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Body restoration metal work recommendations?

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waydeki Wayde Kirvida
Hugo, MN, USA   USA
I could use some advice on how to proceed.

Car needs the following replaced

Let me preface by saying I don’t want to go the body shop route

Sills...rotted half way up
Rockers...long gone
Inner rear wings/fender walls... mostly gone
Shut panels...long gone
Trunk floor...mostly gone
Outriggers...a couple are bad

Do I start with the sills, then the rear inner walls, then the shut panels?

Car is nearly down to tub and frame

Oddly while the inner body parts rotted away the exterior panels and cowls and doors are rust free and just need some dings and dents from 25 years of storage to be repaired

I am mostly concerned with how to position the inner walls and shut panels and fit the doors

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bluecatmodels Avatar
bluecatmodels Silver Member Dave W
Three Rivers, CA, USA   USA
Make sure you support the frame before you take off any more of the panels. If you don't, it will sage and you will have more problems than you want.
Dave

rusty1c Avatar
rusty1c Peter D
Antioch, CA, USA   USA
1961 Austin-Healey 3000 BT7 "RUBY"
1963 Chevrolet C10 "Rusty"
Wayde,
It's funny that you should bring this up. I posted a question to the forum a couple of weeks ago regarding the re-installation of sheet metal on a new frame. I asked if there was any reference material out there that would provide the measurements that one would need to position the sheet metal correctly prior to welding. I've had many experiences of replacing many a rusted out panel on not just a Healey but numerous American car as well as other British sports cars.

Before you go any further it is imperative that you get the car as level as you possibly can. Place a 4ft level on the front shock mounts and level the car from side to side. then place a second level along the top of one of the frame rails inside the car and level it front to back. You can also check for side to side level across the tops of the pedal boxes in front of the firewall. You may have to make and install wood shims on top of the jack stands to get it perfect. Now you can check level points anywhere on the car and you can take accurate reference measurements from the floor to any point you deem necessary.
Since you have the door hinge panels in place I would make sure that the hinges are in good shape, no play, and then remount the doors. The door gaps between the front and rear fenders and the rocker panels are what is critical as there is no real adjustment. Make all of your measurements from this point. You may want to remount the front shroud and the front fenders to their mounting points on the door hinge supports. You don't have to install all of the screws but be sure to install the small Phillips head screws that hold the fender to the hinge pillar. Next when you install the doors you can set the vertical gap between the door and the fender. From this point on you have a reference for the rocker panels and the shut pillar supports.
As far as the sills you have a reference point for those off of the front fender wells where they are welded. Once the sills are in then you can figure out where the shut pillars need to go, but make sure you allow space for the rear door edge gap to rear fender. Then you can install the rear inner fender shields. Once that is installed you should then remount the rear shroud and the rear fenders. 4-5 bolts will do, re-check the rear door edge gaps to rear fender edge. Once that is done then you can start on the trunk floor and it's supports by using the shroud as a reference point.
The most important thing to remember is "DON'T WELD ANY OF THESE PIECES TOGETHER YET", use only sheet metal screws to hold everything in place so that if adjustment is necessary you can remove some screws and then you can re-position what needs to be moved. Once you are satisfied with all of your alignments then you can start tacking things in place, removing screws and welding up the holes. Rocker panels will go on last so you can set the lower door gap.
This is solely based on my experiences and what worked for me. I'm sure that there are many others that have the same experiences by go about the reconstruction process differently. Take it all in then make your own plan. Your best friends will be a magnetic protractor, a level, a tape measure and many a sets of vice grip locking clamps!
If you have a Healey manual in the back you can find measurements for many of the structural supports to the frame that you will need.
Below is the a link that I hope will help. If you run into problems send me a personal email and I'll get back to you.
https://www.ahexp.com/phorum/read.php?3,207048
Pete
rusty1c

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waydeki Wayde Kirvida
Hugo, MN, USA   USA
Pete
Thanks for the detailed description

It certainly sounds like a great approach

I’m considering buying a rotisserie to make access easier

I just wonder how to maintain a straight frame if I put it on a rotisserie

Maybe makes sense to tack or u bolt the frame to some long I beams then weld the I beams to the rotisserie

I had it clamped to I beams two decades ago

I wonder where they went

worknhard Silver Member Ron May
Denver, CO, USA   USA
Wayde -- Like you I’m doing a total restoration of my MK2 BT7... I’m about at the same stage you are at. I was going to mount my chassis on a rotisserie like you’re thinking about, but have since decided against that… at least for the time being. What I’m doing instead is building a chassis stand/table for the frame. This stand will have a nice flat level surface under each main rail of the frame relieving it of any strain while I do repairs. Plus, having a flat surface facilitates a good way to get measurements for checking the condition of frame. I can do most, if not all of my repairs/welding while the chassis is on this stand. I have pretty much the same work you’re faced with, although I do have to replace a section of frame at the front end due to an early accident. This repair alone necessitates a flat surface. Ron

rusty1c Avatar
rusty1c Peter D
Antioch, CA, USA   USA
1961 Austin-Healey 3000 BT7 "RUBY"
1963 Chevrolet C10 "Rusty"
Wayde & Ron,
I built a rotisserie when I restored my car. Unlike you Wayde my shut pillars were good so I made some temporary braces and installed them between the top of hinge pillar and the top of the shut pillar. This maintained the door opening at the correct distance. When I re-assembled the car I still had a small door gap problem but it went away after I drove the car around for a few days. I guess everything had to settle in. I have 4000 miles on the car and all the door gaps are still good. I really like Ron's idea of a "frame table" a lot of car builders use them so the every thing comes out straight and level. The trouble with the Healey frames is that they do flex and sag a little. So even if you have the frame on a straight and level surface to do the repairs when it is re-assembled the weight of the engine and the transmission will still cause it to sag a little. This is usually seen in the top of the door gaps tightening up. Up above in the "SEARCH" heading type in "frame sag" and you will find all sorts of information and experiences on the forum.
Good luck with your restorations, it took me 5 years to get mine done.
Pete


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RAC68 Avatar
RAC68 Raymond Carbone
NJ, Jersey Shore, USA   USA
Hi All,

Peter has provided some very good directions to follow.

In the mid 1980s when I totally dismantled my Healey, first created a number of frame supports to assure proper positioning during major structural assembly. Many years later, after discovering a crack in the frame (between the engine mount and front suspension), I employed these forms to assist my assuring proper support during the fix.

Additionally, way back then, I was told to weld braces in the door openings before removing sills and/or supporting dog-legs to assure the stability of door openings. Also, when replacing sills and dog-legs, to weld the new in with the frame in a slight upward/reverse arc that will counter any door-area frame sag when replaced on its suspension. Since I did design and build a rotisserie, I conveniently angled the car on its side with the sill to be replaced at the top. final welds to the floors was done with the car upside down.

Just some thoughts,
Ray(64BJ8P1)


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rusty1c Avatar
rusty1c Peter D
Antioch, CA, USA   USA
1961 Austin-Healey 3000 BT7 "RUBY"
1963 Chevrolet C10 "Rusty"
Hello everyone,
Ray mentioned putting a reverse arc in the frame when welding and doing the welding where possible in the upside down or angled position. Well he jogged my memory, because that is what I did when welding in replacement sheet metal where ever I could. I might put a few tacks in but the majority of the welding was performed with the car turned upside down on the rotisserie.
Good Catch Ray!!!

Pete

worknhard Silver Member Ron May
Denver, CO, USA   USA
Pete, Ray, Wayde,
Your information is invaluable to me… thanks so much for sharing. I’ll have to ponder this information a bit. I have read several postings about the so called “frame sag” issue, I’m still trying to get my brain around the dynamics behind it. Is this “sag”, a permanent set in the frame/chassis that occurs over time, or is it a condition where the frame/chassis deflects when weight is applied, i.e. Installation of engine and passengers? Ray & Pete, in your case it seems that you have forced a “reverse arc” in the frame/chassis so that when the car is reassembled the natural sag levels the car out. Is that correct? If so how were able to determine how much reverse deflection and where? Was this something that naturally occurred when the chassis is upside-down in the rotisserie when you welded in panels? It would be interesting to know how the frame and super structure was assembled at the factory when these cars were built. Ron

Randy Forbes Avatar
Parrish, FL, USA   USA
1957 Austin-Healey 100-Six
1999 BMW M Coupe "Blue Car"
1999 BMW M Roadster "Black Car"
2001 BMW M Roadster "Gray Car"
I know a lot of people just weld up some angle iron__cut-up old bed-frames, and the like__across the door openings, but I took it a bit further...

I made these up when I was redoing a GT6+ for a guy, but I made sure they'd also fit a Big Healey, and MGBs (the only cars I'm ever likely to do again).

After removing the windlace (aka weatherstrip) the clamps can be fitted inboard of the doors, between the hinges, and one near the latch. The doors can remain in place and shut/latch if necessary. Pointed set-screws secure them to the flanges.

The turn-bolts (RH & LH threaded) can be adjusted to increment the opening up/down, as required, and then locked in position with a jam-nut.

Yes, they were some effort to fabricate, and the hdwr wasn't free, but they were an immense help on that GT6 (having a steel roof doesn't mean there isn't any flexing left) and could only be more valuable with a rdstr.



Addition pictures, build notes and material list: http://spcarsplus.com/piwigo/index.php?/category/61

rusty1c Avatar
rusty1c Peter D
Antioch, CA, USA   USA
1961 Austin-Healey 3000 BT7 "RUBY"
1963 Chevrolet C10 "Rusty"
Ron,
I think it's a bit of both. From what I've read is that over time the frame sags due fatigue. The thickness of the metal that was used to make the main rails and that the rails are made up of 2 pieces of "C" channel welded together don't help. That is why any replacement frames that are made by either Jule or Kilmartin are made from a thicker walled tube that are one piece. It really stiffens up the car.

The second problem seems to be the sill panels. When they get rusted they loose some of their structural integrity and can also contribute to frame sag. If you look at the Moss catalog you will see two different options available for many of the superstructure panels. One is Kilmartin the other is a "no name Brand". The Kilmartin panels are made to a much higher standard and typically use a thicker gauge of metal. This is why they are more expensive. Old saying you get what you pay for.

The third issue is weight distribution. The Healey's are designed with all the weighted parts inboard of the wheels. since all the weight is suspended aft of the front wheels the car gets a much more even weight distribution front to back. I read somewhere that it is 52% front and 48% rear, anyway, then you add the passengers and the weight is even more centered in the frame. Like everything else when weight is suspended along a horizontal line between two points some flex or distortion is going to happen over the length. It just so happens this is where the doors are located. A hard top or roof is an integral structural support in a car. If you don't have one then addition supports must be added to the frame to minimize sag or flex.
I have also heard from some Healey buffs that the body panels should be fitted with the engine and transmission in the car so the car takes a set. Then the panels can be installed and aligned and the flex is compensated for. I don't know if this is an opinion or fact but when I assembled my car I did it with the engine and trans in the car with it's weight on the wheels and 2 years have gone by without and door gap movement.
Pete

worknhard Silver Member Ron May
Denver, CO, USA   USA
Thanks Pete… all good info, gives me a little better picture of what may cause the sag. When I get a chassis stand built and start making repairs I’ll post pictures… and most likely have more questions. Ron

worknhard Silver Member Ron May
Denver, CO, USA   USA
Randy – Thanks so much for posting your fixture to support structure at the door opening. I’ve been looking at your picture trying to figure out how you attached it to the pillar structure. I just now noticed your link below for more info…. Now I get it. Excellent info…. I think I’ll make something similar. Ron

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