Thursday, May 26, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Battery Box Installation #5-2 and Big News!

In keeping with the topic, I did a bit more work on replacing, for the second time, that portion of the top bulkhead that I was continually messing up. My welds weren't great, but they were adequate. I'm still having problems with penetration, so the welds were very proud, as the British say. I can get good consistent spot welds on the bench with practice metal of the same gauge, but not on the car. Maybe the heat dissipation of the welding bench itself it helping me out? Anyway, I did some grinding and got most of the way there.

Weld after some grinding. The upper left corner is where I need to use the Dremel so I don't do collateral damage.
I also used a Dremel grinding wheel along with a 90-degree attachment, to get in some tight spots and that worked pretty well. I can tell that it may not be that cost-effective, however, since the disc looks like it's going to get eaten up pretty quick. But, as long as I save it for those tight spots where it's really needed, I think it will be okay. I'd really wish I had a compressor so that I could use an air-driven die grinder. Of course, based on current developments, I think I'm going to get my wish (yes, that's a tease)!

I also wrapped up the multi-post saga of the Rimmer Bros' sheet metal parts. The sheet metal shipped from the UK, in one big box, on Monday. FedEx attempted to deliver it yesterday (yes, two days) around 10am, but no one was home to sign for it. (Rimmer's had designated it to require an indirect signature). So, I signed the door tag and it was delivered today around 10am. One corner of the box had taken a pretty good shot and was starting to tear open, but the sheet metal inside was just fine. I would have like to have seen a bit more care taken in packaging, like sharp corner protection or just more internal padding, but everything arrived without any damage. All in all, I paid $849.09 for everything and, including shipping, saved just about $400 over buying them domestically.

My concern of import fees never materialized, though I'm not sure if it was because I only ordered sheet metal or if this goes for everything. I've never seen import fees mentioned on my favorite forum when people have talked about ordering from Rimmer Bros, so there's that. I would definitely buy from them again, especially during a sale and also given the fact that it took a few days less to get it from Rimmer Bros then it does from my usual suppliers over here (though you do pay more for shipping as a whole, of course).

I shudder to think how much work I'm looking at in this picture. But isn't it beautiful!
So, now for the big reveal! Many, many posts ago I had mentioned that a guy that I worked with and I were talking about going in together on renting a garage so we could both have more room to work on our respective projects. Well, he called me on Monday and said he had found a place that he thought would work and, to make a long story short, Dorothy now resides in her new home.

Backing up to the new garage. There are offices up top and 20x40 bays on bottom. We have one of the bays.
We would have both rather had some more overhead room as he has a lift that he can get his hands on, but there was nothing available in our price range within a reasonable distance to our homes. So, we took what we could get and now I can weld and grind and sand and make a general mess and a lot of noise without being overly concerned about messing up my own house or upsetting the neighbors! Over the next several days I will slowly move stuff over there and outfit my corner of it the way I want.

Along with his cars (a Mazda RX-7 and two 240Zs (the one you see below and the one that he's restoring), he is bringing a 60-gallon, two-stage air compressor, a drill press, a steel workbench with nice big vice and various tools to the garage so between the two of us, we should be pretty much set with everything we need. He also has a 220-volt welder, but I think my 120-volt will suffice for what I need.

About half-way in, looking back. Dot's on the left and that's a 240Z rolling chassis (his) with my sheet metal on top.
This changes my plan of attack somewhat. I am no longer going to finish up the battery box but instead get started on building a body dolly and proper supports for the door frames. Once those are done and properly put together, the body is coming off and put under the stairs out of the way. I'm then going to strip the frame down, including pulling the engine and gearbox (again), replace both outriggers (I have new-to-me old ones already that also require minor repair) and fix anything else that needs it, get it painted (not sure if I will just do POR-15 or go all the way with a Signal Red powder coat) and then start putting it all back together, renewing rubber and other critical parts as I go (like the brake and fuel lines). I've already purchased a lot of this stuff and now it looks like it will finally be time to put it to use.

