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It seems like more often than not, I start these blog entries with a statement about how “it's been a while since I posted/did anything/blah blah blah”.

This one is no different. If you want to get to the car progress skip to the mug shot of Shop Manager Poncho.


Its been a while since I posted an update, but I have excuses!

The last one was February and now it's July, which makes me feel like a lump.


I did continue to work on the car for a portion of the time between now and then. Recently though, we moved out of our rental with a one car garage and into our first home which has a detached 2 car garage!


Most of my weekends in March and April were consumed with house hunting and mortgage chores so I didn't get much done. We moved in the first weekend of June and have been setting up things ever since. The house is mostly unpacked and the garage is coming together. I inherited a 4 stroke leaf blower and weed wacker from the previous owners and bought a Cub Cadet. That brings our cylinder count up to 30 not including the '02 in Maine.

There is a slight sag in the center girder of the garage so I have plans drawn up for replacing it with a W8x24 I beam and other goodies. Once the I beam goes in I will be able to utilize the area above the garage as a nice doghouse for when I'm in trouble storage area.

The small workshop in the back will suffice for now. I got some pegboard from Lowes for 10 bucks so that will help with organization for now. It's so much more space than what I had.  It's a great size (for now).


Also, I got a great Craftsman 33 gallon compressor for a six pack of IPA. I think the seller just wanted to show off his awesome garage and new shop air system...

Obviously I have plenty of plans for the new place, after the I beam goes in, I'll be running a 220V line from the garage sub panel and picking up a AC/DC TIG welder. I have my eye on an Everlast PowerTIG 200DV right now. They are a great bang for your buck from what my research tells me.  Don't tell my wife.



So last time I ended with my installation of the rear driver fender patch panel.

After that panel went in, I moved on to the driver rear quarter patch and learned a few more things during and after the installation. Most notably I found that you want to planish the weld spots with the on dolly method kind of heavily, but not too heavily. If planishing was making grits, you'd want them to be “al dente”.

When you tack weld the panels you add a little material then cool it rapidly which causes the metal around the weld to shrink. By planishing the weld, you flatten the tack weld out and effectively add metal to the shrunken area of the panel releasing the inward dent you just created. This is obviously an acquired skill, one that I don't fully or even half-ly(?) possess yet. It's like golf - how hard can it be?

The panel went in nicely using the same weld, planish, grind technique. The old one had about a 1/4" of Bondo on it.  This car has clearly been well damaged over its lifetime. 


I had a little warping so I tried to planish it out with limited success. Then I tried heat, which was the completely wrong thing to do. I was on a role so I figured, why not? And found out quickly why I should not. The patch panel warped even further and took me even longer to get it back to a point I was somewhat happy with.





I moved to the front of the car and pulled out the HVAC panel that goes between the engine bay and the heater core. It's welded to the inner fender wings in a few spots and welded to the center hood release bracket in a few million spots.



Once I got it out, I began cleaning it off and finding some pitting and holes in the panel. I will be cutting them out and welding in new metal. I'll have to replace some of the metal on the hood release bracket because there is so little metal left from where all the spot welds were.

Then I started looking at the very first welding repair I did to the car, the passenger inner wing which connects to the frame rail. It looked gross. I hated it. It came out. Along with that I cut out the passenger frame rail that I fabricated. There was just too much distortion from rust in the engine area. I couldn't justify leaving it there. So I cut it out and destroyed it, effectively making it impossible to undo what I had just done.




I fear that I'm turning into my father by keeping everything. To combat the transformation I destroy anything I think I might need in a year or two so that I am forced to throw it away. Anyway, I purchased a new passenger frame rail from W&N. They were having a sale, and with the flat rate shipping they do now, it was over $100 cheaper, not including shipping, than from our North American suppliers.

The new one came in and I started fitting it up, checking all of the chassis dimensions from the nice binder W&N sent me with all the exploded views, chassis dims, and badge placements. I guess they feel sorry for you once you spend a certain amount of money with them. I was pretty shocked to find that everything lined up within their plus/minus 1mm tolerance from the factory. I was able to breathe a sign of relief.


I started remaking some patches that I had done with the flux core because they looked absolutely terrible. I was able to use the bead roller to make a similar contour to the factory passenger foot well.

I have to make the bottom part of the passenger inner wing again unless I can source a donor for that area. If you have one available please PM me.

That's pretty much where I left off. It was hard to keep moving when I knew I was going to have to pack it all up and move the whole project. I just started slowly packing the garage instead of working on the car.

Now we are comfortably settled in at our new home so work on the car is starting to come around again. Hopefully more updates coming soon...


P.S. Good on you if you got the My Cousin Vinny reference.








First, thanks for all the productive comments in my last entry.  Please keep them coming!  I don't know if I should be grateful for that link to MP&C's tutorials or if it is an “ignorance is bliss” type of scenario.  Regardless of the situation, that Garage Journal thread has been a complete time suck but incredibly motivating and answered my previous questions about master auto body technicians – Yes it can be made perfect.  This guy does it with all his panels.    Here is the link, again.
After reading pages and pages of the thread, trying out different things then venting my frustrations to my loving and patient wife; she hit me with a very stark remark.  
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Truer words, one might say.  And I am most certainly one who would say that.  
Not to make this any longer, but here are a few pictures from our trip to the 24 hours at Daytona.  It was a much needed trip out of dodge to a warmer, sunny (read bitter cold and rainy) place.  This is my 4th or 5th outing to the 24h race and it never disappoints.  






The M12 was not in the E21, I looked.


She looks good in a red 356 right?


One thing that has changed that I was bummed about is that you can't stand next to the fence at turn 1 of the tri-oval anymore.  That was always a religious experience.  There was a new BMW “art” car by Baldessari.  I put art in quotes because it was far from an art car if you ask me.  If you go, make sure to get the garage pass, it is well worth the extra 25 bucks or so and will satisfy all your late night hunger for fast and furious race car repair.



Anyway, that was just a few pictures.  
I started piecing the driver side rear wheel well back together.  Taking advice from the comments as well as the Garage Journal thread, I took the time and filed the wheel arch panel to fit without gap.  This took a few hours but it was well worth the time.  I first cut the panel long then roughed it into shape slowly pausing to make sure that when I removed metal in one area I would not be creating a gap in another.  I took my time filing the panel down to shape.  I made indicator marks on the body so I fit the patch panel up the same way each time.  
I finally got it to fit up very well with great consistency in the contact between the panels.  



I neglected to mention that I did all this because I found rust between the original panels eating into the inner and outer fender.
Throw away the butt welding clamps!
Or only use them for test fitting a panel.  I will never use them for the actual body sheet metal welding process anymore.  
Here is what I found.  
When using the butt weld clamps you have to bridge a gap, albeit small,  with filler.  This causes a huge heat dump into an edge of metal.  The heat has only half of the material to dissipate into since it is not contacting the other panel yet, thus you have a very good chance of burning through the panel not to mention almost 100% chance of warping.  To account for this, you may turn your heat down on the welder (#1 on my Hobart), and maybe turn up the wire feed.  
However, if you butt the two pieces of metal together the heat can dissipate into both panels making it less likely to burn through the panels.  With the panels butted together I had my welder set to #3, a whole 2 clicks up on heat, with a slow-ish wire feed.  The slow wire feed kept the weld proud low but the weld penetration remained complete.  I did not burn through the metal once.
I used the spot weld, planish, grind method outlined in the Garage Journal thread with good results.  Honestly, I wasn't sure what I was doing or looking for at first. I slowly started to understand the on dolly, off dolly planishing techniques and how they actually work, or don't work.
The process, as I understand it, goes like this:
1. Fit up the patch panel snugly and tack in place.  I don't know how far to space the tacks, but I tried to space them about 6 inches apart and had what I think were good results.  
2. Planish the panel to fit the contour of the body.  I noticed that the wheel well patch panel does not have the same contour as the original body.  The vertical curve, or “the hotdog” as I was told it was called, is not present in the patch panel.   
3. Grind the welds just proud of the sheet metal.  I only have a 4 1/2” angle grinder so I used a old cut off wheel that was worn down so it was easier to control.  
4. At this point, I double checked my panel alignment and did little adjustments as needed.
5. Weld another spot weld over the last set of spot welds.  I did about a 50% overlap of the previous spot weld.  
This is a long and tedious process, but the time consuming nature of the process has a secondary benefit of making you wait for the weld to cool whilst (I sound like a bloody Brit!) staying productive.  This tends to keep warping down to a minimum.   




