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Hot Rods Fit and finish, tricks of the trade

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Roothawg, Jan 14, 2020 at 2:56 PM.

  1. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 18,905

    Roothawg
    Member

    My name is Root and I have a problem.....I suck at fit and finish.

    I never seem to end up with the gaps I want, even if I use the factory holes. You would think it has to go back to the same place it was before I took it apart.

    I see these cars with perfect gaps on the doors and fenders, mine never look like that.
    I have even thought about welding up the holes in the frame and start from a known standard, get the cab lined up drill the holes and start bolting on things then back drill the holes.

    So what gives? Help a guy put out better work.
     
  2. BJR
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 5,931

    BJR
    Member

    Before you remove good fitting doors, drill 1/8" holes through the hinges into the door and the body. When you go to remount the doors use an 1/8" drill bit in the pre drilled holes to line up the hinges to the body and the doors. Same for trunk lids. Easy peasy. :D
     
  3. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 18,905

    Roothawg
    Member

    That’s a good idea.
     
  4. badvolvo
    Joined: Jul 25, 2011
    Posts: 385

    badvolvo
    Member

    When it fits, I'm finished. Spent too many hours welding up the edges on this old coupe to get it reasonable. I don't think GM made gaps a high priority in 1940. I expect it closer than it ever was new.
     
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  5. It’s a royal PITA
    It’s also a dance, repeating the same steps over and over.
    First off EVERYTHING stays loose until it’s all together. Body shims stay dynamic. Now get everything as close as it can be (the dance) and pick your battles and compromises.
    Metal edges pounded into alignment, rod welded and ground back for gaps. Braces cut and metal skins pulled. Lips cut off and corrected.
    So all your edges are perfect and in bare metal now,,, no filler on edges. you can fill panels edge to edge, metal work the panels, or live with the non Mercedes fit and finish gaps.
    I did a square body K5 blazer with near perfect gaps. Mostly original sheet metal too. I had to cut 1/2 of it apart and move it or weld up to 3/8” on the other 1/2. Right from the factory the fenders are 1/4”’different at the hood. Sliced the top from cowl to headlight to fix it.
     
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  6. southcross2631
    Joined: Jan 20, 2013
    Posts: 3,097

    southcross2631
    Member

    Good luck if you ever try to get aftermarket panels to get even close. I bought an aftermarket 57 Chevy fender to match an aftermarket headlight trim ring. After calling classic industries and sending the parts back and getting new ones that were even worse. I had to split the fender and widen it to make it line up like it should.
    You may have to add to or subtract from your door edges to make the gaps look good. I use a paint stir stick as a guide and if I can get it that close then it's a good day.
     
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  7. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 18,905

    Roothawg
    Member

    So, what would be your process?
    Finish the rolling chassis with motor/tranny etc in place, then mock up all of your pieces? Disassemble, paint chassis, then piece paint the parts? Or reassemble getting all the gaps right again and try and paint without getting overspray on everything else previously painted?
     
  8. southcross2631
    Joined: Jan 20, 2013
    Posts: 3,097

    southcross2631
    Member

    On this one I did the chassis and then the under side of the body . Taped off the chassis and underside.
    Painted the body. Installed the driveline. Then installed the front clip. Painted the fenders and doors and tailgate off the car. 2015-03-12 14.05.14.jpg 2012-01-01 00.00.40.jpg 2015-06-02 18.17.06.jpg Pictures.jpg
     
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  9. Yes, you want to assemble/fit/adjust all of the parts before you start bodywork/paint. Start at the rear of the car(in most cases) and work forward. Remember primer and paint will make gaps even smaller.
    Depends on the car and paint type whether I jamb it and paint together or piece paint. Basic black and most solid colors can be painted apart, but metallics or candies need to be all together so you get the color even.
    What car are we talking about anyway?
     
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  10. Part of the dance.

    Usually everything is put together, worked beat, ground, welded and fitted as needed up to the level of perfection desired. Then separated for painting then reassembled for show top honors. With all the work involved you probably shouldn’t cut corners or be worried about double/triple manipulation. Keep your painting to one time.

    100% stock build/restoration is easier that custom build.

    So in other ways and words, get yourself to a good frame, fully fabbed and bracketed welded drilled and tapped chassis. That may or may not include brake lines and electrical but certainly suspension with wheels and tires. (It comes apart for paint later)
    Set the body, work the floors and firewall around the engine trans radiator . Now’s a good time to worry about Fuel system filters, Exhaust hangers , clearance issues, Trans cooler, brake pedals, steering columns, penetrations blah blah blah. Special care needs to be taken if you’re mocking up with finished parts. (More work) . Sometimes the motor comes in and out and the body comes off more than a few times to get that all figured out.

    Work your Panels, (months sometimes) prime, disassemble prime The crannies and paint then reassemble. Maybe cut it in maybe paint it all apart. You can get the chassis all done and shrink wrap it too.
     
