The Second Year

Sue and I knew that I would one day have to buy a welder and learn how to weld. We reached that point sooner than expected: One of the seat belt anchor bolts was so rusted that the whole area of inner sill came out when I tried to remove the bolt. So before I could get an inspection sticker I had to weld in a patch. I'm lucky to have a wife that believes in buying good tools (we restored our old house together), so we bought a Lincoln MIG welder in late September of 2002. And I promptly taught myself to make the ugliest lumpy, ropey welds that I could. But I can weld, and it turns out that's mostly what this project is about: cutting out rotten metal and welding in new. Anybody can learn to weld, and it's just a question of experience to get better. I've added a page here about Getting Starting Welding.

I don't have a photo of one of the biggest accomplishments of the winter of 2002-03: Dealing with that terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach that you've taken on more than you can handle. Dealing with rust is a Battle, and there are going to be times that you feel you're outgunned. Even the tiniest bubble in the paint turns out to be many square inches of problem metal. If it's a part of the car that is curved and very visible, it's time to buy a replacement panel. Luckily, for the Spridget, they are readily available. Sometimes it's time to buy a replacement panel just because it's so cheap. If the rust is in an out of the way area of the car, like under the trunk, or under the carpeting, it might be time to take out the sawzall and hammer and make your own patch. Eventually you get good at it and you get it down to a process.

If you keep at it, and keep making progress even if only in small ways, then one day you get up off the hard concrete of your garage floor, spit out the rust flakes and pick the bigger pieces of rust shrapnel out of your corneas, and you get the sense that you're going to win the Battle, that the tide is turning.

It's very likely that whatever is rusted on your Spridget, is rusted on lots of other people's Spridgets. That's where the books by Tyler and Porter come in real handy. This series is the heelboard behind and under the driver's seat, and is the first area that I had the guts to tackle.

This shows my tentative beginning at cutting. I used an angle grinder with a cut-off wheel, or a sawzall, and in some places a Dremel with a cut-off wheel. The tape marks show where I thought I needed to cut in order to get rid of the rust.

More cutting to show a little bit more of my garage floor.

Now some new metal going in. A combination of a purchased floor patch and some fabricated pieces

Prepared for the heelboard patch panel...

...which is now in place.

These are pretty pedestrian pictures - still using the old film camera - but they show the process I used over and over.

Nearly all of the websites I've seen showing Midget restorations indicate that I should have replaced the floor pans and trunk floor on this car, using the readily available but somewhat costly repair panels. But I went the route of patching things because I'm cheap, and because this is my first collector car and I'm learning the process.

Here are some digital pictures of a couple more of the patches I did. I'm making sure at this point that I'm not doing any welding that will show up on the outside of the car. That's a while away.

This is looking up from under the rear left of the car, showing the trunk floor and an inner piece called the closing panel that's inside the bottom of the rear fender. Looks like it could use some attention.

This shows the purchased closing panel. I removed the old, rotted panel by drilling out the spot welds and separating the joints with a stiff putty knife and a hammer. You can also see that I've cut a bit of the nearby rot on the trunk floor.

The closing panel is welded in, as is the little fussy patch that took about a week of evenings to fit. I ended up putting three more patches to finish up the area in the left of the photo.

Now on the other side of the car (closer to the wood stove), this is the front of the right rear fender well.

Cut out the rot. (Those are my son's socks. He came out to see how it was going.)

Welding in the bottom part.

Patched and primed.

Next page: More Second Year
Back Home