Welding has started

Actually committing to start welding is quite hard for me. I’m always worried that I’ll do something wrong and make an irrevocable mistake which I won’t discover until it’s too late to do anything about it. Also working on one’s own can be a barrier to actually doing anything at all. My pal Pete has been good at egging me on, so thanks to him, I have made good progress this weekend. I’ll repay the favour at Thursday nights ‘old mans memory club’ with a few beers. Pete also brought along a spot welder to the workshop. It’s a bit crude but it is effective. Basically, It’s a carbon rod on a spring loaded handle that you use to strike an arc and then release a few millimetres to keep the arc going for a few seconds. During these few seconds the metal beneath melts and fuses together – or melts and makes a nice red hot hole if you are not careful. It has 2 settings, so with a bit of practice, I’m sure I’ll find the optimum combination of amperage, timing and arc length. More on this in later posts.

I’ve fitted the sill and floor to the nearside and plug welded it to the lip at the rear of the floor and at the front where it sits on the toe board. Everything is lined up nicely, so the next job is to repeat the process on the offside.

I chopped the old sill out and unpicked the welds where the B Post saddle fits onto the sill. I will be replacing the bottom of the A Post and the hinge plate, so I just sliced through this bit at the front of the van with the angle grinder and 1mm disc.

This is the old nearside A post, just tacked the hinge onto the sill temporarily until I repair the A post and replace the hinge mount
This is the offside B Post. It was a bit crusty at the back of the sill, so I made a little plate to tidy it up – the holes are ready to be plug welded.

Before I welded the floor and sill, I punched a set of holes in the front, rear and side of the floor (where it butts up to the sill). A couple of holes in the B post saddle will enable me to plug weld the sill to it.

Here’s the front and rear of the floor bolted to the chassis jig, with its set of punched holes, ready to be plug welded

I’ll weld the back of the floor in place and then fit the sill.

Here you can see how the sills slot into the toe board. I’ll clamp the small flange to the side of the sill and use Pete’s spot welder to make the join good. I reckon this will make a neater fix than trying to grind down a seam or plug weld in such a confined space . After that I’ll replace the bottom hinge plate. Note the inside of the A panel with the sticker on it. This will be folded over the toe board to close the gap. I’ll spot weld it first.

The sill fits neatly onto the slot in the toe board. My plug welds are a little agricultural, so I’ll grind them back a bit with a flap disk and tidy them up before I paint

If you are reading this and have a 2CV, keep a close eye on these inside corners at the front of the car. The ribbed rubber mat normally sits over these joins and you won’t spot the rust taking hold until it’s well established. If you are looking to buy a 2CV, have a good poke about in this area with a sharp pointy tool (screwdriver) if you can. If the owner is looking over your shoulder, then press hard with your fingers and listen for any crunching noises and watch for any ‘give’ in the panels. The 2CV is made out of very thin panels but it all makes for a very strong structure when it’s all nice and new and properly zipped up.

Rust, Cheese and Ketchup


The front parcel shelf has been bothering me for a while, not least because its so rusty but that it hardly functions as a parcel shelf at all.    It’s not level for a start and its cheese shaped, so anything that looks like it should fit into it, doesn’t –  unless it is a piece of cheese and has been put in place thin end first.   I like cheese as much as the next person, but as I have a van, I don’t need to store cheese on my parcel shelf – I can just throw it in the back.

Parcel shelves are a black hole for small things.  Any loose change disappears when put on it as the coins slide towards the front and become wedged in the join between it and the firewall.  Pens roll to the back and there’s no way that they can be got at using just fingers.  Among the list of things I removed from the parcel shelf before I started the project are:

Some boiled sweets which had bonded themselves to the innermost edge at the front and had to be chipped out with a screwdriver

A selection of nuts, bolts and washers that had become detached from the van at some point but had no obvious home or source and no discernible detrimental effect on the looks or performance of the van.  However, like the loose, used fuses one keeps in the kitchen drawer (some of which have blown) and perished elastic bands that might come in handy one day,  can never be thrown out and are destined to accumulate

A McDonalds Hash Brown – AKA a ‘greasy slice’.  These do not decompose and some 5 year old sachets of ketchup with a use by date that’s long expired but nonetheless will taste the same as the day it was made

A fuel loyalty card.  Which will never accumulate enough points on it to buy anything because a 2cv uses so little petrol

Its just like the back of a sofa but with less gritty bits – what are those gritty bits and where do they come from?  Another one of life’s less interesting mysteries that doesn’t warrant delving into.

