauge sheet metal.  I also had to fix up the driver's side A post up where the windshield is attached, and it looks really nice now.  I have to do the same to the other side but it's a small job.

I've worked my way forward to the A post and firewall.  The back half of the car is basically done, including the area under the trunk lid.  I've got a little bit of work to do in a couple spots (low spot on rear passenger's side by the trunk lid, low spot on rear driver's side fender, bottom of driver's side door), but other than that it's all ready for a pass with 180 grit.

There looks like an awful lot of filler, but with few exceptions it's all 1/16" thick or less.


One benefit of all this sanding is that I am hand sanding the entire car, so it stays nice and shiny and not rusty.

I've got to start figuring out how I'm going to primer this thing.  I'm thinking I won't get there before it gets too hot.  I may have only 2 weekends left before it's 95, and that's too hot for filler and paint.  Maybe I can work early in the morning while it's still 80.
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