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Old 05-08-2009, 06:41 PM
Kerry Pinkerton's Avatar
Kerry Pinkerton Kerry Pinkerton is offline
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Location: Near Huntsville, Alabama. Just south of the Tennessee line off I65
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Default Scratch build Art Deco Roadster

The Art Deco Imperial Roadster

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Size:  139.9 KBAnd how it looks today May 2021:
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It's been a long and winding road, full of twists, turns, life, learnings, mistakes, mistakes, etc. But I'm preserving. Read on for the saga.

A project by Kerry Pinkerton

Above is a PhotoShop rendering of an Art Deco styled roadster I've been building for a couple years. Target completion is late 2009...or not.... (Edit May 6 2021 Well I obviously missed the hell out of this date. You'd never know that I was a project/program manager for a living ...)

This project has had several starts, stalls, re-starts, and discoveries along the way. I've learned a lot; about metal shaping, about engines, about chassis, about friends, and about me. If you follow along, you might learn a few things too.

If you would like to post a comment feel free, or you can email me at Posting a comment IN THIS THREAD gives me permission to use your comments elsewhere should I ever decide to write a book or something. If you don't want to be quoted, don't make the post or send the email.


I originally started documenting the build on but for several reasons decided to move the content to a separate location that is accessible to anyone. Now that we have with no restricted access, I'll move the content here from my business web site.

A couple years back there was this fantastic thread on regarding a group design of a fictitious Bugatti.

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The premise of the thread was that there was a mid east sultan who wanted a modern art deco coupe for his wife. Unfortunately, too many designers and no single decision maker led to a bunch of design compromises that made the cabin too small for my 6-2" body. In addition, the body was designed around no chassis/engine or anything so it was just somewhat impractical as something that could be built by a single individual much less a group.

That said, I fell in love with the style and it rekindled my long dormant desire to build a car from the ground up. For me, the fun was going to be building the body. That was going to be the hard part...or so I thought. More on that later.

During the original thread I was very excited about the overall 'look' of the car but definitely wanted something that I could be comfortable in. In addition, I WANTED A ROADSTER! Finally, being a practical sort, I knew that I had to start with the constraints of the mechanics and the physical cabin then design a beautiful body around those constraints.

[LEFT]About this time I remembered a friend in St Paul who had a stalled LoCost project (Lotus 7 clone) that was available. Humm, I could build a nice swoopy body on that chassis I thought... I found myself needing to go up that way anyway so I arranged to go pick up the chassis.

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When I got everything back in Alabama, there was some good news and some bad news. The good news was the chassis was 90% complete and all the pieces parts were there. Suspension, frame, 4AGE Toyota motor, tranny, rear end, and a bunch of extras.

The bad news was that the motor while supposedly a runner, it looked 'bad'. The REALLY bad news was that I barely fit in the cockpit. It was pretty obvious that while I might be able to make this car look like I wanted, it would never be the car I wanted.

I messed with this configuration for several months before I realized the motor was JUNK! Given everything else, I advertised the kit on the LoCost_USA site (way too cheap it turned out) and started over....for the first time.
Kerry Pinkerton
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:28 PM
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Kerry Pinkerton Kerry Pinkerton is offline
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Location: Near Huntsville, Alabama. Just south of the Tennessee line off I65
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Default The Art Deco Imperial Project - Part 2


After the disappointment with the LoCost project, I thought a bit about what I really wanted. After a few weeks reflection I decided that what I really wanted was to build the aluminum body. The chassis and running gear was just something to hang the aluminum on. Being a street rodder, I immediately thought about rebodying an existing chassis. An S10 chassis came to mind but I wanted something with a little more power and a little bigger.

About this time I ran across an auction on Ebay for a 96 V8 Dodge Dakota and bought it. The Dakota is a mid size pickup. The compact pickups were too small and the full size ones are too large. The Dakota is right in the middle and has a nice 318 MOPAR small block that I'm familiar with.

The plan is to strip the body (selling the parts, cab, interior, front clip, etc), keeping the frame, drivetrain, and all the electronics. A new frame will be built from the front clip rearward and the motor will be relocated to the rear so everything is behind the front wheels and the wheelbase is where I want it (where ever that is, probably less than it is now.) New springs and lowering techniques will bring the chassis to the correct height. I'm not building a race car, just a cruizer.

Lots of folks dinged me on this decision and, as it turned out, for the most part, they were right.

After I got the Dakota home, I pulled the sheet metal off and then got the driveline components out.

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I'd forgotten how ugly this motor was. It's also very tall. Hummm. Carefully labeling all the wires, I pulled the engine and tranny.

About this time, I ran across a Jag rear end for next to nothing and without thinking it through, decided to go with that for the rear. After I pulled all the miscellaneous bits off it looked like this:

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Bennett Chapman is one of my best friends and he offered to let me build the frame in his shop. Since Bennett is an exceptional welder/fabricator and he has this 5x10' very level welding table it was a

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pretty easy decision. Another good friend, Dutch Comstock, had spent the week with Bennett doing some metalshaping with Bennett and he decided to stay over and help out.

I had previously drawn my chassis on graph paper and Bennett quickly put it in AutoCad

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and we started cutting metal. In about 16 hours of work we had this:

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I scrounged around for some roller wheels and tires and found these:

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which will do for mockup. Ultimately, I'd like a set of wires but that's not in the budget at this time.

A few days later, I had the tires on the car, the chassis sitting on blocks of 5" tubing to simulate ride height, and the motor/trans mounted in the car. A sheet of plywood and a bucket seat and here I was:

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making varoom VAROOM noises.....

All this in about 2 months from when the Dakota made it home.
Kerry Pinkerton
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:30 PM
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Kerry Pinkerton Kerry Pinkerton is offline
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Default The Art Deco Imperial Project - Part 3


It's going to look a lot like like the below without a top. The origin will probably be pretty unmistakable. Longer wheelbase maybe not quite as wide. The front and rear are 62" hub to hub. I have to do a bolt pattern conversion and will use 2" spacers/adapters on both along with minimum backspace wheels which should get the outside tires about 70" which would make the body about 72-73" wide. I've got to get it on tires, take some photos of the chassis with the motor and firewall in place and make some sketches.

