We are finally at the Metal prep & Primer stage with the Turbo. We used a standard 2k Epoxy primer. Basecoat will be water based color and over that some clearcoat. This will be the first time for me spraying metallics or water base color so I’m looking forward to it. Already did some test pieces to see how it works. But first – a few pics on metal prep & primer.
I used an orbital sander to sand through the whole car. A few corrosion spots were cleaned by sand blasting and then putting on some rust converter. And of course there are some spots where machines can’t reach so some hand sanding was required.
An orbital sander and an interface pad (soft pad) is a great tool for sanding rounded shapes as it conforms to the shape of the surface. These are readily available.
A fender after metal prep. It has been sanded with the orbital sander and some 260 grit paper. After sanding the parts are cleaned with silicon and grease remover and panel wipes (paper cloth meant specifically for paint prep).
We cornered off an area of the garage with plastic sheets to make a simple paint booth.
The fall has been extremely wet here in Finland. High air humidity causes bare metal to gather surface rust very quickly. Because of that I decided to do the body in sections – metal prepping and painting a section at a time. I started with the interior.
The next area to be painted was the engine room and the inner fenders. Here we have masked of the interior to keep over spray off the already painted areas.
Looking pretty good.
The last areas to be painted were the sides and roof.
Applying some body sealer. I tried to match the look of the sealer seams to the original.
Over the primer on the underside of the car we applied some more paint. This time a 1k paint that stays relatively flexible even when it has dried. After the car has been painted I will spray on some corrosion protection.
Painting the bonnet felt a little problematic. It’s big piece and if I could I would like to paint both sides in one go. The solution was pretty simple. We made an adjustable paint stand off an old engine stand. It can be used for various other parts also in the future.
The stand worked very well. Good access for both sides of the bonnet and I could now paint it in one go.
And of course there were the doors also. Passenger side door in primer.
Looking pretty good. The next step before starting body work for paint is to fit all the parts and adjust the panel gaps.
I found one problem already. The side edges of the headlight bezels are different on the front fenders from side to side. The passenger side edge has more curvature than the driver side. This requires fitting the core support and the light fixtures including the bezels to see how well they fit and which one of the fenders has the shape wrong. Or if they both do. Anyway – I expect some grinding and welding…
The corrosion issues on this car are everywhere. Both of the doors were basically not salvageable. Just rotten. I did get a few spare doors that looked pretty good. Unfortunately they were not that good after the paint was stripped…
The passenger side door didn’t need that much work but the driver side door was pretty rusty. The door skin needed to be replaced and the frame needed some welding.
Above – The lower edge of the driver side door needed to be replaced.
After some welding the frame is now in good condition and ready for a new skin. It’s nice to see that already in the mid seventies Saab 99 had some side impact protection.
I couldn’t find a perfect Saab 99 door so we ended up getting a completely rust free Saab 900 door. The problem? It was collision damaged. Above you can see how much the door skin has stretched and bowed out.
Here’s the frame from the same door. It’s a full two centimeters shorter than undamaged. I could have spend more time trying to find a good door but decided to try and fix the skin. If anything I would get some good practice and if it was a failure nothing but a little time would be lost.
The skin was not stretched below the beauty line in the middle of the door but had some serious bow out above it. I decided to first try and shrink the window edge to see what that did.
Shrinking the edge did help but there was still a big bulge in the middle of the door. It was obvious it need quite a lot of shrinking also.
After the paint was removed I went on to heat shrink the skin quite a bit. It was securely attached to the frame through the process. I think I managed that bit quite well. I used a long steel ruler to check out the shape and compare it to the undamaged door.
Door repair moving forward. Time to fit the door skin to the frame.
After some primer. The section above the beauty line came out very nice. It will only need some minimal body filler. But now that the door is in primer it’s easier to see that the window edge isn’t quite right yet. There’s still a wave on it so I need to work on that some more. But all in all I’m already quite happy with how the door repair is looking at this point.
A few photos on getting some primer on some of the suspension components and other stuff. We needed to make new fuel tank belts since the old ones were rotten and decided to use slightly thicker material for them.
All the components were thoroughly cleaned using electrolysis and mechanical cleaning (glass bead blasting). Some of the components – like the rear axle – was somewhat pitted and there are some nooks where you just can’t remove rust completely. These components were treated with rust converter before primer.
And ofcourse all the bushings were replaced with new ones.
I’m actually thinking about painting the springs red as the were in the 1978 Saab 99 Turbo brochure. But I am not sure the car came with red springs from the factory. It may just be something for the brochure. I need to find some more info on that.
I decided to do a few small side projects. Restoration tends to get a bit monotonous so it’s nice to do something else every now and again.
The first “project” was to clean up an old Monitor blow torch I got. It was relatively simple. I took it apart and used some old cleaning compound to clean it up and used rust converter on the heat shield (it’s made of steel where as rest of the components are brass). Took some doing but I think it came out nice. I deliberately left most of the “patina” and didn’t try get a mirror finish.
The other project was just having some fun with an old Singer sewing machine. It was completely toast and missing parts already and I was thinking about throwing it away. But then I had the idea to make “sewing machine tractor” out of it and some old junk parts. Most effort went into finding suitable wheels (damaged Saab Sport drive shaft parts), some rusty bearings from a two stroke gearbox, wheels from a broken hydraulic jack and also some of the parts from the Singer itself. The steering wheel I welded of bicycle chain. Basically my take on junk “art” 😀
I restored the alternator and starter motor. Pretty straightforward job other than the pulley and fan on the alternator being pretty stuck. Mostly just a bit of cleanup, glass bead blasting and new paint. I also replaced the old nuts and washers with new shiny ones. I still need to send the fan and pulley to be zinc coated and yellow passivated with the other parts needing new surface treatment.
I have seen body solder used in some custom car shows over the years, but have not tried it myself. It’s sometimes also called “lead loading” since in the golden age of Hot Rodding lead was used to fill and shape body panels. Epoxy fillers (“bondo”) were not really available back in the day so body solder was used instead to even out the surface for paint.
Here’s an example:
People usually describe body solder use as difficult and a “lost art”, so I kind of thought it as too time consuming to start learning it. But as a fellow Saab enthusiast decided to use it on his project car – a 1965 Saab Special – I decided to give it a go myself. Body solder does have some advantages over epoxy filler – it doesn’t attract moisture and it’s flexible. You can still work with a body panel after solder has been applied as it will form with the steel unlike bondo (it will crack).
But the more important thing is the fact that bondo will suck in moisture if it’s not completely sealed in. Danger spots are weld seams that may have minor holes or cracks in them where the water can come in from the back of the panel. This of course will ruin the paint some time later. Body solder on the other hand will fill the seam and keep the moisture from seeping under the paint.
So – how hard can it be? As it turned out – not hard at all.
Unleaded or leaded body solder?
There are basically two types of body solders. Lead free and leaded. There’s bit of a trade-off between these:
Unleaded is a lot safer but it is more difficult to use and requires more heat to melt. This in turn may cause the body panel that is worked on to warp from heat (happened to me on the rear quarter). It’s also a harder material which equals more work when sanding it down. And because of the high melting point it doesn’t stay in a malleable form so it’s near impossible to shape when applied.
Leaded body solder on the other hand contains lead, which is indeed poisonous. You definitely need to use glowes with it and preferably not breathe in any fumes. But it is a lot easier to use in my experience. It’s softer than the lead free solder so it’s faster to sand down. It is also relatively easy to keep in a buttery state by applying just the right amount of heat. This means you can shape, spread and smooth it out when working with it.
My recommendation: Try them both and see which you prefer.
In addition to the solder bars you need a small torch – a typical butane torch will do – and a wooden paddle to spread the solder around. You can soak the paddle in parafin or food oil to keep the solder from sticking to it.
Also soldering paste is needed for priming the surface. The paste is basically acid (flux) with a bonding agent and powdered solder. It also comes in leaded and lead free mixes. You also need some baking soda mixed with water to neutralize the acid after priming.
Youtube is filled with videos on body solder usage – just search “body solder”. Many guys there have a lot more experience than me so this is basically just for inspiration – even a complete beginner can get some pretty nice results.
The most difficult part is learning to control the heat. Use the torch with a small flame first. I used the lead free solder here as I only needed to fill a low spot and there was no need to shape the solder. Only to sand it down.
So – it’s not as difficult as some say. Now that I have some experience in using it I actually quite enjoy using body solder. And prefer to use it where I can. Of course epoxy filler still has it’s uses to fine tune the surface but from now on I will use body solder as much as possible.