Neil Fletcher Racing
The story of EIJ 5885
My New Project Mexico - Year 1
or go to Year 2.
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Click on any of the images below for a larger photo.
This is my latest AVO car which I lovingly call my "New Project Mexico" - why, well because it's new to me. I have bought quite a few Mk1s over the last few years but I haven't bought an AVO car since about 1984.
This new project was bought in late September 2007 but it was mid October 07 before I moved her from the shed to the garage and started to give her a real good checking out.
|This picture is a little out of focus - must have been something wrong with the camera that day - well you know what they say about a bad workman blaming his tools. Anyway it's the only photo I have of the shell as it arrived. The previous owner had got bits of it blasted and done in primer, of course this showed how horrendously bad it really was.|
|For example the wing mounting rail as well as the strengthener and most of the suspension top cup is completely gone and the join between bulkhead and scuttle is badly rotted.|
|The front of the floor and round the bottom of the A post as well as right along the sill is particularly bad, the rot even extends up the A post to bulkhead join.|
|But it was November 07 before I started to do any real work.|
|The floor had a good layer of fibreglass covering the many horrors in there, here we have started to pull off large bits of the fibreglass.|
|Starting to cut out the various layers of repro floors and patches etc in the front footwell, notice even the chassis rail has been extensively patched, it will be replaced later.|
|We then try and save the seat crossmember by drilling out the welds and removing it gently but it turns out to be too far gone to be reuseable, mostly because of the fact that repro floorpans were welded to it.|
|As the hole gets slowly bigger it looks like non of the floorpan on this side of the car will be saveable.|
|Just visible here are three layers of floor and that wasn't counting the fibreglass layer we removed earlier. The middle of these layers was the original floor, it has patches added below it and a repro floorpan added above so it just rusted more in between. Butcher as I am, I would never consider welding a patch over any rusty metal, I would always remove the bad parts first.|
|Now looking from below the whole of the floor on this side has been removed. Notice the heavy layer of sound deadening on the inside of the roof panel - it appears that this car was originally a Custom Pack model.|
|The pile of scrap metal lying on the floor below the car just keeps building up.|
|At some time in the past this car has had new sills, the fact that the part number sticker is still on the inside of them shows that the replacement sills have been genuine original Ford sills which is rather unusual.|
|A closer look at that pile of scrap metal, taking three floors out and putting just one back in is bound to help the power to weight ratio.|
|By December 07 I had actually started to trial fit the first of the floor pans.|
|Because the rot had spread up the bulkhead quite a bit there was rather a large gap between the new replacement floorpans and what good metal was left of the bulkhead.|
|With the rear floorpan in position you can see the gap between them where the seat crossmember usually goes. This is because these repro floorpans normally only meet the front and rear side of the seat crossmember. We would need to give some thought as to what we should do in this area - see later.|
|A little work will be required to make and shape patches for the area betwwen bulkhead and floor and around the front of the gearbox tunnel.|
|At the outer side of the floorpan the situation is, if possible, even worse.|
|Here we would need to patch the inner sill, the bottom of the door post and the gap between floor and lower bulkhead.|
|In January 2008 I finally got round to making patches to fill the areas between the floor pans and the bulkhead etc.|
|Quite a bit of time was spent getting a couple of patches bent, shaped and formed to fit these holes properly.|
|Even if I do say so myself, I was quite pleased with the end result of my endeavors in this area.|
|And here's how they look from below - you will notice that one patch is meeting up below the floorpan while the other, mistakenly lines up with the inside of the floor, needless to say we ensured the were both meeting below the floorpan before they were tacked in place.|
|Normally these floorpans just sit up against the seat crossmember but we had removed ours and it was so bad we weren't going to be able to re-use it. We decided to leave these lips in place and box in below and above them to form a new crossmember.|
|The captive nuts for the seats are held on a bracket which is spot welded into the seat crossmember. The first job was to grind out the spot welds with a burr in a die grinder.|
|Once the spot welds are ground out the bracket is quite easily removed and we can continue to remove the other one.|
