Entry: 3/16/06 - Now, I'm finally starting what I would call "body work" because the panels I'll be welding in now will be painted and visible from outside the car. I test fit the left front fender and am happy to see all the bolt holes in the patched fender attachment panel line up to the fender bolts. I also needed to see where the rear edge of the fender lines-up in relationship to the notch for it in the bottom of the rocker panel pressing. As it sits, clamped in place in the following photograph shows where everything will be positioned, including the rocker panel support pressing running parallel to the lock post and anchoring the rear edge of the rocker panel pressing. A good deal of fitting will be required at both ends of the rocker panel pressing but it looks to be very close along the top and bottom edges. I'm rethinking the entire work sequencing and thinking I'll finish the outer rocker panel and do final fitting on the fender and door before starting the other side with welding in the floorpans as the last step. I will be needing to turn the car around on the lift which will require rolling it off so I figure as much longitudinal support on the drivers side as possible is a wise move. I'm pondering a lot of approaches to this next step so the welder will be cold for a few days while I study the problem.
Entry: 3/18/06 - Progress on the 4th phase of the rust repair project was made, welding on of the outer rocker panel. The actual welding of the outer rocker panel will be several steps down the road. Today was the first step, welding in the patched bowl at the bottom of the A-pillar and doing some finish work on the welds done to the longitudinal panel patch under it. As you can see in the following photo, some Wurth high-build underseal has been applied to the wheelwell side of the longitudinal patch and the weld holding the A-pillar bowl in. I decided to leave the weld bead since it cannot be seen once the door is installed.
The weld across the bottom front corner of the door opening required extensive dressing and a light coating of JB Kwik Weld to blend in the repair. The wooden pattern shows the front end of the outer rocker panel pressing is very close to the profile of the original door opening. My work is cut out for me though, the rear end is going to take quite a bit of coercion to make fit the profile. This will have to be the next step as I must have that in position before fitting the rocker panel support pressing. The jack tube and support will be the third step after that.
Entry: 3/20/06 - It was a beautiful first day of Spring here in Seattle so I came out of the "coal mine" for the day and woke up my boat after a 5 month winter siesta, spending most of the day covering Lake Washington as far each point of the compass I can go for a 55 mile loop! The time spent on the 912 today was dismantling the drivers door and studying that ugly situation at the rear end of that Danish-made, Dansk brand replacement rocker panel pressing. Looking at how the pressings fit, given how perfect the front end fits, I've concluded that one of two situations must be evident, the "roughed-in" sheetmetal provided at that end is a "suggestion" or the sheetmetal work I did under the rear longitudinal is significantly different from the factory pressing. It really is pretty much academic because nobody crawls under cars with a caliper and a ruler, you look at the door gap and it's 4 mm all the way around and flush or wrong! I've decided to just cut out the rear-most section of the pressing and discard it, instead custom-fabricating a clean and minimal "bridge patch" to span the gap between the outer rockerpanel and the rocker panel support pressing. I'll re-form the end of the channel section to match the curve of the pieces, original and replacement, that make up the bottom of the lockpost and rear quarterpanel. I've got the door stripped down to the shell so I can mount that if necessary to verify the door gap is parallel and within reasonable hand fitting with body solder on the bottom edge of the door. I think I'll go ahead and weld in the jack post next as it will provide a great place to clamp the bottom edge of the rockerpanel to during fitting. This is one of those times I really have to believe my measurements and patterns are correct and trust them by fabricating to them, plus the door does not lie.
Entry: 3/21/06 - The mental debate raged in my mind through the night and when I faced the problem this morning, fitting the rocker panel support pressing based on where the old one was spotwelded seemed like the logical place to start. I enlisted the use of some #6 ½" self-drilling sheetmetal screws straight out of the furnace duct section of my Home Depot to temporarily attach the new pressing in position. I experimented on some old scrap tin and found the screws tended to strip when turned all the way in so I added some small #8 nuts as spacers so the screws wouldn't strip when moderate torque was applied. I "fiddle-farted" around with the sheetmetal all day and here's what I ended-up with tonight. Some creative use of wood to push the bottom spotweld flange of the rocker panel into position and I have what reminds me of Noah's Ark for some reason. By pushing a long drift punch up through the jack tube cut-out in the rocker panel pressing I can get the rear edge to line-up with the door opening in the original quarter panel sheetmetal. Now all I have to do is figure out how ot get it up there and keep it there using tack welds. This type of work is really "art" as there is no way to script how this thing is going to turn out, just keep working the metal towards the eventual perfect gap alignment with the door hopefully without resorting to the use of BONDO! There are a lot of variables to keep track of here, but it seems like with patience and persistence, I will get everything to align eventually.
Entry: 3/22/06 - Today I welded in the jack post and the rocker panel support pressing. After dressing the welds that will show, I sealed the seams with 3M seam sealer. The structural rigidity of the unibody is now restored so I can remove the bar across the door opening and mount the door shell for gap checking on the next steps, fitting and welding in the outer rocker panel pressing and the lower section of the lock post.
Entry: 3/23/06 - Now we're getting somewhere! I removed the door brace bar and installed the empty door shell today to see how the gaps look. I also media blasted the partially rotted rear quarter panel I cut out of the car. I'm very pleased to see the gaps front and rear are still square and very uniform on the back edge. The edge of the fender at the front of the door is set consistently about 3mm too far forward, which too is good enough for now as the fender will be requiring quite a bit of fabrication to fix the rust at the bottom edge where it meets the rocker panel and I can pretty much custom fabricate it to whatever door gap I need. The rocker panel pressing is going to take quite a bit of fitting to raise up to meet the bottom of the door but the sheetmetal fabrication required should be pretty straight forward there. The factory used lead body solder to fit the gaps so this is familiar territory in the hand-built car world. Today's milestone is having the longitudinal sub-structure all rebuilt and ready for the cosmetic, outer sheetmetal fitting phase begin.
