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Thread: VIN 11596 Frame Swap - a rolling frame-off restoration

  1. #1
    Senior Member 82DMC12's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Olathe, KS

    Posts:    1,701

    My VIN:    11596

    VIN 11596 Frame Swap - a rolling frame-off restoration

    I'm going to document my upcoming frame swap here. You could call it a "rolling frame-off" since my strategy over the last year has been to refurbish, upgrade, or replace every single part that touches the frame... all while keeping the car as drivable as possible so that my time with the frame actually removed is minimized. I know this job will go a lot faster if I'm swapping over good, restored parts from my old frame to the new frame rather than having my car laid up in pieces for months while waiting for this or that to get refinished, machine work done, waiting for out of stock parts, etc. I have a typical suburban two-car garage which I know is more than some have done it with, but as a new dad with a baby boy (and actually married only 18 months ago!) I have family and career commitments that don't really allow me to spend tons of time in the garage anymore. At the same time, my frame needs attention so I think this rolling restoration has been going quite well so far and it's made me well-prepared for the frame swap.

    My car is a 1982 with the "two-tone" (black seats/dash with light soft gray carpets) interior, manual transmission, and stock engine but with Stage 1 exhaust. I've owned the car for 22 years now (bought it when I was 18 and a freshman in college) which means I have restored and serviced MOST of the car during that time and now I'm coming around to re-restoring some parts like brakes and clutch hydraulics that I already did once!

    It wasn't long after I bought my car that I learned it was one of the "black undercoated cars" - these cars were starting to experience chassis rust while sitting at the docks waiting to ship out to the USA, so the story goes that DMC employees drove the cars to an undercoating shop and sprayed everything down with this thick, tar-like coating to cover up and prevent further damage. The undercoating was mostly limited to the underside of the frame itself and the front suspension though you could find over spray and areas of it all over the fuel accumulator, water pipes, transmission area, trailing arms, etc. Unfortunately as most have learned, the undercoating was prone to trapping moisture between the undercoating and epoxy and probably did more harm than good 10 to 20 years later. Many small bolts like M6 or smaller break off easily because the undercoating just wrecked them.

    I have some interesting areas of frame rust and damage which I will document later. Much of it is in the front frame extension, under the rear upper links, the engine cradle, and where the passenger side water pipe is attached to the rear frame. The fuel tank area has a lot of peeling epoxy from brake or clutch leakage prior to my ownership. The edges of frame flanges and such show separation of the thin layers. The front crossmember has a hole in it from an errant floor jack. There may be more damage than I'm aware of but generally frames rot from the bottom up so I think I have a good idea on what's going on. I think this car definitely needs the frame removed to do a good job repairing it.

    At first I was thinking I would have to remove the frame and deliver it to a fab shop for sand blasting, welding and repair, galvanizing, and then powder coating. Then, last year, it became known to me that another owner about 90 minutes away had a spare frame that he had already restored and coated with gray POR15 before he picked up a Pearce stainless frame and decided to use that instead! I went over to go see the frame and we made a deal - and since then I've had it stored in the warehouse at my work.

    Only two problems - the frame needs a top coat applied (POR 15 isn't UV safe) and it's an automatic transmission frame. A top coat will require some elbow grease but the auto frame isn't much of a problem. In fact just today I received my shift plate adapter that was designed by Martin Gutkowski! I sent the DXF file to Xometry.com and two weeks later had it in my hands.


    PXL_20220719_163421371.jpg
    Andy Lien

    VIN 11596 Jan 1982 build - owned since Nov. 2000!
    Total frame-off restoration completed 2021-2023

    Photography and Backpacking is life.

    Was Fargo, ND
    Now Kansas City

  2. #2
    Senior Member SupercoolBill's Avatar
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    Following!

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  3. #3
    Senior Member 82DMC12's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Olathe, KS

    Posts:    1,701

    My VIN:    11596

    Here's a picture of my "new" auto frame which I'll be taking home in August and sanding it with 120 grit to take the sheen off of the POR15 and rough it up for a top coat. I visited Josh at DPI a few weeks ago where we talked about frames and he suggested adding a hardening agent, about 8 drops per quart of paint (Rustoleum Smoke Gray) and then applied with a spray gun. Maybe two or three thin layers should do it. I expect I'll have to run a tap through all the threaded holes but that's no problem.

    Once the frame is prepped I'm going to get two or three other owners over to my house to drop the frame out where I think I'll be able to pretty quickly strip it and re-assess what else needs to be addressed before assembly. More on that in the next update.

    new frame.jpg
    Andy Lien

    VIN 11596 Jan 1982 build - owned since Nov. 2000!
    Total frame-off restoration completed 2021-2023

    Photography and Backpacking is life.

