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How to inspect the frame in a pre-purchase inspection on a restored car?

ScottBroder

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How to inspect the frame in a pre-purchase inspection on a restored car?
I have seen lots of lists of "what to look for" and checklists for buyers. My specific question is related to the inspection of a 3000 frame on a supposedly restored car. For 2 different cars I am considering purchasing, I tracked down a local Healey club member to look at the car before I fly to see them myself. The 2 cars were restored, frame-off, both 15-20 years ago. One now has 20k mile and the other 5k since restoration. I would eventually hire a British car mechanic to do a PPI before purchase. So far, the report back is the undersides of both cars look nice and clean according to each local club member. On both cars, the frame is the same color as the body.
Yes, I understand to check the outriggers and look at the doglegs and look at all surface rust. Try to determine what metal was replaced if any and look at the quality of welding and seam sealing. But beyond that what do you look for? How do you know if the frame is rusting from the inside? Is that even a thing to worry about? I am sure there is SOME rust inside all frames. How much is too much? Unless the car is a late model BJ8, there's no plugs to run a video camera scope into. Sellers generally don't want to drill holes to let you do this.

Is there a good video or tech note on the frame inspection process?
 

John Turney

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Here are some thoughts:
  • If there are no seams on the top or bottom of the frame, it has probably been replaced by a Jule frame. That's good in that it's a better frame and wouldn't be rusted on the inside, but is not original.
  • One can tap on the frame with a hammer to see if it deforms the frame or punches rust holes in it, but the owners wouldn't like that and it would damage the paint.
  • One can use ultrasonic inspection to measure thickness of the metal, but requires specialized equipment and skill.
  • I think that the pre-BJ8 frames have a couple of holes in the main rail sides that one could insert a video probe. I have a BN4 and I used some existing holes to insert Waxoil into the frame.
 
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re: "How do you know if the frame is rusting from the inside?"

If it's a Healey.

Kidding aside, there is almost certainly rusting inside the 'boxed' frame. There was no anti-rust treatment at all on these cars AFAIK (when they were made, they were built to last a few years then get crushed). We had my '56 BN2 on a rotisserie, and when you rotated the frame you could hear the rust inside, but it appeared to be a solid frame otherwise. There are a few small holes you might be able to snake a borescope into, but it will only tell you how much rust there is. If you wanted to get a good look, you could cut the plates off the front where the anti-sway bar brackets bolt up, but you'd have to weld them back into place (they might be crushed-in anyways). Injecting Waxoyl or similar should reduce future degradation.
 

roscoe

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You can also do what we do with older tube and fabric airplanes, which is to use a sharp pick or awl and push at intervals along the frame. If a spot is badly rusted from the inside you may see some movement or you may even poke through. Any honest seller should be glad to know if there is serious rust. I wouldn't buy a car if they didn't let me do that. You can also use a tap hammer, a small lightweight hammer and tapping along the frame you will hear different amounts of " ring" if there is bad rust. Sharp tapping sounds are good, dull sounds are bad. The tapping takes a bit of experience but anyone can detect really bad rust with it. As stated by others, it's a Healey. An origional frame will have some rust. When I cut parts of my frame during rebuild I was surprised at the rust I saw and further surprised that after clean-up there was plenty of meat left. I oiled it with preservative oil and haven't given it another thought.
 

red57

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I know nothing about bore-scope sizes/limits or what you would be able to see but there are several holes in the frame that could be probed. The attached pictures are a '60 BT7 frame that happens to be on a rotisserie and easy to take pictures of. I have '57 BN4 frame that is the same but I don't know about the BJ8 frame.
IMG_2940.jpgIMG_2935.jpgIMG_2937.jpgIMG_2938.jpg
First pic is at the front, one hole in bottom is about 3/8" and the one in the side is about 1/2"
Second pic is at front outrigger, another in bottom at 3/8" and one in bottom of outrigger at 1/4"
Third pic is at rear outrigger, another in bottom at 3/8" and a large one in side at 5/8" and some in crucifix at 1/4"
Fourth pic is just in front of rear crossmember, another 3/8" in bottom (so total of 4ea 3/8" in bottom of each frame leg)
Not shown is 1/4" at the outer ends in the bottom of the rear Xmember and a 1/4" drains where the bumper mount extensions weld to the rear Xmember
The outer sills under the door should have large 1/2" drain holes at the bottom of the rear end.

