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Discussion Starter #1
My '71 spider has the usual bad rocker panels; the inner sill seems to be OK. Middle and outer are bad. I have obtained a donor '87 spider carcass that has PERFECT sills throughout. My thought was that by taking the '87 apart, I could learn the correct disassembly techniques for these panels before possibly screwing up my '71. In addition, I might wind up with usable replacement parts, particularly the middle panel. Now having started the disassembly, I can see that the bottom of the A and B pillars rest on the assembled sills. Given that there are sill welds underneath these pillars, I can't see how to get the rocker panels out (or more importantly, how to get the replacement ones INTO my '71) without doing serious damage to those pillar sections.

Help! I need advice! Anyone?

Gene
'71 Spider undergoing restoration
 

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Gene,
Yes -- you need to cut and remove the attachment points for both a and b pillars to get the middle rocker out. You also have to cut and remove the rounded inner flairs that connect the top of the rocker to the vertical pieces of the inner door jamb. It isn't easy... but you already knew that...

Removal for this usually involves a cut off wheel in an angle grinder and a spot weld cutter. Cutting the pieces that are not being reused is easy... A fine cut off wheel in a dremel is useful for parts that you may be able to reuse and want to minimize the amount of material removed.

You actually need to cut into your 71 to figure out how bad it really is. Rust seldom turns out better than you thought, but you really can't guess.

If things aren't too far gone you might be better off patching rather than total replacement. I do think having the spare pieces is a blessing either way.

Remember, when you remove structural pieces from a convertible, the two ends tend to either cave in or spread apart depending on how the car is supported. Neither is a good thing. You need to first check your door gaps and make sure they are consistent. You should then do some bracing to support the middle of the car, and keep a close eye on the door gaps as you work to make sure the car is not warping. Jackstands under the 4 jackpoints and the 4wheels supported to take the load off is a good start.

Have you checked out the vintage customs videos on youtube? Lots of good info there although mostly on GT's. The overall concept is the same although the rocker assembly is totally different on spiders.

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Hi Mike:

Yes, I understand all you're saying. At present, I'm just working on the donor vehicle, and trying to determine the least amount of damage necessary to free up those panels. I suspected that the curved fairings from the door jambs to the rocker would have to be violated, but I was hoping for a clever way out. Everything cut has to be re-welded! (I do have welders, and some skills). And yes, the '71 has got to be reinforced with stiffners before anything gets touched there. A spotweld cutter and a die grinder with thin cutoff disc's are at hand for trimming and disassembly. As to the '71, the front half of the center sill panels, and the outer's are rotten/inner sill is solid. As this is my first attempt at this level of repair, I'm going slowly, trying to "learn first" and avoid some of the "serious screw-ups" later.

Gene
 

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Gene,
One more thing to consider, most panels rust from the bottom up. Most of the structurally significant and difficult welds and connections are at the top. If you consider patches cut from the donor middle rockers, you may be able to avoid cutting and patching the a and b pillar connections almost totally. This also minimizes the potential chassis distortion that comes from having to separate all this stuff too. While it seems counter-intuitive to not replace whole panels, especially if you just paid for a new one, there is a lot to be said for the minimalist approach. Yes you need to replace all compromised panels, but that doesn't mean the whole panel is the easiest or best way to proceed.

The biggest lesson I learned on my car was to keep the doors in place to be able to fit the rockers ( and everything else) to the doors. That is a real pain as you have to remove them for lots of the work, but you really need to check with everything you do to make sure the door gaps have not moved around. Without a chassis jig, this is your only way of telling.
Mike
 
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