Back at the front, it’s time to give this footwell some attention. I had previously patched up this area in the past, and I did make a half-hearted attempt at cleaning up what was there to make it look a bit more tidy this time, but it was never going to look right. Replacing this whole panel is a pretty huge undertaking, which is why I was so reluctant to do it, so it’s slightly surprising there are no smaller repair sections available for it to fix the commonly rotten bits. But since there are not, I got stuck into fitting the Heritage panel.
I started by peeling back the end of the castle section of the sill, which is one of the very few previously replaced pieces I am keeping. Fortunately I had only seam welded it on around the edges when I fitted it, so it was easy to just slice through those welds to release it.
I cut out the front of the floorpan to provide better access, since I’d already cut a chunk out of it to fit the crossmember, and it will be getting replaced later anyway.
Cutting out the previous patch repairs revealed some remnants of the rusty original panel with the throttle pedal bracket still attached, which was another great validation for doing the job properly this time. That pedal bracket is part of the replacement Heritage panel, so no need at all to try to save any of this mess.
Inside the engine bay, this section which includes the steering column mounting is also part of the Heritage panel. It was actually in OK condition, so I debated splitting it from the new panel and leaving the old one in place, but eventually decided it would be more difficult to fit, so went with replacing the whole thing. And more new metal is always good, right.
From this side, it was quite easy to remove, mostly a long run of easily accessible spot welds to drill out. It was partly seam welded from the factory at the top and bottom as you can see in the picture above, so I carefully ground them back to avoid damaging the metal left behind too much. At the top, it attaches to the panel which usually houses the master cylinders, and years of brake fluid dripping on it have left that in slightly poor condition itself, but not bad enough that I have any appetite to replace that too!
From inside the car, the trickiest bit for me was detaching the old panel from the chassis leg, it was quite substantially welded from the factory around that triangular tab to begin with, and later patch repairs layered on top required a fair bit of chiselling.
The original mounting flange on the side of the footwell for the splash panel was already long gone when I first bought this car, and I had reconstructed it previously when I patched things up, so once again I had the opportunity to do a better job. This small Steelcraft repair section is available, which includes the flange and the required captive nuts to secure the splash panel to it. I clamped it in place and then just cut around it using a body saw to get exactly the right sized hole in the original panel.
Seam welded in and ground back it looks a lot more tidy.
Back on the inside, I started removing the front of the inner sill whilst I still had good access. Inevitably, as I drilled out the spot welds holding it to the inside of the footwell I found the bottom of the panel where it meets the sill was rotten.
So a quick repair section was welded in to give a solid base to weld the new inner sill to later on.
All of the inside surfaces of the remaining footwell had a generous covering of surface rust, so I wire brushed it all, treated it with Kurust and left it overnight.
And finally it’s on with the new panel. Getting it to fit took quite a lot of time and patience, but after some fettling it did all line up. The trickiest bit was actually navigating the new panel through the gap between the inner wing and bulkhead, but as you may have already spotted, and as can be seen clearly in the picture below, I have sadly sacrificed my painstakingly repaired inner wing to make this job easier. The inner wing is welded directly to this footwell panel, so I would have had to drill out all of those welds to remove it. I got to thinking then, despite my best efforts the inner wing was still far from perfect and would need many more hours of work to look presentable, and if I was now going to half remove it anyway, why not just fit a new one. Decision made, I just cut a big chunk out of it, and getting the new panel in was suddenly much easier 🙂
Not the easiest piece to clamp in place, but I got there.
From the inside, I decided to pre-drill the new panel for plug welding and weld from that side rather than below, mostly because I figured cleaning back the welds afterwards would be easier and tidier this way.
I spot welded the outer edge which joins the splash panel mounting flange I had fitted earlier on. The lip of the sill castle rail was then folded back and securely plug welded onto the new panel.
From the engine bay I plug welded up all those holes I had drilled out earlier, and then went to town on replicating those factory seam welds above and below the steering column housing section.
This whole job was finished up with those plug welds securing the panel to the chassis rail. Not the most fun place for MIG welding, lots of ventilation required!
Phew – that was an epic piece of work, very much hoping there is a lot less to do in this area on the other side. Next up, replacing the inner sill and floorpan.