Author Topic: moving on to restore the van  (Read 11476 times)

Offline MEhinger

moving on to restore the van
« on: May 18, 2011, 01:22:19 PM »
Here goes!!! After finally finishing my son's mini and returning it to him, it is time to move on. Next in line is my 1968 Mini van. I am probably going to tell you more than you want to hear, but here goes.

 I have owned this van since about 1970. I bought it while I was still living in Buffalo. It started its life as a parts delivery van for a mini dealer in St. Catherines, Ontario. By the time I got it, having been used commercially for a few years in the northern winters, it was already in rough shape. I did a quick rebuild on it at the time and painted it a rather dark blue. I probably have a picture somewhere and if I find it, I'll try to post it. As I remember from that long ago, the biggest issue was the bottoms of the rear doors were rotted. In 1970, there weren't a lot of parts and dealers around, but I was able to get two new ones from the dealer in St. Catherines. The memory I have was taking the old ones off, driving across the border into Canada with the exhaust fumes being sucked in the back to get the new ones. I bolted them on in the parking lot, stopping at the state store for a case of beer, and coming back across the border. When asked if I had anything to declare, I said the case of beer which by that time was partially empty. The response was OK, just go ahead and the doors came back without duty. (Statute of limitations has expired if there are any customs people looking in.)

I was my daily driver for many more years, in the winters of Buffalo, before I left there in 1976. There are a lot of memories but the best was coming home from a Sabres game in the winter. I started out from the toll booth and there was a horrible noise. I played with thethrottle and figures it wasn't the engine. By that time I realized the floor had fallen down and was dragging on the pavement. I went on to make a new floor out of an old Ford hood, pounding the ribs out over a broom handle on the floor.

Well, it left Buffalo with me in December of 1976 and went to South Carolina. Hooray, no more winters but by that time winters had taken their toll and the rust was winning . Time for the next rebuild. (moving on to a new post)
« Last Edit: May 18, 2011, 02:13:38 PM by MEhinger »

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2011, 01:42:59 PM »
In South Carolina it became a problem of how to restore it.  Rust was rampant in the usual places, floors, sills, a-panels, skkuttle, even up into the corners above the windshield posts. And in 1977, there weren't too many parts available, especially for vans.

I was able to source a sedan shell that had lived its life in the south. But it had been crashed in the front and was essentially a bare shell. I brought it home and cut it through the roof abot 10 inches behind the windshield, and through the quarters about hallf way up and back to the end of the floor. Remember, the sedan is 4 inches shorter so I had to make the last 4 inches.. The right front was crunched up to and including the bulkhed floor. And the commercial vehicle grill is different. So I trimmed the first 4 inches off the old van front and the replacement sedan, and grafted the cutoff from the van back on the sedan. It was finished in a light blue with a black hood. Again, I might find a picture to scan, but the general appearance will be apparent in the pictures below.

I served me well in South Carolina and a number of years after I moved to Tennesse in 1983. Many, many more miles and great stories. It carried my wife to the hour drive to the hospital for the births of both of my children. Many 45 minute drive to the grocery store for a month's wotrh of groceries filling the back. Trips to the inlaw's in Georgia with the kids asleep on the bed floor in the back. (I know, I know, can't do that today.) But the left over rust bugs were working on the original back end.



Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2011, 02:06:14 PM »
I don't remember the year for sure, but the rust caught up and it had to be set aside. It was probably about 86 or 87. Again, remember there still weren't a lot of parts available, especially for the bed area of a van. I set out to do a restoration anyway. I started out cutting out the rust. The whole bed floor was junk. I wound up buying a 67 pontiac station wagon for the parts needed for another restoration under way. The fold down seats looked like they could be made into a hefty bed floor so I started to trim them up and try to graft them into the rear of the van. The wheel wells were rotted so I patched them. Bought a couple of patch panels that were available for the heel board and made a lot more. But it just wasn't coming together well and I got really busy with career and raising kids, so it sat on the sidelines. In 1999, I took an assignment overseas, and the van with all the other minis and other cars got stacked in a garage for the next six years. Out of sight, but not out of mind. And over the ensuing years since it was set aside parts availabity improved by leaps and bounds. While overseas, I took the opportunity to order bed floors and other parts for the van and pickup as well as a lot of other parts. When I came back, the parts came with my household goods shipment. This prompted the customs guys to exclaim, "we understand people expanding their household while overseas, but you have a lot of car parts". But they let me in and the parts came with me. And here is what I came home to.




« Last Edit: May 18, 2011, 02:08:12 PM by MEhinger »

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2011, 02:24:28 PM »
It's been 5 years since I came back, the low hanging minis have been brought back to driving status. My son's mini has been restored and it makes sense to get the van on its wheels and moving towards completion. To better document the starting point today here are a few pictures.

The rotisserie was built and the van was mounted.



All the old, false start stuff was cut out, including the old parts from the Pontiac.



And here are the original bed floor parts cut out more than 20 years ago. Who is dumb enough to keep this junk around....me?







Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2011, 02:33:23 PM »
The rebuild has started and I'll try to get a lot of pictures as it proceeds. I might even be asking for advice as I go along. The floor pieces are being fitted and held in place with screws prior to welding. The current status pictures are coming, but this is esentially the starting point. The new floors are just set in place in this picture and it is before the old wheel wells were cut out.





More to come!!!!!

« Last Edit: May 18, 2011, 02:39:42 PM by MEhinger »

Offline Willie_B

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Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2011, 04:32:45 PM »
WOW. Looks like alot but you have already been there before. Hope it ends up as nice as your sons did.

Offline macmanron

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2011, 08:16:20 PM »
I will be watching this with great anticipation!
1966 Austin Cooper S,1965 Morris Mini Minor Traveller, 1965 Triumph TR4A, 1965 Triumph Spitfire(project)

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2011, 08:34:29 AM »
This picture is recent as of a couple nights ago. The floors pieces are held together with screws. The rear bed floor is tackked in place at the corners. The tacks have been cut and rewelded several times as the other pieces have been fitted. The heel board is welded to the bed floor.  Since the floor pieces are located by the heel board, by cutting the tacks I have been able to adjust the height of the floor, and thus the inner sill panels to match the door frames and get everything aligned (I hope). I am to the point of having to firm up the attachment to the tunnel piece between the floor panels.



I still haven't secured the fronts of the flooors to the toe board. There is still a lot of rust to replace there and there is damage on the right front floor from the crash to the sedan I grafted on years ago thet will need some adjustment. I will work my way up the tunnel to let things get to where they need to be.




« Last Edit: May 19, 2011, 08:39:30 AM by MEhinger »

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2011, 09:54:05 AM »
Willie, this is the biggest challenge I have taken on. So I ask anyone to jump in with suggestions, criticisms, whatever. Many years ago I grafted a complete sedan floor I had cut from crashed car into my pickup. And as mentioned above I clipped the van many years ago. I also installed a clip on the woody. The clip on the woody was interesting because when I put the wood back on I found I made the cars 3/8" too short. But that is another story. This is the first time I have tried to fit together so many after market replacement panels with their inherent "inaccuracies".

I fretted a long time on finally welding the heel board to the rear bed floor, and that is why the project has sort of been on hold for quite a while. The rear subframe mounts are in the bed flooor and the front ones are in the heel board. I had them all bolted together but as it turns out there is some adjustment in the rear mounts. So I spent a long time trying to square the front subframe to the rear floor assembly. And also trying to get the height right so the sills match the door frame. All this knowing the front had been clipped on and who knows what I might have done wrong there. You can sort of see the remnants of the clip through the back of the door and the rear quarter in one of the pictures. But I think things are pretty much squared up and falling together.

Hopefully with the encouragement of this forum I can keep the momentum and get this done, or at least back on its wheels.

Online 94touring

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2011, 03:54:50 PM »
I will be watching this with great anticipation!

Same here! 

Offline MiniGene

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2011, 07:22:10 PM »
I will be watching this with great anticipation!

Same here! 

Xs Three!

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2011, 01:04:02 PM »
There was some pretty good progress over the weekend. Most of the floor pieces are fit. Everyting is still held together with screws to allow adjusting as the final pieces are fit. So there is a lot of welding too do next.

The last hurdle was getting the cross piece to fit. Initially there was a gap at the ends.

The problem was again my positioning of the bed floor.

I had to cut the weld to the post again and take out all the screws including those in the center tunnel. Then I could pull the floor pieces towards the center and take up the space. After retacking the bed the fit looked like this and I fastened all the scrws again. I'll now start to weld the floor. There are a number of filler pieces to install. The door sill visible in the picture will eventually be replaced with a new panel that include about 4" of the quarter, running all the way back to the wheel wells. Afterwards, the fit looke like this.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2011, 01:06:06 PM by MEhinger »

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2011, 09:24:51 AM »
It has been a while since the last update. Quite a bit has been done. The floor panels have been welded in. Ratherthan the usual plug welds, I have butt welded the entire length along the tunnel. Here are a picture "in progress".



Some of the additional rust in the tunnel is visible. It has also been fixed but I need to take a few more pictures of those areas as well. Once the floor was in I was able to start welding of the filler panels that support the bed floor along the edges. Here is a picture in progress showing the spot welder I used. It is a handy item available from Harbor Freight.



More has been accomplished but I need to get more pictures. I am in the process of welding in the wheel wells at the moment..

Online 94touring

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2011, 09:47:34 AM »
Looking good.  Doing the butt welds is the way to go, end product will be better.  The bed really looks tricky trying to get it to line up properly.  I've contemplated replacing part of mine where it meets the cab since someone used another bed, but I think I'll cut my losses and save the headaches.  Screwing panels together is another good approach, I bolted and screwed panels together also.  Have you put the subframe attach panel in place yet?  My biggest concern would be making sure the subby bolts up properly and in alignment.    
« Last Edit: October 04, 2011, 09:57:08 AM by 94touring »

Offline MiniGene

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2011, 07:03:36 PM »
Nice!!  How do you like that spot welder?  You said it was handy, does it make welding some of the panels together a breeze?

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2011, 07:54:56 AM »
MiniGene;

That cheapo spot welder workks great where you can use it. As you see, you need to be able to reach both sides of the weld with the tongs. I have used it so far on the filler panels between the inner sills and the bed floor and a lot of the welds on the wheel well. It should really be valuable along the seams on the outside of the body. You can make spot welds as close together as you want. I will do the about every 1/4".

Dan,

I have agonized over getting everything lined up. I did do the subframe attach panel. I first tacked the floor in place at the front doors and at the back, checking the alingment of the rear doors to try to get things square. The bed floor has the rear subframe mounts attached, so I bolted the rear mounts and attached the front panel to the subframe. I then boosted the front up to the bed floor and then spent a lot of time getting the panel centerd on the floor (same gap to the edge of the floor on both sides). The front subframe was also in place and I measured and remeasured all the distances and cross measurement to the front subframe bolt holes and to the ball joint holes on the lower control arms. I did this over and over again to get it the best I could then tacked the bed floor to the attach panel, first using the spot welder pictured at the outer ends, and then I lowered the front of the subframe and finished welding the panel.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2011, 03:08:35 PM by MEhinger »

Online 94touring

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2011, 09:58:28 AM »
That makes sense, sounds like a real task.  Just really glad I didn't have to do that much.

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #17 on: December 21, 2011, 12:29:21 PM »
The site is back, yea!!

It has been a long time since my last update. Not a lot of progress, but progress none the less. I have pretty much finished welding the floors. I want to treat a number of areas with POR-15 that will be inaccessible when the body is finally done. So I sent the body for blasting. I am still not sure if it was a good decision, but I had it soda blasted. Soda blasting isn't agressive to remove all traces of rust but it does leave a protective coat to deter surface rust for a while. I am still trying to understand soda blasting but the protective coating is good to deter rust but the surfaces have to be treated before paint. I am told simply washing with hot water is enough. Still have to try. I plan to use a self etch primer unless there are better recommendations.

Here is the side with the all the filler panels welded. I will now take out the door sill, paint the entire inner sill with POR-15 and install the new sill and lower panel piece that is seen in Dan's and other pictures.



most everything is clean and ready for cleaning and priming.










Online 94touring

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2011, 01:03:49 PM »
Good to see some working being done.  You planning to waxoil, or lithium grease the insides like I did?  I broke down and decided to replace my bed. 

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2011, 02:14:31 PM »
I was going to paint the closed insides with POR-15

Online 94touring

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2011, 02:25:28 PM »
Yeah read that, wasn't sure if there was need to take it a step further.  You already have the door/sill/side panels?  I'm pretty sure gbcarparts ordered an extra set when I placed my order.

Offline macmanron

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2011, 06:30:01 PM »
Mike, I have those panels if you need the back part, and it looks like you do. I don't need them, if you want them. I need the front parts, the curve at the front of the door step, and about 10" back.
1966 Austin Cooper S,1965 Morris Mini Minor Traveller, 1965 Triumph TR4A, 1965 Triumph Spitfire(project)

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #22 on: December 05, 2016, 12:10:49 PM »
It has been a long time since I posted an update. There have been a lot of other projects jumping into the schedule and progress was slow for a lot of years. But it is finally painted.

Offline MEhinger

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #23 on: December 05, 2016, 12:12:58 PM »
It has been a long time since I posted an update. There have been a lot of other projects jumping into the schedule and progress was slow for a lot of years. But it is finally painted.

Offline MiniDave

Re: moving on to restore the van
« Reply #24 on: December 05, 2016, 01:21:17 PM »
Wow, I like the metallic blue - looks great!

Glad to see you're making progress again......
1989 Cooper Racing Green
2009 Clubman S
1969 Jaguar XK-E FHC
2004 Audi Allroad 2.7 TT