BUILD THREAD “The Juggernaut”

liquidh8

Comic Book Super Hero
I personally live the details, some people don't know what it takes to do some of these modifications. I am always anxious to see the next update.

I have always used "attention span of a flee", lol.
 

Rktpwrd

Builder of Cool Shjt
Supporting Member
Feb 2, 2015
4,167
23,917
113
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Hello all, I'm back again for another progress installment on The 'Naut.

I covered a lot of ground and got pretty indepth in my last couple of posts, and once again I apologize if it was a bit too detailed, but sometimes it's difficult to try and convey what was done and why and how. That's why I try and post as many big pics along with the descriptions as I go.

I wish I could say that this installment of updates was fastinating and riveting, but unfortunately that's just not going to be the case this time around. However, it needs to be covered none the less to make the build coverage complete. That being said, I'll try not to get too detailed with the descriptions as the pics should hopefully make it fairly obvious.

At the end of the last installment, the package tray and the backside of the new rear firewall had been coated with epoxy primer for corrosion protection before the new firewall was set in place for the final time. After the epoxy dried, the backside of the firewall was sanded in preparation for paint. (Thinking ahead, I really didn't want to have to be trying to sand it on my back inside the trunk). Similarly, the epoxy on the package tray was scuffed up with red Scotchbrite to provide some "tooth" for the beads of panel bonding adhesive that were to follow.

Once a nice even ribbon of the panel bonding adhesive was woven back and forth across the top of the package tray, the rear firewall was carefully laid over top for the final time. It was Cleco'd in place and weights were placed on top 'till the adhesive dried. Panel bonding adhesive was chosen to be used in this location to provide not only a means of fastening the two layers together, but also to act as an insulator between them to eliminate the possibility of any annoying squeaks or rattles. The side benefit to this is the reduction in the amount of distortion and warping that welding in multiple areas would've caused.

Not that I don't have faith in adhesives working as well as advertised, but I also wanted the top of the firewall to still be welded to the package tray in a couple of locations. So a few carefully chosen spots were determined, plug welding holes were drilled, and the welds were done and dressed down flush with the grinder. This included a couple of spots along the outer edge were the new panel meets the back window.

It was now finally time to commence with welding the center piece of the firewall to the sides, floor, and trunk!
:)
The following pic is where the center piece meets the floor.
Iphone pictures 170.jpg


The locations and the welds along the outer edge of the top. The 3M paper is "anti-spatter" welding paper to protect the rest of the top from spatter.
Iphone pictures 173.jpg


Once this was completed, the next area to get attention was the edges of the top where it meets the insides of the C pillars. Previously bent and welded into place (but not covered in this thread) were "L" brackets that were welded to the insides of the C pillars. The firewall was welded to these brackets next. It was done this way simply due to the shape of the package tray area, as it made the top section of the firewall too wide to fit into place if it had've been done all in one piece.
Iphone pictures 172.jpg


The same area after welding was completed, and the welds dressed down.
Iphone pictures 178.jpg


The new package tray area after all the welding and grinding was completed.
Iphone pictures 179.jpg


The welds dressed down on the floor where the center joins. The seam will get coated, seam sealed, and recoated again as I did with the seams on the trunk floor.
Iphone pictures 180.jpg


Small pieces were cut, fit, welded in, and dressed down to make the flange that the side panels will weld to one continuous piece.
Iphone pictures 181.jpg


Next, the firewall was welded to the racing harness mounts filling in the gaps and further strengthening the whole area.
Iphone pictures 184.jpg

Iphone pictures 185.jpg


I don't seem to have any in-progress pics of it, but the next thing done was to plug weld the center section of the firewall to the front flange of the trunk floor. This is where things really start strengthening up the structure. This provides support to the front edge of the trunk floor, and ties the center of the firewall in solidly.
In the following pic, all you can really see is the grinder marks were the welds were dressed flush after completion. The driver's side side panel is just temporarily Cleco'd in place for fitment checking.
Iphone pictures 187.jpg
 

Rktpwrd

Builder of Cool Shjt
Supporting Member
Feb 2, 2015
4,167
23,917
113
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
In the next couple of pics, there's two things going on. The first thing (and what I really want to point out at this stage) is the skim coat of filler that has been applied and blocked out on the top of the new package tray inside the bead rolled area. Most people probably wouldn't have bothered with this step, depending on how they planned on finishing the area. I however, plan on covering the entire rear firewall and package tray in a nice thin layer of black leather to match and complement the seats and the rest of the interior. Sound deadening will be applied in the future, but to the undersides of the panels, so that I don't lose definition of the bead rolled details. It's for this same reason that no layer of foam will be applied underneath the leather. What all this means essentially, is that the panels needed to be as straight and flat as possible because the leather will not hide any imperfections.

