Archive for February, 2012

Last Saturday I took a trip to the annual NASA Northeast 2011 season awards banquet – held at the incredible Avenue A Club (in Newark NJ of all places).

Sean over at SPL Pro Suspension (one of my build sponsors) suggested I join the NASA forums to get more info on road racing in my region (rules/classes/etc.), as well as link up with other drivers in my area.

The guys over at the NASA Northeast forum couldn’t have been more helpful! After answering many of my questions, they suggested I take a trip to the banquet as a way to meet fellow racers face to face and get an idea of what NASA’s all about. So my fiancée and I decided to take the trip down.

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If you’re following along, you’ll remember from my Rebirth! post that Eagle Valley Auto Body got the Z to a good starting point after frame straightening (working wonders given the limited time and budget I gave them). But there’s still plenty of metal & bodywork to be done. Here’s where my journey begins.

I’ll start right off by saying I’m no expert. I worked at a friend’s body shop after high school (mostly to pay off fixing up my own cars in their shop), and spent countless hours watching shows like Horsepower TV, Muscle Car, Hot Rod TV, Overhauling, and Chop Cut Rebuild over the years.

So I’m armed with a lot of knowledge, but in the “actual” experience department, I’m still very much a novice. I’ll be learning on the fly as I go along. (I’d love feedback from my readers, so if you know metalwork/bodywork, and have some tips for me, I’d like to hear from you!)

So without further ado, let’s dive in.

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I’ve always wanted to weld, even as a little kid. Maybe it was a youth spent watching shows like The A-Team & Dukes of Hazzard that did it, but the thought of building something out of a pile of metal has always appealed to me.

I consider it an art form, and the welder an artist. Like a painter, but with a torch… creating car art. How cool is that!

It’s one of the many things I missed out on learning from my Dad (sadly he passed away from cancer when I was a teenager). He was a mechanic, and owned a shop that specialized in transmission rebuilds (another thing I missed out on learning).

He could weld. And I still use a transmission brace he designed out of angle iron (that attaches to a common floor jack) to this day. I often stared at it; annoyed… I couldn’t build something similar without someone else’s help.

 

So last year when Eastwood had a dynamite special on their brand of welders, I finally threw caution to the wind and bought one. But I guess I didn’t throw caution far enough, as it sat in the corner of my garage untouched for over a year. I was afraid to use it.

 

Enter Monroe Career & Technical Institute, the local Vo-Tec school. I would get their flyers in the mail yearly. Every year I’d look at the adult education welding courses, and every year I’d say maybe next year. But this time I had no excuse. I owned a welder & had a smashed up Z in need of fixing! So I was determined to learn how to use it.

 

 

 

After registering for both MIG & TIG courses, I took a stroll over to the welding classroom just to make sure they were cool with someone like me taking the class. The instructor Mr. Smith (that is his real name by the way) couldn’t have been more helpful. He had no issues whatsoever, and even gave me an old TIG torch to take home and practice with before the TIG course began.

 

MIG welding was fairly straightforward, and I was decent right out of the gate. It just takes practice, lots of practice… but I got better every day. Within a class or two, I was already laying weld on the Z in the garage. TIG on the other hand is a bit more complicated.

For those that don’t know, unlike MIG, which only requires one hand, TIG welding requires use of both hands (and a foot). My work around for this was to buy a wrist brace at the local drug store and strap it to my right arm. This held the filler wire while the left hand held the torch.

Although I don't own a TIG welder yet, the experience alone was well worth the class price.

Even got a local tailor to custom sew me a welding glove to fit my right arm. She did an awesome job. It worked so well I just went back for a second pair! Take a look at what she wrote on the ticket, thought this was hilarious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t thank Mr. Smith enough for all his help and welding advice. In only 12 short courses I went from zero to welding hero (at least I like to think that anyways). There’s a lot of welding that needs to be done throughout the Z build, and I’m glad I no longer have to pay someone to do it!

Be on the lookout for future in depth (welding/bodywork/suspension) tech posts; along with the documentary profile of Jerod – A local prosthetic technician, mountain climber, and all around nice guy. Who despite the loss of both legs & being a diabetic, accomplishes more than you could ever imagine. I had the privilege of filming Jerod last summer, and even went climbing through the mountains of the Delaware Water Gap with him. Truly an amazing story. Stay tuned!

Jay