The rear end may be a little different. I want the rear fenders to mirror the lines of the decklid and I may do less of a boattail so I have room for a gas tank. I'd love a little luggage space but it's looking like that may be tough.

I planned for 5' cabin length (5x4") and with the Jag rear may be able to sneak a few cubic feet behind the seats. I went with a 4' cabin width (INSIDE). Here are some images of the inspiration.

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This is one of the stunning renderings that Alex did in SolidWorks.

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One of the unrealistic issues with the Bugatti build thread was the wheel/tire combo was all custom stuff....not really an option for me.
I'd love to go with wire wheels but I'd need at least 16" rims to get the diameter I want (31-32") I priced a set of Dayton wires with 2 1/4" backspace today....$2000+ set. I might end up with that eventually but for now I'll probably get some truck wheel takeoffs. I have a set of 245/70x16s off my GMC that would do fine until I start driving it. Diameter is about 30" so that would be fairly close also...

I can also get chrome reverse wheels for $600/set in 16x8.

I'm open to ideas on the wheels and tires. To get the 'look' I'll need diameters around 31". Bolt patterns are easy.

The Dakota had a lot of backspace but a Durango (same bolt pattern) has probably 2" less which increases track 4". I can easily adapt the Jag Chevy rear pattern to the 6x4.5 pattern of the Durango or I can adapt to pretty much anything. Adapter/spacers are cheap.

Ok, this morning, I pulled the chassis out and got some good photos. The side view has a 4' scale on the ground that I will use for dimensions. I'll trace body design ideas over these drawings.

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Varoom varoom, VAROOM!

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And the three quarter view.

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The tires are too wide but the rears may be OK, the fronts will definitely be replaced with narrower tires. These will work for mockup and construction however.

I'm also going to replace all the wearable components in the front end. New everything is pretty cheap.

While I have the car up at Dutch's meet this summer, I'm going to have his mechanic buddy change out the gears. The Dakota had a 3.50 rear with 26" diameter tires, this jag has a 2.88 with 30" tires. I haven't done the math yet but probably a 4.11 rear end would work.

I just ordered the 1/4" steel rod (20 20' lengths) Friday so I don't have anything to start lofting body lines. Since the weather was nice, I decided to pull everything I wanted to keep out of the Dakota cab before it gets full of spiders and wasps this summer.

I'll build a wireform boundry shell out of the rod that will bolt in place so I will know the physical boundaries of the motor/trans. Then I can pull the motor and not have to deal with the actual motor/trans and weight during the build process. The body panels will have to clear the boundry shell.

I need to order some steering ujoints, double D rod, and support bearings so I can mock up the steering. I'd like to find seats too so I can make sure everything fits where I want it. I've seen a few rods where the steering was not in the center of the drivers seats.

The Knoxville NSRA nats are the week after the Bugly meet and I'm planning on going up the Friday and get some 'stuff'.

It was actually a little warm so I brought the cab in the shop with the forklift and finished pulling the seats so I could get to everything. Bifocals suck when you're working on your back. SUCK!

For simplicity, I'll be using the Dakota steering column and guages primarily because they will plug into the basic harness and no one makes harnesses for the 318 electronics. The Dakota instrument cluster should work well.

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It has modular guages that I can simply make new faces for and put behind cut out aluminum face.

The tilt steering column also should work well. Of course, I won't be using the air bag but the wheel itself is easily changed.

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The dashboard wiring harness was a bear to remove. EVERYTHING has to come out. Finally it was all out and labeled.

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Gator (Rick Hemlick) is sending me a wiring diagram. Most of these won't be used. I just want the motor and trans to work the way they did in the Dakota. For $800 Street and Performance will make me a new harness for the EFI and trans, using my connectors. Nothing for the guages though and the MOPAR stuff is different. So for this incarnation, I'll go with a modified stock harness and the stock guages and column. Lights and stuff is easy.

Pulled the accelerator pedal/cable and the hanging brake pedal and ebrake also. Don't know if I'll use the ebrake pedal or go with a hand lever....

By tomorrow, I'll have everything I could possibly want out of the cab and will be able to list the Dakota parts for sale.

Got to build some machines next week so probably not much progress until the 1/4" rod comes in.

Design sketches next!


Humm, this is what happens when you rush into things...specifically the Jag rear end.

I called a friend of Dutch's to ask if he would change out the Jag gears when I have the car at Dutch's for his meet. Its a Dana 44, shouldn't be much we thought. WRONG. Turns out the parts are close to $900 delivered and it has to be a positrac because that's the only thing that fits the housing...???

I've ordered a Concours West catalog so maybe his supplier was wrong.

I'm rethinking spending that kind of money on this Jag rear. I would still have to do the brakes and stuff also so I'd probably have close to $1500 in it and you won't even be able to see it...

I'm considering going back to the Dakota rear end and switching it over to coil overs and a 4 link. The Dakota already has a 3.50 rear and even with the larger tires, with the new body being so light, it should still scoot pretty well and Mopar gears are cheap and easy.

On another note, The 30 12' lengths of 1/4" rod for the body bucks came in today.

At this point, I'm dealing with economics and time more than anything else. I think I can get the car on the road quicker and CHEAPER by modifying the 3.50 Dakota than overhauling the Jag.

I can always go back to the Jag down the road.

Had a really good talk with James Bowler today about car construction. James built a full size wooden buck, built the body to the buck and than had to fit the body to the frame. He suggests building the buck ON the frame and just building the body which is what I had in mind. (this is how Dick Bear did the McBearen too) James' car is all aluminum, interior and all. He said if he had it to do again, he'd use steel for the floor, door jambs, door interior frame, firewall etc, dash, etc and mount the skin to the frame.

I like that approach. Got lots of 18 ga!


I did call the guys that Frank suggested (Randys Ring and Pinion) this morning. As someone said, the carrier change is at 3.73. Below that you just need the new ring/pinion which only run about $160. Given what everyone is saying, that should certainly be high enough so I'm feeling better about the Jag. The bearing kit is $223.

Lots to think about. I guess I can always change over the rear down the road...

Anyway some of the comments about weight got me to thinking and I took my high tech rod scales (two bathroom scales with a board between them, add the numbers. Not NASCAR accurate but probably fairly close.

