|Project Do It Yourself, frame and body work||Short Cuts|
By: John Nutter - 6/2000
Project Do It Yourself
|Pulling the body off of the frame.|
|The underside. Some patch pannels have already been welded in place.|
|Although the sides and wheel houses were sound, extensive rust ws founf under the roll bar feet.|
|The body had also rusted out beneath the rear roll bar feet..|
|This body mount was moved forward a few inches, allowing the same bolt to run through the mount and roll bar foot. The shiny area where the mount had been ground off of the frame is still visible here.|
|Test fitting the body and roll bar mounts at Chuck's.|
I knew it was time to do something when my Wife put floor mats in the front foot wells to keep things from falling out. I greatly enjoyed the utility of a body that could be rubbed against rocks and then casually bent back, so I knew that the repairs would be solid but nothing fancy.
Stripping the interior from the tub was a surprisingly quick process with only a couple of stubborn torx bolt heads to grind off. An air impact and a couple of cheap torx sets made the work go by quickly. With the steering colum and swing pedals out of the way, the dashboard came off as a single piece. The fuse block simply unscrewed from the firewall with only the speedometer cable, heater wiring and rear lights to unplug. Seats and seat belts were also easy, but the old carpet was glued down abd stubborn.
The roll bar was another matter. About half of the torx bolts holding it on were rusted solid. The heads of the stubborn bolts were ground off with no hesitation. The nut on the other side of the sheetmetal normally causes some problems when this is done, but my plan was to either replace the metal the nuts were attached to, or if the metal was solid I'd just grind off the nut and weld on a new one. Repairs like this are easy when you can flip the tub on it's side for access.
Once the roll bar was off I realized I had more welding to do than I originally envisioned. It appears that Jeep put the roll bar on first and then primed and painted during the CJ7 years. This left bare metal between the roll bar and the tub, which had rotted away years ago. Fortunatley these would be simple flat patch pannels. I'd planned to move the body mounts forward a few inches, directly under the roll bar feet, so these areas were slated for modification anyways.
Making clean welds when patching sheet metal is an art. I managed to get only a few inches of this artwork and several feet of something less attractive yet still sound. I had planned to cover the interior with some kind of roll on bedliner material, so I let the ugly welds go with no grinding knowing they'd be covered soon enough. Body work has been covered extensivley and I really have only one thing to add to the massive volumes that have already been written: Don't even bother trying to weld to pitted sheet metal, it will burn through no matter what you do. Slightly rusty is OK to weld on, but once it gets to the pitted stage you will be better off cutting out and replacing becuase it is just too thin.
Patch pannels are readily available for most Jeep vehicles. I made my own for the areas under the roll bar mounts, but purchased pannels from J.C. Whitney for the front foot wells. These pannels are advertised as needing some additional bending to fit properly, and they did. The edge along the outside of the Jeep needed to be bent upwards on both pannels, and there was enough metal left over to make a decent flange for solid side pannel attachement. The edge towards the seats needed similar treatment. These pannels were a good starting point and very economical, but not what a resoration purist would want. Fortunatley, I'm far from being a purist. The bends the pannels did have and the rolled ribs made them a better bet than starting with flat sheet metal and making your own - unless you own a sheet metal shop.
I turned my attention to the roll bar mounts once the floors were solid. The front mounts had been in place since the front hoop was installed. They were simple pieces of 2"x2" 1/4" wall tubing welded onto the frame with plates that fit under the floor, beneath the roll bar feet. The center mounts were even easier. I cut the body mounts that are just in front of the rear tires off the frame and moved them forward. This let me run the body mount bolt all the way through the roll bar feet. I've seen this done on several fiberglass body conversions and it made a lot of sense.
The rear roll bar mount was a bit more complicated. The bottom of the rear mount that I fabricated bolted to the side of the frame rails and it also has a plate that sits on top of the frame rails. The center is just straight 2"x2" 1/4" wall tubing again and the top was angle cut with a 1/2" thick plate welded on. The plate at the top was drilled and tapped for the roll bar bolts. Don't bother aksing for dimensions or plans, there aren't any. The metal was custom cut and fit for my wrinkled, twisted and bent tub and 1" body lift. I apologize for not having photos of these. The pictures were taken but the film was damaged in processing. I doubt I'll have photos of these anytime soon becuase the whole tub has to be lifted several inches to get them out.
After what seemed to be years, the metal work was done and it was time for a test fit. Just by luck, the test fitting happend to coincide with one of my favorite yearly trail rides, Chuck's 2000 Winter run. I put the Jeep together just enough to make it run and make it safe. It was a great time. It was also the last run for my Jeep as I knew it. The next time It rolled out of my garage it would have new paint, a fuel injected engine, a shorter tanny/transfer case combination and a raised skidplate.
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