Anyway, back to the parcel shelf – it does add some structural integrity to the front of the 2CV and therefore must be sound. Mine isn’t.  Removing the firewall has pretty much destroyed the front edge and what’s left is too rusty and thin to be able to weld back on to the firewall.  I could buy a new parcel shelf but that would involve removing the instrument binnacle, which would leave that equally compromised.. and it’s another £80, which I’d rather spend on beer.

Here you can see where I have cut the front two inches off. 

I made a repair section out of 1mm steel, put a fold into the front edge of about 120 degrees and used my joddler tool to punch a set of holes along the front edge (for welding to the firewall later) and a set of holes so that I can plug weld it to the parcel shelf


I could only puddle weld a couple of holes at a time, because it was difficult to clamp the 2 sheets together – anyway I managed to zip it up all the way along, including 4 welds to attach the new lip to the handbrake ratchet.  Here’s a picture of it with the welds ground down.  It’s not a perfect repair but it is strong and nobody will see it.

While I had the welder and cutting gear out, I decided to repair this rusty bit of the upper A post. This is where the windscreen re-enforcement panel is brazed and as you can see, has all but rotted through.

I cut out a section of the A post and cut a bit off the A post repair section that I got from ECAS and stitched it in carefully by using the welder to first tack it in place and then to join up the dots.

My next job will be to replace the gutter section that runs from the back of the cab to the bottom of the A post.  My gutters finish abruptly at the top of the A panel, I think they had just rusted away and were  clinging on with the very weakest of joins with the A post – so when the last restoration was undertaken, they had to go and were never replaced. 

I’m not sure how I’m going to bend the new gutter to fit the profile of the A post without a stretcher / shrinker machine  – and even then I think it would be a struggle.  I’ll probably have to cut a series of slots in it, bend it to the shape I want and then stitch it back together with the welder.  Something for a future blog I think. I can’t figure out whether the gutter is fitted before or after the A panel. I think after would be best and I also think it is brazed rather than welded. I’ll need to learn how to braze or try and remember what I learnt at school in Metalwork, when we made pokers with brazed handles. Mind you, then we had a forge at school and were unfettered by health and safety nonsense. None of us wore overalls or safety glasses. If you burnt a hole in your eye, you must have been too close to the inferno and would have had a detention given to you for being stupid. Imagine a class of 15 year old boys waving rods of cherry red hot metal about in each others faces, while the teacher re-lit his pipe with the forge’s gas lighter, oblivious to the mayhem around him…

Footnote

Toby was in the workshop today, welding patches to the body of his VW LT35 Camper – all was going ok until he tried to weld a patch over a hole which was lined with wood and insulation on the inside.  Yes, it did catch fire, but was quickly put out.  I expect Toby will remove the interior before he welds any more of the body… (this is the same as changing into old clothes in order to paint your house but only after you have started and got paint on your best clothes )

Let’s get Jiggy with it

I have to admit that I’ve done another U-turn. In earlier posts I wrote about making a jig for the chassis. A jig is a fabricated frame which matches the chassis dimensions upon which the body can be mounted temporarily whilst being worked on. The idea is that when it comes to putting the finished body back onto the chassis, everything will line up nicely – the jig acting as a template.

The book of ‘How to restore a Citroen 2CV’ states categorically that the body must be bolted back onto the chassis before fitting the new floor panels, sills and toe board. For me, this would involve putting the body back onto the chassis and then having to crawl around on the floor to weld, raise the whole van somehow to get underneath it, or go through several iterations of body on – tack weld, body off – seam weld, body on – check, body off – finish welding.

I rejected the jig idea as I thought it would be too difficult to make a perfect copy of the 2CV platform chassis but after having talked it through at the old mans memory club, I decided to give it a go. I’d have nothing to lose, because if it turned out to be a bad copy, I could write it off and will have just wasted more time and materials.

