Monday, January 9, 2012

Tail Light Panel and Trunk Floor – Part 8: Right Trunk Floor & Heidts Panhard Rod Mount Install

To quote Hannibal Smith from the A-Team: “I love it when a plan comes together”!  As fortune would have it, the installation of the Heidts panhard rod mount and right side trunk floor went basically without a hitch. So much so, in fact, that I won’t bother to go through the entire account of the trunk floor installation over again as it was a virtual carbon copy of the left side I documented earlier………precisely according to plan.

If there was a challenge in this last bit of work on the right corner or the trunk floor, it would have to be the panhard rod mount.  As I have documented before, I am never one to believe any manufacturer that claims anything is a “simple bolt-in modification”.  Alas, that philosophy has not wavered even slightly after tackling the panhard mount.  As I experienced with most of the other components of the Heidts 4-link suspension kit, the build quality is actually pretty good, but the ultimate fit leaves something to be desired.  In my case, the spring mount saddles on both the left and right side are not aligned very well and it will cause me to have to adjust them a bit to mount the upper coilover mount beam in place.  More little irritations.

In any case, with the panhard mount permanently in place and the right trunk floor fitted and welded in as well, I am ready to move on to installing the rear trunk floor cross panel.  But before I can do that, I have to make some significant modifications to my rotisserie to allow proper access to the chassis in the area of the rear valence.  Bugger…..

An oversight on my part, when designing my rotisserie, created a clearance conflict between the rotisserie frame and the chassis such that I can’t install the rear trunk cross beam or the lower valence.  In addition, I have decided to spray the SEM spray on bed liner material on the bottom of the car before taking it off the rotisserie, and to do that, I need to devise an alternative way to mount the rear of the car to the rotisserie so as not to prevent the application of the coating to the rear frame rails where I have the frame mounts saddling the rear frame rails.  Kind of a bummer really as the setup I have is very rigid and works well, but I gotta do what I gotta do.  Of course, I will air my laundry right here to hopefully help someone avoid making similar mistakes.
Following the Heidt's installation instructions to the letter, I positioned the panhard rod mount on the right side frame rail and clamped it securely in place.  This shot shows the mount fully welded into place looking through the right rear wheel well opening.

Once these welds are dressed a bit, they will be very easy to blend when the bed liner material is sprayed.  These welds sure look a lot better than having bolts poked through everywhere in my opinion.

Here's a rather unique perspective of the panhard mount from inside the trunk area.  I have smoothed up the plug welds in this shot (ignore the crappy, rusty front trunk floor to the left.  That will be repaired soon!)
Here, you can kind of get an idea of how the panhard rod passes forward of the fuel tank.  The two small tabs toward the top right of the shot are the coilover mount saddle brackets.

Rear welds cleaned up.

Front panhard bracket welds cleaned up.

Fully installed and cleaned up, the panhard bracket is ready for action.

When fitting the new trunk floor, one of the toughest edges to fit is along the inner wheel house.  The original trunk floor in my car fit quite poorly and I wanted to make sure to correct this with the new panel.  Here I have several clamps positioned along the inner wheel house flange to help in fitting the new panel.

The trunk drop offs on all of the higher quality replacement trunk floors come with extra material along the lower edge.  This is actually a great feature and allows the panel to be fit exactly the the required contour.  Mustangs have a tendency to be quite "variable" in this area and this extra material is essential to achieving a good fit.

A view from the top side while fitting the trunk floor.  I spend a lot of time in the fitting stage of panel replacement to try and get everything a tight and right as I can.

Once the panel is fit properly and clamped in place, I can mark the bottom edge of the drop off with my paint pen so I can trim off the excess material with accuracy.

I like to mark each spot weld location on the new panel so I can sand away the e-coat on the new panel for a good weld surface.

I also trace around the frame rail flanges from the bottom.  This allows me to mark and drill the spot weld holes accurately.

