Firewall/Body Gap, Part II

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Model T Ford Forum: Forum 2013: Firewall/Body Gap, Part II
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Paul O'Neil on Monday, February 11, 2013 - 10:46 pm:

I spent a lot of time fooling with the (nominally) 1923 Runabout this weekend. As mentioned in the previous thread, there is a gap between the firewall & the body that the builder (curse him!) had addressed with wood blocks between the brackets and the firewall and using some sort of rock hard grey dum-dum that only bridged the gap at the very top where it was just about nil anyway.

Here is is the way I bought it:

I had an idea that perhaps if the body fixings were loose enough, it might be nudged forward enough to fix the problem. The gas tank was mismounted and had to be removed to investigate this, and that will be the subject of another thread. In any case, the body refused to move enough to fix the problem. This was disappointing and I needed time to think the matter over so I worked on other portions of the project and left the body issues overnight.

I woke up ready to escalate the project by removing all of the fixings risking increased difficulty in hopes that the body just wasn't loose enough. Happily a couple of pals wandered by on other business and I pressed them in to service trying to shift the body. Three of us found it loose enough to rock side to side some but not slide forward. Something is holding it.

Having two buddies to help ponder the situation turned out to be a good thing. Looking the problem over we noticed that the firewall met the body both top & bottom on the left side. There is a gap in the center but not at the bottom. The body could not come any further forward:

OK, there is still a gap but in the middle. The body is too short in the middle. What about the right side? It still has a 3/8" or so gap at the bottom that has not closed:

Well, this was very curious as it looks like the body is not long enough on the bottom on the right side & in the middle on the left side. We put a square on the frame and found the firewall to be pretty straight and at right angles to the frame:

Next the firewall came back off and the square was set up next to the body:

Now the problem is pretty obvious - this body is not right and no sliding forward could fix the situation. Somebody on the previous thread had asked about body work. Here are a few pics of some pretty sloppy repairs:

There is nothing I can do within my limited time/money budget that can address this body issue so I threw in the towel and tightened everything back up. Going any further will be a "someday" type of job. What can be done to live with this situation now? I could fill the gaps with a really large bead of black silicone seal. How about some sort of C section automotive weather stripping that would crush to practically nothing in the tight areas but still fill 3/8" to 1/2" where required? Ford used some sort of felt mat at the factory so this is not completely out of line. Any ideas for making an acceptable bodge that will seal the gap and improve the appearance?

Vintage Paul

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Hap Tucker on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 06:39 am:


Sorry it turned out to be the body work rather than an adjustment to who the body was mounted or the firewall brackets etc. But I am glad you figured it out. For those who may look at this in the future the previous thread is located at:

I don't have any great thoughts on a good temp solution that would also look good. If the gap were a littl smaller you might be able to put some Model A Ford fender welt between firewall and the body and have the bead cover the gap. While Model T folks would know that was not original -- the average person on the street would not. But it is only 3/16 inch bead. See:

From memory, I believe the VW bugs had a larger fender welt. Not a permanent fix -- but perhaps something to consider.

You could also consider adding a wooden (or perhaps one of those plastic lattice fake boards from Home Depot) shim to the front of the body and fit it to the body to fill in the larger gap.

And replacing the metal firewall with a wood firewall that was custom fitted to the body would also help seal the gap. And then use a wider than normal black hood anti rattle web.

And of course when you show the car -- just lift the hood and folks will look at the engine and not the gap. It will still be a lot of fun to drive until you have the resources and time to do a more permanent and more correct fix. Or as the guy who once purchased the Sunbeam Tiger with the Ford V8 in it. He knew it had bondo down the lower 1/4 of the car all around. But he still had a lot of fun driving it until he could have it repaired properly.

Thanks for posting an update and hopefully others will offer even better suggestions.

Respectfully submitted,

Hap l9l5 cut off

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By John Cassara Long Island, NY on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 07:30 am:

You can get that to sit better with an auto body hammer and dolly set and some time and patients.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Jerry VanOoteghem on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 01:58 pm:

If you put shims, (washers), under the right front body mount, it would have the effect of canting the cowl back enough at the top to maybe close, or partially close, the gap. Yes, this will twist the body some, but it should be able to take it without any trouble. If you have to add a lot to the front body mount, you may have to put some shim under the middle mount as well, should be 1/2 as much as you put in front.

