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getting the old coupe ready for another 7 years!

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  • getting the old coupe ready for another 7 years!

    Back story:
    About 8 1/2 years ago I slammed my 48 Plymouth business coupe together. It sits on a 90 Dakota chassis, and I used nearly everything off the Dakota to build the car. It was built to look like an old dirt track race car, the plan was to throw in a 4 point roll cage, throw a body shell on the Dakota chassis patch it together and drive it on nice days. I figured once it was together I would get maybe a couple of years fun out of it on the nice days and that would pretty much be the end of it. The original build is on here someplace under "A 48 Plymouth coupe on a Dodge Dakota chassis" I don't intend on rewriting that multi page story, but as things go, the original intent was altered once the project started.

    We have just completed the 7th summer of driving the car. It has been a rock solid driver and has been a lot of fun for my wife and I. We have logged just over 60,000 miles on the old car. When the car was first built, very little consideration was given for long term driving, in regards to both time, and mileage. Remember, I was expecting maybe a couple of years on nice days. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought the car would be driven in 26 different states and as far as 1300 miles from home, but that is exactly what happened.

    As one might expect, some of the things I had little concern over originally have become things of some concern. Since neither my wife nor I are willing to give up on the old coupe, I need to address those issues if we want to keep driving it. Some things on the list are pretty much mechanical checks, things you just want and should do after 60,000 miles of driving. Checking the brakes, replace the shocks, check the condition of the clutch, check out squeaks and rattles that grown in my irritation, and probably a set of new tires. Since we are doing all this stuff and more, adding a cruise control might be a nice addition. You know, the boring stuff that most here won't care about.

    Then there are more interesting things as far as this group is concerned that will be addressed. Those include replacing the rotted out rear window frame. The body shell I bought when scrap was real high for $200 had a lot of rust issues. Pretty much anyplace the was flat that could hold water did so, and rotted out. That included the roof rain gutters, and all of the inner supports. When the car was built, I replaced 41" of metal on the roof above the windshield, and another 18" of the roof above the passenger side door. Nearly all of the lower windshield frame was replaced and the windshield was bonded in. The top of the rear window frame was also bad, but the glass and the rubber seal was still intact, so I let it go. About 3 years ago I got a leak around that rear window, so I got a tube of glass sealer, and gooped it up. Life was good until last spring when it developed another water leak. Another round of glass sealer, slowed down the water flow a lot, but it still leaked in a hard rain. I have to fix it, and that will require replacing the window frame from about 3" above the glass, and all the way across the top of the back glass. I can't imagine the bottom is going to look much better once the glass is out. The glass is also separating so it will need to be changed as well.

    The coupe has fixed position rear quarter windows. The rubber around these windows is in pretty bad shape, but both pieces of glass look real good. Since the rubber is shot, and I will be welding above this area, I think I'm going to pull those windows to protect them from the welding, and to replace the rubber holding in glass. Once the glass is out, there may also need to be some metal work done around them as well.

    The whole interior will have to come out to replace the roof section around the rear window. When the car was built, I recycled the Dakota seat, the Dakota rubber floor mat (think carpet) and the Dakota seat belts. All that stuff is showing its 30 years of age and nearly 200,000 miles of use between the original truck and its time in the coupe. It doesn't make much sense to me to reinstall that stuff, so new to the car stuff is coming.

    While we are on the interior, lets talk about the insulation. Originally I installed the silver covered bubble wrap from the home improvement store with spray on glue. A couple years ago, some of the glue has started to release, the stuff inside the roof has been glued back in a couple times now. It did work great, had the car only lived the couple of years I thought it would last. Time for new, better (and more expensive) stuff. I'll be replacing all the bubble wrap stuff with NOICO. Its the adhesive backed Butte rubber insulation I used on my 39 and its good stuff. I got it through Amazon, I expect it will take at least 2 boxes of the 36 sq ft packages.

    Another issue with the interior is the current door panels, and the cover on the huge rear package tray (it is a business coupe, the package tray is 2' long and full width of the interior). Originally I bought a rejected shower surround that had been returned to the home improvement store for $40. It was hard plastic that I could cut with a knife. I got both door panels and the entire rear package tray from that one shower surround. After 7 years, it starting to crack and break. I think it was a pretty good run for my $40. That too will be replaced.