Here is the trunk floor drop off marked for trimming.  Generally speaking, these drop offs require about 1" of material to be trimmed off for proper fit.

The point of no return!  Here, I have completed the spot welds along the top of both frame rail flanges.

In this shot, you can see the welds along the inner wheel house flange and the front edge of the trunk drop off.

Here, you can get an idea of the weld penetration along the lower flange of the trunk drop off.  This panel is welded from the inside.

The trunk drop off is fully welded and ready for finish grinding.  This looks so much nicer than the old rusty mess that it replaced.

Upper welds finish ground.

Drop off panel welds finish ground.

Inside the wheel house, everything is looking quite nice.

Another look at the inner wheel house after finish grinding all the spot welds.  Note good weld penetration along the inside of the front edge of the drop off panel.

Looking down into the right quarter drop off well, you can see the condition of the metal is now excellent and the flange fits are nice and tight along every edge.  Right rear corner repair is DONE!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tail Light Panel and Trunk Floor – Part 7: Chelation Rewind, End Cap Replacement & Rust Repair

Well, this entry happens to be my first of 2012, but actually chronicles some of the last work I completed in 2011.  To all who manage to slog through my missives on this blog, I appreciate your continued interest and wish all of you the very best in 2012!  Happy New Year!

It has been a few weeks since my last update, and I have been quite busy with work on the car as well as several other “paying” jobs.  I will be catching up on my blog entries to bring everything up to flush in the next few days.  So let’s get started!
Having removed the rusty trunk floor bits and generally cleaning up the right rear trunk area, my first task was to set up my chelation rust removal “system” and remove the rust scale from the inside of the rear quarter panel before moving on to the actual repairs.  Using the remainder of my supply of chelant, I applied the exact same technique I used previously to remove all of the rust from the repair areas on the right side.  The scope of the job was nearly identical to the work required on the left side, so I knew in advance that about 10 hours’ worth of “soak” time would be required to complete the job.  So with my setup in place, I let the process do its thing and the reward was another success.  No more rust and a good, clean palette to work from.

Once again, I set up my chelation equipment and prepared to remove the rust scale from inside my right rear quarter.

As the chelation process is started, you can clearly see the "clean" metal versus the rusty sections.  This shot is the "zero-hour" mark for reference.

One hour in and you can already see the edges of the rusted patches showing obvious signs of rust removal as indicated by the frosty grey color around the edges of the rusty areas.

At about 3 hours, we are seeing some real progress on removing the rust scale.  Also, you can see I wasn't able to cover the entire inside surface of the rear quarter, so I will have to do the rearward portion separately.

Here we are at about 7 hours.

After 10 hours of soak time, the rust is gone on the forward section and I moved my sprayer to the rear section to continue the process.

I used a plastic trash bag as a splash shield to keep the spray directed into my recovery tray for recirculation.

Ugly but effective.  I used a few magnets along the bottom of the bag to keep it tight against the body and a clamp at the top.

The rear section only took about 5 hours to clean.  This shot shows the entire job complete with no evidence of rust remaining.

Here is an up-close and personal shot of the area that was most heavily rusted.  After a swabbing with grease remover, I treat the bare metal with phosphoric acid to prevent flash rust and etch the metal uniformly.  Now we're ready for the next step!

The end cap fitting was another familiar process and once again, I relied heavily on the body alignment holes to make absolutely sure the panel fit the rear quarter properly.  Again I took my time and made sure the fit of every edge was as good and tight as I could make it before marking the locations of every plug weld with my white paint marker.  This allowed me to sand away the paint from each weld location to ensure each weld would be as good as I could make it.

With all of the edges prepared, I fit the end cap into place one last time and carefully clamped the edges in as many places as I could to make sure everything stayed exactly where it belonged before tack welding the panel into place.  Then, after a final check for fit, I welded the panel in completely and ground the welds smooth.  As a final check, I bolted the quarter extension into place to check the contour of the fender to the extension.  With only minor adjustments, the fit was nearly perfect and I could move on to the more challenging job of repairing the rusted rear wheel opening corner.

