Neil Fletcher Racing

The Rebuild - Part 2

Finding lots more work to do.

Click here to go to The Rebuild - Part 3.

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After working at the car for nearly a year, The Rebuild came to an abrupt stop for about nine months. I hear you asking why. Well my "day job" involves work in the oil industry and after a couple of years when the price of crude oil was low, it suddenly shot through the roof. This meant the amount of work we were doing doubled in the space of a couple of weeks. This meant lots of overtime etc and it was hard to refuse all this extra money, I kept thinking of all the tasty bits I could buy for the car at AVO National Day. It is now early 2001 and while we are still doing lots of overtime I'm also trying to make a greater effort to get even a little bit done to the car every day. Read on to see what I'm doing now.

Click on any of the images below for a larger photo.

blast_1.jpg (49554 bytes) At this stage we took the car, which was getting to be only a bare shell, round to my mothers house. We have an old barn there that I used to use as a garage but now only use to "grit blast" bits of the car.
blast_2.jpg (38977 bytes) I gave the rest of the engine bay, under the front wing and any other areas that looked bad a real good blasting and then a coat of primer.
seat_1.jpg (29226 bytes) Meanwhile back at my own garage I had started to repair some other things that needed fixed. The drivers seat being one, I must have forgot to take a "before" picture of this.
seat_2.jpg (39485 bytes) What had happened was one of the sides of the seat was badly cracked. The fibreglass had cracked with people jumping in and out in a hurry. Not me I hasten to add, I'm usually very careful. After peeling back the cover I started to repair the fibreglass.
seat_3.jpg (46522 bytes) I even added 3 extra ribs across here for extra strength on this weak place. Next time it breaks it will probably pull the floor out of the car :)
seat_4.jpg (27798 bytes) One of my reasons for fixing this seat is that its one of the most comfortable seats I've ever sat in. It's a Sparco Monte Carlo and is no longer available. Luckily I bought two of then back in the 80's and the other one is still in its plastic bag. It will be used in my new rally car.
seat_5.jpg (34632 bytes) My mum says she will fix up this bit where the cloth has worn threadbare. She did mention something about patching it with a pair of my sisters old lycra cycling shorts.
floor.jpg (39152 bytes) With the car back home I discovered that the Navigators footwell was in need of repair. I had put a couple of small patches in this area in 1988. Now it needed more major work so I put in a repair panel. The trouble with many of these panels is that they are never quite big enough, notice the holes around the front corner of the repair panel. I'll just have to make a couple of small patches for here.
joddler.jpg (51183 bytes) Here you see me playing with one of my new toys, an air joddler. All this overtime has meant I've been able to buy a few things that I've been promising myself for years. Like the joddler, air shears, a space heater and a few other goodies and general tools for the garage.
sill_1.jpg (53241 bytes) It's not very clear in the picture above but the piece of metal I'm joddling is actually a sill for the Navigators side of the car. In this photo I have started to weld it on. This panel was also replaced 13 years ago in 1988, the original Ford one had lasted 15 years so I suppose mine hadn't done too bad either.
sill_2.jpg (40057 bytes) There are about 4 different types of sill, some include the step other don't. Some of them are cut short at the front and just slip in behind the wing without removing it, the type you see here is a longer one that goes right round the bottom of the door post - this usually rots too. Of course this type can only really be fitted if you have the wing off.
sill_3.jpg (48611 bytes) This part behind the door was the bit I was joddling above. I have trimmed quite a bit off the repair panel. I only fit as much of it as is needed to reach good metal on the car. In another 13 years I may need to replace this sill again and I will still be able to go back a bit further to get sound metal if need be. If this were a classic car for the road I would spray something like Waxoyl into the sill, I don't use it on cars intended for Motorsports because of the greater danger of fire in a crash.
sill_4.jpg (41392 bytes) I used the joddler to punch a row of holes along the lower edge of the sill and them proceeded to fill these holes with plug welds. After all the holes are plugged I shall grind off all the excess weld and leave them flush with the sill.
sill_5.jpg (47449 bytes) As well as showing the plug welds this photo also shows a missing part of the chassis rail just in front of the spring hanger. A couple of years ago we crashed heavily, dropping about 5 feet into a field. As we dropped into the field the car clipped the top of a fence post. This hit the floor of the car, pushing it up and also flattening the chassis rail. I have now cut the flattened piece out to replace it.
door_1.jpg (43147 bytes) When working at the sill I refitted the door to check how it would all line up and that the gap at the bottom was OK. I had always thought the Navigators door was in fairly good condition but while working at the sill I noticed the bottom of the door was bad. 
door_2.jpg (51382 bytes) As you can see the door is split right along the bottom edge and there are a few holes. Nothing for it but to do some repairs.
door_3.jpg (26328 bytes) To remove the drop-glass and the quarter light one needs to drill out the pop-rivets which hold in the centre stay. 
door_4.jpg (43920 bytes) With every thing removed from the door it is a lot lighter. That meant that it was a lot easier to put it on and take it off when I was doing the trial fit of both the sill and the front wing.
door_5.jpg (55509 bytes) After this I cut out the badly rusted part along the bottom and gave it a good blasting to get rid of all the rust I could find. At this stage I lost some of my photos of the repairs to the door, repairs to the chassis and refitting the door. This was due to a duff film which did not develop properly and the photos were un-useable.
spit.jpg (75848 bytes) To give us a break from working at the Mexico I decided to make something that I had been talking about for years. Rebecca and Laura had great fun doing the painting. What is it I hear you ask. Well its something that can be used in the rebuilding of an Escort.
spit_2.jpg (51933 bytes) And here you can see the finished article in use. It took about 35 worth of steel and a few days to make. It was well worth it as it makes working at the shell very easy. I can turn the shell any way I like in a matter of seconds, its really great, I should have made one years ago.