I agreed to split the cost of the garage with him for a year and the landlord gave us a month free...just because he likes what we are doing. While that gives me what seems like a lot of time now (end of next July), I'm sure in 6 months I'll wonder where the time went. While the cost was acceptable, it was not cheap and the boss will not be happy to have me come begging for more time (and money). I therefore have some serious motivation. As usual, I'll keep the four of you informed of my progress!

All tucked away in her new home-away-from-home.
And, after exactly (to the day!) 19 months, I can once again walk straight across my garage without walking around Dot.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Battery Box Installation #5-1

You may notice the title is "5-1". This means that I'm still sort of on the #5 post's topic, but didn't quite make enough progress to call it #6. Hence, "5-1".

I really need to slow my a$$ down and practice some more welding or I'm going to run out of car! I understand that butt welding is the hardest weld to do. Add on top of that the fact that I'm welding thin body panels and that makes it even harder. Add on top of that the whopping 1 hour of welding time that I have and...a recipe for disaster.

Blow through as far as the eye can see.
I cut that piece out and tacked in a new piece...again...and stopped. At least I didn't blow through this time.

New piece tacked in. I'm "peace-ing out" at this point, as the kids say these days.

I only got a few hours to work on the car today. I went for a good long run early on and then cooked the boys breakfast. After that, the honey-do list had some yard work to do that involved pulling out two nasty old pine shrub-trees things in front of the house. The things were hideous and have been with us since we bought the house 6 years ago. I cut them down and dug up the stumps. Thankfully, it turned out to not be as bad as I thought it was going to be, but still sucked up a few hours.

Along with putting in new metal (twice), I drilled out the two thousand pop rivets the PO had put in to secure the metal patch in the driver's side foot well and pulled that out. All sorts of stuff going on in there. Metal, fiberglass, bondo (I think) and lots of rust, dirt and grease/grime. Not pretty.

The sheet metal "patch".

After patch removal. There is still some fiberglass and resin in there.

I don't think the fiberglass was allowed to cure when the metal patch was put on since it was almost wet and still smelled like fresh resin. Very surprising to smell that given the fact that I've had the car almost two years and the PO had it probably another three since his grandfather had done any work on it.

I also drilled the spot welds out of the driver's side bonnet locating bracket and pulled that one off. This one was in much worse shape, as I mentioned in a previous post.

Wire brush to locate spot welds. No idea what that green stuff is the PO used.

Bottom view showing the break through of the metal.

Top view...a bit more obvious damage.
Fortunately, I have the two from the black car that are in fine shape (they don't make these anymore). Otherwise that was about it. There is a little league baseball game tomorrow (I got out of today's) that I will attend but I should be able to get some welding practice in after, if not before as well.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Battery Box Installation #5

Yes, #5 and I'm still not done. As a matter of fact, I took a rather big step backwards, but more on that later.

I always give my wife grief when she says "I went to Kohl's today and bought this nice so-and-so. It was on sale for $60 when it's normally $100, so I saved $40!" "No, hon, you didn't save $40, you spent $60," I normally reply. Then I get kicked or punched or something like that.

Last night, though, I took the "spend money, save money" approach and I ordered the sheet metal that I mentioned in my last post from Rimmer Brothers in the UK while their 15%-off all Triumph parts was still going (it ends on the 22nd).

After it was all said and done, I got both floor pans, both floor cross-members, both outer sills (the OEM ones), an inner sill and inner sill strengthener (I already had the passenger's of both), and the passenger's lower A-post for $854, including shipping (~ $135).

To source those parts domestically (everyone runs at about the same prices), it would have cost me $1214 without any shipping charges (though most places give you free shipping for an order of that dollar amount). That's a savings of $360, or 30%.