    Another thing that I will be addressing is the car's frame. The car gets to sit outside all year around. During the winter, it gets moved off the driveway and onto my side yard. Its out of the salt they generously spread on our road, but it doesn't escape the dampness of the grass under the car. Anything that sits on that side yard gets rusty underneath, and the coupe is fairing no better. There are a few places on the frame that are getting pretty thin. fortunately, most of those places are currently restricted to the bottom of the boxed frame. I'm going to cut out the rusty bottom area and weld in new metal.

    This should keep me pretty busy for the next 3 months. I'm hoping to have it all done by spring. I'm pretty excited really, I can't wait to get started. I found a rear window section from a 37 Ford. It is a split window, so I think it should look pretty cool, and the guy will send it to me for the cost of shipping (there is no glass, but it was flat glass). The problem is, its in Canada. The shipping is actually less then any price I've gotten from someone local to me for the metal alone. According to the US Post Office, it was suppose to be delivered today, but its after 10 pm and isn't here yet. Maybe tomorrow.
    I've been involved with installing parts that have to be shipped before. I've learned that I schedule something in when the ordered part is in hand. I will start taking it apart when the part is in my hands and I can lay it on the car and be sure it will work. I don't have the space to tear the car apart then have to wait for some part that might have to come from someplace else.

    Anyway, I wanted to get this going, maybe there will be a short update tomorrow.
    Pictures of the top rear window frame that needs to be replaced. Gene Click image for larger version

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    Attached Files

  • #2
    The new split rear window frame arrived this morning. It will cover the body lines around the current flat rear window that Mopar added so they could put the flat glass in the curved body.
    Let the fun begin! Gene
    Attached Files


    • #3
      I think that'll look nice Gene. Looking forward to seeing how it comes together.


      • #4
        That is no small undertaking. It's really cool to see someone put that kind of time and effort in a car they have so much history with. Looking forward to following along.

        Enjoy the times Mr. Gene. 1930 Chevy truck build link:


        • #5
          Thanks guys, its been a couple of busy days! Yesterday was short because it was my wife's birthday. The part arrived at about 10 am. I took the pictures then ran the car inside the shop to start the disassembly process.
          Because this car was a business coupe, there is no back seat, but there was a storage box with two doors that both had locks I built behind the front seat. There was a divider between the two halves, behind the driver side was the tool box and other items that might be needed, like a gallon of 50/50 antifreeze, a couple quarts of oil ans a small bottle of PS fluid and a battery powered led light. Behind the passenger side was the wife's storage area. In it she had a couple blankets, a couple of rain ponchos, one of those insulated grocery bags and a few other things she thought she might need some day, you know, in case we should get stranded in the desert or on a mountain top. The storage area is 12" deep, 48" wide, and 16" high. The entire thing, front wall, divider, rear wall and top panel are all held in place with Phillips head screws, lots and lots of Phillip head screws, all accessible from inside the passenger compartment behind the lockable doors. That box had to come apart, and come out, piece by piece. Once it was out of the way, I could remove the 6' long x 4' wide truck box rubber mat. Once the mat was out, I could remove the quarter windows and the rear window.
          Pictures, what good is it without pictures?

          The lockable doors
          both doors open
          driver side open, passenger side closed
          rear of box from the back bumper
          box with the top off
          box & mat gone from inside the car
          Box & mat gone from the back bumper
          red paint marker shows where the window will go.

          The next step was to actually cut the old window frame out of the car. This was a good place to stop for the night. Gene
          Attached Files


          • #6
            So a few loose ends. When I pulled the glass out of the passenger side quarter panel, I discovered I have more metal work to do. The window frame work actually has several holes and a pretty long section at the top of the window that is not going to take any heat. At this point, i have no idea how I'm going to fix that!

            Holes in the top of the passenger rear quarter window
            4" magnetic dish holding the screws that held the box together
            Shower surround driver side door panel
            passenger side door panel
            package shelf, or top of the box.