Front 360 360 total front 720 is 51%
Rear 345 345 total rear 690 is 49%

Total weight as she sits 1410

Obviously a lot of stuff still to be hung on the chassis, up front we have the radiator, fan, pwr steering pump, throttle body, air cleaner, steering wheel, etc. On the back we have the gas tank, brake calipers, interior battery, etc. And of course the body all over. Don't really have a clue how much all that weighs but I'm thinking not a lot over 2000 lbs. A sheet of .063 aluminum is just a less than 29 lbs. Even with 5 sheets, that's only 150#, plus inner structure. The seats may weight more than the skin....

The Dakota weighed 3931lbs and has 230HP with 290ft lbs. About 17 lbs/HP The car should be about 9 lb/HP. There is probably a way to tie that into the rear end ratio but I didn't sleep much last night and my brain is mushy this morning.

Btw, here is a sketch I've been working on...SOMETHING like this...

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Couldn't get my scanner to work so just took a digital photo of the drawing.
Kerry Pinkerton
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:31 PM
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Kerry Pinkerton Kerry Pinkerton is offline
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Location: Near Huntsville, Alabama. Just south of the Tennessee line off I65
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Default The Art Deco Imperial Project - Part 4

I called Dutch Comstock today and told him I sure wished I'd paid more attention when he was talking about bead rolling and pre-stretching.

I've had a John Brown Boogiemanz bead roller for a couple years but never really used it.

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What I'd never done was master the pre-stretch in order to get the panel flat. I knew you had to do it but had no idea how much.

So I cut a bunch of 18 ga and started experimenting. It tool about 10 attempts before I figured out the correct amount of pre-stretch so the panel was flat when the bead was put in.

I was pre-stretching on my wheel and figured out something. This particular machine is the 48" Crown that I had at MM06...the one with all the extra metal in it and super, SUPER stiff. What I discovered is that I could set pressure with the handwheel, load the metal with the quick release and just wheel until I could tell the machine had stretched all it was for that setting. This gave me a consistent stretch for each bead and as long as I don't change the adjuster, I should be able to make all the beads I need quickly and easily. A more flexible machine would require another way of montioring the stretch because the frame has more spring load.

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Anyway, here is the first panel on the car. The floorpan under the drivers seat. I laid out the beads I wanted, did the pre-stretch and beaded away. It took about an hour for this panel. I did have to do a little hammer work to tweak a few spots.

There is a flange on the front of this panel and the panel in front of this one will fit under the flange and be rosette welded together. Obviously the seams will be sealed but the laps over instead of under will keep water from being driven in the seams.

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I got one bead a little crooked. They do all end in the same place but don't look like it in the photo.

I had some stiffeners made from 16 ga that will go under the floor. The stiffeners are shaped like this:

--\__/-- bad drawing...

3" wide, 1/2" deep and 1.5" across the bottom. They will also be rosette welded to the panels.

I'm certainly not a bead roller wizard but feel much more comfortable with it. John's machine is super stiff but I've got the handwheel in a very awkward position and it's too small. My left arm is probably going to feel like it weighs 100lbs tomorrow.

3/18/07 Didn't get a lot done this weekend. Had some machines to get ready to take to LineX tomorrow and had some 'stuff' in the paper and had people calling and dropping by all afternoon. Didn't sell much though.

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Some folks on MetalMeet gave me some really good advice on construction. Specifically, the cabin needs a complete subframe that is bolted to the chassis. Makes a lot of sense.

Anyway built the last two panels for the left floor. I'm getting pretty comfortable with the beading process. These last two panels probably tool only an hour total.

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I rosette welded the front and back pair of panels together and laid them on the cross braces and the subframe (the one Rod Doc suggested) I'll probably screw the two panels together for mockup and weld later so I can remove them easily as Richard suggested). Here is the floor board sitting on the stiffners and subframe rails and those sitting on body mount pads for height. I'll trim the inside line of the floorboard after I get the trans and driveline humps made.

Obviously the stiffners are just sitting there and will be trimmed to clear the driveshaft tunnel . The tunnel will be the 'beam' that supports the center or the floor pan once everything is welded in place. Until then, I'll leave the stiffeners running full width.

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You can see the subframe rails and one of the stiffeners the above photo.

The photo makes the panel look warped but it's not???

I think it will be nice and stiff with no resonance when welded together.

The seating position is pretty good. The drivers right heel rests on top of the slight ledge to use the gas pedal and brake. The left foot can sit on the 'ramp' or on the ledge. The ledge is required in order to clear the shift linkage and wiring harness connections. I'm not sure I'll keep the footwell exactly like this but it's close enough for mockup and can be changed until I weld everything together. I can drop the ramp down but loose width... I'll have to thing about it. I want to make sure there is plenty of room for the tranny connectors and linkages.

At full extension, I cannot reach the firewall flange with my left foot . I've still got some trimming to do but believe the engine/trans will lift up the inch it needs to clear the tranny mount and then easily slide forward for removal. The tranny hump will be a bit complicated but I want as much foot room as I can get and still be able to get the tranny out.

The passenger side won't need the hump/ledge.

I'm planning on finishing the floorboards and screwing them together for mockup.

The subframe idea got me to thinking and gave me an idea that I'll probably use. I've been worried about galvanic corrosion of the aluminum to steel. I think what I'll do is get a piece of 3x3x1/4 aluminum angle. This will be BONDED to the steel of the subframe rails. This new bonding stuff is incredible. The metal will tear before the bond fails....

I can trim the bottom of the angle |_ to match the curved profile (top view) of the body. The body skin can wrap UNDER the angle and be screwed or bolted to it. With 1/4" angle, I can drill and tap for bolts/screws to hold the panels in place. I hope that makes sense.
The floor pans are 18 ga. The stiffeners are 16 ga and the subframe rails are 14 ga. I have some 85psi urethane that is 1.5" thick and I'm using that for temporary body mounts. I have to clear the muffler rings in the X member which are 1" above the top of the frame so 1.5" gives me clearance.

Not much progress. Got a wooden firewall mocked up.

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Redid the front of my floorboard to change the step to just an angle. The Dakota gas pedal will work fine and I've got plenty of leg room

The Dakota brake pedal will bolt up also once I modify the pedal arm a bit.

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Here is a view from the drivers seat. The hood will be just a bit over the air cleaner and the tops of the fenders will be about 6" above the tires.

