Over the winter: rear shocks

March 30th, 2015

It was especially cold this winter, and there were very few times when I even wanted to do anything in the (unheated) garage.

I did get a pair of brand-new reproduction shocks from Bill Stipe. They were expensive, but very well-made. In March, as soon as the garage was consistently above freezing, I painted them, and bead-blasted and painted the original rear shock arms. Then I installed everything on the rear of the car, using the original nuts and bolts that I had refinished a couple of years ago when I did the front shocks.

So now the car has good working shocks on all four wheels!

Spring is finally here, and it is slowly getting warmer, so I should be able to resume work on the front fenders in a week or two.

Finally: paint on the fenders!

November 13th, 2014

After 13 months of work, I was able to start painting the front fenders.  First, I had to set up my in-garage painting tent, since outside there are leaves all over the place. The last time I had used the tent was about a year ago, when I painted my other car, the Triumph Spitfire.  Then I added some bits of threaded rod and random scrap metal to my fender jig, so that the fenders would be held in place several inches above it.  This made it possible to reach the entire bottom surface with the spray gun.

I started with the freshly-sandblasted driver’s side fender.  First it got a couple of coats of epoxy primer.  Then I applied several coats of sprayable polyester filler to the top, where there were remnants of the dents and scratches that I had mostly worked out, and to parts of the bottom, where there was some rust pitting.

The other fender was a new reproduction which was almost dent-free, but it had gotten some patches of light surface rust during the year I had been working on it.  I cleaned and degreased it very thoroughly, sanded it all over to get rid of the rust and make a better surface for the paint, and finally applied a phosphoric acid treatment.  Once it was dry, it got a couple of coats of epoxy primer, followed by a few coats of filler-surfacer on the top.

I finished all of this on what will probably be the last reasonably warm week of the year.  The finders are now hung up on my garage wall for the winter.  Next spring, the repro fender will just need to be block-sanded before getting its finish coat.  The old fender will need a bit more work: the polyester filler on the top and bottom will need a lot of sanding, and the top will need a couple of coats of the filler-surfacer, followed by block-sanding.

The other fender made ready for painting!

November 5th, 2014

The driver’s side fender is a used original that I bought at Hershey last year. It had no serious rust or damage, but it did have some dents, and it was painted in primer.

I started by stripping off most of the primer, and found some filler underneath it. So I sanded off most of the filler and soda-blasted off the remainder of the primer and filler. It turned out that the upper surface had gotten rather beaten up once upon a time, and it had been somewhat roughly beaten back into shape.  The top appeared smooth due to the filler, but the underside was pretty bumpy.

I decided to buy an air-powered planishing hammer from Harbor Freight, and I used it (along with a shrinking disk on my grinder) to get the upper surface smooth again. I was quite pleased with how well this tool worked. I also used it to get rid of some deformation along the outer edge and around the headlight bar mounting area.

The two mounting holes on the front inner surface of the fender are supposed to have a raised dimple around them, to make a nice fit to the oval-headed mounting screws.  These commonly get damaged on old fenders, and the ones on this fender were smashed flat.  Fortunately vendors sell special dished washers that can be used to restore the mounting holes.  I got some of these, and brazed them into place over each hole.

Finally, I sandblasted the entire fender with extra-fine Black Beauty compound to remove all traces of paint and rust. After sandblasting, I noticed one small crack just inside the front edge, parallel to it. Repairing this was a fairly easy welding job. (Interestingly, both of the car’s original fenders had cracks in the exact same location.)

Now both fenders are ready for painting, but it is already mid-fall, and the weather is getting colder…

One fender ready for painting!

September 16th, 2014

After almost a year, the repro fender is ready for painting. Fortunately I did not have to lengthen the rear of the fender. When it is bolted in place, things manage to stretch and bend until it mates up with the running board. But I did notice that the inside front edge was about 3/4″ further forward than on the original fender, and it was visibly different than the original fender on the driver’s side. So I had to unwrap the beaded edge, cut off the excess metal, and re-form the beaded edge around the wire that runs inside it.

After that, I just had to adjust some of the mounting holes and spot-weld the little reinforcing bracket to the outside edge, where the fender is bolted to the end of the main support bracket.

The next step is to get the other (driver’s side) fender ready for painting. This fender, which I also bought at Hershey last October, appears to be original and is in very good shape, crack-free, with just a few random dents and a couple of mashed-up mounting holes. Unlike the repro, it fits perfectly. However, it is painted in brown primer, and I will have to sand or strip it off to see what lies beneath.

I did a bit more work on my fender jig to hold this fender (which is of course a mirror-image of the repro fender). The next step is to start sanding or stripping the primer coat. If I am lucky, I may get both fenders completely painted before it gets too cold, but I may only get as far as the primer and filler, leaving the final coats until next spring.

Yes, I’m still here

July 18th, 2014

Months have passed since my last post.  During most of that time, I would walk by the reproduction fender mounted on the jig, and dread the work it would take to make it fit the car.  But I have actually made some progress since last winter.  Most importantly, I was able to use my metal stretcher to properly shape the lip that butts up against the splash shield.  To help guide my work, I used a bunch of filler putty to make a cast of the same area of the original fender.  By putting the cast against the repro fender, I could tell where I needed to re-shape it.

