Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Panel Alignment Part 2

I finally felt that I had everything ready to go for phase two of panel alignment.  Matching the doors up with the fenders and the fenders to the cowl and hood and the hood to the cowl.

The first step was to physically mount the fenders to the car.   One of the attach points is a captive nut in the bottom of the front section of the outer rocker.  Mine were rusted away so I bought a new Scott Drake "Fender to Cowl Nut Kit".  I've read stories where people have had serious trouble with these nuts staying in the rocker while they install the fender screws but either Scott Drake redesigned them or my rocker nut cut outs were in better shape than most because they went right in and stayed put.  For those who have had problems with these staying in, people recommend tack welding the little tabs to the rocker so the nut doesn't move while you screw in the bolts.

Scott Drake captive rocker nut behaving itself
Well, the nut was one thing, the fender mounting hole was quite another.  When set to match the door contour, the rocker mounting hole was definitely drilled in the wrong place.

Fender mounting hole not behaving itself
Of course, a certain amount of violence ensued resulting in me cutting open the mounting hole.

Oooops.. did I do that?

I actually cut it away on purpose to weld in a patch that filled the hole and lengthened the tab by a quarter inch.

Patch welded in
Then ground the welds flush and drilled a new hole 1/4" further out than the old hole.  I didn't just wing it this time, I remounted the fender and marked the new location before drilling the hole.

Ready to try again
This time the hole lined up with the rocker captive nut so I could get back to the task of aligning the panels.

It works!
Like most of the rubber parts on this car, the hood bumpers were no exception so I bought another set.

New hood bumpers

I then bolted the hood to the freshly phosphated hinges with the help of my lovely wife.  Thanks hon!

Open wide
Of course, that was just the beginning as the hood looked impossibly out of alignment.  The lower hinge mounting points on the fender aprons were as low as they could go so was something out of whack with the car?  How could I possibly close those gaps?

Now that's a panel gap!

After fiddling around with the hinge adjustment for awhile, it occured to me that there's more than one way to drop the relative height of the back of the hood and the secret is to rock the hinges back, that drops the height of the cowl edge of the hood and then the play in the hinges allows the the hood to close as far as you need to to bring the side edges in alignment with the top of the fenders.  The main variables for the hood to fender-top alignment are the fender to hood bumpers and the core support to hood bumpers and latch.  After dropping the height of the rear edge of the hood, it can be slid back/forth to close/open the cowl to hood gap by the hinge to hood mounting holes.  This is one of those "open the hood, adjust, close the hood, open the hood, adjust, close the hood, repeat" affairs.

Not completely horrible

The fender to hood panel gap is set by adjusting the fenders in and out using the top fender to apron bolts. 

Driver side fender to hood gap

The tricky part is at the nexus of the cowl, the fender, and the door.  Really tricky for me anyway.  The problem is that you can pull the fender out to match the door but then the cowl to fender gap is way too wide and vice versa.  Here's where the doors might need some further tweaking.  Really the best I could do is split the difference between all the gaps and try to get them as close as possible.

May not be good enough
Same deal on the passenger side.  Here's the resulting passenger to hood gap.

Passenger side hood to fender gap
The passenger side was actually worse than the driver side.  The gap wasn't just too wide, the fender/door plane was off too far to simply split the distance of the gaps.

Side view

I could give up a little more gap at the cowl but that still wouldn't be enough.  Here you can also see why moving the doors way back will mess with the fender-to-door gap.  You can only move the fenders back so far before that curved section at the back of the fender that butts up against the bottom of the windshield A pillar frame gets in the way.  This is why I wasn't very gung-ho about shifting the doors as far back as they could go to close the door-to-quarter panel gap.

Top view.
The solution was to adjust the door inward and increase the cowl to fender gap a bit.  There's also a bit of adjustment to play with at the bottoms of the fenders to bring the fenders flush with the doors.  It's better but I don't think I'm ready to put panel alignment behind me just yet.


I haven't installed the hood latch or front hood bumpers but it's a good start I think.  I'll probably do some more fiddling with the doors and the contour of the bottoms of the fenders.

Hmm... looking more like a car every day


  1. That is awesome Alex! Great job aligning those panels.

  2. Good one Alex. I did a quick hang of my passenger door a week ago and pinned my fenders up with a single bolt just to see how it is all sitting. I even sat my bonnet (no hinges yet) in place. It is going to be a fiddly job no doubt but again, if you wouldn't mind just staying a few steps ahead of me I can continue to learn :)

    Two thumbs up for you my brother...!!

  3. Hey Alex... What is it you're using (blue stuff) under your fenders in the "Open Wide" image above?

    I have been wondering what is used in there when it comes to final asssembly.

  4. Actually, the blue stuff is just wide blue masking tape for keeping the tops of the aprons from getting scratched up while I futz around with the fenders. For final assembly I believe some people use strip caulk between the fender and the apron but others leave it bare.

  5. Thanks Alex... I wasn't sure if you were meant to use anything in there or not. It makes sense to just to help with rattles and squeaks. Not to mention protecting the surfances...

    Cheers mate...

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