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1973 - 1979 F-100 & Larger F-Series Trucks Discuss the Dentsides Ford Truck

Re-building a wrecked F-150: bent frame

 
  #46  
Old 09-20-2014, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by caliRangerXLT View Post
this is maybe one of the more incredible auto restoration stories i've seen. i'd love to know what your background is. subscribed!
As for background, I'm a semi-retired university professor. I now work part-time teaching an online course on some aspect of educational technology now and again. Normally, that doesn't track with automotive interests or skills. In my case, however, I've maintained interest in things automotive ever since my Army days as a tank and truck mechanic. Drag racing while a college student/high school teacher and street rodder in my first college teaching job. Here's a few pics of the last street rod that I built:




Ford powered (351C) 1933 Chev 6 wheel 4 dr sedan.





Rear perspective. Note rare bustle trunk.

Unlike Fords of this era that were all steel, Chevys and other marks used wood to support the body. This was a basket case so the wood was almost all rotted. I welded in a completely new steel framework to support the body chopping the top 3" and filling the roof with metal from a station wagon in the process.
That was 1985 and I haven't done much since then except hang on to the '33 and my tools. Careers and family can preempt lots of things but not forever.
So now, with this and a couple of other planned Ford truck projects, I am trying to resurrect those skills and attitudes from 30 years ago. If and when I get my mojo back, the '33 will get a frame off rebuild with better suspension and power train.
 
  #47  
Old 09-22-2014, 03:03 PM
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Well, hello dolly

I decided to fabricate a chunk of metal that will serve as a form, dolly and push block for this frame straightening effort. Scrounging two nice pieces of 3/4" steel plate from a local scrap yard, I used a cardboard template representing the average (middle) dimensions of this part of the frame to chalk out an outline on the steel plate. Using an acetylene torch, the first cuts were made. The trick here is to err ever so slightly on the "fat" side because it's easier to remove metal than to replace it. Consequently, I spent a few hours at the grinder creating two versions of the template, one for the innermost side of the frame (note the radiused edge) and one for the outermost part. Using my undamaged F-100 as the standard, the grinding/fitting process yielded the following:



... which fits the F-100 frame like this:




... and this:




Using the two bumper bolt holes and the easily accessed back portion of the plates, I tack welded the two pieces together while they were held firmly in place. The seam between the two plates was very conveniently located in the middle of the bumper bolt holes so I used a 1/2" drill to recess a spot for the tack weld so that it wouldn't prevent extraction afterwards. Following that, a cutoff wheel was used to create a V at the seam between the two plates which was used to weld all but the rearmost side. That last part was cut off with a bandsaw along a straight line created with a plumb device (big washer on a string), V ground and welded. The resulting combo form/dolly/pushblock is shown in the next several pictures:










The round hole in the form corresponds with the square hole found at the front of these frames. It will permit the use of the previously fabricated stiffeners when and if needed.

So next we'll see whether this contrivance is useful or not. There are lots of fallback uses that we could imagine for a heavy chunk of steel like this. ;-)
 
  #48  
Old 09-22-2014, 05:19 PM
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I'm enjoying this thread, watching your progress. A study in tenacity!
Great job so far!
David
 
  #49  
Old 09-23-2014, 12:57 PM
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Dolly at work

A "before" picture would have been helpful but I was in a hurry to get something done before an impending rain storm arrived, quenched the heated frame and halted work. This was the most distressed part of the driver side frame horn so I needed to make three relief cuts to accommodate the heavily stretched metal.



Using a 20 lb. sledge hammer as additional dolly mass and a 2.5 lb hammer to work the frame horn, I would heat, hammer, enlarge the relief cuts if needed and tighten the jig holding the dolly/form to the frame. Once the dolly/form was flat against the inner wall of the frame horn, attention shifted to bringing the top, front and bottom rails to follow the contour of the form.

Here's the relief cut at the bottom with a glimpse of the relief cut to the front.




... and here's the relief cut to the top:



Once the frame is a bit closer in shape to the form, these relief cuts will be welded up.
 
  #50  
Old 10-01-2014, 05:41 PM
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Having served their purpose, the relief cuts were welded up. Pictured is the first phase of that task - filling the gaps where they exist.



We still have about a 1/2" to go before this frame horn is as long as it is supposed to be. The radiator support crossmember hole should become more round if we can get that 1/2" by heating and pushing the push block fabricated for this purpose. That effort will come next.



Here's a perspective view and an indication that there are two holes that will need to be filled eventually. Finish welding will approach both sides of each relief cut to make sure that no part of the frame is thinner than 1/8" which is the stock dimension.

 
  #51  
Old 10-08-2014, 05:16 PM
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There were still a number of dents and bumps that needed to be heated and hammered. In addition to my 20 lb. sledge as dolly and 2.5 lb. hammer approach, I began to use my pneumatic hammer. Soapstone was used to guide the application of heat because of its persistence.







... and a few close-up views:







Next up is finishing the welding of relief cuts. This has to be done from both sides of the frame rail in order to maintain the 1/8" thickness of the F-150 frame rail. The F-250 is twice that so would be substantially more difficult to work with in this manner. On the other hand, a 1/4" thick frame probably wouldn't have crumpled as much.

Once I have both frame rails approximating their original shape, it will be time to get serious about measurements, squareness and such. The magic number will be 32"
 
  #52  
Old 10-09-2014, 09:23 PM
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Sorry im so late to this party. I have a perfect frame from a 78-79 2wd that is in my way. I used the cab and bed on other projects.

Looks like you are too far into this to stop now but keep it in mind. Pm me if interested. I will try to remember to check back.
 
  #53  
Old 10-12-2014, 01:11 PM
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At this point, the appearance of the frame horns is almost normal so it's time to start measuring and dealing with the anomalies that are not apparent to the naked eye. The critical dimensions concern 1) the holes used by the radiator support crossmember and 2) the holes used by the bumper. If these holes are in the correct (XYZ axes) position, then all of the things that are tied to them should align nicely. Since the frame horns will be partially boxed and get an additional crossmember, it will also be good to get as many other dimensions as close to stock (square) as possible. There is an undamaged F-100 a few feet away so that will be the authoritative reference for this F-150. This is the same reference vehicle used to fabricate the 1.5" thick front frame horn form. Although there is a reference called "1976 Ford Truck Body Builders Layout Book" that has lots of useful measurements for body parts, it doesn't provide the frame dimensions that will be needed. So having a reference vehicle is a must.
As noted earlier, there are rivited frame alignment pins on the bottom of the frame rails. On the reference vehicle, they are exactly 32" apart. Fabricating a guide from 3/8" stock by placing 2-9/16" inch holes (widest part of the tapered alignment pins) 32" apart, it becomes possible to easily check this part of the frame horns. It also happens that 32" is the distance between the centers of the radiator support crossmember holes and the bumper attachment holes.
Here are a few pictures of the fabricated alignment bar.



The bird's eye view:



The worm's eye view:



Getting this guide to fit required only a little cinching by using the separator bars fabricated previously. I'll be starting from the engine crossmember and working forward toward the bumper bolt holes.
There are many more measurements to take and probably many more corrections to make. Some of those corrections will likely be challenging.
 
  #54  
Old 10-13-2014, 04:53 PM
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At this point, the key dimensions (radiator x-member and bumper bolt holes) are approximately correct. That is, the center-to-center distance between driver side and passenger side versions of these holes are within a sixteenth of 32 inches. The extra holes created for various push blocks have been filled and the relief cut welds have been finished on both sides of the frame. This is done to assure maximum strength without changing the contours of the frame. It shouldn't be terribly obvious that an extensive repair has been made. Avoid the Frankenstein look. Here are a few pictures to illustrate all that.



The two extra holes are filled:




Welds on the inside of the frame received only mild grinding:




A profile view:




Next up is to take a look at the passenger side frame rail and use the 1.5" form to finalize the shape of the end of that frame horn too. After that, measurements for squareness and vertical dimensions will dictate what happens next.
 
  #55  
Old 10-15-2014, 05:42 AM
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It looks like you are on the downhill stretch which is good! Keep in mind that factory specs are generally within 3-4 mm. on most vehicles which should be within your 1/16 you are at now. Bumper & radiator mounting holes are generally considered a lesser "key" measurement as adjustment,within reason,is usually attainable in these areas. The most critical measurements are always around suspensions whether front or rear .Door post/ door openings are very crititical also (which has nothing to do w/your job). Almost there ,keep on!! gary
 
  #56  
Old 10-15-2014, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by vtpkrat2 View Post
It looks like you are on the downhill stretch which is good! Keep in mind that factory specs are generally within 3-4 mm. on most vehicles which should be within your 1/16 you are at now. Bumper & radiator mounting holes are generally considered a lesser "key" measurement as adjustment,within reason,is usually attainable in these areas. The most critical measurements are always around suspensions whether front or rear .Door post/ door openings are very crititical also (which has nothing to do w/your job). Almost there ,keep on!! gary
Thanks Gary for the encouragement and the reminder that there is a margin for error. Frank
 
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Old 10-15-2014, 12:09 PM
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I look for updates on this thread every time I log on here, it's one of my favorites right now. Frank, you should be proud of the fine job you have done on this frame. I know you will be driving this worthy truck soon!

David
 
  #58  
Old 10-15-2014, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by rougeriver View Post
I know you will be driving this worthy truck soon!

David
Thanks David, I am really looking forward to that day. However, I have already succumbed to one of those "while your in there" temptations. While I was under the truck measuring frame squareness, I noticed that the radius arm bushings were in sorry, crumbly shape. So I ordered what I think is the correct (4.7107R) polyurethane bushings from Energy Suspension via Summit. So I'll probably be tackling that chore before I begin replacing/restoring the sheet metal. A professional wheel alignment is probably also in order. Frank.
 
  #59  
Old 10-20-2014, 05:04 PM
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With the driver side frame horn close to OK, I shift my attention to the passenger side once more. The form that was fabricated for the driver side was easily modified to perform the same functions on the passenger side. A little grinding brought the form to the point where it would fit the taper and radius of this side of the frame as well. Here's what it looks like now. 3/4 view"



front view:




side view:




This was all done using the undamaged F-100 frame as a reference. The test is to see if it fits the undamaged frame first before using it as a form to reshape the damaged frame. Here's the fit on the undamaged frame:




Getting the form to fit the damaged frame took a bit of hammer work but it's in there and now the adjustments that will be needed are clearly visible.




Actually, there were a few inward dents that had to be attended to first. I attached the form to the outside of the frame so as to be able to heat and hammer on the inside of the frame horn. You can see some of the after effects of that work in the following shot:


 
  #60  
Old 10-25-2014, 05:55 PM
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You'll recall that the passenger side frame horn was bent outward toward the fender to the point where the metal right after the engine crossmember was stretched and ripped with the factory weld being broken. Given the rivets, welds and cross-bracing of the engine crossmember, this was a relatively weak point and, so, the most likely point of failure. The initial correction required some relief cuts to deal with stretched metal but those cuts were not wide enough so we saw some buckling on the top rail where most of the stretching apparently occurred. Picking up from there required making further relief cuts so that the buckling area could be heated up and hammered down. This also allowed further adjustments to get the key frame measurements closer to those gleaned from the undamaged F-100. More on those numbers is a future post. Here are a few pictures of this stage:












The first weld was to the upper rail and this was done with a standard arc (stick) welder in three passes. The first pass was at high amperage to get maximum penetration followed by a second pass at lower amperage to improve fill and a third pass to fill any remaining gaps.



Looking at the underside of that weld reveals pretty good penetration but also the need to fill a bit more on the outer edge.


 

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