I’ve done what I can to get the front door hinge plates in the right place and have twisted the top of the drivers door frame, so that it fits nicely in its frame now – or at least it’s much better than it was. Any more fiddling with it will invoke the law of diminishing returns, so I’m going to leave it for now and have a look at the rear door pillars. At some point in the past, the van has had a clout in the offside rear corner, which has been repaired by letting in a new section at the bottom where the rear light fitting is located. However, above this, the metal has been bashed about and has stretched too much for me to reshape. I do have a shrinking hammer but access is limited and I’m not sure I have the metalwork skills to put it right – and as I acquired a pair of replacement door pillar panels, now seems like a good time to sort it out.
Here’s picture of the offside pillar. You can see where I started to peel away the previous repair, just above the hole and to the left of where the rear light fitting goes. Below the light hole, another section has been let in. If I replace the whole panel I can sort this out at the same time.
The edge of the van sides have been folded over to grip the edge of the door pillars – this is quite a neat way of closing the edge. Cutting out the pillar panel has presented me with 2 options. grind down what’s left and weld the new panel to edge of the old panel which is still spot welded – or unpick the spot welds, bend back the flange, weld in the new panel and fold the edge over again. A bit more investigation and I think I can replicate the original fitment – or I could be making a lot of extra work for myself.
I drilled out a couple of the original spot welds and had a look
Below is where the new panel will tuck into the edge, which can then be folded over again
I decided to call it a day and have a think about how best to proceed while I watch the snooker final….
I’ve spent a couple of sessions in the workshop fiddling with the doors – or to be more precise, the drivers door. As mentioned in previous posts, the doors have never fitted very well and because I braced the shell before I chopped all the panels out and replaced them, everything is as it was before – and the doors don’t fit any better than they did before I started, if anything the fit is worse than it was before.
Being an upbeat sort of chap, I made a plan. No amount of hinge packing would make up the discrepancy and I’m either left with a large gap at the bottom of the door (at the front) or the top of the frame at the rear. I could (and probably will have to) give the door a bit of a ‘heave ho’ to twist it into shape. Anyway, before this I thought it would be best to flip the body on its side, lay the door into the opening and then adjust the hinges to fit. Brilliant…
Looking up through the passenger door opening (this is a left hand drive van) here’s the door sitting in its aperture as viewed from underneath
With the hinges in place, there’s clearly something amis. No amount of packing with the flat packing pieces is going to make up the wedge shaped gap between the flat faces of the door and the hinges. So, I’m either going to have to make up a ‘wedge’ of steel to bridge the gap – or bend the hinges into shape. More on this later, because the act of flipping the shell onto its side has exposed the underbelly of the beast, which needs a bit of attention. Here’s what it looks like from a distance – not too shabby… N’est-ce pas?
On closer inspection, you can see a bit of crustiness on the front crossmember – at the top of the picture. Close up – there’s a hole.
I cleaned it up with the wire brush on the angle grinder (an unforgiving tool) and the hole became larger.
I chopped out the rust with the cutting disk on the grinder and was left with a neat hole, 6 inches by 1 inch wide, into which I placed a patch of 3ml steel, held in place with a magnet, which enabled me to weld the edges..
A bit of tidying up with the flap wheel and and a dusting of primer – and it’s looking much better. I’ll put a bit of seam sealer over the weld before I paint it later. This part of the crossmember needs to be strong as it the jacking point is fixed to the end of it.
Actually, sorting this small bit of corrosion out has offset the door / hinge issues nicely and I was quite happy to leave it at that for the day. More on the hinges in the next post. There’s a forge and anvil at the workshop, so I’m going to have a go at re-shaping the hinges (opening them out a bit), to see if that helps solve the problem. The doors are not the original van doors, when I took the door cards off, they are painted red inside and are off a much later 2CV saloon. Perhaps the dimensions of the AK350 doors is different to later models – someone might know, but not me.
