My Thunderbird experience
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       This page will be devoted to all phases of the body restoration


   As you can see by the picture I've taken off many of the parts in preparing for the body lift off.The seat is out with the dash and top left to remove.


   Before the body comes off we have some issues to fix.The trunk lid gap is bad.


   Another picture of the gap.The middle of the lid is bent in like someone sat on it.The bottom  is bent out.


   I received many suggestions from the Thunderbird group and decided to try this one.I pushed down and in on the left rear corner a little at a time,putting the upright 2X4 at the lowest point of the sag.Notice how straight the rain trough is.


   After 30 minutes studying the problem and setting the 2X4's,it took 5 minutes to straighten it out.

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   The bottom of the lid is straight also.A little time spent now makes it easier when reinstalling the lid later.

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   The next problem to fix is the gap on the bottom of the doors.This is common on most little birds.I again went to the classic bird group and my friend Jerry for the solution. Click on the link for details.

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   I used the instructions in the helpful tips link to fix the gap on the lower corner.I did numerous checks on the progress and It didn't move.The instructions said to screw the angle iron to the door but I used vise grips so not to drill any holes.Guess I'll try the other door.

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   After putting a lot of presure on the first door I screwed the clamps in to far and look what happened.It took very little to twist the corner in.I got it back out with a steel rod,some door slaming and a ruber hammer.Not too good on the paint.Why didn't the first door move?

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   I took the door off the car and lookie here.Under the weather strip was the paint and under the paint was the tape.The bottom hinge also was rusted and when I put presure on the clamps,instead of forming the metal it just sprung it and it came back when the presure was off.


   The hinge area was also rusted.Most of the body work was done in the 60's because very little bondo was used,mostly lead.


   I was very hapy with the way the door bottom turned out.After cutting out the old metal,welding in new and grinding off the welds I put a thin coat of body filler with fiber glass in it and top coated it with feather rite.I than put the door back on the car to check the fit.


     To get the windshield out I cut the weather strip on the inside  flange .


    These are the braces under the dash to help hold the body together.Notice the farmer engineering to brace the dash.Number 9 bailing wire would have looked better,unbelievable. The dash and windshield  have been removed .  


   As we remove parts, some are restored,some are put on a list to replace and all are boxed or bagged and put in the computer.I took 100 pictures in one day on the tear down and all these steps are time consuming but important.


   About ready to lift the body off.The body bolts are all removed and the best tool was the torch.All the bolts had to be heated,one cut off and two twisted off.There was some floor rust around the bolt area and  repair panels were welded in over the top of the body bolts back in the 60's.I was very careful not to twist off the bolts in the trunk area as the nuts are welded inside the frame.


   This rotor was built 20 years ago from Casco plans and used by several friends.I spent a day getting it set up and mounting the body on it.It has 8 body mounting points and all the threads on the bolts had to be re-threaded because of old paint.It's very movable on concrete but a bear on the drive and that's where it has to go to be blasted.


   The body is hanging ready for the rotor.Because of the location of the lifting points the doors are left on but must remain closed untill mounted on the rotor


   The last time I had a body on this rotor I had to use a chain hoist to rotate it.I changed the balance point and now can rotate it by hand.


   After turning the body over I now understand why the under coating is so thick.Besides the duct tape there are numerious patch panels pop riveted to cover the rust.In order to get a good blasting job not only all the under coating but the patch panels will have to be removed first.


   This was the degree of undercoating on the bottom of the body.I tried paint remover,oven cleaner and diesel fuel and they all made a gooey mess taking 3 or 4 applications.I sharpen the end of an old bucher knife and scraped and picked and at the really tough areas used a propane torch.This seemed like the best solution but I spent 16 hrs.on the body.


   After the scraping I pulled the body outside and presure washed it to remove any loose material.I think the body is now ready for the blaster.


   The blaster came today and is setting up his equiptment  to begin.He tells me he does 12-14 cars every month plus industrial equipment and buildings.He has a compressor to supply clean air to his helmet.


   Instead of soda blast we're using star blast on the body because of the residue issue.It does remove rust and if done properly will not warp the metal.On the body floor and bottom and also the car frame we used sand.It took 5-1/2 hours non-stop to blast the car.


   This product was sprayed after blasting to protect the metal from rusting.Two part primer will be used after all body work is completed.This is what the paint supplier recomended.Learned later it may have been better to skip this product and use the two part primer instead.


   The body is primed and ready for any body work needed.


     Much  repair had to be performed on previous body work.On some areas lead was used,other areas duct tape covered with paint.When I purchased the car in 1980 it had a frame up restoration and I never spoted all these problems until the body was stripped.After I purchased the car it had decent storage.Here is one of the many problems that was corrected.