I'll have to watch out for small children.
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Been a while and not much has happened since the Bugly April Fools Meet. The chassis was stripped and trailered and sat outside while we worked on the roof and assembled machines to take to SunNFun. Its' supposed to rain tonight so this afternoon my son Cam and I pushed the chassis back in the shop. '

Before we did I wanted to hang the fender profiles we cut out at Bugly and take some long distance shots. The photos Tuck took at Bugly just didn't show the big picture because we couldn't get far enough away. I wish I had had time to put the firewall and rear cabin wall in place but we didn't. Hopefully your imagination can make this work. The firewall is about 4" behind that blue tarp covering the engine. Cam has the seat back a little farther than it will actually be. With me in the seat (6'2"), there is about 6" behind the seat.

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The hood line is lower than the top of the fenders and noses over to the grill which is even with the front of the fenders.

Tomorrow I hope to have time to cut out some sections for one of the fenders so I can have something to take to SunNFun. This will be something the airplane guys can relate to as it looks like a big wheel pant (airplane fender). The fenders will have a 12" diameter over most the length and taper down at the ends. The buck will be reversible.

With the help of Mark and Tuck at Bugly we finished the floor pans on the passenger side but don't have any photos. I'll try and get her back outside and take some photos with everything done to date if the weather clears and we don't have too much stuff in the way.

Got the trailer about loaded and was able to get a little work done on the fender buck. Wray Schelin posted a photo of a sheet metal buck he was designing for the original Bugatti project. This is a modification of that approach. I made a template and cut them out with my plasma cutter. Once they were cleaned up of all the slag, I stacked them, clamped them, and ground the edges to the correct profile and consistency. While still clamped, I cut a 1/2" wide slot 6" long. A tab was welded to one side and and I'll weld one on the other side tomorrow.

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I've still got to do a couple different profiles for the front where the fenders taper down and also at the rear. I'll need to make a stand at working height also. Should be able to get that done tomorrow. And grind off the extra screw length.

The slots in the plates are for spring clamps to hold the panels in place.

I'm planning on using the same buck for both sides. The fenders are the same on both sides of the center except for the intersection of the fairing and wheel opening which I'll just flip flop. At least that's my thinking. If that doesn't work, I can easily make another set of templates.
Finished the buck and got it in the trailer. WHEW! Got a couple private messages requesting more detail so here are some finished shots.

I intended to cut some clamp slots in the front piece but obviously forgot. There is a henrob guy at SunNFun near us and I'll just tote it down there and cut a few. It's fairly heavy...about 50 pounds I'd guess.

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I wanted another web in the front but just ran out of time.

I mentioned last night that I cut a 1/2" wide slot 6" long in the metal all at once. This slipped over the skinny part of the wood fine but on the back I cut a slot with a saber saw that the metal slides into. There still is that 6" at the end that holds the wood all together. The legs help make it rigid also.

I'm pretty happy with the buck. Wray had a good design idea. I know he was planning on cutting them out on his plasma table but he'd still have to deal with the slag. I resolved that by clamping them together and grinding them to the same profile.

If we were indeed building different parts around the country we'd have to come up with some way to make the bucks the same...waterjet maybe? Not an issue for me since I have no math or CAD to deal with...

I'm not sure I have enough detail in the bucks. I may need to add some additional stations. We'll see.
Kerry Pinkerton
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:34 PM
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Kerry Pinkerton Kerry Pinkerton is offline
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Location: Near Huntsville, Alabama. Just south of the Tennessee line off I65
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Default The Art Deco Imperial Project - Part 5

FINALLY back to work on the roadster!

We took the fender buck to SunNFun but never had time to mess with it. When we got back we kind of fell into a major renovation project on the shop that has pretty well consumed me and I've still got a month of work to do.

Today I just had enough. Time to make some shape!

At MM06 I bought a set of Loren Richard's Phenolic Thumbnail dies from Stan Fulton. Originally, I was going to make my own tool posts but life got in the way and I just called Stan and ordered them.

These things are GREAT!!!! Designed for aluminum, they shrink like a SOB and leave no marks on the aluminum. I have a set of Clay Cook thumbnails that work great in steel but mark aluminum a little.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about how I will attack the fenders of the roadster. How many pieces, where to weld the seams, etc. After a couple practice pieces to get the hang of the dies, this is the result. There is about 45 minutes in this piece.

Here is a more frontal view of the fender. The other side will be a mirror image. Welded in the center.

Another approach would be to have a center section and side sections. Might try that.

I've borrowed a deep throat marchant type shrinker and will be using that to make the inner cockpit structure, door frames, etc for the roadster. They will be 16 ga steel. I'm going to try and find some 16 ga tomorrow.

Good to get back to metalshaping.... This construction stuff is boring!
Some progress today.

As I roughed out the other half of the fender, I used the double tape approach that Casey Hill showed me last year. Richard Crees posted this drawing which shows how it works.

This is one slick, accurate way to get an EXACT cut line! Thanks to Richard for the drawing.
1- Take masking tape (or any tape really) and CAREFULLY lay it down with one edge on the exact place you want the other panel to line up, that is, the cut line. The red tape in Richard's drawing.

2- Lay the second panel in place. Unless your overlap is extreme, you should see some of the first piece of tape sticking out. If not, do a rough trim until you do.

3- CAREFULLY lay a new piece of tape over the top of the first piece lining up the edge perfectly. The blue tape in the photo above. Part of the tape will be on top of the first piece and part will be on the second panel.

4- After you make sure the tape is secure to the second panel, pull it off the first piece of tape (or cut it with a razor blade etc). The edge of the tape is the cut line. Since the tape is the exact same width, if you were careful in laying both pieces, the edge of the second piece should be exactly transferred to the second panel.

5- I used 1" blue painters tape but I think most anything will work. Remove any sticky residue before welding of course. Richard used red and blue so you could see how it works, obviously you don't need to use different colors of tape.

When Casey Hill showed this to me I stared at it a couple minutes before it clicked. It wasn't until I took some tape and tried it that it really made perfect sense.

I finished the other side of the fender and tigged them together.

I'm a rank amature at TIG. When I tacked this together it was pretty ugly. Remembering that Dick Bear had talked to Wray Schelin about this very subject when he was working on the McBearn, I dug up the post. It bears repeating...this is GOOD STUFF!

