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DrComanches "Frankenstein" Build (Graphic Images Ahead)

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So I've been working on getting the other side of the rail cap off(passenger side), but mostly just for posterity sake, since it had WAY less floor water damage than the drivers side. The floor itself wasn't that bad, but there were some pretty clear rusted out sections, so a little bit of repair ahead.

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The top where it meets. There seems to be a small gap under the brace that allows water to sit. There were rusted holes on both sides of the truck.

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I also managed to get my skid plate off finally.

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And cleaned it up a bit

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I posted up a topic to see if the rail braces were necessary to put back on, as they are just places for water to sit and cause rust again. I think I'll leave them off for the final build up. I did, however, hit a pretty big snag. 

 

I warn, what you're about to see is painful for us Comanche lovers... Here's a hint

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8 to 10 pounds of rust. This is your last chance to stop here...

 

 

So, I always thought that the drivers side was the worse side because of the floor rust, but I was painfully made aware that was not the case. The floor was better off, the rails were far far worse... It's really bad in there, to the point where it's all the way through the top overlap of the frame metal and most of the way through the bottom. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. I have a lot to consider on possible options to fixing it.

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There is also a bit up next to the frame splice as well. The metal itself is pretty severely compromised. To the point that it was bent on the bottom of the frame underneath. One good hit would go right through the rail in these spots. The only good thing I can see is that it's pretty much concentrated to the really bad visible spots. Everywhere else on there is fairly solid. I was planning on beefing up the frame anyway, so I guess that's my next step.

 

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Been a lot of thought going into what to do next, and I've decided that since it's only small portions of the frame and not it's entirety, I'm going to sleeve out the forward section and plate the rest(which I was intending on doing anyway, the timeframe has just been moved up).

 

To start with, I'm removing all the leftover bits of the control arm mount from the frame to get a smooth surface and to get whatever rust may be hiding out. My goal is absolutely no more rust anywhere for the rest of the life of this truck. I'm tired of dealing with new surprises. I finished cutting out the floor to be prepped for new welding and sanded my rails bare with a flap disc. I also broke the old, rusty, and broken nuts out of the framerail(they were definitely replaced at some time because the welds holding them in weren't holding anything). One good whack with a hammer took care of those. I have to find a way to clean out under the braces inside the frame. I know there's still rust hiding under there. I have some questions about the structural pieces on the frame that I'll post over in the tech section. In any case, if this truck wasn't already slated for hardcore tech, it probably will be soon. In plating the frame I will also be mending the seem in the rails where it was just stuck together with spot welds to help build structure.

 

I will also be ditching the torque boxes, as I will be using the rock rail frame attachments for that extra support. I had to remove some of the work that I had payed for, but in this instance, I think simpler is better. Originally, the guys welded quarter inch plate over them, but they were still inaccessible and inconvenient. The less places water can get, and the less complicated it is to reach, the better and easier it will be to maintain. I will be adding three support rails to it that will reach close to flush on the frame and the rails. After everything is attached, I will add L brackets to the rails and will have a bolt on boatside plate. On the inside, I'm not going to spot weld back in the frame brace. It's just asking for more rust and it's simpler to deal without. Any structural weakness should be taken care of by the rock rails, rail braces, and the frame sleeve/plating. I'll make something up for the seat brackets to get them to fit back in. Since I had the trans dropped, I also decided to convert my e brake to the console style. 

 

Removing the lot of these pieces also allows me to clean and repaint them. I repainted my skid plate in green, but started with 2 coats of por 15 since that stuff is tough as nails. It's not perfect looking because of the pitted metal from surface rust, but again, this truck isn't meant to be perfect. I also repainted all the brackets and plates that are for the plate as well. I'm considering welding the outside frame plates onto the rails. I still need to paint the driveshaft and replace all the u joints in it(since they're squeaking quite a bit and who knows how old they are). 

 

I have plenty of touch up welding to do around the truck on bits and pieces that weren't sealed all the way. I'll have to remove the bed again to do so.

 

And now, the pics

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The braces I was talking about. Really hard to get under there. Also, the bolts removed.

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Right around where the sleeve is going. That's also the seem I'll be welding.

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The Torque boxes removed

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The ebrake cut in. 

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Some of the old control arm metal.

