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Author Topic: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation  (Read 9596 times)

Brett79

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Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« on: October 09, 2009, 09:39:15 PM »
I guess I'll start this off with a bit of history...some of which can be found here: http://transamcountry.com/community/index.php?topic=30465.0

I bought this car off a used car lot in November 1988.  I had been shopping around for another car, and stopped by this particular lot to look around one evening after work.  The dealer was well known in the area for having a good selection of interesting '60s - '70s cars.  I was primarily interested in a GTO or Firebird.  They didn't have anything I liked, but the salesman told me that they would be getting a '79 Firebird in the next day that had just been painted.  

My Dad went with me the next day to have a look at the car.  Upon entering the lot, I was thunderstruck.  Even from the other side of the lot, I could tell the car was a stunner.

It had started life as a Nocturne Blue 301 four-barrel four-speed Formula.  Apparently the original owner had hit a deer and wiped out the front of the car.  He decided to let the car go rather than fix it.  The dealer picked up the car and cloned it into a Martinique Blue TransAm.  I have to say that they did a very good job in cloning the car.  It probably helped that it started life as a Formula.

The test drive was a bit exciting; the accelerator pedal got stuck.  I poked it a couple of times, and it became unstuck.  It hasn't stuck again all those years since.  Go figure.  Other than that, the car drove like a dream.  I wasn't crazy about the 301, but I figured I could fix that eventually.

The car was my daily driver for four years.  At the end of 1992, I decided that I couldn't put it through any more Ohio winters.  I was still in college at the time, but scraped up enough money to buy an '80 Citation as my new daily driver.  The Firebird was to become a warm weather weekend car.

The next spring, the very first time I drove it that year, the front end was wiped out by an uninsured driver.  The insurance company called it a total.  Everyone told me how sorry they were about the loss...they didn't know how determined I was to keep my car.  I bought the car back from the insurance company and scored the parts to get it fixed.

A built 400 Pontiac went into the car in '95.  It's a fairly mild combination, but was put together with a stout bottom end (forged pistons, Crower rods, etc.) to support more power later.

The car mostly sat up until 2000.  At that time I went through the entire braking system...new stainless lines, replated & rebuilt booster, new calipers, rotors, wheel cylinders, the works.  I drove it for awhile, but the front end was starting to get loose and the transmission was making noise.  I parked it again in 2003, and disassembled it in early 2005 with the intention of rebuilding the front end and transmission.  Somewhere between having kids, home projects, a demanding job, etc. the car was torn partially apart but went no further.

I had been very unhappy about this arrangement for a long time, and finally decided to just set aside some time to work it.  After all, I'm not getting any younger.  Wait long enough and the chance is gone.  So I started working on it again last summer, or at least I did until the economy went into meltdown mode.  I decided I'd better conserve financial resources for the sake of my family, so the car went on hold.  Late this summer, I started working on it again.

Last weekend I was gleefully removing the exhaust system (an old Midas T/A 6.6 system that did the engine no favors).  The driver's side muffler & pipes came out with no problems...that what pipe cutters & Sawzalls are for.  I started on the passenger side, when I noticed that the right side tailpipe was already hanging down.  The hanger was still attached to the tailpipe, so I assumed that the bolts holding the hanger to the frame rail had broken.  When I went back to take a look, I was shocked to see that the hanger had pulled a huge chunk of frame rail out with it, and there was now a gaping hole in the side of the frame rail.  I went into the house and told my wife that I was ready for a beer, and here it was only 12:30.

I already knew that the frame rails in front of the rear wheels under the back seat were shot, and would need to be redone.  The frame rails in back looked OK...at least I thought that they were OK <gulp>.  At least they repo the back sections...

Ironically, the tail panel looks fine.  The trunk floor is pristine.  The car doesn't have any other rust issues that I'm aware of...just the frame rails.  Lucky me.

The sections of frame rail that go over the axle look OK, but I guess I'll have to scrape the undercoating off and check.  I know how to MIG weld, but frame rail replacement is a little bigger job than I've done before.  This all started out as a simple front suspension rebuild... :?

Project start:


Right rear frame rail:   :shock:


Right side frame rail:


Left side frame rail:


Left side tail panel:


Right side tail panel:
       
« Last Edit: February 02, 2014, 01:37:12 PM by Brett79 »

Swift

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2009, 10:40:33 AM »
great story, on the whole your rails look really good except for the one spot

Brett79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2009, 08:42:08 PM »
This project is starting to snowball.  How unusual.