Time to tackle the botton of the A posts where they meet the sills. It’s all pretty grotty down at there on both sides of the van, probably because unless this area is closed off from the elements where the sills slot into the the toe board, water will get in rust will be the result. First job is to tack the sills in place, so that I have something from which to measure the A post repair section from. Underneath the van, here’s were the floors join the sills. I punched holes in the floor flange and just made a few plug welds to hold it all in place.
The A post repair section comes with a short lengh of tube, some rivnuts and a nut and bolt. The rivets and single nut bolt and 2 washers remain a total mystery to me – I’m sure they are included in the repair pack for some reason, but neither I, ECAS or the Dutch manufacturer of the parts were able to fathom out what that reason is, so I’ll just keep them in their little bag and then file them under B1N later. The tube is used to reinforce the join between the old and new A post sections, sliding neatly inside, it will give me something to weld to and minimise the risk of blowing a hole through where the join will be. I bought another metre of half inch tube (or ‘Toob’ as they say in Norfolk) as I’ll need a bit more than what was supplied with the repair section because I’ll be doing both sides.
Here’s the bit of A post, ready to bridge the gap where I chopped out the rotten section. I spent a good 10 mins on the grinder wheel, shaping the bottom of the A post where it joins the sill.
There’s no point in trying to salvage the bottom hinge brackets – the bits of steel which the hinges bolt to as they have been repaired once already and will become hoplessly out of shape if I try and cut them off and we reweld them. I have a pair of replacements ready…
You can see below where I’ve stitched in the A post repair section and welded the bottom of it to the sill. This required a bit of dressing with the flap wheel and grinder but all in all has gone quite well. It’ll need a skim of filler to tidy it up properly. I used the A panel as a template to line everything up – top tip!
This is the inside edge of the A panel – once welded the flange will be folded over to close the join.
I folded the edge over with a panel beating hammer and dolly. The trick is not to overwork the steel, the more you bash it, the harder it becomes. It’s took a while to finish this off but eventually I managed it. Below is the A panel fitted, with plug welds to join it to the firewall and all the way down the A post to the sill. A bit of seam sealer will be needed inside the gutter as this is exposed to the elements.
Lastly, I dressed the join where the sill slots into the toe board and have seam welded it. This was tricky to weld and turned out a bit ‘blobby’ where I attempted to run a nice fillet along the join. There’s a big gap here, it would not have welded very well ‘as’ is’
Here are the 2 old A post sections, complete with hinge mounts.
Flushed with success, I did the same on the nearside, although I haven’t welded the A panel in yet as I ran out of gas (or I might have forgotten to turn it off) . You can see below all the holes are ready for plug welding. This all went relatively easily – especially after the nightmare of the windscreen. Next jobs – fit the bottom hinge brackets and see if the doors still fit (I’m sure they won’t), join the top of the firewall to the bonnet hinge flange, and check to see if the windscreen will still fit in its new aperture. I’m less worried about the screen fitting than everyone else is, because my son works for a glass company and he said he can make me a new laminated screen to my measurements if needed..
I’ll start this blog with a quote from ECAS (parts suppler for all things Citroen 2CV) regarding the windscreen repair panel.
‘Please note: This panel is not easy to fit and might require the attention of an expert car body specialist.’
I’m no expert car body specialist and having made a pigs ear of fitting one of these first time round, I have to agree that easy, it is not. It took me most of a day of fiddling around to get it into the right position in order to weld it into place. The most challenging part is aligning it with the A panels, which I have not properly fitted yet – and can’t do so, until the bottom of the A posts have been repaired and the sills are fixed in place. Trying to stretch and bend a recalcitrant second rate steel pressing around a framework of loose and equally floppy bits of metal is enough to try anyones patience and being the type of person that likes to adopt his approach on the fly does not help matters. I could have drawn up a Gannt chart and plotted the critical path for this project, and then nothing would have been done out of order, there would be no known unknowns but that would have been dull and I would not be writing this blog and you would not be reading it. Still, as you are reading it out of interest or if you want to replace your own 2CV windscreen surround with a pattern part pressing then read on.
