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Friday, February 9, 2018

Triumph Spitfire Restoration - Aligning the Tub

The video:

The goal of this visit was to get the body fully aligned and secured to the frame to weld those outer sills on.  Additionally, I need to get the bonnet  on there, though that didn't happen this night.

A bit of Spitfire construction so we can all be on the same page. The body is held to the frame at a dozen connection points.

Body-to-chassis mounting hardware and points.

Nothing too complicated here, it's just a bunch of bolts and spacers, but the tub, being so light, is rather easy to manipulate and get positioned. Armed with the knowledge of where and how the body mounts to the chassis,  it was time to get it aligned and secured.

First, I needed to verify that the captive nut that I believed broken on the inner mounting hole in the passenger's outrigger was indeed broken. I used the floor jack to push up on the body right under the A-post, putting tension on the captive nut in an attempt to hold it in place against the inside of the outrigger. It worked and I was able to remove the bolt, the captive nut (or threaded insert, really) dropping to the bottom of the outrigger with a depressing "clink" when the bolt was removed.

The black hole of a missing threaded insert.

For now, I'll just use a clamp to hold the body in place in that area until it comes back off and I can fix it properly.

Next, I needed to take care of the misalignment that I put into the inner attachment point for the body on the driver's side outrigger. For all of my care, I was off by about 3/4 of a bolt width front-to-back.

Not easy to see, but this pic attempts to show my bolt to threaded hole offset.

In my defense, I had several moving targets here. First, the outriggers were new and I tried to properly align them way back when I originally started frame repairs. Second, the  mounting bracket in question needed to come off for one of the first body repairs I did fixing the cancer in the lower front bulkhead. Outrigger placement impacted the bolt hole front to back while the bracket placement impacted the bolt hole side to side. Guess I nailed the bracket's location,  but the outrigger, not so much. In hindsight, I probably didn't get the body properly aligned when I set it back down to help line up the outriggers. But, considering I was only off by about 1/4" overall...I'll take it!
My solution for that was straightforward, however, in elongating the hole a bit with a metal burr as this was the only good option.

The next thing I needed to do  was drill holes and get the floor cross-members  installed. With time getting away from me, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get these welded in, but I was confident I'd get them fitted.

I got the body aligned and bolted down using the bolts that I could. Specifically, the two inner outrigger bolts and the four rear-most bolts (refer to the diagram if you need to), snugging it all up to prevent inadvertent body movement.

The frame has what I call intermediate outriggers, shorter ones about half-way back that have two bolts per side. This is what the floor, through the cross-members, bolts to right in front of the seats. The outriggers have a threaded plate that is captured to it, but with the ability to move a bit, that accept the bolts through the cross-member (again, look at the pic above if necessary).

I moved the threaded plates until they were about centered in their attachment, and then drilled pilot holes, from the bottom, up through the threads and through the floor boards.

I didn't take proper pics of this process, but you can get an idea, hopefully, using this one.

I did both sides, and then mounted the cross-members to make sure they lined up properly and as expected. They weren't perfect, but not too far  off. I did both sides and got those bolts tightened down as well to ensure a proper fit.

With those done, it was time to address the outer mounting points on the main outriggers. There are some heavy-duty brackets that weld to the floor bottom and A-post that go between the outrigger and the floor in this area. I wasn't really sure how these were going to fit in, so I figured the best way to drill another set of pilot holes through the floor, using the outrigger holes as a guide. Again, drilling from the bottom, I put the drill bit up through the outer outrigger hole and drilled through the bottom of the floor on both sides.

Here's the hole drilled in the passenger's side. You can see the red of the outrigger.

The real test now was to get the support brackets in there and see if the holes still lined up. This required loosening and/or removing all of the eight bolts that I had holding the body down to enable me to lift it enough to slide the brackets in. Thankfully, the brackets fell right into place and the holes aligned, allowing me to then bolt it all back up!

Same shot, but now with the bracket installed and the bolt through all of it.

Again, my measurements were not perfect and the bolts did not fall right in the center of the "groove" in the floor that was there for that purpose, but it was close enough for me!

I moved to preparing to do some welding. The majority of this involved punching a bunch of 1/4" holes in the cross-members for the future plug welds. My manual punch did just fine, but it got a bit painful (literally and figuratively), so there's a lot to be said for a pneumatic version.

Cross-members all punched up and ready for welding...except for paint removal, of course.

I got the cross-members back in and sized up and prepped the area for welding by removing the existing paint and then spraying weld-through primer, that being about it for my progress.

All in all, a good night. It may seem like I didn't get a lot done, but it was rather tedious and I was checking and re-checking the body fitment each time I did something. This sucked up a lot of time but I think, in the long run, when I go to make my final welds on the outer sills, those  door gaps will be much better than they would be if I just rushed through this. Again, I've taken this much time already...what's another few garage days?

Since I didn't record the final result, I edited it out my comment in my closing of the video that I wanted to put the driver's side door up (the one I was having all my fitment problems with) to see how it looked.   I did it and I'm happy to say that I was very pleased with the gaps on the door. This was without the outer sill in there, but the problems that I was having with the door gaps between the back of the door and the B post seem to have worked themselves out with bolting the body down. SO happy that I took my favorite forum's (and YouTube viewer's) advice and waited on welding the outer sills in until the body was back on the frame that it was really being bolted to!!!

Cheers and GO EAGLES!!!

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