Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

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sum86
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Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

Postby sum86 » Tue Nov 15, 2022 11:21 am

I actually had a page or two posted here on my restoration about a year back, but it ended up getting removed. Ever since then, I have gotten way farther on my project. For those who don't remember, here's a refresher. Filled with glorious 320 x 240 pics & rushed writing.

The year was 2018. I was a picky little kid. I really wanted to find an ae86 for a project, but I didn't want to settle for anything less then the coveted GTS hatchback. It kind of hurts now thinking about how many "clean enough" SR5's and coupes I ignored. Anyways, after about a year of searching, I ended up finding a single one - some guys clapped out parts car. Of course I said yes! Little me was too blinded by the fact that this mythical car he's only seen on the computer was now right in front of him. It didn't matter that it had fist-sized rust holes in the bodywork, or that it was stuffed with puffy, moist bondo. For $1000, how could anybody say no to a parts car like that?

Only problem is that this wouldn't be a parts car for me. I had to fix this shell. To make things worse, I already had a project car going on at this time too. A similarly rusted out turbo firefly. (geo metro with a bodykit, for you yankees) Because of this, the corolla spent all of this time sitting with damp grass tickling it's undersides. When it finally came time to pull the car in to begin work on it, I was greeted with even more rust then when I initially got it.

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Terrible pictures, but it gives you the idea that this car probably wasn't worth fixing. Things only got worse when it came time to strip the car down.

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The usual rust in the window frame, with some bonus sunroof leakage corrosion. It was easy to get the glass out for these pictures, because the previous owner used the wrong glue to stick the window in. With one weak pry of a flathead screwdriver, the entire bead of glue broke and my glass fell out. Almost ended up breaking the windshield even more! It's kind of scary considering I was originally going to just get the car running and drive it around for a bit. Should've known better when your working with an absolute deathtrap.

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I'm hoping the really shitty resolution isn't making things too hard to understand. You should still be able to make out the massive blobs of brown in those pixels.

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Two bad frame rails, with the added bonus of the right side being bent. That rust hole was caused by somebody forgetting to seal off the crunched in corner after somebody paved bondo over it. The inside of the car looks worse, but i'll post pictures when it's time to fix it.

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With all of that done, the car was chucked on top of the rotisserie it would spend the next year strapped to. With a diy paint job courtesy of my brother, it was time to start cutting back the layers. I'm still not caught up yet, so i'll try to get the next writing done quickly.
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sum86
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Re: Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

Postby sum86 » Tue Nov 15, 2022 11:44 am

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The first area I focused my attention to was the A pillar and window frame. I thought that this was the worst damage structural wise on the car, and I didn't want my car to fold in on me when i decided to cut open the rockers. I'm glad my Firefly served as my body work guinea pig beforehand, because chopping up the pillars is a very sketchy practice. No better place to start then!

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A spot weld driller made quick work of pulling the cowl off. I wouldn't have done this usually, but the entire length of the lower window frame had holes on it. I would've just cut the left and right corners off if that was the case.

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I forgot to take pictures early on, so this is the earliest one I have. Two layers of shiny metal welded on this area. Before this, both of these layers were gone, and the window frame would flap around very easily.

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Both sides done up. I tend to get too "in the zone" to remember to take pictures, but just remember that I always fix the opposite side as well. Things will get less spotty as I go on.

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I used my dad's heavy duty welder to burn these ones in. It was kind of dumb to start on such a difficult and stressed area, but i'll be more then prepared enough if it ever cracks on me.

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Braces back on.

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And the cowl to cap it all off too. Took me a little bit over a month to get to this point. Being my first patches, I do think they ended up being a little bit ugly compared to my later stuff, but it's not like you can tell with the low quality anyways. Next up, the rocker panels and every thing they attach to.
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sum86
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Re: Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

Postby sum86 » Tue Nov 15, 2022 12:06 pm

Things started to get a bit more serious when it came time to do the rockers. A guy on the internet once said "you can't weld to rust", and I feel that applies here. Every time I would cut back metal, even more rust would crop up. Still, I ain't a quitter. I carried on anyway, as hopeless as it may of felt.

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The back section let me know right away that it ain't playin. The precise measurement know as "can I stick my hand in?" signaled that this area was thoroughly rotten though.

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The front area was almost just as bad, even if it looks more solid. Still structurally compromised, it's just that the front didn't have spinning wheels to chip away any loose steel with gravel.

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I was actually quite careful drilling all of this stuff off. I didn't know what I would have to reuse quite yet, so I thought i'd play it safe. You can probably tell that there wasn't that much I could salvage.

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Two steel bars with crushed ends prevented my car from folding in. Keener eyes may notice that the bar isn't even really doing anything. A bar from the door pillar to the rear inner support tends to not do much if those two areas are not actually attached to anything. I made sure not to climb inside my car after noticing this.

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The goods I pulled off. Some of it actually came in handy occasionally if I needed to check the fitment of something, but it was almost entirely scrap. After this was all cut off, I soon started to chug away at replacing all of this with fresh steel.
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sum86
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Re: Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

Postby sum86 » Tue Nov 15, 2022 12:29 pm

After sleeping on it, I thought the best way to go at this was to start at all four corners. I didn't want the center section to sag or hang down too far, so I had to properly secure it in place first.

I sandblasted both sides not-very thoroughly just to get an idea of what was just surface rust, and what was too far gone. You can't see it in the pic, but there was a heavy case of pin holes going on here. I would end up having to replace a lot more then I originally anticipated, expecially because I actually had to redo this piece (both sides!) because i did it wrong.

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I had to give the flange and the floor a little bit of work first before i could replace that sill area. Here's how that went.

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Strangely enough, the drivers side was quite a bit worse then this side. Usually it's the other way around for LHD vehicles. Anyways, i also had to give the incredibly flimsy looking factory jacking point some attention.

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Soon after, I was able to replace that first piece I cut. I had to redo this because the original way of doing the stampings in a "cut and weld" way made them far too weak.

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I used thicker steel for this the second time around too, just to be safe.

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The rear end was far easier to make, being mostly flat sections. Makes me wish the rest of the rocker was constructed like this. Anyways, i'm mostly glad that I don't have to do this again... Even if I did, there being two sides on a car. Things ended up getting a bit easier when it came time to fill in the center part.
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sum86
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Re: Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

Postby sum86 » Tue Nov 15, 2022 1:09 pm

Similar to the front, the floor needed a little bit of attention before i could go ahead with the flange and sill. This was my first attempt at stamping things. I had a little bit of trouble centering the punch right, but it'll look fine buried in undercoating.

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It then came time for the flange. It was so exhausting to grind the whole length of this when I was done welding.

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(I don't know why my friend felt like licking it, but It spices up the photo i guess?)

The jagged lines I laid out. I had to cut a section or two back even more, because of pinholes I didn't notice. Luckily, I didn't have to redo any more patches going forward.

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Some inside shots too while i'm at it.

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There was a little bit more to do on the floor...

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but it was soon time to cut down the excess, and move on to the outer rockers.

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I'm thinking this part was probably the hardest part of the build for me. It was hard to stay motivated, but i kept grinding through it nevertheless. It just sucked with how many stampings I had to copy, and how I really didn't get a feeling of moving closer to my goal as i worked through it. Feels good that I don't think i'll ever have to repair anything this hard again though. In the end, it feels good to do it right though. Gave a solid foundation to plug my rockers on to.
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sum86
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Re: Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

Postby sum86 » Tue Nov 15, 2022 2:29 pm

I couldn't plug my rockers on however, as there was nothing left of them. It was quite tricky work to get these repaired, as I really didn't have much of a reference to what it was supposed to be like, as everything was gone. Turns out i'm a very lucky guesser, as it all seemed to go well.

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A shot of what I had to fix or recreate. For what it was, it actually went by very quickly.

I ended up getting some rocker panels from Wolf Steel, as I don't have the equipment to bend up any of my own. The panel's profile is a little bit off, but it should be easy enough to smooth it out with a little bit of filler.

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It felt good to work with fresh steel instead of cut up truck hoods.

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With the profile of the rocker clearly defined by the middle section, lining the front and rear sections isn't actually all that hard. The hardest part is making sure the fender bolts up well to the bottom of the front. You can't really test that while your making it, so you just gotta hope everything fits when everything is welded on and finished. The rear section couldn't be easier. As long as you have an air gap for the panel to "breathe", you'll be fine.

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The inner rockers were completely hopeless, so i decided to make some new ones from scratch. It actually turned out pretty nice! It's also great because this is one single, thick gauge piece instead of the original puny one that had a tacked on extension at the end. I could feel the weight difference when I held it up. Off camera i also sandblasted and fixed those little brace pieces too.

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SO SHINY

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I used epoxy primer to seal off these things before I welded them together. Regular primer just ends up absorbing water, which is the exact thing you don't want to happen in an enclosed steel cavity. Also, i really wish I spent the 5 minutes to mask those things off before priming, as I could smell my brain cells popping when it smoked up from me welding it. It pays to not cut corners if you don't have to. Anyways, with that done, it was on to the exciting part where I reunite them with the car.
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sum86
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Re: Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

Postby sum86 » Tue Nov 15, 2022 2:57 pm

I soon ground off the excess epoxy and replaced it with the usual copper weld through primer. When it came to mounting the drivers side rocker, it all went incredibly easily. No real struggling I could elaborate on. It was the usual deal of checking alignment several times, and then welding it on.

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The moment of truth. How well does everything actually fit up?

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I think well? It's hard to tell. You guys probably can tell my godawful anime titty fender isn't exactly the greatest specimen, and my door is junk due to the entire lower door skin being separated from the frame. I can tell you when i push and pull everything with my hands, the gaps look fine. If I do end up having any alignment issues later on at the bodywork stage, my solution would either be to use filler, or to lower the car excessively until you can't see the rocker gaps. It'll be fine with whichever route I choose.

The right side was a little bit more complicated.
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Those holes are supposed to be centered, but the crash damage had shook it's way to the B pillar. when it came time to bold up the panels, the door was scrubbing on the quarter panel.

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The ghetto solution reigned supreme. A ratchet strap from the door striker to the rotisserie would be all that I needed to align it. I got them bang on surprisingly, like a better alignment then the drivers side even. It's nice, because it gives me a hard cutoff line from where the car is bent up and where it's straight. Should make things a little bit easier when it comes time to pull the frame. Also, check out that shot of how bowed out the quarter is. Really shows the car was a lot more bent up then I initially thought. After I finished with all the welding and grinding to affix it back to the car, I cut out all two of the structural supports I managed to put in. Next step was what I waited all year for- getting the shell back on four wheels.
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sum86
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Re: Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

Postby sum86 » Tue Nov 15, 2022 3:30 pm

I had only been working on the car for a little bit less then a year now, but I have already been stocking up some parts. The first of goodies to go on the car were a set of PBM coilovers. These were the only coilovers I could find that had the spring rate I was looking for with a true rear setup. I have no idea what they'll ride like, but to be honest i have never even driven an ae86 before. Everything will be new to me lol. Here's to hoping that they won't feel like pogo sticks. Enjoy the pictures of shiny parts going on a scabby car.

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Welded the strut tubes to the spindles. It was good for me to check this, as there was some questionable stuff going on with the bolts holding this thing together. Undersized, bent imperial bolts threaded through missing dowel pins, and a lack of locking ring or cotter pins on the wheel bearing. Pretty sure that's a bingo card right there. It's stuff like that really builds confidant for the day I take this thing to the streets. Anyways, at least it looks baller while I roll it around with that single black painted piece.

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These coilovers use a little heim joint cup, which wasn't too hard to weld to the car. Welds are a little ugly, but i'll redo them when it's time to chop the inner and outer wheelhouses out. With shock mounting addressed, it didn't take long for me to get it back on four wheels.

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This catches you guys up to where I am current day. Right now i'm waiting to get the chassis pulled straight. Don't know how long it'll take, but I don't think it'll be more then a month. i'll try to keep posted on anything else that happens. I'm pretty sure the next part to do will be the rear wheel tubs, but i'm not quite sure yet. Who knows? Just need to wait and see.
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Jeonsah
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Re: Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

Postby Jeonsah » Mon Nov 21, 2022 4:36 am

Great work man. Really impressed with your effort and dedication. Super excited to see more of this build. Keep it going!

eightfive
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Re: Crusty $1000 GTS hatch. A restoration thread

Postby eightfive » Mon Nov 28, 2022 11:00 am

This is awesome and inspirational... I think youve motivated me to start tackling my rust issues.