After aligning the end cap with long drifts in the locating holes, I clamped everything up to ensure a good fit.

This corner is always a bit tricky to get nice and tight.  But with a little work and clever clamping, it will snug up just right.

I mark each weld spot with paint marker so I can carefully sand away the paint at each spot to bare metal for a good weld surface.

Here's the bottom corner fit-up.  Nice.

Once I am absolutely sure I have everything fitting as best as it can, I go ahead and tack the panel in place.

One last check for fit while everything is tacked confirms the panel fit is good and I can safely complete the welds around the entire end cap.

All of the welding is complete in this shot and ready for grinding.

With all of the welds finish ground, I could verify the fit of the fender extension was still as close to perfect as I could make it.

Since these fender extensions are die cast pieces, they are excellent body contour references for fit.  I am very happy with the fit after all of the reconstructive work on the rear of the quarter.

Another view to confirm the fit is nice and tight.  YES!

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, the right rear wheel opening corner was more heavily damaged by rust than the left and I knew the repair would be more involved.  Fortunately, I would be able to use the same repair techniques I used on the left side which limited the extent of metal replacement in the original quarter panel to just the rust repair area.  As welcome as this condition was, it was not without its own surprises.  Even though I was very careful to evaluate the extent of the rust damage and removed metal well outside the damaged area, I found that I ended up needing to repair a bit more extensively as I had originally thought.  This presented some additional challenges that I needed to address as you will see in the pictures below.

One thing I feel compelled to mention, as I have on numerous occasions throughout this blog, is patch panel quality evaluation.  In this case, I opted for another NPD repair panel which ended up being Canadian-made.  On the counter, the lower quarter patch panel I purchased look “ok”, so I drug it home and put it in my stock of parts until such time as it would be needed.  When the time came to use it, I started to notice many undesirable characteristics that would be rather significant IF I had chosen to use the panel as a whole.  By sheer luck alone, I was able to avoid having to do so and would only have to use the panel to provide two small patches.  Specifically, there was not a single stamped character line that was correctly defined on the panel and the rear bumper coves were quite simply wrong in every aspect.  In fact, save for the front few inches of the panel that I used to fabricate my patches, the panel was otherwise garbage.  In fact, the only saving grace was perhaps that it was made of decent metal and of the proper gauge.  Otherwise……..pure crap.

On the flip side, the outer wheel house panel that I picked up from NPD and used to donate the repair patch for the rusted section of the original panel was actually fairly decent.  Not perfect by a significant margin, but more than good enough for the area that I required for the repair.
So that catches us up to about the last week in December and sets the stage for the actual trunk floor installation and panhard rod mount installation, which will complete the chassis-side of the Heidts 4-link suspension installation.

See those two little spots that look like a snake bite circled in yellow at the top of the picture?  Well, they proved to be exactly that and bit me square in the butt as I started the rust repair.  You can see that the inner wheel house damage appears to be contained to the patch area I cut out, but as it turns out, there was a small, hidden area just under the "snake bite" that was rusted as well.  Crap!

This shot is ugly, but educational.  Notice how the chelation process cleaned the rust from the damaged area, but also notice how Ford's factory seam sealer actually promotes rust between the flanges as much as anything!

Here, I have already installed the wheel housing patch and tacked in the outer wheel opening patches.

Notice the small added patch above the large patch.  This is the area with the two "snake bite" holes I had to repair unexpectedly.

I am about 2/3 of the way through welding the patches in place.  Notice the short welds with minimal heat affected zone.  This is about as good as it gets with MIG welding.   Ideally, this would be a TIG job, but I don't yet have a TIG machine.  YET being the key word.

With the welds ground flush and the area scrubbed with a metal conditioning disc, the repair is complete.

Here's another look at the finished repair from the wheel opening side.

And finally, the repaired area from the inside.  Note the weld penetration on every seam.  This repair should last a lifetime.