We always knew that the body preparation on this restoration project was going to require a more specialised, talented approach. And that is exactly what we have got with Auckland based panel beaters, Rowan Glass and Nick Saunderson.
The Body Preparation Challenges
The Diamond T cab and Heil tank both required major structural repairs at Creative Metal Works, where rusted areas were removed and replaced with repair sections. Simon Tippins used a porta power in many areas to push out damage and any affected areas were recovered by shrinking and hammering the steel.
In the early days prior to all the extensive repairs being carried out.
The primed tank immediately following repairs at Creative Metal Works.
Once the repairs were completed, the next step in the process was to create an absolutely perfect surface area over the entire tank in preparation for painting.
Rowan Glass is both a panel beater and an automotive painter by trade. Specialising in restoration work, he is fully conversant with all the complexities and challenges of the preparation involved when a body has undergone such extensive repair work.
When Steve delivered the tank to Rowan, the first thing that Rowan did was to literally go over every square inch of the body to familiarise himself with the task ahead.
He knew that the unique shape of the tank was going to be a challenge in itself, with the directional changes quickly transitioning from a loose to a tight radius in different areas.
After considering the best solution to effectively sand the distinctive curves of the tank, Rowan took a simplistic approach and made up a number of custom made blocks out of ACM (Aluminium Composite Material). He cut the ACM into strips and used different thicknesses to achieve more flexibility when sanding.
The tank in position for the body preparation to begin. There is not a lot of clearance between the highest point of the tank and the roof trusses!
Using lead to achieve a paint ready surface is a rare and near extinct craft these days.
Eighty years ago, molten lead was applied to the Heil tank and then shaped and wiped by hand using asbestos gloves. In 2020, the process is rarely undertaken here in New Zealand and probably only a handful of people would be skilled at applying this material. So we had a strong desire to leave and showcase the historic build process of lead wiping / lead filling.
But as much as we love the idea of preserving the history of this technique, the fact remains that rust and corrosion can still occur under the lead filler. This has resulted in a balancing act throughout the body work of retaining as much of the original filler as possible but removing any lead that will lead to future deterioration.
While the tank was at Creative Metal Works, Simon Tippins melted out and removed any obvious areas that were blistering or showing signs of degradation.
Rowan has continued the same approach by inspecting all the remaining lead wiped / lead filled areas in minute detail to identify any further underlying issues.
The overall end result is that much of the original lead application has been preserved, and any repairs and preventative measures that were taken will ensure that the tanker survives well into the next century.
Rowan identified high spots in some of the lead wiped areas so he and Nick filed down the lead to lower these spots where necessary. The thickness of the lead in places saw up to 5mm having to be removed.
Many of the rivets around the protruding overhang of the tank had come loose so these were removed and welded to stabilise this area.
A Close-up View
The images of the tank up to this point have not detailed the extensive, heavy pitting that covered the entire surface of the original steel work.
All these pits and imperfections needed to be filled and sanded to achieve the perfect surface finish.
The visible separation line shown above was where surface corrosion had crept under the edge of the lead causing it to delaminate. Rowan’s approach to areas like this was to remove the lead back to a point where it was sound and stable.
The delamination shown in the image was at the base of one of the roof lights. The lead filler was removed, the area epoxy primed, then filled and block sanded.
The Filling and Block Sanding
Rowan and Nick began the process of systematically filling / skimming the tank body.
This involved working on one area at a time and using a long board or custom made ACM board to block sand the filler back to the base coat of Epotec primer.
The repetitive process identified any high or low spots in the surface with 90% of the filler ending up on the shop floor.
The work in progress shot above shows the sanding process starting to reveal the epoxy 2 pack etch primer base coat.
The left front fender above had been block sanded right back to the Epotec base coat.
The body preparation around the checker plate area and the 1/2 round trim at the base of the tank required a lot of care as Rowan made every effort to retain the original factory detail.
Base filler is visible in the left rear fender where large amounts of problematic lead were removed.
The initial stages of filling and block sanding the rear area of the tank are shown in the work in progress shot.
Rowan used an electronic carbon rod to heat shrink the high spots in the metal. He was pleasantly surprised and really pleased at how effective this technique was when working with the heavy steel.
Another work in progress shot shows the side of the tank in the process of being block sanded.
The locker doors were removed from the tank and filled, block sanded and primed.
These doors have been on and off the tank a number of times to perfect the body alignment.
Without exception, Rowan always applies a primer to any area of exposed steel before continuing with the filling process.
As each section has been completed, Rowan and Nick have applied a further 2-3 coats of Epotec primer.
They have worked under the advice of the PPG technical rep who has been guiding them on the correct products to use.
Even though this is not the final primer coat, we are starting to see glimpses of what the finished body will look like……absolute perfection!
The Trunk Lid
A work in progress shot as Rowan worked to perfect the alignment.
Rowan took fastidious care when working on the trunk lid. His attention to detail and precise workmanship has resulted in a perfect gap around the entire trunk lid.
The same perfection has been achieved around the gaps of the locker compartment doors as well.
Rowan’s determination in getting the trunk lid 100% right has improved the functionality to the point where it is possibly better than when it left the factory. A gentle turn of the handle now latches the trunk lid smoothly and easily.
Once again, we have been so fortunate to have found such talented and skilled craftsmen to work on this phase of the project.
The tanker is not a restoration piece that many would want to attempt so we are very appreciative that Rowan and Nick took on the challenge.
Their focus and attention to detail has been second to none, and we can’t wait to see their talent applied to the cab and front sheet metal.