'40 Willys Coupe Restoration Project - by Randy Ferguson
Librarians Note: I am compiling this documentary, putting together the pertenant posts from a thread that Randy Ferguson submitted to document the restoration of a 1940 Willys Coupe that he was doing for a customer. I have included quotes and dialog that improves the flow of the documentary. You can see the complete thread here:
I have made a few editorial changes for the sake of continuity and clarity, and would appreciate any feedback on the content that might be out of whack.
Last edited by MetalMeet Librarian/Advertising; 01-30-2006 at 06:47 PM.
'40 Willys Coupe Restoration Project - by Randy Ferguson
Original content provided by Randy Ferguson - AKA Randy Ferguson
Those of you who attended MetalMeet '04, or have been to my shop probably remember the old crapped out pile of scrap sitting in the far south end of the shop. I'm nearing completion of the metalwork and thought I might update y'all
on the progress. I'll try to put more of a story together later.
In the Beginning
This ragged out old junker was delivered to my shop Oct 2, '04. These pictures do nothing for telling just how bad this car was. It's by far the worst body I've messed with in the nearly 20 years I've been doing body work. I'll do my best to explain the process as I go along. Please do not hesitate to ask questions if you have them. It helps us all to learn!
This is how it was delivered to the shop. The doors were tack welded shut just to hold the thing together somewhat. The rear fenders were absolutely shot! The right fender doesn't look that bad in the picture, but it's badly rusted, dented and fatigue cracked. It's literally held in place with baling wire!
The bolt flange was almost totally rusted away!! The original rear fenders were discarded and a new set built. As Wray has already mentioned, my 13 year old son, Ryan, did the majority of the work on the new rear fenders. We'll get to those in time!
The rear tail panel, as you can see by the picture is destroyed, as well as the lower rear quarter extensions. This was all replaced with new panels as well.
Here it is installed. Notice just above the decklid opening that the trunk pan is rotted away. That's it for tonight. Next time we'll get to those rear fenders.
In this case, the owner had bought the tail pan from another source several weeks before he had contacted me to do the work. Those panels were so far off, that I used them to get close, then re-shaped them to get where we needed to be. The quarter extension pieces had WAY too much crown and the flanges were crooked, whereas the tail pan was too flat and had to have the lower flange shrunk to increase the crown in it. Having another car to look at was a big help. I did the metalwork on a '38 Willys Coupe back in Feb-April, and having both cars in the shop allowed us to gain lots of info.
Otherwise, I would have had to find another car to make patterns from, make a true surface template using body filler over the existing panel, or possibly even having to make a wireform buck and true surfacing it to gain all the information possible to make the part.
Attaining all the info possible always makes the job easier. By having the '38 in the shop, even though the tail pan on it needed repaced as well, it was in good enough shape to gather that needed info to make this one correct.
Moving on to the Rear Fenders
As promised in the last installment, I'll cover the build of the rear fenders. This phase of the project actually took place near the end of the build, but since we started with the tail pan and it was already mentioned that the rear fenders are new, we'll go ahead and cover this now.
Keep in mind that my 13 year old son, Ryan, did the majority of the work on these fenders. I only did the final fit and finesse.
The rear fenders that was delivered with this car was too far gone to use as a pattern of any kind. We were able to get a pair of fenders from another car to take flexible shape patterns from, and to make a good set of wireform/bondo bucks.
Here's a picture of the wireform, before adding the bondo to complete the buck. Later you will see the completed buck as the panels are fit to it.
The next several pictures show Ryan pounding away on the beater bag.
The flexible shape patterns are a little tough to read for a first timer, working on a high crown panel. It would have been easy for Ryan to have gotten discouraged early on, but I kept reassuring him that this is not a fast, easy process and that I could only do it faster because I swing the hammer harder. He asked about 3 or 4 times what to look for when fitting the panel to the shape pattern, but this was before it was really close enough to get a decent read on it. Once he had gotten enough shape in the panel that the shape pattern began to fit, he fully understood what we were trying to accomplish and just did it!! I had to help him along the way with some tuck shrinking, but he got the initial shape in the fender and actually got the panel fitting the shape pattern very well. I was actually surprised at how quickly he learned the process.
