The BugShop: Project '57, pg 5

This page last modified- 11/3/01

Finally I was seeing the end of the nose rebuild. June 1998, let see, I bought this car in October of 1992, that is a long time. But I'm on a mission to finish it this year. This page details the solution to the front apron dilemma, which surprisingly, I solved myself (and met my own strict expectations).

Just cut out what you don't like

As is said on the previous page, if I was not able to find an good, useable, whole apron, I was going to try the "graft" thing again. This involves removing the seal retainer strip from a $20 JC Whitney apron, then nibbling out the stamped portion by cutting right along where the retainer strip was tacked. I had actually already nibbled out the original section from another apron and used it to scribe a "cut" line on this apron. Those nibblers you see here are cheap Chinese ones (around $8) but they actually work very well (but it takes a while). It peels up about a 1/8" strip of steel that you can see here, you just have to make sure that you "cut" with your line on the proper edge of the nibbling tooth. My plan was to get the two pieces cut and have my friend Tom graft them together.



After I finished the cut and fitted it up, I was feeling pretty confident about my welding skills. I had progressed quite a bit since my first attempt at grafting the two panels together. So I gave it a shot on the backside of the apron.

Butt welding is tricky, because it is soooo easy to burn through, especially when the panels don't quite touch. The trick is to do very quick little tacks, like you see here. Once the gas flow and wire speed are right on the MIG, you just do real short, 1 second bursts about 2" apart on the seam. Then you go back and go in between those, then in between again and so on. I use a hand held mask that you can quickly put in front of your face and then away to see what you have done.

Because a new seal retainer strip would be tacked back on to the front of the apron over the seamed area, finishing the front side wasn't needed. 

Voila! Who needs NOS?

Well, after the better part of my free time on a really rainy weekend, I had the apron I was looking for. This is after a LOT of MIG, grind, MIG, grind and grind some more. I MIG'ed the seam mostly from the back, then ground it down flush. Then I tackled the seal retainer strip. I knew this was going to be tricky.

The tack strip comes (from Wolfsburg West) in a straight 4 foot length and it is considerably thinner steel than the apron. I drilled about 5/32" holes, 2" apart along the length of the strip. Then I clamped the end along the start of the curvature at one side on the top and MIG'ed a quick pool of metal in the hole. I mean real quick, this strip metal burns like aluminum foil. Then I bent the strip slightly, clamped near the next hole and MIG'ed the next one. I worked my way along. I gets much harder near the bottom where the curve is sharper. Remember that you are bending this basically flat strip of metal in its own plane, not perpendicular to it (like put a ruler flat on the desk and try to bend the ends toward each other while keeping it flat on the desk). The trick that allowed me to get a nice even curve (not having noticeable bends at every weld spot) was to use a big screwdriver along the back edge of the strip at points in between the welds/holes and just bend a little at a time. The strip is weaker where it is drilled and wants to bend there all the time. As you can see, the strip follows the contour of the pressing very nicely. I was quite pleased with the way it came out.

By the way the strips on the JC Whitney aprons are very poorly done. Obviously bent only at the tack points, giving a very "stepped" curve, rather than a smooth one. 

Now fit it all up. Again.

My friend Tom drilled into my head the importance of fitting up every panel in the nose before welding anything together. So I fitted up the apron and secured it with sheet metal screws. I bolted up the hood (that balance-it-on-your-head/try-to-align-the-bolt-holes maneuver) and checked the alignment of everything.

This hood is very nice and would be tough to find now. The correct '62 and earlier hood has no "pedestal" pressing for an emblem up near the windshield.

I still will be bringing the gas tank and front fenders down from the loft and will fit them up before I weld anything. Right now everything is held together by sheet metal screws. 

Dime Time

Folks, this is the payoff for all of this work. Look at the line the hood makes with the top of the quarter and the apron at the bottom. This hood is fully bolted onto the hinges here. Perfectly uniform, like they are glued together. Is that "fit" or what!?

["Dime Time" refers to the old antique car benchmark that you shouldn't be able to slip a dime between the opening panels of a concours show car.]

Screws from Heaven

I wanted to show you these. They are "framing screws" that I bought a whole box of at Home Depot for a couple bucks. They are used by contractors who use those metal studs in commercial construction. You can barely make out a penny that I placed in the picture so you could get an idea of the size.

My friend Tom used a self tapping body shop screw that was nice because you didn't have to pre-drill a guide hole. But they were big and left a hole about 3/16" for you to MIG up when you were done. These leave only about a 1/8" hole. Using a 1/16" bit as a guide hole and screwdriver bit (I have two Makita cordless drills!) these screws are indispensable for pinning up panels. 


These are all of the "body parts" that were left when I was done with all of the panel work. I saved everything, not knowing what I was going to need. You can see the original apron with the pressed area cut out.


Hidden Clip Job

I only roughly ground down the butt weld on the upper quarter, but I sprayed a bit of primer on it to see how noticeable it was. The weld is about 1/2" to the left of the forward most molding hole in this picture. You can also see again how close and uniform the hood to quarter fit is.