            Today I did cut the rear window frame out of the car. That 1st cut was a lot more difficult for me then I thought it was going to be. I knew it had to be done, but up to this point, everything was either a screw back in, or new window seals and go, but once that first cut was made, everything would change. If the "new" window frame didn't fit like it looked like it was going to, things would get complicated real quick. This was especially difficult because I already knew I had a problem with the passenger side quarter window.

            Well, I finally maned up and made the cut. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of it. I took a picture, but when I uploaded it on my computer, it didn't record like I'd thought it had. Then I erased the pictures so I could take more as I progressed. It appears that the computer wants to keep using the same numbers over and over. I'll have to figure this out.

            Anyway, once the original window frame was cut out, the new one slipped in place, and the roof contours actually matched up very well.
            So this is where I'm probably going to upset a lot of guys, but I think it will give a lot of guys a lot more freedom.

            I do NOT do butt welding of sheet metal. I make a step flange and lap well all the sheet metal I do in my shop. I've been doing it this way for over 25 years.

            I build hot rods and daily drivers, not show poodles. I use a Miller 220 welder with .035 wire. Butt welding sheet metal with that setup would be hard and very time consuming for very little gain.

            I clean both sides of both pieces of sheet metal, then flange the car body side with an air powered flanging tool. I trim the "new" piece of sheet metal so it sits in the flanged area with about a 1/16" clearance at the step all the way around the patch piece. Once the pieces are trimmer, I be sure the edges on both pieces are smooth, by either sanding the edges or hammer and dolly the flanges Then I clamp the new piece to the original panel with vice grips on the flange area itself, about every 3"-4" apart on a large patch, or 1"-2" apart on a small patch. I make sure both pieces of metal are flat against each other and that the patch matches up to the shape of the original panel. Once I'm sure the pieces are matched up, I will put a small tack weld in the groove between the two pieces at the flange step. One tack, at each clamp until I've going all around the patch. Then I wire brush the joint, hammer and dolly the flange as needed, then re-clamp midway between the existing tack welds and make another tack weld in the groove midway between the two existing tacks, at the clamps, again going all the way around the patch. I repeat the process until about a 3/8" remains between any two tack welds. At that point I will stop and use the edge of a 1/8" thick cutoff wheel on a die grinder to remove the pride of the tack welds and generally clean up the flange area. Wire brush the step flange. At any point in this process you see the metal at the flange separating, you need to stop immediately address the problem.

            This is the time you need to slow down. At this point the patch and the original panel should be pretty smooth and the edge at the step should be tight. Hammer and dolly as need be. At this point the clamps won't do any good anymore. It may sound foolish, but again I will place a tack midway between existing tacks, but now you need to skip about every 3rd space, and is doesn't hurt to skip around the patch some either. You want to be sure you you don't miss between the tacks. Once you have the 3/8" gaps filler, you need to remove the prides of the welds again. When the metal is cool enough to touch with your bare hands, you can move on. Wire brush the weld area. Now is when you can finish filling the between tack spaces, but skip around the patch, don't to more then 2 close to each other. Then you need to grind the prides of the welds again, wire brush, and fill in anyplace you may have missed.

            I don't mind spreading a bit of filler over top of my welded in patches. No, I don't know how much filler it will take to make it smooth, the metal joint is pretty smooth, I don't feel any high bumps. Once I put that first layer of filler on the body and sand it down, does anyone really know how thick the filler really is? I mean you just know if you really have to cake it on, but if the addition of filler is not radical, who really knows how thick it really is?

            So the new window frame is welded in place. I'll post up some pictures as soon as I get this picture thing figured on with my computer. Gene
            Attached Files


            • #7
              One of those flanging tools is on my Christmas list! LOL. Way to work it Gene. Looking good. It is amazing how much room is actually in the back of those cars.

              On any other site this would be sacrilege but I'll say here that I've thought before (for some unknown reason) about doing an "El Camino-ish" conversion on one of those because of that gigantic truck area. Something only a mother could love??? I wonder what an automotive psychologist would say about that? LOL

     1930 Chevy truck build link:


              • #8
                Old Stuff, I saw a picture of a late 30s or early Australian Ute pickup a few months ago, but I don't remember where it was. That thing looked awesome. Most of those were built with a pickup box grafted onto a coupe body from the factory.