Entry: 3/24/06 - It's time to mount the torsion bar and spring plate again so I thought I had better "texture" and undercoat the new sheetmetal surrounding it and the rear wheelhouse. I experimented with "texturing" the 3M weld-thru primer covered metal using 3M seam sealer, randomly applied using my finger, I thought there could be no better material to use as an substrate to the Wurth high-build underseal to emulate the thickness and splatter pattern of the factory original soundproofing and undercoating material. As you can see in the following photograph, I think I've come pretty close in appearance.
The slow but steady fitting of the outer rockerpanel sheetmetal pressing continues with good results. This seems to be a slow refinement process requiring dozens of passes to fit and adjust. The whole thing is very fun once you decide not to be in a hurry and make it a mental game by trying to understand how the sheetmetal can be "bent to your will."
Entry: 3/25/06 - Tonight the drivers-side outer rocker panel pressing sits screwed into final position, all the spot weld holes punched and underlying steel shined-up with a steel brush and ready for welding tomorrow. I fit the lower portion of the replacement lockpost sheetmetal pressing just to verify the door gap, given where the outer rocker panel sheetmetal pressing aligned. Amazingly enough, that troubling looking sheetmetal at the back end of the rockerpanel eventually lined-up perfectly and I didn't need to cut any of it away after all. As I keep seeing, take careful measurements and trust them and eventually things seem to work themselves out if you are patient and persistent. I'm going to be patching a lower door skin in a day or two and wrapping-up the drivers-side bodywork! Progress is certainly a wonder to behold!
Entry: 3/27/06 - Today was "Money Weld Monday" around here. The outer rocker panel pressing was welded into place, the welds dressed and the panel primed with 3M weld-thru primer. The MIG welder was dialed-in perfectly today and the spotwelds flowed just the way I pictured each one. The welds along the bottom of the outer rocker panel, which can be seen once the car is painted, even though one must crawl on the ground to see them, turned-out perfectly. The welds inside the weatherstrip lip on the door threshold also dressed perfectly and to the same channel depth as the original. I can't tell you how pleased with the outcome I am! For the next task I think I'll work on the bottom panel of the lockpost before fixing the bottom of the door skin.
Entry: 3/29/06 - More "money welds" were delivered today with the attachment of the lower lockpost. The welds went in very clean and after dressing them, stripping all the paint and wire-brushing the entire surface, a very small amount of Evercoat "Rage Xtreme" lightweight self-leveling filler was applied to the weld seam. A coat of 3m weld-thru primer was applied to study the how the two panels aligned and it looks like minimal filler will be needed to finish the seam between the lockpost and rear quarter panel once the bottom corner area is welded in. Next on the task list is re-skinning the bottom 3" of the door so I have the final shape to fit the door gap at the rockerpanel to.
Entry: 3/31/06 - Today the month ended on the piece it opened with, the A-pillar and the seam connecting it to the patched bowl at the base of it. I started the day by welding the outer rockerpanel sheetmetal to the spotweld lip attached to the A-pillar. After dressing the welds I basically "sculpted" the pressing details back into the bottom corner with Evercoat "Rage Xtreme" lightweight self-leveling filler. A coat of red-oxide primer this evening shows the small amount of remaining sanding left up around the hinge recess required before it's ready for paint.
Entry: 4/6/06 - Now that the door skin is "roughed-in" with a very rough chain of spotwelds across the patch joint, it's possible to test fit the door to the rocker panel and "adjust" it with the use of a wood block and big hammer. My goal here is to get a nice parallel line between the two edges. As it sits in the following photo, it is almost perfectly parallel but the rocker panel is about 1 mm too far back and the door gap about 1 mm too wide at 5 mm. I think I might be able to fix that by dressing the weld across the patch to flatten it, and then make sure the door panel has a proper outward "bow" across it at the seam. Since the panel is only pinched on at the bottom, I might be able to force the door skin to move down a bit. A "hard saying without trying" type of situation I'm finding common in the car building craft. I get down on the ground beside my 911 alot lately to visualize how the 912 needs to look when I'm done.
Entry: 4/7/06 - Today was a big "money weld" milestone, fabricating the panel at the rear lower corner of the door opening, joining the outer rocker panel pressing to the rear quarterpanel that was cut out for repair access. The fabrication of the patch panel was very enjoyable, it went smoothly and fit the opening very well. Tin snips made most of the cuts and a series of tucks were cut into the inner lip of the door opening in order to make the tight bend.
Welding of the panels went very smoothly and I was able to spotweld both the patch and the rear healthy steel section of the original rear quarter panel into permanent position using hundreds of spotwelds. The spotwelds were done in spaced intervals working from right to left in a couple dozen iterations to completely fill in the seam. These extra pains look to have resulted in a warp-free panel weld! By gawd, I think it's time for a Guiness to celebrate a milestone, the entire driver's side of the car has been patched and no more steel will be added! Now it's time to remove steel by dressing those raw welds with the grinding wheel and using a hammer and dolly to make sure the weld seam is as close to the original panel shape as possible to minimize the depth of body filler required to make the panel perfectly smooth.
Entry: 3/10/07 - Today I started work by adding a longer "nose" to my 3M seam sealer caulk gun with some ¼ " steel tubing so I could reach way back inside the rear wheelhouse and seal the point where the rockerpanel and quarter panel pressings meet. As you can see in the following photo, my "Pinocchio" caulk gun and the load of caulk delivered at the joint between the two panels, mission accomplished. Once that caulk sets-up, I'll finish up with my "faux factory undercoating" work and give it a thick coat of Wurth high-build underseal.