Fitting Front Wings

This technical page includes tips for fitting front wings


I thought I’d share my plan for re-mounting the wings on my 4-door Ghia. This car is a 1980 model, which was Ziebarted from new, and suffers from the usual extremes of preservation associated with that, i.e. the panels that are covered are like new, (save for the sticky black stuff and paint discolouration) those that aren’t have corroded badly.

So, I have 2 mint front wings, (save for dints and scratches) but the mounting rail is missing alongside the bonnet hinge. Add to that a small but significant hole in the front of the sill and I need to remove the wings to sort things out. Life is made a little easier in that the front panel needs replacing, it isn’t rusty but some berk, having removed 3 inches or more from the front springs then seems to have driven into every kerb in his home town, it’s a mess and no amount of panel beating will straighten it.

Having welded the wings onto my estate some time ago I am now wishing I hadn’t. The waxoil crazed the paint and to get it all cleaned off I would like to remove the wings, but I can’t. I think I’ll end up giving it a thick coat of shutz and leaving well alone. On the 4-door however I am using the original wings (all being well) but given their age I want to be able to put them on with a coat of waxoil IN THE JOINTS and be able to get them off in a few years time. I need to convert my wings to demountable (bolt on).

I had considered rivets (aluminium) which would help prevent corrosion in the panels and be easy to remove at a later date, but the wings on an Escort are semi-structural and need to be firmly attached, so bolts it has to be.
I then looked at a mounting kit from a panel company. These consist of self-tapping screws with clipnuts for them to fasten into. These are easy to use but not what I want, firstly they look out of place on the Escort and secondly there is little room between the wing rail and the bonnet for the head of a screw. After considering separating the wing rail into 2 sections, keeping the original spot welds and having a joint hidden underneath, I arrived at countersunk bolts. A little more work, but worth the effort.

The first job is to remove the spot welds with a special drill (a spot weld remover) that has a flat end. If I were keeping the front panel I would also have to separate the wings from it in the same way, but as I am replacing it, out comes the grinder.

Drill through the first panel ONLY and be careful. If the tool is going to break chances are it will happen as the 2 panels spring apart when they separate (use a welding clamp if you have one).

Now, I could just countersink the holes and fit the bolts, remembering to take a little extra metal from the bottom sheet to ensure the bolts clamp the panels firmly.

And if I were remounting the wings using the holes I had drilled to remove them this would be my best option. The spot-weld remover needs to be about 8mm Dia but the countersunk bolt need only be 5mm Dia, anything bigger and I doubt there would be clearance to get a spanner on the nut.
I intend to make a slightly better job however, so eventually I will repair the 8mm holes in the wing, but for now they will help me line the wing up before I clamp it in position and drill a new set of holes, close to the originals, using a 5mm drill.

Now comes the clever part. I will press a countersink into the panel of the wing and then later press a corresponding countersink into the rail beneath it, ensuring a positive location between the panels to guarantee the structural integrity of the car.

Firstly I need to make a tool (a die) that will accept the head of the countersunk bolt plus the thickness of the panel. It can be made easily from a length of steel bar, drilled through at 5mm and countersunk at one end, the countersink needs to be at least 2.5mm dia bigger than the bolt heads to allow them to sit flush. It would be practical to have tapped the die to M5 rather than use a nut behind it but not entirely necessary.

When the tool is ready it is used in conjunction with a M5 nut and one of the countersunk bolts that will eventually secure the wing to press the countersink into the panel. (You could use a wheel nut or similar rather than making the die but the results are not as good).

Finally when all the holes in the wing have been pressed, loosely assemble the wing onto the wing rail and repeat the process for the holes in the wing rail.

Finally the 2 panels will fit together very positively, even after the wing has been repaired (the 8mm spot welds) and painted.

I would not suggest going to the same trouble along the front panel joint, it is after all not visible (For this I plan to use M5 stainless nuts and bolts) and on the 4-door at least, the wing is bolted to the A pillar from new.

That’s it. Once completed, I should be able to assemble the front end of my car with half a litre of waxoil oozing from the joints. LOVELY.

The author accepts no responsibility for any claim arising in connection with this article.