Chapter 13: Interior Fittings
A Mr. Gasket "universal" floor shifter was acquired for $9 on eBay. It came surprisingly well-equipped with a large array of brackets and installation pieces, but still required some major modifications for this particular application. The shifter had to be raised and moved to the right to clear the transmission crossmember and speedometer cable. The shifter rods also had to be cut, bent and re-welded to clear the transmission case and properly operate the shift levers. The mounting brackets are a combination of kit parts and handmade pieces (Photo 13-1 to 13-3).
(Note to readers who may question the quality of such an inexpensive shifter: after many months of driving, the unit has proven to be fairly smooth and trouble-free. It is NOT, however, designed for racing or speed shifting - due to its very long "throw" and imprecise lever action. But, for normal cruising and everyday use, it has been quite adequate - especially considering the price tag.)
Floor skeleton and seat installation
|A skeleton made of 1x1 and 1x2 tubing is formed around the transmission and driveshaft to support the flooring sheet metal (Photo 13-4). While the skeleton is still exposed, the bucket seat mounts are positioned, and holes are drilled for bolting the seats to the floor (Photo 13-5 to 13-7).|
Floor sheet metal
Beginning at the front passenger side of the cockpit, patterns are made and then the sheet metal panels are cut and welded to the skeleton (Photo 13-8). Note that the floor sections located under the seats have their sheet metal installed on the underside of the skeleton rather than over the top of the skeleton (Photo 13-9). This is to gain just a little additional headroom in the car. As it turned out, this was not worth the extra work for this particular vehicle, since there was ample headroom once the car was finished. However, this trick can be utilized for heavily chopped or channeled cars.
Many hot rods have fairly tight quarters inside the cockpit, and this can be particularly noticeable with standard transmissions. To gain a bit of leg room to operate the clutch in this car, a "foot box" was created along the driver's side door and kick panel. This is a trick used by many T-bucket builders. The box is designed so that the driver can slip the heel of his or her left foot down into this extra space while driving or shifting ( Photos 13-10 and 13-11). Photo 13-12 shows the box being tried out for size.
Transmission and driveshaft tunnel
|The transmission tunnel is designed to be removable, so a few additional fabrication steps are required beyond normal tunnel construction. To begin, a "lip" is bent to fit around the firewall opening. The lip is 3/4" wide flat stock and is drilled and tapped for 1/4" machine screws (Photo 13-13). The lip is welded to the firewall, and will become the mounting base for the forward section of the transmission tunnel (Photo 13-14).|
|The actual tunnel fabrication begins with measuring and cutting three sheet metal sections and welding them to fit over the transmission tailshaft, and to enclose the shifter mechanism and emergency brake (Photo 13-15). Three more panels are then cut and welded to fit over the gearbox and shifter arms (Photo 13-16). Note also that tabs have been welded to the bottom edge of the panels so that the tunnel can be screwed to the floorboard.|
|A second hoop (arrow) is formed from flat stock to fit over the "lip" already welded to the firewall. This second hoop is marked and drilled so that it can be fastened to the first lip with screws (Photo 13-17). Using posterboard patterns as a guide, the final sections of sheet metal are cut and welded, to bridge from the lower portion of the tunnel to the firewall attachment hoop (Photo 13-18).|
Construction of the driveshaft tunnel begins by fabricating a short "connection box" (arrow "A") as shown in Photo 13-19. This box will be welded to the driveshaft tunnel, but screwed to the transmission tunnel. This will allow the transmission tunnel to be removed and installed as a separate piece from the driveshaft tunnel. The top of the driveshaft tunnel (arrow "B") is then cut, curved and tack welded to the "box".
The sides of the tunnel are then measured, cut, and welded in place along with a mounting strip (arrow), which runs around the perimeter of the tunnel and is screwed to the floor structure to allow for easy removal (Photo 13-20). Photo 13-21 shows the completed driveshaft tunnel.
The emergency brake mechanism from the donor F-100 can be used for the project, but it must be modified to fit. In its stock configuration, this unit is mounted under the dash by the kick panel, and is operated with a foot pedal. To move it between the seats where it will fit our interior much better, the unit must be mounted upside-down and backwards to operate correctly.
