Monday 24 June 2013

Spot weld cutting

Well, as you can see from the picture below (taken a few weeks ago) my framehead bottom plate is in a sorry state, particually on the drivers side. Just look at the size of that rust scab!


Thankfullly the rest of the frame head seems pretty solid so I have decided to cut off the whole bottom plate and replace it with an aftermarket panel. I will then clean up the rest of the frame head, which should only need minor repairs (if any). I am keen to retain as much of the original metal work of the car as possible and figured I would salvage the brake line brakets and graft them onto the new panel. I have heard that the ones that come attached to the replacement panel are flimsy and utterly crap, so I think this will be worth the little extra effort. I have circled them in red below:

Flipping the pan back over I started out by wire brushing the area below the brackets and then lightly sanded to reveal the location of the spot welds. As you can see there are 3 distinct spots under each bracket which needed to be drilled out:

This is the spot weld cutting bit for my drill that I opted to use. Basically I used a centre punch to create a dimple in the middle of each spot weld then placed the spring loaded guide pin (the protruding part you can see on the left of the photo) into the depression:

Working with the drill on a slow roatation I steadily cut through just the top layer of metal:

Then gently separeted the bracket from the old panel:
I then clamped the piece into a vice ready for grinding down the excess weld material:

Here is the piece after grinding. Now it just needs cleaning up and a quick lick of paint to keep it from rusting until the time comes to attach it to the new panel:

Now that I am practiced in the art of spot weld cutting I better crack on and drill out all the little buggers that are holding the bottom plate in place...

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Pan rotisserie (and other short stories)

Most of the past couple of weeks have been spent organising and equipping the new garage as well as clearing out the old one. I have now built a workbench, layed out a tool board, put up shelves etc. In between these tasks I have made time to continue cleaning up the chassis. I decided to start by removing the rough cut floor pan remnants away from the supporting lip that runs along either side of the tunnel. Initially I was using my air chisel, but found it to be quite severe and could easily damage areas of the old metal that I was keen to save. So, I opted to do it by hand using pry bars, long screwdrivers and hand chisels. I basically worked my way around the parimeter popping off the spot welds one by one:

In theory this should have been a quick win, but the reality was that it took 10 times as long owing to all the past botched repairs and inconveniently welded parts that had be stuck together in areas that should never have been joined. For example; one seat runner was welded to the tunnel rather than spot welded to floor pan.... and then there were repair plates that had been placed over severely rusted areas without the old rot being cut out first.... Anyway, little by little I made progress and took the excess metal off cleanly. 
Next up was a seized bolt that was holding the pedal mounts in place. I tried everything to get it turning – penetrating oil, heat, wire brushing – but the stubborn little thing did not want to budge! I felt the only way forward was to carefully drill it out. I started by centre punching the top of the nut and then drilled a small pilot hole. Using a wider drill bit I slowly widened the hole:

I then switched to my trusty electric saw and made a horizontal cut to get rid of the overhanging sides of the bolt:

When I got the cut flush I simply tapped the piece out:

It took some time a patience, but I was pleased with the outcome

The next task will be to wire brush the old paint, underseal and dirt off of the framehead and bottom plate so that I can assess how much metal work needs replacing. To make this impending task easier I decided to build a simple wooden pan rotisserie so that I could reposition and rotate the chassis as desired without breaking my back each time. I constructed the framework entirely from scrap timber that had been left by the previous occupant and thanks to the fact that I can now operate my power tools (electricity, beautiful electricity, I am loving all 240 volts of it!) I had it built in no time. The only problem I came accross was how to secure the rear frame horns to a pivot piece. The original bolts were simply not long enough to pass through a piece of wood and reach the internal threads. I looked about for equivalent bolts of the same diameter with a longer shaft, but they were either ridiculously expensive or had a different screw profile. I ultimately concluded that trying to force a modern bolt to fit could lead to the threads becoming deformed or weakened. My garage neighbor, Tony, then came up with a simple solution; take a thick length of dowell (slightly oversized), taper the end and screw it in so that it threads itself:

I was dubious at first, but decided to give it a go and was impessed with how sturdy it seemed. I added a piece in on the other side and cut the dowell to a desired length. I then gently tapped on the connecting wooden pivot piece using a rubber mallet. 

This joint should hold well for the duration of the pan restoration. 

Here is the finished product with braked swivel casters added and the pan mounted up:

Simple and effective! Now I am ready for the fun to begin....

Friday 7 June 2013

Operation: Beetle relocation

A short documentary film about moving my dismantled VW Beetle to a new workshop via a small detour across the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.

It is worth noting that the shell would have comfortably fitted inside the van, but that just wouldn’t have been as much fun or looked as awesome.

If it is worth doing, it’s worth doing in style!