The second thing to see in the following pic is the rear window to trunklid filler panel temporarily mocked up into place. The plan in the future is to eliminate the seams where this factory removable panel meets the tops of the quarter panels. This means welding the panel in, however 1978-80 Cutlass and Regal filler panels are made from aluminum. Not having a TIG welder, but being a fairly resourceful individual, I had you fellow Forum members do a little research for me, and it was found that the '81-88 Cutlass models used a steel one. (Thanks guys, you rock!) Taking a bit of a gamble that the rear window curvatures between the two year styles would be the same or very close, I contacted fellow Forum member O.D.Showtime. He hooked me up with a great condition steel example, and as soon as it arrived, I was test fitting it to the car. (Thanks Kevin, big shout out brother!)
The curvature is not only close, but it is in fact identical. This is great news, as it means I can use the factory chrome trim for the window surround. :)
The shape of the panel where it meets the quarters and how it sits in place is different however, but definitely useable. That will get addressed in the future. For now, here's the relevant pics.
Iphone pictures 199.jpg

Iphone pictures 201.jpg


...And test fit with the factory '80 chrome trim.
Iphone pictures 204.jpg


And guys, I hate to say it, but that's roughly where I left off on this area of the build. It's obviously still not complete, some hammer and dolly work needs to been done on the face of the firewall yet before the firewall sides can get welded in permanently. The flanges of the sides that will be welded to the wheelwells still need completion as well, as does more plug welding and skim coats of filler once its all permanent. What you've read on the progress of the fabrication and installation of the firewall, trunk floor, and wheelwells represents the last year and a half of the work on the car. And to be honest, I'm pretty damn sick of looking at it and working on the same areas for so long.:doh:
Lol
So it was at this point that the days were getting longer, the weather warmer, and spring was calling. Time to take a much needed break from it. I'm now back to work on the car again at long last after taking the summer off, but I wasn't quite ready to jump back into the same area. I needed a change of scenery!



So that brings us up to the present. Rather than stuffing myself inside the back of the car for the next couple of months again, I decided it was time to finally give the poor girl her "face" back again. It's been about 3 years to this point that the front header panel has been off the car to allow for panel fitment, hood fabrication, body to frame mock-up etc etc. Getting the header fit and back on the car would lead to several other things that I could get closer to being ready for paint, so I decided to start there.

A little bit of back story: This car was originally a Cutlass Calais. This meant it had the square "egg crate" style grilles that were more commonly found on the sedans and wagons. The header panel itself takes only this style of grille. Not the coolest front clip for a hot rod. The 1980 Supreme front end however had the much more stylish "waterfall" style grilles, and looked MUCH better in my opinion. Again, as with the Calais header, the Supreme header will only accept the Supreme grilles. Change the grilles, change the header. Back in the 90's when I first purchased the car, I was fortunate enough to find a Supreme header in the junkyard, but it had been involved in an accident at some point in it's past, and several of the mounting tabs were broken and/or damaged. It sufficed for several years, but during that time I never did come across another one to replace it with. Upon contemplation of this, I realized why. 1980 was the last year of this body style before they changed it (and the header panels) in '81. 1980 was also the first year of the quad headlights in the Cutlass. Prior to this, they were all of the single large headlight per side variety. What all this adds up to is this:
The 1980 Cutlass Supreme front header panel is a ONE YEAR, ONE MODEL ONLY option. Yup, that's right, GM put all that time, effort, and engineering into creating that header panel to only use it for one year, and one model before discontinuing it forever! Talk about unobtainium!

Fast forward now, to 2010. I came across what is now affectionately known as "The Brown Bomber", my miracle find parts car. When I went to look at purchasing the car off the shady used car lot it was at, the header panel and grilles were obviously the first thing I was interested in. Much to my surprise (and delight), all three pieces were in near mint condition. Considering the asking price of the car by the lot ($1500), and the relative value of the header and grilles to me, I gladly paid the asking price, and got the car home as fast as I could. As far I was concerned, I paid the $1500 for the header and grilles, and got the rest of the car for free! They're that valuable to me. After VERY carefully removing the header and all it's components, they were safely tucked away until I was ready for them. Which is where we're going to pick up next time in the next installment.

