Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Don't You Be All Gettin' Up In My Grille, Dude

The paint prep is going well on my truck. I'm taking my time and doing it right. I used to paint cars for a living but, to be honest, I was never very good at it. I am good enough to do it one more time, I think. Aside from the peeling paint, the chrome on the grille surround has bubbled badly and begun to peel, as well. The surround is made of plastic with a "chromish" finish on it. It held up OK, I suppose and, probably, better than the cheap plating that is used on most steel parts these days. Thanks Erin Brockovich. I could have opted for a replacement from the dealer, But I have heard that they begin to bubble pretty quickly since they've been on the shelves for years. The other choice was a cheepo, eBay, Pacific Rim, knockoff. Yeah, right. So, with a plan in my head and a song in my heart, I went to the metal supply and picked up half a sheet of 14 gauge steel. Back at The Fongderosa, I took some cardboard and duct tape and made a mock up grille surround, Pleased with the way it looked, I transferred the patterns to the sheet metal and cut out the pieces with snips and a circular saw with a metal cutting blade. I made up some tabs that bolted to the hood where the original grille was attached. I then formed, with a hammer and dolly, a little bump up in the center of the surround to match the profile of the hood. I then tacked the new upper portion to the tabs, working from the center to the outside edge of the hood. Two separate pieces were welded to the ends of the upper and bent down, vertically to the top of the bumper. This completed the upper and side part of the grille. Using the same cardboard patterns, I cut out the face of the surround. I cut it in two matching, mirror image pieces. They were then tacked to the completed upper and side portion. Once everything was straight, level and even, I finish welded everything together. I worked an inch at a time and skipped around to keep warpage at a minimum. Once I was finished, I reinstalled it on the truck to check the fit. I needed to grind and file the edge, a bit, where it meets the hood. At this point, I am pleased with the look and the fit. After some thought, I have decided to weld the new surround to the hood. This should give it a custom look and confuse onlookers who, if they know the Dodge trucks, will realize that something is different. My plan, all along, was to paint it the body color, so why not make it all one piece. The actual grille, itself, will be some simple expanded mesh, left over from the barbecue build. Hey, Left over parts from a grill to make a new grille. Seems fitting and the price was right. The mesh will be powder coated in a matte black finish that will match the new front bumper. What bumper, you may ask? Stay tuned, the old factory bumper is headed for the scrap heap. I have a plan, again in my head, for a new bumper that will be very purposeful looking without being overly huge and off roadish. Something that hits a happy medium between stock wimpy and ten ton, Baja 1000, giant winch, overkill. It will have provisions for some high intensity driving lamps. The stock headlights never were, especially, bright, so they will make our roadtrips more pleasurable since my night vision isn't what it one was.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thanks, Tree Huggers

In the past 6 or 7 years, my old Dodge truck has developed MoPar leprosy. We've all seen it. Trucks, usually silver, usually Dodges, with large patches of paint peeling off. It is relentless and there is no cure. It is because of the crummy waterborne paints that the manufacturers have to use so no unicorns will die. Now, I love my old truck. 300,000 miles and it runs as good as it did the day I drove it home. Unfortunately, it looks like it went through the hammers of Hell. Besides the paint, the interior is shot, as well. We will be addressing that part later on. Paint first. The black portions have held up fairly well, though the clear coat has failed. What remains is easily removed with a bit of judicious sanding. So, I have begun to prep the old girl for new paint. Most of the black has been sanded smooth and shot with epoxy primer. I've never used the stuff, being an old lacquer primer/surfacer guy. I have to say, it went on real nice. It has a long pot life and it cures hard. Yet, it is easy to sand and it fills well. I like it. Ordinarily I would have prepped the entire truck and masked and shot all the primer at once. Not being familiar with the product, I opted to do it a panel at a time. The hood, roof and B pillars are primed, guide coated and sanded smooth, ready for color coat. I will do the fenders and doors in the next few days. As they are, mostly, silver, all of the old flaking, peeling paint will have to come off. No problem, as it falls off on it's own. I do want to properly prep and paint the back of the cab. This will require removal of the bed. I have, pretty much, decided to leave it off and build a flat bed. The old bed is pretty beat and I'd rather not deal with it. I've watched a bunch of YouTube videos showing different bed builds. Some, very nice, some OK, some lousy. I have a plan, in my head, of what I want. Attractive, but functional