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    Thread: Building the Ultimate 1983 Rabbit GTI (vw mk1)?

    1. 05-12-2013 01:32 AM #51
      I was new to MIG welding when I took up this project and have learned a lot by watching Internet videos, DVDs, reading and practice welding. Here's a short list of things I have sorted out:

      1. Calibrate your MIG welder wire speed by timing how much wire comes out in 6 seconds (and then 10x for the per minute rate) for each major increment.
      2. Set your amperage at about 1amp per 0.001" thickness: 40amps for 20 gauge metal
      3. Use 0.023" wire and run about 3.5" per minute wire speed per amp: 120" per minute for 20 gauge metal
      4. Practice and fine tune your amps and wire speed: look for enough amps to get decent penetration but not so much that you easily burn through the sheet metal. Get that nice bacon frying sound by playing with your wire speed.
      5. Use copper backing when-ever possible when butt welding
      6. Use overlapping sheets of metal when you can get away with doing so
      7. When you have to butt weld, spend a lot of time getting the edges to touch everywhere and file the edges so that they aren't too rough as otherwise the edges burn back and set up conditions for burn-through
      8. Putting heat into sheet metal causes it to warp. When liquid metal cools it also contracts and will pull the metal. Therefore try and wick away the heat with copper backing and/or use compressed air after 1/2" of welding to cool the panel.
      9. Stitch weld when you are at risk of burn-through. Try 1 second on/1 second off. Essentially you are looking to start the next pulse just as the metal cools enough to not be bright red. Be aware that pulse welding may not put enough heat into the metal to give quality penetration.
      10. If you are grinding the weld flush after welding be aware that you risk weakening the joint if you grind completely flush. Try grinding it back and leaving a small bump and then using body filler to smooth it out - this give the appearance you are looking for without the risk of a weak joint from too much grinding.
      11. When you are welding vertically you will need to turn up the wire speed somewhat in order to keep the welding quality up. Increasing the speed will increase the amps (by lowering the resistance) and the additional weld material will help you get the vertical welding quality you need. Welding overhead is a bitch - you'll get molten metal all over yourself - be aware that you can really injure yourself so avoid this or minimize this.
      12. When you get into position practice the weld motion before actually completing the weld. You may have to adjust you position.
      13. Rest one hand on the metal to to welded and support the other hand/gun. Get your head/eyes within 6-8" of the weld. It is easier to see what you are doing by pushing the weld, rather than pulling it. Have your gun tip fairly close to the material, as in within 1/2". Keep within 20 degrees of vertical position with the gun tip to the metal. Cut the wire to about 1/4" sticking out of the gun each time you weld. You will get cleaner 'starts' after a clean cut.
      14. When turning up the amps to weld thicker material, you might have to turn up the wire speed more than you think: if you get a 'pop' and the wire has burned all the way back you know your wire speed is too low.
      15. You can play with the weld temperature by adjusting the gun tip distance to the metal surface. As you pull back you are increasing the resistance and lowering the amps (and the heat). If you need to fill in small holes or burn-through mistakes you can try pulse welding from up to 1" away at a 45 degree angle to the edge of the hole. What you are trying to do is deposit a small amount of weld, let it cool, and then deposit some more. This often makes for a cold/weak weld but then you can go over the area with more weld/heat and fuse it together better as a final pass after the hole has been filled. It doesn't always work out well but often does. Having a copper backing plate will make filling holes a lot easier and more successful.
      16. Double check all of your welder settings and make sure that the wire is feeding correctly and you have proper shielding gas flow when things start to get nasty. I have found that the settings have sometimes been accidentally changed by bumping into them or equipment is not working correctly.
      17. Clean your weld surfaces prior to welding and use pre-paint prep to remove any oils/contaminants. Any paint will screw things up too. Weld-thru primer is ugly. If you have to use it, stick to the back side of the metal and grind if off where you are actually trying to weld. Seriously.
      18. Make double sure that you have a solid ground to the metal.
      19. Always start your weld on the thicker material, establish a quality weld pool and then move to the other metal surface. When you have materials of equal thickness, start on the metal with the better ground and move to the other surface.
      20. Use a bright light that can be focused on the area to be welded. It really helps. Weld outdoors in the sunlight if possible! Use an auto darkening helmet. If you use reading glasses to read use them when welding too. Good visibility is critical to welding quality/success.
      21. Clean your MIG gun tip every so often and use the MIG anti-splatter grease on all parts of your copper tip - keep it looking spotless, inside and out.

      That's the majority of it. Be calm, don't forget to breath while you are welding, and if you start screwing things up, take a break, calm down, check your complete setup, and if you still are having problems, go back to welding on some scrap material to see if you are doing something wrong ... it is usually unclean metal, the wrong settings or a bad ground ...
      Last edited by Derek Spratt; 05-12-2013 at 01:41 AM.

    2. 05-20-2013 02:08 AM #52
      I finally completed the metalwork in the front engine bay area, the engine bay smoothing task, and the initiation of the front-to-rear frame connector welding process - the web site has been updated with new photos and a video of the work done ...

    3. 05-20-2013 03:18 AM #53
      Been watching your progress for a few weeks now. looks great. I remember seeing your Chevelle out at Pro Gas many years ago, if this turns out anywhere near as nice it will be something special. Look forward to seeing another Gti cruising around Vancouver.

    4. 05-20-2013 02:47 PM #54
      One of the things that I wanted to do differently with my GTI project was be far more 'hands on' in terms of executing on the project.

      My Chevelle was a high dollar effort with many people and firms contributing to everything from the engine design and build-up, to the chassis, wiring, paint, etc. I did the Chevelle project when I had small children at home, a very demanding job as CEO of a public company, and I was always feeling rushed and disconnected from the project. I had high goals and in fact created a 40 page plan for the car that targeted 700hp from 502cid, normally aspirated, in full street trim - kinda like my GTI specs now. A high performance street car that was true to its roots. But I made the mistake of putting in a 300hp nitrous system and as soon as we got to the track in 1999 and ran a low 10s pass at almost 130mph just 'on the motor' alone, I wanted to get into the 9s and with the nitrous we ran mid 9s at 140mph - and then I wanted to get into the 8s, and so on. So the car kept on getting faster and more extreme, and less road-worthy, but we did end up winning as Canada's fastest street car on 10" DOT tires in late 1999 with a 9.1s pass at almost 160mph.

      I was getting bummed out about the direction of the Chevelle project as it was no longer suitable as a street car so I started with Danny at Pro Gas on a full-on race car project (our S-10 pro-stock truck which was capable of 6s/200mph passes at the track) and I started the process of reversing the Chevelle race capabilities and building what I wanted: around 750hp on the motor and 1000hp on nitrous, but with digital fuel injection. The long story is that I ran into business challenges in late 2001 with the meltdown of the tech markets (the dot-com bubble) and I was also really unhappy about the S-10 project, which was something I didn't participate in most weekends at the track as I was too distracted on other things, and I realized that I didn't really want a pure race car that I wasn't even licensed to drive (I needed a special license to run faster than 7.5s and it is dangerous stuff too).

      So I went AWOL and sold off everything: S-10, tools, motor-home, trailer, and even the Chevelle. I just woke up one day and said 'I'm done'. And more than a decade later I think I made the right decision - except for selling the Chevelle, which I do partially regret, although I think I am in a better place mentally with my GTI project now.

      My GTI project is all me: in my garage, not 45 minutes from home, with myself doing almost everything from metal to paint, and having my dad and my youngest son helping me. It is bliss. I am getting back to my roots, paying respect to my past, working on a car that was and will again be pure magic to my soul, and a car that ties into my marriage, which my Chevelle and S-10 certainly did not do.

      I am approaching the GTI with a clear eye to keeping the look of the car OEM (except under the hood and under the car). I am keeping the street manners in mind, and I am mindful that stuffing in a huge power plant isn't where I want to go. I always wanted more power in my original GTI and I know that the 2L 16V motor will have more revs and more top-end power but the torque won't be extreme and in the end it should 'feel right' for the A1 chassis.

      There is a bit of the Chevelle in this project, but in a way that is more mature. This GTI will have similar fit and finish - only better. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now with the welding coming to an end in the next month. Bodywork and paint this summer and then assembly this fall. Yippie!
      Last edited by Derek Spratt; 05-20-2013 at 02:51 PM.

    5. Member BikeMutts's Avatar
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      05-20-2013 03:04 PM #55
      This is awesome. So subscribed!!!


      Sent from my iPhone 5 using Tapatalk 2

    6. 06-04-2013 01:27 PM #56
      Well, after a lot of cursing and re-calculation I have finally managed to get the unibody sheet metal areas under the doors to be straight/in alignment, and have welded in the first driver side rectangular tube front-rear frame rail, floor pan and additional bracing members. I will get the passenger side work done over the next several days and then will post photos and a video covering this major step forward in the completion of the over-all welding/chassis development ... (there were lots of challenges and lessons learned but the bottom line is that it has all turned out beautifully so I am tired but happy!). Stay tuned ...

