The cab had a bulge in the back that was covered by fiberglass sheets. Not a good sign. One of the past owners repaired everything by putting on resin and fiberglass sheets. He didn't get the rust off first, which makes it easy to pull the fiberglass off. Underneath was a large piece of sheet metal held on by 64 pop rivets. Yep. I counted them. I HAD to know how many there were. Now to start undoing the sins of the previous owners...

Back of cab

12/99     It's starting to get cold out. It was 38 degrees F in the garage when I went out there a couple of nights ago. That presents a problem. If I sand off the old paint to do some repair work, I need to cover it with primer. I can warm up the garage to 65 degrees in 30 minutes with the kerosene heater, but the sheet metal is still pretty cold. And once I shut the heater off to paint, the temperature drops quickly. One of the joys of having four seasons.

I took a good look at the roof. The paint was peeling off and the roof was cracking. Not a good sign. Underneath the peeling paint was -- you guessed it -- fiberglass resin and mats. They came off pretty easy except where the bondo was thick. The left side of the roof is pretty beat up. The bondo was 1/2-inch thick in places. And rusted underneath. To make things worse, a lot of holes were drilled in the dents, I assume for a dent puller that apparently did not get used. (I found out why the dent puller wasn't used. I tried one. The metal is so thick, it didn't do anything. Hint: don't go crazy with a drill until you have tested your dent puller on one dent.) So now besides hammering all of the dents out I have to weld up all those little holes. The bondo beyond the edges of the fiberglass did not come off. I had to grind it all off, a couple of quarts worth, and it sure made a dusty mess of the garage. I will have to remember to close the lid on the tool box before I do something like that again. I started to bang the dents out. It takes quite a bit of work to raise that dented metal up to the surface again.

To feel like I was making some progress, I started working on the bed sides. The first job was to remove the rusted-out stake pockets, which were spot welded on. I bought a 3/8-inch spot weld cutter from Eastwood. Boy does that work great!! That's a tool that does what is supposed to!! The instructions say to operate it at 900 rpm. I tried counting as it spun around but couldn't keep up. Maybe this is an idea for the Sears Clever Tool Development Department--the Craftsman Variable Speed Drill with Tachometer.

2/00     Well, I gotta admit, when the snow is a foot deep and the wind is howlin' and it's 7 degrees outside (minus 15 with the wind chill) and the garage is 26 degrees inside, I don't feel much like trudging out to the garage. Did you know Pep Boys hand cleaner is frozen solid at 26 degrees? I did some work when it warmed up to 28 degrees inside the garage. I used a little trick I use when logging wells outside in the winter. I buy a pair of cheapo thin cotton garden gloves at the grocery store and cut the finger tips off. Your hands stay warm and you can still grip tools and hardware. And they easily slip into larger and warmer gloves during standing around out in the cold time when the tools are running in and out of the well. I spent a lot of my wrenching time on my other vehicles. You've heard the phrase, "I drive what's running." Well, that's the way it is around here because I own a bunch of old high mileage vehicles. The Tracker blew an alternator and I had to replace that. Then I finally decided to fix the gas tank leak on the Explorer before I blew up. I had to replace three brake lines in the process.


I got the roof almost done. My first step was to purchase a fire extinguisher. (Don't laugh. I had something in the garage on fire once this fall and once this winter.) Next I filled nearly all of the 78 holes somebody drilled in the roof. My new theory is that they were drilled to give the bondo something to latch onto. I prepped each hole by cleaning all the paint and rust from around it on the top of the roof and inside the cab. Then I ran a drill through the hole to clean it out. This insures a good, uncontaminated weld. Besides that, burning bondo stinks. Then I welded the holes shut. I set the spot weld timer on the mig to 2.5 seconds. This kept me from getting carried away and leaving a big glob on the roof. Then I ground the welds flat. Shop tip: Move the wife's car out of the garage when doing this. Sparks fly a considerable distance.

The roof

Check out the lights clamped to the rafters. I found these at Home Depot for around $7. They clamp anywhere to light up your work space. They are great!

I started welding the damaged roof. Two holes burnt through because the metal was too thin and were enlarged for a patch. In two other places there were splits I cut out. I made patches out of sheet metal and formed them to fit the curved surfaces and welded them in. The air nibbler worked great for cutting these odd-shaped patches. The patch that went on the corner was fairly rounded and took a bit of work to shape it right and fit it in. While fitting it, I dropped it through the hole and into the cab. It fell into an "inaccessible place" along the inside cab wall. I didn't even know the truck had an "inaccessible place." I covered it so I wouldn't lose anything else down there. Shop tip: Move the rag covering "inaccessible places" before welding or it will catch on fire.


3/00     I cut a big hole (about 2 feet by 3 feet) in the back of the cab and removed all of the rusted metal. I decided to flange the patch rather than butt weld it because it was so large and hard to work with. I cut the spot welds on the bottom of the seat back supports to give me more room to slide the patch in. I sprayed the back of the supports with Picklex 20, a rust converter.

The hole inthe back of the cab

I held the patch tight by blocking the supports against the back of the cab and shoving shims (ah, the shim, the carpenter's best friend, or at least my best friend when I have my carpenter's hat on) between the patch and the support. It held it quite tight except along the bottom. There I drilled some holes and held the metal together with screws. Yeah, I know. All my complaining about previous owners drilling holes in the cab and here I am, caught red handed drilling holes. But mine were necessary!! I welded in the patch and welded up the holes (the five I drilled plus the eleven that somebody else drilled). I treated the old metal around the patch with Picklex 20 and then shot the whole area with PPG DPLF-50 epoxy primer. Since it was such a small area and I didn't feel like dragging out, using, and cleaning the spray gun. I decided to give the Preval sprayer a try. It worked great!!! I mixed up a small batch of DP-50 and shot two coats. It sprayed well, and the glass pot cleaned up in seconds.


4/00     I went to Denver this month and missed a few nights out in the garage. While I was prepping the inside of the cab for primer around the patch, I found four more drilled holes. They were filled with bondo, so I knocked them out with an awl. That revealed two more bondo-filled areas below the rear window (the fun just never ends). I ground out all the bondo, welded the holes closed, ground the welds, and treated the area with Picklex 20. The area at the bottom rear of the cab was rusted out also. Whatever water rusted through the back of the cab through went down inside to the floor and rusted out the area where the back of the cab joins the floor. I removed the paint (even found some spots of the original Washington Blue). I cut out the rusted metal on the left and right sides and welded in new metal. The center part (cab back and floor) has to be cut out and replaced, but I need to flip the cab on its back and sandblast the rust off the bottom first. This will be a project for later. I cleaned up all the rust in the dented and patched areas on the roof and treated them for rust.


5/00 - 7/00     What excuses do I have for not working on the truck lately? Lets see... Well, there was the bizarre accident where I managed to rip off the power lines that run the 200 feet from the house to the garage. I tore a big 220 volt cable clean off both the house and the garage along with a big chunk of garage. I also ripped off the three other wires that connect all the outside lights. How this accident happened is much too embarrassing to discuss here. Needless to say, I couldn't accomplish much without electricity. Then there was preparing for my vacation. Then my vacation (two wonderful weeks in Nova Scotia). And then I bought a new, big 220-volt compressor and installed it in the shed behind the garage (wiring, plumbing, etc.) I did manage to get some work done on the cab. I stripped most of the paint off the exterior, cut out some more rusted metal, and welded in new metal. I found a couple of more places filled with old bondo and ground those out. Most of the areas that need to be filled are filled, and I am working on getting those flat. Every time I do some sanding, I find more low spots to fill and level. The roof was pretty dented up, and getting the top flat and level is no easy task, especially for those like me that are bondo challenged. I did pound the metal to somewhere near the original shape and position, but Ron Covell I am not. The left corner was pretty mashed in, and getting that shaped and matching the right corner is taking some time.

