I spent a couple of days in the workshop chopping out the other rear door pillar and fitting the new panel to the left hand side. I had a wobbly moment when trial fitting the rear doors – I just could not get them to fit – ie meet in the middle. The only way I could get an acceptable fit was to jack up the right side of the body 1 inch higher than the left side. Doing this and then welding up the back of the body shell would probably result in that 1 inch gap appearing between the back of the body and the rear chassis leg. A bodge would be needed to fill the gap and that’s not what I want
With the body off the chassis, replacing the pillars was bound to be challenging, if not impossible. So, I had to enlist the help of sons Bill and George to help me lift the body off the tables and fit it back onto the chassis. The theory being that if I bolt it all down to the chassis then I’ll be able to fettle the the rear door posts, line everything up and adjust it, then weld them into place. once welded, I can take the body off again and clean it up, ready for paint.
I’d built up the front of the van (floors, sills, bulhead, a-panels, screen surround and toe board on the jig that I made to replicate the chassis. I can’t say I was entirely happy about this approach as all the experts say that body repairs must be undertaken with the body fitted to the chassis, otherwise nothing will line up. I didn’t make the jig to run to the back of the van because, well.. because I couldn’t be bothered. Anyway, the jig worked a treat and all the holes lined up perfectly at the front and at the back. With the body firmly bolted into place – all the way to the back of the van, I tried the doors again. They fit! Well, they fit when everything is firmly clamped together and with a bit of fiddling, I was happy to commit and start welding it all back together again. I think the body is a bit out of shape at the back. The van has had a big clout at the offside rear corner and some point in its life, evident by some ripples in the inner rear wings and a slightly bent B post, so it’s a pig in a poke. Never mind, I can’t make it perfect, so I’ll have to do the bast I can and live with it.
Here’s a shot of the old nearside rear door pillar. I cut it out with a 1ml cutting disk on the angle grinder and unpicked all of the old spot welds
The following pictures tell the story. It was just a matter of clamping, adjusting, welding and dressing with the flap disk to get the new panel in place.
What’s next? I’m going to try and get the shell soda blasted. It it’s prohibitively expensive (I reckon at leat £400), then I’ll have a go with paint stripper – although I expect stripping the shell by hand will be a horribly messy and slow process…