Remember that classy bit of repair work I found on the drivers side sill? Well, the only way to tackle it was fitting a new sill but as panels aren’t readily available here for old American vans, I had to make it. This was a long sill so rolling a curve into it without a proper set of sheet metal rollers seems all but impossible but I found a way round it that still produces a decent looking sill. The sill structure was even worse than it looked, requiring the bottom three inches of the inner to be replaced along with the strengtheners too. To start, the grotty metal had to come out. I’m not quite certain why there was a bit of perforated Dexion shelving welded in there! The idea was to join the new sill to the original metal along the lip at the edge of the floor pan, where the floor inside meets the side panel. For now I chopped it out a little lower than this so I can carefully trim back to the line I marked later…
With the outer sill gone, the bottom edge of the inner sill could be trimmed back to good metal as well as the two strengtheners. The rot going up into the arch would be dealt with after doing the sill.
Before attempting any more work on the inner structure, I needed to try and make the outer sill as everything hinged on whether I could. Starting with a strip about a foot wide, I marked it at 2 inch intervals along one edge and punched out holes all along it. These will later be used to plug weld the bottom edge of the sill to the inner sill but for now they serve another purpose…
… the holes were used to screw the edge of the sheet to a length of telegraph pole! The edge of the sheet had to be dead straight in line with the pole, so the easiest the way to accomplish this was to use a piece of angle iron as a straight edge on the pole and mark a line along it. I placed the angle iron on it with the outside of the corner upward as it’ll only sit flat on the pole along it’s length when it’s straight in line with it. I guess I should have taken a pic but i forgot. You could possibly get away with screwing through every other hole or less but I did them all, just to make sure the edge remained straight.
Next, I flipped it over so the sheet was on the ground with the pole on top and then rolled the pole over the sheet which wrapped it into a curve. I bored a hole into the pole and used a bit of metal bar as a lever to help with this as the sheet metal I’m using is fairly heavy gauge. I used a contour gauge to help determine how much curve it needed… you can just see it in the corner of the picture below. These can be bought from discount and DIY stores for a couple of quid and are quite useful for bodywork fabrication.
Having got a decent curve into the sill, it still need a flat lip on the lower edge where it attaches to the inner sill. This was done with a length of 1.5 inch box steel held in my bench vices (having two vices mounted in line is very handy!). The sheet was clamped to the box and the slight fold carefully put in by hand with a body hammer. This sheet was a bit surface rusty on the outside but nothing that cant be sanded off then treated with Metal Ready.
The inner sill was pretty simple to make as it’s only a flat sheet with a 1 inch wide, 90 degree fold at the bottom. Where the new section of inner sill joined the old, I put a step in it using an air swaging tool so it could be overlapped on the inside of the section, making the join flush when viewed from under the van. With the inner sill welded in place, the bottom of the strengtheners could be rebuilt and the area readied for the outer sill.
Final fitting of the new outer sill required to joint along the edge of the floor to be made ready. The side of the van is joined to the floor along a lip at the edge of the floor but the spot welds are toward the bottom of the lip where I wanted the new sill to join. So I cleaned up the corner where the side and floor meet inside the van and tack welded along it every three inches, enabling me to trim away the metal on the bottom half of the lip without the side of the van coming adrift. The sill was clamped along the seam at the bottom and pressed round until it sat flat against the side of the van. I then marked how much metal need to be trimmed from the top of the sill to make it sit flush along the lip below the side panel. Having trimmed the excess off of the top of the sill with some air shears (mine were ten quid from Aldi!) it was all tacked into place and then welded with short runs, letting it cool frequently to avoid distortion.
With a new arch lip welded in the at the rear of the sill, the rot in the arch chopped out and new metal welded in and all the welds ground off, the whole thing looks pretty decent. Certainly a world apart from what was there before and with some cavity wax it should last for years. It needs a little skim of filler along the join but otherwise it has come out pretty well. Just the front arch to repair now and all the welding on the main body will be finished!