To allow the mechanism to fit in this new position, sections of the backing plate need to be cut away, and two new mounting "feet" (arrows) added, so that the unit can be bolted to the chassis (Photo 13-22). Photo 13-23 shows the e-brake unit (arrow "A") now mounted upside-down and backwards. You will also note that the original foot pedal (arrow "B") has been cut off so that it can be hand-operated. A section of 1x1 tubing is welded perpendicular to the "stub" of the foot pedal, so that the new pull handle ("C") can be centered over the transmission tailshaft. The pull handle is an interior door handle from the F-100 donor.
Photo 13-24 provides a driver's side view of the e-brake. The arrow points to the remaining "stub" of the foot pedal, which is now connected to the hand lever for operation.
Seat belt mounting
To mount the center buckles for the three-point retractable seat belts, a hoop is fabricated from 1 1/2" x 1/4" flat stock to loop over the driveshaft tunnel (Photo 13-25). The hoop is bolted to a main 1x2 body framing member and "ears" are welded on the top to attach the seat belts (Photo 13-26). Photo 13-27 shows a center seat belt buckle attached to the hoop bracket.
|The seat belt retractors are mounted to a small tab cut from 1/4" flat stock, and welded to a floor frame member just behind the outside rear corner of the seat. Once we are certain that the retractor will fit properly in this position, a gusset is added to the 1x1 floor frame member to tie it into the main 1x2 framing member shown at the arrow in Photo 13-28. Photo 13-29 shows the retractor being test-fit.|
|The "shoulder" mount for the seat belt is cut from 2x2 angle iron, and is welded to a main member of the body skeleton (Photo 13-30). Photo 13-31 shows the shoulder mount attachment, and the completed seat belt installation.|
|The dashboard is comprised of four pieces, as shown in the illustration at Photo 13-32: the "dash top", a rolled front edge, the dash "face" and a lower edge or "lip" which defines and supports the bottom edge of the dash. Photo 13-33 jumps ahead in the fabrication to show these components as they will look closer to completion, so that the reader can better visualize and identify these parts as they are discussed during these earlier steps of the fabrication. The dash is designed to be removable. Also, it should be noted that the "dash top" also acts as the lower support for the windshield, holding the bottom of the windshield tight against the outer frame of the windshield. This may help explain some of the fabrication steps.|
The dash top
The dash top is a 2" wide length of 1/8" flat stock. It extends horizontally from the windshield into the cockpit. The dash top will house the defroster vents, and will have a curved front edge made from steel pipe.
To begin, eight mounting brackets are cut from 1x1 angle iron, and then drilled and tapped for 1/4" bolts (Photo 13-34). The brackets are welded to the bottom edge of the windshield crossmember (Photo 13-35). Note that each bracket is set into the cockpit 1/4", leaving a "ledge" (arrow) for the windshield to rest on. A short strip of butyl caulk will be laid on top of each "ledge" when the windshield is installed, to protect the glass from potential stress cracks.
Next the "dash top" is cut to length from 2" wide flat stock, and clamped to the top of the windshield crossmember so that it follows the exact same contour (Photo 13-36). Eight "attachment tabs" (Photo 13-37) are cut and drilled with oversize holes, so that they can be bolted to our eight mounting brackets, but will have some slack for upward and downward adjustment. Each of these attachment tabs is then mounted as shown in Photo 13-38, and adjusted upward or downward until snug up against the bottom of the dash top. The 1/4" bolt for each tab is then tightened securely to hold the tab firmly in that position.
Next, the clamps are removed and the dash top is taken away, leaving the eight attachment tabs locked in place. The top edges of these tabs now define the precise contour we want the dash top to follow (Photo 10-39).