I've been working on this area for the last 3 weeks or so, so you're not too far off now from being caught up to date with me. That's when these updates will get much easier and quicker for me to do. I'm REALLY excited with the progress and the mods I have to share with you in the next couple installments, I think it's going to be killer, and I hope you guys agree. I can't wait to be able to start sharing them with you all! For now however, I can only leave you with some sneak peeks and hopefully not give away too much in the process...

Iphone pictures 014.jpg

Iphone pictures 189.jpg

Iphone pictures 016.jpg

Iphone pictures 021.jpg


'Till next time,
Drive angry, my friends.
:mrgreen:
 
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Rktpwrd

Builder of Cool Shjt
Supporting Member
Feb 2, 2015
4,167
23,917
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Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Donovan, very nice work! Your "lessons" are fantastic, my friend!

Thanks Doug!
They're not meant to be "lessons" per se, if I come across as sounding a bit "teachy", I apopogize. Not my intention. I just can't seem to think of any other way of showing all the little details and things that go into accomplishing something as big as this. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the updates however, thanks for following!
Donovan
 

Rktpwrd

Builder of Cool Shjt
Supporting Member
Feb 2, 2015
4,167
23,917
113
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Hey everyone

Since the last update was met with lackluster interest, I thought I'd move on and post up the next one.

As you were probably able to guess by the pics at the end of the last update (if anyone read it), I've decided to do the composite headlight conversion on the car. Why, you might ask? "Why not" would be my answer. I plan on running HID lights in the car to improve on the poor factory lighting, plus I wanted a slight update to the styling of the car to help bring it into the 21st century. This was the obvious choice to achieve both of those goals IMO. I like the looks of the factory '87-'88 Cutlass euro headlight cars, but I've found very few pics where guys have done it to the earlier models like mine (although I know it's been done). What I wasn't able to find however, was any quality info as to how it was done, so once again, I'm on my own. Not a problem, I can figure out how to do damn near anything given enough time and resources.

Fellow forum member LAX-RATED hooked me up with a minty set of composite headlights (thanks very much man!) from that masterpiece pinnacle of automotive engineering - the Chevrolet Celebrity. Well ok, maybe it wasn't so much so, but all sarcasm aside, the headlight dimensions from it are damn near perfect for fitting in the openings in our cars. The Celebrity headlights came complete from LAX-RATED with all the mounting clips and bolts as well as the bulbs and harness ends, but I was on my own to figure out how to mount them.

After carefully trimming the first header panel headlight opening and getting the light to physically fit in the opening, it looked like this...
Iphone pictures 191.jpg

...but I lacked a quality way to solidly mount them that didn't look like a total hack job. After playing around with some cardboard templates and considering trying to make something out of steel and epoxy it to the back of the header or something, I decided to put it aside for a while and contemplate a better solution.

Upon a trip to the local wreckers for something unrelated, I stumbled across a Celebrity front header panel in decent shape complete with grille and headlights. Stopping for a closer look, I saw how the lights were mounted, and had a "lightbulb" moment (pardon the pun). What I needed to do to make it work properly and look factory, was to graft the Celebrity headlight "bucket" portion into my original header panel. An hour later, I had the Celebrity header panel home and immediately started cutting it up on the tailgate of the truck. It didn't even make it into the garage! :rofl:
Here's that day:
Iphone pictures 192.jpg

Iphone pictures 014.jpg

And yes, I know the lights are mislabeled as to the sides they correspond to, apparently I was having a dyslexic day...
After many, many, MANY test fits and trimming, the Celebrity buckets were pared down to a size that would work with the Olds header. Fortunately, both the Celebrity and the Olds headers are made from the same material, SMC. For anyone that doesn't know, the header panels in our cars aren't made from fiberglass, they're made from a composite material called SMC. SMC stands for Sheet Molded Composite. Similar in appearance to fiberglass, SMC is pressed into shape with high heat and pressure with a mixture of composite materials and short strands of fiberglass for strength. The repair techniques are similar to fiberglass as well, but SMC specific materials need to be used for proper compatibility.
An initial test fit with the Celeb buckets in place:
Iphone pictures 015.jpg