    7. 06-10-2013 02:55 AM #57
      After yet more cutting, welding, bending, banging, crashing, cursing and swearing, today I managed to finish getting both front-to-rear 1.5"x1" rectangular tube frame connectors installed correctly (after pre-aligning the body prior), as well as installing both floor pans and additional OEM floor pan bracing, plus some nifty new 'lift points' that will allow me (or anyone else that is servicing the car) to safely lift the car without damaging the unibody sheet metal ... I have posted a few photos and a new video on my web site covering this work.

    8. 06-19-2013 11:36 PM #58
      Check out my new carbon fiber bodywork photos:
      http://derekspratt.com/HTML/Automoti..._Bodywork.html

      I just got back from the UK and brought back the beautiful and extremely light weight carbon fibre body panels and bumpers made by LWS Design for this project. I am super impressed with their customer service as they hand delivered everything to me at the airport before 7am this morning at no charge! The full set of scratch resistance polycarbonate windows will ship separately later this summer. I have also posted a video.

    9. Member foxygrandpa's Avatar
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      06-20-2013 12:17 AM #59
      Wow this is going to be one amazing car when you are done. I dig your taste in cars (looked on your web site) I wish I could afford a supra like your old one but I'm a broke 25 year old haha. It's just refreshing to know that out of all of the power machines you've owned that you want to build a little old gti haha. Thanks for sharing thus far.

    10. 06-25-2013 01:35 AM #60
      Any time you try and MIG weld thin sheet metal you risk 'blow-thru' and this is especially true with older vehicle sheet metal where there has been some rust. I wanted to try my hand at MIG 'brazing' using the same modern European techniques that are required when working with thin boron doped high strength steel panels and/or zinc plated panels - in either case MIG welding puts too much heat into the base metal and both weakens it and vaporizes the protective Zinc coating. So I managed to source some 0.035" diameter MIG brazing wire and adjusted the settings on my welder to lower the wire feed speed but keep the voltage/temperature setting the same as for my 0.023" dia mild steel wire. It worked! The bronze flowed into the gaps and in between the overlapped metal on the lower rear quarter panel patch and I did not once blow-thru the base metal. Highly recommended for sheet metal restoration work ... - June 24, 2013

      One awesome feature of MIG brazing is the ability to sand off the excess bronze without impacting the base steel panels ... (you need to punch some small holes or slots in the top sheet that overlays the lower sheet to allow for deeper flow of the brazing material. Yes, you can butt weld sheet metal but you need to provide enough of a gap to allow the filler material to flow thru and create a bead on the reverse side - think of the bronze filler material as a type of steel 'glue').

      I also found enough time this weekend to weld in additional heavy gauge sheet metal around the rear axle beam mounting points to stiffen/strengthen this area of the chassis ...

      Updated photos and videos on my web site at:

      http://www.derekspratt.com/HTML/Auto...2_Chassis.html

      http://www.derekspratt.com/HTML/Auto..._2_Videos.html

    11. 07-11-2013 01:58 AM #61
      After doing quite a bit of MIG brazing I am more impressed with its capabilities and versatility than ever. I put a lot more time over the past 2 weeks brazing plus I completed the remaining major chassis stiffening/fabrication work via the installation of the remaining interior chassis stiffening components.

      Updated photos and videos on my web site at:

      http://www.derekspratt.com/HTML/Auto...2_Chassis.html

      http://www.derekspratt.com/HTML/Auto..._2_Videos.html

    12. Member
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      07-11-2013 06:54 AM #62
      does the brazing process that you are using require shielding gas? I am wondering if I could run brazing wire thru my junky little flux core welder.

    13. 07-11-2013 08:57 AM #63
      The recommended gas is 100% argon but I used 75/25 mix which seems to work OK. I would assume that without any gas at all you might need to clean up the brazing more but my guess is that you would be ok. The next time I load up the brazing wire I'll try it w/o gas and will let you know ...

    14. 08-11-2013 01:34 AM #64
      Chassis welding is complete and now I have managed to get the under carriage primed with epoxy primer ...

      Updated photo on my web site at:
      http://derekspratt.com/HTML/Automoti..._Bodywork.html

      Updated video on my web site at:
      http://derekspratt.com/HTML/Automoti..._2_Videos.html

    15. Member
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      08-11-2013 05:29 PM #65
      The underside came out really well!

      Consider creating drainage holes in the floor beams, as trapped condensation could be a problem.

    16. Member rabbit_rot's Avatar
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      08-11-2013 06:55 PM #66
      Nicely done

    17. Junior Member JAG71's Avatar
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      Past: 80 Rabbit, 03 Passat, 04 GTI Present: 08 R32
      08-16-2013 09:56 AM #67
      Curious why you didn't go with carbon or fiber front wings, since you chose carbon for the bonnet, tailgate and bumpers...structural reasons? Fit up concerns?

      The thoroughness in which you're executing your plan is impressive and it's absolutely appreciated that your taking the time to document the work and share the details.

