Jim's MGA Restoration

Progress of my restoration of a 1959 MGA Roadster

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Progress - January 3, 2012

Ok, where was I? How time flies when you're out living your life! But I'm ready to get going again on this project. It's funny to review the previous posts. I just saw that Ryobi grinder in the garage cabinet the other day, and couldn't remember where it came from - ha! Also I saw the angle iron I bought for the battery racks just after I had bought new stuff here six years or so later.

I have been welding again on the frame in order to finish it up and get on to the body work. There are two brackets at the rear of the cockpit that attach the rear plywood bulkhead, and these were missing on my frame. I couldn't locate a source for these brackets so fabbed them up. Here they are before the welds were ground down.

I decided to just go ahead and fab the battery racks out of 1" angle iron, because I couldn't make up my mind about buying new ones to fit a 12-volt battery on one side. Anyway, the first battery rack came out very well. I actually cut the steel using my radial arm saw with a metal blade, and this allowed for very tight control of the mitered angles, etc. Here is a picture of the first rack welded into place. I was worried about how strong the attachment would be to the old arms, because the ends were a bit "iffy" after having the old racks rusted away, but after welding this in can confirm that it is mighty strong! I have to build and install the other rack, and do a little more touch-up welding and grinding on previous repairs; then I should be ready to re-mount the body and start the sill repairs.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Progress Stalled - September 26, 2005

Progress has stalled because of hurricane Rita. Looks like my weekends will be taken up at my mother-in-law's house in Orange, Texas, for awhile because of hurricane damage, but we will be back on the MGA as soon as possible. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Progress - September 19, 2005

September 19, 2005

Gasp! Not much progress this week due to press of other duties. I did receive my three carbide burrs and tried one out using a portable drill instead of the angle die-grinder. It seems to cut pretty well, and I'm hopeful that I can shape the welds up fairly easily. Also the company will re-sharpen the burrs for 40% of the new cost - that seems like a deal to me.

I tried to buy a replacement transmission tunnel, but fooled around and missed it on ebay; however, at $100 plus about $20 shipping, the cost was high enough to justify repairing mine.

I also bought some steel and made sketches of the replacement battery trays. From the chassis drawing on the "mgaguru" website, I scaled these to be 7-1/2" wide if anyone wants to know. So I have plans to build them, but then yesterday I was looking at Todd Clarke's catalog, and he sells the battery trays for $95 the pair. Seems like a good price, and a better solution, so I may buy from him, although they would be for 6V batteries, and I would still have to extend one to go to a single 12V.

I also bought anither 4-1/2 grinder - this one a Ryobi for $39.95 from Home Depot - so maybe it'll last longer.

Other than that, it was a slow week on the MGA, but I'm hoping for good progress on my Friday off this week.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Progress - September 12, 2005

============================================================================== September 12, 2005
============================================================================= The pressure, the pressure! Must make progress to satisfy the blog monster.....

This last week I mostly continued the tedious weld, grind, reweld, regrind process trying to get things buttoned-up and in presentable shape. I am getting better at the welding - able to judge current and wire speed adjustments for different steel thicknesses and positions. But still need more practice to be a real craftsman. I did buy an angle die grinder, which is most useful so far for sanding with 2" disks. I have used some stones to grind on welds in tight spots, but it's slow going. I have three double-cut carbide burrs on order to try, so we'll see how fast they cut and how long they stay sharp; the sizes that I bought are about $11 or $12 apiece (www.carbidebur.com).
I fabricated two short sections of the front kick panel support rails using some scrap 16 ga steel that I had left. So far, I have used only two small pieces of 16 ga bought at Home Depot - about $10 worth. I even butt welded two scraps together to get a large enough piece - how's that for being cheap?
Here's the driver's side. I made the piece with the correct rolled edge and the flange to weld to the frame rail. Still needs final grinding/sanding.
Here is the rear driver's side showing some of the final welding. I am a bit concerned about the structural integrity of the forward rear spring attachments. Have a couple of small rust holes through, and seem strong enough, but when I try to weld the holes up, it gets pretty touch and go because the metal is thinner then spec. I really don't want to patch into these.
Speaking of filling holes, here is a copper "spoon" that I made out of a piece of tubing. This works pretty good for backing up holes and welding them shut. The mig metal doesn't stick to the copper - doesn't even really melt into it.
Here are the battery brackets - all 4 of which are bent. I guess the PO bent the ends in to match the mis-fabricated battery carriers.
Here are the straightened brackets.
Lastly, here is a little bracket I refabbed.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Progress - September 5, 2005