After a little wheeling and fine tuning to the shape pattern. Here are the results.
Would you believe he didn't get his fingers in the wheel once!!!! Even Jesse hasn't figured out how to avoid that!!!
After just a bit of finesse and re-arrangement of the panel, it fits nice on the buck.
To accomodate the big rear tires and to fit in with the '60's gasser look, we didn't have to make it full size. This is evidenced by the lack of material to cover the entire buck. If we were making original fenders, this material would not have been cut away.
I didn't get a picture of the welding process, but here are the results.
Next we'll tackle the roof.
Randy & Ryan
Last edited by MetalMeet Librarian/Advertising; 01-30-2006 at 06:49 PM.
Taking on the Roof
OK, let's go ahead and get started on this roof, but first, we must remove the rust.
This is an easy, but somewhat time consuming task with naval jelly, 000 steel wool, and some good ol' elbow grease.
Let's start with a materials list. You will need a DA sander (any type will actually work, or you can sand by hand if you wish)
80-180 grit sandpaper, steel wool (any grade will work), Naval Jelly, a squirt bottle w/warm soapy water and a roll of paper towels.
The first step is to sand the entire surface rusted area with a DA sander fitted with 80-180 grit paper. We're not trying to sand off the rust entirely, just get the majority of the heavy rust and make the panel somewhat smooth.
Working in an area about 12"-16" square, apply a fair amount of naval jelly and start scrubbing with the steel wool. It's wise to wear rubber gloves, as the phosphoric acid in the naval jelly may affect your skin!!
It is important to keep the area wet at all times. Do not allow the naval jelly to dry. A few shots of water from the squirt bottle will help to activate the acid and may aid in quicker results. Depending on the severity of the rust, you should start seeing shiny metal within a few minutes. You may have to rinse the area and re-apply the naval jelly several times to get it all, but it WILL remove the rust eventually. When you're finished working an area or you need a break, wipe off the excess naval jelly with a paper towel, squirt a health dose of the warm soapy water on the work area and immediately dry it thoroughly. This will neutralize the acid and leave a bluish colored film on the metal.
I did this 16"x16" area in about 15 minutes. More extreme rust would have taken longer, but the end result would have been the same.
Repeating this process over and over in workable size areas will yield a rust free panel that is ready for a good coat of epoxy primer that will last years, with just a few hours of good old hard work!!!
This '40 Willys roof panel has more than 90% of the rust removed. One more application will get it. I have a little under three hours in it to this point.
The last picture was taken just after wiping the panel with a wax and grease remover. I did this to clean it up and also to help highlight the dents. If you look closely, you will notice several half moon shaped creases in the roof. This all gets repaired in the next step.
Repairing the Roof Panel
I hope to write several tutorials on the rebuild of this '40 Willys coupe.
I was contacted by the owner to build this one, after another gentleman had started on it, deciding it was more than he was willing or able to handle.
In speaking with him, he convinced me that there is a need for '37-'42 Willys replacement panels, so he has agreed to give me extra time for the build to allow me the needed time to build patterns, bucks and forms for offering a complete line of replacement panels for these coupes.
In this tutorial, we'll be dealing with the issues of replacing obsolete sheetmetal in an area with lots of detail.
The original roof sustained a hard hit sometime in it's past and was previously 'repaired' with about a 3/4" thickness of lead.
This area is impossible to get to from the backside, so repairing it is a near impossibility.
The heat of all the previous work and tons of hammering from the inside of the roof panel with a pick hammer had eliminated any chance of saving this one. The metal was ground so thin that it literally had holes ground through it in several spots where the pick hammer had been used. If you look closely in the photo, you can see a couple of the holes and also notice the thickness of the lead. I melted a section of it out so it would be apparent how thick it is. There is supposed to be a reverse curve in this area, but due to the severity of the damage, it was just filled completely with lead.