      Looking forward to following your project, learning along the way and watching you achieve your goals.

    18. Member 8v-of-fury's Avatar
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      08-16-2013 10:17 AM #68
      NICE CAR, and to top it off.. you look like Steve Martin

    19. Member Blade3562's Avatar
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      08-16-2013 02:34 PM #69
      Quote Originally Posted by JAG71 View Post
      Curious why you didn't go with carbon or fiber front wings, since you chose carbon for the bonnet, tailgate and bumpers...structural reasons? Fit up concerns?
      If you look at the hood an hatch the used the inner metal skin with a carbon fiber outer skin. The fendwr would have to be an entire custom piece would be ridiculous in cost! I would personally have done the doors. You can do a tone of weight reduction lightening your doors.

    20. Member blackbunny's Avatar
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      08-16-2013 04:05 PM #70
      Quote Originally Posted by Blade3562 View Post
      If you look at the hood an hatch the used the inner metal skin with a carbon fiber outer skin. The fendwr would have to be an entire custom piece would be ridiculous in cost! I would personally have done the doors. You can do a tone of weight reduction lightening your doors.
      it doesn't look like metal to me more like fiberglass

    21. 08-18-2013 06:37 PM #71
      Since my last update on August 10th I have applied body filler to all of the under carriage welding seams, sanded it down, and then applied more 2 part epoxy primer, then applied seam sealer only to the areas where there were actual gaps in the seams/metalwork (seam sealer can promote rusting if water can get behind it so it is better to avoid over doing it), then I applied rubberized undercoating in the rear wheel wells and the very back corners of the under carriage where the wheels will throw up rocks and dirt, which will eventually be painted silver aka OEM look, but again, I won't apply under coating anywhere else (I will use some interior sound deadening material under the carpets to control road noise rather than mess up a lot of nice clean sheet metal). I will now work on the rest of the chassis and then when everywhere else is up to this level I will re-apply epoxy, then 2K high build primer, then block sand where appropriate, then epoxy as a sealer, then silver base coat and then clear coats, in that order

      Updated photos on my web site at:
      http://derekspratt.com/HTML/Automoti..._Bodywork.html

      Updated video on my web site at:
      http://derekspratt.com/HTML/Automoti..._2_Videos.html

    22. Member
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      08-18-2013 06:44 PM #72
      beautiful

    23. 08-18-2013 06:53 PM #73
      I agree that keeping air flow in the hidden channels is a priority, no different than creating air flow in the roof of a house, etc. For that reason I think I will leave all under carriage access holes open as per OEM and instead of re-taping them in the interior I will keep them open, under the carpet. I don't plan on running the GTI in the rain if I can help it, and when I get caught out in the weather I will make sure the car dries fully in the garage, etc. I am going to spray wax sealer inside all of the channels after painting, again, aka OEM/Ziebart. The OEM side channel drip holes had been plugged up with Ziebart on my car and were really tiny so likely didn't function well in any vw mk1s. I am not sure about drilling holes although I will inspect the channels a few times a year to see what is going on down there ...

      I didn't spec in carbon front fenders/wings as they are only available in Euro headlight designs and I just didn't feel the desire to get into a big re-fiberglassing project to modify them. The stock fenders weigh just under 9lbs each so I just didn't think all of the cost and effort would be worth saving maybe 10lbs total ...

      I am documenting this project for a bunch of selfish and selfless reasons: it helps motivate me to do a good/proper job when I know I am being watched; I have done a lot of projects in the past and except for a few photos I just don't have a good record of all of that historical effort (not entirely true as my 2 race car projects had their own web sites for a while); but most importantly, the social networking side of this project on vwvortex and my web site provides me with important feedback/knowledge as well as a source for parts and other tricky solutions: I have been contacted with offers of parts that have made the project better, etc.

      I will build a section on my web site with credits to everyone who helped me, and all of the vendors/sources of parts, materials, etc.

    24. Junior Member JAG71's Avatar
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      08-23-2013 08:48 AM #74
      Thanks for addressing my questions, much appreciated.

    25. Member blackbunny's Avatar
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      08-23-2013 05:59 PM #75
      Quote Originally Posted by Blade3562 View Post
      If you look at the hood an hatch the used the inner metal skin with a carbon fiber outer skin. The fendwr would have to be an entire custom piece would be ridiculous in cost! I would personally have done the doors. You can do a tone of weight reduction lightening your doors.
      Quote Originally Posted by blackbunny View Post
      it doesn't look like metal to me more like fiberglass
      Are there metal support braces in the hood and hatch? Or is it all carbon fiber/ fiberglass?
      Also I think I am in love with your car just don't tell the wife she may get mad

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