I fixed the sides of the panel to the existing frame first with 3 puddle welds each side and then seam welded the join between the edge of the old frame and the new. This went reasonably well, except that the new panel doesn’t have the same depth of the old. There’s a bit of a gap which I will have to seal up, either with mastic, solder (lead loading) or braze. I’ll have to try solder and brazing first and if I make a fist of it, run a bead of mastic over the join.
Back to the other side, I drilled, rather than punched 3 holes to puddle weld it to the door frame
Having secured the sides, I set about welding the lower side of the vent flap opening from the inside to the windscreen panel. Lots of puddle welds, which all went fine. I ground them flat, even though they will not be visible once the dash panel is in place..
Welding the screen panel to the upper cross member was a whole new world of pain. There’s no room to get the hole punch into the screen frame, besides I wanted to weld it from the inside so that the screen rubber would fit properly. In the end, I turned the welder down to minimum and ran bead of weld along the edge of the seam where the 2 panels meet. It took ages as I had to stitch it together a few inches at a time and then grind back the excess (aka huge blobs of weld) along the edge. By the time I was done, I’d become tired and emotional and just wanted to wrap up fo the day. I’ll finish grinding the edge back next time I go to the workshop and will post a picture. I’m not sure what the recommended method is for this last bit of fixing is – probably to use a proper bodyshop spot welder, but I think I’ve managed to sort it the hard way.
To finish off the job, I’ll need to join the new panel to the upper lip of the firewall – I think this will have to be another seam welding job, as I forgot to punch any holes in the bulkhead flange before I welded all the other edges and now I can’t get the tool anywhere near it to make the necessary holes for puddle welding. Another job that would have been on the critical path.
So yes, it was tricky but not impossible. I wonder how much I’d have to pay a body shop just to fit this one part – and how they would go about it.
Next job is to replace the bottoms of the A posts, weld on the hinge brackets to the sills and trial fit the doors again. I have a feeling that the doors are going to be my nemesis – even before I started they appeared to be too big for the door frames…
All in all, not a bad day. I’m going to finish off by having a quick rant about the Citroen 2CV club. (2CVGB) I joined the club seven years ago so that I could go to the world meeting in Oxford in my newly acquired van. I ‘unjoined’ when I found out afterwards that I was charged the same entrance fee to the meeting as a non member which I though was a bit rich and not really in in the spirit of things. However, 6 years later, I thought I’d give them another go – really this is so that I can get onto the forums. The 2CVGB must be the only car club in the UK that sets membership as a prerequisite for partaking in what would otherwise be a public forum. No matter, It’s under £30 for a yearly membership so is not gong to break the bank. Anyway, my membership details arrived yesterday and as instructed, I went on to the forum site to get registered. It failed. ‘Your email address has already been registered with this site’ was the pithy message that was displayed. Brilliant, I thought – I just need to reset my password then. Nope, I can’t do that because I’m not registered according to the next helpful error message. I work in IT and this sort of nonsense really gets my goat. I’d be more than happy to help the admin sort this out, but I have no way of communicating with them without access to the forums…
On the list of things to do from the previous blog was to sort out the gutter (drip channel) – the tiny ‘U’ shaped bit of metal that runs along the side of the roof down to the nut that secures the back of the front wings to the body. These often rot away down the A posts and as such are missing from many 2CV’s and have long since disappeared from my van. As I’m replacing all of the structures around the drip channels it would be remiss of me not to re-instate them. Armed with a new length of drip channel, a pair of tin snips, hole punch and the welder, I stood back and wondered how on earth I would be able to bend a curve into a thin strip of metal folded into a right angle without kinking or creasing it and keeping it flat to the A post whilst fixing it into place.
