Look at all the added metal in the front view picture below. In the second picture you can see that the cutting torch and grinder have been at work removing all the extra iron added to the front bumper and that hideous trailer hitch. Removing the trailer hitch required removing the rear crossmember which was riveted on. Removing frame rivets is a very tedious job as the heads must be entirely ground off, the joined metal hammered apart, the "stub" of the rivet ground off and then pounded through the back side. There are at least 10 rivets on the front crossmember... ACK!!!
I spent close to 30 hours rebuilding these two front frame stems. After grinding away all the old welds it was obvious that they had both been "CRACKED" or more accurately, "TORN" clear through top to bottom, right below the front grill mounting points. The hack repair job done on them had the bumper jacked-up so the metal on each side of the tear overlapped to allow them to be welded before the additional ½" steel plating was added on. Making sure the frame would be perfectly aligned when I welded or frame riveted it back together required building a jig that used the spring mounting brackets and rubber axle snubber mounting points as anchor points:
The actual repair to the frame channel required fabricating a 12-gauge (3/32") thick steel plate (using the JeepDraw drawing F-frame.gif as a reference) for each side that matched the original curve of the frame and fit inside the vertical portion of the channel to brace the mended area in the original frame stem. This required removing the frame rivet that joins the inner frame channel to the outer, just before the front crossmember. I carefully inserted the reinforcement plate between the two channels so the rivet hole could be redrilled, then welded it in and ground the welds inside the channel with my Dremel tool so it has the same shape as the original. The top horizontal portion of the front stems had to be cut off and replaced with new 12-gauge steel strips as well.
The external surface of each frame stem was first welded up and then brazed with brass welding rod to fill the imperfections before grinding and sanding into its final shape. The mending is complete except for final rounding of the outer edges with the Dremel tool once the front crossmember has been riveted into place. I am quite pleased with the result as the repair is nearly undetectable with the bumper and oak bumper reinforcement block in place and it cures the root cause of the original stress tear, a flimsy design (but hey, there was a war on).
The rear frame stems suffered from cracks above the leaf spring hangers which were "battlefield repaired" using an arc welder and building up the metal over the crack with welding rod. These repairs did not hold long as the cracks returned above the weld.
I spent about 18 hours giving the rear frame stems the same treatment as the front, a 12-guage steel plate behind the vertical section running about 10 inches down the frame and an additional 2" x 8" steel plate welded to the inside of the bottom horizontal section where the leaf spring hanger is attached. None of the repairs are visible without crawling under the Jeep and looking inside the rear frame channels. The rear crossmember, pintle hook with its reinforcement place and the two bumperettes are test fitted and everything looks ready for riveting together soon. Next objective is repairing the rear shock mounts which are both missing the rod upon which the shock is attached.
This before and after picture tells a lot about why it took almost 20 hours of labor to restore these original rear shock mounts. Both were suffering from some major abuse; the left had a broken mounting rod and the right had been "battlefield repaired" by drilling and bolting plus welding a bigger shock bracket over top of it after the rod was cut out and a larger nut brazed into its place (the before picture is after cutting off the added mount). I salvaged a good rod out of one of the damaged front shock mounts I had replaced with a new reproduction and grafted it into the right rear mount. In addition, rust and rot was detected in the bottom of the cavity between the inner and outer frame channel on the left side and a business card sized area below the mount had to be replaced with good steel on the inside and outside of the frame channel. I am constantly impressed with what you can do with a Dremel tool as both mounts were essentially "sculpted" out of welding rod and 12-gauge sheet metal strips. Amazingly enough the original Ford F-scripts are still there and cleaned-up nicely.
Slowly getting closer to riveting the whole thing together! Most of the last week was spent doing the final straightening and cleaning up the visible welds on the front frame stems. I also replicated the two grill mount tabs (attach points for the lower grill corners to the frame) using 12-gauge steel strips, heated with a torch and bent in a jig I fabricated. The front crossmember and bumper are bolted into final position and the moment of truth is at hand, test fitting of the cowl; radiator, grill, fenders and hood to see if they are perfectly aligned with the frame. I am very happy to report that all the jigs I built to keep things square have paid-off and everything is perfectly aligned, the bumpers, grill and crossmember are perfectly parallel. Now to fill, drill and re-tap all the stripped and drilled-out fender mounting points on the main frame rails. I'm also doing the final adjustments to the rear crossmember, installing the pintle hook and filling and redrilling the rivet holes back there. Sooooo when will I remove the bolts and install the 3/8" steel rivets? That will be another major milestone!
