Matt's Old

Fiddling with Rambler's since 1995

Rambler American Restoration

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Fixing the Leaky Windshield in my `68 American
Part 4 - Rust and Collision Repair

January 27, 2002

It's been much longer than I had expected since the last time I did anything to the car. Most of the delay was due to the amount of time it took to find a good used cowl for my car and to make sure what I was buying would cover the damaged areas. I purchased the cowl from Andre Jacobs of South Texas AMC (you can contact him by e-mail at or by calling 830-980-3165). This is the second part I purchased from Andre (the other was a driver's side 1/4 panel) and both times, the parts exceeded my expectations.

The cowl arrived here on January 8th and I spent the next two weekends (a few hours at a time, probably 6-8 hours total) drilling out spot welds and separating the cowl panel from the rest of the chunk of car I was sent. To remove the spot welds, I used two different tools. The first one was one of the Eastwood Company's depth adjustable spot weld cutters. The second was a few very cheap drill bits that dulled quickly. The spot weld cutter was the easier tool to use but I neglected to buy replacement cutters for mine so I finished the job with the drill bits I had.

First repair: partially missing passenger side headlight bracket

The first thing I decided to fix was the bracket that mounts the headlight bucket and door to the passenger side fender. I started with this for a few reasons. First, this is the thinnest metal I've ever welded and also the first time I gave much thought to how it would look when finished. I figured that if I messed this up, it would be hidden so I wouldn't feel to badly about it. The second reason was it gave me a good opportunity to mess with the latest addition to my set of tools -- an auto-darkening welding helmet. The one I purchased is made by Hobart and is part #770186. It has a large viewing area (3.85 inches wide x 1.85 inches high) and has an adjustable darkness setting (#9 - #13). I purchased it from Tractor Supply for $169.

This bracket was bent at some point in the past and instead of repairing it, it was partially cut off. Luckily, the part of the bracket I was missing was in good shape on the very rusty fender from my parts car. After about two hours of trimming and straightening both parts prior to welding anything, I ended up with a complete bracket and a pretty decent looking repair (I still need to grind some of the welds down but I'm not going to spend very much time on this since its hidden by the headlight door and the end of the grille).

One very important thing to note about this repair is how much of a time savings it is to keep track of all of the fasteners and where they came from as you take things apart. So far, I have about 10 sandwich bags (each with a note listing what they are from) of fasteners just from the exterior. It was really nice to be able to look at a bag and know that it had the fasteners in it needed to mount the headlight door to the fender. I'm sure I would have found the correct screws eventually had I not done this but the difference was it took me 5 minutes of looking instead of a half hour. I've also been keeping a list of any missing fasteners (and there have been quite a few so far) and of any parts that need repaired or replaced before I put them back on the car. The list is getting to be pretty long and it doesn't include all of the damaged fasteners yet (this list will be pretty much all of the fasteners that hold the front body together except for the fender to body bolts).

Second repair: A couple of little dings in the driver's side fender

The next thing I repaired was a few little dings in the driver's side fender I was unable to take care of when I took an auto body repair class a few years ago. The worst of them was in the wheel well opening and took about a half hour to repair well enough for filler. All in all, the fenders on this car are in great shape which is good since it is getting hard to find rust free ones (they typically rust very badly above the headlight doors, over the top of the wheels, and at the bottom by the door which is exactly where the fenders on my parts car have rusted). I do still have one repair to make and that will be to fix the fender where it was hit by the driver's door when the pin in the door check strap (this is the part right under the spring in the upper hinge) fell out.

A few notes about the passenger side fender

The passenger side fender is in better shape than the driver's side (not that the driver's side is bad by any stretch of the imagination). The only repair left on it (I fixed a couple of dings in that auto body class I took) is putting the holes in it for the American name plate. The fender is from a 1969 model which was sold as just a Rambler and the Rambler name plate has different mounting locations. This is actually a very common item to deal with when you switch fenders on cars that don't use glued on or taped on trim and if you happen to find an NOS fender, it will not have ANY of the holes used for the trim. The trim holes are the only differences (besides having a left and a right, Mr. Smarty Pants) on Rambler American fenders used between 1967 and 1969 (again, 1969 models are simply called a Rambler).

Up Next: Cutting out the rusty cowl sections

Last Updated 01/04/04 09:12:21 PM