After all the weld was completed (it took me an entire day)  I took my 120 grit flap disk and started taking off what was left of the weld proud.  




I did notice some low areas especially in the lower back corner of the patch panel.  I thought heat would be necessary but I was able to pop it out with the hammer and dolly.  I applied pressure to the low spot from the inside of the trunk with a dolly that closely fit the desired shape of the body panel then, using the off dolly technique, I planished around the low spot.  I could not believe how well the low spot was lifted.  I am every bit of a novice at this and it worked very well for me.  By no means is it perfect but I lifted about 95% of the low spot.
Apparently you want to leave the on dolly planishing for the final small adjustments to the sheet metal distortion.  On dolly will stretch the metal, so if you are not close to the final desired shape you might want to avoid on dolly planishing – from what I understand.  
Also,  for Valentines day the lady got me a bead roller!  It's pretty cool.  I will be reinforcing it with some square tube or angle iron.  It came with six sets of dies so I made a little hanger for the dies that are not being used (top right of the picture).



I will say this is addicting work.  I never thought I'd be this far into a project like this.  It's a great learning experience.







I would like to ask that if you have a question or wonder why I didn't do something a certain way, or even better, some tips on how to do something better, please put them in the comments or PM me. My method is usually try to figure it out and if I can't Google it. That doesn't mean I thought everything through properly and I'm always looking to learning more. So:

Four months and (some) progress!

Thank god I’m doing this before kids. Its difficult to find time but determination and drive is still strong. I am fearful of needing to tell someone “Oh that? That’s the project car I never finished.” Please do not misinterpret this as a “Well it looks like that’ll work, let’s move on”.

When I left off, I had tipped the car on her side and scraped the entire underside down to bare metal. A task accomplished much easier with the car on its side. And if you are going to be welding, you might as well weld up an errr, car tipper(-er?). After it was scraped and wire wheeled, I prepped for POR15.

I purchased:

1 Gallon POR-15 40104 Cleaner Degreaser

1 Gallon POR-15 40201 Metal Prep

1 Quart POR-15 45404 Semi Gloss Black Rust Preventative Paint

1 Quart POR-15 45904 Top Coat


I read the directions and put down some plastic so that after I degreased and etched the underside of the car I could rinse it out of the garage.

After degreasing and etching, I scuffed the underside and began to apply the Rust Preventative Paint in a thin coat as directed. I applied two coats in two days. I used about ¾ of the quart for the parts that I painted. I did not paint the wheel wells or the trunk portion past the diff mounts. I would suggest buying 2 quarts to cover the entire underside plus front and rear wheel wells. Buy the crappy paint brushes.  It's not worth the hassle of trying to clean them after this stuff.  Just throw them out and move on with your life.



I didn't realize how thin of a paint it was.  I was expecting a thick epoxy, but it really quite thin and runs quickly if too much is applied.  

Shop Manager Poncho thought it turned out pretty well and gave me an 'adda boy paw shake.


I then purchased 3M Ultra Pro 8300 Auto Body Sealant to seal up all the welded joints on the underside. I think it was about $25 a tube. It worked pretty well and uses a standard caulk gun.



3M instructs the user to really press the sealer into the joints with your finger.  I believe they suggest waxing your glove so the sealer doesn't stick to it.  I did not do this and it did stick to the glove which became frustrating and tiresome pretty quickly.  

The weather got too cold so I have yet to put on the POR 15 Top Coat over the paint and seam sealer. I'll do this when the weather warms up again. The car is high enough off the ground where it won't be a problem.


After I sealed as much as I could, my friend down the street came by and we flipped the car back right side up. I welded a saw horse for the front frame rails that picks up the front sub frame bolt holes so the car won't slide off.


I built a wooden support for the rear that slides into the rear diff ears. A 2x6 fits perfectly right in.


The car now sits about 38” off the ground.

Then I got back to the body work

What I have learned about sheet metal and bodywork is if you’re not willing to do it all again, you shouldn’t be doing it. It is not easy and the only way to learn is the hard, arduous way. I welded parts on, then cut them off because I didn't like the fit. I have found that the seam between two sheets may bulge out, sink in or stay perfectly tangent or co-linear. The latter of the three was very rare for me. What I found was that if the seam is going to either bulge or sink, you would rather have it sink. If the seam bulges you will be grinding the weld until it is pretty much gone in order to get the body lines correct. In most cases you will grind through the weld way before the body lines return to their correct contour. If the seam sinks, then after the weld is ground to or below the body line, it can be filled with a light coat of body filler. I am not sure what a master auto body specialist would do, I assume all their welds would be perfectly tangent to the body lines and they would just do minimal skim coats of body filler. I am no master auto body specialist.

Also, A body hammer and dolly block kit is very useful and really helps out. I have the GearWrench 82302 kit

I welded on the passenger rocker patch panel with good success and the lower rear quarter patch panel.




Going slow is key.  If you move too fast and put too much heat into the metal, it will distort.  I thought I was going slow enough and I wasn't.  I ended up cutting the rear panel out and welding it back in because the seam bulged out.  


This is not the time to run a long bead.  Short penetrating tacks followed by ample time to cool.   

I am currently welding in the passenger rear wheel arch pretty successfully.  I am getting a sink in the seam in some places, it isn't too bad and can be filled easily with a light coat of filler.  


My goal is really to keep the need for body filler to a minimum and have good, quality welds holding the car together.

I also replaced a patch in the spare tire well. It was a little tricky but actually came out well.  I did this while the car was still on its side.

It was difficult because it curved around from the bottom up the round wall. After I cut out the bad metal, I hammered it flat - what we call a flat pattern -  so that I could replicate the piece from new metal.  





I tacked it in then began massaging the metal around the bends, tacking it in as it started to line up.


I wish I had more to report, but thats about it.  

Back to the garage.  No rest for the weary! Well, maybe for the shop manager.








Still at it!

Just the other day, in a moment of clarity, I drew an unerring relation to restoring a car and going to college - at least for me.

In both cases

  1. I thought I would breeze right through it at first.

  2. I was enticed by the marque offerings: education and, ahem, women for grad school. Car community and cool/performance parts for the classic BMW.

  3. It has taken me longer that thought or scheduled.

  4. It's really expensive.

  5. I made great friends.

  6. There is so much learning involved.

  7. And last but undeniably not least: such a monumental financial decision should not have been awarded to a person of my maturity.

Do I regret any of it? Absolutely not. Well, perhaps I should have applied for more scholarships and tried harder to get a TA position but aside from that I loved grad school. Undergrad was a different story (don't go to NJIT) but I still learned quite a bit. This was just a revelation I decided to share...

Shameless plug:

I designed and prototyped a fuel pressure regulator for electric fuel pump setups.  It sits where the mechanical fuel pump sits.  Visit this thread for more info.


