PREPARATION FOR REFITTING
The difference between an average woodwork replacement and one, which will look and last as long, if not longer, than the original, is the time spent in preparing not only the wood frames, but also the metal work it is attached to.
If you are lucky the inner wings and the flange the wheel arches are attached to will be sound but showing signs of surface rust. Theses must be made good and repainted using a rust converter/primer and protective gloss coat. The same applies to the rear bootwell floor to which the base rails are bolted. This area is prone to rusting due to leaking back doors and condensation. Drain holes, though not original could help prevent this problem. Most of the original Travellers now need a replacement rear bootwell floor, and in some cases new wheel arch flanges. These are readily available and fitted without difficulty by the competent amateur.
Another area, which must be dealt with at this stage, is the B post. This is normally sound except at the lower edges which should be replanted and rust proofed before the woodwork is fitted. It is advisable if the car is to be resprayed at a later stage, to spray the inner and outer faces of the B post, as this gives a continuous paint surface preventing the ingress of damp and consequent peeling
This also applies to the side and door aluminum panels. This will be the only time that it is possible to strip the complete panel to bare metal, etch prime and spray to the edges normally covered by the wood. The roof cannot be sprayed at this time as until the wood frames are in place the drip moldings cannot be fitted. It may be that the paintwork on the roof is sound, in which case only the new drip molding will need spraying once the refitting is complete. If the roof does need spraying, again it is aluminum and will need stripping and etching.
Assuming all the metal work is now sound and prepared, attention must turn to the wood frames. Time spent now will save future problems and make maintenance easier. The sides must be fitted as an assembled frame and thoroughly preserved and finished before bolting on. The inside faces need special attention as once the frames are on the car no further protection can be given.
The system used to protect the frames is a never-ending source of debate. To simplify it for the purpose of the article you either use a preservative and finish with a varnish, which seals the wood, or go for a micorporous system which allows the wood to breathe. The pros and cons, and variations of each system could fill a book. Time has shown, however, that a well preserved and maintained varnish finish can last 25 years or more and has the advantage of the gloss finish that makes the Travellers so appealing. Microporous finishes are by their nature matte and all the exterior versions slightly opaque. Sikkens probably offer the most extensive range of colors and one advantage of this type of finish is the ease of rubbing down and maintenance. It is especially suitable for coating old wood, which is dark in places, as one can achieve and even color. A poorly maintained microporous finish will not look as bad as a poorly maintained varnish finish, but both will let the water in and both will allow the wood to rot. A good preservative/fungicide is of utmost importance with Ash as it is not a naturally durable wood. Its advantage is with its strength, lightness and flexibility. It is not a resinous wood and will soak up water readily unless the surface is sealed. The microporous system will allow the damp to dry out whereas varnish, once the surface coat has deteriorated will trap moisture and do considerable damage. Never varnish the wood with damp still present as dark patches will soon appear and the varnish will crack and peel. This may seem as though the varnish finish is not advisable, but it can be highly successful when applied properly and maintained on a regular basis.
There is also a new system that we have been using for the last two years and has proved very successful. This is the Burgess Woodsealer range, which used in conjunction with Cuprinol 5 Star clear wood preservative gives the best of both worlds. Burgess wood sealer is a microporous system finished with a clear topgloss. It is water based dries in 15 minutes and gives a deep honey colored finish, which accentuates the grain. It is a marine grade system proved over the last few years, and developed by the inventor of Hammerite.
Whichever system you choose, do it meticulously and follow the manufacturers instructions. Complete the full process on the frames, inside and out, leaving only one topcoat to be applied once the frames have been fitted. Once this has been done attention must be paid to the drain holes in the middle rail. It is recommended that these are not drilled until this stage, as a build up of topcoats will cause two problems. Firstly the hole size will be diminished and secondly a topcoat will eventually peel and allow the water into the end grain. It is better to tape up the bottom of the drain holes and fill with a powerful preservative and allow it to soak in overnight or until they will not accept any more. The advantage of this is that during your yearly maintenance if the same process is repeated by pouring preservative along the window runners. It will be able to soak into the end grain of the middle rail and not only protect the wood but prevent a build up of fungi on the window runners. Under no circumstances sleeve the holes with metal or plastic as this has been found to accelerate rotting in the areas of the drain holes.
With the frames prepared the panels should now be fitted. A bead of sealant should be run wherever metal contacts wood. Dum Dum had proved excellent over the years and is clean and easy to use. The panels are secured in place by inch 6 screws. Zinc plated pozidrive are preferable as a power screwdriver can be used saving a considerable amount of time. It is also much easier at this stage to fit the rear wings as it can be done with the frame upside down.
Firstly the wing piping must be fitted to the wheel arch with small tacks or a staple gun. This is easily done and only needs cutting on the inner lip when working around the curve of the front wheel arch and the angle of the foot rail.
Originally the wings were fitted with bolts into a threaded sleeve. This has proved to be unsatisfactory causing the typical dark areas seen on the original wheel arches. Plated or stainless screws and washers are quite sufficient and about 10 will be required for each wing. Start from the front bottom edge of the wing and work backward only using a screw where necessary to pull the wing neatly behind the beading of the wing piping.
The sides are now ready for offering up.
If the rear base rails have been removed now is the time to fit them. If you are re-using the original set then it is just a matter of bolting them through the original holes, using new coach bolts. If a new set is to be fitted they should be centralized and the bolt holes marked and drilled. In either case the metal rear valance will need to be fitted at the same time. This is tacked to the base rails using 1 sheradised nails and the coach bolts run through the valance into the base rails. It is false economy to fit and old rear valance where rust is evident on the inner face as this will very quickly cause deterioration of the base rails. The base rails are also bolted through the extreme rear of the bootwell floor. Originally no sealant was used. If it is decided to seal this area then drain holes will need to be drilled in the bootwell floor, as water will undoubtedly find its way in through the rear doors at some time, and it must have some way of escaping.
The sides can now be offered up to the car. Assuming the holes have been drilled in the front pillar they will need to be checked for alignment and adjusted accordingly. Holes that have been drilled undersize on the new frame will give more leeway.
At the top of the front pillar a small cut out will need to be made to allow the edge of the roof to slot in.
It is much easier if the roof has been removed to refit it now as trying later with the wood in place can cause problems. If the T rubber between the cab and rear roof is sound then the bolts holding the roof can be fully tightened and the roof will be self-supporting. If the roof is to be sprayed after the wood, and therefore new guttering, have been fitted, then fit the roof without the T rubber in place. Leave a gap sufficient to take the T rubber when under compression, about 5mm, and this will mean the guttering can be fitted into its final position. Once the spraying is complete the top 3 bolts on the front pillar, and the cab roof bolts need to be loosened to allow the T rubber to be inserted. Slots will need to be cut into the T rubber to facilitate this. Although this may seem long-winded, it does mean that the paint can be sprayed to the edges under the rubber seal. Masking up to the rubber is never satisfactory.
You are now ready to bolt the side to the B post making sure a bead of sealant has previously been applied. Ignore what the frame is doing at the rear until the front pillar is in position and all the bolts are tight. Then pull the rear pillar into place making sure the wheel arch is not catching on the lip of the inner wing. If this is the case then it can usually be remedied by lifting the rear pillar slightly. The curve of the wheel arch does not follow the curve of the inner wing exactly, especially to the rear where it drifts away by about 1 inch.
The rear pillar will need to be forcefully pulled into position. A soft rope will help with this or a sash clamp on the side of the rear pillar to the bumper stay. This will hold the pillar in place while you locate the coach bolt through the base of the rear pillar into the hole in the metal framework. Any vertical adjustment can be achieved by the use of a jack under the rear corner, or lifting the pillar.
Place the rear doors evenly on the rear base rails. The rear pillars should now be moved until an even gap is achieved on both sides. (About inch). With new rear doors it may be necessary to trim the outer lip to achieve a perfect fit. The rear top rail needs to be put in position at the same time and the height adjusted to leave and even gap of inch. This allows for the doors to be lifted when bolting on, giving clearance on the base rails and room for the rubber seal top and bottom.
The brackets can now be fitted which hold the rear pillar to the rear top rail and cant rail. Glue can be used in the joint but as a design the joint is infective and relies on the metal bracket. You can also fit the ply fillets to the lower inside face of the rear pillars between the metal bracket and the wood. These are held in place by two screws initially and further secured when the door hinge bolts are fitted.
The roof can now be pulled down into place and tacked onto the cant and rear top rail using linch galvanised nails. Bronze or copper can be used but you run the risk of reaction between the different metals, causing deterioration of the aluminum roof. Once tacked down and flattened evenly to the wood it remains to fit the drip molding. This is easier than it first appears. The new sections come as an open section in 7 lengths. Two will be needed and they meet in the middle at the rear.
First cut a square section out of the front top edge so it fits neatly around the rear face of the T rubber.
Then hold the guttering flat to the edge of the roof and drill two holes, large enough to take the tacks being used, through the guttering and the roof. One to the front and one just before the corner at the rear. The tacks can now be hammered in using a punch, which easily clears the opening of the drip molding. With the side of the guttering now in place drill and tack every 3 inches. Now the easy part is complete you have to form it around the corner. Carefully bend it through 45 degrees and make a single cut through the bottom lip in the center of the corner. This will allow you to continue round the corner using a tack about every inch. This needs to be done gradually, bend tack, bend-tack until the guttering has completed a 90-degree turn. At this stage it now has to be bent to conform to the curve of the rear top rail. Again bend-tack; bend tack about every inch until you reach the center of the rear of the roof. The guttering will now need to be cut as it is slightly over length. It helps if it is cut at an angle to allow a close fitting joint when the guttering from the other side is cut to meet it.
The top lip must now be flattened over the tack heads. Using a piece of wood about 9 inches long work from end to end tapping it down a small amount at a time to prevent rippling. All that is left now is to cut about 3 inches off the bottom lip on each corner and round the edges over. The whole process is easier than it sounds, providing it is done slowly and methodically.
The main structure is now complete. To fit the doors, first bolt the hinges to the doors in exactly the same place as on the original doors. Then they can be offered up and marked onto the rear pillars, leaving enough gaps for the quadrant rubber seal. Do not fit the seal before the doors. Final adjustment can be done by leaving all the nuts loose, which will allow up to inch play. If new doors are being fitted it is better to fit them without the panels and glass. This gives better access to the inner bolt heads and there is less weight.
Once the doors are hung and the panels-glass-mechanism and lock are fitted, the holes to take the locating sockets for the door mechanism need to be drilled in the top and bottom rear rails. If the original rails have been used this will not be necessary. With these and the door seals in place it may be necessary to make further adjustment to the doors. The resulting fit should be tight and the doors will need to be closed together. If the doors are loose at this stage once they have settled onto the new seals they will be too loose and rattle and leak will result. It is likely that until they have bedded in some leaks will occur along the top rail. After a few weeks a final adjustment can be made.
Fitting of the window-capping, rails-interior, trim, etc is an exact reverse of the stripping down process. The important points to note are the seal between the capping and middle rail to prevent leaks. Also the area where the front pillar and middle rail capping meet. Again an area which must be properly sealed.