As I mentioned, the front end had taken another hit back in '93, courtesy of an uninsured driver.  The nose & hood were wiped out, and the core support got bent up a bit.  The body shop straightened out the core support (kinda) and put some filler in it here & there along the top to make it look halfway decent (but only halfway  :lol:).  The fenders only got knocked out of alignment, so they were saved.

I'm looking at how much work it's going to take to clean, sand, and paint that core support.  When I get done with that, it's still going to have filler in it.  Doesn't seem like such a good way to invest my time.

On top of that, the subframe has an issue near the rear mounts.


I had known about the subframe issue, thought I could live with it, but now I'm not so sure.  I'm already going to have the suspension & engine out...  I'm mostly paranoid about cracking the paint on the nose when removing & installing it.

Here's a summary of my thought process through this project.  See if this sounds familiar to anyone.
Stage 1:  The front end is getting kind of loose; probably time to do a rebuild.
Stage 2:  There is no way I'm pulling the front end apart without cleaning things up and painting some parts.
Stage 3:  You know, if I pulled the engine it would be so much easier to clean and paint the subframe.
Stage 4:  That core support looks like crap, and when I'm done cleaning and painting it, it will still have issues.  Maybe I should just replace it.  If pull the front end sheetmetal to do that, then I might as well pull the subframe to fix it too.  Then I can powdercoat the subframe.

This all started as a simple suspension rebuild.   :roll:

I'm still on the fence about pulling the doghouse.

shakerz

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2009, 05:25:53 AM »
Here are some of my thoughts as I ponder your story here at work on the grave shift. 1st, I am impressed that you saved this car through not one but two big front end wipeouts! Ok:
Are you a type-A personality?
Is this going to be the only classic car for your own personal use that you build?
Are you planning on keeping this car for the biggest part of the rest of your life?

If you answer 'yes' to two of these questions, I would go the full route of resto on your car. If you are like me, you may have to wait till the money arrives for some phases.  :smile:
One strategy I recently changed: most anything I remove, I automatically replace it even if it looks satisfactory. It's 30+ yrs old.  :-)
My dad can do just what it takes to get by for the most part, but I'm less that way. Bottom line, I think you will be happier with going the extra mile on the resto questions you posted, happier when you look at your car and happier when you are nowhere near it but thinking of it. Just ramblin here a bit, but I'd rather talk to a fellow wrencher bout our cars then most anything else.  :-D

keep us posted

Brett79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2009, 09:28:39 PM »
OK, so I decided to redo the whole car.  The further I get into it, the more convinced I am that it's the right decision.

-  As mentioned before, the core support had some filler in it.  I chiseled at it a bit to see how much; it ended up being about 1/8" thick.  The shop had a piece of brass buried in the filler.
-  I found a cardboard shim under the front spoiler.
-  The front bumper reinforcement had been welded up (poorly) and had some filler slapped on it.  They didn't bother to paint over the filler.
-  The frame extensions had been "straightened"; one of them had a small crack in it.
-  The subframe holes for the extensions had been hogged out to get the front sheetmetal to align.

Keep in mind that a Pontiac dealership did the repair work back in '93.

Combined with the rear framerail problem I found, it's clearly time to redo the whole car.

Pictures:

Current status


Hogged out frame extension mounting holes


Other side of subframe (does this look like it was bent & pulled too?)


Subframe mount, right side


Other side of subframe mount, right side


Lower cowl, right side


It looks like I have some rust to fix in the right side toeboard area, and the right side lower cowl next to the rocker.  More surprises.

Next steps are to drop the gas tank, fuel & brake lines, and the axle.  I'm looking at body carts, but I haven't made up my mind what to use.  Since I'll be doing a rear framerail replacement, I wanted a steel body cart so that I can weld some supports between the cart and the body to keep things from moving around when I start cutting.  I have the Fisher Body manual with the body dimensions, so I'm considering making my own.