Once I got that lip close to the proper shape, I did several rounds of mounting the fender on the car, checking the fit to the splash shield, putting it back on the jig, and doing a bit more bending, stretching, etc. Once the fit was OK, I marked the correct location of the mounting bolt holes, and drilled them.  They are actually oval-shaped slots, so some filing and grinding was also required.

The next issue to be dealt with is the fit of the rear edge of the fender to the running board.  The rear edge of the fender is not parallel to the front edge of the running board: they almost touch on the inside, but there is about a 1/4″ gap on the outside. I will probably have to completely re-form the rear edge of the fender, or cut it and weld in a long, skinny wedge-shaped piece of sheet metal.

At this point, given how much trouble the repro fender has been, I wish I had first tried to repair the damaged portion of the original fender, before spending the $$$ on the repro.  I already have a junk fender that would have served as a source of a patch, so it would have cost very little money, and possibly no more time that I have already spend trying to get the repro to fit.

Some actual progress

February 22nd, 2014

Lots of other things to do for the last couple of months (and it has been freezing), but last week I built a special frame or jig to hold fenders while working on them. It is built from scrap angle iron, and it matches the shape of the car’s frame rails where the front fenders attach. When a fender is bolted to the jig, it is held in the exact same alignment it will have when installed on the car. The jig is attached to my engine stand, which allows the jig and attached fender to be rotated so the top or bottom can be worked on.
Now it is sitting in my garage with the new repro fender mounted on it, waiting for me to start work.

Staring at fenders

November 8th, 2013

I started working on the repro front fender that I bought at Hershey. The first step was to trim down the flange or lip where the fender bolts to the splash shield. They made it a good deal wider than on the original fenders. The next step is to see how much I can stretch the curved part of that lip to get it to the correct contour. If it won’t stretch enough, I’ll have to cut darts in it and weld in little triangles of sheet metal.

Fan and radiator all done

October 19th, 2013

I got the new 2-blade repro fan. Ironically, it had the same problem as the old fan I had originally planned to use: it would not go far enough down on the tapered water pump shaft for the nut to fully screw on. So I put the nut in my lathe and made it a bit shorter. I also had to take my angle grinder and grind down the front of the water pump casting so that the fan pulley would not rub on it.  But after all that was done, the fan worked fine.

Since I had the radiator off the car,  I repaired the top mounting bracket, where a piece of it had cracked off.  I had to weld on a bit of metal about a half inch on a side and grind it down to match the rest of the bracket.  Then I re-installed the radiator and put the newly-painted shell on over it, and now the front of the car looks quite handsome.

I packed up and put away my painting tent- I won’t be doing any more painting until next spring. The next step is to work on getting the new repro fender I bought to fit properly.  It will need some metal work in a few places to get it to line up properly with the car.

Finished the radiator shell

October 13th, 2013

I painted the radiator shell, and now it’s ready to be installed.  It was sort of a pain: I had to mix primer and two different colors, just a half ounce of each, which is as much work as mixing a quart.

I also visited Hershey this year. I picked up a new repro right fender, and a very good original right fender. Hopefully I will make some progress on them over the next several months, and get them painted by next summer.

I decided to replace the radiator fan before installing the radiator shell.  I haven’t touched the fan since I got the car, and it is non-original and rusty.  It also has four blades, which makes it impossible to remove the fan or water pump without first removing the radiator.  At Hershey I got a nice old two-bladed replacement-style fan (the kind that has a single stamping for both blades, riveted to a hub). I bead-blasted and painted it, took off the radiator, and removed the old fan. But for some reason the new fan’s mounting hole was a bit too small, and the fan would not fit properly on the water pump shaft.  So on Monday I’ll order one of the aluminum reproduction two-bladed fans, which are supposed to be original-looking and trouble-free.

Working on the radiator shell

October 5th, 2013

I got very little done over the summer, since our kitchen was being remodeled, and the garage was full of building materials and contractors’ tools.

But I am in the middle of fixing up the stainless steel radiator shell.  It had several fairly deep scratches and a few small dents, and I had to bump out and file the dents, and sand out the scratches with fairly coarse sandpaper.  Then I had to go over the entire thing with fine and extra fine wet-or-dry sandpaper, and buff it twice, with emery and then stainless compound.  I ended up doing the sanding and buffing about three times, since after the first polishing I could see lots of scratches from the coarser sandpaper that were hidden, but not actually removed, by the finer grades.  Stainless steel is a very tough metal that takes a lot of work to sand and polish, and the radiator shell is pretty big.

Once it was polished up all nice, I carefully masked off the painted plain steel inset panel at the top, and bead-blasted the remains of the old paint, without damaging any of the polished stainless steel.  I did the masking with heavy duct tape, since bead-blasting does not penetrate it.  In the next few days I will prime and paint that panel with the body color, and also paint the lower panel black.

I also fixed up the oval stainless steel “Ford” emblem that goes on the top of the radiator shell.  I sanded and buffed it,  sprayed it with black paint, and wiped off the paint, leaving paint only in the recessed lettering.  After it dried, it looked quite handsome.