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  11. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 43,960

    squirrel
    Member

    would help to know this. I was just doing some shining on my 59 Chevy truck and noticing how far off almost all the gaps are, from being the way I want them, and thinking about what it would take to get them right. I just kept on shining, and not worrying about it, because I know it'll never fit right, as long as I own it.
     
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  12. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 18,905

    Roothawg
    Member

    Well, I just finished (or close to) my nephew's 58 Big window 3100. The doors are crap on this one. I have done everything I can to make them shut right, but they still pooch out.

    The next car will be my 1955 Ford Customline (Mild Custom) The gaps are spot on with the 55, I wouldn't even take it apart, but the lower door hinges are shot. All 55's trunks fit bad, since they overlap the rear tail pan,even good ones look like they don't fit.

    The last project is my 1936 Ford pickup. It is the one I am most concerned about. I am planning on powdercoating the frame, so that is why I ask these questions. It's going to mimic a 1950's show car. Lots of chrome, lots of little details.


    I have done tons of frame ups, but they are all home built hot rods. I want the 36 to be REALLY nice, at least once, take a bunch of pics etc. Then I'll drive the wheels off of it.

    Just trying to wrap my head around a method, so the newly plated and coated parts don't end up all scuffed and jacked. My previous builds are all driver quality.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020 at 9:18 AM
  13. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 43,960

    squirrel
    Member

    On the 36, you will want to drive it around in primer, with everything fitting right, before you take it apart to paint it...following the advice of others above. Beware that powdercoating screws things up, because it has thickness, although it should not affect the body fit and finish too much.

    The doors on a 55-59 Chevy truck are really difficult to get right. First you have to fix the place where the lower hinge bolts to the door, they usually are broken where the nuts are spot welded to the door. I like to add another support plate over the hinge, like the upper hinge has from the factory. Of course you need tight, straight hinges. And the step needs to be straight, and in the right place (if it was rusted and replaced, this can be a lot of work). The fit at the bottom of the windshield pillar will be off on the passenger side by quite a bit, because they made the tooling wrong, they're all like this. That will take some cutting and welding to fix. If the truck got hit hard, the door opening will be the wrong shape, and will require serious pulling/pushing to get it right. And fitting the fenders, and the hood, is also an equally challenging game. The hood always wants to pop up at the back, even if you can find hinges that are not worn too much.

    And after all that, you'll still have to do some cutting/welding to get the gap width the same all around the doors.

    Hopefully the 55 Ford won't take so much work. You do need to start with the doors, then move to the front end.
     
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  14. Lots and lots of masking tape.
     
  15. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 18,905

    Roothawg
    Member

    It is the pass side door on the 58, as a matter of fact. The truck is painted, so there won't be any adjustments other than what I can gain by shimming and adjusting the hinges etc.

    On the 36 it came apart 15 years ago, so I will have to assemble it and then check my gaps. It was my high school ride, so it is a keeper.
     
  16. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 14,561

    alchemy
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    On the car I'm working on now I installed all the rubber door bumpers as I'm doing the patch panels and fitting of the sheetmetal. I found that all the bumpers were too thick and needed sanding down so the door closed all the way. And then there was a LOT of sheetmetal moving and hammering to get the outside surface lined up.

    Since your truck is already painted you are pretty much SOL except for modifying rubber and adjusting the in/out of the latches and hinges. Make sure you get EVERYTHING fitting properly BEFORE PAINT on the next one.
     
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  17. southcross2631
    Joined: Jan 20, 2013
    Posts: 3,097

    southcross2631
    Member

    Good luck on the 58. I helped my brother do his 58 that used to have . He bought it from the original owner from Arkansas and was rust free never hit . The door hinges were tight as the passenger door rarely got used. They never fit right and in spite of replacing the hinges with NOS hinges, we finally got them acceptable. Not perfect , but good enough for him to drive it over 200,000 miles until a woman slammed into him and he rolled the truck.
    All the truck produced before the gentleman trucks we started see in the late 60's were designed for farmers who half the time were on dirt roads. The gaps didn't matter that much.
    One of the nicest cabs on an old truck was believe it or not my dad's 39 International 3/4 ton. The doors opened and shut like a new truck today and he used it in the log woods of northern Michigan.
     
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  18. anthony myrick
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 4,851

    anthony myrick
    Member

    gaps are easy if ya follow a few steps
    1 verify the chassis or structure is dimensionaly correct
    2 I always align panels on a full frame with the body mounted to the frame with the bushings it will use when finished, usually new body mount bushings.
    3 bodies can be out of square, I have marked body centerlines and checked with plum bobs and lasers. Old prewar bodies can shift easily.
    4 Proper shimming, many prewar bodies can only be adjusted by strategic shimming. A 32 can adjust door fitment by tightening or loosening the bolt on the foot of the cowl
    5 Tools like porta powers, friction jacks and blocks of wood with hammers can correct lots of fitment issues
    6 The weight of engines, door guts......can affect fitment of panels
    7 after all the fitting, shimming and adjusting takes place, a 3/16 inch piece of metal can verify gaps. This is when the grinding and welding takes place to get the gaps correct.