Some domestic parts houses run regular sales, of course. However, I've been watching prices on this stuff since I bought the car almost two years ago and I've never seen them match the non-sale Rimmer's prices. Rimmer's also had all of this stuff in stock when I ordered, something that can't be said for all of the domestic places.

At the end of the day, was it worth it? For $360 - absolutely. Realize, of course, that I had already made the decision that I was going to buy these was just a matter of when and from whom. But, I won't give the final thumbs-up until the parts are on my door step and all of the import/custom fees are taken care of (I'm not sure how much these will be, if anything...crossing fingers!).

Getting back to that pesky battery box, I intended to fill some pin holes with the welder to wrap it all up before priming and then welding in the box itself.

Black circles are the areas that need to be filled.
Unfortunately, in my repair I had unknowingly become too aggressive with the flap disc and had thinned out the metal. As a result, when I applied the heat from the MIG welder, it blew right through and I was unable to correct it.

The attempted repair, after grinding.
While I probably could have kept at it and eventually been successful, I'm sure when I went to plug weld the battery box in, I would have blown through again and this time the repair would not have been as easy to attempt. I decided that discretion is the better part of valor and accepted my failure, cut out another section (smaller than the original, so I guess that's progress!) and will try again.

The new cut out to be replaced.
This time, instead of a flap disc, I intend to use a grinding wheel attachment on my Dremel. I couldn't find them locally so I ordered them from Amazon and they should be here on Sunday. I'll give a report when I learn how they turn out but in the meantime I should be able to get the new piece welded in.

That was about it for the battery box. There are baseball games to attend both Saturday and Sunday so my work time will be limited. There is rain in the forecast, however, so maybe one will be rained out and I'll have some time available after all.

I also worked on removing the floor cross-members because I wanted to see if I could save them or not. In short, no, I couldn't. Maybe someone more gifted then I could have, but I decided to include a pair in my Rimmer's order.

Top view of the cross-members. Not too bad.

Bottom view of the cross-members. Not too good!

The swiss cheese of the driver's side floor, after removal of the PO fiberglass patch. Note the pop-riveted sheet metal up front.

Passenger's side floor pan, under cross-member. Yuck.
Given the condition of the floor pans, this also put me over the edge to order new ones of those, too, though I was already pretty sure I needed to anyway.

Having ordered all of the new sheet metal, the amount of stuff to take from the black car has gone down considerably. There are still a few things that I want to get off of it, however. Namely, the upper A-post on the passenger's side since a small portion of Dot's is rusted through.

A picture from before I bought her. And I thought this was the worst spot at the time...silly me!
I also want to get the heel board bracket assemblies. These are pretty stout parts as then serve as the transition piece between the body and the radius arms...essentially a body mounted suspension part. While Dot's appear to be okay, there's some rust converter and obvious rust on them. The black car's look to be in better shape overall. I quick trip out back with the Sawzall will make short work of those items, I'm sure.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Battery Box Installation #4

To start with an aside, I took delivery of a new inner sill and inner sill strengthener for the passenger's side of the car from a guy on my favorite forum (or at least its buy/sell & trade forum). While this is a small portion of what I will need to replace, it's a start. I'm really close to dropping a lot of money at Rimmer Bros. to take advantage of their 15% off sale on ALL Triumph Spitfire parts.

Rimmer Bros is a large parts house in the UK. They have some parts that you can't get over here and their prices are generally cheaper, but the shipping gets you. Take for example the sills (or rockers for us Americans) that are commonly rusted out. To purchase them from state-side parts suppliers costs about $120. This same part (the Steelcraft part distributed by British Motor Heritage) is only ~$105 from Rimmer Bros. If you put the shipping on that, however, it's essentially a wash. But, Rimmer's is now having a 15%-off sale for all Triumph parts. With 15% off, the sill is now ~$90 and, magically, shipping kind of becomes free.