Progress is slow but steady.  I have two small kids, and time with them is my highest priority.  Fortunately, my 5 year old son loves working in the garage with Dad.

fixitrht

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 18 Nov 2009
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2009, 09:33:19 AM »
my car also had a front hit at some point, a few of the bumper supports were bent. Long story short... I am pulling my subframe a year later, I have a post on it.. If I were you i'd replace it if you have any question it could be bent

My cars
77 400 4 SPEED W72 Y81 SE
79 400 4 SPEED SE
73 455 4 SPEED TA Brewster (Waiting Restoration)
80 455 (Fun car)
87 GTA 5.7 (Driver)
75 LS TA

Brett79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 18 Nov 2009
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2009, 11:45:03 AM »
I'll probably replace the subframe.  Between the subframe-to-body mounting holes repair needed and the bumper extension mounting holes "modification", it seems like the right thing to do.  I'd really like to use one of the aftermarket subframes from DSE, Heidt, etc but I think that falls outside of what I'm willing to spend.

I'm kind of conflicted over what to do with the car...lots of questions running through my mind.
-  Keep it as a TransAm, or turn it back into a Formula?  I love the shaker hood...not sure I could give that up.  The car has been a TA for far longer than it was a Formula.  The conversion was done extremely well in my opinion.
-  Keep it Martinique Blue, or back to Nocturne Blue?  I really like both colors.  If I did Nocturne Blue, I would probably leave the decals off.
-  I like cars that look essentially stock, but perform substantially better than stock.  I haven't decided how far I want to carry this.  I'm not worried about destroying the car's value since it has already morphed considerably from what it was when new.  I don't want to do anything to the car which will make it look dated in 10 years.  I've considered kind of a Pro-Touring theme, but 18" wheels aren't to my taste.  I do still really like the Rally IIs, but tire selection for 15" stinks.  I do know that my '79 handles like a truck compared to my GTA, and I'm now that I've been spoiled by the GTA I'm not willing to tolerate an ill-handling car.  To be fair, the '79's suspension was shot.

I still have some time to sort this out, as I have a lot of underbody cleanup to do.  I want to have a better plan in place before I start any metal replacement.

fixitrht

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 18 Nov 2009
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2009, 01:03:54 PM »
I went with hotckis and koni's all around, the ride is good for me on the stack 15/8's

My cars
77 400 4 SPEED W72 Y81 SE
79 400 4 SPEED SE
73 455 4 SPEED TA Brewster (Waiting Restoration)
80 455 (Fun car)
87 GTA 5.7 (Driver)
75 LS TA

mulletmobile

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 18 Nov 2009
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2009, 03:11:10 AM »
Sounds like my project, it started to get the motor running.  Found the power steering pump needed a rebuild and the waterpump and thermostat housing were leaking.  Pulled them to find the battery tray and support rusted out from leaking battery.  Time to pull the front sheet metal to get the support out and then decided to pull the motor and rebuild it and new seals/torque converter in the trans.

Found some good buddy discounts on motor work and powder coating so now the front suspension and subframe as well as the core support and inner fenders are going to get blasted and powder coated.  Mine luckily had never been wrecked so I don't have your depth of issues.  They alway seem to start out as one small project snowballing into more and more issues don't they?

I think you have a good plan and a good set of steps to get there.  If you question it, replace it as you will wish you had later.  I am starting to see that with mine.  If I think I may have an issue with it later, I am ditching it now.  While you are there now would be a good time to pop out that heater core too as it will take a lot of work later to replace and they are relatively cheap to get a new one.

Nice documentation and good luck!

phishfud

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 18 Nov 2009
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2009, 08:36:03 AM »
I can relate to being spoiled by how a GTA handles. Mine is like it's on rails, and now my 78 is darn close to the same. I went with Hotckis/bilsteins, a combo of rubber/poly bushings and SPC control arms with 17" snowflakes. Still wasn't optimum until I got the Lee steering box. That was the capper for the setup and really gave it the right feel.

Looks like great project you have!
78 TA, 400 4spd
72 Chevelle, 454, 4spd(project)
68 GTO (major project)
72 Demon(not bad project)
72 Dart (under construction project)
69 Roadrunner(yet another project)
.....ain't toys fun???

Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 18 Nov 2009
« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2009, 08:36:03 AM »

Brett79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 09 Jan 2010
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2010, 07:42:04 PM »
This probably doesn't really qualify as progress, but I picked up a MIG welder today off of CraigsList.  It's a Hobart Handler 187; it was owned by Hobart for awhile but never used (they have a local design & manufacturing presence), and then went through their factory remanufacturing program (which probably amounted to just testing & inspecting it).  I think I got a pretty good deal on it; it even has the regular warranty.  The guy I bought it from even threw in a new welding jacket.  I still need a tank and cart for it.  I'll probably build the cart to get acquainted with the welder before I use it on the car; I haven't MIG welded for about five years.  I also need to put a 220V outlet in the garage, but the breaker panel is in the garage so that shouldn't be a big deal.