    Was Fargo, ND
    Now Kansas City

  4. #4
    Senior Member 82DMC12's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Olathe, KS

    Posts:    1,701

    My VIN:    11596

    Oh by the way, here is the hole in the frame where the auto shifter goes. It's about 2" deeper than the deck that the manual shifter sits in on a manual frame. The new plate that I got sits on top of the manual frame and is attached to the frame through the slotted holes. Then, there are three spacers stacked up over each M6 threaded hole in the plate. They are held in place with threaded rod that I'll buy from Belmetric. Then, the manual shifter is attached to the threaded rod on top of the spacers. The spacers are each 1/2" thick so with the plate installed, there's the 2 inch difference.

    You still need to drill out a hole for the crossgate cable and you have to slightly bend the frame flange in the transmission area to make room for the shift lever. Looking forward to getting this fitted!

    PXL_20220719_185118688.jpgPXL_20220719_213934599.jpg
    Andy Lien

    VIN 11596 Jan 1982 build - owned since Nov. 2000!
    Total frame-off restoration completed 2021-2023

    Photography and Backpacking is life.

    Was Fargo, ND
    Now Kansas City

  5. #5
    Senior Member SupercoolBill's Avatar
    Join Date:  Oct 2021

    Posts:    1,076

    Looks awesome. I'm jealous. I was supposed to be putting a deposit on my frame but communication has stopped between the seller and me so I am not sure if he got a better offer or what.

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  6. #6
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    Sub’d

  7. #7
    Senior Member 82DMC12's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Olathe, KS

    Posts:    1,701

    My VIN:    11596

    My rolling frame-swap started last fall with a full front and rear suspension refurbishment. I had not had to do much with the suspension in my 20 years of ownership except for replacing the sway bar front bushings when I replaced my radiator many years back. All of my bushings were in good shape. The previous owner of my car had just been through a full brake rebuild before I bought the car so aside from adding stainless brake hoses and maybe a set of front pads, I had not had to do much with the brakes either. I'm embarrassed to say I probably only flushed the brakes twice in 20 years. So, it was time to do a full rebuild again.

    Once I had the brakes and suspension removed, I sent the calipers, rear hubs, horn brackets, and all other brackets and hardware including suspension pivot bolts and washers to DMCMW for plating. They have a great partner nearby who cleans the parts and yellow-zinc plates everything. So you send a bunch of dirty crap and a couple weeks later you end up with this:

    PXL_20211105_214037135 (2).jpg

    For the rear trailing arms, I delivered them to a machine shop who put them in the oven and hot tank cleaned them to get the old epoxy off. I then treated them with POR15 degreaser, Metal Prep, and then two coats of Grey POR15. I used a long small brush on a stick to paint the inside of the arms. Same machine shop cleaned the rear carriers which are bare aluminum (no epoxy). I had them press out the old rear bearings and install a set of new SKF bearings and then press in the outer axle. I painted the carriers with POR15 as well so they would match the arms.

    PXL_20211015_002030595.jpg
    [ Trailing arms after machine shop cleaning and POR 15 degreaser and metal prep. Rear lower links restored and ready to go! ]

    PXL_20211016_191154397 (2).jpg
    [ Trailing arms after painting with POR 15 ]

    IMG_20211016_122820_01.jpg

    [ Rear hubs with new bearings, painted with POR 15, and new outer axle nuts ready for installation ]


    The lower links were refurbished by painterdave72 who is another local Kansas City owner. He powder coated the arms and pressed in new OEM-style rubber bushings.
    Andy Lien

    VIN 11596 Jan 1982 build - owned since Nov. 2000!
    Total frame-off restoration completed 2021-2023

    Photography and Backpacking is life.

    Was Fargo, ND
    Now Kansas City

  8. #8
    Senior Member 82DMC12's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Olathe, KS

    Posts:    1,701

    My VIN:    11596

    Not much to report at the moment however I have set aside September 3 - 11 as vacation time at work so I can do the first half of the frame swap. I'm going to try to get three or four friends and other owners over to my house to help lift the body off the frame, roll out the chassis with engine, then use a cherry picker (going to buy a Harbor Freight hoist) to lift out the engine, separate the trans from it, and mount the engine to a stand which I already own from the first time I pulled out the engine. Then during that week I plan to strip all the parts off the old frame and assess what gets re-used, and what gets replaced.

    Prior to all this, though, I need to finish prepping my new frame. I may have mentioned it's already been coated in POR15 gray, but it doesn't have a top coat on it. I've had about a 50/50 response from other owners and body shop guys who say the frame needs a top coat. The debate is because the frame isn't directly exposed to the sun and it's garage-kept. However I've heard enough stories about the POR15 getting "chalky" from UV that I think I want to top coat it. Maybe UV bounces in ways that visible light does not?