Using the defrost "funnels" from our heater kit (Photo 13-40), the dash top is marked, and defrost vents are cut open (Photo 13-41). The dash top is then repositioned on the attachment tabs, only this time the top is slid 1/4" in from the windshield crossmember, and 1/4" spacers (arrows) are inserted between the windshield crossmember and the dash top (13-42). This space between the dash top and the crossmember is to allow for the windshield glass and a thin butyl seal to be fitted in place.
|The eight attachment tabs are then welded to the bottom side of the dash top. With the tabs welded and the clamps removed, the dash top now looks like Photo 13-43. An overhead view (Photo 13-44) shows the space left for the windshield glass (arrow "A") and the two defroster vents (arrows "B").|
Rolled front edge
The rolled front edge of the dash top is created by bending 1" black pipe to the same contour as the dash top (Photo 13-45). The pipe is then clamped to the dash top (Photo 13-46) and welded in place (Photo 13-47). A small filler section is welded inside each end of the pipe, so that the pipe end can be rounded off with a grinder.
The "face" of the dashboard is cut from sheet metal stock and temporarily clamped in place (Photo 13-48). Using paper taped to the face, a number of different gauge arrangements can be tried out (Photo 13-49). Once satisfied with the placement of the gauges and other dash items, the appropriate holes are cut in the sheet metal (Photo 13-50).
Lower supporting lip
|The lower edge of the dash cannot be left as just raw sheet metal. An edging or "lip" must be created to finish off this lower area and provide additional strength. We also want to curve each lower corner of the dash to create a cleaner look. The lower supporting lip is created from three separate sections of 1" x 1/8" flat stock (Photo 13-51). The two corner curves are bent to match each other, and then the curve outlines are traced onto the dash face and cut out (Photo 13-52).|
|The lip is then clamped for welding, (Photo 13-53) and the lip is welded to the face and the beads ground smooth (Photo 13-54).|
|The gauges are installed in the dash to ensure that they fit, (Photo 13-55) but are removed again to provide access behind the dash while other fabrication work inside the car is completed. The lower section of the dash is then re-installed in the car (Photo 13-56). The dash is permanently held in place with a 1/4" bolt inserted through the lip on each end of the dash. These bolts thread into tapped holes in each windshield post. The top edge of the face is held in place between the rolled front top edge and three small, evenly spaced tabs, which are welded on the underside of the dash top. This allows the dash face to be removed by simply unscrewing the two end bolts and gently pulling the face downward.|
The framework for the overhead console is created from flat stock. Note the mounting strip (arrow) running along the top edge of the console, which is flat up against the roof structure (Photo 13-57). This strip is for securing the front edge of the headliner. You will also note that the framework has been pre-drilled and tapped for screws which will mount an upholstered wooden faceplate. This faceplate will hold the CD player.
The bottom of the console will house the stereo speakers, and will also be the mounting point for the rearview mirror. Other views of the console framework are shown in Photos 13-58 and 13-59.
Removable toe board
On the passenger side of the cockpit, the toe board area is being used to house a number of electrical components, as well as plumbing for the heater box and A/C evaporator. The toe board itself acts as a "false front" to hide these components. To gain access to this area, the toe board will be removable.
|Photo 13-60 shows the square-tube framework for the removable toe board. Two bolts (arrows) will run through the floorboard and secure the toe board in place. Photo 13-61 shows the toe board frame installed to check for clearances. This shot also shows the evil maze of plumbing and electrical items, which will be hidden behind the panel.|
Sheet metal sections are welded to the toe board framework (Photo 13-62), and the completed unit is again tested to ensure that it fits (Photo 13-63). Photo 13-64 provides another view of the completed toe board.
Since there are no actual door handles, door pulls will be provided instead. These simple chromed handles were about $7 each at the local hardware store (Photo 13-65).
The handles are made to be held in place by screws from the back side. Since we will not have access to the back side once the upholstered door panels are installed, the first order of business is to drill a mounting hole through each end of the pull. A backing plate is then cut from flat stock, and drilled with holes to match the holes in the door pull. Nuts are welded onto the back side of the plate. The backing plate is then welded to the lower bar of the window frame (Photo 13-66).
Photo 13-67 shows a pull installed on its backing plate. In its final configuration, the pull will be seated on the upholstered interior door panel, and the mounting screws will run through the panel to the backing plate behind it.
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