Saab 99 Turbo Part 16 – Metal prep & Primer

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.

Metal prepping for primer
Metal prepping for 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.

Orbital sander interface pad
Orbital sander interface pad

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.

Front fender after metal prep.
Front fender after metal prep.

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).

DIY paint booth
DIY paint booth

We cornered off an area of the garage with plastic sheets to make a simple paint booth.

Interior painted in primer
Interior painted in primer

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.

Masking unwanted areas
Masking unwanted areas

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.

Engine room in primer
Engine room in primer

Looking pretty good.

Body in primer
Body in primer

The last areas to be painted were the sides and roof.

Applying some body sealer.
Applying some body sealer.

Applying some body sealer. I tried to match the look of the sealer seams to the original.

Underside protection
Underside protection

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.

DIY Paint stand
DIY Paint stand

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.

Bonnet in the paint stand
Bonnet in the paint stand
Spraying primer on the bonnet
Spraying primer on the bonnet

The stand worked very well. Good access for both sides of the bonnet and I could now paint it in one go.

Spraying primer on the door
Passenger side door in primer

And of course there were the doors also. Passenger side door in primer.

Panel gap fitting
Panel gap fitting

Looking pretty good. The next step before starting body work for paint is to fit all the parts and adjust the panel gaps.

I see some problems...
I see some problems…

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…

Saab 99 Turbo part 15 – Driver side door repair

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.

Rust on the door frame
Rust on the door frame

Above – The lower edge of the driver side door needed to be replaced.

Door frame welding done. The 99 already had some side impact protection.
Door frame welding done. The 99 already had some side impact protection.

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.

Door skin with bad stretching.
Door skin with bad stretching.

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.

Collision damaged door frame.
Collision damaged door frame.

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.

Shrinking the upper edge of the door skin.
Shrinking the upper edge of the door skin.

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.

After some shrinking - better.
After some shrinking – better.

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.

Heat shrinkin.
Heat shrinkin.

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 skin ready to fit.
Door skin ready to fit.

Door repair moving forward. Time to fit the door skin to the frame.

The door repair almost done. Laying on some primer. Still needs some fine tuning.
The door repair almost done. Laying on some primer. Still needs some fine tuning.

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.

Saab 99 Turbo part 14 – Time for some primer

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.

Saab 99 Turbo Part 13 – Alternator and Starter Motor Restoration

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.

A few photos:

Saab 99 Turbo part 12 – Learning To Use Auto Body Solder

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:

Body solder used on 1959 Saab 93 roof and side panel seams.
Body solder used on 1959 Saab 93 roof and side panel seams.

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.
From left: Lead free and leaded body solder and on the right pure lead.
From left: Lead free and leaded body solder and on the right pure lead.

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.

The process

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.

A few more examples:

Saab 99 Turbo part 11 – restoring the brakes and suspension components

Brakes on the Saab 99 can be a bit tricky to fix these days. All the components can be found but probably not off-the-shelf at the local auto parts store. The Saab Club Sweden can help with some of the components, like seal kits. Also new dust shields are available – although not very cheap…

I decided to go by the route of fixing the brakes myself. This meant taking the original suspension completely apart. So a few photos on the brake job below.

First a look at the rear axle:

All the brake components are then pretty much awaiting installation on the Turbo. I also bought new brake lines, shoes and installation kits. The brake lines and shoes were available at the local auto parts store but the installation kit I got from Saab Club Sweden.