I decided this was the year to just go into the car and complete the whole project front to back. Now that I had the rear end and underbelly all done, roll bar in, and floor pans replaced, I figured it was crunch time. I had to pull the engine and get busy.
I started at the front and have been going to town. I recently finished cutting out my old radiator support and front inner fender aprons. My 67 coupe had been in more than one fender bender, the metal had been pulled and beaten, drilled and filled. On top of this, there was considerable corrosion from the battery. The previous owner had cut out the battery box and passenger front apron, so it only made sense to do this.
This job is not that hard, time consuming yes. Technically challenging? Not so bad if you take some careful precautions and lots of measurements. First thing I did was have the car checked at a frame shop to be sure it was square. I was amazed that despite the accidents (particularly the one during our test drive before I bought it) the car was dead square, within 2-3 MM on a 5MM factory tolerance.
I took the car from the frame shop to the media blasters, and had the front end, and fire wall blasted. This makes quick work of finding those pesky spot welds and keeps the work area clean.
Then I took tons of measurements off the fire wall/cowl lip to the radiator support front and back. Next, you have to locate the center measurement for all of your fender mount holes, and marking them. I like to lay out a lot of blue tape to mark my measurements on etc. One critical measurement in this project is the center points of the oval holes where the front aprons and radiator support over lap. These have to be perfectly aligned when you put it back together, and I used these as my baseline measurement for the radiator support alignment.
The tools I used, good old spot weld cutters, lots of extra heads or cutters (I went through a bunch of heads and a couple of cutter bits), drill, hammer and my favorite spot weld tool - the heavy duty scraper shown . You can get it from any hardware store. This is a great tool to tap up under the panel to release the edges of the weld you miss with the cutter. This thing will cut through it without distorting the base metal. I also made good use of my trusty saws all and cut off wheels.
To make things easier, the first thing I did was just cut the radiator support away from the inner aprons, the lower frames, and the front strut arms. This gives you easy access to the spot welds without having to crawl all around the support.
Once that was out of the way, I started working the spot welds off the strut rod mounts. These are thick as the radiator support actually has three sheets of 18 gauge that are welded on. I carefully cut the rear edge of the radiator support down the strut support, and then worked the spot welds off to get a clean surface.
I then moved on to removing the remnants of the passenger side front apron and the driver side. Using the spot weld cutter is a cinch. Donít skip steps though, I went along and center punched each weld, then came back and drilled a pilot hole in each, then came along with the cutter. I soon found the idea l depth of the spot weld cut by watching for the puff of rust dust from the cut. I would then work the scraper under the panel, prying up and sometimes using the cutting edge for finish off the cut.
I ran into my first surprise after I got the radiator support and aprons off. My frames looked good from the outside, there was some minor pitting under the battery box, but when I looked inside the passenger frame end, I was surprised to see how rusted and eaten it was. Probably 50% wasted in the last 10 inches or so of the frame. This had to go; luckily it was fine where all the motor mounts and cross members are, as did the driver side.
I opted to cut it before the motor mount and shock tower, so I made staggered cuts to avoid a pure butt weld, cutting the outside frame rail about an inch longer than the inside. Use careful bench marks here , as you have to get this back in just right for the bumper brackets to bolt too. I created bench marks and measured if carefully.
I ordered the short outer and inner frame rails from NPD, and had a three sided piece of sheet broke at a local shop that fit snug inside the main frame rail. I slipped the tube inside the rail, drilled several holes in the outer frame so I could plug weld it. I used a level and straight edge to ensure it was true and level while I tacked it in place. Once the inner frame rail and tube were welded inside and outside, I then welded the outer plate in place.
Now that my frame was back in good order, I started mocking up the inner aprons and rad support. First thing is to get the radiator support centered on the car, then using your measurements I pulled off the firewall, I got the proper distance. There is some wiggle room on these; it is not as simple as pushing it on and welding in place. Once the support was in place I clamped it with vice grips and then machine screws.
Once the radiator support is In place to measurements, then start putting your aprons in place, again using measurements off your old pieces. To be sure on this, I also went to my Mustang club buds and pulled measurements off their cars, to back up my own. The aprons will require some grinding to get them to fall flush.
Once you have them all in place, and the measurements come out, I drilled holes and used sheet metal screws to hold it all together. I then scribed a line where ever the panels met in order to line out where I needed to punch my spot weld holes. I checked all the measurements again, then set the fenders back in place to see about alignment, all good so far.
Following my shop manual, I laid out holes about every two inches long the edges of the aprons, and radiator support (there is like nine spot welds in each strut support that holds the radiator to the strut supports). I then came back with a 5/16 bit and went around the edges of the apron and radiator support to drill out my spot weld holes. Then I ground off the paint on all mating surfaces and sprayed them with copper based weld through primer.
I put it all back together using the sheet metal screws, checked my measurements again Ė itís all good. Then used the spot weld cutter to relieve holes along the radiator support to the strut supports. The magnet is a good tool to get the bung out of the holes.
Then it s just a matter of tacking it all in place, checking your measurements again, then welding the rosettes or plug welds alternating around each panel and side to side to ensure you donít pull it out of square.
I went one step farther with this project. Since the car is getting a power boost from a big block, and flogged on the drag strip, I then stitch welded all the seams I could get too, and will be notching the shock towers in the next phase.
Then I just primed it all up then gave it a topcoat of Rustoleum Satin Black.
Not a bad project to do, saved me tons of money and it looks so much better and makes the car stronger. Not to mention I have the satisfaction of having done it myself.