One thing about restoration of old vehicles is that it is almost guaranteed to take you into new areas of expertise where you have never been before. In this case for me it was welding.
As a young apprentice I worked in a garage that, at the time, was regarded as one of the biggest in Europe. This meant that there was always a decent selection of excellent tradesmen who would always be willing to help out. As the proud owner of a Mark II Cortina at the time, which had more rust than the Forth Bridge before it’s paint job, I depended a lot on one of the panel beaters (I seem to recall his name was Ricky) to keep my rust heap on the road.
The end result, of course, on this reliance on someone else was that I never learned to weld. Okay I had a brief sojourn with an arc welder during the early nineties but that just resulted in me being an expert at blowing holes in things. So during the milk float project it had to pass that at some point, welding was going to be required.
It was decided some time ago that the level of restoration that was going to be required on the milk float meant that the body was going to be lifted from the chassis so that the two components could further their progress independently so the search was on for a cradle to hold the body. Since no such thing was immediately apparent then a cradle would obviously have to be made.
An old trolley was acquired from next door that otherwise was scheduled for the scrap heap and some lengths of metal were salvaged and I then set about measuring the chassis and cutting the materials to size.
Thankfully these days MIG welding is now the accepted norm and I found this much easier than any previous attempts at welding.
Now I am not going to pretend that my next career move is to become a North Sea Welder but I was pretty happy with the end result.
The body has now been strenghtened for the move by bolting various pieces of strip metal at strategic points to resist warping when it is lifted. I decided to bolt on pieces of steel at this stage rather than weld them, simply because there were plenty of available holes that I could use.
You can see the framework of steel in the image on the right. I have tested it by lifting the body about three inches off the chassis and fitting wooden spacers in preparation for the final lift off.
So as a result of my new found welding experience here are my top tips for anyone else thinking of undertaking such a project:
- Don’t be put off. As they always say: you should try sometihing new every day.
- Remember to turn on the gas!
- Use two hands when welding. It is much easier to guide the nozzle. So from that point of view, always wear welding gloves to avoid burns.
- Keep the hose as straight as possible, as any kinks will slow the feed of the welding wire.
- Always clean any rusty metal with a grinder. Clean metal makes good welds.
- Play about with the speed of the wire and the power of the welder until you find a good medium that suits you: don’t try to be as fast as the guy next door who’s been doing it for years.
- Practice on some scrap first that approximates the material you are going to work on
- Finally, have fun. Believe it or not it is actually quite enjoyable ( must be that macho thing).