1967 Chevy Impala

page 4 - Frame Wrap

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Frame Wrapping is the process of welding 1/4" steel outside the original frame in order to make a new, stronger (yet heavier) frame. The purpose of the Frame Wrap is to strengthen the frame to be able to handle the stress of the car hopping down the street without causing damage to the frame or the 40 year old car sitting on top of it. The pictures you will see below will look like crap. Mainly because during the cutting/ welding/ hammering/ grinding stage, there's nothing but cold hard steel and welds. Long time frame wrappers may critique many of the things I did below, but remember this is a first time full frame wrap done in a garage (not a shop) with a 110V welder.


More Detailed View

Front Frame Rails

The front end takes all the stress of the engine and front end of the car coming down from several feet in the air.  This weak factory metal definitely needs reinforcing.

You can see the area on the frame that was cut out from the previous owner. Since the car had airbags in it, some material had to be cut as to not tear the bag. The second pic shows the inside of the spring pocket where a factory shock would come through. This  is where the stock spring sits and takes most of the stress of the new hopping coils.

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I wrapped the outside in 3/16" instead of 1/4" because of the difficulty of this tight of a bend. I think I got the 3/16" to look much better then 1/4" would have turned out. Up top where the spring pocket is, I used 3/8" thick.....just to be extra safe. Everything else such as top of the rails and underneath got 1/4".

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Frame Connection areas

This is where the rear frame is welded to the middle rails from the factory.  Notice I ran some welds to strengthen this stock connection before welding over it. The middle set of pics show the side view of this spot. You'll notice I reinforced the body mount too.  The bottom set is the front connection to the middle rails. Sorry no before pics there.

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Rear Arches

This is commonly referred to as the rear arches. Basically where the rear rails go over where the axle sits. This is an extremely crucial area because of the 500-1000 lbs of batteries and hydraulic pumps that will sit on the rear of the frame. This needs to be strong! This was so weak that with the whole frame on jack stands, I could press down on the rear bumper and the frame would flex at the point of the outward curve! This weak point was made even more weak when the previous owner had the airbags installed. The shop cut the frame rail to gain more clearance but didn't reinforce the frame at all. 

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To get rid of the hump in the spring pocket took some ugly work that I don't like to show because it truly looks like garbage in the middle of the process. Its not until the end when the final plate goes over that it all comes together and you can see what I was trying to do. Well, here it goes anyway::  I would never recommend welding separate plates onto a frame rail like this. This alone does not do any good! When the final piece goes over these small plates, then you can say that there is some good done. This was ONLY done to build up to the curve so that the outer plate could be as straight as possible to eliminate the curve in the frame. You'll notice what is circled is all that's left of the factory curve. 


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Well, there's my dirty little secret. Underneath, it looks like crap but once you get the outer plate on, you can see that all tied together, this is a strong design. Don't worry those rough edges and ugly welds will be grinded down to a more presentable form later on....Check it out:

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I also welded 1/4" plate on the inside of the pocket. Now, with all the steel I added plus the factory steel. This weak point has been eliminated. Its now almost an inch and a quarter thick. While I was doing this process I kept checking the flex in the frame by pressing down on the rear bumper. Immediately after welding the very first 1/4" plate the flex was nearly gone. After I completely finished I was able to press down on the back of the frame and the front would pop up with no flex. Problem solved.

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Rear Frame Rails

In the rear, where the weight of the batteries and pumps will set was very thin C-Channel from the factory.

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Here's what it looks like as it gets a 1/4" steel treatment on all 4 sides.

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Various other frame pics

I reinforced the top of the cross member, I probably should have done the bottom, front and back sides of it as well, but to be honest the way the cross member is shaped, I would have a bunch of little plates all welded together and in my opinion wouldn't have done a whole lot of good. We'll see how it holds up I guess

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The middle of the rear humps was connected with some weak thin steel so I decided to weld a HUGE 1/4" plate across the back to strengthen side to side movement of the frame rails. This should help with 3 wheeling as well as generally stiffen up the rear chassis.

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Now, I'm no professional welder as you can see in the pics. But, I think most of it turned out damn nice considering its 1/4" steel using a smaller 110V welder. 

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Now that the hard part is done, its time to shoot some primer on the frame in preparation for paint. I used some self-etching primer that has built in sealer to help seal the bare metal from rusting.

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The color is PPG Prismatic Blue. PPG has a color chart with various prismatic flakes, this being one of those colors. My intent is to match the color of the car as closely as possible. Ideally, the car will be repainted anyway in a year or so and it will exactly match the frame.  This is a 3 stage paint with Base Coat, Mid Coat (prismatic flakes) and finally Clear Coat.


Base Coat

After laying your base coat down, the color will look extremely dull. This is normal and will shine up once the clear is applied. Here's some pics to show what I mean. The color itself has a high metallic content so in the sun looks a bit brighter then in the shade.

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Mid Coat - Adding the Flake

The flake was really fun to add because of the change in effect it adds as you add more and more flake. I laid a good 3 heavy coatings of flake mixture down. Now again, this isn't very shiny yet because no clear coat has been added.

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Clear Coat                                                            What's holding the frame up? 

Me putting in work                                                               I ended up using 2 engine hoists to hold the frame so that I could adjust the height on each end as I was spraying.

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This is where it shines. Its do or die at this point, either its going to look good, or its going to look like crap.  I laid 3 coats of clear in most spots, except the side rails and up front top which would be seen more I laid 4 coats.

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Out in the Sun                                                        

The flake is hard to see in the garage, but when the sun hits it, look out.

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Other Parts I painted to match

        Spindles          Tranny Cross member            Steering Gearbox                    Rear end cover and gearbox  bolts                 Rear End

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BACK: Go to Control Arm Reinforcements on page3             NEXT: Go to Frame Re-Assembly on page5


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