1969 Firebird Convertible - Team Camaro Tech
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post #1 of 614 (permalink) Old Jul 31st, 12, 02:47 PM Thread Starter
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1969 Firebird Convertible

I was bidding on a car last night. I did not think that I would win. From what I can tell from the photos and talking to the owner, it needs the following in body parts:
Quarter panels
Tail panel
Rear bumper
Complete Trunk pan
Complete Floor pan
Possibly a firewall
Front valance panel
Door skins
New convertible top

The owner says it runs but it will not stop. (Brakes are bad). The convertible top works. The gauges and speedometer work, headlights work, radio has no sound.

The next morning, I got an email telling me that I won! What am I going to tell my wife? Should I send flowers? I will have to get the car shipped to me.

I hired Get-Ur-Dun Trucking Company to deliver the Firebird. The driver, who was president and CEO of the company, loved the car. He said he has hauled other cars in worst shape.

Four sets of neighbors came out of their houses to see the one-ton pickup with a long trailer parked in front of my house. All of the men neighbors loved the car. All of the women neighbors hated the car. One man wanted to buy my car on the spot. Another one wanted to buy one like it but his wife told him that he could not. He wants to help me work on the car. The six-year-old neighbor twins were fascinated with the manual window handles. They never had seen a car that did not have electric windows.

The driver was an interesting character. It is a shame he lives in another state. He talked about splurging that night and getting a hotel with a shower because he slept in his truck for two days. He had many stories. One of his previous customers refused to pay him because he did not like the used car he bought sight unseen. Another one only viewed one side of the car on Ebay. Later, when his car arrived, he found out it was wrecked on the other side. We talked maybe for two hours and drank some homemade beer on the patio with a few of the men neighbors. My wife was inside with the women neighbors. She kept staring at us through the kitchen window and talking on the phone. I think she called everyone she knew to tell them about our new car. Later, I found out she hid her jewels and money in the house because she thought I was going to ask the driver to spend the night at our house. He got a call from the dispatcher, his wife, and left to pick up a car on the other side of Houston.

The convertible top flew off during transit. It was old and dry rotted. You need a screwdriver to open the trunk. It needs many body panels replaced because of rust. The engine runs good and the transmission works. The points and plugs are new, the oil was new and the radiator coolant was green. There is no telling the last time the engine was started before the tune up. The engine was pressure washed possibly to hide an oil leak. I drove it 200 feet and the wheels did not fall off.
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post #2 of 614 (permalink) Old Jul 31st, 12, 03:20 PM
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Great story and nice project. I'd say both flowers and a nice dinner are in order unless you want to start sleeping in the Firebird. Sure she will love it after you fix the brakes and she gets a nice slow sunset ride.

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post #3 of 614 (permalink) Old Jul 31st, 12, 03:34 PM
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Congrats! Keep us up to date on it. Looks like a great car! Can't beat a convertible.

Camaroless for now...
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post #4 of 614 (permalink) Old Jul 31st, 12, 09:34 PM
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Nice! Another firebird thread! Keep the pics coming. Great looking car.
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post #5 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 1st, 12, 04:31 AM
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Great story and nice "Bird"

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post #6 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 2nd, 12, 01:59 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Body Jig:
The car needs a complete restoration. I built a jig to replace the numerous body panels. I chose to buy a set of instructions from Joe Amidio. The plans are can be bought from BelAirBobs Inc. or EBay. The plans come with a spiral bound book that shows the step-by-step instructions. The illustrations are in color. The plans have engineering drawings and cardboard templates. The plans and the descriptions are excellent. It is easy to measure the dimensions between the support posts and frame. You do not need a tram gauge. Most importantly, the body fell on the alignment pins with no problems.

The hard part of mounting the body to the jig was to lift the body high enough in order to roll the jig under the body. Mr. Amidio illustrations show six burly men, standing on icy concrete, lifting the body onto the jig. I did not have any ice, so I had to come up with a different plan.

