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    • Patching Fender Rot

      It seems like all we talk about when working on Project Pile House is the rust and body damage it has.. but again today we're covering the repair of more rust that's on the truck. This time it's on the sides of the fenders where the cab mounts attach to the fenders. Originally they sandwiched multiple pieces of metal together and riveted the mount through them for additional support on the fenders. This spot is very prone to rusting on these trucks and should definitely be addressed. On Pile House both fenders were rusted badly and the rot was covered with a heavy coating of body filler to hide the damage. In my effort to clean up the exterior of the truck, I wanted to get rid of the rust and rivet heads when making the repair. In the end, I modified the cab-to-fender mounts so I could spot weld them to the fenders after positioning the fenders to get an even gap where the doors and fenders met. This was pretty boring, time consuming, and hard to photograph.. so I'll save you the winded post about that process in this update, and focus on repairing the rust and smoothing the fenders.

      The first thing I do when making a repair like this is to use painters tape to mark out the area I want to remove and repair. I usually tape off just a little further out than the rusted area so I can be sure that I'm into good metal when welding the patch panel in place. It's really difficult to weld thin, heavily pitted metal, so it's best to remove a little more so you can get a clean area to work with.

      The other nice thing about the painters tape is that it gives a nice straight line to follow as you cut out the area you're repairing. I chose a 4 1/2" Electric Angle Grinder with a cutting disc to make the cuts. I just put the edge of the cutting disc against the inside edge of the tape and followed that as I made the cut.

      Once I had the cancerous areas removed, I cleaned the area surrounding the hole with a flap disc. With the area prepped, I could then make a pattern of the patch panel I needed. I chose to use a manila folder as my pattern, although you can use thin cardboard, chipboard, construction paper, or any other thick paper product. Chipboard is often the best to use as it behaves the most like sheet metal, but construction paper or a manilla folder will work ok as well (and is easier to find). Once I traced and cut out the patterns for each patch panel, I transferred the pattern to the metal and cut the rough shape from 18 gauge steel with the Electric Metal Shears. Once I had the rough shape cut, I could then trim the piece to shape with a set of Eastwood Aviation Metal Snips. After I had the patch panel close to the size I needed, I used the curvature of the fender to give the patch panel a slight contour to match the fender. Alternatively you could use a pipe form, a Slip Roll, or even an English Wheel to shape the panel. But in this case, the curve needed was so slight, using some muscle and the fender as a form, gave me the shape I needed.

      On this repair, I chose to use a set of Intergrip Panel Clamps to gap and hold the patch panel in place. Then the Eastwood MIG 175 to weld it all together. The key with using the intergrips is to use the aviation snips to carefully cut the panel just a bit smaller than the opening so that the mounting plate for the intergrips can slide between the old and new metal. This allows your welds to bridge and fill the gap.

      Once the new metal is clamped in place with the Intergrips I used a flathead screwdriver to get the panel centered in the opening and began laying a few quick tack welds to attach the new metal in place. From here I like to move my intergrips around and tighten them in place after each tack weld to get the patch panel flush with the surrounding metal. On a curved panel like this it's important to make sure the curve of the seam matches. Once the patch panel is tack welded in place and lined up correctly I removed the Intergrips.

      Now that the patch panel is tack welded in place, I began stitch welding the joint closed. I like to jump around the panel making quick, hot welds. On a patch this small I had to be careful not to introduce too much heat into the panel and warp the metal. I like to keep a blow nozzle from the compressor handy to hit the welds and metal with cool, compressed air every few welds. I make sure the panel is warm or even cool to the touch before I continue laying stitch welds. If the metal is too hot to touch with your bare hands, you shouldn't introduce anymore heat into the panel until it cools. After some time I ended up with fully stitch welded patches that didn't have any major warpage.

      After I've made sure the panel is fully welded, I used the flap disc on the angle grinder to grind the proud welds down. The key is to grind across the welds so they're flush with the surrounding metal. If ground too much, the weld joint will be thin and weak. With this repair method you should be able to grind the welds pretty much flush with the surrounding metal. I then used the Eastwood Pro Hammer and Dolly Kit to bump up any low spots from welding. For now I sealed the repair area with Eastwood Self Etching Primer until I'm ready to lay body filler, primer, and top coat.

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    • Straightening the Heavily Dented Roof- Eastwood MIG Stud Weld Kit

      Pilehouse didn't live a charmed life, it was used and abused as a farm truck, then sat for many years in the woods. Mother Nature has really left her mark on the truck. From the scratches and scrapes, to HUGE dents and smashed in sections, some would say I'm a masochist for taking on such a project. I've always liked a challenge and I thought straightening the roof would be just that.

      Some of the dents on the roof were fixed by metal bumping them back into shape with the Eastwood Pro Hammer and Dolly Kit, but other areas weren't so easy. I found a few pesky dents that were in areas I couldn't get to, or were simply creased and needed some pulling before I worked them with the hammer and dolly. We recently released a new MIG Stud Welding Kit that was perfect for the job. This kit allows you to turn your MIG welder into a stud welder. I've always hated using a traditional stud welder. It's bulky, heavy, and hard to get a solid weld with. It's pretty simple, just add the MIG Stud nozzle to the end of the MIG gun and slide a stud into the nozzle. Then just hit the trigger for a couple seconds and I've got a firmly attached stud for pulling dents.