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The skid plate and the extra bits

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On a side note, if anyone is ever looking for rust or trying to clean the cab, take a moment to cut the filler putty out of the back corners. I had rust hiding under there with no way to tell it was there at all. It all looked sealed up. One side was even rusted through.

 

So the next step now is to get metal from the supply around here, and start making pieces.

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Been a while since I've posted because I couldn't find a cable that let me drop my photos on the computer. So to begin, I cut out the finger sections of the frame rail joints. After removing the old, rusted, seized nuts from the skid plate/crossmember, I welded in a new set on each side. After a lot of thought on what to do and counting out costs, I decided to go with T&Ms frame stiffener kit for the Comanche. In the overall scheme of things, they were precut with all the reliefs and bent accordingly, which would have been difficult, costly, and time consuming if I had done it myself. I read mixed reviews on them, especially about the fit, but took the chance anyway. During this time, I also managed to grind out the interior of the frame rails really well, and ended up with some severely weakened edges. I dove right in and started cutting the frame rail in sections to clear out the old rot. It was difficult because, as I've said in a post a while ago, the frame has already been spliced and the fish plates overlap the rust(bit of an oversight by the guys who did the repair, since it would have seemed to be an obvious problem, but who knows). Eventually, since I'm not putting the rail caps back in on the floor, I scalped the metal from that(same thickness). Welded it in and then ground the inside real good and hit it with a coat of POR15(I still needed to weld the stiffeners on, but it had been getting water in so I did it as a temporary stopgap). Eventually, I made it to installing the stiffeners and, oh boy, that fit was not good. There were overhangs and misalignments(granted, only with the center section. The rest seem like they'll be way easier) everywhere. I had to hack it up pretty good to get a fit, and hack some more to fit around the existing fish plates. In the end, anything that was an overhang, I cut a shallow ridge across where it should end and hammered it up to get a bit more metal coverage. They turned out alright after some extreme work, with the exception of some odd bends and spots where it had to be "persuaded" to fit. There's also some divots where the weld squares were(very slightly) as, even with a good weld in them, they didn't look good at all, so I did a full fill. I finally finished up the process and am now moving onto putting in the rock rail supports. They will require extra cutting on the bod to get to the rails themselves, since they don't extend all the way to the interior, unfortunately. I'll have 4 supports from the rails to the frame when all is said and done. I have some 3/16 square tube to do the job. Now that I've welded, I have to go in and grind the rails again in the spots where the paint burned off, but all in all, not too bad to do. Then I can start rebuilding the floor sections. I'm going to end up paneling some of the floor but leaving a roughly 30 inch segment of the top of the rails open for later cleaning and access, and just having a 3/16 plate bolted to the top of it. 

 

 In the mean time, I finished out fixing my tail gate. I don't have a press break but I did want the folded edge on the bottom, so I ended up doing it make shift style. I took a wooden dowel and gradually rolled the edge out after clamping it on a 90. It took a while, but eventually, I got it to work pretty well. I then took to welding it on, which, in retrospect, I probably should have done slower, since the metal warped a little bit(although that may have been unavoidable). After that, I started stripping the paint off so I can do the bondo, primer, and paint coats. Ended up with some nice glamour shots of the tailgate in there too. After setting that aside, I went to fixing my seat bracket base. Originally, one of the mounting points had rusted off and was bent. I bent it back, trimmed it out, and with a bit of welding  and some flap disc grinding, got a good piece, if I do say so myself. To avoid weakness, I folded the last tiny bit of it for structure. After welding it in, I drilled a hole through and worked it out with some carbide burrs till it matched the other seat.  

 

I also pulled out my tail lights and turn signals for another idea. I've always been fond of the 2 color scheme I've been working with(Army green and black) so I decided to tint the lenses. This turned out alright. They tinted nicely but getting a good finish was another story, especially since the tail lights have so many angles and ridges to sand. I'll probably end up doing another coat on them when I finish sanding them. The signals turned out very nice, but I may go darker. The plan is to switch all the lights to led. Eventually, I'll also be replacing the headlights with a nice set of leds that has a black out backing. 

 

I purchased new spring isolators, since the old are dry rotted and failing, to install when I go to put on the front stiffeners. 

 

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The old brace removed to be replaced with steel tube

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The tail lights all clean

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One section of frame being repaired

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All the frame stiffeners

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The lights all tinted

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The signals put in for reference. Probably going to go a bit darker though.

