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Re: front clip info/help needed (Looooong post...)


{NOTE: I got way into this and ended up making a Web page devoted to
answering the question. The text that appears here in this post is also
included on the Web page with photographs to help the explanation. The page
is at:  http://www.dnai.com/~goob/clip/clip.html   )


>
>So my question is this.  How hard is it to cut off a front clip???  Keep in
>mind I dont know squat about air cooled VW's, I grew up watercooled and
>besides that, I've never used a torch or a sawzall or any other tool required
>to cut this clip off (except for a hack saw).  is it something that's fairly
>obvious once the fenders, hood, axels have been removed??  or should we bring
>along some help???

Hello and sorry to hear about your accident.  I smashed up the front of my
68 Square 3 years ago (we're original owners and it was a first... UGLY!)
and did the work replacing the front clip myself. I took some very close up
and detailed photos of the work, thinking that they might come in handy
someday. Sadly, I guess the day has arived.... :(    The good news is that
you (or someone who can work with some basic power tools) can do 90% of the
job yourself, and then take the car to a body shop for the final welding.

What I am about to explain will become clear after you see the photos of
the process, but basically, here's what needs to be done: I am adding
things I SHOULD have done, but didn't.... this will make the job easier for
you.

In terms of getting the clip from the other car: First off, you don't need
to remove the axels, or even the hood!  Raise the hood, remove the fenders,
bumper, trunk liner and gas tank. If the hood seal is good, pull it off
carefully!! Same with the trunk liner. From under the car, you will find
two large bolts that fasten the front of the clip down to the car chassis.
These have to be removed. (SAVE THE RUBBER BUSHINGS!!) With these items
removed you will get the picture pronto.  Clip from parts car needs to be
cut with a saws-all (you can rent one... like an industrial strength
electric turkey knife... ;) , being sure to get EVERYTHING, 100% of the
clip from the very rear of the gas tank area forward.  


The reason you want to get as much of it as possible is because you are
going to only cut as much of your original clip off as need be (leaving
everything not damaged), THEN, (and only then, and hella carefully at
that!) cut the new clip to fit with the remaining metal, LEAVING 1/2 inch
or so overhang, then finish sizing the two up with a file or grinding
wheel. Basically, if you mess up and cut too much off either piece, you
will have to fill the space between with weld/sheet metal, and you DONT
WANT THAT, hence the need to get as much clip as you can off the parts car,
and leaving as much straight clip on your car. 

One, straight cut on each side from the top-back of the trunk area, on a
forward/downward angle to the back of the gas tank area will do the job.
When you pull off the clip (amazingly light) you will reveal the entire
front end/suspension/steering box... everything. A great time to snab parts
off the parts car, (and to clean the 20lbs of dirt off your own baby once
you get the damaged clip off of it!)

Now, I assume your hood was smashed in the accident. Mine sure was. For
sizing up the clip properly, you will need to mount a farily straight hood.
I got a THRASHED/rusted one for $10 that I wasn't even dreaming of using
permanently, but that worked wonders when sizing up the new clip. Perhaps
the parts car has a hood that isn't pushed in? If so, get it, because you
will need it. 

While I'm mentioning this I should just say this once and for all: save
everything you can off the parts car. Body screws, the little rubber
gaskets behind each, the rubber trim that runs the length of the fenders
between the body, front gas lines/hoses. While you're there what the
hell... grab the master cyl for the brakes and anything else you have the
time to get. Trust me, you will probably wish you had later so "Just Do It"
 ;)  


On your own car, remove your damaged hood, fenders, bumper, trunk liner and
the two clip bolts. Get the gas tank too, carefully noting where the gas
lines travel and how they sit. NOTE: there are a few small pieces of thin
fiberboard, custom cut to protect your gas hoses from getting crushed by
stuff you put in the trunk. Look at where they sit as you remove the trunk
liner and gas tank, and be sure to put them back in the right place when
the job is done. (more on that later).  Also, remove the bolt holding the
trunk release cable to the lower latch assembly, as well as the lower
assembly (3-4 12mm bolts i think).  Also, take a moment and remove the
identification plate from the front/top of the clip by the latch and save
that for sure.

IF YOUR TRUNK SEAL is in good shape (good shape means it didn't leak before
the accident, and didn't get ripped badly in the acident - no matter what
it looks like!!) do *NOT* remove it all the way. Begin pulling it up at the
front of the trunk area, slowly and carefully up both sides of the trunk
area JUST PAST the damaged portion a few inches. Because you are going to
leave as much of your old clip on as possible, you will only be pulling the
trunk seal a little bit past the damaged portion you are going to excise.
(After the new clip is welded up, you will refit and glue the seal back in
place. more on that later) 

OK, so you should be looking at the front end your car denuded of
everything up front except your thrashed clip.  Inspect both sides
carefully, marking where the damage (bending or tweakage of any sort) is on
each side with a marker or screwdriver. UNLIKE the chop job on the parts
car, you will only want to cut off as little as possible (I know I'm
repeating myself, but just dig it :), so make your two cuts just an inch or
so back from the damage.  YES the sides will be uneven, and this is not a
problem. BE CAREFUL not to cut through the trunk release cable, gas lines,
etc. 


