Tuesday 24 December 2013

What began a little distraction...

In between my welding practice I have been tending to a few rusty areas on the shell that have been distracting me from out of the corner of my eye. However, what began as a few minor areas has sort of snowballed (excuse the festive pun). Here is a quick run-down of the past couple of weeks of activity...

Crusty deck lid area:

The lip that holds the rubber seal was in pretty bad shape, so I decided to remove it and grind the area flat. I will most likely use the later type of engine seal - the one that fits directly onto the deck lid.

Drivers side rear quarter:

This was an area that had become really bad soon after I bought the car and I remember it failing its MOT one year because of the state of it. I had no choice but to take it to my local garage who advertised themselves as being specialist in vw restorations. Well, it turns out that what for years I assumed was just a 'skim' of filler to smooth out any imperfections turned out to be a dense layer that was hiding lazy repair work:

Once I had removed all the filler and turned my garage into a winter wonderland (the dust got everywhere despite using an extraction system) I could assess what had be done. Basically they had taken a flat section of sheet steel and made no effort to shape it to the contour of the car. They have then appear to have tack welded it into position and hastily ground the welds flat(ish) leaving unsightly abrasions all over the place. This was finished up by slapping copious amounts of filler (3-4mm thick in some places) over the top and sanding a fake profile. What a lazy bunch of cowboys!

I marked up the panel and cut out the abomination without delay. I found that the 'pros' hadn't even made an effort to treat the back of the repair patch and had just left it as bare metal, which had obviously rusted up nicely over the years. Oh well, the offending section is out now:

I then moved on to the inner arch area and figured I would strip it so that I could see what was going on beneath the underseal.

As expected there was quite a few old repairs and other repairs over the top (like patchwork in some places!) but there were vast areas of good condition original steel which was a welcome sight. I treated the whole area with a rust inhibitor before keying it up with the electric sander:

Then added a liberal coat of primer to keep the panel fresh until I get around to making the repairs. It funny - I hadn't intended to touch touch the shell until I had finished and rebuilt the chassis, but I must admit that it feels like a good to see some advancement whilst i'm mastering my welding technique! 

Monday 2 December 2013

Learning to weld

Well, I could avoid it no more; the time had come for me to learn how to MIG weld. I have been busy reading, watching instructional videos and seeking guidance from my good friend T-bone about this easy-to-learn-difficult-to-master skill. However, I knew that to really progress with this project I just needed to get many hours of practice under my belt. No time like the present!

Allow me to introduce the vintage beast that I have been learning on:

Using some scrap metal from the old floor pans, I set about honing my skills. This was one of my first few efforts:

In the sequence above you will see the original scrap piece as it was before (top left). I cut it in half with the angle grinder and held the pieces together using an ‘Intergip’, which is a fantastic little welding clamp manufactured by Frosts (top right). I then proceeded to make my not-so-attractive weld (bottom left). I then carefully ground the weld flat with the flap disc so that the joint became invisible (bottom right). I decided to give the area a quick lick of primer to simulate how the repair would look when painted:

I was impressed with the result – the joint was barely detectable! Not a bad start if I do say so myself. However, I still need plenty more practice to get ‘a feel’ for the welder and learn how to manipulate the settings to get the best possible penetration of weld. I am optimistic that by the new year I will be ready to begin welding the car and that’s when the really fun will begin!

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Napoleon balls-up!

As you probably know, this blog is all about documenting the true story of this restoration project and to allow others to learn from my successes as well as my mistakes. Well, in the spirit of the latter I wanted to share this week’s tale of failure – but it’s not as downbeat as it sounds because I have learnt a lot by cocking up!

For some time I had been thinking about the Napoleons Hat section and how I was going to go about repairing it. The reproduction panel that I bought just doesn't feel substantial and also looks uneven because it has been poorly pressed. So, I decided that I would only use what I needed from the repro panel and retain most of the original section. After extensive research I came across other restorers that have replaced just the end tip sections, but the corrosion on mine extended further than just the tips! So, I cleaned up the inside of the old naps hat and assessed the areas of pitting and the thickness of survivng metal. After a lot of measuring I made an educated guess and marked up the section to be cut out off: 

I made a diagonal cut with the angle grinder and was confident that the remaining metal was sound: 

Next came the tricky task of cutting off the corresponding piece from the new panel. I spent a long time checking and double checking my measurements and then carefully cut the piece using a hacksaw:

I used the belt sander to clean up the edges:

I then gave it a test fit and was delighted with the fit:

......Until I placed a straight edge up against it and released that the diagonal angle was slightly out and as a result the whole replacement piece was angled upwards by about 10%! Bugger!

