Rusted Out Unibody

Preparing To Install New Floor Pans And Subframe

Copyright 2008 by Morris Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

The Omni Project

If It Jams Home

I started out the floor and frame rehab job hoping I could stick with rolling the rug up a bit and working from beneath the car. No such luck. When I got serious and removed the central console (built around the gear shift and emergency brake on the hump) and rolled back the rug, the rust was basically sitting there in piles. The picture to the right is the driver side, where the floor rotted out around 10 years ago and I replaced it with some heavy aluminum sheet left over from factory warning signs. The good new is that the aluminum held up great, and the galvanized sheets screws I used to install the aluminum actually backed out with a Philips screwdriver, in those cases that there was any steel left for the screw to grip.
After I got the aluminum out, doing my best not to crack any of the brake lines that were strapped to the subframe, all that remained were a bunch of jagged holes. I cleaned it up with snips (photo to the left), taking it back top the "good metal", which pretty much went right to the hump in the center of the car, back to the unibody subframe cross element at the bottom of the picture, which is in decent shape, and over to the frame rail under the doors, which is the closest thing to a real frame the unibody has. That rusted out strip of metal in the center of the photograph is what remains of the subframe. If all it did was hold up the floor, that would be no big deal, but it continues (or used to continue) into the engine compartment where it is the anchor for the cross-member that the lower control arms are mounted on, that the rack bolts to, etc. A little higher up it supports the shock tower.
The photo to the right is just a closer view of where the subframe used to intersect with a stub element coming off the rail frame at the end. No a lot to look at now. Below in the center of the photo you can see the bolt and nut which hold the cross-member to the corroded away subframe. I figure my best bet is to buy some steel tubing to replace the subframe, to bolt or weld a L bracket to the side in the right position to catch that cross-member bolt, and that should help tie the front end back together. The subframe further up in the engine compartment is good enough for a through bolt The photo to the bottom right is the passenger side, which as in much better shape, as a large part of the subframe survived under the floor. A little further up into the wheel well, however, it's just as bad as the drive side, so the same sort of repair tying into the cross-member will me necessary.
I'm also including a little sequence of discovery videos so you can see where those nice holes came from. I started from working in the wheel well (to the right), peeling away bondo and rust until there was nothing left but a dusty rug pad, or sound proofing. The video below shows my first look under the rug, which I should have seen coming based on the exterior hole. The last video at the bottom right is the start of the corrosion control process, i.e., getting rid of the rust. Any corroded metal that falls away when you tap it with the butt end of a breaker bar isn't serving a structural function anymore, it's junk. Until you bash away at it a little, you're just kidding yourself if you try to "save" it for the sake making the job easier. It will just be frustrating when you try working tying into it, not to mention all the sharp edges and that it will provide a "rust starter kit" for the new steel you put in.

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