|We can then place these little brackets in the gap between the two floorpans to ensure that the pans are spaced correctly.|
|With the shell on the spit and turned upside down we can start to weld in the various patches that we've made.|
|Both of the ones at the bulkhead go in quite nicely, because they are joined over the chassis rail it just looks like one patch when see from below.|
|It's only when you look inside that you realize there are actually two separate bits.|
|February 08 kicks off with starting to weld in those passenger side floor pans.|
|Next we tackle the rear floorpan, normally there is a lip on the back edge of this floorpan which just butts up against the front edge of the rear seat crossmember but we gently bend this lip back down again and slid it in under that crossmember.|
|A lot of time was spent getting this to fit correctly before starting to tack it in position. The chassis rail - which would later be replaced was kept in position at this stage to give us a datum to work to.|
|Then with the front floorpan in sitting loosely place we could make up a piece to fill in the gap between the two pans and tack it in place.|
|The most difficult part was shaping it to match the channel along where it meets the outer sill.|
|Next up was welding the little strengtheners to which the seats bolt, once these are in place I only need a top to finish off the seat crossmember.|
|With the floor pans in place I started to make a piece to form the rest of the inner sill, this is now being welded in position starting from the rear.|
|I made this inner sill piece in two halves, a rear and a front one. The front one gets some final shaping up round the inner door post leaving just one extra little lower piece to fit.|
|This little piece involved a fair bit of cutting and shaping to get it quite right.|
|Once I'm happy with the shape I go ahead and weld it in place.|
|Then I make and fit a patch at the other front corner of the floor pan.|
|March 08 would be a very slow month, but I did take a load of pictures of all the bad areas of the shell.|
|Things did slow down over the next few weeks so here are a few general photos of the shell etc. This wing was acquired at Donington for £100 no-one else wanted it and the price had been dropped twice during the day from 150 to 125 and finally 100, I just couldn't resist - it had been bare metalled at some time and then left to rust but a good going over with the DA sander soon cured the slight surface rust.|
|The shell on the spit, from this angle it looks as if we've done no work to her yet.|
|This photo along the inner wing top to the door post shows how much work needs done in this area, I had been advised by SamH that I should fit a pair of Expressed Full Wing Tops, luckily I managed to get a pair for £140 at Donington but it will be a while before they are fitted.|
|Around the strut towers is particularly bad, those couple of rusty bits of metal are all that's left of the inner wing to strut tower strengthening pieces but the complete towers will be replaced at the same time as the inner wing tops - I hope.|
|The passenger door post was not too bad but as you can see here both the top,|
|and the bottom of the drivers door post are in bad shape. I will probably replace this complete door post.|
|The bottoms of both strut towers had been replaced previously with just a couple of bits of flat metal with a turned edge, there had been no attempt to replace the little flitch plates which go in here but I would be replacing all this.|
|These patches at the front of the chassis rails will also be replaced as will both front chassis rails with a pair of good secondhand ones that I picked up at Donington.|
|Here I've cut open the floor under the back seat to see what the inside of the rear chassis rail is like, surprisingly it's not too bad at all but part of the floor will need replaced just outside the chassis rail.|
|At the other side the floor had already been patched under the back seat but I'm cutting out all these old patches and redoing all this work.|
|The Under Rad Crossmember is in a really bad state, it to will be replaced at a later stage.|
|Places which often "go" like the tank well weren't too bad but other bits of the bootfloor like above this part of the chassis rail would need some repairs.|
|But the other side at the bottom of the wheelwell will need some work.|
|At some time in her past this car has been "rear ended", a secondhand export style back panel was then fitted - I'm undecided as to whether or not I should change it back to the proper back panel.|
|The Navigators door post is quite good but as you can see here the Drivers one is in a very bad state and will need to be replaced.|
|On the Drivers side the bottom of the sill is completely rotted away.|
|Further back it just gets worse if that's possible.|
|This is the underside of one of the front inner wings, you're looking at the upside down turret pan, that bit of rust sticking to it is all that is left of the inner wing strengthener panel.|
|Back to the repairs on Navigators floor, and I'm adding part of the lip on the backseat panel. The screwdriver sticking through is just to hold the little piece in place till I get it welded.|