This is a common fix to correct for a bent, (sagged), frame rail as well. Maybe your frame isn't bent but, no matter in your case, the result is the same so perhaps the fix is too.

If you can get the gap to half of what it now is by shimming the body, you can slot the holes in the firewall bracket a bit to also slightly twist the firewall and bring the bottom right edge back to close the gap.

If you can close the gap by moving a bit here and a bit there, the fix will not look obvious. Any residual gap, due to the uneven metal at the front body edge, can be filled with black sealant.

Best thing about trying the above method is, it's 100% reversible if it doesn't work and it will only cost you a few washers.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Wayne Sheldon, Grass Valley, CA on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 02:13 am:

So many things to comment about.
Number one! I think the best model Ts are the ones with older, decent restorations that look great going down the road. And good enough to be okay next to a beautiful car, Ford or otherwise. These are the cars you can be proud of anywhere, and take on a picnic not worrying about scratching the side apron. These are the cars you can really enjoy!

2, Basically, you have four choices. Enjoy the car essentially as it is. Or do some minor repairs and of course the necessary maintenance and enjoy the car a lot. Re-restore the car fully and completely fixing every little thing and maybe never feel comfortable driving it again. Sell it.
I personally prefer the second one. Fix a few things as you mostly enjoy the car.

3, I see several minor things that could improve the fit and look a lot. Jerry VanO mentioned several of them. I notice that the firewall is distorted slightly where it bolts to the body wood. With the bolts removed, you could rig a puller out of scrap iron and a bolt that could pull those out without having to remove either the body or the firewall.
Shimming the body and moving the firewall and radiator around a bit could improve the overall fit a lot.
Obviously, some rather poor bodywork was done on that car many years ago. Some more pieces of scrap iron can be slipped between the wood inside and the sheet steel outside. Then hammered on to push that front edge forward a little where it needs it. Some parts of that front edge are probably already too far forward. WATCH THE SIDE TO SIDE SQUARE WITH THE FRAME or you will wind up with bigger problems. Work toward a balance for fit. You will end up with a somewhat wrinkled front edge. A little Bondo may be unavoidable. J B Weld is often better in stressful applications.
Once things are bent and shifted enough to be in the proverbial ballpark. Another suggestion. Some black silicon sealant can be pumped in the remaining gaps. press it in with a finger and paper towel, The stuff is difficult to work with and low spots do not stand out as much as high spots. If you use the "paint-able" variety, after it has dried, you can feather-sand around it and touch it up with a spray can black of your choice.

I really wish you were close to me. I think the two of us could do most of that refitting in a good afternoon. Except of course for the final touch-ups. Drying times you know. They do get in the way of rapid progress.

Actually, if you pretty much just put things back together, and filled the gaps with that silicon seal. It might not look too bad. I would do a bit more fitting first.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Paul O'Neil on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 12:59 pm:

Thanks guys, you have given me more to chew on. It is very hard to know has far to go with something like this. I have two budgets to balance - time & money. I have spent two weekends messing with this body/firewall gap issue and have arrived at a point where I don't see any prospect of making further improvements without a lot more time & money spent. I fear shimming will cause other issues such as the door fit to be altered, possibly for the worse. Wayne, I'm sorry you are not local also as you clearly see more than I do. I'm still learning about this sort of thing.

I have other old cars that are not Model Ts and do not enjoy them the same way as I have with this Model T. I'm comfortable parking the T someplace and leaving it unattended within reason. The other cars with hard to find or even unique parts are NEVER left unattended. This Model T is to be driven often both on tours with our local clubs and even for local errands.

I think I'm going to live with the gaps which have already been reduced somewhat and just fill them with silicone or weatherstripping of some sort. I'll enjoy the mechanical improvements with the new motor and other bits and get it back on the road.

Vintage Paul

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