On to the update!


I have been absent for a while, my last post was in early April so it's obviously been more than a few months. In that time I got married to a wonderful lady (who bought me a motorcycle!), took a 2 week honeymoon to the Azores where we bathed in thermal springs, surfed, hiked, drove incredible roads and watched rally cars fly by us from behind chicken wire fences. There was a hip surgery for the newly betrothed, another wedding, baby showers, birthdays, a few funerals, more traveling... It's been hectic.

I was able to get in the garage from time to time and get things moving. We got a big momentum boost when the hotel room for The Vintage next year was booked. Super early, right? I couldn't believe that it was filling up this early. Really? We have to book a year out? A big thanks to Jim G for getting us in there.  Also a congrats to Jim on making the Cover of "Der Bayerische" and a great article!

Given the rate at which rooms are going there should be quite a few cars there next year. We missed this years because it was our wedding weekend. We would have taken my patina/cirrusblau e30.

With The Vintage room booked, I now have a deadline to miss meet. I've been in high gear and encouraged by the wife to keep going! “Shouldn't you be in the garage?” Which also just so happens to be the second line in the book How You Know You Married the Right Woman. The first line is “Surprise! I got us plane tickets to Le Mans!” (Hint, hint, if you're reading.)

Anyway, I replaced two portions of the trunk. One around the spare tire and one on the outside of the gas tank area.



I was able to weld in the driver side patch panel with fairly good results.  I am hellbent on getting the passenger side in really well.  It sucks learning everything the hard way but I think it is a really great way to learn this stuff.




If you remember from an earlier post, this was the side that I cut too high, so I actually had to weld in a strip about 3/4" inch of original panel above the patch panel.  There are two beads of welds in this area along side of the car!

I fixed another hole in the rear passenger floor pan and welded in the rear seat support.


I welded in the passenger side rocker panel and cut out the passenger rear inner wheel well and the fender.



Next the new passenger side inner fender was welded in place. I picked this up along with the driver side inner ender and both rear outers from W&N. That's where the welding on the car stopped.


I found a new nose locally as well. It is a late model nose with the big bumper holes but somebody welded metal over to make it look like a small bumper nose then bondo'd the front clean. It doesn't have any rust and looks to be in really good condition, so I am happy with the purchase


I welded up a few large, stout "L" brackets and bolted one to the front subframe, and the other to the rear subframe pickup points. With some help rom a friend down the street, we put the car on her side. Completely suspended off the ground, I was able to start removing the under coating. Working on the underside of a car while standing up is great. Here are the methods I used to remove the undercoating.

  1. Wire wheel/wire cup – Good results, but slow going. Tough areas are skipped by the wheel but you can get most of them with the wire cup. Obviously this makes a bunch of dust and throws it everywhere which is not ideal.

  2. Heat gun and scraper – really good results and can get the tough areas. I bought the Kobalt one from Lowes (http://www.lowes.com/pd/Kobalt-1-500-Watt-Professional-LCD-Heat-Gun/50157920) It works really well. Set to 1100F and the undercoating peeled off like a fresh slice of Havarti. (What?)

  3. Multitool – This worked pretty well also. I purchased the Porter Cable (http://www.lowes.com/pd/PORTER-CABLE-12-Piece-3-Amp-Oscillating-Tool-Kit/50358206) which was on sale for $49 down from $89 at Lowes. I took the wood blade it comes with and ground it down to a chisel on my bench grinder. I was able to just peel up the undercoating. Would work really well for large open areas where you have a lot of access. It's a really good all around tool.


Now I am on to getting all the good primer off for painting. I plan on using POR15 and all of my research says bare metal is needed to get the full performance of the paint. I've been using the unwoven resin coated wire wheels and they work pretty well. They are not really durable so I am using a lot of them. They aren't cheap either.



This may be important for some doing this type of undercoating repair.  The PO put after market seats in the car.  He made brackets and bolted them to the stock mounting points.   Well the brackets were tearing the metal around the transmission tunnel - see the red areas in the picture below.  I was able to reset the metal with a punch and hammer from the inside of the cabin and then weld them closed from under the car.



I lost all of my photo documentation of the build over the last year when I reformatted my computer and my backup hard failed to work the one time I actually needed it. I lost over 800 pictures of the build among everything else. Do not trust Western Digital with your computer. Or buy two of them. I'm livid over the loss, but life goes on – with all thats going on in the news can I really complain?  First world problems I keep reminding myself.










Much like my last post, it is snowing here in VA (yes, April 9th) and I know I’ve been slacking on the building and blogging as of late.  And by late I mean the last 4 months.  I have had a lot of projects going on.

We had a track day at Summit Point that I signed up for in hopes to motivate me to swap out the head on my e30.  Long story short, I was able to get the parts together in time and build up the head – with a new billet 272 cam while I was in there, duh – and had some fun on the track.  The new cam definitely helped the mid range and throttle response.  Obviously, this project did not come without expense and admittedly the cause of a few headaches for our wonderful vendor Steve at BluntTech.  Steve, I found a set of valve spring retainers in a bag tucked in the corner of my garage.  So yeah, sorry for being a pain in the ass.  Funds have been short for the ’02.

Engineers Digression:

The other projects I’ve been working on have been brining me back to the good(!?) old days of my thesis work.  I’ve been doing some CAD design and CFD work to get back into it before jumping into some complex flow simulations.  Friends are confused and ask “Wait, your doing this for fun?”  Truthfully, yes.  This is fun stuff.  And I’m sure you guys will think its great too – I hope anyway or I really am nuts.   You have access to all the tools!  And for Free!  Legally!

Start here – OnShape.com

This is a really great free CAD software package.  It’s cloud based so you don’t even have to install anything.  It runs right in your internet browser and you can get it for your iPad or phone too.  Look for the IPO of this company, because with the rate they are going, they will be competing with SolidWorks and CATIA in no time.  If you have used SolidWorks, this environment will feel very comfortable.  The founders are x-SolidWorks designers.  Whats more is that they are starting to offer free simulation time.  It is based on core processing time per month.  I think you get like 3000 minutes of core processing time each month for free.  Anyway, check it out. It’s a great tool and it’s a great way to validate a concept you have way before you buy parts.  A seat of SolidWorks costs $7k, maybe even more.  Onshape is about 80% of SolidWorks and growing, and free.  Here is a link to my assembly for my Oil pressure sender for the e30.  This design will just bolt up to the original oil pressure sensor area on an M20.  It uses a VDO sender with 1/8-27 NPT threads.  It’s still working well, just add copper washers on each side of the adapter  

If we all model just a few parts, we could have an entire model of a 2002 for everyone’s use and reference!  I’ll setup a project on OnShape.  If your interested in helping model up an M10 or any other parts or assemblies, PM me and I’ll add you to the list of contributors for the 2002 project.  Its easy, grab your calipers and measure some parts!  Also, fastener models are all free and available on mcmaster.com so don’t worry about modeling a bolt, unless you want to.  

Next – for the hardcore mathematicians out there and people who are ready to learn some multiphysics and flow simulation – caelinux.com You’ll need to learn a few terminal commands.


This is a Linux build that you can either run off of a CD or install as a partition.  This gives you full access to OpenFOAM arguably the best CFD package in the industry.  Its legal, don’t worry.  OpenFOAM is Open source.  This is not an easy program to use, but its accuracy and customization capabilities are unmatched.  If you want to start learning about CFD there are great books and lectures for free here: http://www.cfd-online.com/Links/onlinedocs.html and http://www.cfd-online.com/Links/education.html

I would suggest starting here: http://www.rzg.mpg.de/~bds/numerics/cfd-lectures.html

Also, read this: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ME608/webpage/main.pdf

If you are already working on this kind of stuff, I would love to know more about what you're doing.  