Firstly I cut a sheet of steel to match the width of the upper side of the chassis. Then I used one of the captive nut clips, to mark off where each of the holes would need to be drilled to match those on the chassis. It would have been easier to have used a roll of paper to make a template – ie lay paper over chassis, poke holes in it where the bolt fixings are, transfer paper to steel sheet, cut and drill. I didn’t have a large enough sheet of paper and there are no shops near the workshop. Besides, I was on a roll (no pun intended) so I carried on anyway. With the holes drilled on one edge of the sheet of steel, I bolted it down (approx 8 bolts per side) and then drilled the other side. I now had a long floppy tongue shaped sheet of metal with all the holes in the right places, which matched those on the chassis. I welded a frame of box section to the underside of the ‘tongue’ so that it would remain rigid when bolted to the body. Here’s a picture of it in place.

The Jig fitted to the body – if you zoom in you can see both rails welded to the underside of the tongue and the holes drilled on each edge where the new floors will bolt on to it

With a bit of lifting the two Pete’s and I slid the jig under the body and bolted it to the body. We only had 2 bolts each side, but they fitted perfectly, so between us we agreed that the rest of the holes and their alignment must be correct.

A trial fit of the new panels, including the sill confirmed that this was the case. Somewhat worrying was that the distance between the centre of the bolt which sticks out of the sill, to the back of the body was 12mm different on each side. As I am replacing pretty much everything which makes up the van cab, Pete and I concluded that it was wise to use the same measurements for each side for the sills and with everything clamped into place, that this distance would be dictated by the pre-drilled holes in the new A-panels, we settled on cutting the new sills to the same length each side – using this a datum to fit the rest of the cab around them.

Yours truly. Here all the panels have been clamped into place and aligned to the floors and toe board, which have been bolted onto the jig.

Clamping on the rest of the new panels has given me a new problem to solve. The new sill, to replace the one already chopped off, won’t sit properly in its slot in the new toe board. The saddle on the b-post (just on front of the welder in the above picture which the sill butts up to is too far in – or the new floors are too wide, or there’s another explanation which I can’t fathom out. I think I’ll have to put the door back on, line the sill up to it, tack the sill in place and work back from there. I might have to cut a sliver off the floor and make a new flange along the edge that joins the floor to the sill.

Metal Sandwich anyone?

Not too much to report and no pictures in this blog.   I’ve spent a fair bit of time poking about in the garage and in a fit of pique, chopped out the left-hand floor and sill – and the right-hand floor.  There have been past repairs to the rear of the floors, metal has been added above and I think below to what was there originally. This is causing me a bit of a problem… I’ll have to do something with the surplus metal or the floors won’t sit properly on the sills, they are currently about 5 ml higher than the small lip on the sill, which I assume is there for them to sit on.  Or, I could lower the sill a bit and extend the A and B posts – I’d rather not though, I’ll probably end up with a massive gap under the doors through which the elements will find their way in, my feet will get cold and misery will ensue.

Cutting the sills out with the floors is not recommended as things will start moving about, although I only did this on one side, so hopefully only half of the things will move about.  I still have all the bracing bits in place (thanks to Pete) so any twisting and misalignment will be minimal.

I really need to get committed to welding all the new panels in.  The only practical way to do this is to punch a series of small holes in one panels’ edge, clamp it to another panel and then to fill the hole with weld from the MIG welder, thereby glueing the 2 bits together. I must make a start on this soon or I will never finish the restoration. 

What is a Mig Welder I hear you ask?  MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas and the welder bit of it is a box which, creates an electric arc which is hot enough to melt metal.  The clever bit is that the ‘torch’ feeds out the wire, the gas comes out round the outside of the wire, shields the arc and stops oxygen getting to the hot bit.  If there’s no oxygen, the metal will not burn, it will just melt.   The idea is that you press the trigger on the torch, the thin wire fed from a spool in the welder gets close to the steel you are welding to, the arc is struck, the wire melts, the heat melts the metal being welded, the gas shields the arc.  Job’s a good ‘un.  