Adding up the worst case of what I will need, I'm looking at ~$710 in new sheet metal (again, this is with the sale). This gets me both floor pans, both cross members, both outer sills, the driver's side inner sill and strengthener and the passenger's lower A-post (Dot's is essentially MIA). To price this out from domestic suppliers, I'm looking at almost double that...~$1300. Very tempting.

Okay, enough of that. I did get some more work on the battery box done today and I also cut apart a bit of the black car to try to salvage some sheet metal. This time, it was the two front mounting brackets that go under the forward, outer edges of the floor pans. They are pretty thick (maybe 10 ga) steel brackets that provide a solid mounting point for the front edges of the tub, through the floor pan, to outriggers on the frame.

A bit fuzzy, but I'm talking about part 3, right above this text.
They weren't pretty, but they are in solid shape. I have to remove the remaining old floor pan and random replacement metal the PO (of the black car) welding in there, but that salvage saved me about $50!

A bit hard to tell everything apart here, but the brackets are the thicker pieces of metal with the bolt hole in them.

The corner, cut out obviously, where the brackets were. That's the high-beam switch in the driver's foot well.
I was also working on removing the passenger's A-post in hopes that I could use that, but it is rusted out in the same spot that Dot's is towards the bottom. So, while the top is in better shape, the bottom is just as bad and I think I'll be better off with new.

After I got that all wrapped up, I moved on to battery box work (finally!). You may remember way back in my first post of this endeavor that I had cut the spot welds, unintentionally, of some of the top bulkhead while removing the old battery box. I had intended to just plug weld it back in but made a new piece (out of the old boot lid) instead since the original had quite large holes in it relative to its width.

Pretty exciting, huh? This was easy to make and I drilled 3/16" holes about a inch apart for the plug welds.
I used the zinc weld-through primer for the underside of the piece and got is set in place.

Piece set in place, ready to plug weld.
The contact points of the clamps that I have are not skinny enough to fit in between the overhang lip of the top bulkhead and the front bulkhead so I had to use magnets to hold it in place and I pressed down on the piece as I tacked it in.

Magnets from below.
Welded in. Ground down about half of it in this picture. You may also notice the tack welds on the other part in the background.
After I got that in and ground down, touching up welds as required, I went back to continuing the tack welds on the rest of the top bulkhead. I got almost all of it done but still need to grind down some welds to make sure I haven't left any holes.

A round of tack welds after they've been ground down. You can see several holes and missed spots.

Another round of tack welds, before any grinding.
If I haven't warned you on the power of the flap disk, let me say it now. Those things will just eat metal up. You have to be very careful of collateral damage while using a flap disk. The disk I was using is 60-grit and I am going to invest in 120-grit to see if they are a bit more gentle. I thinned out some portions a bit too much while trying to grind down the welds. Unfortunately, I don't have a compressor so a nice, small air die grinder is not in my tool box.

I did some additional grinding to get the battery box to sit as flush as I could, including some grinding on the battery box itself (the outside edge needed some trimming). While I doesn't sit flush by any means, it does sit in there. I'll go back with a hammer and dolly and get the opening as flat as I can and then work on the battery box to get that formed to fit. Hopefully, when I'm all done, there will not be any gaps and I'll have a good solid fit to weld.

She fits!

Well, mostly. Need some metal bending here.

And here. The box comes flat so you have to flare the back side of it no matter what.
Once I get the battery box fit snug, I'll drill several holes and get it plug welded in. Then, the supports need to get plug welded in and the task will be done. I did get them cleaned up and ready to go back in today, but didn't take any pictures. I removed those with the spot weld cutting tool, so the holes in those are rather large with a lot of metal to fill during the plug weld. I think some practice is in order.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Battery Box Installation #3

Sometimes you just can't see the forest for the trees. The preceding week was one of those times. I've been working to get the new battery box in and spending time trying to fabricate replacement sheet metal to repair what time and rust has taken away. After I put the little corner piece on last weekend, it finally dawned on me that the metal I was using, purchased from my local True Value, was 22 ga while the metal on the car was 20 ga. None of the usual suspects around me sell 20 ga steel.

So, I fought with myself about whether 22 ga was good enough; would it be too hard to weld properly; should I just wait and source 20 ga from...somewhere...further delaying my project. I even went so far as to ask on my favorite forum. Being the awesome bunch that they are, some recommended using old body parts from any other car, an old oven or refrigerator or anything else that was thin steel.

Then it dawned on me. You kept that trunk lid for just this purpose. I have the black tub out back, of course, but I've been trying to only use pieces from that for direct installation on the red tub. Most of the reason for this is so that when I'm done with the black tub and want to give it away, the person getting it will have a cleanly sectioned body vice something which a bunch of random holes cut out of it. So, in the back of my mind, it was off limits.

But, the trunk lid from Dot...well, that's exactly what I kept it for. So, up to the attic to get the new abundance of sheet metal of the right gauge. I prepped a square of adequate size and hacked it out with a cut off wheel on my HF 4.5" angle grinder. Auto-cannibalism? Look that one up yourself.

Area selected for removal.

That just ain't right.
With 50-year old, 20 ga sheet metal in hand, it was time to start the form and fabrication process for the new piece. I purposefully cut it quite a bit bigger than was required and slowly snipped, ground or otherwise removed metal a bit at a time to get the best fit that I could.

The pattern.
One of the more tricky areas was the overhang of the top bulkhead (which was part of what I was replacing) over the passenger's front bulkhead. Instead of making this complicated, I just cut several notches in the sheet metal and bent it over with a pair of needle-nose pliers.

The overhang, looking up from underneath. Hopefully this gives you the idea of the notches and bends...and the bad welds from the little corner piece.
I will go back and fill the notches with weld metal. The other part that I still have yet to figure out is the curved area where I had previously found the brass brazed in. As you can see in the picture above, my new part didn't quite solve the problem of the gap. I think I'm going to have to get creative here, but I'm not ready to commit to any solution yet.

The brazed area. Picture obviously well before damage removal. Gives you a good idea, though.

Initial fit up. Still lots of trimming to do.
So, more trimming, fitting, trimming and fitting. My Dremel rotary tool, with an aluminum-oxide grinding stone, was of great help here especially in matching the uneven edges where the two pieces butt up against one another. I finally arrived at something like this:

Bottom shot of the new piece, freshly primed with weld-thru primer. Holes drilled for where I will do plug welds.
I clamped the part in and tried the plug welds. They were not pretty. I was very concerned about blowing through so I had the welder set pretty cold.

Oh my...those are bad. Well, the one on the far left is okay, though without full penetration.
I ground the welds down mostly flush, turned the welder up to "2" and tried again. Thankfully, that try came out much better. I'm sure, as time goes on, I'll become more confident in how long I can pull the trigger without causing more harm than good.

Bottom one still a bit iffy, but much better overall, I think.
After the plug welds were done, I put in a few tack welds as the rest of the part will be butt-welded in. I blew through in a corner that, while not surprising, was not catastrophic. Corners and large gaps between the two pieces of metal make it easier to blow through since there is less metal there to absorb the same amount of heat. What's left takes the brunt of it and turns to plasma.

Some stitching done. The bottom, left-most weld is the corner that I blew through.
With the tack welds I tacked one spot, then moved a good distance away and tacked another and so on. The intent is to spread the heat out to minimize the warping of the metal while still allowing you to get some welding done. Once a minimal amount of tacks were done, I took a hammer and dolly and tried to get it as set as I could get it. That bend the top bulkhead takes as it goes horizontal was a bit of a pain to get right, but it seems to have come in okay.