Iphone pictures 016.jpg


Once I was satisfied with the fit of the buckets into the header up to this point, all the paint was removed from inside the headlight openings in the Olds header and from the Celeb buckets in preparation for bonding the pieces together permanently. The grey color SMC is the Olds header, and the white is the Celeb buckets.
Iphone pictures 020.jpg

Iphone pictures 022.jpg


With this completed, I wanted to be able to bond the new buckets to the header panel with it bolted in place on the car just in case there was any unusual stress in the header with it aligned to the fenders. By doing it this way, if there was any stress on the panel with it bolted up, the new buckets would help keep the desired shape and alignment once they were permanently fused with the header. Before I could bolt the header back on the car however, the stock hood ornament holes needed to be filled. I'll spare you most of the boring details of how it was done, but it involved 3M's ridgid parts repair epoxy and some small pieces of reinforcing mesh designed for this application. The underside was done first.
Iphone pictures 195.jpg

Iphone pictures 199.jpg


....then the top side was prepped by bevelling the holes.
Iphone pictures 196.jpg
 
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LOCOGOMEZ

Greasemonkey
May 19, 2014
117
39
28
Southern IL
Come on now... how are even suppose to put our "supposedly builds threads " after this... Man you attention to detail and the love you are putting in on this car is outstanding.... Keep up the great work. That was some good reading material you put up..
 
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Rktpwrd

Builder of Cool Shjt
Supporting Member
Feb 2, 2015
4,167
23,917
113
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Once that was done, the top was filled and sanded using the same procedure.
Iphone pictures 203.jpg

Iphone pictures 206.jpg


With that out of the way, it was finally time to bolt it onto the car for future refinements of the fit. And of course, I just had to bolt up the grilles and the unfinished bezels just to get an idea of how it was all going to look together on the car. I'm definitely liking the direction its heading...
Iphone pictures 207.jpg


Although it initially looks ok in the pics, note in the next photo the right hand side of the light. You can see the "side" of the original Celebrity bucket, and while it looks nice with the curvature that matches the black gasket around the light, it caused the light to not sit centered in the opening causing havoc with trying to get the bezel to fit properly and look right. It was going to require more trimming...
Iphone pictures 208.jpg


The buckets were once again removed, and the trimming and test fitting started again. Next pic shows the two side by side, one bucket trimmed, and how much material needed to be removed to get the lights centered properly.
Iphone pictures 227.jpg


The next test fit with the insides trimmed back. Much better fit this time, and room for the bezel to go in and out and fit like factory.
Iphone pictures 232.jpg


Time to make it permanent. The 3M ridgid plastic parts repair mentioned before to fill the hood ornament holes can also be used as an adhesive. Holes were predrilled thru both panels prior to gluing so I could use my Cleco's to hold everything in place. A generous ribbon of the adhesive was laid across the bottom of the opening in the header, and across the top of the bucket, then the two were joined forever. The same procedure was repeated on the other side.
Iphone pictures 237.jpg


Time for another test fit with the grilles and the bezels. I'll get into the necessary modifications to the bezels next time, I don't really have a definite answer as to how they're going to be made to work just yet, but I've done a little experimenting with a test one with some very promising results at this point. Also, the work to the buckets and header isn't complete yet either, there needs to be some cosmetic work done to fool everyone and make it look as factory as possible.
I love the look. I think it's going to look right at home with the rest of the theme of the car. I feel it's a subtle improvement to update the look of the car slightly without taking away the definitive character of the car. There's no doubt as to what it is, it still looks like an Olds Cutlass.
Please post your comments and opinions as to what you think. Love it? Hate it? Whichever, let me know, but I think most folks will probably like it. Anyways, I'll leave y'all with this last pic.
Iphone pictures 236.jpg


Thanks guys. 'Till next time, drive angry my friends.
:D
 
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Rktpwrd

Builder of Cool Shjt
Supporting Member
Feb 2, 2015
4,167
23,917
113
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Come on now... how are even suppose to put our "supposedly builds threads " after this... Man you attention to detail and the love you are putting in on this car is outstanding.... Keep up the great work. That was some good reading material you put up..
Thanks brother, glad you're tuning in to check the progress. I'm not trying to "out-do" anyone else's build threads, I'm just a detail oriented dude and write my build that way I guess.
Cheers
Donovan
 
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