The gas is a mixture of CO2 and Argon.  There’s a weird thing going on in the welding world which means you can buy gas but you can never own your own cylinder, so you have to rent one.  The rented cylinder is replaced with another when you get the gas refilled.  You can rent the same cylinder for a number of years, paying the fee each year but never needing to have it refilled. Refills are free, so you could have any number of cylinders replaced during the same period.   Weird isn’t it?  Actually, you can own your own cylinder but nobody will refill it for you, nor will they exchange it.  If you happen to own a C02 cylinder which came from a pub and you attempt to get it refilled or exchanged, you will be refused and then asked a lot of awkward questions, which you might not want to answer – ask me how I know.

It’s relatively easy and forgiving of you are welding metal which is 3 ml thick or has inherent stability, like a box section.  However, a Citroen 2CV is made of thin floppy steel, less than 1mm thick.  Unless it’s new, it’s going to be even thinner and rusty and you can’t weld rusty sheet steel with a MIG. It will just burn holes in the panel, spit and spatter and generally have the look and strength of Pidgeon poo.  This is why cars are put together using a spot welder. A spot welder has 2 prongs, which when clamped either side of 2 thin bits of metal, strikes an arc, creates a ‘spot’ of melted metal, which joins the panels together.  You don’t need gas with a spot welder, it’s quick, neat and all together a good thing.  They are hugely expensive and I don’t have one.

There are some things to watch out for when MIG welding.  Don’t forget to turn on the gas, or run out of it.  Do not try and weld galvanised steel – poisonous fumes will be given off and you will become ill.  Do not turn up the power on the welder, it will turn into a crude, hot metal spitting, cutting tool.  Do not weld without a mask.  You will get ‘arc eye’ which by all accounts is very painful.  Do not touch the job before it has had a chance to cool off, no matter how tempted you are to stroke your finger along the perfectly created weld because this will also hurt very much.  When you are welding properly, you will be rewarded with a lovely crackling sound, like bacon frying over a high heat, welds will be a continuous river of molten metal or perfect spot welds which will not pop apart overnight or as soon as you turn your back.

Welding is one of those things that one becomes very good at by doing a lot of it.  Unfortunately, I do not want to spend all my time honing my welding skills, so will probably never be very good at it.  I will aim for adequate. 

New panels

Behold, the vast array of shiny new metal I have collected. I cut a bit more metal away from the front of the sills – what was left of the A panels and old sill repairs and this allowed me to jiggle around with the toe board, bulkhead, screen and A panels.  I managed to get everything clamped in place and aligned, which is a real moral booster.   The new floor panels look as if they are about 1cm wider than the old ‘in place’ floors.  Older repairs where the floors join the sills look like the cause of this discrepancy. 

All clamped up – things are are still a bit tight where the A Panels join to the A posts, but I think once the floors and sills are out of the way it will be better. The eagle eyed will have spotted that the toe board is made for the later suspended pedal box, I’ll have to close off the round hole on the right of the bulkhead and cut the seam out to get the pedal box support in.
This split in the screen panel intrigues me. It looks like it should do something other than just sit on top of the A panel – and what do I do with the tab on the left side?
This is what was under the left side of the windscreen panel – where the crossmember joins to it. I’ll have to make a piece to go in here
The right side is better and should clean up ok

 I’ve abandoned the chassis Jig idea that has featured in some of my earlier posts.  

The plan was to lay these out on top of the chassis and carefully mark where I need to weld them together.   I thought that once I had the basic frame made, I could mark off and drill the holes that correspond with the captive nut fixings on the chassis and that would be that.   I wasn’t convinced that this will be as easy as it sounds.  I wouldn’t be able to use the pillar drill and it would be hard to drill a hole through a box section of steel – in the correct place and perfectly perpendicular .    Once I had my bits of steel with their holes in the right places, I’d bolt them to the chassis and then weld them together by laying lengths of steel next to them to act as the joining pieces.  What could possibly go wrong?

