Sunday, July 12, 2015

Cutting out the rot

There's an interesting moment at the beginning of any restoration project, whether it be a building like this old house, or a piece of mechanical equipment like a car, when all of the rotten material is removed, and you can "see what you've got." In the case of my old VW van, there was a lot of rot, and so there wasn't much left when I got done with the passenger side. I still have to give the driver's side the same treatment, but that will happen later, when I can turn the vehicle around on the lift.

The first order of business was making a "rolling chasis" so the turn-around could actually be effected. My assumption that the engine had seized, causing the problems with rolling described in the previous post, turned out to be incorrect. What had actually happened was that a brake drum had seized. Seized so badly, in fact, that it had to be cut off.

I've had a lot of brake drums seized on me, but never to this extent. Cutting it off was a novel procedure, but effective.

You can see the left hand brake shoe has lost it's lining. This had jimmied up the drum, causing the seizure.

The engine turned freely once I got it out of the vehicle, a big surprise. It's been so long since I parked this vehicle, a whole decade, that I'd forgotten what was happening that caused me to park it. But the only engine problem was a dropped valve seal. This could have caused a lot of noise, but it likely wouldn't have stopped the negine from turning over and even starting.

The dropped seal had damaged the piston, but not badly. The block with crankshaft, camshaft, and all the associated bearings, which I remember rebuilding myself back in 1998 or 1999, was still fine. Back in my days of student and graduate student poverty, I probably would have slapped a junkyard head on this rig, and lived with this dinged-up piston. But these days I have more resources, so we'll get a new set of pistons and cylinders and do a "top-end" job, a partial engine rebuild. The block, a salvage head given me by a friend a decade ago, and the fan housing are now at the machine shop, getting ready for this rebuild.

Then it was time to cut out rotten body metal. We started at the front and worked to the back.

I used a paint pen to scribe lines to get straight edges for the butt and lapp welds that will hold on the new steel.

By the time all the rusty metal was removed, there wasn't a whole lot left of the passenger side, and I was pretty tired. But everything that's left is more or less sound, and I can see how to repair it all.

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