Repairing the Firefly

Last Updated Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008

A little over a year ago I was heading home from work when I heard this terrible noise coming from the back of the car. It sounded like grinding metal. I slowed down a bit and eventually stopped at a body shop, hoping those guys would know how to fix whatever structural thing might be wrong.

I was mistaken. They only do pretty paint jobs and replace fenders. Up on the hoist we could see that the mount for the sway bar had torn loose:

I figured (probably incorrectly) that this was the source of the sound. I called around to find someone that could somehow weld it back together, but nobody wanted to touch it because of its proximity to the gas tank.

I have been all over the map of the solution landscape, trying to decide what to do with this car. We had so much snow last winter that most of the time it was buried, and I didn't have the stamina to shovel it all away. So there it sat...One thing led to another and I decided I'd try to fix it myself.

I borrowed a MIG welder and bought $2 worth of scrap steel. I didn't have a clue how to operate a MIG welder, but I played with it in the basement long enough to melt some metal and burn a small hole in my foot. My sheet metal wasn't wide enough, so I welded two strips edge to edge to make a larger plate. I pounded it into the shape of the underside of the car's trunk, drilled holes, and using thicker metal for the actual mount, laboriously cut out the shapes I thought I'd need, and welded them all together. (This took a lot longer than it looks.)

And then a coat of rust resistant paint:

Finally, mounted in the car with bolts from my scrap bin, with the sway bar keep attached:

The view from above:

I'll have to nip off the ends of a couple of those bolts and cover them with a small board so they don't chance puncturing the spare tire. I'm pretty well convinced that after taking a year to get this far, the sway bar mount was already torn loose long before that sound started happening. It's probably a faulty rear brake. I started working on it right away, but of course, it started to rain.

Next: The alternator