After a few periods of self doubt, during which I stood and stared at the tools and materials in front of me, picked things up, put them down, I eventually gave up on the idea – it was just not going to work…

Luckily, Pete turn up on his moped ( Mobylette AV89) and suggested that as everything had fitted onto the chassis before we took the body off – and because the sills and floors were still in place, the thing to do would be to properly brace the shell – ‘as is’, trial fit the doors, take some measurements and then cut away the floors and sills. So that’s what we did. It’s not very clear in these pictures, but the left hand floor and sill have been chopped out.

taken from the right, the left floor and sill removed, with the A – posts braced to the main body of the van and an additional diagonal brace to stop the A – Posts from spreading apart
looking from the left, you can see the braces a bit better

I’ve got to tidy up the back edge of the floor – and unpick where the B Post saddle is joined to the last inch or so of sill that’s left behind. The A post is a bit of a mess and I’m going to need some new bottom door hinge fixings. Then I plan to pop the body back onto the chassis and fit the floors and sills with a few tacks, take it off again, fit the toe board and seam weld the floors to the sills and fix the front of the sills to the toe board flanges. Or something like that…

Other news – the metal folder turned up, so I bought a 6 x 4 ft sheet of 1.2 ml steel to play with. I’m not expecting razor sharp bends – the folder was inexpensive, so I can’t expect miracles. I will have to let some metal into the frayed front edge of the parcel shelf – although Pete thinks I’d be better off getting a new one (another £80 – sigh…)

WTF?

Here are few pictures to show the extent of the rot in the upper part of the firewall, ventilation flap area and the lower part of the windscreen surround. 

I had not expected it to be as bad as this – it really is horrible and almost certainly beyond repair. 

Looks better than it is when painted silver!
Evidence of a past repair
Not much of the upper scuttle panel left – a classic ‘rust from the inside out’ problem

Anyway – after a trial fit of the new toe board, bulkhead and A panels, I can honestly say they don’t all fit together as expected. There’s no denying it, the fact is that they just don’t fit together at all.  

It’s not easy clamping the panels together when you don’t have enough clamps and only one pair of hands. I’m not likely to grow another pair of hands anytime soon and by the time evolution delivers them to the human race, no-one will give a fig about me and my van, so I’ll get some more clamps.

It’s as if the front of the Van is 1cm narrower than it should be.  The toe board won’t fit into the gap left behind when I cut the old panels out which is odd because I made sure to weld some braces across the front of the A pillars and the B posts before cutting anything so I could be sure that nothing could move. As all the other bits join on to this vital piece, everything is just a little bit out of whack.

Here are a few shots of what’s left of the front of the sills – these need to be the right shape for the toe board to slot into.

The left hand sill – it looking from the front
Right hand sill area from the outside. The sill should extend forwards from the wing fixing by 15 cm or so, all that was there was a bit of A panel repair
The left sill from the outside, looking pretty horrid

The only conclusion I can make is that ‘suffin hint roite’ as they say in Norfolk, or it wasn’t right to begin with. When the van was last restored, repairs were made to the floors, toe board, A panels and sills.  Extra metal was added to the front of the sills (ahead of the wing fixing), to the lower part of the A panels, the front, back and all along the sides of the floors where they meet the sills.  So – I think what may have happened is that the A posts were cut away from the sills which were then repaired before the A posts were welded back on again – and that during this process, something might have shifted and it all went a bit pear shaped. The doors don’t fit very well and this is consistent with the A and B posts being out of alignment. 

I don’t want to repair the front of the sills by letting in new metal – I probably could get away with it (my welding is not that good), because it won’t be visible, but then I can’t guarantee it will all fit together as I will have lost all of my datum points  – or I’ll have to rely on measurements which were incorrect at the outset.  Also, it will be a bodge and will therefore bother me ever so slightly whenever I think about it, which is something I can do without.

Plan ‘B’

Here’s the new plan. I’ve ordered a new pair of sills, 2 new floor pans (left and right) and a 400 mm of A post repair section which came with a short length (10cm or so) of ¾ inch tube and 3 of those captive rivet things that have a thread inside for a small machine screw and a single nut, bold and a couple of washers. Does anyone know what these are for?  

I already have 2 floor repair panels but the nice people at ECAS said I could send them back for a refund. This might sound like it’s a cop out – and it would be if this part of the van hadn’t been repaired a good many times since leaving the factory.  I really don’t have a choice, unless I want to spend days and days cutting and welding in more patches on top of patches.