The damage runs from about two inches below the top of the windshield, across the entire top of the door and down to the beltline, including most of the sail panel, which is where the holes are left from heavy grinding.
In order to make a new panel for this section, I had to rely on the information from the right side of the roof to provide usable patterns for the damaged left side. In order to gather this information, a flexible shape pattern was made, comprised of sign makers transfer tape and reinforced strapping/shipping tape.
This is the best method available for copying existing shapes, as all pertinent information is captured, and it can be used as a road map to guide in the shaping of the new panel.
In addition to the shape pattern, I also indexed it, and made corresponding contour gages to make sure the final arrangement is correct. These will not be used until the flexible shape pattern fits tightly to the new panel, insuring that the proper amount of stretch and shrink has been introduced properly. If the shape patterns has areas that fit either tight or loose, this tells us that there are areas that still need to be stretched or shrunk. Properly indexing the shape pattern will insure that it's placed on the panel in the exact same location each time it's checked for fit. Areas in the shape pattern that are fitting loose, tells us that the metal needs to be stretched to fill this void, whereas areas that are tight, is an indication that there is to much material present in that particular area and it either needs to be shrunk, or the area around it is needing stretched. It's always best to slowly bring up the low spots (loose areas in the pattern) rather than resorting to shrinking high spots. This a slow, meticulous process, but the results are amazing!
Once the flexible shape pattern is fitting the panel, the contour gages are used to make sure it is in the proper arrangement (form)
Without a buck to clamp the panel to, this is all we have to go by to get the final arrangement correct. It will take some manipulation by hand to get this final arrangement, but the panel will want to go, simply because the proper amounts of stretch and shrink has been placed in the proper areas.
This part of sheet metal shaping take some experience to understand, but once it's learned, it makes duplicating panels much easier than any other method, short of building a buck.
I'll add photos of the contour gages later, as I failed to get a picture of them.
I made the decision to make this panel in two pieces. I split it in an area that requires the least amount of shaping. This not only makes it easier and faster to shape, but also maintains maximum thickness of the material, which in this case is 19ga. cold rolled steel.
Here, the panels are shaped and ready to be welded.
And here is a shot after welding and planishing the weld seam.
It's obvious that the edges need trimmed and the flanges tipped, but the initial shape is there and now we can focus on tipping the edges to form the flanges for the door jamb and windshield opening.
Creating the joggle to conform to the top edge of the door is a painstaking process, but one that has to be done, so you just have to be very patient and get it right in order to look good.
Here a few shots of the new roof section ready to be welded in.
The inner structure was shoved in about 3/4"-1" along the top of the door opening. Getting that straight was also a challenge!! Jerry Kennedy and Doug Hawkins both got to help with that!! Once that measured out correctly, thanks to measurements given to me by another Willys owner (oldwillysgasser), we were ready to start replacing sheet metal.
To aid in getting the panel in the right spot. The centerline of the roof was marked and careful measurements taken from the center line to the edge of the shape pattern. The shape pattern was then flipped and the measurements duplicated on the opposite side.
Here's a couple shots of the section cut out, just prior to trimming for final fit.
I installed this panel with a combination of MIG and TIG welding, but was in too much of a hurry to get it done to take pics of the process. It's completely butt welded and metalfinished, but that's all been covered before anyway, so here are the pictures of the finished panel.
YIKES! I'm glad I didn't have to re-write all that!!!
Perhaps we'll work on the doors next time.
Removing the remaining Dents from the Roof
I'm a bit lazy tonight, so I'm mostly copying posts I've written previously. The next one is quite lengthy, but is full of great information. Much of it is copied from what our own Wray Schelin has posted on the Jaguar forum several years ago.
