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  #1  
Old 05-13-2004, 07:14 PM
Travlin Travlin is offline
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Default How much is too much?

I'm currently in the process of stripping my (new) 58 for restoration, and I'm becoming excedingly discouraged by the amount of rusted out panels I'm finding. Last night I found the rear subframe to be pretty well shot. WAY too much rust -- BIG holes in bad places -- You get the idea.

Is there an outfit that makes subframe repair kits for Squarebirds? I've searched the web and cannot seem to find any. Any suggestions for reinforcing the frame? Would building a sleeve to fit over the original subframe rails be the way to go? If so, has anyone done this, and do they have a templete?

I guess my question is -- How much rust is too much? When does one decide that a car simply isn't restorable?

Now I realize that the "pat" answer is "it's governed by the size of one's wallet." Let's not go there.
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  #2  
Old 05-13-2004, 08:10 PM
58tdactyl 58tdactyl is offline
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Default RE: How much is too much?

Travlin......I too have a 58........been there....done that

Would I do it again??? I dont know??? The problem I faced was that I already had too many bucks invested and went ahead. My father who had access to a metal fabrication shop (his work place) designed and made 2 completely new "sub rockers". My main frame was fine........the rest was horrible and wasnt discovered until we took the wheel wells out for a look. On the drivers side.........it was pretty much gone. Since he knew how to weld........and I had already purchased new body panels.........we did it ourselves...............and after about 3 months....and alot of gutting ...and welding.....it was done. My original desire was to buy a nice body since an engine can be rebuilt.........and an interior replaced. I also wanted it to be a daily driver.....not a show car. What I got was a car that ran well........but was eaten up from the inside. The seller was not aware of this ........and I was allowed to check it out before I bought it and said OK.........not knowing what had happened up inside. Its a monsterous task believe me..........and I learned alot doing it (I ended up doing alot myself after some quick welding classes from dad). If you plan to go ahead.........let me know if I can help. I actually took it to several body shops in my area and NO-ONE wanted to touch it..........those who did quoted me prices around $5000 and up. I guess your final decision will be based on the car itself. The 58 is a RARE model..........and any is worthy of restoration. This is my "dream car" since childhood.......and I loved it too much to see it rot in a junkyard...........so I dug in . Good luck.........
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  #3  
Old 05-13-2004, 08:16 PM
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Alexander Alexander is offline
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Default RE: How much is too much?

There are patch panels available for the Squarebirds for the floorboards, fenders, rocker panels and trunk. Unfortunately, no one makes subframe repair kits. The worst place for thsese cars to rot is the inner rocker panel, but even this can be repaired. Do you have pictures of the damaged area so it can be better assessed?

1959 Thunderbirds are not very common compared to the 1959 and 1960. Their survival rate appears to be much lower. If you can save this car, it would be nice. I saw the pisture of your car on the T-Bird Registry. It does not look too bad.

Alexander
1959 Hardtop
1960 Golde Top
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  #4  
Old 05-15-2004, 10:08 AM
Travlin Travlin is offline
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Default RE: How much is too much?

>Travlin......I too have a 58........been there....done that
>
>Would I do it again??? I dont know??? The problem I faced was that I already had too many bucks invested and went ahead.

That's where I am at this point. I've already invested close to $5000 in purchasing and getting her home. Add on some of the misc. parts I've already bought and ... Well you get the idea. :\

>My father who had access to a metal fabrication shop (his work place) designed and made 2 completely new "sub rockers".

I *do* have some access to a shop of sorts, though nothing as extensive as what you had. The mechanic at work has agreed to try to make some sort of sleeve to fit over/replace the existing rear subframe rails. After close inspection of the existing rails, this doesn't appear to be too terribly hard to do.

Although I'm now faced with a new problem -- the front frame rails are also eaten up pretty bad but only in one spot (on both sides of course). Where they attach to the body, at/under the firewall. :(

>My main frame was fine........the rest was horrible and wasnt discovered until we took the wheel wells out for a look. On the drivers side.........it was pretty much gone.

The drivers side must be a weak area with these birds as mine is also the worst side -- Wheel wells, rocker panel, and frame rails pretty well shot.

>Since he knew how to weld........and I had already purchased new body panels.........we did it ourselves...............and after about 3 months....and alot of gutting ...and welding.....it was done.

