Monday, 5 January 2009


Before you start it seems a little daunting but once you get into the swing of it its surprising how easy it is. To start with, drilling out pop rivets is a doddle; their central pop hole means the drill is always perfectly centred and it takes very little pressure before the drill pops the back off & leaves the inner flange spinning on your drill bit - you'll soon find you have dozens spinning on the drill bit. They're sharp - use a pair of pliers & run the drill in reverse to get them off.

There are two (well I'm sure there are more but two will do for now) things you don't want to do: Enlarge the original hole or follow through to such an extent that you end up drilling the outer skin.  To avoid enlarging the hole, get comfy and drill straight, use the right size of drill, or slightly undersized. I found a 3mm was perfect. I'm pretty sure that they were 1/8" (as are the solid rivets on the exterior) which is 3.175mm in metric.

There are commercial drill depth-stops but I found using 1" gaffer (sorry, my profession - you'd call it duck tape) tape wrapped round the drill bit (to about the thickness of a pencil) leaving about 3/4" of drill sticking out, cushioned any follow-through perfectly.

Solid rivets are a little trickier.....The Bucked rivets were put into a 1/8 hole (or 3.175mm) but I think most people rebuild using a 5/32 (3.969mm) Universal solid rivet which needs a slightly larger hole, so you could use a 3.5mm drill bit but I find a 3mm popped them out fine. You'll find you have bucked rivets down the side of the door. Mine had a tiny dimple in the head but I wouldn't trust it to hold your drill bit. Use a sharp centre-punch and a sharp tap & you'll have a good centre guide that the drill won't slip out of.

The last sheet comes free and despite being bent for half a century they spring flat like a new sheet.

Perfect templates - though these are fine & will go back...

... and a half-stripped interior. Since we plan to lift the body off the chassis I'm going to leave all the upper interior panels in place to help (along with a lot of wooden bracing) her keep her shape. I was prepared to get through lots of drill bits but this only took about 6. They get blunt & hot (which makes them more likely to snap), so change them when they're not cutting as well. I reckon I'll need quite a few more to drill out the solid rivets on the exterior.


  1. Great job on the detailed instructions! Are you planning on a restoration or a custom interior?

  2. Here is my lame blog. I hope to get it kicked up once Spring arrives here in NY!

  3. You really have a great blog started here. I am especially appreciating your photography. Please continue your great documentation!

  4. Wish I knew your name so I could leave a personal note here... I enjoy the continuous posts. I caution you in drilling the solid rivets on the inside. Often the panels were bucked together on a bench then carried inside and installed. This was a common practice for many years. Often the bucked rivets only attach panels together and not the panel to the ribs. You will see those bucked rivets joining the top most center panel on the ceiling to the ones coming down the wall. I often see guys drill all those out to realize the mistake.

  5. Thanks Jamie, Tim & Frank
    I'm glad you're enjoying my Blog from Blighty. Its been a dream for a while to do a great restoration and a family jaunt around Arizona & a stay at Shady Dell in 2007 helped me take the plunge.
    The 'thanks' is really to you lot as its through your blogs & the VAP, Tim, that I've gleaned all the resto info. I'm glad you like the photos, I'm really trying to record everything as well as I can (warts'n'all) as a guide for others like me.

    PS Thanks for the rivet(ting) advice Frank but I've only been drilling out the bucked rivets around the door, the rest are all pop rivets. I'm leaving the end-caps in for now.