The hole in the back of the cab is patched

8/00     I am still getting the low spots on the roof filled and everything smooth. The roof and back of the cab are nearly finished. I also started stripping the three layers of paint out of the inside of the cab. The top layer is an awful brown color that is peeling and flaking everywhere. The red underneath seems fairly stable.

9/00     The '38 was on hold for a few weeks. I had to stop working on it while I fixed the Toyota. It flunked state inspection. Again. For frame rot. Again. The rear cross-member was rusted through. It supports the gas tank, exhaust system, and brake lines, so it is an important piece. Since Toyota no long supplies the piece, I had to fabricate my own. It's done, the Toyota passed inspection, and it's back on the road. Again.

The roof and back are fairly smooth, but not a perfect job. I could keep working on it until it is perfectly flat, but, hey, this isn't going to be a show truck. It's gonna be a daily driver, probably parked outside (I am assuming my next project will be occupying the garage). It's going to get wet, dirty, and covered with salt in the winter. Birds will poop on it. In addition to finishing up the roof and back (except for the very bottom) I fixed the drip rails. The one on the right side was pretty mashed in. I used a tile nipper to pull it out. Worked great. I stripped off all the paint, bondo, and sealer and found some old repairs made with lead and brass. Those are probably pretty old and predate bondo! I also got most of inside sprayed with DP50.

The back of the cab is almost finished

10/00     I have been stripping the paint off the cab with a paint and rust stripping wheel designed for a drill. I use it in a right-angle die grinder. It is slow, but does a very good job of removing the up to 4 layers of paint on the truck and doesn't heat or warp the metal or leave any chemical residues behind. I hit the deep pits with a spot blaster. There are some places you can't get to with these wheels, like inside corners, rough welds, tight spots, etc. I took a couple of days and sand blasted these areas -- around the windshield area, door jambs, door sill, drip rails, cowl vent, inside rear window, and places under the dash. I got carried away and did the dash and some other places, too. I laid plastic on the floor of the garage and hung plastic from the ceiling to isolate the area, keep the dust down, and help with recovery of the media, which I shoveled back in and reused. Shop Tip: Don't sand blast indoors. Whatta mess! I started with two 5-gallon buckets of media and ended up with one bucket. I cleaned up pretty good but still haven't figured out where the other 5 gallons went. When I flipped the cab 90 degrees about 1/2 gallon of the missing media poured out of some of those "inaccessible places." I cut out the rusted metal at the bottom and bottom back of the cab (the "rough spot" at the bottom in the picture above) and welded in new metal. I also cleaned the paint and rust off the bottom of the cab and painted it with Zero Rust for protection. Zero Rust comes in spray cans, which makes it very easy to apply.


11/00 & 12/00     I'm still working on the cab. I got all of the paint off and started some repair work. The metal trim around the rear window had to be welded back together. The support brace running from the rear window to the door was hanging loose because the bracket was missing. I made a bracket and welded it back together. The metal strip across the middle of the seat platform had to be welded. I also had to bang the front of the seat platform back into shape. Next I tackled the rusted out front cab corners and adjoining areas. I cut out the rusted metal and welded in new metal. That took a quite while. And my favorite... I removed the battery tray. It was all rusted out and had to go. I thought this would be a simple job, but I should know by now--there are no simple jobs. Did I mention the back of the firewall was randomly coated with tar or a tar-like substance? It stinks like tar when it burns (see grinder below). I guess this was a form of waterproofing in the old days??? The tar hid some spot welds, which kept the battery box from being easily removed. I took the easy way out and removed the tar with a grinder. Eventually I figured out what has going on and got the tray out, making a rather large hole in the firewall. But, now I have a piece of sheet metal with the original Washington Blue color that I can use for a color match at the paint store. I tack welded in some metal to cover the hole where the battery tray used to be.

cab with paint removed