The weld from underneath. I also tacked in the wire bundle "strap" from the old piece. Far right is that corner one I blew through. Yuck.
That was about as far as I got today. Tomorrow, it being Mother's Day and all, I'm not sure if I will try to get any work done. I'm cooking a pretty involved dinner, too, so we'll see. However, I am very happy with how the day went and my confidence continues to grow. Still a lot of work to do, of course, but I'm making genuine progress.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Battery Box Installation #2

Got my weld on today. Also took some time out to show my boys what I know...which ain't much! But, now, I think we all have about the same amount of weld time!

Though I purchased a 75/25 Ar/CO2 mix bottle quite some time ago, it wasn't until today that I decided it was the right time to switch over from the flux core set up. If you are unfamiliar with MIG welding, as I was, without using a bottle of inert gas, you are not technically MIG welding.

MIG stands for "metal inert gas". The "metal" part is the wire that is fed through the "hose" to the tip of the welding gun. The "inert gas" part is the bottle of gas that you have that acts as a shield to evacuate the normal atmosphere to provide a clean environment in which to weld.

For the most part, when you buy a MIG welding rig, you get the welder, a spool of flux-core wire and sometimes a gas regulator and hose. I purchased a Hobart Handler 140 last Christmas at Tractor Supply when it was on sale for around $450 (normally about $520 it looks like). This welder has great reviews. I would recommend it, I guess, but I don't really have enough experience to say so. However, I would say that I HIGHLY recommend it over buying something at Harbor Freight. As I've said before, for something like this, name-brand is worth it!

Pretty catalog image of my welder. Shows everything you get.
With the Hobart, I got the obligatory spool of .030" flux core wire, a regulator and hose for gas, and the welder (of course). I played around with the flux core wire for a while. The drawbacks from the flux core wire is that it is a dirtier weld (more splatter) and that it is harder to weld thin metal (like the 20-22 gauge body panel stuff) without really knowing what you are doing. I knew I would convert to the actual MIG at some point, so I made sure I bought a unit that supported this requirement.

Anyway, I finally transitioned to 0.023" solid wire with 75% Ar, 25% CO2 gas mix today. There is some setup stuff that changes when you go to solid core wire and gas...but it's easy. I did some practice and let the boys take their shot at some welding, too. We did the trifecta...plugs, laps and butts (the adolescent boys snickered at that, of course).

My oldest ready to go.

My youngest striking an arc!
For the car, I did some more prep in the area. As I mentioned in my previous post, the area that I'm repairing has three layers; the front bulkhead, the top bulkhead and the battery box. My goal today was to get the front bulkhead area done. You may remember that the corner closest to the engine was in pretty bad shape and needed some new metallic love.

The forward bulkhead damage, but cleaned up and ready (sorta) for repair.
So, I took care of that.

Wow...that's really ugly!
Better, but you may notice that dark spot right under the apex of the inside curve...that's a hole.
There were times, of course, where I held the trigger a bit too long and blew through some sheet metal. One nice thing I learned about MIG welding today is that you have a wealth of new metal at your fingertips. Blow through a weld hole?...there's metal for that. Need to fill a previous rust hole...there's metal for that. Just pull the trigger and you get new metal. Of course, you have to be careful and all that, but it's great. I filled several missing gaps with the spool of wire.

Holes all gone, filled with MIG wire.
I also got some flap disk experience today with my angle grinder and learned that those things will grind through metal pretty quickly. I knew that, but I guess I didn't appreciate it enough.

Hard to see, but you can tell the metal about an inch from the far right is pretty thin...whoops!
While I was there with the flap disk, I took the liberty of grinding out all of the spot weld remnants in preparation for replacement.

Cleaned up, upper battery bulkhead gusset spot welds ground down.
I did some more cleaning and grinding and what-not and finally ended up with something that I'm quite happy with.

Still have some holes to fill...but mostly done.
Next step is to repair the top bulkhead, which will entail layering another piece of new metal on top of what I'm showing here. Fun, fun!

The notched-out area requiring repair.