I have a feeling if I can do this -- Mine will take a bit longer then three months. :(

>My original desire was to buy a nice body since an engine can be rebuilt.........and an interior replaced. I also wanted it to be a daily driver.....not a show car.

Same with me! I bought her on Ebay and while the seller took an extensive amount of pics, the most important areas (undercarrage) IMO were unable to be photographed. I was also unable to personally inspect them until after I got her up on a trailer, but at the time they didn't appear that bad and secondly, I had already completed the transaction with the seller. I doubt very seriously that he was going to say "Oh -- Here's your money back."

The engine runs fairly well though the carb has issues, and the interior was redone not too long ago. Unfortunetly whoever did it didn't replace the seat foam, and it is now very hard and crumbling.

>What I got was a car that ran well........but was eaten up from the inside. The seller was not aware of this ........and I was allowed to check it out before I bought it and said OK.........not knowing what had happened up inside.

I kinda wonder if my seller *did* know the underbody's condition -- I picked the car up at a body shop.

>If you plan to go ahead.........let me know if I can help.

What did you have in mind? ;)

>I actually took it to several body shops in my area and NO-ONE wanted to touch it..........those who did quoted me prices around $5000 and up. I guess your final decision will be based on the car itself.

I'm going to see what I can do with it since I'm already in the tank for 5K. Hopefully, the mechanic at work can make the sleeves. I don't want to ask a body shop "how much" as they'll prolly give me a heart attack!

>The 58 is a RARE model..........and any is worthy of restoration. This is my "dream car" since childhood.......and I loved it too much to see it rot in a junkyard...........so I dug in . Good luck.........

I recently talked (in email) with Jed Zimmerman who owns a restored 58 HT. He told me the following:

"John from the tbird registry had provided me with your registration for the VTCI registry data base, so I do have your bird registered. Your bird was the last one I have registered several weeks ago. I think currently that the 58ht registry has a total of 248 operable vehicles known to exist thru out the world. John Rotella and I routinely cross trade information on all 58 tbirds, converts, hardtops and all non operable, scrapped and parts cars."

So you are quite correct when you say the 58 is rare! And I really don't want mine to end up as a $5K paperweight! ;)

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  #5  
Old 05-15-2004, 10:14 AM
Travlin Travlin is offline
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Default RE: How much is too much?

>There are patch panels available for the Squarebirds for the
>floorboards, fenders, rocker panels and trunk.

I'm considering a donor car. Trouble is, I'm afraid the donor car might be in better shape!

>Unfortunately, no one makes subframe repair kits. The worst
>place for thsese cars to rot is the inner rocker panel, but
>even this can be repaired. Do you have pictures of the
>damaged area so it can be better assessed?

I'll be posting some pics as soon as I get my webspace set up. ;)

>1959 Thunderbirds are not very common compared to the 1959
>and 1960. Their survival rate appears to be much lower. If
>you can save this car, it would be nice. I saw the pisture
>of your car on the T-Bird Registry. It does not look too
>bad.

Trust me -- Pictures can be deceiving. She looks good from about 10 feet away, but a closer look tells a different story.
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  #6  
Old 05-15-2004, 01:28 PM
58tdactyl 58tdactyl is offline
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Default RE: How much is too much?

Travlin...........

You seem to be in the exact same boat I was in. I remember seeing your car on Ebay !!!! since Im always checking the Thunderbirds for sale for screen savers and reference pictures. My advice to you is to first............get a shop manual. It has every kind of picture of every part on your car including the frame. Its going to be a long drawn out task...........but its not impossible to do what you suggested. My father and I litterally took poster-board and cut/taped together the pieces that were to be repaired....................these will be your templates. Then after we made sure they were ok and fit.....they were removed......the cutting and grinding began. The whole bottom section of my car was going to be replaced so it was cut off too.............rivets and all. I dont know how bad yours is............but the rocker panels can be detached from subframe and peeled back a little if you plan to save them. Doing this really open up the bad sections and made it easy to make a "sub-frame" that attached to the main frame...........and gave the rocker panels something to join with and weld to. It was nothing more than a long piece of heavy 1/4 inch sheet metal that ran all the way from the front "curves" of the subframe............to the rear. It was bent long ways at a certain angle..........and was welded into place. We even replaced the "curved" piece on the drivers side. I did this on both sides. If you look at my car underneath............you cant even tell it was replaced. All the little "folded posterboard templates" were used to fabricate the repair "patches" which we made ourselves and after grinding all the trash off .........slipped them over the bad part and welded.

****** when you see pictures of the frame in the manual..........or on this site (Alexander has posted pictures of another 1958 manual here) You will see where the MAIN frame is...........and all its little sub-frames and extensions. Alot of what was eaten up on mine did not affect the true support structure of the car. I too thought I had purchased a "parts car" until I understood the frame...this is a unibody car.........so dont get discouraged. Its just going to take some time. A donor car is a good idea.........but the 58 is unique in the fact that there are no rear leaf springs.......just coils.......so there may be some problem in just taking from a 59-60 to replace rear parts. I would think finding another 58 would be hard.

One final note.........Ive just finished the last projects that will make my car about 90% done. The painting is all thats left to do. I drove it around where I live the other day (to test its new front end out with its 4 shocks) and after all the hell I went through.......Im glad I did it. (BIG SMILE)............but now I have to deal with affording the gas that goes in it !! hahahahaha !
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  #7  
Old 05-15-2004, 07:38 PM
Travlin Travlin is offline
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Default RE: How much is too much?

>Travlin...........
>
>You seem to be in the exact same boat I was in. I remember seeing your car on Ebay !!!! since Im always checking the Thunderbirds for sale for screen savers and reference pictures.

I've been doing the same thing for several months. I'm also kicking myself as I recently saw another 58HT (on Ebay) that sold for about $2300 -- And it was in MUCH better shape then mine. :'(

>My advice to you is to first............get a shop manual. It has every kind of picture of every part on your car including the frame.

Funny you should say that! :) I have the TBird specific, the 58 Ford (general), the body, trim, and sealant assembly manual, and several catalogs from some of the TBird parts suppliers (they have exploded views of everything as well). Definetly a BIG help!

>Its going to be a long drawn out task but its not impossible to do what you suggested. My father and I litterally took poster-board and cut/taped together the pieces that were to be repaired ... these will be your templates.

My mechanic friend from work came over and checked out the frame. That's what he suggested we did too. He also helped me iron out a couple of the other issues she has. Unfortunetly, his diagnosis of the engine is a probable broken piston.

>The whole bottom section of my car was going to be replaced so it was cut off too, rivets and all. I dont know how bad yours is but the rocker panels can be detached from subframe and peeled back a little if you plan to save them.

At this point, "the mechanic" says the frame in front isn't as bad as I thought -- and that there's only one short section (on the driver's side, go figure) that will need repair. YAY! I was already prepared to do floorpans ... And they will need to be done, so that's no big problem either. I *do* however, still need to check the frame behind the rockers.

>Doing this really open up the bad sections and made it easy to make a "sub-frame" that attached to the main frame and gave the rocker panels something to join with and weld to. It was nothing more than a long piece of heavy 1/4 inch sheet metal that ran all the way from the front "curves" of the subframe to the rear.

Too funny! That is EXACTLY what I suggested we do for mine!

>It was bent long ways at a certain angle and was welded into place. We even replaced the "curved" piece on the drivers side. I did this on both sides. If you look at my car underneath you cant even tell it was replaced.

If you took any pics, I'd love to see them -- Even if they're only the finished product. Heck, Alexander might even be able to post them up with a "repair how-to."

I *am* taking pics of mine during every stage of her restoration (amature that it is) -- If I can ever figure out how to post them on my webspace ... (hint hint Alexander).

>All the little "folded posterboard templates" were used to fabricate the repair "patches" which we made ourselves and after grinding all the trash off ... slipped them over the bad part and welded.

That's pretty much what I'd had in mind -- I'm happy to know it'll work.

>****** when you see pictures of the frame in the manual or on this site (Alexander has posted pictures of another 1958 manual here) You will see where the MAIN frame is and all its little sub-frames and extensions. Alot of what was eaten up on mine did not affect the true support structure of the car.

I'll have to look at what you're refering to.

>I too thought I had purchased a "parts car" until I understood the
frame...this is a unibody car.........so dont get discouraged. Its just going to take some time.

Well, I have that (time). I'm not trying to rush this (much as I'd love to be crusin the blvd in my Bird like RIGHT NOW! ;)

>One final note.........Ive just finished the last projects that will make my car about 90% done. The painting is all thats left to do.

So when do we get to see pics??? :7

>I drove it around where I live the other day (to test its new front end out with its 4 shocks) and after all the hell I went through.......Im glad I did it. (BIG SMILE)............but now I have to deal with affording the gas that goes in it !! hahahahaha !