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The bottom edge of the seat repair

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Frame rail all cured(before welding)

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The folded edge of the metal for the tailgate

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All lined up

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Welding

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Stripper doing its thing. It looks worse than it is. 

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A nice shot of the tailgate after some sanding

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The seat problem

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The solution

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All done

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Welding started

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Almost done(note, I only just learned welding about half a year ago, so it isn't perfect, but I can guarantee the weld penetration). Just a few touch up bits of pitted metal. The biggest issues I had while welding were: 1. The welder was dying so it cause it to sputter out sometimes and not lay a bead at all. 2. The frame has weak points that were incredibly susceptible to blow through. 3. The overall fit left some things to be desired, but in general, not bad.

 

At this point, the stiffeners for the cab section are on and welded. Now I'm sizing up the tube to frame from the rockers and getting some of the floor pieces cut out and ready to in. Soon, after the frame is painted, I'll bolt the plate back on too. 

 

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1 hour ago, neohic said:

Tip of the cap for continuing on. There’s all too many owners that would’ve walked away by now. :beerchug:

 

damn straight!  I love this build!

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2 hours ago, jubalb said:

Is there anyway you would know the size of the retaining nut the neutral safety switch?  PS awesome job on the truck.

Thanks. I don't believe I have one on the trans in this, seeing as it's a manual. You may want to pop it into the tech section and see what they say.

 

3 hours ago, neohic said:

Tip of the cap for continuing on. There’s all too many owners that would’ve walked away by now. :beerchug:

It's been some hard times definitely. I'm just glad there wasn't a serious buyer back when I thought I couldn't do anything with it. If it had sold back then, I would've regretted it. 

 

4 minutes ago, JMO413 said:

Amazing build love your commitment! 

Thanks a lot. It's seen some ups and downs, but hopefully I'll actually get to drive it more next spring/summer(We all know I'm going to buy some crazy new thing to install, so the chances are slim)

 

And thanks Pete M. Glad some people like to watch the slow build progress bit by bit.

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Finally got a good day out to work on the truck today, and while it doesn't seem like much was done, I do feel fairly accomplished. I started creating the guides and cutting out the braces for the rock rail today. I have some 3/16 square tube intended to tie the rails into the overall frame structure that I used. I sized it up using some cardboard guides for the two sides and the top to get as close as I could to the exact dimensions, then cut it out of the tube and did some light sanding for a snug fit. I only managed to do 2 today, but I have to say, it wasn't as difficult as I expected it to be, and I am starting to get really comfortable welding to the point that I'm not grinding or cutting to get a better look. Not bad for  6 months of weld experience, if I do say so myself. I still have one more on this side to get in, but it's in a tough spot, so it will present a bit more challenge than the other 2. After that, it will be held down with 4 welded mounting points and some heavy duty 1/4 plate up front. Should be a very solid setup and replacement for the torque boxes.

 

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The tube all cut and ground up and placed, ready for welding.

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In  my first weld I only went halfway down and had to do the top half. After that, I just started welding whole sides at a time, which resulted in a much better look.

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The initial fit and weld. I always have trouble welding upside down, but it doesn't look too bad.

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Here's where I start getting proud. A new welder, a few months of practice, and a decent understanding of the technique makes some alright weld. More practice will only make them better.

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All burned in. Time for the forward brace.

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I'm not too happy with having to hack up the floor and the inner rocker to do this, and it would have been way easier if it was done when the rails went in, but now I've got to do it, so here goes nothing.

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All sized up and tucked in ready for the weld

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Both welded in and ready to go.

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The spot where the last one needs to go. It's a much smaller distance, but because it's only accessible from underneath, that means I'll have to do the top welds while cramped up under it with a welding helmet that prevents me from getting in close. We'll see how it goes.

 

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Been a while since I posted on so I thought I'd drop the progress on here. The weather hasn't really been cooperating with me, so I didn't finish as much as I want, but it isn't too bad. Now, I just need to wait for warmer weather so I can bedline everything.

