I need some help from fellow T'ers who live in Bakersfield to install missing frame rivets on my Coupelet frame. I have the rivets but have no tools or experience in this matter.
The plans are to go up next weekend and clean the frame and differential (body has been removed). I would like to get this done by late February or early March. I'll even rent a trailer to haul it to someone's house if that is better or the work can be done at my dad's. He has an ample supply of air and other tools but he does not have a torch set.
The only request is that needs to be done over a weekend as I don't live in Bakersfield and travel to work on my car.
If you can help please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me during the day at 805-419-7074. If I don't answer please leave a message.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to heat the rivet for something of this size.
You need an installation tool, or rivet setter, and a fairly big hammer. Look at this link and scroll down to "Installation Tools for Solid Rivets".
They even have some fairly good directions. You'll also need something on the other side of the rivet to "buck it up". Or, in other words, something to keep you from simply shooting rivet right back out of the hole. A big hammer, heavy chunk of steel, etc., usually does the trick.
"I have the rivets but have no tools or experience in this matter."
You will be better served by finding someone to accomplish the riveting. You would need a 4X long stroke riveter, adequate air supply, setting tools of appropriate head size/shape, and bucking bars of appropriate size/shape, and possibly unique bucking bars to access difficult locations on the frame. Of course, oxy-acetylene equipment. There is much more to know than this. There are 8 pages dedicated to this topic in the current Model A Restorer magazine, too much to cover here. A two person job, and experience helps for sure. Perhaps someone here knows where you can get this done locally.
"Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to heat the rivet for something of this size."
I believe cold riveting is inferior. In order for the rivet to swell and completely fill the hole, and to shrink while cooling, which further strengthens and tightens the connection, the rivets must be bright orange all around and bucked hot.
I am not certain (I have no hard data) about the riveting process used for T's, but Ford did change the riveting process by 1929 to a hot riveting process due to the superiority of the final result. Can you make two frame components stick together with cold riveting, yes, but the connection is not as solid as it could be, it can move and work loose over time.
I'll admit that hot riveting is the best method. But, for small rivets, (and compared to some others, pretty much everything in a T frame is "small"), I have never had a cold worked rivet ever come loose. But still, if you have heat, by all means heat it up. But, if not....
It's been a lot of years since I riveted in a new cross member, but I don't remember it being particularly difficult. Just have a heavy chunk of steel clamped tight against the back end of the rivet to hold it steady. If you're using heat, you want two pairs of hands – one person to keep the rivet hot and the other to mash it down with the bucking bar. I'd wear gloves.
If you don't believe it, prove it to yourself on a practice piece; I did. 1/4" frame rivets set hot are much harder to remove than cold set rivets. 3/16" is the largest dia. rivet I will set cold.
Ford bought the frames from outside firms, less the runningboard brackets. Those were riveted to the frames at Ford, the first operation on the assembly line. They were definitely riveted cold, at least during the later brass era.
I replaced the bolts in the front crossmember of my '14 with hot rivets. Not a hard job--IF--you can get the rivets properly bucked. That's 90% of the job. I used a 1" hex bolt and nut with the bolt head dimpled to match the rivet head. A second pair of hands is a big help:
1. Heat rivet a nice cherry red. 2. Quickly slip it into the rivet hole. 3. Have your helper put the bolt and nut buck under the rivet head. 3. Put the torch flame back onto the rivet while your helper backs the nut off the buck bolt, thereby tightening it into the frame channel. Hold the torch on the rivet end, keeping it nice and red but well below welding heat. 4. Set the rivet by hitting it firmly and squarely on the end with a mash hammer, about 3 lbs. head weight. Not too hard, you don't need to separate the rivet into its individual molecules. The blow will expand the rivet and fill the hole. 5. Put the torch flame back on the end while you pick up your air hammer with the head forming tool in place, then hold it FIRMLY and SQUARELY while you pull the trigger. Your helper can check to see if you're plumb and square. You may need to re-heat and apply the air hammer once or twice more, but IF you have it well bucked you'll have a factory looking head when you're done.
You'll want to rehearse the whole drama several times before actually doing it in order to increase your overall speed so the rivet stays hot. One thing that helps is to cut a groove in the bucking bolt head so you can just slide it under the rivet head, instead of having to tip it on its side to work in into position. Also, if you do this you can keep the nut backed off so that once everything's in position you need only give the nut a half or a quarter turn to tighten it.
I suggest you get in touch with the local chapter in Bakersfield. They used to have a weekly shop night where they worked on members cars. The shop where they met had a full line of tools to do this type of work. John
Model T Ford Club of Kern County
c/o Troy Helton
PO Box 885
Bakersfield, CA 93302-0885
Jim Dix [email@example.com] at Big Flats Rivet Co sells a good DVD on riveting Model T frames.
He puts them in cold, sets up the backing and then heats the rivet.
Great guy to deal with.