The BugShop: Project '57, pg 4

This page last modified- 11/3/01

After a few months off, work has resumed on the '57's nose. In this series of pictures, the right portion of the nose is being reconstructed. I was very anxious about being able to butt weld the right quarter, mid panel, and dress it up so that it was virtually undetectable. But my friend Tom, who is clearly very skilled with the welder and hammers, laid to rest that anxiety.

 I post this text above these pictures to make a simple statement. There is no substitute for experience. Understand that there is nothing I won't try (at least when it comes to restoring VWs) but wanting this nose to perfect and having the blessing of a good friend who has been doing body work for 13 years, well, I knew I would likely not meet my own expectations if I tried this myself.

 I am not trying to discourage anybody from doing things on their own, but understand that gaining experience comes at a cost. Invariably, my friend Tom blew holes through, warped and destroyed a few good panels when he was starting out, but now he's well past that stage. I'm not. I'm there now. So I'm willing to mess with stuff that is not so delicate, not so visible. But when it comes to butt welding (easiest to burn through) a panel that I spent two years trying to find, good money prepping and having sandblasted and painstakingly cutting to fit well, I'll pass the torch.....literally.

Tacking It Up

In this picture, Tom is doing the initial hammering on the seam. First, the panel is clamped at the top (hood seal flange) and the bottom (inner wheel arch) with vice grips. The match of the curvature of both panels is assessed. It was pretty close. The basic technique that Tom used was to "Tack and hammer". Basically, the panel is tacked with a small "spot" of MIG and the clamps are removed. Then a MIG spot is placed halfway in between, and the alignment of the panels between the three spots is assessed. Then another MIG spot halfway in between those, and so on. As the MIG tacks gets closer to each other, the unwelded seam in between is hammered into perfect alignment using the hammer and dolly. 

Hammer it Right

This is the seam from inside the trunk cavity. Notice that the seam has been ground to shiny metal on both panels (important). Also notice that the box channel that supports the gas tank and gives rigidity to the nose has been cut back on the donor panel well forward of the seam. A section of the original channel will be welded in place, bridging the seam, when the butt weld is done. This will add needed strength to the butt weld. Tom is holding the dolly on the backside of the seam while hammering. 

Dressing the Seam

This is an excellent close up of the seam. Notice the small "tack" on the crown of the curvature, and a longer welded section higher up, in the upper left-hand corner. That longer weld was done from below. It's good penetration into both panels was evident from this side. Notice how the two panels meet perfectly in the unwelded section of the seam in this picture. Tom is dollying the seam into perfect alignment just below the tack here.



Whoa! Cool picture huh? 

I grabbed the camera while Tom was welding, having no idea how the picture would come out. Needless to say, I was quite surprised. 

Don't stare at it too long, you will damage your eyes. (just kidding)


Then it was done

When the smoke cleared and the lightning stopped, I had a nice strong weld on both sides of the panel. Once a bead is completed on one side, a continuous bead can easily be placed on the other side as there is now enough metal mass to sink away heat and burn through is almost a non-issue. It is really cool watching the welding from the other side, you just see a bright orange "drip" moving down along the seam.

Now both sides are done!

At this point I had fitted my aftermarket tire well floor in place. The cross piece that the tire leans against, has not been tacked to the left quarter yet, so the quarters can be pried apart a bit to allow fitting of the well floor. Still a lot more hammering, bending and shaping left to go, to get get the floor and the apron done.

Many thanks to Tom Whiting, owner of Whitings Auto Body in Maynard, Massachusetts. 

Next Challenge- The Front Apron

Some of you know that I have been agonizing over this for literally years. Problem is that correct front aprons are all but impossible to find. And when you can find one, it is usually pretty trashed. The readily available "to '67" aprons that you see everybody selling for $20-$25 are not correct. The stamping above the seal retainer strip (the area around where the latch bolts up) is not correct. A correct "to '59" apron has four vertical "fingers" in the stamping, two on each side. These aftermarket units are missing the rightmost "finger" and the hole for the hood release cable tube is about twice as big. That, and the quality (sharpness) of the stampings, well, sucks.

This picture tells my apron story pretty well. The one in the upper left was my first attempt. I cut out the stamped section of my original apron, after drilling off the seal retainer strip, right along where the seal would lie, with a nibbler. I bought a JC Whitney aftermarket one and nibbled out it's section. Then I tried to butt weld the stamped section into the Whitney piece. I did OK, until I tried to tack the retainer strip back on. In the end, my MIG skills clearly were not up to the task. Ultimately, as seen above, I scavenged a piece of metal out of it to patch a hole in a heater channel.

The one in the upper right came off the "donor" clip that I got from Nebraska. The bumper support holes are badly torn and the lower edge if bashed in real good. A non candidate.

Then I got this one from PA (see the "700 Mile Parts Run" on the Stories/Rants page) for $15. Shown here, in two pieces on the lower left. At first I thought my friend Tom could dolly it out, but closer inspection revealed that it was a lost cause. Missing metal along the lower edge. But the stamped area was immaculate. So "graft in the stamping- take two". On the lower right is another $19.95 piece from JC Whitney (money is no object :-), with the retainer strip already removed. Notice the huge release tube hole midway up on the right. This time, I'll nibble it out and give it to Tom. He will graft it at his shop so he can use his welder and his hammers and dollies (what's wrong with my $12 JC Whitney set???)

Yes I'm being anal. Many probably say "Who the hell is going to notice!??" Answer: Me. What do you think I look at "Oval Row" at the show (with all of their hoods propped up)? I'm only doing this once, might as well do it right.

 Perfect is perfect.   Stay tuned.....


Work Resumes

After a couple months of not touching the car, I began to feel really guilty and started working on the nose again. My first job was to get the spare tire well "floor" modified correctly. The original well floor had a little sheet metal "bridge" at the bottom that the bottom of the tire rested on. The after market panel instead has a pressed hump at the bottom. Also, the drain holes on the original are two, front to back, under the little "bridge", where on the aftermarket/later version they are side to side on either side of the "hump".

So I salvaged the little bridge from then original panel, hammered it straight and welded it into the bottom of the after market one, over the hump. Just because. I MIG'ed up the original drain holes, then ground them down flush. I will drill new holes in the original location. Lastly, I cut some of those little "wire holder" strips and tacked them along the lower edge. This is where the right headlight and turn signal wires are routed.


They All Have at Least One

I'm talking about a twisted out fender bolt nut. The lowest one on this "donor" clip was missing. A pretty easy fix when every thing is out and apart. I simply MIG'ed an 8mm nut to a washer (while sandwiched between two nuts on a bolt in the vise) then put a bolt through the hole and tightened the washer/nut up against the inside of this quarter. A couple buzzes of the MIG and it is fastened in place. This particular hole is just below the bumper bracket mounting plate, it would have been a real b!t@h to tack it in place if the apron were in place.