Tunable Tension: An ol' fashioned fitment fix

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Story and photos by Rotten “Rodney” Bauman

Gappin’ doesn’t just happen. When a body on a rotisserie must become reacquainted with the frame rails to which it belongs, or when new mounting pads and a box full of shims aren’t enough to square things up, you’ll likely twist panels and cut parts to get a good gap. In order to achieve panel alignment with uniform gaps, be prepared to do what’s necessary and think outside the box o’ shims.

Wood-framed bodies are particularly tricky and sometimes act as if they have memories or minds of their own. Surprisingly, however, this 1931 Cadillac convertible coupe body has held its shape quite well, both over the years and during its restoration. At the project’s early beginning, my metal-fabricating wife (Mrs. Rotten) welded some bolt-in bracing to keep the door jambs properly spaced during the time that the body would be off the frame. Backed by an additional bolt-in X-member, the bracing did its job. We also received a rare break, as the majority of this car’s original wooden body structure was still solid and strong.

During the old Cadillac’s disassembly, a two-post lift was used to raise the body as the chassis was rolled out from beneath and the rotisserie rolled in its place. With two lengths of 4x4, one on each side between the adjustable rotisserie and the body’s wooden floor, the body was bolted tight. During the frightening “frame to lift to rotisserie” procedure, I heard neither a creek nor a squeak, and I’m here to testify that I witnessed no body flex. Sure, the steps were well thought out and thoughtfully executed, but still, there’s no denying that luck was a factor — at least to that point.

As luck would inevitably have it, luck ran out. During the car’s final assembly, the driver’s side door took a bizarre twist and began to sag. The door fit before. In fact, I’d already gone to great lengths to make it fit when the body went back on the chassis after I’d done all I could with shims. Months ago, when the body was snuggly placed where it was to stay, I’d added and subtracted metal at the edges of both doors to get the gaps I was after.

Mysteriously, after the paint work, things were not as I recalled. That was one of those “walk away” days, but when the rooster crowed the next morning, one possible solution had dawned. It worked for me. It could work for you too. Here’s how:

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