FRONT VALANCE REPLACEMENT

TIE DOWN MODIFICATION

 

**MAIN PANTERA PAGE**

 

The task at hand is a front valance panel replacement. The front valance is a common problem on the Pantera. The valance has large openings in the bottom which collect road water. The water stays in the back of the panel with no where to drain and prone is to rust. The box channel above the valance is also prone to rust. With the valance low in the front of the car it takes it’s share of physical abuse as well. Replacing the valance is a pretty common need with these cars.

 I have seen some documented repairs of the front valance. It seems many of the documented repairs skip the part where the valance is actually welded on. Before you is every corner and each step good or bad.

 Working on this panel is generally inconvenient. With all 4 wheels on the ground the panel is tough to get to. With the car elevated it is uncomfortable at best. I was lucky in that I performed my replacement on a rotisserie where I can rotate the chassis to any angle I need.

 Most venders sell a panel replacement. Not all are the same as some do not include the full opening. I would definably chose the panel with the metal all the way around the opening for the screen. Removing the screen may not go totally as planned and this also helps with keeping a uniform opening.  Also if you order a screen with the valance it should fit. Not all openings are the same. I was successful at removing my screen but it did not fit the opening in the new valance. I was glad I ordered the replacement ahead of time.

 

Where to start. Before replacing the valance, the box channel underneath needed some repair. The first thing to do was to cut out the old valance to make room for the repairs.  It is important not to cut too much away. You want to get most of the valance out of the way but the actual cut for panel fitting will come latter.

***Click on photo for larger image***

 

Next is to decide what has to be cut out, repaired and rebuilt. No doubt every car will be different in this regard. On my car, the damage was not bad. I cut out the rust in the effected areas and sandblasted the remaining area to bare metal. I then treated areas which are NOT going to be welded with POR 15. The rest was sprayed with Zinc weld through primer. Once the repairs are done the inside channels will be sprayed with POR 15. Your situation may be different (Like working on an operational car) and your rust treatments may be different.

 

 

At this point I took a hard look at how I am going to re-build the box and re-attach the valance. The back of the valance was originally attached with an external lip extending from the panel behind the valance. Cutting out and replacing the back vertical panel would be the “correct restoration” method but is not the path I chose. 

I chose to do it different for a couple of reasons. First of all the lower lip was rusted out of the back vertical panel but it was otherwise intact. By doing it in the following manner I did not need to make a replacement for the back panel. Second it ended up being a smoother fix. The car is littered with over lapping spot welded seams extended in every direction. This was one way to clean some of this up. 

With this in mind I bent a piece of scrap metal to mimic the intended repair. As you can see a lip is bent forward for the valance to attach to. The back panel is then trimmed to this height.

 

 

At this point I also removed the tie down loops. I did not care for the way these loops were done. They were “laminated” between different layers of metal in the front. Using these tie down loops bent the loops and separated the laminated metal to some degree. Not a structural problem but not a clean way to do it either. I will show you my solution later.

 Cutting and bending the metal was easy although I did have to do it in 2 pieces. I used a basic 30” brake/sheer/roller from Harbor Freight. They are routinely on sale for $299 (shipping free). If you don’t have access to a brake, you can still bend metal by clamping the metal between 2 pieces of steel and tapping it over with a body hammer.  Due to the physical limitations of the brake, the lower lip is not fully bent. There is not enough room (with the other bends in the metal) to bend it all the way (90 degrees). The rest of the bend is done with a body hammer after the piece is welded in. The final bend at the ends are done with a piece of plate steel clamped in a vice. Tap the metal with a body hammer to bend it over the plate steel. Before welding it in place drill drain holes in the back.

The replacement metal was shaped to join the good metal in the existing box channel. In hindsight I could have done this a little cleaner. I could have cut the metal all the way to the next corner or flanged the overlapping metal and gotten rid of the seam. Either way it is a solid repair and not really visible. Notice the drain holes in the back.

 

 

The next step is to fasten the valance in position with 1/8” Clecos to determine where to trim the metal. Clecos are a great little tool for holding laminated metal together for alignment. A 1/8” hole is drilled through both pieces of metal. A Cleco tool squeezes the Cleco extending the center which makes it more narrow so it can fit through the hole. Put it through the hole, release the tool and the Cleco will widen catching the lip of the metal pulling them together.  Clecos are available at quite a few locations from Eastwood to Ebay.

 

 

Before adding your first Cleco. Drill your holes for the Clecos in the Valance (not the flap it attaches to). Lay the valance in place. Make it flush with the back panel and make sure the valance is centered on the car. Measure 2 or 3 times, but get it right. Drill a 1/8” hole through the center Cleco hole and attach a Cleco. Before adding any other Clecos, check your panel fit and measurements. If anything is not right fix it now. If it is not centered, center it. If the back lip still needs some bending do it now. When satisfied, drill and Cleco the rest of the holes. I started from the center and worked out. If you go to the outside then try to work back you may end up with a warp you cannot get out.

