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Body-to-Frame Welt Installation
by Rick Black, Medford Oregon 1990

I am restoring a 1931 Deluxe Tudor Sedan, and like most restorers I was faced with the task of replacing the welt between the frame, fenders, and the splash aprons. The welt comes in bulk lengths without any holes punched in it, a task which is left to the restorer. I checked with Bill Harry of Harry's Model A Parts in Rogue River Oregon, and he said that many restorers use a leather punch to put holes in the welt to clear the bolts which hold the body and sheet metal to the frame.

Since I didn't have a leather punch, we came up with the idea of using a galvanized pipe nipple as the punch. It made nice, round holes about 1/2" in diameter which were just right for the body bolt holes and extra-roomy for the other bolt and screw holes. As an experiment, I tried to sharpen the end of the pipe to make the holes easier to punch. It helped a little, but the original end did a nice job, though it took more hammering to punch through the welting material. The task was completed in a couple of easy hours.

Tools I used:

Starting at the front of one of the frame rails, unroll the body welting on top of the frame. Use the vice-grip pliers to hold the welting to the frame so it won't slip off. Once the entire top of the frame rail is covered with the welt, cut the piece to length.

Just to the rear of the center cross-member, the frame jogs outward. I cut a V-shaped notch in the welt, almost cutting it in two, so that the welting would follow the bend in the frame. I lined up the outside edge of the welting with the outside edge of the frame so that very little hung over the outside edge.

Starting at the front, locate the holes where the front fenders are bolted to the frame horns using the awl. As you're making the holes, try not to stretch the welting since it will cause the holes to go out of alignment later. After piercing the welting with the awl, draw an "X" through the center of the hole to make finding it later easier. Repeat these steps for the other small holes on the top of the frame, such as the hood hold-down clamp holes and splash apron holes.

When locating the larger holes for the body bolts, take special care to find the exact position of the holes, since the punched holes will be about the same size. I lifted up the welt just a bit near each hole and peeked from the side at each hole; then I drew a chalk line on the welt before using the awl to make a pilot hole. You can then measure the distance from the outside edge of the frame to make the other chalk mark for this hole. Continue this process for all of the large holes.

After you have marked each hole and made all pilot holes, lift the welt off the frame and place it on a flat, hard surface like the garage floor. From the left-over roll of welting, measure off a 6" piece and fold it in half. This piece of welting will be put under our welting and act as a cushion as we punch the holes. It will also keep the punch from striking the concrete floor and making the punch dull. Center the pipe nipple over each chalked "X" you made in the welting and give it several raps with the hammer, leaning the pipe left, right, back and forth to pierce the welting on all sides. If some of the hole doesn't come out cleanly, use the razor knife to finish the job.

Once all holes have been punched, take the length of welt and place it on the frame to check that all holes can be seen through the holes in the welting. Make additional chalk marks on any holes that need to be opened up a little more and repeat the process of punching out the material.

When you have one side finished, place it upside down on the other side of the frame. In the case of my Tudor, the right side welting fit perfectly on the left side, allowing me to use it as a pattern for making the other piece. I unrolled another length of welting on the garage floor, cut it to length and placed the finished piece of welting on top. Using the pipe and hammer, I tapped several times on each hole to make a pilot mark on the new piece of welting on the bottom. When all the pilot marks were made, I removed the top piece and set it aside. Place the welt pad under each pilot hole and use the pipe and hammer to punch out the new holes.

This turned out to be an easy way to handle this job. Punching the bolt holes out will make the job of positioning the welting between body parts and frame far easier than trying to drill or cut openings in the welting. If I can do it, so can you!

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Last Updated: 01/03/09