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by Mike Holler
In our final episode of low cost interior upgrades, the floor gets the attention it deserves. Not only will the ‘old’ Charger get new carpet, but we’ll perform a radical new floor repair with techniques never before seen (as far as I know).
The carpet I’m using is used from an Omni. The Omni carpet was actually about 3” longer than the Charger’s, so I simply cut and overlapped like the really old cars did. Oops, I’m getting ahead of myself.
To begin, we remove anything that bolts on, through, or over the carpet. This would include the seats, seat belts, sill trim, kick panels, console, and whatever else might stop our progress. With the ancillaries out of the way, the carpet itself comes up. To remove the carpet, work the edges to peel it away from the body and the padding. Once the carpet is free, gently work it up over the shifter, emergency brake lever, or whatever else is in the way.
Fold the carpet in half to make it easier to get through the door. With the carpet out of the way, remove the individual pads exposing the bare floor. As you can see in the pictures, my bare floor is a bit too bare. Before delving into a repair job, vacuum out all the crap and loose rust. Keep an eye out for loose change, though ($0.26 under the console).
Use a ball peen hammer to break the rust scale loose from the damaged area. This will make the damage appear even worse. Vacuum the area again, then trim away the rusted sheet metal. Hammer the sharp edges down. By now the extent of the damage will be apparent. I happened to have a sheet of 16 gauge steel lying around. This is entirely too thick for a practical job. A better choice would be either 18 or 20 gauge (but I’m cheap and I already had this).
Welding on an automobile with the fuel system, under coating, interior panels, etc is a fire hazard. Keep a fire extinguisher handy to avert a possible fire department call. Besides, try explaining that one to your insurance man!
Using a mig welder, simply tack the new piece in place so that it is secure. With this new method, you don’t need to weld a water-tight seal around the perimeter.
A friend of mine Wahleed from Egypt showed me this cool trick to cover small rust holes and seal the new repair patch. The passenger’s side floor only had a small rust spot that would be an easy repair. I used a rust converter type primer to spray the entire floor area first. For the actual repair, get a piece of either terry cloth (towel material), or as I did, an old sweat shirt. Cut a piece that nicely overlaps the hole. Spray around the hole with rubberized under coating, and spray the cloth. Apply the wet cloth to the wet floor with the wet side down. Spray the back side of the cloth so it becomes completely saturated with the under coating. Use your fingers to close the gaps around the edges. Allow an hour or so for it to set.
I used this same method to seal the perimeter of the replacement floor on the driver’s side. All of the edges were sprayed, then covered with a sprayed strip of old sweat shirt, then sprayed again. All the seams were gently worked by hand. When done, the repair is about as strong as fiberglass, won’t separate from the rusty areas, and is completely water tight.
While the floor was drying, I sanded and sprayed the shifter. The missing paint and the surface rust was beginning to show through. First 80 grit paper, then 320 grit to smooth it over. I didn’t prime first, as the paint I used is supposed to adhere to bare metal, old paint, and light rust. That adds a touch of refinement to the overall finished interior.
Now it’s time to either install the new, or reinstall the old padding. Padding can be omitted if you’re looking for a little weight advantage, but road noise will be worse and dirt will damage the new carpet easier without it. Next, fold the new carpet in half and lay it in the car. Work it over the shifter, emergency brake handle, and anything else sticking up in your way. Gently work it into place, tucking it under the dash and pedals. New carpet will have creases from shipping that will be easier to remove with a hair dryer or heat gun. The relaxation method should be done before installation time.
As I said earlier, I used Omni carpet in my Charger and needed to cut and overlap it. If installing new carpet, find all of your seat and seat belt holes. Poke holes in the carpet with a punch and ream them large enough to find later. Once the trim is installed, it can be impossible to find where the seat belt bolts are supposed to go. Work in the reverse order of removal. Install the kick panels, sill plates, seat belts, console, then finally the seats.
The old carpet was pulling loose from the driver’s side kick panel. The tendency is to rest your foot there on long drives. I had a ‘dead pedal’ lying in the garage from a Daytona I stripped and decided my Charger really needed one. Just 2 holes punched through the carpet and floor gave me the anchor to hold the new pedal in place. Two self tapping screws secured the deal.
My Charger is not the caliber car to restore. It is my daily driver beater car. The interior upgrade articles were not intended to be restoration quality, but low buck improvements to project cars and old daily drivers. I spent less than $60 total on the entire interior, including the head liner, carpet, sheet metal, under coating, vinyl dye, and a few replacement plastic pieces (we own a steam cleaner). The car is cleaner and more comfortable inside, and is worth several hundred dollars more than when I started. It also gave me fodder to fill a few articles.
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