The family and I were sick for awhile just before Christmas, and then I had a household painting project which I needed to finish...not much got done on the car last month.  I'm pulling the fuel & brake lines right now, and then removing the fuel tank & rear axle will be next.  I'm looking forward to scraping undercoating off the underside like a trip to the dentist.   

Brett79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 24 July 2010
« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2010, 08:57:20 PM »
So the project is still moving along, although slowly...

The interior is mostly out of the car.  That part went fairly smoothly, no surprises for a change.



I also started pulling the back of the car apart.  When I removed the spare tire I got another surprise...I had thought the trunk floor was OK.  The spare hadn't been out of the car for years.   :x  One more for the fix-it list...



I've also stripped the firewall and dropped the fuel tank.  I'm being pretty careful with documenting everything, so working on the car doesn't always mean spinning wrenches unfortunately.  The car is getting close to where undercoating removal will begin.  :roll:  I priced getting the car soda blasted top & bottom, and got a case of sticker shock.  I'm still sorting out how I want to strip paint, etc.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2010, 09:00:25 PM by Brett79 »

rad400

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 24 July 2010
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2010, 06:46:27 AM »
Brett looks good so far. Good luck don't give up.
Conrad
"Nitrous is like a hot girl with an STD, u wanna hit, but ur afraid of the consequences." Brian Hedrick

Brett79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 30 May 2011
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2011, 02:18:57 PM »
I haven't posted an update for awhile...I'm still working on the car inbetween home projects, kids' activities, etc.

I've pulled the subframe and several other items.  I carefully measured the subframe and compared the measurements to the information in the Fisher Body Manual...it looks like the subframe might have a very slight twist to it.  I've decided to hang onto this subframe and see if a frame shop can straighten it out.

I removed the rear axle today.  While I was at it, I dug into one of the frame rails to see how bad it really is.  As is turns out, it’s pretty bad although at least it’s not into the spring pockets.  I think I might need a tetanus shot.   :shock:

Note the pop rivets and body filler in the “patch” that someone put on there to hide the rust.










Chewey

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 30 May 2011
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2011, 03:57:53 PM »
Looks like you're doing it right, that's great to see. I'm not sure where you are, but subframes seem to be easy to come by, so you may give more thought to swapping it out instead of having it straightened and then the rust area fixed.
-mike

78 Trans Am 400 Auto (Dec 06 HPP)
76 Trans Am 455/4sp w/ t-tops (1 of 110)
02 Trans Am CETA Convertible M6 #1949 (sold)

Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 30 May 2011
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2011, 03:57:53 PM »


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js1977

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 30 May 2011
« Reply #15 on: May 30, 2011, 06:57:57 PM »
WOW!!! That rear rail looks horrifying, crazy to think you drove it like that without knowing all those years...
What do I know, I'm just some dumb peckerwood that lives in the country with too many guns...

Brett79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 30 May 2011
« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2011, 08:45:39 PM »
Looks like you're doing it right, that's great to see. I'm not sure where you are, but subframes seem to be easy to come by, so you may give more thought to swapping it out instead of having it straightened and then the rust area fixed.

Well, I had decided to check the subframe's measurements before making room for it to go into storage.  If it was too far gone, I wasn't going to bother setting aside space for it.   I'm keeping it for now, as I have no good way of quickly checking a used subframe to the same level of accuracy...a 30+ year old used subframe could end up being worse than the one I already have.  I won't need one for awhile...you may have noticed I have a lot of work to do on the body.   :smile:

I've already started cleaning off the undercoating.  I'm using a heat gun and a set of plastic scrapers, then following up with mineral spirits...it's going along OK, but a rotisserie is looking pretty good.  I priced one at a swap meet over the weekend, and I know they bring good money used, but I don't want to tie up that kind of money right now.  The tailpanel's done; I'm starting on the underside now.



The tailpanel's not bad for an Ohio car, but will need some metal replacement.

I see a good chunk of my summer being spent under this car scraping off Ziebart undercoating.  The undercoating seemed like a good idea at the time...

