Operation "SAVE THE PEUGEOT" (Part 2)

IMAG3708b When I left off last time we had just nursed my Wife’s beloved Peugeot 306 home having recovered from the scrap line at the back of a faceless body repair centre in an Ipswich industrial complex. I say nursed it home, in reality it drove absolutely no differently post accident to how it did before; except that the brake pad warning light was illuminated and there was a distinct tang of lining material in the air. Hmm, something else to add to the repair list…. Anyway, read on for the next thrilling instalment of Operation SAVE THE PEUGEOT. IMAG3682 We locked the Peugeot safely away in the garage and then went for a long weekend in Brighton, where the weather looked like this ^, did most of our Christmas shopping, drank some quite stupendously good beer microbrewed at the North Laine pub, ate well and generally didn’t really give cars a second thought. Well, SHE didn’t, anyway. I can never stop. Next weekend, though, there was no escape. With my own bodywork facilities being severely lacking, especially in terms of space, I appealed to my Dad to donate his workshop to the cause. As he subscribes to the same newsletter as I when it comes to avoiding paying for work that you can do yourself, he was only too pleased to kick his BMW into the street and welcome our down-but-not-out Peugeot inside. My first task was to get a proper view on exactly what needed to be achieved. My first important task was to get the tailgate to lock- and then open again- like it should. I could see that the slam panel had been twisted as well as dented, so the lock didn’t properly engage with the striker. Not only that, but the door was actually fouling on metal which had been pushed up into the way. IMAG3716 My first thought was to see if the tailgate was out of alignment, so I unbolted it and sure enough there was a fractional amount of lateral movement available. This was actually a very important assessment to perform, as if the tailgate couldn’t be aligned properly it could point to the whole bodyshell having been twisted like a trapezium- an obvious game over. After a bit of adjustment I got the striker lined up perfectly with the law of the lock, so that was fine. It still wouldn’t seat quite right, but I’d sort that out with the un-denting. It’s worth mentioning a little indiscretion of mine which could have indirectly influenced the insurance company’s decision made to write the car off. Several months prior the gas struts which support the tailgate when open were no longer man enough for the task and it would drop painfully onto anybody in the way without a moment’s notice. So I swapped them for a pair of used Mercedes items which were the same size. Unfortunately, it turns out they were designed for a much greater load than the 306 tailgate, so now the tailgate catapults violently open when it’s unlocked. Or it used to, anyway. It was undoubtedly the supercharged struts which caused the boot to fly open on impact, and of course none of the recovery or repair guys could have guessed that I knew about the behaviour of the bootlid all along. IMAG3751 So, with the bootlid now closing correctly I could turn my attention to the rest of the nonsense I found behind the bumper. It was a substantial dent, and had pulled the crossmember and slam panel out of line with it. Fortunately, I couldn’t see any sign of deformation to the trunk floor or anything structural. This was great news. The panel behind the bumper is made from fairly thin metal, so I reasoned that the best way to get it back how it should be would be to use a hydraulic ram and push it back the way it came. I braced the ram against the subframe, which is built of pretty stern stuff and, I figured, the metal I wanted to bend would give way before the subframe did. It ended up working exactly as I wanted it to. IMAG3763 Slowly I subjected the entire width of that panel to the pressure of the ram. I found initially that the metal would return back to its bent form if I released it too quickly, so after a bit of trial and error I left the ram fully extended for a while in each position in the hope that the metal would regain a memory of where it once was. After the whole of this panel was broadly where it needed to be I noticed that some of the dents above it and into the slam panel had disappeared, and that the slam panel itself had twisted itself back into the correct position. This still left an unholy dent three inches by three foot running beneath the right hand taillamp. I stripped the lamps from the car and assessed access to the interior of the slam panel. It was extremely limited, there were two letterbox shaped holes but the middle section, where the dent was at its deepest, was completely hidden by the bit where the bootlid latched shut. After a couple of “nothing to lose” strikes with a hammer and a blunt drift, it became readily apparent that this wasn’t the winning strategy. In fact, although the panel was inching closer to where it needed to be, the surface left was horrible with every strike of the drift leaving a stretch mark in the metal. So I broke out the slide hammer. IMAG3767 A little while later on this was what I was left with. Liking the look so much I actually considered leaving the holes there, but I feared a swift divorce would follow, so I carried on. Fortunately, after a good deal of clanging and battering, the likes of which Frinton-On-Sea hadn’t seen since the great floods of ’53, I figured that the metal was as close to its production position as it was ever likely to be. I gave it a damn good tickling with a wire wheel on the old faithful angle grinder and burred the metal nicely to get some grip… IMAG3769 ….because I reckoned that, from here on in, the finished finish would be realised using the bodgers craftperson’s favourite, P38 plastic padding. Little by little it went on, being sanded between applications until, inevitably, I ran out. So I switched to stopping filler, which was harder to work but actually sanded to a better finish. IMAG3774 What I realised by now was that I still had a hell of a long way to go to achieve a perfect finish. In fact, I needed to fill by at least another 10mm thickness for the dent to disappear forever. But my reckoning was that anything which showed onlookera that a full repair was the intent, and that would demonstrate that the poor little Pug was loved and cherished and, one day, might be dent free, would do the job just fine for now. Besides which I only had this weekend to play with; the car needed to be on the road for its inspection on Monday. So I sanded down what filler I had applied. IMAG3778 I was actually quite pleased by the result, it was flat-ish, it followed the same basic lines of the car, it would do. I gave it a damn good coating of primer, refitted the rear lights, the bumper (which was fixed through the simple expedient of putting some glue on it and replacing the numberplate) and rolled it out of the garage. Next day it went in for its inspection and was deemed absolutely fine to put back on the road. While we were at it, we had our tame garage owner replace the seized front brake caliper and put a new right hand front tyre on. IMAG3781b So, you can see that some of that slam panel dent remains, but in a couple of weeks time the Peugeot will be returning to my parents garage so I can finish the job properly. The important thing is that, far from being written off, The Donkey is back to some semblance of health and is fit to roam the roads once more. (All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)

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