The past week has been a busy one. Building on the momentum of the successful repair of the driver’s frame rail, I set out to structurally finish the car from the firewall forward with the installation of the front radius arm brackets as well as the driver’s side torque box gusset.
I picked up the radius arm brackets from NPD and as expected, these turned out to be Dynacorn parts, and very nice I might add. These brackets come completely welded up out of the box and the fit was very good from the off.
The torque box gusset, on the other hand, was not as easy to find and needed a good bit of massaging to make it fit to my satisfaction. I stumbled across a reproduction gusset in only one place; CJ Pony Parts. I scoured all of my other supplier catalogs and they were the only place that I could find that had them. Having just received my new catalog from CJ Pony Parts two weeks ago, I figured this part would be a good smoke test as I had never done business with CJ Pony Parts before. As it turns out, I have mixed feelings about the whole experience. Simply put, I was a little miffed at the price I paid ($17.95) when I ordered it online versus what the catalog price was ($16.95). I know, I know…….I being a cheap, nit-picking sh*t, but this is the kind of stuff I hate. Anyway, when I place my online order, I note the discrepancy in the notes attached to my order and request a price correction to reflect what my (then) week-old catalog shows. Well…..no dice. Not even a token “get bent” note as a response. Figures…
Before I started working on the front end repairs, I took quite a few measurements of various original features of the car before cutting the damaged pieces out. As such, I had reference dimensions that clearly defined the position of the radius arm brackets on the chassis. After about an hour of carefully laying out several reference marks, I mocked up the brackets and traced around them with a permanent marker once I was happy with their position in the car. These reference lines make lining them up again much easier work. Next, I marked the location of each spot weld with a paint pen and headed to the drill press to drill the holes for each plug weld. Once that was done, I cleaned up each hole with my air grinder and prepped each surface for welding by removing the primer from the areas that required welding. Once that was done, I clamped the brackets into place using my reference marks, quickly checked the dimensions with a tape measure and set off to weld them in.
It’s worth mentioning again how well these brackets fit the chassis. The mating faces clamped up nice and tight and the welds penetrated very nicely on all locations. Using my body assembly manual as the reference, I added 16 spot welds and 8 short stitch welds to each bracket. The results were quite impressive as the strength of the assembly is apparent. Finally, I ground all of the spot welds smooth and touched up some of the nastier factory spot welds on each bracket to help avoid unnecessary future blood loss as I work on the car.
Next, I moved on to the torque box gusset installation. As I mentioned before, this part required quite a bit of massaging to get to fit as it should. Once I had the fit nailed down, I marked the spot weld locations and drilled them in the drill press. I dressed the holes with the grinder and at that point, decided the “coating” that was applied to this part was anything but e-coat, so off to the blast cabinet I went to remove every trace of it. With a nice, bare metal part in hand, I clamped it into place and welded it in, again using the body assembly manual as the reference for weld number and location. A few minutes after the welds had cooled, I ground them all flush as a final operation before the prep work and priming could begin.
As you might expect, weld heat will damage the primer in the immediate location of the welds. To remedy this, I lightly scraped the loose material off with a putty knife them wire brushed the surrounding area with a cup brush mounted in my hand drill. Then I lightly sanded every surface that would be primed to remove any gloss and prep the surface for primer. With all of the sanding complete, I wiped everything down with DX-330 cleaner and let it dry. Next, I recruited my Dad to help with mixing the DP-40LF primer while I tacked off all of the surfaces. I decided to try the faster curing DP-402LF catalyst this time (thanks Alex!) as it has been a good bit cooler lately and I wanted something that cured quicker and that didn’t require the 30-minute induction period that DP-401LF catalyst requires.
Using my nifty little 8-ounce touch-up cup attachment on my turbine HVLP primer gun, I set off priming all of the sanded surfaces. Although this was my first time shooting primer catalyzed with DP-402LF, I have to say I preferred its spray characteristics over the DP-401LF for this type of work. I thinned this mixture exactly the same as I had done before (about 10% reducer) and it really flowed out nicely. There really is a certain satisfaction that comes from having everything in one solid color.
With this work complete, the next series of steps will address making a bracing structure for the body to allow the cowl to be replaced while on the rotisserie, replacement of the cowl structure itself, and to tackle the repair of the trans tunnel/firewall damage caused by an apparent clutch explosion (maybe two) sometime in the car’s history. Lots of work that should carry me deep into the dead of winter. Thank God for a heated shop!
|Mock-up installation was referenced against measurements I had taken from the original brackets.|
|Once the position was determined, I marked around each bracket with a red permanent marker to make repositioning the brackets easier after the weld prep was completed.|
|Spot weld locations are cleaned up with the sanding disc in preparation for welding.|
|Weld locations marked.|
|Each bracket is welded in using the Ford Body Assembly Manual as a reference for the location and type of welds required.|
|One down, one to go!|
|Clamped into place and ready for welding.|
|Second bracket welded in.|
|Radius arm brackets welded in and ready for grinding.|
|Welds ground smooth on each end.|
|Another look at the flush-ground spot welds.|
|I had to dress a number of the factory spot welds to remove a number of very sharp burs.|
|Same for the other side.|
|Driver side torque box gusset after quite a bit of massaging to achieve a good fit. Here, I have marked the location of the spot welds with a paint pen. Off to the drill press to make some holes!|
|I was really unimpressed with the black coating on the part, so after grinding the holes smooth, I ran the part through my blast cabinet to clean it up.|
|Here is the gusset welded into place.|
|Welds ground smooth and ready for primer!|
|While dad stirs the primer, I tacked off all of the surfaces we planned to prime. What a team!|
|Here is the bottom view of the repaired frame section before the primer was even dry! I am very happy with how this repair turned out.|
|Right front radius arm bracket in primer.|
|Here is the outer view of the repaired frame section and torque box gusset.|