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  #1  
Old 05-25-2016, 01:58 PM
msith718 msith718 is offline
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Default 65 Convertible With Rusted Rocker Panels

Hi all, first post here as I am brand new member.

I have finally found a 65 convertible project. It's in pretty decent shape actually. Interior is excellent, the body is straight, and it runs.

But... the rocker panels are rusted. The rust also extends into the floor pans.

So, while the car LOOKS like a winner and a fantastic deal at around 5k, the rocker panels concern me a bit.

This would be my first restoration and, while I fully expected to do a bit of work, I wasnt planning on structural work. This would be not only my first resto, but my first time welding.

Have seen a few places where people use 3x3 square tubing between the inner and outer rockers. So, apparently this is fixable.

My questions are:

1) What do you think of doing this as a first timer? Would you suggest to go for it, or to run the other way?

2) What does a fix like this do to the value of the car? My understanding is that any deviation from stock brings the value down. Would this kind of a fix have the same result? I have to keep in mind the day may come when I sell and, when it does, I'd hope not to be surprised that the fix reduced its value dramatically--compared to if the car never needed to be fixed.

Any other thoughts about attacking this job?

Thanks in advance for all and any input.

Last edited by msith718 : 05-25-2016 at 02:30 PM.
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  #2  
Old 05-25-2016, 03:52 PM
Yadkin Yadkin is offline
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You said that the body is straight, that means different things to different folks. In a convertible, The rocker panels and connecting torque boxes have to be solid for the door vertical panels to be straight. If they are, the rust damage can't be all that bad. It's probably just the outer that is damaged.

Additional stress can be placed in these critical areas simply by jacking the car from the front bumper or front cross member. The door seams will move a little even in a hard top, but they shouldn't move so much that you can't open the doors.

If the doors don't open during this test, structural damage to the inners can be fixed, but this isn't a DIY proposition in my book. You'll need to find a guy with a frame straightener to set the geometry while he cuts out old metal and welds in new. And all that steel is heavy gauge stuff, not stuff that normal body shops typically handle.
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  #3  
Old 05-25-2016, 05:12 PM
msith718 msith718 is offline
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Quote:
that means different things to different folks
I see. What I meant was the panels are not full of dings, dents, creases, and crumples.

Now, I have only seen pictures on the website it is selling on. The car is a good four hour ride from me.That is why I want to get as much info as possible before going to see it. So, I cant say just how bad the rust is.

But, I have spoken to the seller a couple of times and he is not trying to hide the fact that they are "shot". Of course, those are his words. But when I asked about other rust he said that it extended into the floor pans. I would think that if the outers are rusted, and the floor pans, wouldnt the inner rockers also kind of have to be?

From the pictures, the doors appear to line up just fine.

But assuming the inners are rusted, if the frame is still straight, couldnt I brace it to keep it straight and then do the work?

Im torn on what to do here because I have been looking forever for a project 65 convertible and they just dont seem to be around. I find a ton of them fully restored. So, to find this where all else seems in good shape and only four hours away, is very tempting. Its even my preferred color (frost turquoise) the car was painted a darker blue many years ago but can see in the pic of the engine bay that is the original color. So, if/when the painting stage came, I would do it the original color again.

But, I also want to make sure that I dont make a big mistake.

Last edited by msith718 : 05-25-2016 at 05:37 PM.
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  #4  
Old 05-25-2016, 06:59 PM
Yadkin Yadkin is offline
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My own car, just completed, was originally from Rockland County NY, driven hard and passed down through a family with four boys, so I know what the effects of road salt can do. It had rusted through both front floor pans, nearly the entire trunk, both rear fenders all along the wheel wheels, the battery tray, and front fenders along the intersecting surfaces of the metal inner fenders. The only structural rust was the outer part of the driver's side spring tower. My rockers were in very good shape except for a few holes in the outer, thinner, sheet metal.

Remember that these cars are unit chassis, so there is no frame. On the positive side of this, the critical structural panels are heavier gauge steel, and the adjacent thinner panels tend to rust away long before the heavier ones begin to. On the negative side, you can't unbolt the body from the frame and get access to every panel. In several areas, including the rockers, you have to cut through at least one area to get access to a hidden area.

You can brace the chassis like a frame shop could; I just described the most straight-forward method. If it were me in my garage, I'd set it on 8 jack stands, all on a good concrete floor, and shim it all level, measuring against a laser.

Ask the guy if he has the original working jack. These cars were designed to be jacked by the bumpers at all four corners. If you can jack the front off the ground using that it will put a lot of stress on the structure, magnifying deflections. If it doesn't deflect that much, it's a solid structure.

For further inspection bring a floor jack with you and at least two jack stands. Jack the front from the front cross member (under the radiator) and place the stands at the points where the lower control arms meet. Jack the rear from the differential and place the stands, protected by 4" long 2x4 blocks, at the rear edge of the rear torque boxes.
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  #5  
Old 05-25-2016, 10:48 PM
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jopizz jopizz is offline
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I wouldn't call $5000 a fantastic deal for a convertible that has major rust problems like you describe. I bought a '66 convertible last year for $1000 and the most I could get for it was $1800. That car had solid rocker panels, floors and trunk with some rust in the lower quarters. It was mostly complete and was running and driving. I certainly wouldn't recommend buying it without a visual inspection. How is the package tray. If that is badly rusted it is almost impossible to repair and you will have to find a good used one which is extremely expensive. I've always found that whatever rust is present in the pictures you can count on at least twice that amount when you inspect the car. I'm not trying to discourage you just giving you some advice from someone who has been buying and selling Thunderbirds for over 40 years.

John
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  #6  
Old 05-25-2016, 11:22 PM
msith718 msith718 is offline
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Ok, so a couple of questions from various parts of your response.

First, I see you are in NC? So did you go to NY to get the car?

I figured I would need to cut the rear quarter panels as far back as the wheel. But as for the fenders, dont they unbolt? Or are they also welded on?

When you get it on jack stands and shim it, what part of the car do you use as the reference to check for level? In other words you can't shim until the hood is level because it is not a flat surce, or the trunk lid. Would it be the rocker area itself--the bottom of the care between the front and rear tires?

Also, you would want it level in two dimensions--along its length and along the width, right? Although along the width seems to be easier to figure out since, divided down the middle from front to back, the car should be symetrical.

"If you can jack the front off the ground using that it will put a lot of stress on the structure, magnifying deflections. If it doesn't deflect that much, it's a solid structure."

So that is the test to see if the inner rocker is still pretty good? I am picturing that if it is not good, then jacking it up will cause a deflection that doesnt return... and I "bend" the guys car and the doors no longer open and close properly. Is that possible?

"For further inspection bring a floor jack with you and at least two jack stands. Jack the front from the front cross member (under the radiator) and place the stands at the points where the lower control arms meet. Jack the rear from the differential and place the stands, protected by 4" long 2x4 blocks, at the rear edge of the rear torque boxes.
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So, with this test, I would be jacking the car up and putting it on the stands as you said. But then what? At that point do you just check that the doors are still properly aligned. And if so, does that mean that it is structurally sound?

Im assuming, just from the couple of conversations I have had with teh guy, that he knows a bit about the car and he is accurate that the rockers are "shot" At least, that is why it is priced so low (I think it is low, and so does he) But, you never know, he could be wrong.

Also, I hear alot about rusted rocker panels and it is a problem because they are structural. But I never hear about rusted cross members. Wouldnt that be a big problem too. And woudlnt they need to be welded to the rocker panels?
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Old 05-25-2016, 11:38 PM
msith718 msith718 is offline
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Quote:
I'm not trying to discourage you
not at all. i appreciate all of the feedback.

I have to say, I am very surprised that you found a 66 convertible at that price. $1000 and not a total rust bucket? The car you described sounds fantastic for the price. I dont see non-convertibles in that kind of condition for anywhere near that price.

I have been scouring the internet for months upon months and cant find any. Of course, I am limiting myself ot a couple hundred miles from NYC.

If I were to buy, I would definitely go to inspect it. But because it is such a far drive, I want to find out as much info as possible and make sure that whatever it is can be fixed.

From my conversations with him, the rockers are rusted and there is some rust in the wheel wells but not rusted through. and the rest of the car is clean. But, i didnt see for myself, just going by what he has told me.

I thought it was a good deal because everything else I see (have not seen a convertible but may hardtops/landaus) if they look good are similar price... but not a convertible.

This one, at least, has an interior that I wouldnt need to do anything to. And wouldnt need body work--I mean in areas where you see like, fenders, trunk lid, hood, etc. My assumption was: fix the rocker and then Ive got a convertible in real good shape for 5k plus labor for the rocker work. But I think I trust your assessment a bit more than mine.
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Old 05-25-2016, 11:44 PM
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Don't use a bumper jack and don't lift from the center of the rear axle. You're simply inviting trouble for a car you don't own.

Don't stress the body if you already know it needs rocker panels. All that is BAD ADVICE. Lift this car from spring perches, both front and rear. Use ramps or jack stands but NEVER get under it with jacks only. Even then, give the car a good shake to see how stable it is before putting your body under ANY car.

You could negotiate on the price. It would help if you have examples of other cars for less money. You could shop for steel; 2"X4" channel, floor pans, rocker panels, etc. (Then the car needs to be painted). Show him the costs. How are the engine and trans? Are they old and tired? - Dave
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Old 05-26-2016, 12:04 AM
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Without inspecting the car it's hard to tell whether the rocker damage is cosmetic (outer rockers) or structural (inner rockers). That being said pretty much anything is repairable if you have the right tools, skill and money. Unfortunately here in the Northeast rust damage is unavoidable. How long has the car been for sale. Remember if it really was a bargain it would've been sold by now. Don't be afraid to give a low offer. Start at $2000 and work your way up. If he gets insulted, too bad. Just because the rest of the car looks good doesn't mean it's not loaded with bondo. If you inspect the car in person bring a magnet with you. Go up and down the quarters and fenders. If it doesn't stick then it's not metal underneath the paint. Make sure the trunk lid is solid and not rusted. Good convertible trunk lids are almost impossible to find. Are all the top components; relays, switches, solenoids there. If not they are expensive to replace.

John
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  #10  
Old 05-26-2016, 12:05 AM
msith718 msith718 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simplyconnected View Post
You could negotiate on the price. It would help if you have examples of other cars for less money. You could shop for steel; 2"X4" channel, floor pans, rocker panels, etc. (Then the car needs to be painted). Show him the costs. How are the engine and trans? Are they old and tired? - Dave
one of my problems is not knowing the market, it appears.

Assuming that rockers and floor pans are the only issue (which is the assumption I made) i thought 5k was a good price... no?

Because once the rockers are taken care of, then its a structurally sound car, great interior, straight body that just needs paint. And the rocker panel issue isnt costly, just time consuming (if I do it myself)

the engine has 90k miles on it. I dont believe it has been rebuilt. So, it may be tired, but its not a car that wont start or drive.

What I figure to be the worst in cars I look at are:
needing significant body work (in terms of dents, lots of rust, etc)
needing significant mechanical work (no transmission, engine in need of rebuild, etc)

This doesnt have that. Although the rockers are important and maybe tough to do, the scope is limited.
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