Front panel work

Here is some helpful information for those of you trying to tackle front end repair work.  In this example I've used all knockoff panels, nothing heritage.  Did I mention yet I sell this stuff?  This is just one way to do front end work and I'm sure there are other methods out there.  Once I pre-welded the whole front end and then fit it into place.   
In this example I've tore apart the ENTIRE front end, minus one of the inner wings, but close enough.  You of course can leave the engine in, actually leaving the subframe in place is desired to help align the front end panel using the eyebolt holes as a reference.



In this example I also took off the windscreen scuttle panel.  I will go ahead and say that generally speaking if you run into problems fitting wings that the scuttle corners will be what gives you problems.  If you replace A-panels, wings, and front end panel as I have done here, often times the whole project revolves around getting a good fit at the scuttle corners.  Once you get the wings fit up against the scuttle you are golden.  HOWEVER, just because it lines up nicely doesn't always mean you are done.  You must fit the hood.  I repeat, fit your hood.  Check your gaps.  Its very easy to slap wings on, weld it all together and then when you fit your hood realize you have 1 inch gaps on either side.  So don't make that mistake. 



With the warning about scuttle corners imbedded in your head lets move on.  Before you do anything, test fit and give things a trial run.  This will help you decide if panels need shifted, trimmed, hit with a big hammer, ect...  In the case you are replacing the windscreen panel as I have done here, I found that leaving it loosely in place so that I could float it about worked very nicely.  I would also suggest if you are just replacing the scuttle corner that you fit the wings first and then fit in the corner panel last by having it loosely in place to be welded up last.     



Before I forget, pre-drill or better yet buy a pnumatic air punch and have your holes ready for spot welding.  Now that you have everything clamped down and things look good, what I like to do is drill a hole in the inner wing that will align the outer wing.  This part can be tricky.  Again the stupid scuttle gets in the way and it can take brute force to get the wing all the way over.  Sometimes a spare set of hands helps.  Sometimes you need to hammer in the edge of the scuttle corner, but be careful you don't overdo it.  With my windscreen loosely in place I didn't have that hard of a time.  Take a sheet metal screw and hold your wings in place.  One screw forward and one aft is plenty.





Now do the same thing to the other side if needed and fit the hood again.  Check the gaps.  It should be pretty snug.



Fit your front end on if you haven't done so already and check the hood again.  Fit your A-panels if you haven't done so already and check your hood again. 



Now that things are all clamped down and look like a million bucks, if you are replacing the windscreen or scuttle corners weld it/them in place.  It may take a few test runs, some trimming, and a few good tugs to get things perfect, but for the most part isn't that difficult.  Check your seams obviously, they should be neat and tight.  Once they look good, start welding.





You'll have to remove everything to weld in the closing plates.  Cleaning up previous welds from other work while things are off is a good idea at this time since you have more space to work.



Now back to the wings.  Using your holes and sheet metal screws as a reference tighten them into place.  I start off by welding a spot weld at the inner corner where it meets the scuttle and inner wing all join up, and I weld a couple spot welds along the inner wing also.  Just something to keep it in place but don't get carried away at this point.  Sometimes as you weld and work your way around panels have a magical way of shifting or suddenly being slightly off.  In the unlikely event you find yourself scratching your head and having to start over,  you won't have a ton of welds to bust off.



At this point if I have to do A-panels I work with them.  In this scenerio both sides at first looked to "magically" be off where the A-panel is suppose to fit over the lip of the inner door frame panel.  You can see how its a bit skewed and at first may scare you if you run into this.  However, mini panels have a way of being manipulated.  Shove where you have to, pull, whatever it takes to get it to fit.



Pushing here and giving the A-panel a slight pull fixed my problem and things fit nice and tight. 



Clamp like crazy and weld the A-panels in place.  Both sides for me had the exact same initial gap with the wings tack welded in place.  But a little effort got the A-panel lip in place.





Don't forget to fold your lips over on the A-panels.  I hammer them inward as much as I can initially and then use vise grips and a paint stirrer to keep from damaging the panel.



If the front end needs replaced and isn't already clamped on, do so at this time and check your hood again.







As you can see in my pics I left some funky looking gaps with the front end.  Point is don't be afraid to push and shove, or borrow an extra set of hands to push and pry as necessary to get things to line up.  Toss on a few more welds as you clamp your way around getting a good fit.  Now go back and weld the rest together and you're done!