    Anyway, I talked to a local body shop because I was thinking I could rough up the frame myself in the garage and then deliver it to a shop to get a top coat like Rustoleum Smoke Gray sprayed onto it. But then this guy I talked to, who restores Chevelles, dune buggies, etc told me about POR15 2K Urethane which they advertise as an industrial top coat. It's UV-resistant, 2-part catalyzed, clear, and chemical resistant so a fuel leak or brake fluid leak won't wreck the finish. And, it can brushed on so I wouldn't have to take the frame anywhere. I'm really leaning towards this option unless I can find a good reason why not.

    Looks like I will be bringing the frame home (it's currently in storage at my office warehouse) sometime in the next two weeks to get started!

    Screenshot 2022-08-08 100324.jpg
    Andy Lien

    VIN 11596 Jan 1982 build - owned since Nov. 2000!
    Total frame-off restoration completed 2021-2023

    Photography and Backpacking is life.

    Was Fargo, ND
    Now Kansas City

  9. #9
    Senior Member 82DMC12's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Olathe, KS

    Posts:    1,701

    My VIN:    11596

    I've been doing a bit more research and prep on my top-coat project for the frame. I called POR15 tech support and got some good advice on using the 2k Urethane. They suggested thinning it a bit with the POR15 Solvent (or xylene) and brushing it on. It will leave brush marks at first but ignore them and it will thin out as it dries. They said it's best to put a very thin later on and don't keep going over it to try to get the brush marks out. It all works out in the end. Guess we'll see!

    I need to scuff the frame first with a red scotch brite pad. I grabbed one from the auto paint store that carries the 2K and tried it out on my frame. It took very little effort to take the gloss off the current layer. I'm sure I could do the whole frame in less than 2 hours by hand.

    Anyway, the plan now is to bring the frame home in a couple weeks, get it in the garage, scuff it up, put the top coat on (still haven't decided between clear or another layer of light gray 2K Urethane), and then chase all the threads with taps and cutting oil. Then I'll test fit the new shifter plate and drill the hole for the crossgate cable.

    Here's a picture showing a scuffed spot in the center. The frame is dusty from my work warehouse so I'll pressure wash it before working on it in my garage.

    PXL_20220812_144222116.jpg
    Andy Lien

    VIN 11596 Jan 1982 build - owned since Nov. 2000!
    Total frame-off restoration completed 2021-2023

    Photography and Backpacking is life.

    Was Fargo, ND
    Now Kansas City

  10. #10
    Senior Member 82DMC12's Avatar
    Join Date:  May 2011

    Location:  Olathe, KS

    Posts:    1,701

    My VIN:    11596

    Two weeks until Frame-Out Day!

    I've been gathering up the last of my tools required for the big day including:

    Harbor Freight 1 ton engine hoist (snagged for $199 on sale)
    https://www.harborfreight.com/1-ton-...ane-61858.html

    QTY (4) scissor jacks
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004PX8BC2...roduct_details

    QTY (4) wheel skates which I think I'll need to line up the chassis with the body when re-installing
    https://www.harborfreight.com/2-piec...ies-67338.html

    I still have an engine stand from the last time I had the engine out and a couple furniture dollies which will help with moving frames around during the tear-down and build-up process.

    All I need now are QTY (2) 4x4 8 foot wood beams and about QTY (40) 8x4x16 concrete blocks. Might also get an air impact gun to aid in fastener removal. Why work hard when you have power??

    Later this week I plan to bring my new frame home to my garage and next weekend I'll scrub it with red scotchbrite, rinse it off with plain water, let it dry outside, and then bring it back in for a coating of the POR15 2K clear urethane top coat I mentioned earlier. I think I'll do one coat on the whole frame and two coats on anything you can see from under the car which will help with rock chips.

    Only other snag I have at this point is the car is not actually DRIVEABLE due to a leaking slave cylinder. I've been waiting on a rebuild from PJ Grady but the cores took a long time to get plated. They are now en route to me so sadly I'll have to put the new cylinders in just so I can take it to a shop to get the A/C evacuated. Then bring it right home and drain the clutch LOL. Ah well. A waste of a quart of clutch fluid I guess.

    Stay tuned, things start to accelerate now!
    Andy Lien

    VIN 11596 Jan 1982 build - owned since Nov. 2000!
    Total frame-off restoration completed 2021-2023

    Photography and Backpacking is life.

    Was Fargo, ND
    Now Kansas City

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