On Veterans Day 2011 my friend John Ross and I took the motor and transmission out of the old truck and rolled the cab and chassis down the hill into the woods behind the house. By Veterans Day 2012, two weeks from now, I hope to have the truck back up top, and with all the noisy, dirty work behind me; new metal welded in, fresh paint, it’ll be time to put the motor back in, put the hood on, inner front fenders, grille, headlight buckets…
As winter weather and the writing duties allow, I’ll pick away at what’s left: put the interior back together, new brake system, exhaust, lights, wiring, all pleasant work on a cold day if the sun is out.
This was where we left things last time: I had cut out the rusted floor and tipped the cab onto its back.
That main support for the rear cab mounts was beyond repair. And you can’t buy this part. You’re on your own if you want to replace it.
It was crumbling. Fifteen years of New England salt really did a job on the old truck from Dixie.
I put the main support on the bench, start peeling the skin off to get a look inside. Salvaged the cab mount brackets off both ends, that was it.
The plan: weld in a new set of floor pans up front, salvage the midsection with the main seat support, that was in fairly decent shape, add new steel at the back and go from there.
I needed to build new metal at all four corners of the cab, too. This is the front left. I fabricated new cowl corners from 16-gauge flat stock.
Here’s work in progress on the front right corner.
A before shot, same angle. The mid-mount is completely gone and that triangular brace from the door pillar forward wasn’t doing its job anymore, too much rot along its bottom edge.
These are the cowl parts I made. Shaped them on the metal brake at Conntech, Mike Connelly’s Saab garage in Warwick.
Typical cowl rot for the post-war cab design of the Ford F-series. Basically the same cab from ’48 to ’52.
New metal going in. Those plug welds hook up to the new piece that joins the mid-cab mount to the forward mount on each side, adds real strength to the setup. (Note my Mini Me in the welding helmet.)
The bride tolerated noise, smoke, noxious fumes, even surprised me with a swell lunch from time to time.
On the floor itself, pretty simple plan: align the three sections, plug weld them together, then the new rockers go in to square everything up. Plug the rockers to the door pillars, the floor to the rockers, then start running beads along the seams.
I made lap joints in the floor since I was reusing old metal in the middle, figured it would be slow and tedious trying to butt-weld the pieces together while blowing out rust pits here and there. It would have looked prettier the other way, more original, but it’s a truck and you can’t see the floor anyway, it’s under the seat and the floor mats. The idea was to get the geometry right, turn up the heat and go. This ain’t no beauty pageant.
The window fan, by the way, was for blowing zinc fumes out of the cab. Metal gas is a byproduct of burning weld-through primer. Breathing metal-based primer gas, zinc or copper, can make you sick with flu-like symptoms. I’ll cop to occasional hacking, coughing, a metallic taste in the pie hole, but I never felt sick. Kept the fan going, no problem.
Too wet to weld on this particular day, good time to strip the brakes out of the chassis. When rust isn’t busy dissolving parts it’s gluing them together. Iron oxide, best adhesive ever. I knocked the front hubs out of the drums with the BFH. It took two mighty overhead swings, as you can see from the hitting block.
Last week, our neighbor, Russell, came by to heft the other end of the bench seat as I figured out where to drill the mounting holes in the new floor. Russell’s a college freshman, we’ve known him all his life. His dad and I took him for a ride in the old truck when he was 4 or 5 and I had just finished the restoration.
Last week he said, “This is actually going to run again, isn’t it?” I said yeah, of course it is. He watched for a while, considered all the noise and mayhem of recent weeks, metal cutting, grinding, drilling, blinding white light, burning things, hitting things, and said, hilariously, “I get the impression that you would do just fine after a zombie apocalypse.”
Okay, got everything stitched together, shot primer on the new metal. I didn’t get fussy about grinding welds, as you can see. They live under the truck. And this is no second restoration, as noted. I’m just fixing things. Under pressure.