Not sure what you may learn but at least there are several possible places to look if your bore scope is small enough.

Dave
 

blueskies

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There's no simple answer to the original question in this thread. Freshly painted frames can look OK and still have weak points or hidden issues, and frames with obvious extensive repairs can be very sound - and everything in between. I have seen enough really bad frames on Healeys and other cars; it's usually obvious when you see one of those. Some rust prone areas, such as the front cross member, may rust through at the bottom. But that doesn't mean that the rest of the frame is bad. Repairs aren't necessarily a bad thing. If you aren't comfortable making your own assessment of the frame, choose someone that knows Healeys and what to look for. Then rely on their judgement.

Healeys never did have the stoutest frames, even when new. But their frames didn't get rusty from sitting in a dry garage environment. They deteriorated from driving on salt covered roads, from humid environments, and from decades of neglect and abuse. Rust doesn't progress quickly if the car is kept in a good, dry environment and properly cared for in the future. If it looks OK and passes inspection, enjoy it.
 
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... Healeys never did have the stoutest frames, even when new. But their frames didn't get rusty from sitting in a dry garage environment. They deteriorated from driving on salt covered roads, from humid environments, and from decades of neglect and abuse. Rust doesn't progress quickly if the car is kept in a good, dry environment and properly cared for in the future. If it looks OK and passes inspection, enjoy it.

I believe the cars came originally with rubber soft plugs for most of the holes in the frame (the aforementioned half-inch). These were almost certainly perished after a couple years, and would admit (even more) water. Years ago, I fogged LPS3 in my BJ8's frame with an undercoating wand and meticulously plugged the larger holes. I anticipate a miracle.
 

gonzo

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Just a thought. Aside from the visual check, couldn't the structural integrity of the frame be assessed by lifting the car at each corner with a floor jack while observing things like panel gaps, door open / close function etc? A rotten frame - no matter how finished it looks from the outside - may not far well with this type of test.
 
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Just a thought. Aside from the visual check, couldn't the structural integrity of the frame be assessed by lifting the car at each corner with a floor jack while observing things like panel gaps, door open / close function etc? A rotten frame - no matter how finished it looks from the outside - may not far well with this type of test.

... or lift the car in the middle and see if the gaps open up.
 

Keoke

Great Pumpkin
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Hope N Pray the restoration shop did the necessary work and it is documented
 

Healey Nut

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I have full photo documentation of all the metal work done to my BJ8s .I had the metalwork done by professional restoration shop .
put the car on a four point lift on the outriggers . Before lifting check the door gaps and the way the doors close as far as sound when you clunk them shut . Do they drag on the latches as you try to open them .
Now raise the lift to take the weight off the wheels and try the same trick with the doors , if the gaps are different or the doors dont operate the same ....walk away .
 

nevets

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When I was searching for a Healey, the response I heard most often when I asked a seller if the car had any rust issues was "none that I am aware of". Hmmm.
Given that both cars underwent frame-off restorations, there may be photos that will provide a better sense of frame integrity. Also, I see you are in Idaho. Are the cars in southern California or some other low-humidly, snow/ice/salt-free environment? I'm on the east coast and I found my Healey in SoCal.
 

RAC68

Darth Vader
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Hi All,

When evaluating the Healey's frame, keep in mind that when testing the frame as previously recommended, you are not only stressing the traditional box frame for movement but all welded substructures that make up the semi-monocoque. Also, in all likelihood, the lower box will have rust and some areas of corrosion within and not indicated on the outside. Additionally, it is likely that outer rust-through areas would have been covered with welded 16-gauge plates and feathered-in to be unseen. Although these patches do improve frame strength and integrity, understand that the surrounding original areas were constructed of 15-gauge steel and further diminished with some rust and/or corrosion. This can mean that the frame stress will be transferred to the nearby weaker metal and instigate further areas of box frame deterioration.

With all this negative frame potential, why is it not necessary to just replace the lower box section in total. From my experiences, I feel that Unless you intend to race your Healey or put an equally stressing large motor and practice heavy accelerations, my properly-done welded patches have perform sufficiently well to allow ME to fully enjoyment my Healey. Also, considering that I am now more than half century older since I first acquired and drove my Healey, my perception of fully taking advantage of my Healey's performance is not as far toward the edge as it first was (no longer taking 4-wheel drifts around mountain turns on Dunlop RoadSpeeds.

So, my thought is, when looking for a Healey to purchase, inspect as much of the corrections as possible and map where and HOW the correction was made. Although I expect the correction to be well incorporated into the finish and not easily identified. However, if during ownership, the correction becomes apparent and you need to replace, I suggest you consider making the re-patch steel plate is welled on and extends far beyond the breach to allow the transfer of stress over a larger original sections.

What do you think,
Ray(64BJ8P1)
 
Last edited:

Patrick67BJ8

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If you want more info on the frames visit the archives for “Martin Jansen” aka “Frameman”.
 

CLEAH

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@ScottBroder, my advice is to familiarize yourself with what good frames and bad frames (and those in between) look like by spending a lot of time on this forum and the internet generally. Healey's are quite predictable. In my opinion, the idea that "Healey's rust from the inside" is not true. If they are bad on the inside, they are bad on the outside too, so I don't think you will find any surprises, unless someone did a lot of work to cover up a bad frame on the outside. But I think you'd see that, with lots of plating of the frame in particular. With plating, you have no idea what is under the plate. My own car, which had led a pretty hard life in its early years, had one rusted through hole in the frame. It was big enough to put a scope into. There was no rust inside the frame (just the lightest surface rust). Healey frames are plenty strong--they are robust cars that can take a beating, so don't over-think it. And if you are under someone else's car, I would not take a pick or a hammer to the frame. If someone did that to my car I'd grab them by the neck and call the police for vandalizing my car. Seriously.

The picture attached is my car under restoration. This is what a "perfect" frame looks like, with all the dents pulled and the original welded seams intact. When you get under the cars you are considering, you'll probably have no trouble seeing what is good and what is bad. But remember that these frames are actually very robust, so some crustiness here or there will likely not mean much. I really think you can over-think these things. All cars are designed to take incredible dynamic loads, and Healeys don't fold up during use. Go buy your Healey and have a blast!

20160823_163535 Resized.jpg
 

RAC68

Darth Vader
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Hi Hugh,

Although much you have said I do agree with, in many cases the outside of the frame was both painted at the factory and undercoating applied at the dealer (a common practice promoted by the dealer in the day). However, although a low percentage of Healey owners actually used a product like Waxoyl sprayed inside the frame, considering the fact that moisture could easily enter the majority of untreated frames and remain for extended period, it seems incredible that rust would not form within these enclosures.

Keep in mind that, as Hugh stated, our frames are a part of the welded infrastructure of the semi-monocoque chassis inherent within our Healeys and what we refer to as our frame are only parts contributing to our Healey's full structural strength. Based upon this fact, it is understandable why our frames were constructed out of 15-gauge sheet metal and not mush thicker and heavier rolled Steel.

Again, I do agree with Hugh that much is made of frame rust, but then again, the frame is an inherent component of the Healey's chassis and a key component in maintaining the car's total integrity. Yes, the frame is important and should be carefully addressed when buying a Healey. However, there are things with every Marque that must be considered, addressed, and plans made by the new potential owner to their satisfaction. If this can't be or isn't done, insecurity will disqualify the purchase and eliminate the opportunity.

Hugh, really nice work.

Just my thought,
Ray(64BJ8P1)
 
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