The 3/8" diameter frame rivets, 26 total, holding the front together are installed! Unfortunately in the process of experimenting with shaft length and installation boo-boos, I ran out of rivets and can't complete the rear crossmember! More rivets are on order, as well as longer ones to mount the leaf spring brackets. I figured out a couple tricks; like brace the backing tool on the head (back side) of the rivet with a jack stand where possible, using a copper tubing template to mark and cut the shaft so exactly 7/16" is visible once installed in the hole (and clamped into place), use a hammer to form the rivet, then the air hammer bucking bar to do the final forming of the head. Here's a picture of the tools required, note that the backing plate is 1" x 1" steel rod with holes drilled into it in various places and angles to accommodate the head of the rivet and hold it flush to the surface without any movement in various frame locations. If the rivet can move at all you're screwed so don't even think about heating it up until it's totally snug. The air tool bucking bar is constructed by drilling a hole in a regular (hammer type) bucking bar and driving in a pointed air chisel and pinning it into place:
I had to make custom sized wooden blocks and wedges to brace the backing plate for many of the harder to reach rivets on the inner frame channels. I also found that it worked best to keep the flame from the oxyacetylene torch on the shaft even while striking it with a hammer. I found a smaller hammer worked better in controlling the shape of the head as I smacked it and that it required more finesse and less force if you kept the steel the right temperature. What a labor intensive method for joining metal parts! After a coat of primer, you can see the results were very successful and it is as solid as if I had welded it all together. The fish-eye effect of my camera lense makes the following pictures look a bit distorted, trust me, it's dead-on square.
Time to pause and reflect on where we've come from...
TA-DA!!! The entire frame media blasted and primed with red oxide primer! I am amazed at how clean the underlying metal has turned-out! I am closer to olive drab paint than I had thought. There were the unpredicted cracks discovered here and there that need attention, but overall the frame is very clean and presentable. A few tweaks here and there and we are ready to paint!
I spent most of last week at the California chapter of the MVPA's big show and swap-meet in Big Bear Campground near Modesto, California. My mission; scrounging for parts and taking close-up pictures of Ford jeeps to answer questions I have about doing things right. One thing that has been bothering me is a part I received from Beachwood Canvas Works, the rear crossmember. The part is not correct, the inner channel is 3/8" too wide. At first I thought I could make this work, I mean really, what's 3/8" anyway. Well, after taking close-up pictures of the area on a nice '45 GPW at the Big Bear show it became obvious to me that it's much too visible to kludge-up. There must be a frame rivet in the bottom to "box" the bottom of the frame channel supporting the rear spring hanger or it will crack as before. I know I will always kick myself if I don't do this right, especially after all the hours I spent on the front crossmember and bumper brackets to get them perfect. I spoke with Brent Mullins, from Brent Mullins Jeep Parts, Inc. at the Big Bear show and he said he has some correct repro ones in stock, so my order has been faxed. DAMN, I really hate to wait for parts, yet again! Good news is I found an original, working "Sparton" marked horn at the swap-meet, as well as many parts I would have ordered anyway. It was nice to sort through the boxes on the vendor's tables and pick out the best one instead of getting whatever they sent you. I also figure I saved about enough in UPS charges to pay for my plane ticket! Oh, and there has been some progress on the frame, I've repaired all the cracks discovered during blasting.
I'm still waiting on the new rear crossmember from Brent Mullins Jeep Parts. The bolt-in, center crossmember that supports the transmission and transfer case and its skid plate have been restored. The new skid plate was found by posting a request on G503.com for a late war version with the added cone shaped section to protect the larger internal expanding parking brake drum. The skid plate was a little bent-up, as was the original crossmember, but with a little applied torch heat and hammering, then filling the deep gouges with brazing, they straightened-up very nicely. I've also been cleaning-up the front and read differentials and leaf springs, preparing them for blasting and painting while waiting for the remaining frame parts to come in. I hope to have a big batch of primed parts ready for olive drab paint within a few weeks, then I'll get to start bolting the suspension and drivetrain components back on the frame. Things are starting to get very fun now!
EUREKA, the rear crossmember arrived from Brent Mullins a couple days ago! It was not an exact fit, but it was pretty dang close to the right inner dimension, only 3/32" too wide. Repro parts are made to be interchangable between the Ford and Willys, I think this extra space was to allow accommodate an additional 12-gauge thick frame gusset on the Willys that was not found on the Ford. I had to graft in a 12-gauge plate to the top of the rear frame stems to make it fit snug on the Ford, but as you can see it is 100% correct now. I also made the Ford specific modifications on the bevel cut and the 5/8" holes at the ends. I've completed the frame rivets on the rear crossmember and arc welding the pintle hook mounting plate, front bumper gussets and spring shackle brackets to the frame. Arc welding, while ugly, is the correct method of attaching these items, using 1" long tack welds in each weld location. The next step I will complete the remaining frame rivets on the spring shackle brackets. Then do some "touch-up" sand blasting of the freshly welded parts and prime then paint it olive drab! We're moving forward again, WOO-HOO!
With the application of the olive drab paint to the frame, the frame restoration phase of the project is complete! The front and rear differentials are blasted and painted, ready to go in. The next steps will be restoring the leaf springs and brake drums, continued in chapter 3.