I tried to grind the correct angle back into it, but the drawback to this was that it removed more material than required and so when I had finally got the angle right I was left with a whopping 5mm gap!

I now need to have a think on how to proceed. I am tempted to buy another naps hat and start from scratch rather than trying to find a way to fix my mistake. We will see. I need to scratch my head for a while!

So, what will I do differently next time? Well, I think in future I am always going to cut wider than what I am aiming for and then grind the section down until it fits perfectly. This will enable me to test fit and fine tune 'on the fly'. You live and learn!

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Odds n' sods

I turned my attention back to the chassis again last week and started tackling some of the small but nonetheless important jobs. First up was smoothing out the bad welding that was highly visible on the transmission mount: 

After grinding the welds flat it looked far neater. However, I am now a little concerned about the strength of this joint, but I will keep under review and may come back to it in the future:

Next I focused on the reinforcement braces which sit underneath the outer edges of the floor pan upright sections and attach to the u-shaped brackets which come off the torsion bar housings. My originals were in a sorry looking state and had been butchered and plated over numerous times in the cars history: 

The driver’s side was far worse, with blobs of weld everywhere:

After carefully excavating all of the additional rusty layers with the grinder I found the original metal! 

What I am left with will provide a good basis for fabricating some replacement sections or I may just attempt to repair what is already there. I will ask around and come back to it soon.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Transmission clean-up

This week I decided to partially dismantle the transmission, although only as far as removing external components. I wanted to clean the thing up and replace any perished gaskets and renew the CV boots etc. I never had any issues with this gearbox and therefore I was not too keen on fiddling around with the internal mechanisms. As my old man always says: “if it aint broke, don’t fix it!”. Pretty sound advice I reckon! 

I thought this task was going to be fairly straight forward, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! I made a fundamental mistake when I first started taking the car apart by not loosening up the rear drum brake nuts whilst is was all still together. The weight of the car combined with the use of the handbrake would have held the outer drum case firmly in place whilst the substantial torque required to loosen the 36mm nut was applied. It would have been a breeze! What I was dealing with here, however, were a couple of resilient old nuts that would not budge and drum brake casings that were seemingly impossible to fully lock off. I tried a lot of different approaches such as; coating the nuts in penetrating oil. Nothing. 5ft Pipe cheat. Nothing. Heating the hub nut with a blowtorch until it glowed red. Nothing. I then called on the assistance of my garage neigbour and good friend, Tony, in the hope that our combined weight and brawn would break the tight bound. NOTHING! So, after a lot of tea and head-scratching, Tony suggested that a small cutting disc attached to the Dremel could provide the solution.  Basically, this sacrificial approach involved making a careful cut down the edge of the nut(s). I tried to make it as deep as possible whilst avoiding damaging the thread underneath:

I then repeatedly impacted the incision with a heavy duty chisel until it cracked open enough to come free:

Success! Obviously I now need to order a couple of replacement hub nuts, but I was just glad to get these old things off:

The other noteworthy challenge that I encountered after removing the drum brake components was how to remove the snug fitting rear wheel bearing. I didn't have a bearing puller, so tried to make my own improvised version based on the instructions in John Muir's book 'How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive'. I soon got frustrated with that approach and opted for the big hammer technique instead:

After a few confident taps on the back of the outer axle tube the bearing slowly worked its way loose:

I was then able to remove the big inner circlip (that was another fiddly job took a while!) and draw out the axle rod(s):

To begin the clean-up of the casing I scraped away most of the greasy dirt with a large flat-headed screwdriver. Then I moved on to degreasing it with petrol, an old toothbrush and a lot of elbow grease. I then went over the whole thing with an assortment of wire brushes. Here is the before shot: 


....and many hours of scrubbing later, here is my glorious after shot: 


Monday 7 October 2013

Test fitting the floor pans

Exciting times! The Wolfsburg West floor pans arrived last week, so I couldn’t resist a quick test fit to see how everything lined up;

They cost a pretty penny, but I feel it has been money well spent having inspected the excellent quality of the pressings.