The '40 Willys I'm currently working on has about 90 percent of the roof covered with dents. Not small dents, like hail damage, etc., but big ol' nasty lookin' things. I'm going to use the text that Wray Schelin wrote a few years ago on the jaglovers list and add a few pictures to it. Wray covered the subject very well, so no reason to re-write it.
In this next picture, it looks worse than it really is. In reality, the high spots need only slight shrinking to bring them down to the proper surface level. If I were to bring the entire area up to the point there were no low spots and all the marker were sanded off, it would take a considerable amount of shrinking to get the job done. As it is, the high spots are only a few thousandths of a inch high and lightly running the shrinking disc over the entire roof panel will quickly level it out.
This is the result after a couple passes over the roof with the shrinking disk. It's pretty good at this point, but there are 3 or 4 small areas that need a little work yet.
And here is the final product. If I had sanded it more, it would perhaps have shown better how straight and smooth this roof panel is, but I haven't got the time right now. The dark spots you see is where the shrinking disc run on the surface and discolored it a bit.
All total, I have just under 3 hours repairing the dents, which covered the majority of this roof. Having spent years smearing body filler, I know it can't be 'fixed' any faster going that route. In fact, I can guarantee I would have spent at least twice that long using filler and perhaps much longer!!!
Last edited by MetalMeet Librarian/Advertising; 01-30-2006 at 06:28 PM.
The Doors and Quarter Panels
Lets tackle the Doors
Well folks, let's go ahead and fix these doors, shall we!
I did an absolute horrible job of taking pictures when we were at this stage, as we were trying to keep up with the '40 and also had a '38 Willys Coupe with similar damage and a roof insert to build and install in a '30 Model A Tudor Sedan.
Much of the same process is applied, as far as removing dents and finishing welds.
When repairing doors, access to the door skin is limited, so you have to make provisions. In this case, we replaced the lower 5" of the door skins, and up to the hinge, about 3" from the edge on the right door.
We had to do some repair to the lower inner door shell too, but I failed to get pictures of this. Jerry Kennedy was helping me at the time and he made the door skin repair panels.
Here's the pictures of what we have. I'll dig deeper to see if I can come up with anything to add later, but I think this is all we have.
I suppose we might repair the quarter panels next.
Now, lets move on to the Quarter Panels
WOW! I can't believe it's taken 4 months to get back to this tutorial!
As promised, we'll get to the quarter panels next.
A weak point on these old Willys coupes is at the lower rear of the sail panel. Very rarely do you see one that hasn't at least bulged at this area, and most have done what this one has.
This was one of my first Tig welds, and I'll be the first to admit, it's pretty ugly! It was a little tedious trying to weld this, as it was impossible to get it all lined up at once. I just had to weld and short distance, realign, and continue the process several times.
After a little grinding and planishing, it starts looking a bit better.
And once it's completely planished and smoothed out, it looks somewhat presentable.
Another problem spot on these was the lower quarter, just ahead of the rear fender. They tend to like to rust in this area and this one is no exception. It's also gotten a little to close to something!
Time to make a patch, eh!?
Those long reach vise grips sure come in handy for panels like this! This panel is made in one piece, with the lower flange and the first operation of the door opening flange turned in the brake. The secondary bend in the door opening and the rear fender mounting flanges were tipped on the tipping wheel, since there was a slight radius to those bends. Of coarse it gets a butt welded seam with the good ol' Tig welder.
Here it is tacked into position.
After welding, planishing, etc.
That covers the right quarter. I'll try to find time over the week-end to get to the left quarter.
The next step
Librarians Note: Randy finished the project, and although it was originally going to go back the the customer in September of 2005, Randy was able to hold it over for a month to allow for a much appreciated "appearance" at MetalMeet 2005. The project was a huge hit, and it was the centerpiece for several Seminars hosted by Randy, which ended up with Randy having Bucks or Patterns of the entire body. Please take a look at the sections about the '40 Willys seminars in the MetalMeet 2005 Photo Essay here: