Bodywork & Welding

I’m not a big fan of what is known in the UK as a “day van”. These are invariably based on Ford, Dodge or Chevy full size vans and come complete with arch flares and running boards, tacky stick on bits of trim and are usually bedecked with American iconography such as eagles, native American Indians and/or wolves. They also have lots of seats and lots of windows. Too many windows.

My van started life as a panel van with the USAF but at some point, somebody had started to convert my van into one of these trashy heaps but thankfully either lost interest or ran out of money (or were sectioned under the mental health act) but not before they’d gone one step too far with the installation of windows. The dual windows at the back I can live with. They have a nice period custom van look but that one up behind the drivers door had to go. Taking it out would obviously leave me with a huge hole to fill but this seemingly daunting task is not insurmountable as I’ll show…

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One thing leads to another. It’s inevitable. Although I have big plans for our Dodge van, I’d not actually planned to do much on it just yet, especially with so many other projects already underway, but I just couldn’t help myself!

At some point in the vans past, the sunroof has been replaced with one that was too small for the hole, so to make it work, a large and very thick piece of galvanized steel had been pop riveted over the hole and a new smaller sunroof installed. Nice work! This nasty mess was calling for attention, especially as I was having doubts over how water tight it was. What this thing really needed was a proper 70’s style custom van sunroof…

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When times are hard it’s sometimes necessary to repair what you would otherwise replace. Times are indeed hard for everyone at present but that’s not the reason for attempting this ridiculous repair on a recent acquisition, a 1989 Hyundai Pony pickup. I could have stretched to a new wing for it but, you know… it’s just not worth spending £166.85 on! The truck is rotten everywhere and I’ve yet to decide if I’ll repair it come MOT time or not so I’d rather not spend any more money on it than I have to. My time …well that’s a different story. I’m happy to spend time chopping and welding so with a fresh sheet of steel and a welder I set about repairing it. Those keen on performing desperate repairs on worthless cars read on…

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I had been hoping that I wouldn’t have to remove the glass from this car as the front and rear screens are bonded in. There was only one tiny rust hole just above the screen on the right hand side but closer examination with a torch revealed there was rust visible under the bonding inside the screen, so unfortunately it had to come out. With the stock original glass, it’s not to much of a trauma to get the screen out, but this car has had the original glass replaced with a laminated screen. These are a lot harder to remove without breaking them, especially as it seems many glass fitters tent to go overboard with the adhesive making it harder to cut through. I only have one spare screen and I wouldn’t expect to have much joy finding a new one so I really needed to remove this one without cracking it!

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This was a pretty simple and straightforward panel replacement. The replacement valance is part number 79121-K2430. The original valance wasn’t rusty but it was badly damaged in two places and there were signs of rust starting in the seam where it’s attached to the boot floor and back panel. The first job was to remove it, which was done by drilling out the spot welds from below across the horizontal seam and by using a die grinder on the vertical seams at the end. The spot welds on the horizontal seam were drilled right through the three layers.

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The left rear quarter is the area of the body that needs the most attention, as not only do I have the rusty wheel arch, sill and lower rear corner to deal with, bit it’s also somewhat dented too. Some of the dents were straightened by hand whist doing the rust repairs but a lot of careful prep is going to be needed to make this part of the car look good under black paint. Before I could think about that though, I had the rust to deal with. The left rear wheel arch only looked a little bit worse than the right to begin with but actually turned out to need considerably more work. As on the right hand side, I had a new inner arch panel (part # 76713-K0130) and a rear quarter from a late 710 saloon (part # 78113-N7430) to help make the repairs, but even with these to help me a fair bit of fabrication was still needed.

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The left hand sill structure actually looked quite solid, in fact along it’s length it didn’t have any rust holes at all. The only visible rust was in the area where the bottom edge of the front wing mounts. Despite the apparently good condition, I was going to replace it anyway as I had on hand a genuine replacement sill (part # 76413-K1330) and it’s the only way I could be sure of eliminating future rust issues. I started by chopping the main section of the sill away using an air chisel, leaving the spot-welded seams in place. Once off, the inside of the sill showed plenty of surface rust and and the front of the inner sill required exactly the same type of repair as I had done on the right hand side.

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Having completed the right hand side of the car it’s time to tackle the rust on the other side. This is no doubt going to entail pretty much the same work as doing the right side so I’ll probably gloss over some of the details and just provide the pictures and note any differences in the work required. At first glance it seems that the inner wing and upper strengthener are maybe a little better than the previous side but this doesn’t make a lot of difference really as it’s the same amount of work to repair what rust is there. The sill isn’t as rusty but the left rear arch is considerably worse than the right, requiring the entire edge to be replaced all the way around. The inner sill areas by the rear cross-member mount is much worse too so there’ll be some fabrication needed there. I’ll be working my way along the car in the same manner as I did the first side so I start with the inner wing strengthener.

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The final area to tackle on this side of the car is the front inner wing. Initial inspection only revealed rust in the most common area for these cars to go, the bottom of the strut tower just above the chassis leg, but once the underseal was scraped off from the under arch area there were definitely a few more suspicious looking areas. The bottom couple of inches of the inner wing panel overlaps the chassis rail on 710’s so that whole area is double skinned. Any moisture coming down the inner wing in the engine bay runs straight into this seam as it’s not sealed so rust can build up in there, rotting the section from the inside out. Not wishing to take any chances of future rust developing, I figured it was time to chop the lot out and replace it.

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After all the work of getting the rear wheel arch into shape, it was nice to move onto something a little more straight forward (well… relatively). I figured the lower rear corner should be fairly simple as I had a donor panel for a late 710 saloon (part # 78112-N7430) which I could chop up to supply the necessary repair sections. The saloon is actually a tiny bit different to the hardtop in this area but thankfully not enough to render the panel unusable. As it turned out the lower corner was relatively simple but the second job of the day, repairing the sill end closing panel, certainly wasn’t!

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