One other thing that I am constantly surprised that people do not know about is edx.org Get your MIT degree for free! And yes, it too is legal.  In the wonderful world of the internet we now have access to all these great courses.  No more excuses for not learning.

There you have it.  The tools Formula 1 uses and the courses you can take to get you there.  Who would have thought the most accurate analysis package available is free?  Anyway, the goal for me is to design and do some flow simulation work for a plenum to mate up with the 40DCOEs.  Be careful, because once you get into this stuff, it’s hard to put it down – hence the lack of progress on the ’02.  Ah yes, the ’02.  

The driver side frame rail under the floor pan is finished.  And the passenger side frame rail had some more metal cut out and replaced.  The front of the driver side frame rail was pretty well bent out of shape so I cut it off and worked it back straight.  In the process I found this inside the frame rail that meets up with the subframe.  I vacuumed it all out and I’ll be spraying some rust converter in there.  I’ll be welding in some new metal here very soon.


I also finished up filling the large hole in the driver side foot well.




I was able to patch up some areas in the rear foot well as well.  I have a few more small areas that I would like to address, but had to wait till I dropped the sub-frame to get to them properly.  



I also started investigating the rust on the nose clip.  It seems to be terminal so I’ve been trying to source another one.  I think I’m over budget this month due to an overly aggressive student loan payment so I’ll have to wait till May.  If you have kids going to college, beat them over the head about getting scholarships otherwise it’s like having a mortgage at the age of 21 without a job, (I’m 30 now and have a long way to go) but that’s another rant.  


Shop Manager Poncho fears the worst.  I don't have a picture, but the core support on the back side is pretty much gone.  Odds are this nose becomes a bar or coffee table.


I moved to the back of the car and started syphoning out the 10 gallons of premium fuel into the e30 and removed the rear bumper.  I found a little rust under the bumper and was able to poke a hole into the trunk using the time tested screwdriver method.  There are a few little spots, nothing major, just one on each side.  Spare tire well looks good.   The rear sub-frame has been dropped but is still under the car because I ran out of room in the garage.

I also just picked up a 175CF sized Argon/CO2 bottle from Arc3 down the street.  It’s only $65 a year to lease and $55 to fill.  It’s a much better price than what you can get from Rogers or Airgas. 

Now that I have a MIG setup, I’ll be putting the lower quarter repair panels in place.   I want this thing out to sandblast already.

Onward and Upward!





We are snowed in here in VA so I thought it would be a good time to update the blog. I’ve been slacking, thankfully on the blogging front and not on the building front – well, maybe a little. In the time between these posts I have completed a few things that make the paint shop seem a little closer (in time, not so much in affordability).

I was able to weld up the lower A pillar on the passenger side. It went back on nice and easily. Then I welded up the lower C pillar internals and inner rear wheel well piece. This was difficult to do with a flux core welder. The heat for flux core is controlled by how much wire you let stick out of the gun. With the thin metal in the rear wheel well, the wire had to be quite far out so I didn’t blow holes through the metal. It became a little unwieldy so another trick is to use a piece of copper to back the area you are welding. This pulls the heat away quickly so you don’t blow through the metal. The copper helped a lot. I still have to order the passenger side rocker panel from BavAuto or somewhere else.

The other thing that helped was my new Hobart welding apron. It has saved me from so many burns under the car, next to the car, pretty much everywhere I weld. It’s a great thing to have.

With the driver floor pan in place, I began mocking up the replacement section of frame rail that I bent up in the last post. I welded on a portion of the top plate to the replacement frame rail because I knew there was no way to do that if the bent section was installed in the car. Looking back, I would have made the initial top section longer so the butt weld between the two flat sections was in an easier place to weld and grind flat – another little bit of learning. So I mocked it all up in place and thought it looked good. I tacked it in then started running a bead near the sub-frame end. Something didn’t feel right so I stopped and thought about what I was doing. It seemed wrong and I had no idea why, but then I looked at the pedal box hole and thought will the pedal box fit with the frame rail where it is? Nope! Good thing they were only tack welds. Thank God I caught that now and not when I was actually trying to install the pedal box. I ground off the tack welds repositioned and began again with the pedal box in place.


Now it all fits up nicely and I should be able to install the pedal box when the time comes – learning bit #a lot. With the replacement rail in place I welded on the remaining flat portion of the rail then ground down the plug welds.




Then I moved onto mocking up the floor pan portion of the frame rail with cardboard. The cardboard templates were transferred to the 1/8” steel as before and cut out. The steel verticals were tacked in; then a 16-gauge flange with holes for plug welds was tacked in flush with the floor pan next to the verticals. I still have to run the fillet weld and the 16-gauge bridge between the verticals. That’s about as far as I have gotten in the last month since I posted.

Not very productive, I know, but at least it’s something. The cold means I need to bundle up and not having a rotisserie means I need to cram under the car in said bundle. This lack of maneuverability leads to frustration, overheating, then inevitably, hyperventilation and the need for a beer. It’s easy to make big strides but that last 10% of work to complete the task usually takes the longest. Silly things, like finding a little pitting that you want to fill, or finding another bit of metal that needs to be replaced, these little things that push out the impending completion of the task; they all are exacerbated by the cold.

I am really looking forward to those perfect, cool, 70 degree evenings May can bring us.



Filled Holes II

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We took a hiatus on the '02 over the break and worked on my brothers 68 Nova. The previous owner of that car thought it would be a good idea to bolt the leaf springs to the floor pan because the suspension mount rusted away. Poncho the Shop Manager took up his usual position inspecting the work.


But anyway:

Priming success! Well, almost. I forgot to prime one piece as is proper. I took advantage of the wonderful spring weather down here last weekend and put down a few coats of the epoxy death paint. The new mask I got worked great. Here's the link again.


I still tried to stay away from the paint as much as possible as its not good for the eyeballs either. The safety glasses helped but I wouldn't recommend walking through a cloud of the stuff.

I started off on Friday by wire wheeling and treating the metal with Picklex 20. It works really well and I didn't need to use a lot.

It great stuff but not cheap.




It is pretty important to follow the directions and not leave it on too long or you can get some pretty heavy powdering which is not good for paint adhesion. Also, they say not to use self etching primer or any paint with acids in it as it can react with the Picklex 20. They suggest using a two part epoxy primer.

Anyway, I pumped up the compressor and laid down three coats of epoxy primer over about 1.5 hours. The primer has a great working time. It went on nice and smooth and dried nicely in the 70 degree weather.




I performed a scratch test a few days later and the paint has great adhesion over the Picklex 20. I didn't get any flaking or paint on the tape.

I decided to patch the passenger rocker panel, but I'm not satisfied with the repair. Seeing that a replacement is just over $100 I'll be purchasing that and using a lot less bondo and subsequently recouping the cost in prepping/painting hours.

While I was waiting for the good weather I started pulling apart the driver side floor pan and frame rail. The previous owner had patched the frame rail by just placing metal over the rusted area and welding it in. I was able to put a screw driver through the patched rail pretty easily so I imagine he did this a few decades ago. So the floor pan and the frame rail came out.




I cut out the patched area on the mid part of the frame rail, but it all looked so bad that I ended up cutting it all off and bending up a replacement mid section.



Before I weld in the new mid section of the frame rail I want to have the floor pan replaced so that I line the rail up properly and it meets the pan at the correct angle and in the correct location.

