Sunday, 18 June 2017

10 years ago

Came across this old email communication recently from exactly 10 years ago (dated 18/06/2007). It is from a local classic car restoration company who I had previously contacted about getting some 'economic' repairs done to the heater channels and body mounts with a view to keep Gretchen on the road. No doubt that this concise reply was a huge contributing factor for me ultimately deciding that I had to tackle this resto myself or part ways with her. The reality was that keeping her running was no longer viable:

"thanks for the pics. sorry to say but i am not willing to do a simple
weld it up for the mot job due to how bad the whole area around the rot
is. if that was just plated up it would be a night mare to get it back
to being a nice car again due to having to weld he floor and body together."
The decision to fully restore the car myself was a tough and intimidating choice to make, especially being totally unskilled in the area of automotive restoration. I am really pleased I stuck with it (I think) and still have my fingers crossed that I can actually pull this off! 

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Some good fortune

My eye is now back to normal and garage sessions have resumed!

During my recovery period I got lucky on a front passenger side quarter panel. It was listed on eBay, but the title was brief and the description somewhat vague. The listing made no mention of the manufacturer, but my intuition told me that it was likely a genuine VW Mexi panel. After several attempts to establish contact I finally managed to speak with the seller literally minutes before the end of the auction. He couldn't tell me if it was a genuine or not as it had been collecting dust in his garage for years and he couldn't recall much about it. He lived too far for me to collect in person, but was happy for me to arrange my own courier. The price was low with just one other bidder, so I took a punt on it and hoped it was what I suspected it to be. Got the panel for a mere £72 and found a courier who transported it across the country for under £10 (super bargain!). The following week I took delivery of the bulky parcel and eagerly unwrapped the panel:

Got a little tingle when I saw the manufactures label:

It was indeed a genuine VW panel 'Assembled in Mexico'. An excellent result considering that these are rapidly becoming scarce and now command a high price tag from the usual parts vendors (£250 currently).

Delighted that I now have matching Mexi panels for the front end: 

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Patching up the rear stud line

I was planning on writing up this post once I had completely finished the area I've been working on. However, I have been forced out of action for at least a week following an unfortunate incident that could have been easily avoided if I hadn't become complacent and developed some bad workshop habits. Consider the following digression a cautionary tale if you also happen to work with power tools; always wear eye protection even for the quickest and smallest of jobs! 

This past Monday was a bank holiday in the UK, but I spent half of it in Bristol Eye Hospital getting a tiny piece of steel removed from my right eye that had embedded itself just off-centre of my pupil. I had assumed over the previous couple of days that I had a touch of conjunctivitis until I developed hyper-sensitivity to light and my iris became unresponsive (it was stuck at its smallest aperture and wouldn't expand regardless of the amount of light in my immediate environment). Turns out that the metal had started to rust and infection was beginning to set in around the foreign body. The method used to remove the metal and eliminate all traces of rust from my eyeball involved a rapidly vibrating needle. The instrument resembled an electric toothbrush with a sewing needle where the brush head should be. It really was as fun as it sounds, here is my poorly eye after the procedure:

Lesson learned, I will now invested in a full-face shield. Right, back to the main topic...

In between other tasks I have been progressively patching up the drivers side rear stud line where the wing attaches. This was in a poor state due to years of moisture getting trapped between the wing beading and the rear quarter panel. The pitting was very heavy in places and on close inspection there were a few pesky pinholes where it had completely rusted through. I decided the best way to make the stud line solid again was to let in good metal and eliminate the pitted areas, rather than simply slapping body filler over it and hoping for the best. I will let the following photos do the talking:

I noticed that on some of the studs warping had occurred if there happened to be pitting in close proximity, thinning the metal and distorting the surrounding area. These will also need to be replaced, but I will tackle them one at a time to preserve accurate alignment along the stud line:

Despite making a suitable patch for the first nut I eventually opted not to weld it in just yet as I wanted to continue repairing the areas between the studs first. So, moving swiftly on:

And on to the next one:

Note that I have not welded up the end sections of each patch. This will allow me to easily remove the studs later by cutting just the tops and bottoms.

Well, that is it for now. More stud line action to come once my irritated eye has healed!