    Making sure the splash shield will bolt up while repair is made.


   After all body panels were installed the floor top and bottom were sprayed with Eastwood Encapsulator.

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    The body is back on the frame to make sure the body mounts are welded in the proper location to bolt it to the frame.At this time we'll check door,hood and trunk lid fit.We set the hard top on to see if we could improve the body to top gap.We're also skiming the body with body filler to take out any waves and kept it straight.

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    I finally have the body covered with two coats of primer.It took two months longer to reach this point than I planned.

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    The hood and trunk lid are the two straightest parts of the car.The body has a few imperfections but for the most part I'm pretty happy.If the weather gets back to more normal soon I'll fix one small problem with body filler and use 2 part glazing putty on any pin holes, lightly sand with 80 grit and apply one more coat of red 2 part primer.

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            I thought the body was ready for a final sanding when a friend stopped by and said it wasn't. It had too many waves and he would show me how it's done.In my opinion in order to have a straight finish body filler has to be used or you will have the factory finish of the 50's.When working a panel grind the area with 36 grit for good adhesive and spread body filler over a large area using an abundant amount .Using a cheese grater to shape the surface taking off the high spots.Next use an air file and 36 grit sandpaper followed by a D A and 80 grit to take out the 36 grit scraches.Than back with the air file and 80 grit paper.By this time 3/4 of the filler is on the floor. Spray a coat of primer and air file with 80 grit to see where the low spots are.Repeat the above as many time as needed to have a smooth panel. Notice the body is off the frame where it will be painted and all the spots in the picture are dust in the air.

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      When buying the primer have the paint store furnish a little color to tint the primer.Tint half of the primer and each time you prime change the color.After air filing and priming 3 times we have the body with no low spots in the panels.Tim is filling any pin holes with evercoat,we'll sand with 180 grit and prime one more time before we wet sand with 400 grit paper. Tim knows the tips to get a quality paint job and I appreciate his help.

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Pic #39

        After wet sanding with 400 grit, 4 coats of color was applied. It looks nice and a shame to sand it but the orange peel has to go.

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      The doors,hood and trunk lid were hung and sprayed to minimize amount of dirt in the paint. There ready to be wet sanded and buffed.

Pic #41

      It's hard to sand on perfect paint but to get that show room look the orange peel has to be removed.Start with 1000 grit and use a flexable 2X4 block (available at paint stores) and water to sand untill the orange peel is gone.Be carefull at all edges.Follow with 1500 and 2000 before machine buffing with compound.More time with the sandpaper and water means less time with the compound and buffer.Half of this panel has been sanded and ready to buff.

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       The body shell will be painted next starting with the interior part of the floor.Since this area will be covered with carpet and trunk material it is sprayed first so overspray will not be a factor.

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     The next phase is wet sanding the outside sheet metal with 400 grit.For color sanding and final primer sanding I use 3 different 2 X 4 flexable sanding pads and a squeege to wipe off the water as shown on the fender.The most flexable around edges and head and tail lights ect,and the least flexable on flat surfaces,hood,doors,ect.

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     The outside sheet metal is painted using Dupont Imron paint.Urethane paint is a durable product so I don't use a clear coat.This is one less product to purchase and apply and is much easier to fix a problem area.

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    Last I painted the bottom and the engine compartment.Being able to turn the body made it easier to paint and sand.

Pic # 46

      I paid particular attention to this area.This area will not get color sanded and it shows little dirt or orange peel and no sags.Painting it last puts all the over spray on the outer sheet metal which will disapear when color sanded.Not impossible but hard to color sand the engine compartment.

Pic # 47

        No over spray on the inner fender and wet sanding takes care of the outside.Oops,poor lighting caused a couple sags.I took the least flexable wet sanding pad with 1500 grit and than 2000 and sanded with the side edge of the pad to very carefully eliminate the run .It takes patience.

Pic # 48

     After color sanding and buffing the body I had a spot in the grove between the head light and hood about the size of a dime lift up.I wiped the body with final clean and tack rag before painting but there must of been some dirt there to cause this.I used 400 grit and sanded a small area going through a couple coats of primer.I masked off a larger area not tapeing around the damage so over spray would blend into the existing paint.I sprayed 3 coats of paint into the primered area and two more over all.I also taped and sprayed one of my sags that I sanded through.I buffed them out ,problem fixed.No clear coat to fuss with.

Pic # 49

     Painting the last of the small parts.I re-did the hood as it had a small ding .After sanding and buffing them I'll start a new page for body assemble.I've had my fill of sanding but that's what it takes to get a pro job.