I tried to leave as much metal as possible on the floor pan. However, there is a little bulge in the of the floor pan that, my best guess, acts as a locating feature for the end of the frame rail. I cut the floor pan out just behind this feature so I can use the new one as a guide for the new frame rail and I know the area is solid.

I drilled holes in the rocker panel side of the floor pan for plug welds (about an inch, excuse me, 2.54 cm spacing), wire wheeled the area and then put a coat of weld through primer on the pan and the rocker.



Clearly there are still some rather large holes that I need to fill.

I will suggest this to anyone doing rocker panels and floor pans: Before you put the rocker panel back on, replace the floor pan.. It is much easier to clamp the floor pan to the inner rocker with the outer rocker off then with it on. I had to buy a few larger clamps because I had already replaced the rocker panel. It seems silly and insignificant, but it can save hours of time and a lot of frustration if you do it in this order.

Progress! Some times it's slow going, but the drive is still there. This is my first rebuild so there's a lot of learning involved. But I can't wait to finish this one to start another. It's pretty addictive. Looking back through my pictures (750 or so) I am seeing steady progress in my abilities and quality of work, which is really nice.

Happy Holidays!



The Best Laid Plans...

Why even make them? I think thats how it goes, right?

My original plan was to buy the car and drive it around and enjoy it. Wrong - the car shook, engine stuttered, the pedals were all wobbly and kind of scary.

Then I just wanted to rebuild the pedal box and balance the carbs. But the car was in NJ and I was in VA. When I finally got the car to VA I remembered that I was concerned about the low oil pressure at idle. It was November so I thought I would just rebuild the engine as a winter project. Wrong again - jack stands went through the frame rail.

Ok (gulp) just dive in, that's easy enough, just replace the frame rail. And then it roared in - like an M12 in full qualifying trim - the undeniable, irreverent, diabolical thought: "While you're in there you might as well.." It finally got to the point where it's like, you might as well what? The car is down to bare metal for Pete's sake! There are literally no more might as well's left on this car. And then of course there's the realization that comes along with such thought: "Who the f$*# is gonna pay for all this s$!"

So while my most recent bout of skewed plans is small comparatively, I do feel like it put a damper on my progress.

I wanted to prep and prime the rocker panel area before moving on to the frame rail, but a combination of weather and poor time management (see MildSeven's entry "Behind The Scenes") meant that that would have to wait until I have a few nice days so I can procrastinate for the first before actually painting on the second.

But I did start on the frame rail, and got pretty far, too.

I decided that the frame rails would be made from 1/8" steel verticals (but this is a metric car! Get over it.) and bridged with 16 gauge steel. I figure, if I'm going to replace them, a jack stand better not buckle them again.

I started by making a contour cutout from cardboard and fitting it to the floor pan.


Then I transferred the contour to the 1/8" steel and cut it out. Test fit, modify, repeat until I was happy with the fit.

I then tacked it in place from what would be the inside of the frame rail (kind of important).


I took some 16 gauge steel and cut it into a 3/4" wide strip and tacked this to what would be the outside of the frame rail.


Then I pulled down the parts and ground off the tack welds from the bottom of the floor pan. I drilled some holes in my 16 gauge flange for plug welds and painted the whole thing with weld through primer.


Then I cut the profile that best represented the original shape to the best of my ability and welded it in place.


I tried to keep everything as tight to the floor pan as possible while welding it in but it was difficult. I did have to break a few tack welds and push the flange in to the pan with a screw driver while i tacked it back in place.

For the driver side, I will definitely be taking more time to do this. It didn't come out too badly, but I think I could have done a better job.

The verticals do not follow the floor pan contours exactly, but that is where the flange comes in and the fillet weld. These things are not moving that's for sure.


Then I mocked up the bridge between the two verticals with cardboard, cut out the steel to fit and welded it in.


Since the 1/8" steel is so thick, I used that as the base metal to start the weld pool and drag it onto the thinner 16 gauge steel. So my 16 gauge bridge sat inside the verticals, not on top of them.

The welds came out pretty nice. Everything is solid and there isn't much pitting, especially for using flux core. I'm saving for the MIG bottle but Christmas isn't making it easy.




Before I button up the frame rail I'll be spraying the inside with Eastwood Internal Frame Coating

It's got great reviews so why not give it a whirl. The tube and nozzle is 24" so I wont be able to reach the end if I close it up now.

I'm kind of skeptical about the whole tube nozzle thing. I guess we'll find out!




Filled Holes I

The I in the title is in anticipation of a II and perhaps a III. I really hope not a IV, or else I'll need an IV.

After cutting out all that metal in one area I was a little concerned that I had gone too far and possibly removed too much. I was nervous that the structural integrity of the car, passenger area, or some pickup point would be compromised because of all the missing material. Truthfully, I still don't know. We will find out when I have the alignment done – when ever that is... But what I do know is that everything fit back up pretty nicely and looks a lot better than it did. I did have quite a bit of bracing on the car so I really don't thing anything has shifted.

I managed to hammer out the foot well area and get everything back into shape. I don't have an English wheel – I really wanted to buy one and this was so close to being a reason for the purchase but space is at a premium right now and I really couldn't justify it. So I hammered out the so called "contours" I spoke of last post. I re-bent the flanges and modified a C-clamp so that I could hold the A pillar and foot well metal together. It was primed and welded into place without much problem. I will admit that my welds, while I thought improved, did not look nearly as good as I'd like them to. I got a few flap wheels and ground them down.





I also finished welding in the floor pan. This came out pretty nice. Overall I am pretty happy with the result of the replacement. It was a pain, but needed to be done.


Unfortunately I have not gotten around to priming the rocker area but I did decide that I will be reusing the original outer rocker. There were a few thin areas where I was able to replace the metal. The biggest pain has been cleaning it enough to a point where I am happy with prepping and painting it.



It's not as much progress as I would like but I am moving forward. I had a little blower motor problem with my e30 in that it died much like every other e30 blower motor. Since I have one project car that is taking all of my money I had to get creative. If you have an e30, and your blower motor sounds like its screaming read here:


Anyway, the plan is to paint, reassemble, and tackle the passenger frame rail next.

Happy Halloween!


The driver side rocker panel is in. I had to weld on the bottom of the A-pillar first, but the metal didn't relax at all when I took it out which was nice.


The rocker fit right back up like it was never cut out. It took a few clamps to get it lined up but once it was, it went on quite nicely. I ended up having to squeeze it top to bottom in the middle to get the top flange in line with the inner rocker. I was much happier filling all of the plug welds that I was drilling all the spot welds. I have yet to grind them all down, but they look pretty good.

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I was happy with the progress on the driver side so I moved to the passenger side and pulled off the rocker.

A neighbor stopped by a few months back looking to help, he did a good job at least starting to drill out the spot welds. That, I'd say, is the biggest pain about the whole process.

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The passenger side turned out to be in a lot better shape than the driver side. Most of the metal was still there so I had a pretty good idea of what I was trying to replicate. I took the same route as I did on the driver side, but this went so much faster now that I have already done it once. I was able to replace what metal I needed to in just two work sessions.

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I am leaving everything off the car this time so that I can prime everything with the epoxy primer then wire wheel the edges and use weld-thru primer in just those areas. I will be cleaning up the area for primer over the next few days until the weather cooperates, then I'll spray the epoxy primer.

A side note: I got a new mask from Amazon. A lot cheaper than I expected but still had great reviews. Here's what I got.


Looking on painting forums, everyone says that a positive pressure mask is really the only way to go, and that makes sense. But, there were some self-proclaimed hypocrites on the boards that use this or this type of mask. I'll let you know how it works.

The other part of the passenger side that has been bugging me is the foot well in the front inner fender. There has always been a lot more "contours" in the metal on this side than on the driver side. I know that if I let it go, when I finally start piecing the car back together (someday) I'll look at that area with scorn and distain. I'm trying to avoid that personal problem all together.

So long story short, I cut it out.

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I'll be smoothing out the metal and banging the A pillar metal back into shape. With a little luck and a lot of work and time, hopefully it will fit back up and I'll avoid any regrets down the road.

While I was in there (story of this project) I decided now was a good time to take care of the floor.

So out it came!


The process of fitting up the new floor was much more of a pain in the ass that I had anticipated. But then again, there was a lot of rust so I will be replacing more than just the floor pan area.

I got the back fitted up pretty well. The shop manager stopped by and gave his sniffs of approval.


Things are moving forward! Bodywork is the inexpensive part of the rebuild – if you do it yourself. I don't know why I am excited to move closer to the bank breaking mechanical tasks, but I am really enjoying the journey.


Back in it

It's been a while since I posted any update on the project. I've had crazy work and just no time to get in the garage. Even now, I'm writing this at an airport on a work trip. It doesn't stop. Recently though, I have found little snippets of time to get in the garage and make some good momentum building progress. I'm excited to make my way away from the driver rocker and around to the passenger side which seems in better shape. Knock on wood...

So I welded the portion of the front fender wing back in place. It went back into place pretty easily. Everything lined back up nicely. A small victory to get things going.

I ran my scope up the A pillar one more time to make sure I wasn't being too hasty by saying it was fine. Looking more closely I noticed some iffy areas of rust at the bottom, in the seam of the inner rocker, so I though better of my original claim and cut the bottom of the A pillar off.



I'm happy I did. Had I not, it would have been one of those things that would bugged me two years down the road. There turned out to be enough corrosion that convinced me it wasn't a waste of time or completely unnecessary. Good choice, Pete.

I moved backwards to the rear wheel arch area and began fab'ing up the missing part of the inner fender. Since I had nothing to go on, I had to constantly reference the mirror image of the area on the passenger side. This part took such a long time and is the main reason for the slow progress.

I was trying to recreate the area out of one piece of sheet metal. This did not work out too well and I ended up welding a few pieces together to get the form I wanted.



The mock up took a while with little changes here and there, but finally i was comfortable enough with the fit with the rocker and patch panel in place that I welded it on for good.



The shop manager came by to inspect. I guess a few face licks means good job?

Before my unintended hiatus from the garage work I bit the bullet and decided to go with epoxy primer. I read and read and read about POR15 versus epoxy primer- the good, bad, horror stories of both, etc. But I made up my mind and epoxy primer won. So I went down to my local Car Quest and picked up some primer and supplies. I'm using Nason 491-10 Ful-Poxy primer and activator.


Before I started painting I wire wheeled the entire area again and then prepped the metal. I used 80 grit sandpaper then moved to 180 grit just as the TDS (Technical Data Sheet) suggests. It didn't take too long and I was excited to finally be in the final step before welding the rocker back into place.


Quick Digression - Here's what I learned about epoxy primer:

It's nasty stuff. It requires some pretty robust safety equipment. I wore safety glasses, a mask that was not anywhere close to up to the task, and had a box fan at my rear ¾'s blowing across me at all times. Do not do what I did. If you're going to drop the 200 bucks on paint drop another 100 or so on a proper respirator. I will be purchasing the correct mask before I do any further painting. The experience was a little unsettling.

Anyway, it comes in two parts: a primer and an activator. The primer needs to be stirred because it separates in the can. When I first opened the can I was foolish and was standing over it. Just like slicing onions, I should have had this out in front of me. Almost immediately I had a slight burning sensation in my eyes. I moved away and though "This s**t is bad news" turns out I was right. At 57% VOC's by weight, there's not much you can buy that is worse. I had the can on top of my rolling workbench at the entrance of my garage. I had the box fan on the adjacent workbench blowing the vapors to the outside. I crouched down in front of the fan so that my face was even height with the can and the fan blowing across the top of my head. I tried to keep out of the vapors as much as possible. It took awhile to stir it smooth but eventually I was able to get it back into a homogenous mixture.

Regress - I read the TDS a few times to make sure I didn't miss anything. It turns out you can apply another coat at just about point in the cure. The stuff has a pot life for 12 hours so I was able to be patient and take my time. It mixes with the activator at a 2:1 ratio. I ended up making 6 oz. of primer, which was plenty for two coats of the driver side. I was left with about 2 ounces. The pressure on my tank was set to 35 psi, and after cleaning and prepping the spray gun, I began to paint. It went on easy and really smoothly. I worked back to front hand had my fan by my side at all time blowing the paint away from me. I waited about ½ hour to 45 minutes before I laid down another coat.

I also cleaned, scuffed and applied primer to the lower part of the A pillar I cut away while I had the paint mixed up.

All in all, I am pretty pleased with the results.




This weekend I'll cleaning the welding areas and laying down some weld through primer next in preparation for reassembly. I plan on welding the A pillar and the rocker panel back in place as well. The W&N patch panel will wait a little while before it gets welded into place. I'm not that confident in my welding yet for that visible seam. Once the rocker panel is back on, it's over to the passenger side.

I should note that now that things are moving along again, security has been stepped up. The Weber's are not for sale.


Stay tuned!


I ended up buying a snake inspection camera from amazon for 20 bucks.


It works pretty well and has already saved me from pulling off the driver side lower A pillar.


Alternatively, it has also showed me what kind of mess lurks in the rear wheel boxes.



It works really well, I just plug it into my laptop and snap away. It has 6 LED's on the head which are dimmable from the USB plug. Only if I had this contraption when I was buying the car! It's good for probing an engine, too.

I highly recommend getting one if you are going to be purchasing a car or thinking your project will be a small one - like I did.

So I fab'd up some 16 gauge metal for replacing the inner structure around the rear subframe mounts.


I cut out the cheesy area and welded in the new part I bent up


I was also concerned about the pitting on the inner rocker down near the rear subframe mount. I cut out the area and replaced it with some heavy gauge metal as well.


I slathered on some primer and welded up the new structural piece.


The inner fender wraps around over the structural piece I just repaired, but unfortunately the area that separates the wheel well from the rocker was rusted away. I'll be fabbing that part up next.

I knew I was going to have to take apart the passenger quarter panel so I got started on that. Walloth and Nesch was running a sale on '02 body panels so I wanted to place a blanket order while the prices were lower.

Passenger side is in a lot better shape than driver, or so it seems currently. Even so, there was somehow whole leaves in between the quarter and rocker panels. How does that happen?


I ordered the patch panels fro W&N and got a driver rocker from BavAuto, which seems to be a BMW original (?) part.

Good news! Walloth and Nesch will send you a model to showcase old versus new of their parts!


With my new fangled inspection camera I took a look behind the driver side wing plate and found that it looked bad enough to investigate.


I made a smart move (I think) with the way I cut out the area - because it was easy.

It turns out that it was all in tact. but surface rust was present. I took this time to seal it up with some converter and encapsulator. I also painted the back of the cut out piece with some weld through primer



It will be welded back in shortly. I will probably do the same on the passenger side.

It is bloody hot here in VA so I didn't do much on the rear inner fender area yet, but now that I have all my replacement panels in, everything should be fitted up in no time.


Unfortunately, I managed to cut the body just a bit too high to fit the W&N patch panel in. Really bummed about this. I should have just asked the height of the panel on the FAQ or to W&N over email. This sucks because I'll have to run two beads instead of just one which makes me a little nervous. Hopefully I can keep it from warping.