 

 

 

Once the back panel of the valance is attached with Clecos, trace around the panel to mark the body where it will need to be trimmed. The valance may require a little shaping at this point. Keep in mind it is easier to cut more out latter and harder to replace that which was cut too much. In fact, you may find your marks around the sides and back corners to be more aggressive then you want to go. Cut less metal away from the sides and the back corners then you marked.

 When marking where I intended to cut it was also relevant that I planned on flanging the metal and overlapping the weld a little. I left about an extra ¼” on the body to sit in the flanged portion of the valance.

Remove the panel and trim the body. I used a Dremel tool and a cut off wheel; or should I say a package of cut off wheels. It is a good tool for making accurate cuts. Don’t forget to wear you goggles and mask. The valance is flanged using a flange tool (as outlined in previous welding articles).

 

 

 

Before the valance is put on for good, the screen is fit. I wanted to make the screen removable. I like the idea of being able to have access through this area if need be and to be able to take the grill out once every 10 years for cleaning. I wanted to weld in 5/16 fine thread studs to bolt the panel to. First thing was to weld in some washers on the inside for extra weld support for the threaded stud. Then a hole is drilled through the valance for the studs to be welded into. There is no use doing too much screen fit here as the valance will change shape somewhat as it is installed.  I will pick up on the screen fit later.  The valance is ready to be installed!

 

 

 

Put the valance back on the car and re-attach with the Clecos. At this point you have to see how the panel is fitting. You may have to do a little more trimming before welding and some trimming may come as you weld. It is not hard to trim a little here and there with the Dremel tool as you go. 

 The real trick here is deciding where to begin your tack welds. If you start at the ends you will never get the center to fit and vice versa. I chose to tack each corner at the front. I was able to work inward from there with no problem as it aligned well. From there it took a little body hammer/dolly work and a little more trimming to get it right. Eventually the entire perimeter was tacked. Took a lot of work to get to this point but it all pays off.

 Take your time welding it up. Use the techniques outlined for in the previous articles for welding body panels.  Weld the panel behind the Clecos. Remove the Clecos and weld up the Cleco holes.  Grind all of this down. Go slow so you don’t warp anything with heat. Careful to grind the welds and not the metal. It is relatively thin with a grinder in hand. The back corners were filled with a piece of metal. This completed the valance itself as it came out pretty smooth. Don’t forget to add some drain holes to the back of the valance. There is no where for the water to go back here.

 

 

 

 Now we just need to finish the screen. Fit a piece of poster board and trace behind the opening for the screen. Cut out the poster board and trace it on a heavier piece of metal. I used 14gauge steel. Cut out the opening in the steel to fit the hole and cut out the edges around the opening. You don’t want a very wide edge or it will be harder to conform inside the panel. Fit the metal back in the valance, mark and drill the mounting holes. At this point, bent the metal “frame” so it does not stress the valance when bolted in.

 

 

 

Pull out the screen frame and fit the screen to the frame. It is welded in 4 spots near the center but no farther out. It still needs to shift a little when bolted up. The screen will be between the frame and the valance. I cut out the area around the holes to make room for the washers welded in the valance. Ironically that depth is not completely correct and may require 2 additional washers to keep from bending the valance when the nuts are tightened.

 

 

 

Bolt the frame with screen back to the valance. Install all the bolts and nuts. Obviously we want studs instead of bolts but this gets us placed so we can weld in the studs. One by one the bolts are pulled out and the head of the bolts are cut off with a Dremel tool. Place the nut back on the bolt. Adjust the nut and place the stud back in the hole so the stud is recessed in the hole about an 1/8”.  Hold the stud/nut flat against the frame and tack weld the bolt in place. At this point I have learned it is worth getting the nut off right away. Some times welding with the nut on can damage the nut/stud. Weld the rest of the hole up at the stud. When it cools put the nut back to keep the valance in place. Pull another bolt out and repeat the process till all are done. Smooth out the welds with a grinder. You now have a removable screen in your valance!

 

 

 

The final step for me is to clean up the area where the old tie down was and to install new tie downs. I cut a plate from 14 gauge metal to weld in and clean up the triangle channels.

 

 

The new tie down hooks were ½” heavy duty eye bolts. I welded in a piece of pipe with the same inside diameter as the bolt. The pipe is welded on both sides. This is done where it does not interfere with the steering rack or the suspension. The eyebolt and nut are removable leaving a clean rail underneath.

 

 

 

One last note. All welding was done with a 110V MIG using .024” wire with gas.

 And that’s it; My Way.