My Beetle Restoration

Removing the Frame Head Bottom Plate

by on Apr.27, 2018, under Chassis

Since I'm replacing the Napoleon hat and there is really no room to drill or cut right next to the top of the frame head, I decided to cut off the arms of the Napoleon hat and trim back the bottom plate. This really made it easier to access. I used a wire brush in my drill to remove the undercoating and rust and reveal the spot welds. Once that was done, I did the same as on the tunnel bottom plate and punch-marked the center of the spot welds and drilled pilots for the spot weld cutter.

I then cut out the spot welds and cut out the inside part of the bottom plate, leaving just the strips where the plate was welded to the frame head. I am so glad that I went to the trouble to take the bottom plate off as there is some serious rust inside the frame head that just would not have been seen otherwise. The side of the tunnel underneath the Napoleon hat has deteriorated on both sides and will need patching with solid metal. Also, the tunnel section that extends through the frame head will need patching on both sides as well. Additionally, the frame head will need patching on the bottom portion where it is welded to the bottom plate on both sides. I have to admit, I was initially discouraged and contemplated replacing the entire frame head with a new after-market reproduction. But as I researched doing so, I determined that the effort and expense of removing the current one, patching the tunnel (which I have to do anyway), purchasing a new frame head (that will not match the current one and is constructed of thinner metal), and properly aligning the new frame head just was not the best course of action. With the tunnel bottom plate removed, the tunnel is just too flexible to be able to do any accurate alignment and I would rather take my chances with replacing the areas that absolutely need it and hopefully maintaining the current positioning as far as the angle of the frame head on the front end and where it is positioned on the tunnel. If I can maintain those two things, I will just need to make sure it is level when it is all welded and reassembled. Also, once it is taken off, I lose all of the current reference points and I really need it where it is now to get the new Napoleon hat properly positioned.

One of the things I found amazing and educational was how much the rusted areas have expanded over the years as they progressed, especially where the panels where overlapped. Where two panels, that were each originally around 2 millimeters thick, were overlapped and then rusted severely, their combined thickness grew to around 12 millimeters. In several areas where this happened, the surrounding areas of the panels were raised and bulged, distorting everything attached to it. On panels with nothing around them, they appear to just disintegrate and fall away. In areas where the panels are welded together and very close to other panels, they have expanded greatly.

Getting the remaining strips of the bottom plate off was a real pain. The spot welds are easy enough to cut out, but on the side edges of the frame head where it is welded to the plate it is seam-welded in the middle section for a couple of inches and towards the front for a couple of inches as well. I just had to cut around the seam-welded areas and grind them down. Where the plate meets the front edge of the frame head, it is seam welded all the way across. I was able to use a cutting disc to trim it back fairly close, but the rest had to be ground down. This is a lot of trouble for the side flanges that are going to be replaced, but I want to get it back to its original position to test fit the new bottom plate and to have good references for the areas that are going to be replaced. Once everything was cut and ground away, I just had to place the new bottom plate in position to see what it looks like. Even though its just sitting there, it feels like progress and is encouraging.

Next, I cut way the majority of the bottom plate that was welded to the frame head and ground it down. There are some areas that still need to be ground down, but I will save that until I am preparing and fitting the bottom plate. The next steps are to cut out the rusted areas and weld in patches.

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