|Once that bit's done I move on to do a little work around the seatbelt mount, still trying to keep the original retaining nut and locating holes etc.|
|This is the same area on the Drivers side and it shows what it all looked like before I started to my repair work.|
|The whole area around the rear edge of the outer sill needs to be cut away and replaced, right as far in as the chassis rail under the back seat.|
|We will also need to replace the spring hanger strengthening plate, the one on the other chassis rail is in much better condition.|
|This is the same basic area as the last two photos, just taken from below.|
|I soon start to cut out the bit of the under seat floor between chassis rail and sill. As you may have noticed earlier this is just a bit of a patch that someone has added some time previously.|
|Soon I'm just left with a few rough welds to grind off.|
|Using a bit of a "Cereal Packet" as a template to get the shape of the patch right. The join between original and new will be directly over the chassis rail so it won't be seen from below.|
|And now the patch is welded in place, as is the bit of vertical panel which goes right down to meet the outer sill.|
|Moving forward on the Navigators side you can clearly see all the work I've already done to the floors, inner sill etc.|
|There's just a little more work to be done around the door post, but luckily this one is not as bad as the drivers side one which was shown earlier.|
|Work then ground to a complete halt until mid July 08 but then I really got stuck in with a vengeance.|
|After a layoff of 3 months or so I finally get the shell round to the farm to do some more blasting, the previous owner had got her blasted but some parts weren't very well done and I wanted to redo them before going any further.|
|Back at my own garage I'm ready to start putting the new sill on the Navigators side of the car.|
|A few tack welds along the step at the bottom of the door, I'll put in a lot more once I get the sill completely tacked on.|
|Moving back behind the door I do the same thing, a few tacks with more to go on later.|
|Along the bottom of the sill I have punched a row of holes with my joddler all ready for plug welds.|
|I'm not sure whether it's just my poor welding technique but I often find that these punched holes a rather small and you don't get good penetration with the welds. I end up making the holes a little bigger as you can see here.|
|Here is a nice row of holes just waiting to be filled with weld.|
|With a decent size hole I can make a really good row of plug welds to hold the sill on. All that remains to do is grind down the excess weld and it will then be a nice, neat, tidy job.|
|And now I add more little spot welds along by the rear quarter, these will all be ground down flush to make a nice tidy job.|
|As well as along the door step.|
|Making a little patch to go between the bulkhead and the floor panel on the Drivers side.|
|It not obvious in the photo above but this is my makeshift anvil, it's an old 1 cwt weight that's been lying about our farm for many years.|
|Welding in the top part of the seat crossmember on the Navigators side.|
|Now I have started to weld the patches onto the bottom of the bulkhead on the Drivers side, the repairs to this side were much the same as the Navigators side so I won't go into much detail.|
|There were one or two things that I did try and do differently on this side, just to see which would work out best so to speak. For example the floor wasn't all bad on this side so I didn't cut quite as much of it out.|
|Joining up the overlap where my bulkhead repair meets the repro floor pan.|
|Here you can see that all 4 floor pans are now fitted along with one sill.|
|Another area that I did slightly differently on this side, this is the floor area below the rear seat crossmember. On this side I am welding the floor to the bottom of the seat crossmember from below, on the other side I did this from above.|
|I also drilled a few holes in the gearbox crossmember and plug welded it back up against the floor.|
|Come August 08 and work is really moving forward at a great pace, along with the last couple of weeks of July it would be the best months work so far and that's even with losing 10 days taking the family on holiday to Salou. I've now started to the front end of the shell.|
|This is where the scuttle panel meets the bulkhead, there was quite a bit of rust in this join. I drilled out the spot welds, priesed the panels apart and then gave the mating faces a good going over with the blaster before doing them with Etch Primer, my favorite type of paint.|
|Now I weld these two panels back together, the same will need to be done at the other side.|
|There's a bit of patching to do around the ends of the scuttle panel but this bit shown here is actually a bought item and quite handy too.|
|Now I'm about to start into completely new territory for me, I've fitted the odd wing mounting rail in my time but I've never had to fit a complete inner wing top before.|
|The air hacksaw makes short work of removing what is left of the old rusty top piece.|
|The bit around the strut top is the first to go including the heavy duty top plate.|
|Then the rest of the inner wing top soon follows suit.|
|Now I'm doing a trial fit of the top I got from Geoff Coates at Donington a few months ago, it is definitely starting to look a lot better.|
|There's still a fair bit of trimming to do before I'm ready to start welding.|
|And it's definitely very handy having another shell sitting in the garage so that I can go and take measurements and check that all is fitted just as it should be.|
|There's a few patches to make to repair the top of the door post and where the bulkhead and scuttle etc meet.|
|I start off patching the inner portion of the door post.|
|I then weld a patch to the outer part of the door post before moving on to the bulkhead side panel etc.|
|Here I'm doing a trial fit of all the pieces I'm going to be setting in between scuttle and inner wing.|
|Another view of the same pieces.|
|And with the inner wing removed you can see what appears to be the meeting of bulkhead and scuttle panel.|
|But really I'm going to cheat here, with inner wing in place there should be a total of 3 layers of metal, too many places for rust to start. So I only put in a tiny strip to make it look like 3 layers.|
|At this stage there's lots of trial fitting of all the panels as I weld each separate one in place.|
|A closer look at how my little "cheat panel" looks with the others fitted around it. Also shown are various marks etc to help me line all up easily each time.|
|And then I remove them again to weld the end of the scuttle to bulkhead side panel etc.|
|A side shot of the same area.|
|It's now all starting to come together.|
|It looks a bit rough at the moment but hopefully when the welds are all ground down it will be just like original.|
|This patch extends right under the bonnet hinge panel, further on down the scuttle you can see some more spot welds waiting to be ground down.|
|After many trial fits and much measuring it's now time to tack the inner wing top in place, the H/D top plate has already be fitted as well.|
|One thing I did find was that the holes in these two panels didn't quite line up, I was a little concerned that I was doing something wrong but I spoke to "Samh" and he explained that this was quite normal and could be rectified later. You'll also note that the Ex-pressed Inner Wing Top doesn't have any bolt holes drill in it.|
|I have done the spot welds in the H/D top plate from below, hopefully once it's all finished it will look tidier that way.|
|Also the spot welds where the inner wing top meets the bulkhead are all being done from below. Well OK, I'm not good at welding from below, so the shell is actually up-side-down at the moment.|
|I still have the remnants of the old strut tower and top pan in place to help me place the inner wing top correctly.|
|Now that the inner wing top is tacked in place I can go ahead and remove those under-wing bits in preparation for putting in new ones.|
|Now I can do a trial fit of the Under Wing Pan, unfortunately it took quite a bit of moving about and modification to get it to fit where I wanted it to be.|
|There were a couple of old repair panels already brazed in here. After much debate I decided to leave these in place rather than re-doing them. Only time will tell if this was a wise decision or not.|
|Now that both the old side bits have been removed and cleaned up I can get on with putting in a new Top Pan.|
|A couple of pairs of Vice Grips hold it in place, as with the H/D Top Plate you can see that it doesn't quite match up with the hole in the Inner Wing Top, not only that but one of the mounting holes doesn't line up at all.|
|It's not really obvious here but I had drilled three small 1/8" holes to try and line the H/D Top Plate up with the Under Wing Pan. As you saw in the photo above that didn't really work out. I would just have to weld up some of the holes and redrill them.|
|With the shell up side down I now start to drill holes and plug them up with welds to hold the Under Wing Pan in place.|
|I use a couple of pairs of vise grips to hold all the panel together.|
|If you look at the top side you can see that I also use a heavy bit of steel to soak up the heat and ensure that the is no distortion of the top side.|
|A close up look at those plug welds.|
|And a look at the finished article as viewed from the top/engine bay side.|
|Following advice from Samh I fit the Bonnet, Wing and Door to the shell just to make sure that everything is going to line up just as it should.|
|Once I'm happy that my Inner Wing Top is going to line up correctly I can go ahead and weld it fully in place.|
|Later I'll take the grinder and a flap wheel to all these spot welds and clean them up so it all looks like original fitment.|
|September 08 would be a slower month because of time spent working at my rally car but I had still time to get stuck into the drivers side again.|
to the drivers side of the car I start off by removing the remnants of the
old rusty Inner Sill and the Air Shears make short work of it.
|I just cut
a strip of sheet steel to make up the Inner Sill, later Iíll cut a few
large holes to make it look just like the original.
of the Outer Sill are still in place to give me a guide to work to, and I
joddle the lower edge so that it will sit behind the edge of the floor
with many of the repro sills is that they donít have the little indented
area that the badge sits into, normally thereís no badge on the
driverís side but there should still be the little recess. I have cut
this little bit out of the old Outer Sill.
|I soon have
a matching hole cut in the new replacement sill.
doesnít take long to get that little piece welded into place.
work with the grinder soon has the welds ground off flush.
a trial fit of the sill onto the shell and a few self tappers help to hold
it in place.
It took a couple
of goes, as witnessed by the various white lines/marks before I finally
decided exactly where and how much of the old sill I would cut out.
wanted to take the shell round to the farm for a bit more blasting, but
before that I wanted to open up this seam as it was bulging with rust.
|Once I had
removed the spot welds I was able to prise the two sides apart and remove
the loose rust, a good going with the blaster would remove the rest of it.
|A few days
later I had the shell back at my own garage and picked out a second hand
door from my extensive stock.
|Part of the
reason for doing this was to get the gap to the sill correct Ė or at
least as even and level as possible.
|October 08, with the rally car all sorted and Mot'd I can get back into full swing with the rebuild.|
|When I did
the near side Inner Wing Top I had drilled the holes for various plug
welds as I went along, being a little concerned about swarf and cuttings
getting between the panels I decided to drill the holes first when doing
the other side.
that I did at the same time was to punch the Chassis Number into the H/D
Top Plate, I wanted to do this on something solid rather than waiting
until I had it fitted to the shell.
the other side, the Top Plate was tacked on and then the whole lot was
offered up to the shell.
other side there was a bit of work required where scuttle and bulkhead
met. I didnít bother patching the top of the door post as this side
would need to be completely replaced later.
the rusty seam that was shown a few photos back, itís now nicely welded
up. Also shown are two other areas which would need some attention. A
washer has been brazed into place around the bottom of the Clutch
Reservoir, I will replace this as well as weld the small crack where the
pedal box bracket is parting company with the bulkhead.
|I have now
welded that Inner Wing Top in place, the welding looks a little rough but
once ground down it should be much more presentable.
area which needed extensive repairs was the bottom of each Inner Wing
where they meet the bottom of the Chassis Rails. I decided to do this in a
series of smaller patches rather than try and fit one long piece the full
length of the rail. The Chassis Rail itself would be replaced at a later
bottom of the Inner Wing patched up, I offer up the Turret sides.
where they meet up with the Under Wing pan and then drill a few holes for
series of holes is drilled right down the Turret sides.
the bottom is positioned by measuring back from the hole in the Chassis
Leg that the ARB Mount bolts to.
that itís all in position I can start and weld the Turret side in place.
a row of good strong spot welds to hold it in place.
now the other side gets welded to the Under Wing Pan.
before welding this side in, I repaired another bit of the bottom edge of
the Inner Wing/Chassis Rail.
there I moved on to the Slam Panel, I started by grinding out the spot
welds where it attaches to the Radiator Support Panels.