Brett79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation - updated 22 June 2013
« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2013, 12:47:33 PM »
Project stalled for awhile due to job pressures, home projects, etc but I've been able to devote more time to it recently.  I got the car up on a rotisserie over Memorial Day weekend, which is helping tons with productivity in getting the undercoating removed.


Brett79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2014, 01:36:49 PM »
Advice please

Would you replace this inner tail panel?  Most of it looks to be pretty good, except that it shows a lot of pitting near the frame rails.

I plan to media blast this area in the spring.

Outer tail panel only needs minor patching; I really don't want to take it out to do the inner if it's unnecessary.






krackerjack79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2014, 04:42:32 PM »
I thought my frame rails were bad. I lean to the fix it right as in over due it or engineer it to last forever. Love that Blue color its almost like a Neon Blue!!! Not sure where you live but Im going to throw this out there Im sure there are several other fellow Trans Am guys who can afford to get a car Rotisserie. Ever thought of putting the word out  and rent it out for 2 or three months at time. I bet there be several guys who would love to get on the list. Shipping for that I know would fall into the $200.00 range just about to anywhere in the 48. I know you get your $$$ back might take 2 or 3years but the piece of equipment is not going to where out so that be a long term rental deal. Shipping + $300 for 3months of time  then off to the next guy on the list or to the next closest renter. Just a thought. Love to see lots of photos on the frame rebuild or welding set up to replace the section.

Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2014, 04:42:32 PM »

LeighP

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #20 on: February 02, 2014, 11:47:57 PM »
Personally, that rear panel looks very salvageable to me...I'd repair it in situ.

The idea of renting out the rotissierie is a good one......but get a refundable "deposit" to hold while they have the unit.....just "in case". Someone moves house, then suddenly that $300 they've spent renting it becomes a cheap way of owning it.....not saying it'd happen, but it might.....
Regards,
Leigh

Sydney, Australia
1968 Pontiac Firebird 428 5 speed coupe

Former Firebirds -
1969 Pontiac Firebird 400
1971 Pontiac Firebird 455
1977 Pontiac Trans Am
1976 Pontiac Trans Am
1967 Pontiac Firebird 400 convertible
1967 Pontiac Firebird 400 coupe


EOD9339

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #21 on: February 03, 2014, 06:37:13 AM »
Is all the trunk paint removed from inside the trunk pan above the frame rail where it connects to the tail pan? If it's all solid I agree with Leigh. Thoses frame rails are good at hiding rust.

MD79TA

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #22 on: February 03, 2014, 08:48:43 AM »
You are doing a great job, ambitious project but it will be well worth it in the end!
1979 Trans Am
307 RWHP 380RWTQ / 13.8@103
1979 400 Block, 1970 Heads, Cams, Comp Cam Lifters, Edelbrock RPM Intake, Hedman Headers, Holley 750 Carb, WFO Drop Base

1968 GTO convertible
400 auto with A/C

Lucky Phil

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2014, 01:43:02 PM »
You are doing a great job, ambitious project but it will be well worth it in the end!

Agreed your more of a man than I'll ever be....
good luck with the build

Phil

1979 10th Anniversary TA
1978 W87 Currently Restoring Rat Rod Style
1959 Aussie Delivered RHD Bel Air

Brett79

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Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #24 on: February 03, 2014, 09:13:41 PM »
Personally, that rear panel looks very salvageable to me...I'd repair it in situ.

No issues with repairing the outer panel in place, but if I do anything with the inner panel I had assumed that a significant chunk of the outer (if not the whole thing) would need to come out for access.

The inside of the trunk along the tail panel appears to be perfect; the only bad spots in the trunk are along the tops of the frame rails.

Initially I was thinking I'd see if any pinholes show up in the inner panel when it's media blasted, but I'm questioning that since it shows pitting and the car is torn down this far.  Plus they now repo the inner panel...guess I'll see how it cleans up.

Cleaning the underside consumed a good bit of last year, and I was clocking regular time in the garage - the undercoating was a nightmare.  During my lunch hour at work (when I get one  :roll:) I've been designing a frame jig; it's coming along pretty well.  I bought a horizontal metal cutting bandsaw and some other toys to make the jig go together easier.  I need to finish up my welding table, and hopefully I can put in an order for some steel shortly thereafter.



Re: Brett's '79 comes out of hibernation
« Reply #24 on: February 03, 2014, 09:13:41 PM »
You can help support TAC!

 



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