Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Frame Repair #3

I finished up the passenger's side of the frame repair, though I was not quite as happy with how that side turned out. Before that, though, I took a ride into the deep woods of Rhode Island to look at some post-restoration extra parts someone had. I know Rhode Island isn't all that big, but it felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. Getting off 95 the road started out wide, freshly paved and painted. As I went deeper the road narrowed, then the shoulders disappeared, then the center painted line, then the road surface got worse until eventually I was down to about one-and-a-half lanes of poor pavement and no painted lines. But, Google Maps got me there, regardless.

This gentlemen had a '67 that he was restoring and, while doing some work on his roof, fell off, seriously limiting his mobility. He was able to sell the car as partially complete but had several parts left over.

While a lot of what he had either didn't apply to Dorothy (like square-tail stuff), there were several Mk2 parts that I took off his hands. Namely, one each of the seats, one covered and one not, a flywheel (saves me significant cash for converting over to a diaphragm clutch), radiator, front bumper (not in great shape, but too rare to pass up), a heater valve, two fuel pumps (no idea if they work) and a water pump/housing/elbow assembly. All in all, I offered and he accepted $50. He was literally throwing the stuff away the very next day, so it was great timing for me. Oh, and he threw in his air-powered metal punch/flange tool that he used to repair his floors which I'm sure will come in handy! You hate to hear stories like this and it makes you continue to work at your dreams; a lucky find for me!

The flywheel. Needs to be cleaned up, obviously, but teeth are in better shape than the one I have now.


Mk2 radiator. Some damage here, but nothing too bad to me. No idea if it's water/pressure tight.


Water pump assembly, fuel pumps (original) and heater valve. Oh, and the seat with the cover.

This was about a 1.5 hour round trip so I got back to the shop around 6pm and started working. The first order of business was the weld repair to the frame. Like I mentioned, I wasn't as happy with this one. While I'm confident the repair will hold, I didn't keep up with hammering the replacement piece and it bowed on me as it went in, causing a pretty good lip to form at the bottom of the patch (or top, in the picture). In the final analysis, this boils down to improper fit-up and probably a good bit of impatience to get it done. I've got to really stop doing that or I'm going to be sorry for real one of these times!

But, since most if not all of the repair will be covered by the outriggers, I'm not too worried about it. I don't care about the appearance, I just don't want road grime to get caught in any small depressions in the weld area. I will reassess when I dry-fit the new outriggers before I make any further adjustments.

Some grinding done, but not finished. The frame is upside down in this picture.

Once that was done, I moved on to some housekeeping. I had brought my pressure washer over to go to town on the frame and various other parts. I got the black car's differential cleaned up pretty good.

Before. Those are ear plugs in the stud holes to keep a gross amount of water out.

After. Silver? The ear plugs stayed intact, through I did avoid hitting them directly with the water jet.

The frame was next. My garage-mate had showed up and helped me carry it outside. Though not totally clean, I did get most of the large clumps of gunk off of the frame. Also found the frame number (FC 645XX). That's about 5500 units away from the commission number, but I'm not sure if this is significant. I know that Triumph didn't try to match numbers, but it seems a rather large jump to me. Then again, it does not appear as though the frame and tub have been separated before now, so I'm going with it being original.

A mostly clean frame. On that cross-member is the frame number plate.

I am going on vacation in a few days so I don't plan on any work between now and when I get back. When I do, I intend on finishing the frame degreasing and getting the outriggers tacked in. I do intend on dropping the tub back on the frame to do this to make sure everything will line up. There are two body attachment points on each outrigger. One is for the very front of the tub in the engine bay and the second is in the forward portions of each footwell in the passenger compartment.


Self-explanatory for inside the car.

Engine bay mounting bold. I partially colored the outrigger so you could see it better.

While I will be able to drill my own holes for inside the car since the new floors do not have pre-cut mounting holes, I can't do that on the engine bay mounts. Since the outriggers are accessible with the body mounted, I can get it all aligned and tack the outriggers in using (what's left of) the holes in the old floors. Then, I'll pull the body off, weld them in all permanent like and proceed with finishing up the frame restoration (POR-15 and an internal frame coating, like this one from Eastwood).

Small steps, but steps all the same!

P.S. I ran over to the shop tonight to do the front brakes on my Honda Fit. The outriggers came today so I brought them over to check very rough fit and make sure they weren't way off. Some adjustments will be required, of course, but it looks good!

The look of things to come.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Frame Repair #2

One hole down, one to go. Of course, I haven't cleaned up the entire frame yet, but I am fairly confident that the remaining areas that are still covered with grease and grime were appropriately protected from corrosion by said grease and grime. Still have to get that power washer over there...

I was unable to locally source 14 gauge steel from the usual suspects (True Value and Lowe's) so I decided to investigate reusing the old frame parts from the "new" outriggers. Turns out I had more than enough to do the driver's side repair (twice, actually, as you'll see) and the passenger's side repair.

The frame is made of two separate, U-shaped pieces of metal that are spot welded together at less than 1-inch increments. One of the U-shaped pieces is large and another, smaller, U-shaped part fits on the inside of this and they are spot welded to form the square-tube frame.

Showing the two parts of the frame, spot welded together. Lots of metal missing here, obviously, but I think you get it.

My garage-mate brought a drill press when we first moved over and I was able to take advantage of it today. I would estimate that it cut at least half of my time to go through the spot welds with my spot-weld cutter. The ease compared to a hand drill is something that would immediately cause you to run to Harbor Freight and buy one! So, go...now.

My new best friend!

After making sure I had the metal I needed, I cut into the frame. I'd consider this a milestone of sorts since there was no turning back after this. I used my 4.5-inch grinder with a cutting wheel to remove the cancer. I was concerned that it would be too big and I would over-cut, but I just stopped short and then pried it back and forth to break it out. It all worked out. I also used a small combination square to make the cut lines as straight as possible to ease fabrication of the replacement part.

Cut out. Those extra black lines were my free-hand attempts from a few days ago. Bubbles are from de-greaser.

Once I got the frame open, I inspected the inside. I was pleasantly surprised to see that everything looked good and that whatever paint Triumph used on the inside was fully intact with no signs of further corrosion. However, since it had been exposed to the elements due to the frame cancer, I washed the immediate inside area with Purple Power, wiped it out as best I could and allowed it to dry while I prepped the new metal.

Here, I learned (re-learned, I think, but it hasn't sunk in yet, obviously) that you cannot use the piece of metal that you pulled out as an "trace-able" template for the replacement piece. All of the metal lost due to the cutting wheel ends up making your new piece too small and the 30 minutes that you spend on getting it shaped right totally wasted when you try the first fit!

Damaged piece overlaying replacement. The very beginning of my wasted time.

I didn't take any pictures of the huge gaps I had doing it this way. I wasted good metal but, again, I was lucky to have enough to fabricate a new piece for the passenger's side of the frame. I paid some stupid tax on this one.

Once I got through that and got my new piece sorted, I did lots of dry fits. Lots. I could have (and maybe should have) made a paper template and traced it and cut it out...but I feel it's safer to cut the piece too big and grind down to size vice making one wrong cut and wasting a hunk of steel...especially when I'm material limited.

Couple large gaps on the upper right (which I burned through while welding) but not bad.

I applied two coats of weldable primer to both sides, mainly for the inside since I hope to never see it again, and did the final fit-up.

Final fit up, just prior to striking the arc.

This was the thickest metal that I had welded on the car so far, at 14 gauge. The welder didn't have a 14 gauge set, of course, but did have a 16 and 12, so I left it at the 16 gauge setting. I've been burning through more often than not, so I'm gun shy in that direction. Hopefully I got good penetration because I cannot see the inside of the welds.

Inside door chart on my welder. I needed to be between 3 / 50 and 4 /55, but I stuck with 3 / 50 and it turned out okay.

I also needed to get a good ground since the frame was either covered in grease/grime or old, flaking paint. So, I made one.

Took a flap disk, lightly, to the front crossmember of the frame.

Welded in. I'd rather those beads a bit flatter, indicative of good penetration, but I'll take them.

Lots of grinding, but solid, I would say.

After all was said and done, I was happy with the result. Since this is a "blind" weld, as I would call it, I could not hammer from the inside of the frame to keep everything as flush as possible. Because of this or because I just didn't set the piece up properly, the bottom weld was recessed a bit. It worked out okay, but it took a lot of grinding to get everything relatively smooth.

Final result. No primer since I have to weld the outrigger on now and would just have to sand it all away.
That wrapped up the first part of the day. After dinner, I was able to break away for just shy of two hours to start prepping the passenger's side. I got just about everything done up to the point of being ready to weld the new piece in. I followed the same preparation sequence, moving faster since my lessons learned and experience from the first go-around helped.

Passenger's side cut. A bit more cleaning and inspection on the inside, but still a clean interior.

This should be the final fit up. Note the drilled-out spots welds on the top that will get ground down.

I put a coat of weldable primer on the new piece and then left the shop for the night. There may be some more tweaks that I need to make before I'm ready to tack it in but it should be ready to go.

I also decided that new outriggers was the way to go. The "new" to me ones each required metal repair. Given that these are structural and given the time, effort and money I've put in so far, the $170 from Rimmer Bros. for the pair, including shipping, was a no-brainer...though not a cheap one. Oh, and since I made a big deal of it last time, getting the outriggers domestically would have cost me $200 before shipping, so I saved at least $50 getting them from Rimmer's. Kick myself for not ordering them during the sale when I got all of my other sheet metal.

Earlier in the week I cut the frame of the black car to get the differential out. I worked a bit, while I was waiting for the coats of weldable primer to dry, at getting it free from the frame remnants and while I got a lot of it, I couldn't finish it. Damn rear mounting bolt is essentially now one piece with the metal sleeve of the two differential bushings. I didn't take any pictures, but that differential will be free if it kills me. Given the problems with the one from Dorothy that I mentioned a few posts ago, it will be worth it.

That was it for the day. Outside of the obvious goal of getting that remaining frame repair done, the next step will be to get the new-new outriggers tacked in and fitted to the body. Even though new floor pans are going in, the front-most body mounting points will need to fit square so I'll set the body down, make sure it looks good, and then weld them both in permanent-like. As long as I can get my garage-mate to help me, I think I can get that done during the week.

Happy Father's Day, everyone!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Frame Repair #1

Made some more progress this week (Wednesday) on the frame repair. I got the remnants of the outriggers off and cleaned up the area real good to get an complete look at the extent of the damage. Not horrible, but it definitely requires removal and replacement of some metal.

Driver's side damage (frame upside down). You can see the crack that extents from the left tip of the hole.

Bad lighting, but Sharpie showing outline of repair cutout. This extends to underneath.

Damage on passenger's side (frame upside down). Damage was more extensive to frame on this side, but outrigger was in better shape.

Damage showing outline of metal to be removed. Extends through top and bottom of frame.

I spent the majority of my total time that night (about 4 hours) working to take it from what it looked like in my last post to above.

The rest of my time was spent prepping the "new" outriggers. These will both require some repair but are in better shape, overall, than the ones on the black car and are much cheaper (cost me postage) than getting new ones (they run about $100 each).

The guy that I got them from was cutting up a frame and cut the frame clean through about four inches on either side of the outrigger. So first, I had to liberate them from the frame. Sorry that I didn't document it with pictures. But, I cut just inside the weld beads on all sides. Unfortunately, I didn't have anything small enough (my Dremel was at home) to cut into the weld on the inside portion of the interface, but I was able to bend it back and forth and they broke apart right at the outrigger side of the weld.

Though all of this required a lot of noise, cutting and metal shavings, it seemed to work out okay. I put them in a vinegar soak until I get back to them. My concerns are that, because I had to cut into a bit of the top and bottom "wings" that fit over the frame, I won't get enough overlap to provide the design structural integrity. However, I think I only lost about 1/4" all around by cutting just inside of the welds so I think I'll be okay.

In the long run, after all of the repairs and clean up and such, I'll tack them on and then temporarily place the body back on. Though this will be a pain in the rear, it will save a lot of work in the long run if I discover that my methods caused them to be unusable.

Driver's side, post frame liberation and prior to going back into vinegar soak.

Passenger's side. You can see the very large hole (this extended into the frame) that I'll repair on the bottom flap of metal.

The other concern I have for these "new" outriggers is the inaccessible corrosion on the inside. However, I intend to cut the spot welds off of the inside metal pieces (I'll take a picture to show what I mean when I do it) so that I can inspect and then preserve the inside of the outriggers. Another thing some folks do it tack in some round tubing, or pipe, through the holes in the outriggers. This way, road dirt and such doesn't get inside the outriggers, get wet, and sit, leading to more corrosion. I'll take a look at doing this when I get that flap of metal off and make the decision then.