I was racing the weather in all respects, often lost time to rain. It gets dark early now, too. So I abandoned my original plan, which was to do just enough welding here at home to fix the geometry of the cab and then trailer it down to Mike’s and use his monster industrial machine to finish up; work indoors on a dry concrete floor, enjoy the luxury of a shielding gas, no more burning flux-core wire out in the weeds, etc.
Alas, I ran out of time. Did the whole job here in the dirt instead. I was bumping up against the duty cycle on my DIY welder but it didn’t seem to hurt the machine any.
Red paint’s going on now. Shot the underside of the cab first, then the underside of the hood.
Dig it, free plywood at John Ross’s house. We cut three pieces to replace that rotted-out mess you saw at the top of this post. Plywood is enormously strong, it’ll easily take the weight of the rear of the cab, the stresses of the mounts and the weight of the gas tank.
The holes in that top piece are for the fuel outlet and two tabs that locate the bottom of the tank, keep it from kicking forward. The top piece is an inch narrower than the other two for the same reason: the back edge of the tank tucks down behind the top piece, keeps the tank where it’s supposed to be.
The cutouts in the bottom two pieces are to make room for the seat bracket where it bolts to the floor.
This ought to work. If it doesn’t for some reason, I can always weld in some kind of structural steel without changing any of the metal fabrication I’ve already done. I didn’t attempt an all-steel solution now because it struck me as a stumbling block, something that had the potential to hold up work all winter. I’d be painting the cab next spring.
Eye on the prize. Fix it, drive it.
I made slides out of inch-and-a-quarter angle iron. The two bottom pieces slide in tight. The third piece goes on top, then all three get through-bolted to the cab-mount brackets under the floor. I was still fitting the second piece here, hadn’t yet planed material off the top so the third piece can sit flat against the top of the slides.
Time to shoot the rest of the red. This was Friday. Leaves were blowing around like crazy all day. Then the air suddenly went dead calm. I took a chance, hooked up the air compressor and painted the cab. Here’s the report I sent to my friend Jon Brush in Boston, who asked how it was going:
“Got my cab painted just now, in & out. Looks spiffy. Amazing timing. The wind was blowing like a sonofabitch around 3:30, a dozen leaves a minute landing on & in the cab. Typically the wind dies down a little later in the day. I stood by & waited real stealthy-like, had my paint mixed, gun hooked up, all ready to go. The wind quit all of a sudden & I went to work painting like the crazy-ass Red Rose monkey. Nary a leaf landed on it. An hour after I was done I saw two bugs in the paint, that’s it. I hereby declare victory & depart the field.”
Put all my tools under cover for the day, just in time for moonrise over the humble manse.
Yesterday I figured I better strap the cab to the chassis in case Hurricane Sandy comes this far north. With the cab fixed and painted it would be kind of a shame to see it blow off now and go rolling down the hill.
Later this week, I’ll recruit a few extra sets of hands and we’ll lug the cab up the hill. It’s not heavy without the doors on it, 300 pounds maybe? That’ll give me a chance to de-rust, de-grease and repaint the chassis, put the wheels back on and pull her up the hill to the front of the house.
Maple, locust and poplar are still up but the oak leaves are dropping fast.
I see a few diehards in the wildflower patch by the street, which is otherwise morto and looking like the advent of November.
The bride’s other gardens are still blooming. She’s in Maine now for her mom’s 80th birthday. Daughter #1 chauffeured her up there on Saturday. They might be delayed a day or two in getting back. Not because of Sandy, though. They hit a piece of scrap metal in the street in Bangor, tore a 10-inch gash in the gas tank. Oops. They need to find somebody to install a tank today or tomorrow so they can get back home; the bride to here, D1 to Brooklyn, NY.
D2 and D3 went to Maine in D2’s car Saturday and arrived home in Rhode Island yesterday.
I just noticed that my POV in these pics is becoming slightly Hitchcockian. Must be from breathing zinc vapor and paint solvent and wandering around the house alone.
Tony DePaul, Cranston, Rhode Island, October 29, 2012