grill_2.jpg (53436 bytes) The trouble is that when you are standing looking at the underside of the shell from this angle, you see a lot more things wrong that you weren't able to spot when lying on your back with the car on axle stands.
grill_1.jpg (52183 bytes) Did you notice the grill in the photo above, this is my version of a "Works" grill. Any of you who have Spotlights fitted will know how hard it is to remove the grill to change a Headlight bulb if one blows. All the more so if you are doing a night rally where time is at a premium and you don't want to disturb the setting of the Spots. On some of the Works cars the grill was cut into three pieces and they only had to remove the piece around that particular headlight.
grill_3.jpg (32118 bytes) The centre bit is held on by the usual screws, in the works version the part around the headlight is held on by two Dzus fasteners. In my version I have added a little post beside and to the inside edge of the Headlight. 
grill_4.jpg (29718 bytes) A third screw then holds the grill onto this little post. The outside edge of the grill is then held by the two normal screws, one above and one below the light. By removing just three screws you can now take off this piece of grill to get at the headlight unit. 
tankwell_1.jpg (40984 bytes) Another area that needed major repair was the petrol tank well and the lower rear part of the wheelhouse. To the best of my knowledge there are no repair panels available for this area so all I have to work from is a rather large hole.
tankwell_1a.jpg (29388 bytes) As you can see here, I had already fitted a lower quarter repair panel to this side of the shell at some time in the past.
tankwell_2.jpg (41923 bytes) The first thing I did was to put the petrol tank back in the car. This gave me a better idea of the shape my repair panels needed to be and also what clearance I would have.
tankwell_2a.jpg (40098 bytes) A quick look at the outer wheelhouse shows a modification I made a few years ago when fitting the "Baby Atlas" back axle. The outer edge of the wheelhouse where it forms a double skin with the outer quarter panel has been cut away. A small strip of sheet steel, about 2" wide has been welded in its place. This gave slightly more clearance in this area for the wheels and tyres.
tankwell_3.jpg (44845 bytes) I decided that the easiest way to repair this area was to make the repair section in two separate bits. This involved lots of bending, hammering and cutting to get the shape right.
tankwell_4.jpg (47059 bytes) After welding the two parts together all that remained to do was the final trimming off of excess metal round the edges to get a really good fit.
tankwell_5.jpg (43360 bytes) The back of the wheelhouse has now been repaired. This was fairly simple with just a couple of flat patches welded in place. When doing repairs like this you can never have too many sets of "Vice Grips".
tankwell_6.jpg (38651 bytes) Along the bottom edge I punched a row of holes. I then clamped this edge to the bottom edge of the quarter panel and filled the holes up with plug welds.
tankwell_7.jpg (38008 bytes) Even if I say so myself, I think the finished job was quite neat.
paint_1.jpg (54409 bytes) All the major repairs seemed to be finished on the shell. So I took it round to my mothers barn to blast any areas of surface rust etc that remained. Here you see it back at my own garage and we have started to paint the floor. The yellow paint is Etch Primer which I put on after blasting and the grey is High Build Primer which I use next.
paint_2.jpg (57547 bytes) The underneath of the car gets its first colour coat. This is the first time I have used Two Pack paint. In these pictures it looks quite red, I think that's just the fault of my digital camera. It is really Sebring Red which is an orange type colour.
paint_3.jpg (36525 bytes) Inside the boot also gets a coat, notice how much the Two Pack paint on the boot floor shines compared to the areas surrounding the boot which were sprayed in cellulose when I started this rebuild.
paint_4.jpg (45885 bytes) And next comes the engine bay. I have decided that I will need to spray the complete car, and I do mean everywhere. Even bits that were sprayed earlier in the rebuild using Cellulose will need a quick blow over in Two Pack so it all looks the same.
paint_5.jpg (63498 bytes) After masking off areas of the shell that were already painted, I gave the front end a couple of coats of high build primer. This was rubbed it down and was now ready for some colour coat.
paint_6.jpg (52473 bytes) There are two things I have learnt about painting with two pack. First it will really stick to anything else in the garage that it lands on while spraying, and secondly because it takes so long to dry dust can be a real problem. To tackle both of these problems I made a spray booth within the garage using clear plastic sheeting from my local builders suppliers.
paint_7.jpg (53147 bytes) I was now able to spray within a relatively dust free cocoon. Notice how there is quite a bit of overspray on some of the polythene, if I had not used the polythene all this overspray would have been on everything in the garage.
paint_7b.jpg (56327 bytes) Here is a photo of the finished article taken with my 35mm camera, this photo gives a clearer idea of the Sebring Red colour, which is quite an orange colour. The Digital camera makes the colour look very red for some reason, maybe its because of the fluorescent lights in the garage.
paint_8.jpg (114281 bytes) Laura was a great help when it came to removing all the masking tape etc.
paint_9.jpg (50413 bytes) The interior floor was done in matt black cellulose and the dash in satin black cellulose. Its not very clear in this photo but the wing tops were sprayed using matt black two pack but they are closer to the look of the satin black of the dash.
paint_10.jpg (49412 bytes) My three girls are now starting to use the car just like a "Wendy House". My mate says "At least some-one is having some fun in the Mexico".
paint_11.jpg (31986 bytes) Here is a photo just to show what I meant about the overspray getting everywhere. This is the floor of the garage, the left hand side of the photo was inside the cocoon and is nearly orange. The right hand side was outside the polythene and is the original red floor paint. It's a good job I wasn't painting the car Olympic Blue or some such colour.

Rather than add any more to this page I have now started a new page which I hope will be the last one in this series titled The Rebuild - Part 3.

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