Originally Posted by Dick Bear
I can only assume that the 57 members who viewed this post between the time I posted it and the time of this reply were also interested in how to finish-off a seam like the masters.

Shortly after my original post I received a call from the Master of All Masters, Wray.

He explained that he has in the past posted information on the procedure he has found to be the most effective over his lifetime of metal shaping but that that information has always been lost in the deluge of collateral (related and unrelated) information that usually accompanies posts on MM.

During our phone conversation Wray went through the prep and procedure for me and I am passing my notes from that conversation on to all. I am acting solely as the messenger here and in no way believe that because the information came to me from the Master I am threfore one of them.

I (like you) will be practicing these techniques while finding it reassuring to know that what I am doing is in-line with the proven methods practiced by those who repeatedly produce professional results. Here are my notes:

Aluminum and Steel Seams and Finishing
(Wray S/Dick B conversation 4/11/06)

- Cut weld filler rod from stock material
- Chamfer panel edges 1/2 the thickness of the sheet material
- Cut weather strip copper backing 1 1/2” in width
- Use “Red” label Tungsten rod 3/32” dia.
- Tungsten point: - Form a sharp point with a 5/16” bevel

- Once panels are formed to hold a neutral position in perfect alignment
- Bevel each edge of panels to be joined
- Place copper strips on backside of seam
- Tack weld in 1 inch increments beginning in the middle of the seam
- As each tack is made watch to see if the ends of the panels begin to cross over one another.
If they do:
- Carefully grind-off the top dome of the tacks and using a hand held anvil on the back, tap the tack(s) until the panels re-align themselves.
- Continue tacking… watch for panel cross-over until entire seam is tacked in 1” increments

- To concentrate heat, hold Tungsten tip as close to beveled seam as possible without coming in contact with molten filler material
- Weld in one inch lengths filling bevel trough with “proud” just slightly above panel surfaces using traditional Tig welding technique
- Skip around seam to avoid building up heat too much in one area
- Lightly plannish any area that becomes distorted and continue in segments until entire seam is welded
- Carefully grind-off “proud” were needed
- Plannish seam smooth with hammer or slapper

That’s it! That’s the Gospel According to Wray and I’m going to follow it to the letter.

For those of us who had no idea of the time one should expect to spend on a weld here is a shocker for ya….! Wray figures one hour’s time for each foot of normal weld. So, if your family is waiting one you to go to the mall, may I suggest that you wait to weld that seam at a later time!

Dick Bear

I had already beveled the edges and had a tight fit but was blowing holes and making globs. Today I cut a strip of copper and clamped it to the back. MAN WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Someone could look at this and almost think it was possible that I might have a clue...

Still have some arrangement to do but there is no sense in doing that until I get more panels in place. Everything fits tight to the buck except for the very bottom where I need to do some more shrinking to get it to roll under a little more.

My combination steel and wood buck seems to be working fine. The front half of all for fenders will be the same. I will make another buck for the back fenders before Dutch's meet.

The inside still has a couple problems that I need to address with the TIG. A few low spots that need a little filler rod.

I'm using 1/32 1100 rod. The 1/16 rod doesn't want to melt into the puddle as nice. I really need to practice advancing rod with one hand. Well...I just really need to practice period.

This entire fender may or may not be used in the actual car. This is more or less an experiment on how I will build them. I'll probably learn enough to decide to do them different and I'll just hang this one on the wall and start over with lessons learned....or not.

Realism is setting in also. Originally I stated I wanted to metalfinish and clear coat the car. That probably won't happen. The last 10% efford to get it perfect takes more time than I'm probably going to be willing to do. A little 'thick primer' will probably be in order. I hate to block and color sand though so who knows. I'm old enough that I'm entitled to change my mind...if I can remember what I decided yesterday to change it....


Hard to think that it took me a day to get this done but...

The next thing I want to do is build the cabin structure that the aluminum skin will fasten to. This will be a slow process and I'd like to get it pretty much done before I haul the car up to Dutch's meet so we don't have to sit around doing grunt work and focus on shaping and welding.

I've talked to a couple pretty knowledgable people about this. Dutch Comstock continues to share his wisdom and experience which continues to be invaluable.

James Bowler built an all aluminum Ferrari and had some great suggestions. James build a magnificent full size wooden buck, built the body, built the chassis, and then fit the body to the chassis. If he had it to do again, he said he would just build the body ON the chassis which is the approach I'm taking. James also used .080 aluminum for his inner structure but said if he was doing it again he'd use steel so again I'm taking that approach.

Ideas or suggestions as to how to approach this, or other aspects of the build, are always welcome.

The car will have 16 guage steel angles that support the structure of the skin. The firewall will be 14 ga steel (probably with an aluminum face> I already have the 14 ga and its heavy enough it won't need any beads so the firewall will be slick and smooth. Once everything is fitted to the wood and all the holes are in the final location, I can transfer to the steel and swap out the wood.

Some months back I cut a piece of plywood to use as a mockup firewall. I was happy with the profile so I just needed to make angles that matched the outer edge.

16 ga is fairly stout and will be very stiff once it's all tied together.

In this photo you can see the wooden firewall mockup screwed to the steel frame. You can also see the cabin outer frame which is 3 1/3x3" 16 ga angle. It sits on 2" urethane body mounts and is also spaced 1/2" off the outside of the frame rails. For now I've got the urethane and 1/2" spacers taped in place with blue maskng tape.

The various angles will be welded to the outer frame as will the floor stringers and finally the floor. Richard Crees recommended not welding the floor down until construction is further along for accessibility.

I had two ways to go in getting the angle from straight to the shape of the wood. Fabrication and shaping. Same result but different approach. Fabrication involved cutting slits, bending the angle to the approximate shape, TIGing it together, grinding the welds smooth, and touching up with the shrinker stretcher. This side is the one that was fabricated. The other side was all shaped with the Lancaster shrinker/stretcher. The are welded together in the top center.

With all the framework I've got to do, I wanted to evaluate my options. Actually it turned out to be faster to shape it than fabricate it.

You can see the Lancaster marks as well as where the cuts were made in this photo. All this framework will be covered so I'm not concerned about the cosmetics.

It took longer to lay the two pieces on top of each other and tweek until they were identical than it did to make them.