      Below is the damage I was repairing. It looks like a sharp edge scraped against the roof and really did a number on this spot. After Stripping the paint and surface rust, I had bare metal to weld my studs to.

      I began welding studs into the deepest portion of the crease and using the slide hammer to pull the dent out. I like to leave the studs in place until I've got the dent roughly pulled out. This way I can come back and give a couple more pulls on the slide hammer if an area didn't quite pop out like I wanted.

      After I got the dent roughed out, I cut off the studs and used a flap disc to take the stud welds back down to the surface. I then like to check the area with the palm of my hand for low spots I missed. This crease came out after only a handful of pulls and you can see below it's MUCH better. It only took a little more hammer and dolly work to have it ready for a skim coat of filler, then primer. If you have the patience you could eventually metal finish this area perfect and only use primer. This whole project took 30 minutes, so I'd say repairing this crease was a relatively easy job (I wish all repairs were this easy!).

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    • Eastwood tools to be used in Gene Winfield Chop Shop Tour- Stop 1 Houston, TX Autorama

      This year at SEMA 2012 we were running around shooting some of our favorite show vehicles of the week. I happened to run into Gene Winfield as he was debuting his 2nd rendition of his custom Ford he calls the "Pacifica". We did a nice interview with Gene (check it out below!) to find out about the truck and also hear about what he's up to in the future. He told us about an exciting tour he was starting shortly after SEMA with Championship Auto Shows called the "Gene Winfield Chop Shop".   Click Here To Read Full Post...
    • Tech Tip- How to easily fill body seams with TIG Rod and a MIG Welder

      One thing I like about building a true custom (not just bolting on shiny wheels and putting stickers on the windows) is that there are no rules. It's all about what looks good and what fits your vision of the final product that is YOUR project. One theme that I have with Project Pile House is to make the body less "busy" and give it a smoother overall appearance. These trucks were meant to be utility vehicles, so there wasn't much thought put into styling. Definitely not like their passenger car counterparts. All that anyone really cared about was that it was reliable, could haul a lot in the bed, and that the hood, doors, and tailgate closed and latched. So this means I need to fill and smooth a lot of body seams or body lines that are all over the cab and front end.

      These seams need to be filled with metal, and should not be filled with body filler, no matter how tempting it is to just run a bead of filler along them. Occasionally you can get away with filling a seam by slowly stitch welding it shut, but this could require a few passes to completely fill the seam and it puts unnecessary heat into the panels around it. I've found that these seams can be easily filled by using TIG filler rod and a MIG welder. This tech tip should help you fill body seams quickly.

      You want to start by removing any paint or rust around the seam, and then run a wire wheel in the groove to remove anything tucked into tight crevices. I found an angle grinder with a flap disc takes care of most of the process, but a thin wire wheel cleans out any remaining debris. If you're the overly cautious type you can spray some Self Etching Weld Thru Primer in the seam to help seal the area.

      After you're down to clean metal, you'll want to find a TIG filler rod that will fill the seam and sit flush, or just below, the surface. You then want to set your MIG welder to a higher voltage or heat setting than normal for the metal you're welding. The idea is to produce a quick, hot spot weld that melts the filler rod into the seam and leaves a fairly flat weld on top of the panel. The flatter the final weld is, the less grinding will be required.

      After you have a few spot welds holding the filler rod in place, you can then stitch weld the rod into the seam. Always remember to alternate your spot welds and allow the panel too cool in between welds. The seam should look something like below after it's completely welded.

      With the seam filled, you can take a flap disc or low grit sanding disc and knock the "proud" welds down until they blend into the surrounding metal. You should be left with a seam that's filled with metal (and not filler!) and will require little bodywork when it comes time for paint.

      -Matt/EW

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    • Guess Where They Found The "Back to the Future" Truck?

      The 1985 Toyota Xtra Cab 4X4 truck being driven by Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, in "Back to the Future". (Photo courtesy http://www.imcdb.org)

      If you saw the second and third "Back to the Future" movies, you likely remember the celebrated DeLorean car that was used in the pictures. But there were other vehicles in the films too. Michael J. Fox's character, Marty McFly, drove a 1985 Toyota Xtra Cab 4X4 truck in those movies, and it's that truck that will be undergoing a restoration soon.

      According to the Time Machine Restoration Company, the Toyota was stolen many years ago, and was recently recovered by the Mexican federal police. The car was auctioned off, and the company, already restoring the movie's iconic DeLorean, got the truck too.

      It's not clear what the vehicle was doing in Mexico, or why the Mexico federal police were involved, but there's no question that it's the actual car. There was a note written on the passenger-side sun visor that read, "Keith, Many thanks. See you on something else I'm sure—Michael J. Fox."

      http://www.chron.com

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