September 5, 2005
Now I am getting into the mode where I feel obligated to make some progress each week so I will have something to post to the blog. By the way, the cheapo $7.99 grinder worked pretty good for five minutes, then stripped the gears and now won't do a thing. Hey, it was worth (?) a shot!

This week I worked on installing the "front" floorboard support rails in the footwell areas. It takes a little bit of tedious fitting to get everthing butted up right and leveled before tacking and welding the pieces in. I try to set the frame level initially, then work around with the level to get everything on one plane. After plywood, padding and carpeting, I doubt that anything other than major misalignment could be noticed, and I guess people have ridden around in MGA's for years with sagging, rotted floorboards with no problems, right?

Passenger side. It will be nice when this stuff is all one color!

This shows the string line I used to align the kick panel rails.

Here is an overall shot from the rear of the frame toward the front. I still have more work to do welding and grinding, and there are a few missing pieces, including the battery trays, but it's coming along.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Progress - August 29, 2005

August 29, 2005
I mentioned that I had stored the body tub up on some sawhorses, so here is a picture of it. This last weekend I did some garage reorganization, and moved my 66 VW outside for a bit - not too popular with the wife, but shouldn't be for more than a week or two. Anyway, this freed up two garage bays for the frame work, and lets me put the rotisserie crossways to the garage, making it a lot easier to maneuver around.

I decided to go back to the flux core weld wire for the frame work, as I need to have 3 fans blowing in the 96-degree Texas heat to keep things bearable, and the gas mig doesn't like wind a lot. Also, for some reason, Welding Depot sent me a regulator that only goes down to 5 cfh, but the Clarke instruction manual says to set gas flow to 2 - 4 cfh. Consequently, I think I am using too much gas, even with the knob adjusted to the minimum (or below). I think my cheap helmet is making it hard to see the weld bead, so I may have to upgrade soon.

Here is a picture of the fixture I used to lift the body tub off the chassis. With the engine hoist and this bit, it was an easy one-man operation. When I reinstall the painted tub, I will pad the curved end pieces.

I made fairly good progress on installing the floorboard rails in the cockpit area. They are a little bit complicated in the rear corners because of the wedge piece that hangs below the frame to catch the rear of the rails. There is some cutting and fitting necessary to work around the upper part of the spring hanger, keep the bottom edge level, tie in to the lower spring hanger, etc. I botched the fit-up a little on the driver's side, so the wedge piece wasn't flush to the frame underneath, but cut the welds loose and "adjusted it with a hammer.

Here is a view showing the bad fit-up that I was left with - see the gaps? I had to cut little slivers and weld them in to take care of this - just tedious slow work on a hot day. Blah.

The passenger side was better, although the welding was not pretty. In this shot you can see the triangle wedge piece "welded" in. I spent a few minutes on Saturday sandblasting the attachment points for the floor rails in order to have clean metal to weld to, but boy is it messy and irritating!

Notice the rusted section at the corner of the center support rail. I cut this out with the air cutoff tool, and welded in a replacement. Welding in short 1/4" beads works best. This type of repair is actually pretty fun to do. After grinding it will be invisible. Speaking of grinding, I bought a new 4-1/2" angle grinder off ebay for $7.99, including sanding/cutting discs! So now I won't constantly have to change wheels on my one grinder - what a deal! I still need to buy an angle die grinder though to get in the corners to clean them up.

Finally, here are the rear rails welded in. Alignment and fitup was a bit tricky, and it would have helped to look at another MGA; however, my book helped some. I need to fabricate the dogleg support pieces that go up and around the spring hanger, as Todd Clarke doesn't show them in his catalog, and Moss wants almost $30 apiece for them. I should be able to make them in 16GA pretty easily. To get the rails properly alighed, I set the frame level, then leveled the side rails off the center rails and worked around.

While I was taking the body tub picture, I decided to take some pics of the insides of the sill areas just for fun. Here you can see the amount of metal that will have to be replaced, particularly in the front body corners. Not all that difficult to do really, because if you can make a short sheetmetal weld, you can make a longer one - right?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Progress - August 22, 2005

August 22, 2005
This past week I finished up the welding and grinding on the main frame rails. I ordered and received an 11lb. spool of Spoolarc "Easy Grind" bare mig wire - .030 size. Also got my gas bottle filled with 75/25 Argon/CO2 mix. This is a small 20lb bottle, so we'll see how long it lasts. Couple of lessons on the gas bottle - it must have a sticker on it identifying the contents (for HAZMAT clean-up, etc.), and the welding supply place will apply it if needed. Also, pay attention to the manufacturing date stamped on the bottle. Mine has a 10-year life, and must be recertified after that, at $25 cost. Some stores exchange bottles, and if they give you an older one near its expiration date, you may have trouble the next time you go for a refill; better to keep your own.
Here is a picture of the cardboard pattern and the 16GA patch for the rear portion of the frame cut-out. The repair piece firnished by Todd Clarke doesn't cover this area (he probably makes one, but I didn't order it). This was cut out with a saber saw from a blank purchased from Home Depot.
And here is the patch welded in. This was with flux core wire.
Here is a small patch under the square crossmember needed to give a finished look to the job.
Finally, here is the passenger side frame rail after some more welding and grinding, and I think that does it, even though I am not that happy with the smoothness of the finished product. A thin coat of bondo over the welds and it ought to look pretty good.
This is a real milestone I think - the first floor support rail welded in! Required a little trimming on the ends to fit flush. I made the welds with the gas setup. I am still learning, but seem to do best if I get in position so that I can see the arc as I weld; that is, weld from right to left, pushing the torch and looking right down at the arc. If I pull the torch toward me and weld "blind," I have a hard time getting the bead to go where I want it to. The welds on the bottom are better looking.
By the way, I am not convinced that the "Easy Grind" is that much easier to grind than the Lincoln flux core wire. We'll see how it goes.

Progress - August 15, 2005

August 15, 2005
I didn't actually work on the MGA on the 15th as it was my 35th wedding anniversary! My long and happy marriage is due to by tolerant and bemused wife, Michael Ann.

This past weekend, I continued work on the main frame rails, welding and grinding. The grinding goes fairly quickly using a 4" dia, 80-grit flapper wheel on my angle grinder; however, it takes some finesse to get things smooth without taking off too much base metal. I will put a thin coat of bondo over these welds before painting the frame, so they will be almost invisible.
This picture shows the end of the square crossmember with a rusty section cut out. Also visible is the replacement section of 16GA steel. The new piece was cut out with a saber saw and a metal cutting blade. I emptied about a half cup of junk out of the end of the crossmember before welding this back up.
This picture shows the welding in progress. I am using .040 flux core wire, and welding in the vertical position. As long as you work with short beads of about 3/8" and skip around, things go pretty smoothly.
This shows the weld finished and ground down. This was a quick and easy repair - very satisfying. I think I am also going to have to do the other crossmember end, as well.

Recap of Progress through August 8, 2005

Updates of progress will normally be posted each Monday:

=========================================================================== June 20, 2005

In June of this year I finally got around to starting on the 1959 MGA, and "unpacked" the car parts to a new set of shelves in the garage. I made a lifting fixture out of a couple of 2x6's and curved plywood pieces to lift the body tub off the frame, and picked it up with my engine hoist. This was a very easy, one man operation. In doing that, though, I discovered that the sills are virtually nonexistent, being a hodgepodge of brazed and pop-riveted sheet metal pieces - more on that later. It's kind of a wonder that the body tub hung together. Anyway, the tub is resting comfortably up high on new sawhorses in one bay of the 3-car garage, and the chassis can roll underneath.
This picture shows some of the "angle iron" that the previous owner (or his henchman)had welded to the inside of the frame to replace the rusted-away floorboard rails. The vertical piece you are looking at here is 1/4" x 4" flat bar, about 30 inches long. It is welded only along the top edge. The horizontal "rail" piece is 1/8" flat bar. I cut all of this stuff out using a combination of sawzall, 4" electric grinder, and an air cut-off tool.
This picture of the driver's footwell area shows more of the 1/8" flat bar and the BAD welding. No attempt was made to repair the underlying rust damage; this was just welded on to the remaining sound metal - I guess the person who did it either didn't have access to the correct replacement pieces or just figured it would never be seen.
This last picture shows the construction at the rear of the driver's side at the battery box area. All of the incorrect pieces were cut out, including the battery boxes, which I will refabricate.
This is a picture of the frame showing one of the bad spots "repaired" by the PO. This one shows the frame right below the goal post - there is a break there and the inside of the frame has been bondo'ed - I guess just to make a bad repair look better (?!)
This picture, which was taken later with the frame mounted on the rotisserie, shows the typical MGA frame rail rust that was covered up by the 1/4" flat bar. Below the frame are the seats from my '66 VW Bug which I had removed to do some work. They are now back in the car which is covered to protect it from the frame rehab work.
This shows some of the rust in the square tube crossmember. I think I actually made some of these holes getting the angle iron off - I was a little agressive, but it was about 96 in the shade in Houston at that time!
July 4, 2005
Here is the mig I borrowed from my good friend, Uri Nooteboom, to try out. When the PO was pop-riveting some of his sill work together, he drilled several 1/8" holes through the outer frame, so I spent a few minutes closing the holes up with the mig and grinding them flush. The auto-darkening helmet was great - especially compared to my 20+ year old Craftsman arc welding helmet (which has since been thrown out!)
I really wanted to have a rotisserie to work on this project, and it will make welding, sandblasting, and painting much easier. This is a view of my frame rotisserie. It is basically two engine stands, each bolted to an end of the frame with a simple angle iron attachment. One of the stands is for a VW engine, so has an unusual attachment for hanging the VW engine, but it works ok to hold the frame. The frame is pretty light - probably not over 200 lbs or so. In the background you can see my '88 Porsche 944 work car and my '66 VW Beetle, along with the family van.
Here is another view of the rotisserie with the frame tilted. I don't know why the picture is cut off - guess I should have cropped it!
Here is the end with the VW engine stand.
July 11, 2005
Received my replacement metal for the frame and seat rails from Clark Spares & Restorations. Also bought a 3-pt seatbelt mounting kit from him.
July 18, 2005
Here is the mig welder package that I bought through the web from Welding Depot consisting of a Clarke 130 amp welder, auto-darkening helmet, rolling mig cart, gas bottle, and gas regulator. The package was about $500 which seems an excellent price given the individual costs of the various items. Delivery from Welding Depot took just a few days, and I didn't realize the welder was here until I just happened to open the garage door in the third bay, and saw the boxes sitting there. The UPS guy just stuck them in the garage without leaving any notice. Clarke welders are made in Italy I believe. This one has 4 heat settings, continuously adustable wire feed rate, and is fan cooled. So far, I have not had any problem overheating the welder, and I weld in 95+ degree weather here in Houston!
July 25, 2005
Ordered POR15 to paint the inside of the frame rails after sandblasting and prior to welding. I have a pressure pot sandblaster, and used it on my '66 VW bug. It works pretty fast and much better than a siphon feed gun. Still, sandblasting is a tough, dirty job, especially in Houston in the summer!
August 1, 2005
This past week I cut out the rusty sections of the main frame rails in preparation for sandblasting and coating. Not difficult but tedious and noisy. I am sure the neighbors were peeking out the blinds to see what the heck was going on. I did as much of the work as I could in a closed garage in the evening (it's hot).
Here is view of the right side frame rail with the rusty sections cut out. I actually did this using an air cutoff tool and a skilsaw with a metal cutting blade in it. I think it would have gone much faster with a cutting disc in my 4" angle grinder. Live and learn. Actually, the metal other than the inner wall was not badly rusted, and cleaned up fine.
Here is the rest of that side. The square thing is a fiberglass block that served as a resonance absorber, I guess to cut down on noise. I didn't replace these as I couldn't tell from anyone else's websites that they did. Besides, I can't see how the benefits outweigh the drawbacks of absorbing and holding moisture in the frame. Hey, if the frame "drums." I can drill a hole in it and fill it up with urethane foam!
August 8, 2005
Last week I sandblasted the insides of the frame rails in preparation for painting with POR15. My 25 year-old Craftsman 4 horse air compressor is having a hard time keeping up - maybe it's time for a new one. Hmm, let's see...$900 for a storage shed I bought to free up MGA space in the garage, $500 for the mig, say another $200 for miscellaneous tools and supplies bought so far, then another $400 or $500 for a new compressor...I'm just glad my loving wife doesn't read this blog. "What's that, Hon? No, nothing, just working on a spreadsheet for work..."
More sandblasting. I didn't worry about getting all of this to white metal as it was going to be painted with POR15. I did make a special effort to blast the bottom seam thoroughly, though.
This is car restoration humor - sorry about the poor picture. Even though I tried to prevent sand from getting into the frame end sections, I was not successful. Every time I turned the frame on the rotisserie, more sand came out. Finally, I decided to hoist the frame up in a tree, by each end in turn, to dump the sand out, and I got a cup or two, so good to go for POR15 coating.
Front and rear sections of right rail coated. The POR15 instructions say once you have opened the can, dip or pour out what you need, and don't return it to the can as it will shorten the shelf life. Also, put saran wrap between the lid and the can lip or you won't be able to get the can open again. Finally, don't allow a drop (including sweat) to get in the coating or you will mess up the adhesion. I might add, "Lay down a drop cloth under the frame, Bozo, because you will drip paint on your garage through the drip holes (appropriate term) and make a mess!" Also, here's another helpful hint - when using Metal Prep, which contains phosphoric acid, make sure the mist from the sprayer doesn't happen to drift into an open scrape on your shin - WAAAUUUGGGHHH!
This really is nice stuff though - it flows out and dries great looking. Somewhat expensive at $33/qt on the web, but a little goes a long way. Some of this will burn off around the edges with the welding, but most of it should stay on.
This shows the repair piece on the left (driver's) side frame rail about 3/4 welded. This was done with flux-cored .040 wire. First, I trimmed the piece to run about 3/16" inside the edge of the frame rail to allow room for the weld bead, then clamped with some C clamps, and tacked about every 2 to 3 inches, working from the center out toward the ends. Then I skipped around and laid down 1" beads. This was a fairly easy process. The main difficulty I had was that the dimming control on my helmet kept turning on its own ,so that finally I couldn't see where I was welding! At first, I thought I was just going blind, no big deal, but finally realized what was going on, and solved it with a piece of masking tape.
A word to the wise about welding protection. The first night I welded in my t-shirt, I got some slight redness on my inner arms.
But the next night, I welded sitting down next to the rotisserie (in a lawnchair) in my t-shirt and SHORTS! I had a nice sunburn on my inner thighs as a result - looked like I had spent the day at the beach and missed a "section" with the old sunblock. Ha! Went away after 3 or 4 days, but I don't weld in shorts anymore. Sorry, no picture of this - I leave it to your imagination.