See the floor repair photo pages for a pictorial review of the process.
RUST. That dreaded word that every Jaguar owner hates to hear. What do you do when your pride and joy has been diagnosed with terminal rust? Do you rush off to the specialist and hand over your cheque book or like I did do you apply the cure yourself?
After establishing the extent of the rust in the floors of my newly acquired 1972 series III E-Type Coupe I had to decide what to do. Both floors needed replacement from the seats forward and the driver's side bulkhead panel also needed to go. Thankfully the sills and other panels were solid and I was faced with a relatively straight forward job.
After I obtained a professional estimate of between three and four thousand dollars to replace the floors and bulkhead panel I decided the money was better off in my pocket and I undertook the project at home. While I was at it I decided to rebuild the engine bay from the windscreen forward - but that's another story!
Although this article concentrates on the series III E-Type, the techniques used to replace the rusted floors are the same for a wide variety of Jaguars, and other cars. Understandably there are many ways to approach a job like this and this article is how I tackled the task using my experience and available resources but other people may have different methods that are equally as effective.
Most competent enthusiasts can complete the replacement of the floors in their home garage. The E-Type is well engineered, straightforward in its construction and relatively easy to work on. A basic range of hand tools; a drill, small grinder and welder are required plus spray painting equipment to finish off.
The floors can be oxy welded but for more professional results a MIG welder should be used. I purchased a compact MIG welder for $800 and with a bit of practice soon became quite a competent welder. If you have used an arc or oxy welder before you should easily adapt to the MIG welding. If you are new to welding then allow a bit of extra time to practice on scrap material. When buying a welding shield I recommend one that automatically blanks the shield when you strike the arc, this is a great benefit as it frees up your hands and makes holding and aligning much easier.
I purchased my new floors from Glenn Olsen at E-Type Restorations in Melbourne (Tel: 03 9459 3131). The floors are available as complete or half floors and in my case I bought two half floors for $160 each. Although referred to as half floors they extend past the seat crossmember and offer good value for money. The full floor is not much longer but nearly double the price. If your rust is forward of the seat then half floors are the best option. The replacement floors appear to be made from thicker metal than original, fitted perfectly and Glenn Olsen was very helpful in providing advice and guidance.
First step was to remove the full interior to enable easy access to the areas to be worked on and also to protect the trim from grinding and welding sparks. Attention needs to be paid at all times to where the sparks are landing as they can start fires and damage trim and glass.
On the series III E-Type the front suspension torsion bars are secured to a mounting bracket under the floors near the drivers and passengers feet, and this bracket needs to be removed. To enable this the front suspension has to be disconnected - refer to your workshop manual for details. Also requiring removal are the under floor fuel and brake lines and the power brake booster on the left-hand bulkhead (if you are replacing the left floor).
With the new floor in hand you can identify where to cut and trim the existing floor and decide where to join the old and new panels. The original floor was sandwiched between the inner and outer sill and if you are not replacing the sill this is not possible to duplicate, so trim the original floor level with the sill and lap the new floor over the inner sill. To join the new floor to the old I lapped it over the front edge of the seat crossmember as this provides a solid and easily hidden joint.
The new floors do not come with the reinforcement plate that is welded on top of the floor to brace the torsion bar mounting. Cut the originals off and fabricate replacements from 1.5mm mild steel plate.
There are a variety of methods to use to cut the existing floors but in my case I chose the old hammer and chisel as it makes a clean cut with no fire risks. I used a "brick bolster" which is like a chisel but it has a wide flat cutting edge about 50mm wide. For the spot welds you can use a spot weld drill bit which cuts around the spot welds and makes them easy to remove and then clean up with a grinder.
Once you have removed the old floor, cleaned up the joining surfaces and trimmed the new floor to suit, it's time to weld it back together. The MIG welder operates best on bare metal so ensure that all rust, paint and seam sealant etc. have been removed from both sides of the areas to be welded. A mixture of edge and "plug" welding is incorporated to provide the strength and finish required. Plug welding is a method used in place of spot welding and this is achieved by drilling a series of 6mm holes in the panel and then welding the hole up, at the same time welding to the underlying panel. Grinding the top off the weld leaves a clean finish but don't grind too much off or you risk taking the strength out of the weld.
To protect the floors from future rust I painted them with POR15 rust prevention paint and applied liberal amounts of joint sealer inside and out. A coat of two-pack body colour and self-adhesive bitumen sheets for soundproofing followed this. It was then finished off with a final coat of two-pack colour inside and textured bitumen paint underneath.
Even though the original joint sealer around the floors and bulkhead looked to be in good condition I removed it all as I found that moisture had penetrated most of it and rust was forming under the sealer. I would advise replacement of the factory joint sealer wherever possible.
Before refitting the interior, I sprayed "Fish Oil" inside the sill panels and fitted new rubber grommets.
So there you have a quick overview of replacing rusted floors in a series III E-Type. A project that can be completed at home without destroying your cheque book. If you have any questions or comments you can E-mail me.