 

From where I left off before, I finished off all of the welding and supports for the rock rails as well as prepping and POR 15 on the insides. I decided to just go completely custom on this build since I think I've shored up the strength on the frame enough that I won't be sacrificing structural support. I had a lot of things I wanted to do, but was concerned over how it would affect everything and I spent so much time thinking over it and getting anxiety that eventually, I just decided screw it, I'm doing it my way, and that's a way that hasn't been done.

 

For starters, rather than try to patchwork the whole interior rocker that had to be cut apart for the supports, I took a piece of 16 gauge and welded an entire reinforcement plate over the entirety of it. This gave it a little more structural strength and was probably the only way to do it cleanly. In the future, I will cut out 2 holes with a holesaw bit so I can access/clean/paint as needed on the inside to keep all of the unnecessarily complex internals from going bad. I rewelded the floor back up, but had to do so in pieces(since it was easier to work around all the cuts I had to make, and it let me use some of my scrap metal) which also meant welding it to the top sections of the rail supports. Because I'm always concerned about the inside of my rails, I decided to go with my earlier thoughts and leave a 34" segment uncovered for future access to the inside. Instead, I welded on some grade 8 bolts through the frame rail edges going up into the cab and cut a 1/4" steel plate as an access panel to get bolted down overtop of it. I did away with the rail cap and kept my floor flat(ter). I've also sanded all of the lower cab up and will be spraying Raptor liner inside the entirety. I'll also carry the bedliner over the door sill to the outside rails of the truck, which will help offroad-proof it a bit better. I cut away my dilapidated firewall mat(the foam on the underside of most of it had turned to dust) in my foot well area. It always managed to get stuck on the pedal and everything in addition to looking bad, so out with it. I left a bit as insulation for the heater underneath it, but the rest will be replaced by some thermal rubberized mats I can stick to it(for whatever doesn't get covered by the liner). All that's left now is painting and bedlining for the interior. I will have to fab up a specialized riser to weld to the 1/4 plate for the seats.

 

I also removed the old transfer case linkage to swap it with a simpler Azzy direct link. It would have been a nightmare to put it back in anyway as it was, and I'm always for simpler is better(i.e. why I got rid of the rail cap and torque boxes for a sealed assembly). I took the time to replace my old trans mount too with an SFR heavy duty one. 

 

I have plenty more parts just sitting by the wayside, waiting for warmer weather, but next week, I'll be starting our heavy workload month(6 days a week, 12 hours a day) so it'll be a while before I post again. My plans for the future, after the frame and interior are situated is 1. convert to a fuel cell system in the bed allowing me to update all the fuel lines and get that squared away. 2. to rerun the exhaust since it's rusted and poorly placed. The plan is to replace everything from the down pipe(maybe the headers too) and incorporate a flex tube to stop the header cracking. The goal is to side pipe it out of a port in the bedside. 3. THOR intake. 4. the rest of the cosmetic upgrades(hood pins and vents, headlights, proper bedlining, repainting the small bits, etc.)

 

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Frankenstein getting cold in the snow out here

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A few extra looks at the inside. I had to sand it down again and redo some of the POR15 since the welds burned it off in some spots.

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The floors in all their glory. I ended up having to bend the frame edge up to get a weld under it. Then I just beat it back down to flat.

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How the rockers looked before.

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All parts on. Still have to fix those little bottom edges there, but that'll be easy. I do still have to figure a solution for the back of the cab corners that I had to cut into in order to weld those last supports. It's too difficult to access, so I'll just wait until I take the bed off for the fuel system to do that.

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After the repaint

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Bolts in

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The rockers after, with some panel bits in. It was 16 or 18 gauge for the floor pan pieces, I can't remember, but after all the prep and prime work, it's solid.

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Some of the floor work and a finished product after sealing and priming. The seam sealer is a really solid compound, so it'll be sanded a bit smoother before the final. I also need to cut a drain hole up front on both sides.

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The plate itself.

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Took out all the plates and bits for the bedlining. Going to refurbish the linkage mechanism.

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Old vs. New trans mount

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More parts that aren't on my part shelf(because it's full)

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Sanding and matting removed. I'm not finished sanding yet, so it's still very dirty. My blower motor in this thing is going to throwing dust for months after all this work.

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I like the bolt down rail covers. Easy access later. I may do that when I redo my floor. I think my inner rockers are definitely going to look like yours also. I patched them on my XJ and won't do that again. Total replacement with stronger metal just seems appropriate.

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