Remove your old clip. BEHOLD! Your whole front end exposed to the light of
day for the first time in 27 years! Lay out some newspaper, grab a plastic
knife or scraper of some sort, and have at! You will remove no less than 10
pounds of caked on dirt and grime on your first slice. "I guarantee it!"
Clean up the front suspension and inspect everything (incl. brake master
cyl, steering box etc) since you will never, ever again have such easy
access to your front end (assuming you don't own a home lift ;)

At this point, you really want to start paying attention to what you are
doing, 'cuzz this is the critical part. You are going to be sizing up the
clip for your first ROUGH cuts. I say rough because you don't even want to
come within 2 inches of a correct fit on either side at this point. What
you will be trying to do here is just lop off the stuff (from the clip! you
are done cutting on the rest of your car!) you are *sure* is extra, as an
initial step toward fitting. Work slowly and think about what you are
doing: if you cut too much you are in trouble, so just get it roughly sized
up with the sawsall. 

Lift the clip from the front of the car with two hands and and try to fit
it over the two mounting holes as if you were going to mount it.  If you
made your cuts right, you shouldn't be able get within 2 or 3 inches of the
mounting holes, as there is still way too much metal on both sides (right
and left, not clip/car! you are done cutting on the car!) to allow this.
Now it will become clear to you what the rest of the job will necessitate.
For the rest of this fitting portion of the job you will be taking your
time grinding or filing away the metal from the clip, and then picking it
up and attempting to mount it on the car. I say file or grind, because you
can really mess up with a sawsall at this point if you hack too much, so
work with a drill-mounted grinding wheel and work slowly.


Grind, size up, repeat. Grind more, size up, repeat. Grind more, size
up..... (my neighbors can tell you all about it. LOL! ;)

OK, so you're finally getting close to where the clip will ALMOST fit over
the front mounting holes before it bumps into the remaining trunk stumps.
NOW IS WHEN YOU NEED THE STRAIGHT HOOD. Mount the hood and adjust it so it
makes a nice, even fit around the top right and left hand corners when you
"close" it. [Remove either the upper or lower latch assy so you don't lock
yourself out in a really wierd way!] What you are trying to do here is get
the hood in the position it will be in when the job is done, so that it can
serve as a second point of reference (the first being the bottom mounting
holes) as you determine how much more filing from the clip is necessary.
File, place the clip over the mounting holes, and lower the hood.  Repeat
as necessary. If unsure of yourself, leave more clip, rather than less. You
see, the hood can be adjusted OUT, but can only be adjusted so far IN. If
you cut too much you will have a hard time fitting the hood/fenders...
everything.

Eventually, what you want to end up with is a nice fit on both sides, where
the clip fits perfectly over the mounting holes, meets both sides as flush
as possible, and fits with the hood. Run your hand over the edges on the
top (along the trunk seal path) and check for a nice, smooth arc. If there
is a sudden change of angle, note where you need to remove more clip metal,
and file it back again.

Contrary to what I've been saying all along, NOW is the time it is OK if
you accidentally go an 1/8 in too far in some places. You see, ultimately
these two sections will need to be welded inside and out, so it is OK if
there's a few gaps here and there. As long as they are very small, the weld
will fill them in nicely. 


Once you are sure you have a perfect fit on both sides, you're not done!
Mount your fenders with a few body screws and see how they fit. You might
notice one side or the other needs to be shaved back a bit more. If so,
grind it. Again, if you notice that somehow you went just a bit too far in
some spots, don't freak out, just note where, and be sure to mention this
to the welder.\

If you've been doing the work at home, now you have to get the car to the
body shop. I put the clip bolts and both fenders on (which hold the clip in
place) re-hooked up the gas tank, reattached the hood release cable and
latch assy., temporarily unfurled my trunk seal, and closed the hood. Your
clip, although loose, is pretty solidly connected, so you can now drive to
the body shop.

At the welder/ body shop, explain exactly what you've done. Explain that
you need them to weld up the clip. They should know exactly what needs to
be done, since they do what you just did every day to the tune of $1000 or
so... :)  My body guy offered me a job when he saw what I did with a
hacksaw and 1200rpm drill/grinding wheels [I didn't use a sawsall!!! 8-0]
but I digress......

If the shop is cool (or you pay them enough :) they should weld it solidly,
apply some sealer paint (it won't show so matching isn't an issue) and some
underbody protectant on the wheel-well side. Now the fun begins!! Drive it
home and put the parts back on yourself. 

-Bolt back in gas tank if not bolted down already (it should be!! Dont
drive to or from body shop w/o it bolted!!)
-Replace protective boards over gas hoses and then replace trunk liner.
-Adjust fenders and mount. 
-Reglue trunk seal. Adjust hood again.
-Attach your old ID plate somewhere! It's your V-dub's doggie tags! :)
-Mount bumper and lic. plate
-Roll a cigarette and SMILE  (John Muir's suggestion... ;)
-Go drive your Sqbk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The last step (which I'm still on!) is to save your money for a paint job!
I know this as a mouthful and sounds horiffic (wait until you see the
photos! Scary...) but it really isn't that difficult!  I think I must've
saved at least 1200 bucks doing this portion of the job myself. You can do
the same and you will love bonding with your squareback in its time of need...

I just decided to make a Web page featuring the photos and this text, so
anyone interested should go check it out at:

http://www.dnai.com/~goob/clip/clip.html

Hope this helps! Best of luck.

Dave Y.
1968 Squareback (Ying)
1965 Cadillac Convertible (YANG)







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