Next I'll mount the frame rails and start tacking the various structures together. Once finished, I'll put in gussets and braces so it's rock solid. I'll make the door jambs and frame the same way, but weld two angles edge to edge to create a C instead of an L. The outside will have a bow in both directions.

If you've ever taken the skin off a car, you'll understand all the internal structure and bracing that gives the body it's strength. I'm going to err on the side of more structure since I have lots of power for the weight of the car.

I'll probably rosette weld it to the flange. The aluminum firewall will probably be 'bonded' to the steel firewall with panel adhesive. Dang I wish I could do a CAD drawing....

Still haven't decided how the body will be fastened together. After playing with rivets at SunNFun I'm considering that approach where hidden bolts won't work. Alternatively, I could bond aluminum to the steel and rosette weld (spot weld like) the aluminum to aluminum with TIG.

Don't really have all the answers yet. Heck I don't even have all the questions yet either.
Kerry Pinkerton
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:36 PM
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Kerry Pinkerton Kerry Pinkerton is offline
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Default The Art Deco Imperial Project - Part 6

More progress but slowly....had a bunch of other stuff this week so haven't made as much progress as I'd planned. But progress is progress.

I decided that the next step was to lock down the floor and sub frame structures relative to the cabin. I had already made the floor pans but after Richard Crees suggested not putting them down till after all the work was done so that I could stand INSIDE the car I decided to go that route. Still I needed all the cross supports welded to the side rail sub frame and all that bolted to the chassis.

There are three main floor supports that will be cut for the drive shaft AFTER the trans tunnel and drive shaft tunnel are welded in place. Until then I need to leave them full width. To provide more temporary support, I've screwed 2x4's to the bottom. In the front, I bent a piece of 1/8"x4" strap to form a loop over the transmission and tie the two front floor supports in place. It will also be a convenient place to join the two transmission tunnel pieces

What you can't see very well is the 2" thick urethane I'm using for body mount pads.

Once I decided where things were going, I welded some 1/2" flange nuts to the top of the frame. A few holes bolts and this is the result. The floor pans will sit over the top and I'll use a chassis punch to make holes for access to the bolts. Most cars unbolt the body from the bottom. I wanted to do it from inside the cabin if I ever have to take it off. The support sit on the 2x2 urethane blocks and are spaced 1/2" off the sides of the frame rails so there is no metal to metal contact between the frame and the cabin structure.

The rear cabin frame was also made from 16 ga 1x1 angle. I shaped one half with the shrinker/stretcher and used some vertical blocks (also known as Ewheel adjuster quills) to make sure they were exactly the same profile.

The two pieces were measured, TIGed together, fit to the car, cut apart, re-measured, re-cut, re-Tiged and finally welded in place. John Buffington was in town and came out to play Tuesday night and he was working on these pieces.

The next thing is to locate the major components such as the gas pedal, seat, brake pedal, steering column, etc. That will tell me where the dash board support goes. When the seat is in it's final position and I know the range of adjustment I can determine what the door opening needs to be so I can actually get in and out of the car without using a crane.

I'll also need to use some of the 1/4" rod to loft the body profiles front to rear. Obviously the profiles determine the shape of the door structures, etc.

Dang it's hot! And I'm moving slow because of it. If I had any brains, I'd work nights and sleep during the day but I doubt the wife would go for that...


I built the dashboard hoop angle and welded it in place with a couple braces. The metal will swoop upward from the hood line to the end of the dashboard.

The rear hoop I showed last time was too low so I redid it at the same level as the dashboard hoop.

The brake pedal, gas pedal, and steering column and close to their final location. I had some old 1/2" eye bolts that fit perfectly into holes in the Dakota brake pedal mount and using washers and nuts allowed me to hang the steering column and adjust the angle by running up the nuts. Feels pretty good.

I also put a piece of rod on top of the firewall to represent the flow of the hood and grill shell. You can kind of see the upward swoop of the dashboard hoop. Holding other rods in place looks like the lines will be least what I wanted them to be....time will tell if they're good or not.

In this shot you can see the position of the rear fender. Also notice the outstanding "PROCAR" bucket seats donated to the project by BUGLY tools.

The seating position with the seat all the way back works for my 6'8" son Kris. I'll move the seat forward a bit but still can't toe the firewall. The front door jamb will be right beside the dashboard hoop and getting in and out of the car is pretty easy...even for Kris.

Lots more bracing is in the plan.

I asked Bennett Chapman pick up a set of Rocky Hidden Hinges and latches at the Knoxville Nationals. I've thought about having suicide doors but the rear door line NEEDS to be curved to match the shape of the fender so I guess I'll go with front hinged doors with a vertical front line. The instructions suck! I'll take a hard look at Bennetts truck in a week or two when I go over. He has the same hinges.

The decklid bodywork will come to the level of the back of the seat without the headrest on it. I'm THINKING about a rear end with twin headrests molded into the deck similar to the Pontiac Solstice and many other cars.

it's going to have a pretty useless trunk. The plastic Dakota gas tank fits nicely on top of the Jag rear end under the bodywork. This will keep things simple as all the computer and fuel stuff will work without modifications...I like simple.


I've been kind of distracted with the shrinker project but have been getting some work done.

At Dutch's MetalMeet earlier in July we hung a aluminum nose that was based on a 3/4 scale buck from the original Bugatti design thread. I made the chin of this nose at Dutchs in 06 and Gary Tisdale did the top and sides at MM07. It is a nearly perfect fit:

A little tweeking will get the slope of the upper part to line up with the hood. If you look close, you can see the wires that will make up the buck for the hood, cowl, etc.

A bunch of guys worked on making panels for the fenders using the buck I took up. I've got most the fender panels at about the 80% point. I think I'm going to make a foam buck to help in the final fit up.

Richard Kleinschmidt led the work getting the doors swinging and did a lot of terrific work. Unfortunately we got a little ahead of ourselves and forgot to consider weather stripping and the flanges for the door skin pinch seams. Also I put in the rear door posts (B pillar) and got them uneven side to side. sigh....

I ended up taking out a good bit of the hard work that Richard did just to be able to move things around where I wanted them to be. The HARD part was the door hinge post (A pillar) and I was able to keep what Richard had done completely which was a huge help.