Other than that I did some minor frame clean up of the parts that were not covered in grease and grime. I need to get my pressure washer over there to blast the heck out of it, but I'll need help from my garage-mate carrying the frame over the Datsun's to get it outside. Also, I want to repair the gaping holes in the frame so I don't flood it with too much water!

Minor cleanup with a cup knotted wire brush on my angle grinder.

Blurry shot of one side of the emergency brake cable guide and differential mounting bracket.

Same shot, but other side where the grease and grime was not as bad.

One thing I learned in all of my cleaning and investigating was that the Brits didn't seem all that concerned with pretty welds. You can see sloppiness in the above shot and there were several other instances of weld splatter and just not cleaning up the work that I found. Makes me very confident that my welding techniques will be more than adequate!

I'll get more garage time tomorrow (Saturday) after my morning run and making breakfast for the boys. Sunday, being Father's Day and all, will be better spent with the family. I intend to cut out the frame that will require replacement and hopefully tack, if not finish welding, in the repairs. However, the frame metal measures out to be 14 gauge and I don't think my local hardware store has that. If not, I'll have to come back home and hack apart some of the black car's frame...I left the sawzall at the garage.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Frame Tear Down

Got over the to shop (I'm going to call it a shop instead of a garage...hope no one minds) today to tear down the frame. My intention was to strip it of all attached bits and to cut the outriggers off to see how much actual frame damage there was. For the second time in as many visits, I got done what I wanted to get done!

Also, unlike the black car, I was rather meticulous this time with properly bagging everything and taking lots of pictures. I got several hundred plastic zip-top bags with that white stuff on it so I could label everything with a Sharpie. I also spent the first half-hour or so moving stuff around a bit to better suit my needs. Namely, I moved a wire shelving unit (that was in my home garage) out of the shop's bathroom (don't ask) to near the car. That way, the huge 230V air compressor can go in the bathroom...behind a closed door to keep the screech of its motor down. I also did some minor decorating.

Picked this up at the British Invasion last year. Figured it was inspirational!

I started up front with the steering rack. A quick pop of the ball joints using my trusty Harbor Freight ball joint separator, the removal of four bolts and it was clear. Found what appeared to be a brand new (or at least galvanized-looking, so new-to-the-car) reinforcement plate. Not sure about that, as the other one was original and covered with the "normal" grime and grease. Rack doesn't look like it was ever removed...who knows?

Ready to pop the first ball joint.

Rack removed. Nice shiny paint under there!

After that it was on to the suspension turrets. Since the goal was just to get the frame stripped, I planned on taking the turrets off with everything still attached. Having done this on the black car when I stripped it, I knew it was possible and relatively simple and only takes seven bolts per side.

Driver's side turret, prior to removal.

I think there's a bolt under there somewhere. This is the one bolt from the top.

Ah, there it is. And more shiny red paint!

There are a bunch of shims associated with the turrets. One or more (Dorothy had one per side but the black car had two), is under the top bolt that I show above. All of the others, and the numbers vary from side to side and front to back, are between the lower A-arm mounting brackets and the frame. I bagged these up individually, side to side and front to back, and labeled them appropriately. I haven't looked, but I'm sure the workshop manual has a complicated discussion on how to shim this stuff properly. Can't wait...

Once all the bolts and nuts were out, the whole assembly just pulls out (the lower A-arm mounting brackets have studs that pass through the frame and will hold it in place until you slide it out). It's got some weight too it, but like just about everything else on this car, it's light for what it is.

Of the seven total bolts that I mentioned, four (two front and back) attache to the outside of the frame to secure the turret. These bolt through the turret and into the frame then into a threaded bar. I didn't take any good pictures of them from the red car but did on the black one.

Picture tries to show how the nut bar slides into a gap between the frame itself and the u-shaped housing.

The bar "housing" is U-shaped and the bar slides into the space between the U and the frame itself. The housing is open at the top and bottom to allow insertion and removal of the bar.

I also labeled and removed the brake lines. I intend on replacing all of the brake and fuel lines for safety and cleanliness sake. However, the kits for these, while containing all of the individual lines of the correct length, are coiled and require bending them to fit. The fuel line had been replaced by the PO using soft copper which I had previously trashed.

The front 4-way union that takes the fluid from the master cylinder and distributes it through the car.

With all of that done, it was time to move to the back. The top shock mounts were first and came off with no problem. The shocks, however, are not in the best shape anymore.