Oh – and if anyone out there has a 2CV and it’s starting to go a bit crusty round the edges, my advice would be to cut out and replace like for like as opposed to letting in patches or worse, welding patches over existing metal / rust.  It might do the job short term but sooner or later, someone is going to have to put it right.

What to do first? I will make a jig out of welded 1cm box section to match the holes on the chassis where the floors are bolted down to and where the centre cross member bolts to the chassis.  I can use this jig (frame) to line up the new floors and sills and then trial fit the doors, weld in the A post repair sections and re affix the B posts.  It has just occurred to me that I’m going to need some new bottom door hinge brackets – these are welded to the A post and to be brutally honest, they’ve been repaired once already and are not likely to survive another encounter with Mr MIG.  Right, better order them..

Once this lot is in, the toe board, bulkhead and A panels can be attached.  Then the screen repair can be let in.  With the body bolted to the jig, I can be sure that the body will fit back onto the chassis, because all the bolt holes will line up nicely… At some point during this process, I will lose confidence in the jig I have made and will want to put the body back onto the chassis – just to make sure.  

The biggest obstacle to progress will be committing to actually welding, as opposed to a few weedy tacks here and there. I think I’ll trial fit everything first with self tapping screws. 

There, I’ve summed up in a couple of paragraphs, what will surely be weeks’ worth of work and head scratching.

A low point

Looking closer at the join between the firewall and the windscreen surround there are 3 parts joined together along the top seam.  The firewall forms the bottom edge of the seam, sandwiched in between is the cross-member which holds the wiper motor in place and then on top of this, is the lower edge of the screen surround.  The likelihood of separating this metal sandwich without losing the top edge of the firewall is zero.  The only solution is to chop the whole lot out and replace it all with new panels. 

The seam at top of the firewall just under the bonnet hinge – crusty and friable

Firstly, I drilled out the spot welds which hold the A panels to the door pillars and popped the panels free. Next to go were the 3 spot welds on each side of the windscreen pillars, which enabled me to peel back the edges away from the upper part of the A posts.  The A panels weren’t really joined to the sills at the bottom – the previous owner had put some new metal in around the bolts which hold the wings to the sills and tacked what was left of the A panels to the new metal and then ground it flat (ish), leaving a sliver of metal which was feathered away to nothing. This area will need rebuilding.  Careful application of the angle grinder and hacksaw enabled me to cut through the outer skin of the windscreen panel.

With the upper 3 spot welds drilled out, I could peel back the windscreen surround from the a pillars
Careful use of the angle grinder – I did the rest of the cut with a hacksaw so as not to chop into the a pillar
This inner crossmember needs to be cut through – the one below is not attached to the a posts

After removing this cross-member, the outer skin of the windscreen was ready to make a break for freedom.  The large and unwieldy 3 sided floppy bit of metal that is the front and sides of the van was loose but would not come away because the door hinge reinforcing plates are sandwiched between the firewall and the join with the A panels  – shown here

Cut around the area where the top door hinge is sandwiched between the side of the firewall and the A panel

While I was contemplating my next move, Steve popped round to the garage with a new pair of overalls and some sage advice, which was to try and remove the firewall, A panels and windscreen surround in one piece.  That way, I’d have something to measure and take reference points from, should I need them later.. so that’s what I did

Looking rather forlorn and tatty

Here’s the firewall and screen out.  Next job is to clean up the A posts so I can weld the new panels in.  I’ll chop out the worst bits and mig in some patches where I need to.  I don’t want to separate the sills from the A posts as I think the whole thing will spring apart and I’ll spend forever trying to line it all up again.

 The parcel shelf will need a repair along the whole of the front edge.  I’m really not sure if it’s thick enough to weld, so I might just have to make a new panel. I don’t have a swaging tool, so I’ll re-inforce it with some 5ml bar if I think it needs it.  

It was hard to separate the firewall from the parcel shelf.  This had been spot welded from the inside, but the welds were invisible from the firewall side, so it had to be separated from the inside.  Removing the spot welds pretty much destroyed the parcel shelf flange – I gave up and used a hammer and cold chisel. 

As you can see from this picture, the battery box and instrument binnacle are also a tad frayed around the edges.