I started by taking out the B pillars and aredoing them so they had the identical curve and orientation. I then made rear door frames from 16 ga and bent them to the correct profile to match the B pillar. A flange was welded on the inside of the door to maintain the curve...another flange will be welded to the outside and it will be where the doorskin pinches over as a standard doorskin mounts.

In this photo you can see both the B pillar and the rear of the door. Not sure of the gap yet, probably about 1/2" between the two. Also need the outside flanges.

One question I have is where/how to mount the door latch.

The bearclaw latch is flat and there isn't a flat spot on the rear door opening. The latch fastens in with 1/4 inch bolts but since it's sitting on a curved surface I'll need to either shim it or ?? to get it right. The striker 'bolt' will mount on the B pillar. Any thoughts on this????

At the front of the car I wanted to make the A pillar very stout:

The photo below is taken from the firewall looking backward. You can also see the Rocky Hidden Hinge that is welded into the pillar structure.

Below is a sketch of the profile of the A pillar. This post was fabricated from various 14 ga angles and welded into it's current configuration. The corners were ground square. In the photo the green line is the aluminum skin. The hollow blue block is a piece of 1/4"x1" aluminum which will be screwed to the pillar. The aluminum skin will be rosette welded to this aluminum.

This photo is taken from outside the car looking rearward.

And finally from outside the car looking forward at the pillar. The upper hinge is clearly visible.

I'm pretty well ready to finish the front door frame and mount the hinges as soon as I decide on the rear door frame to B pillar gap and how I'll need to mount the latch.
Kerry Pinkerton
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:38 PM
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Kerry Pinkerton Kerry Pinkerton is offline
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Default The Art Deco Imperial Project - Part 7


Progress of sorts. Between building the shrinkers and a couple ewheels I haven't had much time to work on the roadster but thanks to a screwup at LineX, I had a day free today and got to play.

I decided to move my door posts (A pillar) about 4" forward which will make it easier for me to get my old long legs in the car. That turned out to be pretty easy. I had previously made the rear of the doors and the rear door posts (B pillar) so once the A pillars were relocated I needed to make the door sills.

I lofted the body line with a piece of 1/4" steel rod and traced the line on a piece of aluminum. Cut the line out for a template of the lower door line.

Then I got to use the new deep throat kick shrinker and boy howdy did it ever work great. The bottom of the door is made from 18 ga. The inside is just a piece 5" wide with a 2" flange turned up. The outer edge is 2x2" and is curved to match the profile guage.

I took about 2 minutes (LITERALLY) to make this part!

Below is the contour guage. I actually over shrunk the angle and had to make a couple hits on the stretcher to get it right.

The guage is reversible so I can use it for the other side.

I then laid both pieces on the car, marked and cut to the line. A little hand work and I had a good fit and was able to clamp and weld the two pieces together.

A little grinding and

Welded into the door posts it fit perfectly. You can see the curve in the lower door.

If I have time tomorrow I'll build an upper brace and will be able to swing the door and install the latch.

The door...she latches!

Big day.

Had to wait for LineX to respray a frame that was supposed to ship today but I got some unexpected play time. When I got the Rocky hinges, I also got their door latches and mounting kit. The kit consists of a piece of 16 ga angle with the holes and spaces already cut in it. I trimmed it a little to fit within the rear door frame and tacked it in.

A little welding and grinding and:

The striker bolt mounts on the B pillar and you simply mark where it goes once you have the latch in place, drill a hole, and screw the bolt into the mounting bracket that gets welded on the back side.

Push the door and the latch goes ""

This is the latch from the outside of the car looking in.

And here it is from the other side. You can see the "C" channel I made from 18 ga to stiffen the door and align the rear door face. The door is still a little twisty so some more bracing is definitely in order.

Close up:

I am going to try and get the other side done by Friday. Bennett Chapman is coming over for a couple days and we're going to make some foam/bondo fender bucks.
Kerry Pinkerton
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:49 PM
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Kerry Pinkerton Kerry Pinkerton is offline
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Default The Art Deco Imperial Project - Part 8

What is the sound of two doors latching?

Click Click.....Click Click

This one only took 4 hours.


I don't like working from hard bucks. Can't read them....don't speak to me. NO surface information at all! NONE!

The guys up at Dutchs who worked on fender parts from the hard buck I took whined about it also....especially Bob Baisden...

Not wanting to alienate all my help (not to mention I couldn't do it either ) when Bennett Chapman told me he had found a source for 2" thick DOW foam, I jumped a getting some in order to make some true surface full size fender bucks that would be used for making flexible shape patterns.

This weekend he drove over to play for the weekend with 4 full sheets and a a couple sheets worth of pieces parts. We have 2 full sheets and about another sheet in pieces parts left over. I'll probably use them for some of the other panels on the car.

Back on 4/1/7 up at the Bugly International Headquarters Meet, Rick Tucker and I (with advice from a ton of folks) tuned the fender profiles and cut out two each. These will be the core for the foam/bondo bucks. Below is the rear fender 5 ply plywood cutout.

We decided to use the pieces parts first.

Went pretty quick. Neither Bennett or I had ever done this before but Bennett thought I knew what I was doing in spite of me telling him I didn't. We simply marked the profiles to be cut with a sharpie and cut them out with a saber saw. I tried an electric carving knife but it didn't work too well on the 2" thick foam. Might do better on the 1" stuff.

Bennett and I sprayed the adhesive on both sides. Looks like a pretty thick stack but it's only 12 1/2" thick.

Here is what we used to hold the foam. Worked great. INSTANT grab. Everything else we tried had a 24 hour cure and we didnt' have that much time. I did notice that on the outer edges where the foam got a little thin after carving that some of the seams were getting loose so this may not be the PERFECT glue. Probably should have used this for the instant grab feature and the Liquid Nails foam board adhesive for the long term feature. The Liquid Nails comes in a caulking tube but doesn't set up for 24 hours. We could have used that and in retrospect probably should have since we stopped for the night after glueing them up. Originally Bennett was coming over earlier and we would have had another 6 hours on the first day. As it turned out we only had 4 hours and I already had my head fixated on using the spray on adhesive. Ain't hindsight grand?

Carving time. The old electric knife didn't work too well but a flap disk just ate it up. Messy process. We used two fans, one blowing, one sucking to keep it off us.

