Eric the Viking – October 2019

Spend since last report: £625.59. Total hours labour since last report: 23.2

In the last exciting episode of “Eric and the halfwit”, the rear had been mainly finished, Eric was pushed into the corner of the garage and the front was started. Three years ago this month, we had removed the bulk of the front panel, exposing the A posts (the structural pieces in the front corners). I already knew that the bottoms of the A posts were rotten, the deformation panel that sits behind the bumper was also rotten and the inner valance behind that, which is welded to the chassis, was also rusty or rotten.

Here is how it looked in October 2016.

Removing the nose was a case of cutting around the air intake and down the inside edges of the A posts then along the bottom around floor level. Once the majority of the metal is out of the way, you can see what is going on and peel the edges off the A posts. That was how I discovered that the bottoms were in need of help. That was 3 years ago!

The inner windscreen panel sitting just above the air intake was in poor condition caused by the regular problem of a leaking windscreen seal. A lot of it was ok but the key piece is the top which had rotted. As I removed the dashboard, I could see that the mounting brackets forming part of the inner windscreen were also in a very bad state. The dashboard came out a lot easier than I expected, two bolts on each side visible when you open the doors and a couple underneath the middle. Getting the knobs for the switches off the dashboard to keep the wiring together took longer!

Once the inner windscreen was measured to see exactly where it fits to the A posts and once I had worked out whether it sits in front of the air intake or behind, the angle grinder got it out quickly.

Removing that panel gave a good feeling as it was cleaner and tidier. A good clean up of all retained surfaces and the Just Kampers replacement panel was scoured, primed and top coated on the inside in the L90D pastel white that I plan for the inside of the whole van. Welding that panel in early means added strength as I move down the front removing rot.

And just as much as removing the old panel helped, adding the new one gave me a lift as well.

The multi-part A posts are thicker steel (circa 2.5mm) giving a huge amount of strength when not rotten. Taking out the rotten A post pieces a section at a time, I made cardboard templates of the missing metal, angle grinding the replacements to shape. Once into the right shape, they were clamped into place and welded in – for whatever reason, my welding ability, confidence and end results are significantly improved in the last few months, no idea why.

I was able to chop out the rot knowing that there is enough strength to move one section at a time without the shape changing. With a hole cut, I can get into the inside of the A post with the rust killer and the primer to give extra life and I prudently stopped the repairs near the bottom as I do not know the exact line of some of the metal.

You can buy a full replacement A post but removing it is just too worrying and not required, so I laid on the garage floor looking at the construction of the rotten originals, angle grinding tiny bits to peel back the metal to see how it fits. The new repair section is about eight inches tall in two parts for the A post on each side plus a further piece to hold the inner valance. Those three themselves took some time to figure out how they connect.

Once the mental work was completed, the physical work started. Grinding out the old rust, leaving the door hinge intact makes access difficult and lying on the floor looking up means metal dust in the hair. Eventually the rust was all out, and the area cleaned and prepared for the new metal. Part of the new metal needed trimming since I was retaining the A post behind the hinge. Deep breath, put the new against the old, clamps and rulers to ensure it all lines up and a tack weld first. It all looked good and was zipped in. Then the front of the A post could be put on confidently as it folds part way around the rear. Careful welding was needed to ensure that the valance hanger was not obstructed by weld. Then finally welding-in of that hanger which also fits specifically to the front repair piece. All zipped in with seam welds for strength and being nice thick metal, I can crank up the power to get lots of penetration.

This is the offside, note the missing pieces at the top left which can now be added as I have both top and bottom to use as a template. Having removed part of the step to chop the old metal out, that was welded back in as well and plenty of red oxide anti-rust paint was added to hopefully keep the rust gremlins at bay for a while.

The confidence that comes from completing a job yourself means that the nearside was much less time consuming since the concept is the same, just mirrored. Hack out the old bits, save the hinge and the A post under it, chop out the step, accept that the angle grinder makes heat which means underseal starts smoking. Once out, cleaned and the repair piece trimmed since I am keeping part of the original again, it was time to weld it in place. As previously, a few tacks to allow the clamps to come off and I seam welded the old to the new all the way along. The rear half of the repair completed, I painted it with anti-rust paint then primer.

Allowing that to dry, I started attacking the inner valance that runs behind the deformation panel which sits behind the bumper on a late bay (early bays don’t have a deformation panel which was part of the added strength for crumple zones). Again, the outer foot or so was toast and there is no sense leaving the middle and grafting new ends, the whole lot needed to come out. This also allows access to the four chassis sections behind that I know are paper thin and can be removed using your fingers! A job for another day.

Cutting disks do not last long with the removal of a lot of thick metal / rust / rot but I have plenty. It took about five disks to remove the bulk of the valance. Sitting on top of that is the panel you see in front of your feet when driving, which comes down vertically then turns horizontally and is spot welded to the inner valance keeping the weather out. Unfortunately, as is common, water gets in, sits on top of that horizontal bit and it rots out. Chop, chop and all the rot comes out. Once the new inner valance goes in, I can make up the little L shaped bit to join it all back together.

The paint was still drying at the bottom of the A post, but I did not have time to add the second part of the repair, Editor Phil cracked the whip and in the immortal if modified words of the narrator of Mr Benn, “as if by magic, a deadline appeared”.

This edition’s spend of more than £600 was primarily caused by the purchase of a rollover frame, as well as a list of bits picked up at BusFest. You take off the wheels on one side of the van, make sure there are no liquids like petrol, washer fluid or whatever that will come out, and then you jack the other side up until the van is lying down. It will need to be done in a controlled manner but a very nice chap called Neil Higgins was selling it, and it seemed like a time-saving way to get something I planned to make next year that will make underside cleaning and detailing a simpler task.

By the next edition, I aim to have finished the front, attached the front panel / nose and get Eric on his side to replace the chassis rails under the cab floor. Maybe Eric will be snoozing for Christmas. Whatever you are doing between now and then, have a great deal of fun, my next write-up might be done when full of roast Christmas dinner!

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About Nick Gillott

Website Manager and General Committee member of the Owners Club. Owner of Eric the Viking (converted panel van with Viking roof) undergoing complete restoration. Tinkerer to Poppy the camper van (1972 Crossover dormobile).