CUSTOM WHEEL ARCHES

How we used MIG and TIG metal inert gas welding machines from R Tech to repair this 49 year old classic Volkswagen

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CUSTOM - This is a customized van. You will not achieve this look without serious modifications to the rear arches, to allow for the wider alloy wheels and spacers/adapters. The towbar is also custom made and replaces the thin body panel that normally prevents the engine from being removed without jacking up the whole vehicle. With this modification the whole towbar assembly comes out by undoing just six bolts, then the engine slides out backwards on a trolley jack. Simples! The Cleaner Oceans Foundation is taking over SeaVax project management this year from May, though BMS is still supplying volunteer support on a not for profit basis. Copyright photographs April 26 2017, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

This forty-nine year old Volkswagen bus (1978), or camper van, needs customized rear wheel arches to cater for the wider wheels and tyres. The front arches were a relatively simple matter; we just beefed them up a bit. The rear arches need something special. Not too outlandish - something classy to match the quality of the restoration - and we want it strong for the tours ahead of this beautiful classic kombi wagon. Next year she will reach her half century. She now starts on the button.

 

 

Volkswagen classic camper bus in the workshop for restoration

 

FRONT ARCHES - The front arches were completely rotten. The cure was to weld in new panels and reinforce them. There is though plenty of clearance for the wider wheels with just a slight modification to the lip of the new panels. In the picture above you can see the front arches removed completely for a proper job. Copyright photographs, 30 November 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

The original classic kombi camper bus

 

ORIGINAL REAR ARCHES - This is how the camper van looked before the fitting of wide wheels on 25mm adapter plates.

 

 

VW camper fitted with wide alloys on adapters

 

ADAPTERS - Then came the wide wheels and as you can see the tyre will foul the bodywork, meaning that the arch has to be customized. Fortunately, we have some chaps who know what they are about when it comes to adapting designs - and even making fresh when needed.

 

 

Steel tubing bent to shape and welded

 

STEEL TUBING - The first thing we did was to make two identical frames from a robust section steel. They are in fact handed, with a slight variation on the curves and length. We used 75 amps on the R-Tech set to achieve a good penetrating weld. Copyright photographs May 1 2017, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

Steel tubing former resting in place on our eco tyres

 

MODIFICATION - Mark out the original steel panels and carefully cut out the rusty sections.  Be sure to measure accurately the height from the tyre and from the road so that the clearance is the same on both sides. The Cleaner Oceans Foundation is taking over SeaVax project management this year. Copyright photographs May 1 2017, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

Steel arch former clamped in place ready for welding

 

CLAMP IT - Insert the custom made tubing and clamp the leaved steel to the tube ready for welding. At this stage you can make micro adjustments with gentle hammer taps. Be careful though or the clamps will spring off and you'll have to start all over again. We did. Copyright photographs May 1 2017, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

Steel arch tubing welded to bodywork to form a solid wheel arch

 

CUSTOM ARCHES - Plenty of steel. Where there might be a gap from corrosion, weld in more steel sheet until you have a strong arch. It is important to blend in the new steel panels with the custom made tubing. From here we can blend the new arch to the bodywork with GRP paste and polyester filler, because there is steel underneath the fiberglass, not just glass and resin. We got our replacement panels from Alan Schofield who has been brilliant at getting us parts on time, sometimes almost the next day.

 

These arches will not need much in the way of blending. You can seam weld thin steel with the 240 amp R-Tech set using 15.5 volts and 50 amps. Copyright photographs May 1 2017, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

WIDER ARCHES

 

Custom wheel arches will require someone with a bit of experience in making one-off cars or modifications to existing cars. The shape of this arch cannot be too radical. We are aiming for a cross between the front arch and the original rear arch. This arch had to be widened to cope with the extra width of the eco tyres on BMW alloy rims and adapter plates. Both sides must match and there must still be clearance for the sliding doors to open.

 

 

Using fibreglass paste to reinforce a custom arch

 

GRP GLASS REINFORCED PLASTIC - Rather than use polyester body filler in large amounts, we decided it would be a better job to use grp paste that you can shape and then fine fill with ordinary polyester resin body filler. We did. Copyright photographs May 2 2017, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

Applying polyester body filler paste to our custom wheel arches

 

EASY SAND - Once the basic shape is established, it is easy to skim with a coat of polyester filler such as Davids P40 or Upol's Easy Sand. We used 40 grit to speed up the shaping, followed by 60 grit, 120 grit and 240 grit. By then you are ready for a coat or two of primer. Copyright photographs May 1 2017, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

 

PAINTING PREPARATION - Moving from shaping to preparing for painting is seamless. This is a 50 year old van that with a really good paint job and proper under body rust proofing, will see another 50 years of use - providing that is - we still have a planet to use it. Copyright photographs May 3 2017, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

 

 

 

VW LINKS

 

http://www.r-techwelding.co.uk/

http://www.alanhschofield.com/

https://www.vwheritage.com/

http://www.coolairvw.co.uk/

http://www.justkampers.com/

http://www.volkszone.com/

http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/

 

 

Welding in a steel chassis member for a good repair

 

R-TECH MIG - This digital welder can be used in MMA or TIG mode, but here is fitted with a Eurotorch and is being used to weld in a chassis member at the front of this classic surfing wagon. Copyright photographs , 6 December 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

Film set effects

 

NON STOP WELDING - This camper is to be used for road shows and other events such as the Miss Ocean Watersports competition that is designed to draw attention to plastic and other ocean pollution. Copyright photographs, 1 February 2017, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

WELDING EQUIPMENT

 

We are using the best industrial welding equipment that we could find from R-Tech Welding Equipment. The first thing for our welders to get used to is that the torches are much heavier duty items compared to a lot of other DIY and professional garage equipment and the fittings are superb quality. We needed production quality equipment for when we produce the AmphiMax and SeaVax machines. We have MIG and TIG machines in single and three-phase, and a spool on gun setup especially for aluminium. You'll see more details of these machines as we move ahead with the project through 2017 into 2018.

 

 

Arc stick welding at the Allchorn Maritime conservation project  R-Tech digital inverter welding machines

 

DIGITAL STABILITY - The heavy duty drive on this versatile inverter based machine provides a crisp melt and just the right amount of penetration for an extremely strong weld. Once you find a voltage and amperage combination that you like, you can store the settings to recall as you swap between metal thicknesses. Copyright photographs , 6 December 2016, all rights reserved. You will need the permission of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd to reproduce this picture.

 

 

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