For a person trying to mount a body on the jig for the first time, it can be a daunting task. If the doors or trunk gaps are not even, try to align them the best that you can. Mark the location of the hinges. The first thing to do is to remove everything from the car. This includes the interior, dash, gas tank, drive shaft, brake lines, fenders, front headlight assembly, steering linkage, etc. The only thing left is the front clip with the engine and transmission are still bolted to the car and the rear axle is still installed. The next thing you need is a lot of space. You will need space for the jig, for what is left of the car that is still sitting on its tires, room for the front clip, and room for the rear axle.

I made a wooden rectangle frame to lift the car using the rocker panels as the contact points. The perimeter of the frame consisted of four, 2x4s, nailed on edge. (That almost 8Ē x 4Ē) The length and width of the frame was about five feet by three feet. You will need to fabricate some wooden blocks give the lifting devices more height since the floor jacks and jack stands will not lift the body high enough by themselves.

Slide the wooden frame under the car behind the front clip. Put the two hydraulic floor jacks under the wooden frame on the narrow sides. Chain the engine hoist to the rear bumper mounting holes. The engine hoist will keep the body from tilting since the back is heavy. Jack up the three hydraulic jacks just enough to put tension on the front clip. Install four jack stands under the rocker panels. Remove one of the floor jacks and install it under the transmission pan. Use a board between the jack and transmission pan to distribute the weight. Remove the four front clip mounting bolts. The body will move up when the last bolt is removed since the jack stands are pushing the body upward. The floor jack under the transmission and the carís two front wheels form a tricycle and the front clip can be rolled forward out of the way. Put a wooden block under the transmission cross member and remove the floor jack. Reposition the floor jack under the wooden frame.

The jack stands that are under the rockers should be raised up a notch each time it is possible. If something goes wrong, hopefully the jack stands will prevent the body from falling. Now remove the rear axle from the leaf springs. Some people might remove the axle and leaf springs as one piece. I was afraid I might get hurt with this method. Continue to raise the car. Roll the axle out of the way when you get the car high enough. Remove the leaf springs. Continue to raise the car. When you get the car high enough, roll the jig under the car. The body has to be perfectly horizontal when it is lowered on the jig. The alignment pins on the jig will not allow the body to drop on the jig at an angle.

Buy your neighbors supper who helped you. Bring your woman out to show her what you accomplished.

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post #7 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 2nd, 12, 02:51 PM
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Great progress. Looks like you definitely have your work cut out for you. Keep the pics coming!
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post #8 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 6th, 12, 02:29 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Driver Rocker Panel:
Now that I got the body on the jig, where do I start? I circled the car for days looking at it. I decided not to cut the panels where the jig mounting points are located. I would replace something outside of the twelve mounting points.

The driver rocker panel was in bad shape. It was almost completely rusted away from the floor pan. It was still solid at the A pillar location. The B pillar had problems. Therefore, I decided to attack this piece first.

The convertible rocker is bulky and heavy. The jigís construction did not have rocker replacement in mind. The jig needed to be modified support the replacement rocker and to align it in its proper location. The first modification was just welding a horizontal bar on the jigís vertical firewall post to support the front part of the rocker. That little piece of metal provides the correct height for the front part of the rocker. It is a back saver because it also provides a pivot point when you install and remove the rocker 20 times.

The next one I copied from other members of this forum. It is a square tube, with an adjustment bolt. I made the square tube too long and the adjustment bolt too short. I have to lower the screw in order to slip the rocker in place. The screw does not drop down enough and the rocker hits the B pillar assembly. If you make one of these, donít make the same mistake as I did. I got tired of fighting the screw and removed it until the final time the rocker was installed.

The third one simply bolts to the seatbelt hole in the rocker. It is removable. It locks the rocker at the correct height, makes sure it is not too far forward or too far back, and it rotates the rocker to the correct position. The only thing wrong with it is that a hole has to be cut in the floor because it has to be lifted up in order to remove it. This is not a problem for me since I will have to replace the floor.

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post #9 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 6th, 12, 02:49 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Sorry about the last post. I am still trying to figure out this computer. I still have not figured out how to insert images in text.

Nothing was welded to the new rocker since everything that connects to it needs to be replaced.
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post #10 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 6th, 12, 05:36 PM
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Great to someone else working on an old bird. I just ordered a set of the jig plans you mentioned and will be putting my 67 bird on the jig as soon as possible.

I look forward to watching you build.
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post #11 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 6th, 12, 06:02 PM
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Great progress so far! Looks like you're well on your way to a new bird! Those rockers look mighty toasty! (almost as toasted as mine were on my '69 coupe...)

Just a tip to keep your garage refrigerator healthy and running for as long as possible... keep the coils extra clean now that you are cutting and grinding and sweeping... LOTS of extra dust will easily cause the fan to suck in excess dust causing your compressor to work overtime. It was advised to me when I bought a frigde for my shop too.

Nice work on the resto! Keep it coming!

'69 Frst Grn V8 Cpe-Building now!
'68 Sequoia Grn V8 Cpe--Building now!(too), '68 Conv. V8 4-spd Builder
'68 6 cyl Coupe, '75 LT350, '79 Berlinetta V6, '79 Z/28, '80 Z28, '81 Z/28, '82 Berlinetta V8,'84 T-top V6, '89 RS V8, +finally a '92 Z/28 T-top in Purple Haze Metallic--...ALL SOLD

Helpful build pics+tips from my restoration:
My build thread:
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post #12 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 7th, 12, 07:42 AM Thread Starter
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Todd, I have been following your posts on your project. You are one of the reasons I decided to tackle a restoration of and old F body. I have right clicked and saved a lot of your photos you posted. I use them for reference and it gives me a guideline on how to tackle this project. I hope you don't mind.

Thank you for posting your good work.

You are right about the dust. It is just not the refrigerators that suck up dirt. I have a Uninterruptable Power Supply on the other side of the garage that sucks up wood shavings and dirt. I have mounted everything that is big and bulky on castors. About twice a year I pull the refrigerators and the UPS out and blow them with my leaf blower. I sweep up the rust droppings at the end of each day. The rest of the junk I blow out the garage with a leaf blower. It makes a cloud of dust.
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post #13 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 13th, 12, 10:10 AM Thread Starter
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

The A pillar is rotten where it connected to the rocker. I ordered a patch panel from Bel Air Bobs.

The patch panel looks good. The fender bolt at the bottom of the panel is smaller than original. There is a large gap between the rocker and the patch panelís lip.

Now here is my dilemma. Where do I cut the original A pillar? I studied other people on this forum build threads. Most of them cut the original metal where it meets the end of the patch panel. Another words, they use the entire patch panel. I was afraid that I might accidently cut off too much metal. Then I would have a big gaping hole between the patch panel and the original metal.
I decided to make my cut under the top hinge mounting holes. These are my reasons: If I cut too much of the original metal, I would have to order another patch panel. I would be out of $60.00 but I will not have to deal with gaping holes. This location might have a little more strength because the hinge mounting plate will be plug welded above and below the patch panelís butt joint. The door hinge might partially hide the weld joint if it is irregular. I would welcome any comments since I have to do the passenger side in the future.
The black line is the top of the patch panel. The white line is where I will cut the original metal.

This is how not to align the patch panel. There are too many clamps! I learned to use the hinge mounting plate that mounts behind the pillar to pull the flat pieces of the metal in alignment. Then all you have to worry about are the outer bends.

I need to close the gap of the patch panel where it meets the rocker. I cut the bottom of the patch panel with a cut off wheel and squeezed the panelís gap together. Then I welded the gap. You can still see the cut between the two white dots. No more gap!

I used some of the scrap patch panel to weld a reinforcement plate behind the butt joint. The surface rust is just one day after sand blasting.

I added more jig reinforcements since the rocker is loose, the cowl panel and firewall, and part of the floor are removed.

I used Evercoat fiberglass filler to smooth out the plug and butt welds.

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post #14 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 13th, 12, 07:13 PM
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Man!, you are not messing around. You are definitely on the right site for getting the resource you need for the project. Keep the progress coming!
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post #15 of 614 (permalink) Old Aug 14th, 12, 05:28 AM
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Re: 1969 Firebird Convertible

Wow, you are moving!!! If you haven't already, check out Brian's website, www.screaminperformance.net He has a ton of pictures of a 68 convertible. It is a great roadmap for convertibles. I reference it all the time. Keep those pics coming!
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