than that there was only a couple of welds along the front edge holding it
in place, so I soon had it removed.
the new one offered up in itís place.
all the slam panels that I have, both genuine and repro I didnít have a
single one of the right type, i.e. one with the long hole and the two
closest I had was one of a couple that Iíd got off the Club Shop for a
tenner Ė but it was the late type with the short Safety Catch hole.
minutes with the hacksaw and a bit of hammering over a heavy bit of steel
held in the vice :-
I soon had a longer hole made, itís not quite perfect but the Safety
Catch Plate will hide any small imperfections.
|Now I can start to weld it into position.|
the shell turned upside-down I spot weld the Slam Panel to the Inner Wing
with a series of spot welds.
I tidy up the topside with a Flap Wheel in the Angle Grinder.
being one to stick at one job for long I move back to the under wing area
and decide to fit the little strengthening fillets at the bottom of the
ones Iím fitting are repros that I bought of eBay for humble money along
with the top strengtheners, but I soon discover that they donít fit
properly. I compare them with some genuine ones I have and they look to be
an exact copy.
soon discover that the problem is really with the repro Turret Sides,
theyíre not quite the same shape as the originals.
only thing is to modify the little strengtheners to suit.
up I shorten or reshape the inner side over a bit of heavy steel held in
outer edge will be a little more difficult. First I make a cut with the
Air Hacksaw and then I open the sides apart.
a couple of tack welds to hold it in place.
welding it up completely again.
again I use my bit of copper which allows me to weld the gap up without
the possibility of melting the edges away completely.
able to grind the rear edge flat with a flap wheel.
thereís less room on the other side so after roughing down with the edge
of a grinder wheel I finish off with the die grinder.
finished article all ready to fit.
now fits properly in place down at the bottom of the turret side.
back to the riverís side Inner Wing area I start and cut a couple of
patches for the lower edge where it meets the Chassis Rail. Just for a
change I try some Butt Welding in this area as I need to practice the
technique a bit more for future projects.
now have a couple of patches in place along the lower edge, the vertical
patch is one that was put on by a previous restorer, I gave it a clean up
with a Flap Wheel and decided it would not need replacing.
to the passenger side and after drilling a few holes along the lower part
of the top stiffener piece, I am about to weld it in place.
it is plug welded to the Under Wing Pan with four or five plugs which will
later be ground down flush.
then it gets a row of 7 one inch long welds at the top edge where it meets
the Inner Wing, looking at an original one it looks as if Ford only used 6
welds along here.
the bottom fillets in place and ready to be welded up, the
has now been a full year since I started to this project and itís time to look
back and see how Iíve got on and how much Iíve spent so far. I started with
the floor first and I now have all 4 floor pans fitted as well as various
patches around the edges of them and one seat crossmember. I have both inner
sills fixed and new outer sills fitted. Moving to the front of the car I have
fitted two new inner wing tops along with slam panel and under rad crossmember.
Iíve also fitted new strut towers etc, they only need a couple of the lower
flitch plates to be fitted and theyíll be complete. Iíve also repaired the
inner wings where they mate with the front chassis legs. It all doesnít sound
much when you say it fast.
so far Ė these prices may seem a bit cheaper than the norm but in some
cases like the floor pans I bought 3 sets back in 2003 when I was rebuilding my
rally car. Other items were bought off eBay at bargain prices (if something is
cheap enough I'll buy it even if I might not need it for years) and in some
cases like the sills I was able to get a good price by buying 6 pairs at a time.
Floors £15.00 X
2 = £30
x 2 = £35
x 2 = £32
£40.00 x 1 = £40
Wing Tops £70.00 x 2 = £140
£15.00 x 2
Towers £20.00 x
2 = £40
Wing Kit £15.00 x 2 =
of Steel £24.00 x 1
Primer £18 x 3 litres =
Gas £42 x 2 Cyl's
Welding Wire 1 x 15Kg Roll = £24
Grit £6 x 3 Bags =
if my maths is right totals £581
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