I was considering putting 4 shocks on my front end too -- as well as the rear. Now I will. I'm also planning on doing the Granada front disk brake conversion Alexander has documented elsewhere on this site. I'll probably do the rears as well.

As for the gas ... I'm right there with ya Brother ::gulp::

I have to tell you -- After reading about what you did to fix your Bird, and after the mechanic's inspection of mine -- I'm feeling a WHOLE lot better about her future. My wife even commented today about my attitude seeming to be a bit better (I haven't been too happy the last couple of days).

Yes, I have A LOT of sheet metal to replace, and an engine to rebuild ... But at least that's the worst of it. She won't become a paperweight! :)
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  #8  
Old 05-16-2004, 09:58 AM
khanson khanson is offline
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Default RE: How much is too much?

I have a '59 conv that I recently bought knowing that the underside needed some work (I now know it is a "little" more than I originally thought, but still not terribly bad). I have started putting stuff up on our website about it http://www.greenmountainaccess.net/~kphanson/t-bird.htm). I have started a "rocker panel" page to detail my thoughts on what I am planning to do with them but have not gotten much done on it. I have also posted here previously about what needs to be done.

I live in Vermont and bought what seems to ba a local car which I originally blamed for the condition. As time goes on and reading other posts here I'm not so sure that is the case as it seems to be in fair condition. I have concluded that a lot of the troubles are concealed and even people that don't think the have problems could. These thing are built like tanks and will take a lot of decay before the structure is affected. Since mine is a convertible, I'm concerned about bending at the rocker panels which have a few opportunities.

I think that eventhough the curse is the unibody sheet metal rusts out easily, it is also a plus. Working sheet metal as is being discussed is relativly easy (I think). It appears that most if not all of at least the structural stuff is 16 ga..

I need to reinforce my rockers which I think I can do from underneath with affecting the visible body. I also need to do part some of the "mini-frame in the front of the rockers and the driver side rear. I was planning on making my replacement rear frame section in two pieces (formed on wood and welded together) and cut out the section and weld back in.

I bought this car for about a buck a pound like mvonhobe did to be a driver. I plan on doing the work myself as I am not willing to pay someone to do it. For me the tinkering needs to be part of the process. Otherwise working on these would become real expensive real fast and the cost would likely exceed the value (if that matters). I need to do this in two phases to keep peace around the house. First I'm planning to reinforce it a bit and get it inspected. Later I'm hoping to really go through it and make it good. It is an older restoration that still looks pretty good so I think I can get a few more years out of it before the big teardown.

It's great to hear what others have done and are doing. In addition to what he's said here, 58tdactyl has posted some great information in the Anything Goes area if you haven't seen it.

I have take photos of how it sits and will get some more to my website for viewing soon.

Good luck!!
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Old 05-16-2004, 10:39 PM
58tdactyl 58tdactyl is offline
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Default RE: How much is too much?

Travlin

There is a website called " PA Bobs 59 convertible" (or something close). This guy documents the restoration of his 59. There are pictures of his rocker panels taken off and you can see what you will be dealing with up inside. I wish now that I had taken pictures of what I did.....but I never thought about it until later. Im glad I could help with any suggestion and remember.........just take it one day/ week at a time. I dragged mine up in the yard with no battery or brakes in May of 2001....it was litterally pushed off a trailer into the driveway...............and I will finally have it finished this summer.
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  #10  
Old 05-16-2004, 11:27 PM
Travlin Travlin is offline
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Default RE: How much is too much?

>Travlin
>
> There is a website called " PA Bobs 59 convertible" (or
>something close).

I've seen that website -- That's how I got in touch with Jed.

>This guy documents the restoration of his
>59. There are pictures of his rocker panels taken off and
>you can see what you will be dealing with up inside.

I need to take another look then ... I really need to see this.

>I wish now that I had taken pictures of what I did.....but I never
>thought about it until later. Im glad I could help with any
>suggestion and remember.........just take it one day/ week
>at a time.

Oh yeah ... That's exactly what I *am* doing. ;)

>I dragged mine up in the yard with no battery or
>brakes in May of 2001....it was litterally pushed off a
>trailer into the driveway...............and I will finally
>have it finished this summer.

I wish you luck! And I appreciate all the advice! I'd love to see your Bird once it's finished.
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