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A few questions about my chassis

Zenny

New member
Pictured is a weird metal siding on the floor pan. Am I correct in assuming that this was an attempt at dropping the floor pan? It is attached only with rubber sealant, so it should be relatively easy to take off. Are there any hard to reach carriage bolts that I should be aware of that aren't visible inside of the tub?
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letterman7

Honorary Admin
Yep, that's an attempt at lowering the seats. Only rubber sealant? Geez... they had great hopes in that it would hold... but it looks like it did! The 'carriage bolts' - no need to mess with those. They go through the perimeter frame and hold the body to the chassis. If you cut into or remove any of those, it will weaken the entire structure. The body of a Sterling is an integral part of the stiffening of the entire car. Now, that said, you can remove the floor pans all the way to the spot welds on the tunnel and perimeter frame and do a full length drop to gain a bunch more legroom. Since you're that far into it, I would highly recommend that. You can even "square off" the rear of the tunnel to gain even that extra few inches that makes all the difference when choosing a seat. Just make sure your welds are sturdy though - the tunnel is the very backbone of the car. And keep a wet towel handy if you're not pulling the body to work on the chassis - fiberglass doesn't like hot welds millimeters away....
 

Zenny

New member
Okay, thank you. I was thinking that I should remove all of them because I was going to try and get the entire body off of the frame so that I could assess the entire frame and likely replace the entire floor pan as they are Rusty in places. If you don't think it's necessary to remove the entire body in order to do that then I won't do it.
 

letterman7

Honorary Admin
Well, the advantages of removing the body are obvious - you can renew everything on it since it'll be easily accessible. I just didn't know what your immediate plans were. But certainly - if your plans are to inspect and upgrade the frame, then by all means remove the body. Those perimeter bolts are nutted from underneath - limber holes in the frame allow access. But they are likely rusted tight.. you may wind up grinding the top of the heads off and hammer punching them through from the top. New pan bolts are available from any VW parts supplier. You'll have 2 more bolts up front at the frame head. If your side panels (the lower scoops) are attached, you'll need to remove those if they haven't been glassed on. Same with the front undertray and the rear valance (though technically the rear valance can stay - just makes it easier to get past the engine if it's off).
 

Zenny

New member
Well, the advantages of removing the body are obvious - you can renew everything on it since it'll be easily accessible. I just didn't know what your immediate plans were. But certainly - if your plans are to inspect and upgrade the frame, then by all means remove the body. Those perimeter bolts are nutted from underneath - limber holes in the frame allow access. But they are likely rusted tight.. you may wind up grinding the top of the heads off and hammer punching them through from the top. New pan bolts are available from any VW parts supplier. You'll have 2 more bolts up front at the frame head. If your side panels (the lower scoops) are attached, you'll need to remove those if they haven't been glassed on. Same with the front undertray and the rear valance (though technically the rear valance can stay - just makes it easier to get past the engine if it's off).
Sorry, should have said that. It's almost impossible for me to access a lot of the nuts from the underside, so I'm probably just going to have to grind all of the heads off and punch them through. Side panels are poorly glassed in the front wheel wells, so they shouldn't be too hard to remove. I don't know why I never bothered to look before so I'm seeing just how much some of the parts are attached to the tub, so it will be a bit tougher than I was initially imagining, but I think it's doable. There's a strange mystery radiator underneath the floor pan right under the shifter and parking brake, do you have any idea what it could possibly have been for? I think there's a tube running to the rear oil cooler but I can't exactly tell, and there's another tube running up to the front of the car under the steering box. Not sure how an old AC system could have worked, but is it possible that it is part of an AC unit?
 

letterman7

Honorary Admin
Photos would help. There is an aftermarket A/C system that uses the evaporator mounted to the floor pan, so it's entirely possible at one time the car had A/C. Take your time splitting the fiberglass where it's bonded - there should be bolts holding everything together internally.. and the side panels will take a lot of contorting to reach.
 

Zenny

New member
There's the 3 images I took yesterday. I got them right as I was leaving for work and wasn't able to make sure those are the same lines, but judging by where they came from I am almost 100% sure that they're the same. I don't think I'll have time to look at it in daylight until Friday due to work and school. Off topic question, but has anyone tried to use Pneumatic Rams for lifting the canopy?
 

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letterman7

Honorary Admin
Definitely refrigerant lines and a condenser unit for A/C. What's that yellow bottle-jack thing? Pneumatic rams: yes, with disastrous results. It's extremely difficult to modulate pneumatics for a smooth rise and fall. In the one owner's case, it twisted the canopy and snapped the windshield.
 

Zenny

New member
Oh okay, definite no for that, then. The yellow thing is a Monroe Max HP-4831 air shock. What do most people use to lift the canopy? I was looking at the Sebring and think it might be hydraulic but I'm not sure what Sterling owners went with.
 

letterman7

Honorary Admin
Hydraulics are the most common. Early cars came with manual lifts with huge garage door springs doing the hard work. Some guys have put in linear actuators, but they can be painfully slow.
 

Zenny

New member
I had been having a hard time finding out how to remove all of the screws holding the side skirts on until I checked the side glove boxes. The guy who built this before put insulation in the sides which I'm assuming is fiberglass. How do you recommend I remove it? Also, do you have any other ideas for where the body would be held to the chassis? We have removed the gas tank mounts, carriage bolts, several things that were drilled through and mounted the bits of the chassis. The only things we can really tell now are some Bondo on the floor pan, some Bondo on the outside of the tub on the front end of the chassis, and some Bondo on the tub connected to the back part of the chassis.
 

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letterman7

Honorary Admin
Oof... In cars this old. stuff starts to stick. Just pull the fiberglass out (and associated rodent nests... you know they're there). The nuts and bolts look pretty well rusted up, which is very common. If you can reach all the nuts with a cut-off wheel or even a die grinder (hold onto both of those with a death grip - any slip is going to cause great bodily injury), I'd simply grind/cut the nuts off and try to tap the bolt out from the top. Alternately, a thin metal cutting sawz-all blade from the outside along the seam. The only places it *should* have a mechanical connection are the pan rails along the outside and two points on top of the beam at the front under the hood. Even those aren't used all the time, so don't be surprised if nothing is there. The under tray (under the nose) doesn't necessarily need to come off, but it makes handling the body a little easier. Every owner (and owner thereafter) does his or her own thing - you'll need to sleuth a bit to see if anything is "stuck" from the body to the chassis proper. It is very, very common for the body to be literally stuck to the rubber gasket along the pan... careful applications of wood wedges along that seam will help break that seal.
 

Zenny

New member
Oof... In cars this old. stuff starts to stick. Just pull the fiberglass out (and associated rodent nests... you know they're there). The nuts and bolts look pretty well rusted up, which is very common. If you can reach all the nuts with a cut-off wheel or even a die grinder (hold onto both of those with a death grip - any slip is going to cause great bodily injury), I'd simply grind/cut the nuts off and try to tap the bolt out from the top. Alternately, a thin metal cutting sawz-all blade from the outside along the seam. The only places it *should* have a mechanical connection are the pan rails along the outside and two points on top of the beam at the front under the hood. Even those aren't used all the time, so don't be surprised if nothing is there. The under tray (under the nose) doesn't necessarily need to come off, but it makes handling the body a little easier. Every owner (and owner thereafter) does his or her own thing - you'll need to sleuth a bit to see if anything is "stuck" from the body to the chassis proper. It is very, very common for the body to be literally stuck to the rubber gasket along the pan... careful applications of wood wedges along that seam will help break that seal.
Okay, thank you. I didn't even think to check when I bought mine as it was night when I picked it up but I am actually missing the underside of the nose. Do you think at some point I could get rough dimensions to make my own or even buy an extra off of someone here?
 

letterman7

Honorary Admin
Those parts are available new from the company. Unfortunately I don't have a "stock" car here to measure, but I'm sure someone will pipe up if they have a parts car laying around.
 

farfegnubbin

Site Owner
Staff member
Save up and treat yourself to a new (or used) under-nose section when you can. That piece would be very, very tricky to sculpt from scratch. There are more fun ways to spend your time on the car. (Like wedging the body off and old chassis.) 🙂
 

Peter

Active member
Just read through your thread and it looks like you are trying to evaluate ALL the problems at once, DON?T do it.

Clear you mind of all the problems until you have a clear view of what is really needed, First job, get that body OFF, there is so much to do to the chassis that until that is a reconditioned roller there is little point in worrying about front under trays etc, Angle grinder with a 1mm disc and cut the side off or you will be there all month, it sounds brutal but fiber glass is easy to fix and you will need to get friendly with that stuff.
Once you have a clear view of the rolling chassis you will see there is a lot more than you see now.

When dropping the floors the best is the wedge design where the front is a continues slope to a 3· or 4· rear panel, if welded to the extreme width possible you will have about 17.5" for you seat, which rather limits your choice so no good looking fondly at the majority of sports seats, they will all be too wide. But that is in the distant future, basics first.

This articul has been read a few hundrd times, try it.

 

Zenny

New member
Where do I go about cutting these old pans off? Do I go right up against the shifter column in the middle? Also, is it recommended to buy new floor pans or should I just use sheet metal and fabricate new floor pans myself?
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farfegnubbin

Site Owner
Staff member
Regarding what to cut out, you want to go ALMOST to the center tunnel but be sure to leave the last approx. 1/2 inch that represents the flange where the top and bottom of the center tunnel are welded together. If you take this away you disrupt the integrity of the whole center tunnel. Non-good badness would ensue.

Here is a photo of the modified chassis on one of my cars. It's a low-res old pic but you can kind of see the flange that I left behind. (Try to ignore the other modifications for a moment.)

Modified Sterling Kit car chassis.png


As for what to use to build back better, I'd recommend using new sheet metal. The reason I'd go that way is because you'll want to use this opportunity to drop the floors a bit anyway and therefore the new "original" pan would only be used in the area of your feet at most.

Looking back at the photo of my chassis: Because of other goals I was shooting for I decided to lower my floors almost as far as functionally possible. I welded some rectangular stock to the bottom of that original flange to create a new perimeter frame. In doing so, I dropped the entire floor almost 4 inches, even at my feet. BUT I also used different pedals, etc. You don't need to go this extensive to have a nice drop. I have side-impact bars and a truss out to a V6 turbo. And the project is 25 years old and isn't done and hasn't been worked on for a long while. So...yeah.
 

letterman7

Honorary Admin
You can take it pretty close to the tunnel. Leave a little bit as farfegnubbin mentioned just for ease of putting a new pan back in. I don't have photos, but at the back, you can remove all the way to the curved area. Easy tech tip if you're good at welding and have access to a metal bender: fabricate deep L shapes - you can go as long as 4" on one leg - out of at least 1/8 steel. Use that as your drop pan perimeter - weld the top of the long leg to what's left of your original pans. The other side of the L form the lip on which you can easily drop new metal onto - and even reinforce across if you want with strap steel. You'll gain leg room by the mile front to back. You will need to figure out a footrest for the pedals, or cut the OE pan back about 4" from the pedals to have a place to rest your heel.
 
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