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msith718
05-25-2016, 12:58 PM
Hi all, first post here as I am brand new member.

I have finally found a 65 convertible project. It's in pretty decent shape actually. Interior is excellent, the body is straight, and it runs.

But... the rocker panels are rusted. The rust also extends into the floor pans.

So, while the car LOOKS like a winner and a fantastic deal at around 5k, the rocker panels concern me a bit.

This would be my first restoration and, while I fully expected to do a bit of work, I wasnt planning on structural work. This would be not only my first resto, but my first time welding.

Have seen a few places where people use 3x3 square tubing between the inner and outer rockers. So, apparently this is fixable.

My questions are:

1) What do you think of doing this as a first timer? Would you suggest to go for it, or to run the other way?

2) What does a fix like this do to the value of the car? My understanding is that any deviation from stock brings the value down. Would this kind of a fix have the same result? I have to keep in mind the day may come when I sell and, when it does, I'd hope not to be surprised that the fix reduced its value dramatically--compared to if the car never needed to be fixed.

Any other thoughts about attacking this job?

Thanks in advance for all and any input.

Yadkin
05-25-2016, 02:52 PM
You said that the body is straight, that means different things to different folks. In a convertible, The rocker panels and connecting torque boxes have to be solid for the door vertical panels to be straight. If they are, the rust damage can't be all that bad. It's probably just the outer that is damaged.

Additional stress can be placed in these critical areas simply by jacking the car from the front bumper or front cross member. The door seams will move a little even in a hard top, but they shouldn't move so much that you can't open the doors.

If the doors don't open during this test, structural damage to the inners can be fixed, but this isn't a DIY proposition in my book. You'll need to find a guy with a frame straightener to set the geometry while he cuts out old metal and welds in new. And all that steel is heavy gauge stuff, not stuff that normal body shops typically handle.

msith718
05-25-2016, 04:12 PM
that means different things to different folks
I see. What I meant was the panels are not full of dings, dents, creases, and crumples.

Now, I have only seen pictures on the website it is selling on. The car is a good four hour ride from me.That is why I want to get as much info as possible before going to see it. So, I cant say just how bad the rust is.

But, I have spoken to the seller a couple of times and he is not trying to hide the fact that they are "shot". Of course, those are his words. But when I asked about other rust he said that it extended into the floor pans. I would think that if the outers are rusted, and the floor pans, wouldnt the inner rockers also kind of have to be?

From the pictures, the doors appear to line up just fine.

But assuming the inners are rusted, if the frame is still straight, couldnt I brace it to keep it straight and then do the work?

Im torn on what to do here because I have been looking forever for a project 65 convertible and they just dont seem to be around. I find a ton of them fully restored. So, to find this where all else seems in good shape and only four hours away, is very tempting. Its even my preferred color (frost turquoise) the car was painted a darker blue many years ago but can see in the pic of the engine bay that is the original color. So, if/when the painting stage came, I would do it the original color again.

But, I also want to make sure that I dont make a big mistake.

Yadkin
05-25-2016, 05:59 PM
My own car, just completed, was originally from Rockland County NY, driven hard and passed down through a family with four boys, so I know what the effects of road salt can do. It had rusted through both front floor pans, nearly the entire trunk, both rear fenders all along the wheel wheels, the battery tray, and front fenders along the intersecting surfaces of the metal inner fenders. The only structural rust was the outer part of the driver's side spring tower. My rockers were in very good shape except for a few holes in the outer, thinner, sheet metal.

Remember that these cars are unit chassis, so there is no frame. On the positive side of this, the critical structural panels are heavier gauge steel, and the adjacent thinner panels tend to rust away long before the heavier ones begin to. On the negative side, you can't unbolt the body from the frame and get access to every panel. In several areas, including the rockers, you have to cut through at least one area to get access to a hidden area.

You can brace the chassis like a frame shop could; I just described the most straight-forward method. If it were me in my garage, I'd set it on 8 jack stands, all on a good concrete floor, and shim it all level, measuring against a laser.

Ask the guy if he has the original working jack. These cars were designed to be jacked by the bumpers at all four corners. If you can jack the front off the ground using that it will put a lot of stress on the structure, magnifying deflections. If it doesn't deflect that much, it's a solid structure.

For further inspection bring a floor jack with you and at least two jack stands. Jack the front from the front cross member (under the radiator) and place the stands at the points where the lower control arms meet. Jack the rear from the differential and place the stands, protected by 4" long 2x4 blocks, at the rear edge of the rear torque boxes.

jopizz
05-25-2016, 09:48 PM
I wouldn't call $5000 a fantastic deal for a convertible that has major rust problems like you describe. I bought a '66 convertible last year for $1000 and the most I could get for it was $1800. That car had solid rocker panels, floors and trunk with some rust in the lower quarters. It was mostly complete and was running and driving. I certainly wouldn't recommend buying it without a visual inspection. How is the package tray. If that is badly rusted it is almost impossible to repair and you will have to find a good used one which is extremely expensive. I've always found that whatever rust is present in the pictures you can count on at least twice that amount when you inspect the car. I'm not trying to discourage you just giving you some advice from someone who has been buying and selling Thunderbirds for over 40 years.

John

msith718
05-25-2016, 10:22 PM
Ok, so a couple of questions from various parts of your response.

First, I see you are in NC? So did you go to NY to get the car?

I figured I would need to cut the rear quarter panels as far back as the wheel. But as for the fenders, dont they unbolt? Or are they also welded on?

When you get it on jack stands and shim it, what part of the car do you use as the reference to check for level? In other words you can't shim until the hood is level because it is not a flat surce, or the trunk lid. Would it be the rocker area itself--the bottom of the care between the front and rear tires?

Also, you would want it level in two dimensions--along its length and along the width, right? Although along the width seems to be easier to figure out since, divided down the middle from front to back, the car should be symetrical.

"If you can jack the front off the ground using that it will put a lot of stress on the structure, magnifying deflections. If it doesn't deflect that much, it's a solid structure."

So that is the test to see if the inner rocker is still pretty good? I am picturing that if it is not good, then jacking it up will cause a deflection that doesnt return... and I "bend" the guys car and the doors no longer open and close properly. Is that possible?

"For further inspection bring a floor jack with you and at least two jack stands. Jack the front from the front cross member (under the radiator) and place the stands at the points where the lower control arms meet. Jack the rear from the differential and place the stands, protected by 4" long 2x4 blocks, at the rear edge of the rear torque boxes.
Reply With Quote"

So, with this test, I would be jacking the car up and putting it on the stands as you said. But then what? At that point do you just check that the doors are still properly aligned. And if so, does that mean that it is structurally sound?

Im assuming, just from the couple of conversations I have had with teh guy, that he knows a bit about the car and he is accurate that the rockers are "shot" At least, that is why it is priced so low (I think it is low, and so does he) But, you never know, he could be wrong.

Also, I hear alot about rusted rocker panels and it is a problem because they are structural. But I never hear about rusted cross members. Wouldnt that be a big problem too. And woudlnt they need to be welded to the rocker panels?

msith718
05-25-2016, 10:38 PM
I'm not trying to discourage you
not at all. i appreciate all of the feedback.

I have to say, I am very surprised that you found a 66 convertible at that price. $1000 and not a total rust bucket? The car you described sounds fantastic for the price. I dont see non-convertibles in that kind of condition for anywhere near that price.

I have been scouring the internet for months upon months and cant find any. Of course, I am limiting myself ot a couple hundred miles from NYC.

If I were to buy, I would definitely go to inspect it. But because it is such a far drive, I want to find out as much info as possible and make sure that whatever it is can be fixed.

From my conversations with him, the rockers are rusted and there is some rust in the wheel wells but not rusted through. and the rest of the car is clean. But, i didnt see for myself, just going by what he has told me.

I thought it was a good deal because everything else I see (have not seen a convertible but may hardtops/landaus) if they look good are similar price... but not a convertible.

This one, at least, has an interior that I wouldnt need to do anything to. And wouldnt need body work--I mean in areas where you see like, fenders, trunk lid, hood, etc. My assumption was: fix the rocker and then Ive got a convertible in real good shape for 5k plus labor for the rocker work. But I think I trust your assessment a bit more than mine.

simplyconnected
05-25-2016, 10:44 PM
Don't use a bumper jack and don't lift from the center of the rear axle. You're simply inviting trouble for a car you don't own.

Don't stress the body if you already know it needs rocker panels. All that is BAD ADVICE. Lift this car from spring perches, both front and rear. Use ramps or jack stands but NEVER get under it with jacks only. Even then, give the car a good shake to see how stable it is before putting your body under ANY car.

You could negotiate on the price. It would help if you have examples of other cars for less money. You could shop for steel; 2"X4" channel, floor pans, rocker panels, etc. (Then the car needs to be painted). Show him the costs. How are the engine and trans? Are they old and tired? - Dave

jopizz
05-25-2016, 11:04 PM
Without inspecting the car it's hard to tell whether the rocker damage is cosmetic (outer rockers) or structural (inner rockers). That being said pretty much anything is repairable if you have the right tools, skill and money. Unfortunately here in the Northeast rust damage is unavoidable. How long has the car been for sale. Remember if it really was a bargain it would've been sold by now. Don't be afraid to give a low offer. Start at $2000 and work your way up. If he gets insulted, too bad. Just because the rest of the car looks good doesn't mean it's not loaded with bondo. If you inspect the car in person bring a magnet with you. Go up and down the quarters and fenders. If it doesn't stick then it's not metal underneath the paint. Make sure the trunk lid is solid and not rusted. Good convertible trunk lids are almost impossible to find. Are all the top components; relays, switches, solenoids there. If not they are expensive to replace.

John

msith718
05-25-2016, 11:05 PM
You could negotiate on the price. It would help if you have examples of other cars for less money. You could shop for steel; 2"X4" channel, floor pans, rocker panels, etc. (Then the car needs to be painted). Show him the costs. How are the engine and trans? Are they old and tired? - Dave
one of my problems is not knowing the market, it appears.

Assuming that rockers and floor pans are the only issue (which is the assumption I made) i thought 5k was a good price... no?

Because once the rockers are taken care of, then its a structurally sound car, great interior, straight body that just needs paint. And the rocker panel issue isnt costly, just time consuming (if I do it myself)

the engine has 90k miles on it. I dont believe it has been rebuilt. So, it may be tired, but its not a car that wont start or drive.

What I figure to be the worst in cars I look at are:
needing significant body work (in terms of dents, lots of rust, etc)
needing significant mechanical work (no transmission, engine in need of rebuild, etc)

This doesnt have that. Although the rockers are important and maybe tough to do, the scope is limited.

msith718
05-25-2016, 11:14 PM
Without inspecting the car it's hard to tell whether the rocker damage is cosmetic (outer rockers) or structural (inner rockers). That being said pretty much anything is repairable if you have the right tools, skill and money. Unfortunately here in the Northeast rust damage is unavoidable. How long has the car been for sale. Remember if it really was a bargain it would've been sold by now. Don't be afraid to give a low offer. Start at $2000 and work your way up. If he gets insulted too bad. Just because the rest of the car looks good doesn't mean it's not loaded with bondo. If you inspect the car in person bring a magnet with you. Go up and down the quarters and fenders. If it doesn't stick then it's not metal underneath the paint. Make sure the trunk lid is solid and not rusted. Good convertible trunk lids are almost impossible to find. Are all the top components; relays, switches, solenoids there. If not they are expensive to replace.
John

the car has been for sale for a couple of months. He is an older guy (a bit grumpy) and isnt dealing with dealers(many who he says have called him) because they try to do whatever needed to "steal" the car ( his words and thoughts)

My understanding is that he has lowered the price a couple of times--because it isnt selling due to the rocker panel. He did mention that the price cant go too low because at a certain point it is worth more as parts car. So he probably wont go much lower--reasonable or not. But given enough time, possibly.

According to him, he has owned the car for 30 years and has always taken care of it. No accidents, no issues, he is just too old now to do what needs to be done. What happened the 20 years before that, I have no idea.

The reason I am willing is that I just cant find any 65 convertibles anywhere near my price range. So, I figure, if they are that hard to find, take what you can get and make it work. Its the way I always felt about a house (which I am much more experienced in working on) Either you want it or you dont. If you want it, you can tear down walls, build extensions or do whatever is needed.

jopizz
05-25-2016, 11:38 PM
The hardest thing to do when buying a classic car is taking the emotion out of it. We've all been there. When I buy a car the seller is irrelevant. The car has a certain value based on condition, no more no less. If the seller is unrealistic to believe that's it worth more than that it's his problem, not mine. When I buy a car I ask myself the question; can I sell this tomorrow and get my money back. If the answer is no I walk away. That being said I know how it is when you see something that you've always wanted. It's easy to look past the bad points and only see the good. If you decide to buy it we're here to help you through the restoration.

John

msith718
05-25-2016, 11:52 PM
You are right. There is a lot of emotion here. Probably too much so Im glad you mentioned that and brought it to the front of my mind.

can I sell this tomorrow and get my money back.
Thats really a good point that I didnt really consider. Probably the best way to gauge if you are paying the right price.

The problem with this one is that I am new to this market so, really, cant even trust my own knowledge.

Although you guys dont know this particular car either, and havent even seen the pics, I still get the sense that I probably could not sell it tomorrow for the 5k asking price. Actually, if I could, then he would have sold it by now at this price.

I dont know what a good deal is for it (I thought I did) but I dont think this is it at that price.

Although in speaking with him, he does truly believe it is worth that. But then every seller probably does.

And he figures he can sell it for parts at not much less than this. whether or not that is true, I dont know.

jopizz
05-26-2016, 12:02 AM
And he figures he can sell it for parts at not much less than this. whether or not that is true, I dont know.

I've used that line myself when selling cars. It never works.

John

Yadkin
05-26-2016, 09:12 AM
Ok, so a couple of questions from various parts of your response.

[1] First, I see you are in NC? So did you go to NY to get the car?

[2] I figured I would need to cut the rear quarter panels as far back as the wheel. But as for the fenders, dont they unbolt? Or are they also welded on?

[3] When you get it on jack stands and shim it, what part of the car do you use as the reference to check for level? In other words you can't shim until the hood is level because it is not a flat surce, or the trunk lid. Would it be the rocker area itself--the bottom of the care between the front and rear tires?

Also, you would want it level in two dimensions--along its length and along the width, right? Although along the width seems to be easier to figure out since, divided down the middle from front to back, the car should be symetrical.

[4] "If you can jack the front off the ground using that it will put a lot of stress on the structure, magnifying deflections. If it doesn't deflect that much, it's a solid structure."

So that is the test to see if the inner rocker is still pretty good? I am picturing that if it is not good, then jacking it up will cause a deflection that doesnt return... and I "bend" the guys car and the doors no longer open and close properly. Is that possible?

[5] "For further inspection bring a floor jack with you and at least two jack stands. Jack the front from the front cross member (under the radiator) and place the stands at the points where the lower control arms meet. Jack the rear from the differential and place the stands, protected by 4" long 2x4 blocks, at the rear edge of the rear torque boxes.
Reply With Quote"

So, with this test, I would be jacking the car up and putting it on the stands as you said. But then what? At that point do you just check that the doors are still properly aligned. And if so, does that mean that it is structurally sound?

[6] Im assuming, just from the couple of conversations I have had with teh guy, that he knows a bit about the car and he is accurate that the rockers are "shot" At least, that is why it is priced so low (I think it is low, and so does he) But, you never know, he could be wrong.

[7] Also, I hear alot about rusted rocker panels and it is a problem because they are structural. But I never hear about rusted cross members. Wouldnt that be a big problem too. And woudlnt they need to be welded to the rocker panels?

Whoa, so many questions.

1. My wife's family is in Rockland County. I bought the car from them 28 years ago. I drove it to NC when we moved 20 years ago. We're part of the mass migration escaping the high taxes and oppressive government of the northeast.

2. The rear quarters are part of the unit chassis, spot welded on at the factory around their entire perimeter. the only bolt-on body parts are the front fenders, doors, hood and trunk lid.

3. Use a spirit level on the door sills for the front-rear plane. Then, for side-to-side, use a laser. Then check and record measurements of fixed points in the diagonals. Also check the rear axle for square by measuring from each hub to some fixed point at the front of the chassis.

4. Yes, that is a good test and yes, it is very possible to fold a car in half if it's not solid. However Ford designed the car to be jacked from the front and rear bumpers with minimal deflection. So ask his permission to perform this routine procedure. If you "ruin" the guy's car by doing so, then that's his problem, not yours.

Back in the mid 80's in Syracuse NY when my old '72 Ford LTD died I needed a budget second car and test drove 3 or 4 Ford Escorts before I found one that was solid, looked decent. I drove each the way a car was meant to be driven. After one test drive, with the seller as passenger, the car barely made it back to the starting point, and he accused me of "breaking" his car. "Sorry", was all I said before I left.

5. This is for a visual inspection. You don't want to get under the car without jack stands. You might be able to use the bumper jack to raise the car but a good floor jack is a lot easier and safer.

6. "Shot" means different things to different folks. Again, I had rust through on both outer rocker panels- they are a much lighter gage then the structure underneath.

7. Check the cross members during your visual inspection. Road salt rust damage is typically concentrated at areas subject to wheel spray. I've only seen cross members rust damaged when the car is abandoned on the ground and the chassis makes contact with wet soil.

arizonajack
05-26-2016, 12:37 PM
The reason I am willing is that I just cant find any 65 convertibles anywhere near my price range.



Well, exactly what is your "price range."

If your "price range" is $5000 plus the cost of restoration then your "price range" is likely $15,000 to $20,000 to restore a rust bucket.

Be realistic. Even if you get the rust bucket for $2,000 to $4,000 you'll still have another $5,000 to 10,000 in professional repairs of the rusted parts.

msith718
05-26-2016, 01:12 PM
About 5k is what I am looking to lay out.

Maybe I am just too naive but I dont see 15-20k in costs

That also means that I didnt plan on "professional repairs" at any point. Which is also why I would avoid a rust busket -- another term that can probably mean different things to different people.

To me, it means a car where multiiple patch panels are needed, plus some floor pans, maybe work on the doors/hood too. In other words--a LOT of areas that need welding patches.

But just rockers and floors (if that is the case) I woudnt consider a rust bucket.

I am resigned, somewhat, to the fact that I wont find a car that is 50+ years old with no rust. This is due to the fact that I probably wont go to California to pick a car up and I dont want to pay for someone else having done the work.

Back to this car. If (a big "if" perhaps) the only rust that needs to be handled with welding is the floor pans and rockers, costs are probably under $1000. The interior would need no work. I dont know what work would be needed on the engine, but I would do that as needed. Other mechanical stuff also would be done as needed. I dont get the sense that this needs a mechanical overhaul. And I know money will need to be spent... but I cant see 15k.

I would paint it myself. $1500 supplies for primer, paint, etc.

I know, it wont be showroom quality. But I have confidence that with patience, common sense, and research, I can do a fine job.

I just dont see how it puts me anywhere near the 20k range.

But, I am fully open to the possibility that I am out of my mind and totally naive.

arizonajack
05-26-2016, 01:26 PM
I'm in Arizona. Anything with rust is a "rust bucket." :-)

Anyway, hope for the best but plan for the worst.

msith718
05-26-2016, 02:54 PM
And one thing I was curious about that I forgot about with all of the [incredibly helpful] feedback.

The value or loss of value of using 3x3 square tubing to repair a rocker panel. I see it is fairly common across a number of different makes/models.

But with a classic, does it hurt the value?

Assuming there were two cars that were the exact same car in every respect, except for the rusted rockers (assuming inner or both and needs full replacement)

After repairing one with square tubing and one with factory rockers, would they be worth the same? Or would you expect to take a big hit on the one with square tubing?

And, if so, that leads me to ask why not fabricate rockers? I mean, anyone that can weld in rockers should be able to weld together a replacement, no? My understanding is that when you use the square tubing, you only notice it if you look under the car. But if you fabricated your own, it would look no different, right?

Yadkin
05-26-2016, 05:40 PM
I think that you need to take a road trip and see this car- you may be over thinking this.

With regards to using 3x3 square tube, I see that for more of a frame repair, and again, this car is a unit chassis. The structural rockers are heavy gauge sheet steel, so you're better off using the same gauge, shaping it, then cutting and welding in a patch.

I have seen a Mustang chassis modified with 2x2 stock, but that was to make a roll cage car. THat project, by the way, was a complete rust bucket, and the rockers were in good shape.

With regards to value of classics, to me there are two categories: all original, and modifieds. Low mileage, no rust, all original cars are easy to value. Modified cars are not. But a modified car done right, tastefully, to increase performance and safety, is better than a car modified to "make do", or to make a difficult repair easier.

jopizz
05-26-2016, 08:22 PM
Most times 2X3 or 2X4 tubing is used to repair inner rockers. When done correctly it's not noticeable because it's covered by the outer rocker. If you can see the repair then it wasn't done right.

If all the car needs is rockers and floors then you may be able to get away with minimal repair costs if you can handle everything yourself. That's a big if though, because very rarely is rust just limited to those two areas.

John

simplyconnected
05-27-2016, 01:32 AM
Again, I agree with John. Since this IS a unibody, the rocker steel must take the place of frame rails. It is welded in place with the floor pans also welded to it.

I suggested you use 12ga. If you ever bent 12ga., you will eagerly buy the channel. Most automotive panels are difficult to weld because they are so thin. 12ga., is easy to weld without burning through.

OEM channel uses a 'Z' configuration. If you use the 2"X4" channel it will be every bit as strong or stronger than original. You need the 4" height to help stop body twist and torque, especially turning up a driveway apron. Some convertibles twist so bad the windshield cracks. - Dave

msith718
05-27-2016, 08:38 AM
Even though the 12ga channel will weld nice, the floor pan is being welded to it, right? The floor pan, I am assuming will rest on top of it. So, it would still be easy to burn through that right?

So, I am assuming when you fit together an inner and outer rocker, the inside dimensions are not smaller than 4"?

Some convertibles twist so bad the windshield cracksReally? You mean when the structure has already been compromised? Although I guess its like that old video of the bridge swaying in the wind. Seems so solid, but there is a LOT of play.

simplyconnected
05-27-2016, 07:20 PM
When you start welding you will learn certain techniques. When welding a thicker and thinner panel together I usually start the weld on the thicker piece and 'sneak up on' the thinner one. Penetration is crucial in welding so now we have a balancing act going on; current must be sufficient for penetration but low enough so you don't blow through your work. Timing is important as well.

A series of tack welds holds pieces together without warping them. Then short welds between the tacks keeps the heat (and warp) down to a minimum.

It won't be hard to determine where the steel channel goes or how to level it. Make sure you have enough length from the front to the rear and 'tie in' to the front sub frame (torque box)and the rear sub frame.

If you ever owned a convertible you will recognize what I tried to explain about the body torque as the car drives up an incline at an angle. It's a feeling where the suspension works, then the body may crick a little as it flexes. As the car ages flexing gets worse. Hardtop Mustangs with huge engines form cracks in the roof from many hard launchings.

If you want to know if 4" will visibly clear, measure it! - Dave

msith718
05-27-2016, 09:32 PM
Thanks. Everyone here has been so helpful.

I really appreciate it.

Now, I am need to do a little more on my end. I will keep this post updated. And of course, may have more questions pop into my head.

For now, I think I need to consider the price and if it really is as good a deal as I originally thought. Im pretty certain the seller is not going to negotiate too much... at least until some more time passes. So I may just need to be patient.

Thanks again!