11 June, 2015

A Maxwell isn't a Maxwell when it's just an engine and frame on wheels

After a long time away from both this blog and The Garage, I'm happy to report that I'm back on track with both.  So much has changed in my life in the past few months (mostly for the better), but it hasn't been until recently that I've gotten back to work on the Maxwell and my other projects.

The left side back moulding on the old body.
Skipping all the non–car-related stuff, excitingly, the Maxwell is much closer to having a body again.

As you may recall, when I last left this blog in dormancy, I had been working on transferring the moulding pieces from the rusted hunk of the original lower body onto the new pieces of sheet metal that I fabricated.  The moulding surrounds the bottom of the door area to the front seats (since the 1910 Q3 didn't have physical doors up there), and they're separate metal pieces that flare out at the top and halfway act as supports for the front seat (and a visual coupler from the vertical angles of the extreme front of the body with the concave back half).

My issues were twofold in making the transplant:  First, the mouldings were secured to the old body with difficult-to-remove rivet-like pieces that were very flush with the body (I would later have to grind these down with a Dremel from the inside).  Second, I didn't have a very effective way of hooking them onto the new body since I wouldn't be using the existing horizontal holes.

These are some of the rivets (seen from the back) on the
right side of the front seat crosspiece.
Instead, I had experimented with using the countless vertical holes that dotted the pieces.  I drilled through the new body before placing nails through the holes from below.  After clamping and adjusting, I soldered around them before cutting off the excess and then smoothing the whole thing.  This proved fairly solid, especially when I applied solder into other gaps, but solder doesn't always hold, especially during vibrations.

So I finally bit the bullet and bought a hand rivet gun, hoping to use it to secure both the mouldings and the crosspieces for the front seat support.

The spirit had moved me after inspecting the old body, noting the seven rivets on each side of the crosspieces and seeing that the outer heads had been smoothed over with some sort of filler 105 years ago.  This would still preserve my goal of fixing the car without cutting corners and welding, and it would avert the crisis of overpowering the metal by burning right through it while attempting a weld.

Right back moulding now free.
I initially bought both 1/4"-long rivets and 1/8", but for the moulding, 1/8" is the perfect thickness.   (The diameter was 3/16", by the way.)  This may prove to be too thick for the crosspieces, but maybe I'll put a second piece of metal on top of the joint to increase the pressure.

The rest of the process has been very smooth, though.  The driver's side (which is right on the Maxwell) is completely done and smoothed, and I've presently affixed the front piece on the passenger side.  I've managed to free the last piece, and hopefully tomorrow I'll get that measured and riveted.

The whole endeavor has been somewhat tedious, but it's extremely exciting to see the pieces of this metallic jigsaw puzzle fall into place.  With the actual moulding in hand, though, I can figure out how far the lowest point of the cutout stays straight (which is easy to bend).  That allows me to hang the piece on the metal, making sure the top flare is perfectly even with the top of the body.

Right lower body ready to be cut to shape.
From there, I can pencil around the bottom of the piece, roughly noting where the spine of the metal bend needs to occur.  Then I come out about half an inch (to allow for the lip), and I'll bend a few inches at a time, shaping and finessing the angle with a ball-peen hammer.  I then check the fit and hammer down any high points until the tops are level, and then I can mark the holes for the rivets.

After the piece is secured, then I use a Dremel to smooth down the rivet heads.  A little bit of filler and primer completes the look of a perfectly smooth piece, and it now looks like the part has always been attached.

Cut and bent, holes drilled, ready for the moulding.
I must say, I absolutely loved seeing the driver's side panel sitting on the car.  For the first time since I set the old body on it long ago just for looks, the old girl seems like an actual automobile both in form and function.  It's been a century since smooth, sturdy pieces of metal separated the inside from the outside, helping to create the car's identity, differentiating it from every other pair of frame rails out there.  For when you take a step back and see the car as a whole instead of the individual parts, a Maxwell isn't a Maxwell when it's just an engine and frame on wheels.

Instead it's just another anonymous vehicle borne in the era of horseless carriages, when the wheels numbered four and the a round steering apparatus had replaced a tiller.  It was part of an ever-standardizing design that had the driver sitting on the right (to see the edge of the dirt roads) with pedals for movement and braking dancing at his feet.

The completed right side with the incomplete left, behind.
But aside from the giveaway "Maxwell" written in script across the radiator, the car does not assume its true identity until the shapely body sits behind the firewall.  The cutouts at the front, the relatively novel doors on the rear, the space for three people in the backseat that gives the Q3 its number, all of it combined makes a Maxwell a Maxwell.  The brass filigree is merely a boast, confirming a growing status that the little car from Tarrytown—which would later become a Chrysler—was an eager player in the automobile market.

But instead of factory workers bolting everything into place, I'm doing it myself, alone in The Garage.  And instead of the work signalling an emergence into the working world, today it signifies an emergence back into the light, back onto a road that differs greatly from the last one this little car saw 80 years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment