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Floorpans - Floor It!
Shoring up the floors in a Comet wagon
Unless you are from the town of Bedrock, you probably want your rod to be fully equipped; running engine, working brakes, and floorpans. Every car must have these things; all of the other stuff is optional. A solid floor is not only attractive in a project, but also required for safety. Falling through the floor at 60 mph would not be pretty. While Fred and his crew can stop a car with their feet, the rest of us mere mortals need steel separating the pavement from our little piggys.
Replacing floorpans is not for the squeamish. Seeing your project stretched out on the shop floor with no floors can be a little unsettling, especially for the uninitiated. In reality, it is not that difficult as long as you take your time, pay attention to the details and have a good welder. A good gas-shielded wire feed unit is perfect for this task.
There are three ways to go about this task. You can use pre-fabricated patch panels, find a good donor car and cut out the stock pan, or make your own. The easiest solution is aftermarket pre-fab patch panels. Most of the panels available in the aftermarket are good quality formed steel panels that come in small sections to as large as an entire floor. Most of the time, you will only need to replace a specific section of a floorpan, and these products fill that need and are inexpensive. They don’t always fit very well if you need the whole section though, so you will likely have to make some adjustments along the way. Cutting the floor out of a donor car can be a double-edged sword, the cost can be very high for a donor car and you might have to make compromises on where to cut the donor floor in order to have enough material to weld it to the other car. Making your own patch will work when you can’t find another panel, but the floor won’t have the original contours (if you need them) and can be a difficult task for a beginner.
When we came across this ’62 Mercury Comet wagon, we knew we had to have it. The body was in great shape except for the total lack of useable floors. Unfortunately, we were looking at the car for a buddy, and he bought it. About three weeks later, he decided it was going to be too much work since it had no floor from the firewall to the rear seat. Opportunity knocked and this author brought the car home. A quick call to Dearborn Classics and the new replacement floorpans were on the way.
Since this is a subframe car, the floor (along with the rocker panels) holds the car together. This makes the process more important because if the floors are not installed properly, the results would be disastrous. For an expert job, we took the car to Ramsey Autobody in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Toby Ramsey and Jordan Lewis put the welder to work on the Comet and let us watch. Toby told us the key to a good install is in the tools. A gas-shielded, wire-feed MIG welder is necessary. Along with that, you should have a sheetmetal hole punch, spot weld cutters, air hammer (with a body ripper and a spot weld breaker), die grinder with grinding pads, cut-off wheel and your basic handtools. A plasma cutter is a real time saver if you have access to one. The original floors are spot welded about every 2-3 inches along the rocker panels and the support braces. These are identified by the small dimple in the pan. If you can’t see them (often the rust is too severe) you can always cut around the braces and use an air hammer and a spot weld breaker to remove the rest.
If the rocker panels are shot, you must support the body between the doors before removing anything. A spreadable clamp is great, but a piece of square tubing cut to fit and tack welded in place works too. The body of the Comet was in great shape, other than the floors, so we didn’t need this step. Since the floors were in such bad shape, we had to install the entire sections in the Comet. Luckily, the pans from Dearborn Classics were a near-perfect fit; we only had to trim a couple of small areas.
The floorpans were installed in about two and a half days, including the hand-formed sections we needed for under the rear seat (not available aftermarket). Once installed, Jordan Lewis coated all of the edges with seam sealer and sprayed the entire floor with Al’s Liner, a new product similar to truck bed liner. This stuff goes on nice and thick, ensuring that the rust will never return. With the job done, the Comet has a whole new life, ready for a fire-breathing 347 stroker engine and some retro interior. No more Flintstone action here.
Seeing your project stretched out on the shop floor with no floors can be a little unsettling, especially for the uninitiated.