Shock fully extended...and stationary.

Shock fully compressed...and stationary. Not a whole lot of shock value there. Ha! Get it?

The transverse leaf spring was next and, for the first time, I discovered a poor repair choice by the PO (or, DPO in this case) that caused damage.

At some point, the leaf spring was replaced, removed or otherwise disturbed. The original design springs are held down with six nyloc nuts that screw down onto six studs that in turn thread into the top of the differential. However, as you can see in the picture below, I have four studs/nuts and two bolts. Neither of these bolts were of the correct thread pitch or length. So, forever how long this arrangement was in place, the bolts tended to move around in the threaded holes in the differential and slowly bored them out.

Beginning removal. At this point, I knew something wasn't right but hadn't discovered the damage.

The worse of the two bolts. I did not have to screw the bolt in...I just pushed.

I have at least two options here. One, I could try to do a repair using Helicoil inserts (thanks, favorite forum). I've used these before in the Navy and they seemed to work just fine. Or two, I fortunately have the differential from the black car, though it is currently still attached to its frame. That can be easily fixed with a sawzall, though. Future me.

With the leaf spring out, it was on to the rear axles. This was unexciting and only four bolts per side to disconnect each from the differential. The whole assembly lifted right out after the brake lines were removed.

Then it was on to the differential. I was a bit worried about getting this out. On the black car, the rear mounting bolt had seized to the differential bushings and I couldn't (and still can't) get it out, leaving it stuck there. However, I didn't have any issues today and this bolt (darn thing has to be about 8-inches long) and the two front mounting nuts came right off and the differential was liberated.

Differential out and on the deck.

The damage I wrought.

With that, the frame was fully stripped. With the exception of the brake and fuel line clips that I forgot to remove, there is nothing else that can be removed from the frame...except for the five pounds of grease and grime that is still on there.

By this time is was around 4pm and I had about an hour left before I had to get home. On to removing the outriggers. I had discovered last year some time that the driver's side outrigger had totally rusted through and additionally the frame had also. While I hadn't confirmed this for the passenger's side, I suspected it to be the case as well. It was.

Of course, I had to get them off to be able to fully asses the damage. I cleaned up the area around the welds first with a DeWalt knotted wire cup brush on my HF angle grinder.

This is the passenger's side. While still toast, it wasn't as bad as the driver's side.

Once the cleanup was done, I cut through the outrigger about 1-inch away from the frame.

Driver's side after cutting through the outrigger, the hole in the frame clearly visible.

Driver's side outrigger cut away.

Close-up. You should be looking at a relatively full square of metal here...without all the chunks of decay, either!

Once the outriggers were off, I changed out the wire cup brush for a metal grinding wheel and slowly started to grind away the weld bead. To prevent me from cutting into the frame itself, I kept the grinding wheel on the outrigger metal and worked my way out to the weld. One thing I learned was that as the outrigger metal got thinner and thinner, it would start to more drastically discolor due to the heat generated by the grinding. Eventually, it would get so hot that it became red. At this point I could see the outline of the red color following the weld bead (hard to explain) and used this indication to tell me that I had ground enough metal away. Now the metal was thin enough to crack through with a chisel (which I bought today from Harbor Freight for just this purpose).


Significant grinding done. I've deformed the metal here with a hammer and chisel.

The top portion almost ready to come off. You can see the weld bead that runs vertically on the right. That may be tricky.

I got the top portion of the outrigger removed. There was a lot of grinding, sparks and noise, but it was not difficult. I also did NOT do any damage to the frame, so there was that. The vertical weld beads on the side are going to provide to be more tricky, I think, since there is not a nice flat spot to grind away the bead, so I will just have to be careful. I'll flip the frame over to get at the bottom, then repeat it on the driver's side.

That was about it. I made it home by 5pm after getting a solid 5 hours of work. I'm very happy with how things are going so far and the room provided by the garage, and the fact that I don't have to overly concern myself with the mess or the noise, is making all the difference in the world. I do need to remember to bring my notebook over next time so I can keep some detailed notes to go with the photographs.

Immediate future plans entail getting the remnants of the outriggers removed then wire brushing the whole frame. Then I will repair whatever needs it and then get to work on the "new" outriggers and do the same for them. I'll get those attached and then I will assess the overall frame to see if I want to media blast and/or powder coat it. I'm sure that decision will be several weeks from now, however, so there's no rush.