Any suggestions on this are truly welcome. It will be a while before I do this I think. Any visible welded areas will be MIG'd so I need to get a bottle. I get good penetration with the flux core, but the weld is certainly not as pretty as a MIG weld. I have plenty still to do that is out of sight. I'll have epoxy primers on the way for the rockers so hopefully we can keep this momentum going.

That's all for now!


Cheese Gromit!

So I left off thinking I would patch up the driver side inner fender and move on to the floor pans and frame rails. Well, I still haven't figured out what I want to do with the frame rails and I have to check my parts car - which is in the Northeast - to see if the rails in that are salvageable.

So in the mean time I decided to move backwards in the car.

I started by pushing down the floor on the passenger side where some dummy tried jacking up the car on the seemingly fine frame rail which led to this whole debacle.

I did this by welding a bar across the foot well and using a long 1 1/4" bolt and nut through the angle to push the floor back into place.

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This worked surprisingly well. I thought my welds would pop for sure but they held on strong and I was able to push the floor pan back into place.

Next I started on the driver side rocker panel. Remember when I said the rockers were solid? Yea, me too. Turns out there was some good Swiss cheese back behind the door.


I put the back end on stands and started cutting away the quarter panel. I found some good rust behind it and decided to continue on down the rabbit hole.


Before I started drilling out the rocker I wanted to brace the car with some steel.

I braced the doors with some angle before so I just cut some square tube and crossed the passenger compartment.

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There are what seems like a thousand spot welds on the rocker. I finally got them all and had a good first look at the condition of the inner rocker.

There was certainly a lot of surface rust on the panel but I am debating trying to replace the bad metal. Hopefully intelligence will prevail and I will order a new panel from bavauto for 116 bucks.




I've begun researching rust inhibitors. I'll certainly be coating the inner rocker with inhibitor and primer prior to welding anything back in place.

I'll be buying a cheap USB inspection camera from amazon to look in the passenger rocker so I don't cut it apart unnecessarily.


I've been practicing my welding for a few weeks now with some sheet steel I got from Lowes. I started by cutting up some squares and butt welding them together. I picked up some butt welding clamps from harbor freight for like $5.00. I initially had issues with penetration. I was not seeing the weld root on the underside of the metal but after a while my consistency increased drastically. Practice, practice, practice!

While practicing welding, I also started the process of cutting out the passenger side rust on the inner fender. I marked it up with a Sharpie marker and got out the body saw.

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The body cut surprisingly well. I thought controlling the straightness of the cut would be more difficult.

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From the inside of the engine bay it was easy to see where I needed to grind out the rest of the weld the PO put on the inner fender and the frame rail.


I marked up a replacement piece of steel and cut out the patch. I left it long on the bottom in case of features I didn't account for properly.

It took me about 12 hours to bend it into a shape I was comfortable with. I really wanted to make sure it fit properly so I took my time and made sure I was happy with the fitment before proceeding with prepping for welding. I also only had a bench vise, a ball peen hammer and a few odd shaped things to help with contours.


I did some final tweaks to the patch and primed the areas with weld thru primer. I used the Rustoleum Cold Galvanized Compound from Home Depot. I'll be sealing the area as well.

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I let it dry a little and fit it in for final placement. I tacked in a few places then started welding different areas taking care not to put too much heat in any individual area.

The welds are far from perfect, but they're not too bad in my opinion.

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I still have to touch it up with the angle grinder and make sure there is no pitting in the welds, but they seem pretty solid so I'm hopeful I don't need to repair much.

Up next, the driver side inner fender! This is called progress!

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I worked at an antique repair shop in Boston while doing my graduate work. It was a wonderful place to be a tinkerer.

Check it out: Village Green Renewal

It was one of the best jobs I've ever had, and I highly doubt I will find a better one. One of the reasons it was so great, aside from the wacky and awesome projects and repairs we performed, was because the tools were all there. Every tool needed for any job was within arms reach or just out of reach when needed most, naturally. The setup was perfect. The work table was a massive oak bench with furniture vises, resistance welder, soldering station, hammers, drills, chisels, clamps - I could go on and on. Confidence in my abilities grew astronomically when I had the right tools for the job. It made the repair more fun, more efficient, and much more beautiful, or rather invisible.

I thought about this when I started this project. I knew my tool needs were abundant. My biggest fear was (still is) that the quality of my work would be sub-par by my own critique. Without the proper tools or tools to make the tools, it is really difficult to create something I am comfortable showing to people and saying "I made this". Not to say you can't, just my findings in my own personal experience. Also, seemingly simple tasks take much longer when you don't have the right tools.

With that said, my shop tooling has been growing at a rapid rate.

The ladyfriend might say a little too rapid: "Ummm, you know we are saving for a wedding, right?" She has actually been really supportive.

My most recent acquisitions consist of a 6" vise from Lowes, its a big Irwin vise. $79 so still cheaper than a big honkin' one from craigslist. I also purchased a throatless shear from harbor freight. $144 but I had a 20% off coupon which I think is constant on their website. I was able to find some threaded inserts for wood in a 3/8-16 form (support your local hardware store!) so I mounted the shears to my rolling tool cart. I can simply unbolt and rebolt at my leisure.


I also got a beautiful Hobart Handler 140 fo free! Cause it was ma birfday! It helps to have a generous family that embraces your hobbies. Maybe they just think I'm digging myself into a hole and this might help?

I really had just about nothing when I moved down here to Virginia. My fiancee had a little tool box with superglue and a few screwdrivers. I wish that was enough. But now that I have a good baseline of tools, let the fabrication begin!

Also I'm gonna need a bigger garage.


The project has been moving along steadily over the past few weeks. What seemed as an easy partial rebuild of a pretty solid 2002 is slowly morphing into a pretty complete rebuild of a 2002. The past few work sessions saw the nose pulled and the continuation of investigative cleaning.

I made the decision to pull the front clip off because I noticed some rust and some pretty poor repair work.

As it turns out, the front clip had been replaced. The car started life as a tii so there shouldn't be a snorkel tube in the radiator support area, which there is.

So I drilled out the spot welds on the inner fender as well as on the top of the front clip. Instead of dropping some money on a spot weld cutter, I happened into my drill case and found that my "long life" Irwin drill set has pretty much the same profile as a spot weld cutter. They worked great.


I was able to pop the welds without drilling through (most of the time).


So after popping all the spot welds I had to work on the area where the PO decided to weld the entire nose to the frame rails.


The PO decided that the spot welds weren't enough. I ended up cutting as much away with the cutoff wheel then drilled a line down the area where I couldn't fit the wheel in. A body cutting saw is on the way... The right tools are invaluable when you need them.

It also seems as though he decided to weld the passenger inner fender to the frame rail with one continuous bead. Not too happy about that one.


I'm finding a lot of "repairs" on this car that I have never seen addressed on the forum or anywhere for that matter. I guess I'll be paving the way in some respects.

So the nose came off and I started looking down the frame rails just to see how off/oblong they really were. It seems, quite.



The distances between subframe pickup points are equal, so that's a good sign but I'll have to replace a lot of the metal in front and behind the reinforced frame rail area.

Any thoughts on the long weld on the passenger inner fender? I feel like it should be cut off and replaced or reset but I know that the strut mount and frame rail will shift.


Don't mind the hanging steel brake line in the pictures, it's been removed.


So just to start off, last post I ended with my feelings on prepping the car for paint. Well I did a little research and was linked to an autobodystore.com forum thread. My search questions was "Can I strip paint with a wire wheel?" In the infinite space that is the interwebs I was presented with "About 163,000 results in .56 seconds" or so says the Google. So the first thread read that while you can, it is not advised because you will put a lot of heat into the metal and paint and can potentially cause the metal to warp a little. People have suggested variable speed sanders and also Norton rapidstrip discs.