Monday, 10 April 2017

New BBT rear valance

I am slowly acquiring top quality reproduction panels as and when they happen to be on sale. This week I got an accurate rear valence manufactured by BBT, who are based in Belgium:

Really impressed by this panel in every way and the finish is simply excellent. When compared against my original valance I was able to see just how bent and knackered the old one was:

The photo doesn't show the full extent of the damage, but replacing it is definitely the best course of action. Even if I possessed half decent panel beating skills it would take a substantial amount of time to get this back to anywhere near straight - and that's before any fabrication work to repair the inner reinforcement section behind the tail pipes.

Couldn't resist a quick dry fit on the car:

Looks great but the fit is slight off in places, but I think this will be corrected when I have straightened out the rear bumper hangers. In summary, I am very happy with this panel!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Repairing the original accelerator pedal

It would have been quick and convenient to simply replace the old accelerator pedal with a remanufacted one. However, I am keen to keep all of the tactile control services original as I believe they embody the historical ‘soul’ of the car. When I am eventually driving the car again I want the satisfaction of knowing that I am pressing on the same pedals that were operated by all of Gretchen’s former owners  since the day she left the VW dealership.

The accelerator pedal was in a bit of a sorry state, with the bottom section having been hacked off by a previous owner (after it started to rot away I am guessing). A door hinge was instead bolted on and welded to the floor in a ramshackle fashion. It was unsightly and not at all smooth to operate. Occasionally when driving the pedal would jam solid if depressed too far. Not particularly good or safe!

I took the later ‘roller ball’ donor pedal that I recently scored for a fiver at Dubfreeze and compared it against my original and decided how best to join the two together:

After careful measuring I cut the required bottom section off of the donor pedal:

Marked up a corresponding cut line on my original pedal and trimmed down accordingly:

Got the two pieces and aligned them on a flat sturdy piece of copper backer:

After tacking the sections in place from behind I unclamped and double checked everything was correctly aligned before fully welding from the front side. Had to crank up the amps on the welder to ensure good penetration as the steel is quite thick:

After linishing back I reached for my new magic toy, a 5" Random Orbit Sander:

I am so impressed with the way that this thing finishes the metal. It really helps smooth out and blend the repaired area given an almost invisible finish (assuming that prior care has been taken with panel alignment etc):

After a lick of zinc primer I measured out the correct location for the 6mm hole. I don’t think this serves any particular purpose, but who am I to argue with the wisdom of VW:

All finished and looking like a functional whole once again:

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Original workshop manual

Whilst scouring the swap meet at this year’s Volksworld show I came across this original VW workshop manual from 1965:

I have been on the hunt for one of these for some time as the technical information provided within is second to none. These were originally produced for official use at VW approved garages and not available to the general public:

Worth the investment in my opinion and this will now serve as my main reference source for crucial measurements and certain repair procedures:

Just need to keep my eyes peeled for Vol 1 now…

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A post inner reinforcement panel

With the remnants of the old heater channels out of the way I could begin work on the drivers side A-post. This was rusting through and had also been patched up once in the past. Started by roughly trimming away some sheet metal to reveal the inner reinforcement section: 

This was heavily corroded towards the bottom as expected. There was also a deep horizontal gouge that was clearly inflicted by a stray angle grinder during the past hasty repair (just visible about midway down this photo):

Shot blasted the area above the corrosion and damage to reveal solid material:

Cut the bottom portion of the reinforcement panel off with a hacksaw (yep, sometimes it feels right to revert back to handtools as they are less aggressive and offer more control):

Drilled out the spot welds of the Hookys repair panel to separate the inner and outer sections:

Using the Hookys Door Alignment Tool (DAT) I lined up the repair section and scribed a cut line:

trimmed it down to size:

I then spent a long time finessing the alignment of the repair panel. Filing small amounts here and there until I was happy with the fit. The profile of the repair panel doesn't line up exactly right, but it is close enough and will never be seen once the outer skin is on, so I am not too bothered:

Started welding one tack at a time to keep the heat build-up down:

Ground the welds back and linished smooth. Finally sprayed with the obligatory lick of zinc primer: