Sunday, May 31, 2009

Holey Cowl!

Okay so the title is a bit misleading. Yes, I worked on the cowl, no, it wasn't holey but I just couldn't resist the play on words so... there.

When I looked into the cowl through the grill, I could see several curled up paint chips and some rust. I removed the vents from below the dash, crawled under there, shone a flash light up at the cowl, and inspected it very carefully. Up to that point I was worried that I'd have to do a complete cowl repair like a large percentage of people have to do when restoring these cars. My inspection purged that fear and I rejoiced in my uncommon luck. It's kind of like when the doctor diagnoses you with some fatal disease on a Friday and then calling you Monday to tell you that he made an error and that you only have mono. Well, the rust I saw in the cowl is the mono. Not bad enough to replace the cowl but bad enough that I had to find a way to service it.

I decided to cut access holes in the front of the cowl that I could get my arm into to clean it out. I marked the cut lines with blue masking tape in such a way that they followed existing bends and/or didn't disturb features like the windshield fluid ports.

I marked and cut the passenger side in this way:

And then chose a similar cutting path for the drivers side:

I'm going to show these next two pictures out of sequence because they were actually cut after I had completed some cleanup work in the cowl through the holes I had made above. I realized that although I could come close, I could never get all the way around the vent hats so I cut another, less intrusive hole in the passenger side to allow access to the back of the hat:

After working through the above small hole, I found it useful but time consuming to maneuver the brush or tools in the space. So on the driver side, I cut a somewhat larger hole. This one proved just right for outside access:

I stuck my digital camera in the front access port and took a picture from within the cowl. It definitely would not be a good idea to leave this unattended. The good news is that I think this cowl was replaced during this car's restoration in the 80s. There was paint, probably from through the grill, but also primer inside the cowl by the cowl hats. I don't know if Ford primered the cowls at the factory, I thought they were left bare metal:

An inside shot of the passenger hat. See the remnants of gray primer?:

Some mouse decided that the driver side hat would make a comfy little mouse home. I found my missing seat cushion batting:

Fast forward past all of the tedious labor of cleaning out the cowl. I used hand-held wire brushes and an air angle grinder with a wire brush and a 2" abrasive disc. I then cleaned the debris from inside the cowl and sprayed it down with Ospho worked in with a scotch brite pad:

After the Ospho dried, I went over it again with the scotch brite pad and then went to work with the ZeroRust. Now, spreading ZR in a cowl takes some special planning. For instance, I wore latex gloves and then duct taped my cover-all sleeves to the latex gloves so they wouldn't roll up and get ZR all over my arms. Also, I put a strip of duct tape across the knuckles of my latex gloves so avoid ripping them (or my knuckles) open on the underside of the cowl grill. Lastly, I cut the handles of my 2" wide paint brushes off to about 1" long. I reached in with my left arm through the passenger front hole and my right arm through the driver front hole doing a half cowl at a time.

After about an hour I had the middle area done:

Then I did the driver vent hat, first from the inside...

...and then from the outside:

Followed by the passenger side hat in the same way:

The next day, I scuffed it all down and painted on another coat.

24 hours later, I went in with seam sealer. First laying down a bead and then spreading it with an acid brush soaked in lacquer thinner:

And made sure to get the outside:

I did a similar treatment from under the dash. Wire brush, Ospho, and then ZeroRust. I kept the work close to the cowl vents though. I'll treat the rest of the dash when I get it apart for paint later. Driver side:

Same for the passenger side:

Before I could weld the cut-outs back into place, however, I had uncovered a bit of rust on the driver side and needed to repair it:

Like the other patches I had done in the past, I cut out the rusted metal:

And then fabricated replacement patches, welded them in, and ground them down:

I then welded the cut-outs back into place. This proved to be tricky since the cowls are galvanized. The metal definitely didn't weld easily and white zinc residue collected on the welds. I had to do this in a series of spot welds. It took quite a long time:

Same with the passenger side:

I then ground the welds down on the driver side:

And then the passenger side:

A note about this process if you're thinking of doing something similar: If you look at the pictures of the front access holes, you'll notice that I cut them about 3/16" down from the top of the cowl. I did this to minimize the damage to the top of the cowl. However, this is guaranteed to damage the paint on the top of the cowl since the heat can't be controlled from the other side of the weld. I tried keeping a wet rag on top of the cowl and that may have helped a little but I still managed to burn the paint and leave slight warps in the vicinity of the top weld joint that will have to be leveled with filler. Another caveat is that the weld beads are unprotected on the inside of the cowl and may be harbingers of rust in the distant future which wouldn't be a problem if you remove the entire cowl top.

Benefits to doing it this way, though, include not having to remove the windshield like you need to do to remove the entire top of the cowl and also leaving a majority of the sealer in place including the factory sealer between the top and bottom cowl panel joints which was allowed to remain except in the places where I cut my access ports.

So, the cowl is hereby protected for an unknown duration into the future. At least my feet will stay dry.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Right Front Outer Frame Rail Patch

I'll bet you thought I'd be painting the engine compartment by now didn't you? Well, so did I until I thought about it a little bit and decided that I had a couple of things to do first. No sense scratching up my nice new engine compartment paint job on more sheet metal work is there?

More sheet metal work? What on Earth possessed me to stop midway through a perfectly good engine compartment repaint and do more sheet metal work?

Well, I was proudly inspecting my fine fine work. You know, just kind of standing there patting myself on the back, smoking a celebratory cigar, and listening to "Big Time" by Peter Gabriel when I overlooked all of the other obvious blemishes and focused on one tiny oddity on the right front outer frame rail. The nuts were... off. Like all tilty toward the front of the car? I screwed a long bolt into one of them and placed a welding magnet next to it for a 90 degree reference and saw this:

Now, I'll tolerate just about anything... except tiltyness! Not on my watch!

Well, after I threw my tantrum and hyperventilated, I woke up and remembered that I have a long history of experience with this type of thing making me a kind of front outer frame rail savant. For you see I have, in the past, patched the driver side. So, I crushed out my cigar (it was a popsicle actually), switched iPod to "Eye of the Tiger" and set to work.

I ordered a Front Frame Rail Outer Patch from NPD and cut it to a length just short of where the strut brace is welded to the bottom of the frame rail.

And then used the new patch to mark the location where I would cut away the old frame rail marking it with blue masking tape because in my opinion, nothing worth doing is worth doing without blue masking tape.

Next center punch and cut the existing spot welds with a spot weld cutter on the side...

... and bottom. Note the extra holes in the middle of the bottom of the inner rail. I happen to have known from previous experience that there's a bracket inside that I'll need to remove. These spot welds held the bracket in place.

Along with two more on the inside of the engine compartment. Can anyone spot one of my pet peeves with the so-called self-centering spot weld cutters?

After having cut all of the spot welds, I sliced the joint with my angle grinder swinging a 1/16" cutting disk.

Liberal use of an air chisel got us one ugly, rusty hunk-o-frame rail. The bracket inside is what's mostly rusted away with the bumper mounting captive nuts not far from breaking away.

Lets take a few moments for the deceased.

There's an ancient car restorer saying: What thy air chisel screweth-up, thy body hammer shall return to ye. I ran a 2 1/2" wire cup brush on my angle grinder in the rail to work away any loose rust particles and then soaked the area with Ospho being careful to try to get it everywhere.

Two coats of ZeroRust, again trying my best to make a mess.

I sprayed the patch with 2 coats of self-etching primer, drilled out the plug weld holes, clamped it in place (ooooh lookey! clecos!), and then used a flat bottom spot weld bit to expose clean metal through each hole.

Plug welded the plug welds and seam welded the seam weld.

Finally, ground the welds down.

There, that should hold that bumper out straight like a straight bumper should hold. Now, where did I put that popsicle?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cleaning up the Front Clip

Wow, over two weeks since my last entry. I'd like to say I was out enjoying the sunny days of Spring but A) It rained much of the time, and B) I spent the whole time grinding away on the front aprons, firewall, and radiator support.

Now, I expect you to suffer along with me and read every frame of this long, tedious blog entry because misery loves company, right? If you've ever had the misfortune of cleaning up a front clip by hand, you're probably rolled up in a ball under your desk screaming, "No more! No more! Please just kill meeeeeeeee!"

A competent veteran restorer would have just had the car completely media blasted and been done with it but I'm none of those, so I hefted my angry grinder... err angle grinder up, armed it with a Harbor Freight 4 1/2" Knotted Wire Wheel and went to work.

This is what we start with. In this case, it's the outside of the driver side rear apron, coated with rust and brittle black sound deadener. First I opted to just dig the wire wheel right into it. It does work but the mess is extreme. I was coated head to toe with black dust and looked like a coal miner.

I then decided to brush paint thinner over the surface first and use a rigid putty knife to scrape the sound deadener away first. This worked too minus the black lung.

After I could see bare metal, I then went to work with the wire wheel. It did a pretty good job of knocking off the old paint if I was slow and methodical about it. After about 1 hr of combined scraping and grinding, I pulled back my respirator and sighed contentedly while admiring the shiny metal... until I looked to the left and saw the other two acres of pain. It was then I knew what I'd be doing for another 4 or 5 nights.

Here's the clean-as-it's-gonna-get-for-this-car outer driver side apron.

The same routine was followed for the outer passenger side.

Then I had to do it all over again on the inside but with a twist. Look at all those #($&@* nooks and crannies.

Inside passenger aprons done.

And repeated on the inside driver side aprons.
I moved onto the front radiator support... the support with lots of holes and edges. Do you know what happens when the wire wheel spinning at 12K RPM does when it catches the edge of a hole or flange? It becomes POSSESSED by the screaming demons of Hades and takes off on it's own, that's what! You either drop it, catch it, or lose an appendage. I only dropped it in my lap once.. OW!

Having survived the past several nights of noise and mayhem, losing the feeling in my fingers from the constantly vibrating grinder, I finally made it to the grand finale.

Ah Mr. Firewall. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. First things first though. I had to remove the wiring harnesses. This involved crawling up under the dash, taking reference photos, and marking wires. The harnesses could then be snaked through their respective holes in the firewall.
Same routine only this time there were some serious globs of seam sealer that needed to be removed as well. I accidentally knocked out that eliptical punch-out next to the heater blower hole. What's that for anyway? A/C?

After having molested every square inch of the front clip top, bottom, inside, and out, I sprayed it down with a coat of Ospho to protect/etch the metal and convert any surface rust remaining.

Passenger side:

Driver Side:

Front apron and firewall:

A lot actually happened between the above photo and the below photo. Primarily, the surfaces were scuffed with scotch pads, cleaned with degreaser, and then rubbed down with lacquer thinner. Additionally, the openings on the firewall were masked from the inside.

Finally, every surface, including the bottoms of the frame rails and insides of the motor mount rails and strut brackets was sprayed with DP74LF. My original plan was going to involve painting it with ZeroRust but I was more obsessive than I thought I'd be about getting down to bar metal so I decided to just do it entirely in epoxy primer.

I went back through the Weld and Sealant manual and interpreted what I saw to mean that I should seal the vertical overlaps between the shock tower and aprons, along the top of the frame rail, and around the inside bottom of the shock tower. Since the battery apron was new, I did it but there was still visible sealer in the other seams so I left them be. Perhaps I should have just done them all over for consistency. I might still before paint.

Same on the driver side:

Okay so this wasn't in the manual but I couldn't leave well enough alone. There are pretty good gaps that would allow water to flow freely into the torque boxes from the inside of the engine compartment. I couldn't see why we would seal the tops of the torque boxes but still allow rain free reign of the torque boxes and insides of the frame rails and floor supports. This seals all that.

Stay tuned for engine compartment paint.