I had a bright idea that worked out great. We cut out the fender profile for the front 1/2 of each fender in steel and pushed it down into the foam at intervals. Then we could just grind away the foam until we got below the cut...a couple cycles and we were roughed out.

I've decided to taper the rears of the fenders and a hand saw cuts the foam nicely.

hung on the car for eyeball...we like.

The tire opening is just a tad larger than the tire diameter. We'll build the panels with about 1" extra material in the opening so we can turn a flange for the wheel well opening.

Bondo time. The first layer does attack the foam a little but not much.

Bennett test driving.

We also repositioned the lower dash support and tested the steering column fit on someone other than me. Bennett said it passed the big boy test. I wanted to hook up the steering shafts but the Ujoint I got from Flaming River is the wrong size doubleD.

If you've REALLY been paying attention, you may have noticed that the 'dashboard' hoop doesn't match the door posts. I'm going to build a new one. It's about 1 1/2" higher. Also the actual dashboard will be about 6" back toward the driver and cantilever over the compartment The firewall will probably go up about an inch. It's too tight to the top of the air cleaner anyway.

Sanding Bondo. The edges and ridges were knocked down with a DA and 80 grit.

This flexible board sander did a SUPER job with 80 grit. I got 30" one from Jerry Gulley at MM05 and have never used it until now. The sandpaper comes in rolls and is self stick. It has three 1/8" steel rods you can pull out to make it more or less rigid. I pulled them all so I could match the contours. Jerry carries a longer one also and I'll be getting one at MM07.

After two coats of bondo and block sanding a few small areas need to be raised with another light coat.

A guide coat of lacquer primer ( enamel doesn't dry enough to be sanded off) before sanding lets the low spots be clearly seen. Any pinholes or small bubbles can be ignored because the flexible tape pattern will just go right over them. I'm probably over finishing it somewhat considering the intended use but it's hard not to be anal about block sanding once you've painted a car. Back in 2001, Randy Ferguson coached me through a paint job on a 66 Chrysler 300 and I finally cracked the code on block sanding.

This is going to work really nice! Not quite through. This one needs about another hour of work. BTW, the wooden feet fasten to the 1/2" plywood center and are really handy. We clamped them to the work surface and sanded away with the buck vertical.
Kerry Pinkerton
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:51 PM
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Default The Art Deco Imperial Project - Part 9

Been working on the cabin structure. Redid the A pillar hoop and because it was so far back from where I wanted the dashboard, I built a dashboard hoop and cantilevered it 6" to the rear.

The door tops will start at elbow height and rise up and turn inward toward the front of the door and blend into the dashboard line. Behind the elbow the door swoops up. This is one bit*H of a panel Bends in 3 dimensions but always stays parallel to the floor. One was bad enough but doing the other door that was the reverse was really, really interesting

Bennett is coming over tomorrow and we'll finish the foam/bondo buck for the rear fender this weekend.



Finished the door structures. The top arm rest swoop was a bear to make both sides match. A BEAR! The new shrinker/stretchers really made this possible. Couldn't have done this with Lancasters.

Below is before the rest of the bracing.

All braced up:

The door top is very comfortable to lay your arm on.

I mocked up the firewall in wood so I could play around with locating the steering column etc. Now it's time to do it in steel.

The 'keyhole' slot is so the gear lever can go through the firewall. I'll make a two piece seal.

I then bent up and shaped some flanges and rosette welded them to the firewall.

Here it is all spot welded in place. The steer column is also mounted to the cross arm and bolted in place. We got the steering linkage worked out also but need one more universal joint before I can lock everything down.

After Bennett left for home, I shaped up the rear of the cockpit hoop. Complex piece.

Temporary bracing tacked in place.

After I see it from a distance, I think I'm going to raise it a bit. The decklid is lower than the hood and I think that will look a little odd.

Bennett finished the rear fender buck. It needs primer.

Bennett kept climbing the in the car and making varoom noises.

I've got some machines to build before MM so I'm not sure how much more I'll get done. I'd like to finish the cabin structure, pull the motor/trans, and rough out a structure for the rear deck. Too much to do...too little time.
Kerry Pinkerton
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Old 05-08-2009, 08:00 PM
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Default The Art Deco Imperial Project - Part 10

After sleeping on it, I decided the rear cockpit hoop was too low. It took an hour or so to raise it and get the flow right.

If you look carefully you can see 4 hoops: Firewall, A pillar, Dashboard, and Rear Cockpit hoop.

I also decided to take some of the rear 'point' off the doors..about 4" to be exact.

You can see the new higher line and also where the door is cut. I also boxed the B pillar which REALLY stiffened it up.

This week is fall Carlisle and my friend Gator picked up a 95 Corvette C4 rear end for me and will bring it to Oblong so I guess that decision is made for better or worse. It's the Dana 36 version from an automatic car and even has a warranty!!! The Dana 44 ones go for BIG bucks.

Progress at last. Between building a few big machines, catching a cold, and getting ready for MM I haven't had much time to work on the roadster but really wanted to get as much of the structure done as possible before the meet.

Today I was determined to mount the aluminum 1/4x1 strips on the A and B pillars and shape and weld in the door skin flanges.

I tell you, shaping a three dimensional flange to a defined shape in x, y, and z is really that hard!

Originally I was going to trim these in, butt weld, and metal finish the door fronts and rears. A big job! I talked to Dutch today and decided to rosette weld them to the existing panels. Much easier and won't have any visible difference.

Punching holes in the 16 ga was hard. Rather than drill, I used a HF knockoff Whitney hand punch. It works but you really got to get with it. A lot faster than drilling though.

The aluminum on the B pillar is bent in three dimension. I heated it with a torch and it curved right around. It did crack in one spot but it's bolted good on both sides so it won't be a problem. The photo below shows the B pillar and the rear door flange on the right hand side.

This is the A pillar. The gap between the aluminum and the flange will need to be trimmed once I find out how much I need for a gap.

Here is a close up of the above.

The reason for the aluminum strips is so I can rosette weld the aluminum skin to the aluminum strips which are bolted to the structure.

And finally this is a close up of the back of the right hand door.

I'm hopeful I can get the drivers side done tomorrow before I start loading the trailers.
Kerry Pinkerton
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