    The flush part sometimes involves lots of shrinking or some creative cutting
    I have heat shrunk the "fat' out of doors and QTRs to get them to flow. Lots of work.
    I have split cowl panels in the jamb and moved them to fit flush with doors.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2020 at 10:10 AM
  19. anthony myrick
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 4,851

    anthony myrick
    Member

    And fit as much as you can while you build it.
    I like to have the weather strips, bump stops and latches installed during the build.
    you can line up a door before painting and have major fitment issues if the weather strips have not been installed during the build.
    Learn how to use physics to help you. I had a 33 with a very tight gap between the bottom of the door and rocker. I heated several spots on the top edge of the rocker and cooled them. This edge shrunk and caused the gap to open up. No filler work was needed.
     
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  20. It also helps to understand how the factory assembled the cars down the line to get an idea of what was even really checked for gaps. Most of the time the front clips would be fully assembled on a jig and then put on the main body as one piece. I know Chevy did this a lot. Also to consider that the gaps of factory cars were all over the place. I have spent a lot of time with many unrestored/no accident cars and really as long at the doors didn't really hit the fender opening and hood cleared when opening and closing and it was fairly flat then it was good. My current project (O/T 68 C10) is never been apart and the gaps are spotty at best between each door and the front clip.

    As stated above its best to go back to front with alignment.
     
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  21. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 18,905

    Roothawg
    Member

    Is this true even with pickups?
     
  22. well the doors would have been done first as the cabs would be pretty complete before they left the body plant to head to final assembly. then the front clip would be added, then hood. The bed would be added at some point if it was a pickup and not a chassis cab being built.
     
  23. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 18,905

    Roothawg
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    I would assume you would have to start with the cab. Start with new wood for the mounts. And then the running boards since they mount directly below the cab. The gaps would start there and work your way out.

    The rear fenders have massive holes for adjustment, but where they attach to the running boards it’s a little tighter.

    The toughest part is adjusting the hood and grille. Too many variables. Because of the way the hood latches you have to push down in the latches to get them to clear and then the hood bottom rubs the paint off of the top of the fender.
     
  24. The hardest thing to change is the A pillar and the hinge side of the door. So that’s where I start. It’s Kinda like the middle right?
    The back end of the door and that area of the door jam/gap and latch is easier to mess with.

    Weather stripping was mentioned earlier. We had one in here that someone else painted. (Killer paint too) The panel fit and finish left much to be questioned. Worst was the doors closing because of the after market WS. If the Weather strip is too tight or too loose you can adjust the surfaces BEFORE PAINT! It’s a ball buster to get it after paint. And it’s no fun double duty on WS but that’s easier to swallow than getting flagged down to be told your doors are open or repaint the jambs.

    Now 36 ford truck didn’t ever have weather stripping so figuring that all out before you call the doors perfect will be a good idea
     
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  25. anthony myrick
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 4,851

    anthony myrick
    Member

    Old car gaps suck compared to new cars. Trucks were utility tools.
    For instance. Mount the cab to the frame. Align the door gaps then look at the belt lines. The belt line will usually be off. Some creative shim work might fix some of it. Most of the time you will align the belt line then recreate the rest of the door gaps.
    Grind, weld, repeat.
     
  26. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 14,561

    alchemy
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I've read you should have the body on the frame, and the frame on the suspension when aligning and gapping. The frame will bend differently if the weight is not on it in the same place as when complete. On my current project I have the frame sitting on two giant sawhorses where the front and rear axles will be.

    IMG_2134.JPG
     
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  27. BJR
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 5,931

    BJR
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  28. 49ratfink
    Joined: Feb 8, 2004
    Posts: 17,443

    49ratfink
    Member
    from California

    paint your car flat black and the seams will be less visible
     
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  29. well on the 36 does the grille attach to the radiator or is separately mounted? Other than 32-34 Ford pickups, I have never worked on any pre 55 truck. If the grille mounts separately then I would think then the you would mount the grille first and get the gaps decent with the fenders, though leaving them loose and then fit the hood to the cowl and do the grille last. I know on my 33 Ford pickup that there is no super way to get the gaps nice on the hood to grille shell. Might have to look at making adjustment in the hood latch mechanism to avoid having to push down.
     
  30. anthony myrick
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 4,851

    anthony myrick
    Member

    This piece right here is critical for 32 door alignment.
    C0DE47DA-E8F2-4324-8D95-DE0D9DF00C4A.jpeg
     

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