                I don't think my wife would be ready to give up her lockable storage box behind the rear seat, and she really likes the idea that we can lock up the suit cases in that big trunk when we are travelling. When I was ready to begin building the 39 Dodge pickup, I told her I could build it as our vacation car (which the coupe has become) but she wasn't going for it. She told me I could build it as a shop truck, but she liked the big, mostly dry, trunk on the 48.

                i expect more work will be done tomorrow. Gene


                • #9
                  The fact that your coupe has turned into the vacation car (with that many miles on it!) is the ultimate cool to me and to be applauded! That's livin' it. A good friend of mine can't understand why I drive my '58 every day- thus taking chances on wrecking it. I see that logic but it ain't me. My goal is to get as many miles on it as humanly possible and enjoy it daily- it's who I am.

                  Even if you don't drive them far, drive them often!. Get'em on the road!

         1930 Chevy truck build link:


                  • #10
                    Years ago I bought a 50 Dodge 1 1/2 ton truck out of a local junk yard for $60 + tax. I got everything from the cab forward, less the drive train.
                    I put that cab on an 80 Dodge 4x4 chassis, built a box, and added my snow plow from my (newer model year, but really wore out) truck. That 50 Dodge was my work truck, my winter ride, and what I used to plow my driveway in the winter with. As the years progressed I painted it (with a brush) and put new glass and new tires on it. It actually didn't look too bad.

                    So one snowy nasty winter day I was going someplace with the 50, and some guy rolls up along side of me and motioned me to roll down my window. I did. He proceeded to royally chew me out for driving that old truck in the nasty weather. I mean, he was pissed! When he finally finished, I politely told him I got the truck out of a junk yard and I had built it myself. I suppose I can rebuild it again if I need to, but between now an then, I fully intended to use it. Some people!

                    Alas, the 50 did get wrecked. Some lady decided to make a left turn 30' in front of me while I was driving down the street at 30 mph. Hit her head on. Her insurance paid off well, and I was able to keep the truck, but rebuilding it would have been nearly starting over, the cab wasn't damaged bad, but the frame, transfer case, probably the motor & trans, and snow plow brackets were junk. At that point the 50 had been my daily driver for over 12 years. I decided it was time to move on. The truck went way up in WI where the guy needed the doors badly for a truck he was building.
                    I no longer have pictures of it wrecked. Gene
                    Attached Files


                    • #11
                      So I was able to finish up welding the back window in. Pictures to follow.
                      Other then just sitting the new window frame on top of the old glass, and eyeballing it, it was pretty much a gamble on how the body would match up with the new window. As the process moved forward it kept looking more and more promising, but there is always that little doubt lingering in your mind. Things looked pretty good as it was being tack welded into place. I assumed all along that there was going to be some filling required to make it look sort of right, but until it was done, i really had no idea how much filler was going to be required, or how much metal shaping was going to be required to be able to add enough filler for it to look right.

                      Well now that its in, I was able to see exactly where I was. Before I bothered to do the final weld, I had to see where I was. With the original car, other then the 3" area directly around the window, the body had a very nice smooth flow. Why Plymouth decided to install a flat glass in a smooth flowing curved body I'll never understand.

                      Being cheap, and without many special tools, I made a cardboard pattern to mimic the body curve on the top and sides of the roof away from the window area. Then I put a mark on the cardboard with a green marker to identify the distance on the cardboard that was the width of my patched window frame install. Using the marks on the cardboard I would know how bad the fill in the crater job was going to be.
                      The bottom of the frame install area has a different curve. The top of the body curves out at the center, where the bottom curves in at the center. While I had real metal to use for the top cardboard, the bottom would have to be a desired curve. I literally cut the bottom curve based on how I thought it should have been.

                      Lets say I'm pretty happy with the outcome for both curves. If I wanted to invest the time and energy, I could probably make both curves with little to no filler, but I have no intention of investing that much time nor effort. There is already filler in the car and it looked good going down the road, and didn't look too bad parked.
                      Then I proceeded in the finish welds. There were some spots where the weld, even with the lap, burned through the original roof. Some places are pretty thin up there still, but I was able to weld the holes closed. Because I'm not concerned about using a little filler, I don't have to worry about grinding down those weld up the holes welds down too much and worry about making more holes.

                      In the last update I told you guys that I grind down the pride of the welds, but it has occurred to me that some may not know what the "pride" of a weld is, so I am including a picture of the pride of a weld before and after the grind.
                      1) Top & side cardboard template, lines are about 4" apart
                      2) bottom cardboard template, arrows are about 3" apart
                      3) top fit
                      4) top fit other side
                      5) side fit
                      6) weld pride ground down
                      7) quarter window frame condition, this area was pitted bad, I used a rust converter and painted over it 8 years ago. the paint is not discolored, but I have no idea if I can clean it up enough to weld to it.
                      8) Metal cut out, no turning back now.
                      9) part of the patch. I need to go to my buddies shop and borrow his stretcher/shrinker to make the glass mounting base. I think I'm going to have these side windows and the rear windows all bonded in, like the windshield is.
                      10) the back window frame all welded in.
                      As long as the picture order isn't messed up... Gene
                      Attached Files
                      Last edited by Gene; 12-09-2019, 08:13 PM. Reason: trying to correct the pictures with the explanations Gene


                      • #12
                        A few extra pictures.

                        1) Rear window frame clamped in place, lots more clamps were used
                        2) This would be the next to final weld. These welds are about 3/8" apart.
                        3) Look pretty hard, the green arrow is the edge of the step flange. Notice the weld is farther out on the flange then right against the flange. In the fill application, this gap between the weld and the step would be filled with filler. This happens when you set the flanging tool as deep as it will go, but the trim on the patch is a little short. The final clamping of the patch will position the patch so it best covers the hole. This gives you a little wiggle room. Though the step looks huge, in reality, it is the depth of 18G sheet metal. The red arrow points towards a hole in the weld/metal that will be welded closed in the next round.
                        4) This is what the pride of a weld looks like. The 'bump" is the pride. When you grind it with an 1/8" thick wheel on a die grinder you would remove anything above the sheet metal surface being careful not to remove much of the sheet metal. A die grinder works best doing this because you have better control over what you are grinding off.
                        5) This is a close up of the condition of the metal around the quarter window. Notice the large holes, the smaller holes, and the paint filled pits. The patch panel runs from the top right corner all the way to the left side of this picture on the top piece. When I cut this section out the area with the pits feels pretty good. I was able to grind the area at the top, under the drip rail down to bare metal. I'm hoping I can plug weld the top pf the patch to the area just under the drip rail. I'll probably know tomorrow.
                        6) The weld under the cardboard has had the pride ground off of it. Had I been going to metal finish this to little or no filler, I would have ground more of the weld off, to the point it is the same height as the surrounding metal. This particular weld is at a burn through where the metal on the roof skin is already thin. Since the weld is below the filler line, and below what will be the top surface of the painted panel, I'm going to leave the weld stand a bit high. This gap, or daylight under the cardboard is about 1/16" deep, and about 2" wide. Close up pictures can be deceiving. Gene
                        Attached Files


                        • #13
                          Gene, wow... LOVE the new back window! Can't wait to see it welded in and dressed up.
                          peace ~ rg


                          • #14
                            Well, I got the rear window all welded up. I think it looks pretty good.
                            there will be a little filler (bondo) work coming, but there are other things I need to do before that happens. Iwo uld really like to save the bondo work for early spring so I can do most of that with the door open.
                            I was able to replace the metal around the passenger side quarter window as well. I got that done Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn't even think about taking pictures until I was done with it.
                            The worst thing that happened was my computer crashed Friday night. I'm using my wif's laptop right now, and I have no way of loading pictures on this thing.
                            The good news is I ordered the rubber for the quarter windows before the computer crashed. The bad news is that it crashed before I could order the rear window glass and the rear window rubber. If I can't get my old computer up and running, I may have to spend the rear window money on a computer. Gene


                            • #15
                              Ah the love/hate relationship with technology! LOL

                              That's some super looking work and really cool that you have the dedicated time to get that much done that quick. Gotta feel great for that kind of accomplishment. Have you thought about a particular road trip to celebrate the updates when done?
                     1930 Chevy truck build link: