Fixing Rust and Other Important Stuff

At the end of the last update I mentioned strengthening the rear shock mount crossmember. This was done by cutting the center section out and replacing it with a 2"x2" .120 wall square tubing and welding it to the frame and the existing crossmember. In this pic you can see how the original sheet metal crossmember was "opened up" and how the square tubing was inserted.

The existing sheet metal crossmember was then welded to the square tubing and the shock mounts were perimeter welded to supplement the not so strong spot welds. The finished product is a very strong crossmember that will easily hold any stress air shocks can give it.

Next I made an emergency brake cable bracket that was missing. The new one isn't perfect but it will serve to keep the E-brake cable from hanging too low as it has since the original bracket was lost, God knows how many years ago.

At this point pretty much all the stuff underneath has been taken care of. Since the next project is repairing rust damage to the firewall I decided to go ahead and clean, sand and prime the front end just so I wouldn't have to be working in an area that was covered with grease and oil. Both inner and outer front sections cleaned up really well.

Sometime in the past the original owner had repaired sections of the firewall, mostly the area under the windshield vent area. His repairs were functional but temporary at best, being simple fiberglass patches. The correct way to repair this kind of problem is to cut the rust out and replace it with new metal.

There was a small section on the passenger's side that was easily repaired, however the original owner had cut out a section of vent area that was designed to allow water to run out of the vent area and down the inside of the cowling. Since recreating this piece would be exceedingly difficult I decided to just leave it that way and go ahead and make the repair just the way it was. The repair came out OK but will need a skim coat of filler for a perfect look. That will come later. For now the firewall was cleaned, sanded and primed. I'm using a self etching primer simply to protect the bare metal from rust. When the time comes this will be scuffed and primed with an epoxy primer prior to paint.

Here is a pic of the primed firewall. You can see the repaired area in the left side of the pic.

The inner fender wells were also cleaned, sanded and primed at this time.

The last section of rust was in an area that typically rusts in these cars and it is due to poor design. The vent area generally drains water towards the passengers side, however the area under the drivers side windshield wiper doesn't drain well and is VERY prone to rust. The only way to repair this is to cut the left section of the vent out so you can get to the rusted area to replace the metal. This is why a lot of people just throw a quick fiberglass repair at it and call it good. Here is the finished repair with the cowl section removed. This pic is in black and white to reduce the reflection of the bare metal replacement sections. None of the welds have been dressed because no one is going to see this area once the cowl is welded back on. This repair just needs to be functional, not necessarily pretty.

Once the metal was replaced I coated the area with POR-15 to prevent it from ever rusting again. You might also notice a small opening in the cowl which will now allow any trapped water to drain down the inside of the firewall. This will solve the problem. Too bad the engineers at Chrysler didn't think of this little fix. It would have saved a lot of grief for a lot of people.

The final task was to replace the top section. Delicate work but nothing a couple hundred stitch welds can't handle. Here it has been welded, sanded and ready for primer. You can easily see the new vent in this pic.

And the finished product primed and ready for a skim coat of filler.

One small detail to remember when doing this is not to cover these three holes. These are where the windshield trim clips mount. There are about 18 of these total on the upper and lower sections of the windshield and all of them will need to be replaced. They mount with a single screw... and I might mention are a real pain to remove.

That's it for this month. The next project will be to replace small sections of the lower rear quarter panels. Then repair the roof section that was damaged by a falling tree limb. That will be a big job.

I'll be taking some time off in August so the next update will be in September.

Check back often for more updates...

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