The other problem was that since these were missing originally – and as I had already detached the old A panels from the A posts, there was no clue left as to whether the channels should fit under the A panels or over the top of them. Half an hour of looking at, trial fitting, standing back and generally being unconvinced either way left me (and Pete) at an impasse. I sent a text to Tony at Le Garagiste in Ipswich (THE 2CV guru), asking for guidance and added a thumb’s up, smiley face and a Munch ‘scream’ emoticon to the text and awaited a reply. ‘Your text has been forwarded to a landline number’ was the only response I got. I idly wondered how the emoticons would be translated from text message to the spoken word – in particular ‘The Scream’ and then realised that I would never get a reply from Tony and even if I did, it would make no sense at all. It was Sunday and I didn’t want to ring him to explain so left it at that. By this time, Between us, Pete and I figured it out. Drip channel first, then A panel.
Here’s a picture where you can see the drip channel ending abruptly, level with the end of where the old A panel was (just above the copper coloured primer)
Having agreed that the drip channel must fit under the A panel we then set about making it fit around the curve of the A post. I’ve seen curves put into wheel arch flanges by using a stretcher / shrinker tool. I was going to buy one of these and have been waiting for a second hand set to appear on eBay or Gumtree for at least 5 years, but have had no luck.
Here’s what you can do with a stretcher shrinker
I might as well run on about stretcher shrinkers for a bit – they are a brilliant tool, but the cost can be prohibitive – here’s why. You can buy one stretcher/shrinker hand operated machine for about £150 – £200. It comes with 2 jaws, one to stretch and one to shrink, so unless you want to spend most of your time swapping the jaws over when you are making compound pieces (like the one on the right above) then you’ll need to buy 2 machines (another £200). Then you’ll quickly realise that you can’t make it work properly and hold the steel at the same time (you only have 2 hands, right?), so you’ll need to buy a foot operated model (another £200) so before you know it you’ve spent £600 on just one tool..
”How do they work’ I hear you ask… They are like a horizontally mounted vice with jaws which are about 2 inches wide and half an inch deep. One set has teeth cut into both jaws which oppose each other facing inwards from the outside edge – this is the shrinker. As the jaws are clamped onto the steel, the teeth force the steel together, thereby shrinking it. If you shrink half a strip of steel it will put a curve in it. The stretchers teeth are oriented the opposite way and therefore have the opposite effect. Using both tools on a piece of steel pre-folded at right angles will enable the piece on the right above to easily be fabricated since it is made by stretching on one plane and shrinking on another.
Anyway, I don’t have one of these wonder tools so have to make do with a more pragmatic approach which was to cut a series of slots in the channel and bend it around the A post a section at a time, welding, bending, welding, bending and so on
After the gutters had been formed around the bend in the A Post, we (Pete and I) offered up the A panels, so see how they fitted. All is looking good with the ‘cut and shut’ job on the gutters hidden out of sight.
I won’t do any more with the gutters until I’ve chopped off the bottom of the A posts and made good the join between the A posts and sills.
I started work on fitting the windscreen repair panel to the front. This repair panel is not made very precisely and to be brutally honest, does not fit very well at all. The caps which fit over the top of the A panels are not very well formed (see above picture) and the channels which run up the front of the A posts don’t close around them as they should. In an attempt to resolve this, I added a small strip of steel to the A posts – (see below), so that I’d have something to clamp and puddle weld to. It’s still not a good fit and after I’d punched some holes in it, bent it about even more and generally ruined it, I gave up and decided to swap it out for a new panel. It turns out that the best fitting panel is the one made using the original Citroen tooling. At £300, this is not an option – I just don’t have the budget for it. – Apparently the manufacturers do not want to wear out their nice tooling by making repair panels at a lower profit margin and they would prefer to make more money by selling the complete fabrication. I’m happy to scrap the old panel and try again with a new one, but it is irritating nonetheless. I am minded to write a letter to Parts Industries to see what they have to say, but I’m not expecting much as they are a Dutch company and as sure as eggs are eggs, will be typically empirical in their response – ‘if you want a good fit, then you have to buy the more expensive part…’ is what I expect they will say – in true Dutch style. An example of this is when my sister in law went in to a cheese shop in Amsterdam and asked them if they had some Edam for sale. The response from the assistant was: ‘Well, you are in a cheese shop and this is Amsterdam, so of course we have Edam….’
Anyway – that’s enough moaning from me. I’ll have another go at it when I get the replacement screen repair panel.
In other news the rear bumpers have arrived from France. I’m looking forward to sorting these out and will be fitting them later.
Time to take stock again and look at what order I should complete the tasks on the cab. I think this is what to do next
Peen (what a lovely word…) over the front edge of the firewall where it joins the toe board
Fix the front of the sills to the toe board slots
Weld the inner screen cross-members to the outer screen panel
Replace the bottom of both A posts
Fix the new bottom hinge plates to the A posts
Weld on the A panels
Peen the front edge of the A panels over the sides of the toe board. mmm…peen..
Shape (cut, bend and weld) and then fit the gutter repair section to both sides of the van
Weld in the outer screen panel
That’s a fair bit of work, so I’ll tackle each job at a time, so the next few blogs will document how it all goes
The body work at the cab end of the van will then be finished – except for a bit of tidying up on some of the welds and zipping up the floors to the sills, which will be easier when I turn the body onto its side (or roof). I need to clean and repaint the inner rear wings before the outer panels can go back on, but prior to that I’ve decided to have another look at the ‘new’ rear door pillar panels I bought a while ago – to see how much effort it would be to fit them. Here’s a picture of them
and here’s what they will replace if I choose to accept the ‘mission’ of chopping out the old and welding in the new. The old panels have had a bit of bashing in the past – I can get behind them with a dolly, but it’s difficult to re-shape such thin metal when it’s been stretched – it just wants to ‘pop’ back to its damaged state. I think this is known as the ‘oil can’ effect.
On the face of it, replacing the panels is a reasonably straightforward job. There are a load of spot welds to be unpicked and I’ll have to carefully separate the top and bottom panels on each side. I now know enough to realise that the top gutter part will fall apart when I try and remove it, so I’ll need to buy a replacement for this. What worries me a bit is what sort of edge will be left when I detach them
Where the bottom valence has been replaced in the past, the lower box section will have to be separated. The lower section of both back panels have also been replaced in the past, but the rear bumper is long gone. The rear valence should have 4? holes in it to accept the tubular bumper, which I guess is welded to the inner part of the box section. I’ve spent ages trying to get a replacement bumper, but they are not being manufactured any more and second hand ones are like hens teeth. However, I have managed to track down a pair of AK250 bumpers – in France (thanks to Mark Griffin for sorting this out) and since I have no pre-made holes to work around the fact that they are two as opposed to one bumper is neither here or there
They will need a bit of cleaning and I’ll have to devise a method of fixing them to the rear valence as the replacement panel or repair which was fitted during the last restoration did not have any holes in it.
I’ve also cut out a small section of the firewall so that the brake master cylinder mount can be bolted flush to the bodywork. I had to use the old chopped out bulkhead for reference which has been dragged about and handled many times. I’ve grown quite fond of it and might turn it into a piece of wall art when I’m finished, perhaps the Tate Modern will want it installed in the Turbine Hall. I also noticed that I have a hole missing in the new bulkhead and a spare ‘oval’ hole in the wrong place. I can make a nice plate to go over the spare hole and I’ll have to cut out the new hole with a hole saw. I know I have a set of hole saws somewhere, if only I knew where they were….
When I find the hole saw set (or buy another) I really could do with cutting another hole in the bulkhead and installing a heater tube on the drivers side footwell to keep my toes warm in the winter, so I suppose now is the time to make this modification. All this hole cutting will leave me with 2 spare discs of steel, which I might be able to use to fill in the indicator holes in the front wings – more on this later.
There are plenty more puns waiting to be aired so you’ll just have to put up with them. On Sunday, I spent a whole day in the workshop and got stuck into welding up the front of the van – The firewall is in and attached to the toe board at the bottom and the lower of the inner windscreen reinforcing panels – (the one that the wiper motor is bolted onto) is fixed to the A posts. It’s taken a lot of fiddling around with the outer screen repair panel to get the reinforcing parts in the right place. My biggest concern is that the windscreen aperture won’t be the right size for the glass so I measured it more times than I care to remember – each time I got a slightly different result, so until the rest of the panels under it are fixed, it will have to do..
Starting with the firewall – the picture below is looking up to where the toe board joins onto the firewall. This is the join you can see which is under the battery box and runs in between the bolts that hold the wings in place. I punched a series of holes in the toe board flange and plug welded them from underneath
Below – looking down at the join between the firewall and the toe board – the plug welds are on the underside of the lip, but you can see the hot spots where the plug welds have penetrated the steel, which means they a good welds.
The next task was to fit the windscreen cross member. This runs in between the A posts and is hidden by the outer windscreen repair panel. The old one was brazed at the join here, but I have plug welded it in place on both sides as I don’t have any brazing skills yet. I’ve tidied up the welds since this picture was taken
To finish off the firewall welding, I joined the top hinge mounts to the inner edge of the firewall with 3 plug welds and ground them down flat. The A panel will fully encapsulate the mounts, when they are fitted later and here’s a picture of one of the tabs which re-inforce the joint between the upper toe board edge to the lower firewall edge. I had to break out the long grips so that I could clamp the tab to the toe board ready for welding
I think I’ll leave the outer windscreen panel until last. There are some awkward bits to sort out, not least the 2 parts where I’ll need to join the repair panel to the existing shell. Before I can do this, I’ll need to cut and bend the gutter repair strip, which also needs to be put in place before the windscreen outer but after the A panels are in place. The A panels can’t be fitted until I’ve fixed the grotty mess of rust at the bottom of the A posts and welded in the new bottom hinge supports, so I guess this is the next job – oh, hang on, I need to fix the sills where they slot into the toe board first . This is a brazing job which will be the first bit of brazing I’ve done since being at school.
As for brazing, it’s just one of the methods for joining mild steel. The MOT testers won’t pass a car that has been brazed together as opposed to welding, but a combination of the 2 methods is acceptable – especially when the braze is used to seal the joins between welded panels. There are a number of methods for brazing, all need a source of heat to melt the brazing rod and at the same time, get the metal hot enough to allow the brass to melt and flow into the joint. You also need flux, which allows the molten brass rod to flow evenly by capillary action in between the two bits of steel which are the object of the task. Some rods come ready coated with flux, however my understanding is that flux also needs to be applied between the 2 sheets of steel… Pete and I had a play around using the ‘arc’ method, where a tool is used to bring 2 electrodes together until an arc is created between the electodes and backing them off slightly to maintain a crackling blue orb of intense heat around the ends of the electrodes. One has to then move this plasma like ball of energy close enough to the steel to heat it up and introduce the brazing rod, spreading the braze around the joint in the hope that it will flow into the gaps. Our experiments were spectacular in that a great deal of concentrated energy was produced, the rod melted and so did the steel that we were trying to braze. ‘I haven’t done this for a while’ declared Pete. I stood back in awe as the crackles and sparks ensued. ‘The rods are a bit old, I think they are coated in flux, but I reckon we need some flux on the steel as well’ shouted Pete as the test piece he was working on glowed cherry red with bubbles of molten goldenness rollong around the surface of it. Despite this, there were indications that this method could be made to work.
The alternative is to use a flame to generate the required heat (ie blowtorch) – or lastly we could use the TIG welder with some brazing rods. More on this later – or I might break out a tube of seam sealer and make do with that.
In other news, I’ve discovered that I’ve been using 0.8ml MIG wire instead of 0.6ml wire. 0.6ml would be much more forgiving than 0.8ml on such thin metal used on the 2CV so I’ve either been very lucky to get away with using the thicker wire (which produces more current and greater risk of burning through the metal), or my MIG welder is capable of compensating between the parameters of the two voltage settings, wire speed and diameter in its stride OR my welding skills have improved so much that I am able to do it by instinct alone. I think I’ll assume the welder has become self aware and it is making up for my errors and mistakes.