Wire Wheel ; Variable Speed Sander

Here's the amazon link to the Rapidstrip depressed center wheel. While I haven't tried any of these options yet, I will soon enough! Hold your horses for cryin' out loud!

On to the topic in the title. But first...


I found 20 bucks! Well it was always mine - emergency gas money you know - but I forgot about it for at least a year so I consider it free money.

So I started on taking out the dash because the floors need to be welded, new frame rails, etc., etc. and I didn't want to destroy an almost perfect dash. So out it came with not too much trouble. I will say that the cold weather we have been having creates a sense of urgency in the task when really what is required is added patience. Make sure your space heater is close by on these 10F days/nights and that you are prepared to move slowly and carefully.

After pulling off the knobs and bezels for the lights, defroster, and cigarette lighter (they just unscrew like any bolt would - lefty loosey) I found my self risking maring the dash by trying to take out the dummy knob in the fog light place. These are the things that the cold does to one's brain. I finally came to my senses and stopped fussing with it because it will come out with the dash no problem.


The dash slots in in a very snug manner. The PO was nice enough to lose most of the screws that hold the dash in place for me, so I think I took out a total of 2 before being able to move the dash around.


Be careful with the front defroster vents. They pop out of the dash but they are very capable of breaking out of the dash.


Once the dash is out and in a safe place, start regretting the decision to pull apart the entire car... The wiring harness is next, and it's tricky and brittle. Unhook the wires that connect to the dome light switch through the door jam. It's one phillips head screw on each door. Don't forget the actual dome light wires as well. Disconnect wires to the heater box and fan switch. Make sure to take pictures as to the wire positions on the connectors.

Move to the engine bay. Unhook all the connectors to the headlights and blinkers. If you're like me and the PO wanted to put some sweet super blue headlights in, cut the headlight connectors off and start over. It's easier to pull through the grommets anyway.

Next take a look at the fuse panel. Pull the one screw off that holds it onto the car and gently lift it out of place. Chances are the connectors on the back are original and are very susceptible to damage. You can remove each of the 4 connectors gently with a screwdriver, be careful not to bend the male connector pins. There were a few stray wires that connected individually to the fuse panel, take time to take clear pictures of their colors and where they are plugged in.


There are two wiring harnesses, one mainly in the engine bay, and one mainly under the dashboard. the engine bay harness should be taken out through the engine bay. The dashboard harness should be taken out through the cabin. They each have a separate wire bundle from the fuse panel and enter the cabin through separate grommets in the firewall. Convenient, right? Actually, very convenient.

Crawl under the dash and unwrap the two harnesses from each other. Do your best to separate the cables for each harness. There are only three connectors and ignition wire set that come through the firewall for the engine harness. I suggest cutting the grommet at the firewall and pulling the wire bundles through the much wider firewall hole. The grommets, you will find, reduce the hole diameter by about half, thats 1/4 the area to pull a connector through.


I removed the grommets by cutting the flanges with dikes. Just be careful not to cut any wires.

I started by unwrapping the wires under the dash in the engine harness bundle. I then pulled out the ignition set wires through the hole one at a time. Remember, we do not want to cut or pull off any connectors. I mean, I! The Royal "we"! You know, the editorial... nevermind. Be gentle and take your time. Once the engine bay harness is removed work on getting the 2 engine harness connectors from the fuse panel out the absurdly small hole in the side of the engine bay. There is one connector that has about 4 wires connected to it. Start there, work it out carefully then pull the second engine harness connector out.

Next cut the firewall grommet for the cabin harness. There is no way you will pull any of the connectors through that hole without the grommet out. If you can work out the grommet without cutting it, go for it.

There are about 4 bundles of wires from the engine bay that need to go through the firewall. You many not even have to take off the friction tape to push these through. Once that's done, undo the connectors in the trunk of the car, if not done already, and get ready to clean.

While I was under there, I dropped the heater box. There are two nuts (10mm) one on each side of the box that hold the whole thing in. The fan will come out with it. Be sure not to crack off the defroster hose fitting on the steering column bracket, I almost did.




The Teardown Continues

The subframe was easily removed a few nights ago. It was about 15 degree in the garage and I had my space heater pointed directly at my toes. Some of the hard brake line fittings rounded off slightly so I let them soak in liquid wrench for a while but that didn't help. The next go around they rounded off instantly. So I ended up cutting a few of the soft brake lines between the mount on the unibody and the strut tube because and it was too damn cold to deal with it and I don't have a torch...yet..

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I decided to uncouple the steering column at the steering box, it seemed like the easiest place to do it and the most effective for what I wanted to get done.


After a few runs back into the house to regain feeling in all my digits, I was ready to pull the suspension down all in one shot. I went back and forth debating if I should rope the fiance into helping but it was too cold and I thought better of it. "I'm a man, I can do this. I'm good at making bad decisions all by myself. ergo this car this car with no engine in it or floors." How can you argue with that reasoning?

Bombs away!

Before I knew it the subframe was down and I was wrestling strut assemblies on both sides while trying to keep the cross member balanced on the jack with my big toe.


Next I decided to cut off the headers from the exhaust system. The whole system will be tossed so I wasn't wasting any time with trying to unbolt it. The pictures of the exhaust tell the story.

Interestingly enough, whoever fab'd up the headers went to enough trouble to make them equal length tubes (or close to equal) and then welded up the flanges in a most disgraceful manner. This car is proving to be an enigma, more on that throughout the build.. But I'm sure the heater box is really houses a wormhole.



I believe the PO was a little short tempered, or just didn't care one bit about his build. He went through all this trouble making headers, then created a nice little venturi effect halfway down the exhaust.


Good work, ya dummy.

From the VIN number i know it was an Inka car originally. Good news, it still is!


One coat of crappy red paint later and bam. A red car. I am now researching options on stripping the paint. I'd love to dip the chassis, but I can't find a place near by in NoVA. Media is really the only other option. I'm not too into the chemical stripping, seems pretty messy.


The Beginning

So the rebuild has officially started. I've taken enough apart to feel comfortable saying that the project moves forward and the shell is not being sold/scrapped.

I got the car out of storage in November and trailered it to VA with a Uhaul. She went into the garage and the tear down began.

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The idea was to pull the engine are rebuild it, shove it back in and drive her around. While putting the car down on jack stands I heard a few crunches and crackles synonymous with frame rail disintegration. The engine and trans came out no problem and went on the stand while I investigated the source of the crunching. I figure theres no point rebuilding an engine for a car that is rusted through. I Pulled up the carpets and found some good rust in the driver and passenger floor pans.

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I got under the car and "probed" and ended up poking a hole in the passenger frame rail.


I started pulling the front of the car apart. I took off the passenger side fender which was still leaded on and took the wire wheel to the bottom of the A pillar to see how far the rust went. The rocker panels seem to be in pretty good shape so I was hopeful that there wouldn't be much on the A pillar. I prodded them with no deflection in the metal. I haven't seen any evidence of rust (on the outside) yet, so thats another good sign. How can I check the inside without cutting them apart?


I've continued to wire wheel the fender area and I'm getting a good understanding of where the rust is, up front anyway. The driver side frame rail has already been repaired. It seems like there was a leaky brake master cylinder at one point. I'll have to get some advice on replacing the frame rails. If anyones got any hints, I'm all ears and questions.


Things are looking up. It's a lot less rust than I thought it would be. I'm excited to get the floors and new frame rails welded in... Now I got to pick up a welder. Attached Thumbnails

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