If you have one of the ÒBig BirdsÓ built from 1967 thru 1976 you know the weakness of the plastic armrest frames on each door. Ford had a nice design, mounting the window and seat switches, the radio speaker, the door handle and the armrest pad all in one spot. However after years of supporting all that weight when those doors slammed, these plastic frames literally disintegrated. Not to mention the fact that nearly everyone overtightened the mounting bolts if the armrests were taken off and put back on.
Anyone who has had problems with these also knows that it is nearly impossible to find a good replacement, they are all broken.
There is hope! A process called plastic welding can be used to sucessfully put these back together. A special small heat gun that produces a concentrated stream of hot air is used to melt filler rod of the same type of plastic and fuse it to the borken parts, in effect ÒweldingÓ them together. To help strengthen the parts, extra pieces of plastic can be welded into the armrest in strategic places to help spread out the stress. If parts ar missing from your armrests it may be necessary t use parts salvaged from broken up armrests. Hopefully you will be able to salvage enough of your original frames to have them repaired. If not then the hunt begins for replacements.
The pads on these armrests are another story. They were originally a block of foam moulded over a metal plate that gave them stregth along with a vinyl skin that was bonded right onto the foam at the time of manufacture. A couple things happen to these over the years. 1). The vinyl covering will split, opening up and showing cracks in the foam. 2). The foam splits away from the piece of metal inside and the edges start pulling up all around.
Repairing the cracks in the surface is the toughest job. A filler material must be used and at presend I do not know of any highly acceptable material for this repair. Repairing the seperation from the metal around the edges can be accomplished with a product called ÒFlexible Parts Repair MaterialÓ It is made by 3M Company and is available from automotive stores. A jig must be made to clamp the pad into when doing this. Some of the dried and dead foam is scraped out and then the area is filled with this FPRM. The pad is then clamped into the jig and allowed to set up for 24 hours at which time it is removed and the excess ground away. This process may have to be repeated a number of times with different clamping sequences to get the process completed.
All these repairs need to be done with all the parts of the armrest unit on hand as the parts must be checked for fit as the repairs are made.
For more information on this process or to have your armrests repaired pleas feel free to contact John R. Draxler at Thunderbird Ranch. (click to send email)
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