Closed firewall and installed engine mount

February 2, 2018 – I found somebody available to help me rivet the firewall recess.

Before I installed the recess, I had to finish installing the rudder pedal center bracket.

I also had to install the two nutplates in the recess where the cockpit heat box attaches.

One of my EAA 168 buddies came over and we riveted the firewall recess.

I applied firewall sealant and clecoed the recess in place.

We got the recess installed, then decided to go ahead and install the engine mount. Jim shot the recess rivets outside, so he wanted to crawl in and do the bolts for the mount.

Time: 1:30

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Started center section cover

January 22, 2018 – Since my next step on the firewall is to install the recess, I moved to the cockpit floor cover for the fuel system.

I had previously done some small work on this, but didn’t know if I’d be installing a fuel boost pump in this location. I have the stock boost pump and filter from Van’s, along with the cover, so I started in on this. The cover needs to be modified to fit the pump assembly.

The long piece of the cover gets cut to accommodate the support for the pump and filter. The piece in blue plastic is the new bracket that supports the pump. An additional notch needs to be removed from the long cover after it’s shortened.

The housing for the fuel selector valve also gets modified.

Then I had to crawl into the airplane and drill the mounting holes for the covers. I temp installed everything to get the positioning just right.

Once everything was drilled, I took it all apart to deburr and prep for paint.¬† One last thing I had to do was bend the louvers for “cabin heat”. I put that in quotes because the RVs are known for not having adequate heat in the cabin right out of the box. These louvers were a little tricky to get the hang of at first, but I think I did pretty well.

Here’s a picture from up above again. You can see that the louvers at the top of the picture are just cutout and not bent to direct the air:

I used a hand seamer with a radiused strip of aluminum to make the bends. I used the table to back up the bend on the back side.

Here are the finished louvers:

Hopefully the weather will cooperate and I can get this stuff painted soon.

Time: 5:15

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Cockpit Air Vent Brackets

November 16. 2017 – Well, it’s been a painful couple of months since my last update. I lost my bride of 32 years in October. I put a post on the front page of this site.

In the meantime, I’ve been whittling away at the brackets for the eyeball vents in the cockpit.

I had the stock vents from Van’s that need to be trimmed to fit in the stock installation.

I REALLY don’t like these vents, so I finally caved in and bought the smaller vents from Stein. Here they are side by side:

I started making templates out of light cardboard. I wanted to integrate the headset jacks in the same bracket. I’d also done some research on the Bose powered headset jacks, but decided to wait on provisions for those.

These brackets have a small 90 degree angle that will have a screw attachment to the lip of the panel. This way the panel will still be removeable (if the need ever arises).

Once I got the brackets made and painted, I dimpled the skin rivet holes and installed them.

Time: 6:00

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Forward skin installed

November 11, 2016 – Wow! I guess I haven’t done any updates in a while.

I’ve been working towards getting the windshield installed. I wanted to install fans to help cool the avionics behind the panel, so I cut those holes, then I prepped the glareshield area for priming..

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I then permanently installed the sub-panel structure. I had previously painted it white for possible added light under there.

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I realized that I hadn’t dimpled the flanges of the firewall where the top skin will attach, so I did that.

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I painted the underside of the skin flat black where it would be above the panel, then i back-riveted the attach angles for the panel..

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Time to close up. I shot what I could by myself.


This is where some time got away from me. I had to get help to finish riveting the skin, and during that time we took a short vacation. But I got my friend Wilson to come and help, and we got the rest of the skin shot on in pretty short order.


I cleaned up the glareshield for painting. Had one more day of halfway decent weather before it cooled off and rained for a week or so, so I got the paint done. I found some spray on truck bed liner paint that I thought I’d try. It has a nice texture and is flat. I think it looks nice.

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I had to tidy up a few things: I installed the rollbar brace, and I had to resecure some clamps for the fuel vent lines. I had to move the vent lines so I could rivet in some of those locations.

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Time: 11:00

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Canopy and windshield work

October 3, 2016 – I’ve spent an awful lot of time on the ledge with this canopy, but I think I can move on…

100316005I’ve been happy with the roll of the canopy, but due to the slightly wide dimension of the canopy, the side skirts were not flush with the skins. The skirts had a consistent 1/8″ gap front to back. I had no idea how to fix that, or if it was something I even needed to worry about. After consulting with a few friends, I concluded that I needed to do something.

I decided to try bending the lower edge of the skirts in. I used a hand seamer, very carefully working the length of the skirts, front to back. I used the lower edge of the inner brace as the bend point.

Now, I can barely get a fingernail under there.


I installed the rollbar.


I have also trimmed and sanded the windshield to get it ready to install. I removed the blue plastic from the top skin where the glareshield will be painted. I’m going to install fans on the glareshield, so I’ll have to get those and drill the holes first.


Time: 4:20

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Canopy and windshield work

September 15, 2016 – In the last post I described how I prepped the forward top skin for installation before I could install the windshield. One of the things I had done previously bugged me a little bit as far as maintainability is concerned.

The fuel vent lines are clamped in place as they run from the inlets to the tanks. I realized when the top skin is installed, I wouldn’t be able to get to the top clamp if I ever had to remove a vent tube. So I removed the screw and nut for that clamp, and I installed nutplates in the left and right top gussets.

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Here’s the screw from underneath:


I moved on and started preliminary trimming of the windshield. I have a pretty nice 3/16″ or so gap between the windshield and the canopy. I’m just going to clean that edge up to prevent future cracking.

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My friend Floyd came over to see the project, and to help me drill the inner side skirt braces. Then I prepped, painted and installed them.


I started on the aft blocks that provide the stops for the canopy. There are pins in the canopy frame that will go into holes in hard lastic blocks, and will secure the aft end of the canopy when it is closed.

Before I could start those, I realized I had left out some rivets in the side skins right at the aft ends of the tracks. I installed them so the skin was tightly in position.


The plans call for the channels that the blocks go into to be 1/8″ from the outer edge of the canopy decks to allow for clearance of rivets. I drilled for that.


One little problem, which really has everything to do with my canopy still being just a hair too wide (see previous posts). here’s how the pin on the canopy frame is positioned in the channel for the block on the left side:


The pin should go into the block more inboard than it is. I decided that I have enough clearance from the rivets to move these channels a little bit outboard, closer to the canopy frame on each side. I thought maybe I could make some of these channels, but I decided to go ahead and order two new ones from Van’s, and I’ll drill the new ones so they are a bit outboard from where these are.

Here’s a picture of the inner skirt brace and an aft block shot from inside with the canopy closed:


Time: 7:30

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Back on track!

August 25, 2016 – HA! get it? Back on track?!

Anyway, I’m back where I needed to be with the canopy. I located and drilled the new tracks. I decided I still needed to bring the forward ends out just a hair to ease the rolling. After the tracks were installed and I dropped the canopy in place, it rolls really nice!

Here’s the holes for the windshield roll bar:


And the tracks:

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I also decided to paint the sub-panel structure and the top skin white, so it might be just that much brighter inside there when I have to do work. I’m going to install the windshield sooner than later, which will mean I have to install the top skin, which will take away some access later on.

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Time: 5:20

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Reworking canopy rails

August 3, 2016 – And now from the “Because I know it’s there” file, I decided to replace the canopy decks and the rails.

I’ve mentioned that I’m not overjoyed with how the canopy rolls, and I previously relocated the tracks. That helped, but I kn ew then that I had multiple holes in the canopy decks. I also think that I will be able to move the tracks outboard another 1/16″ or so, and return them to parallel.


Once I got the parts from Van’s, I drilled the new decks.


I had to locate the holes for the windshield rollbar, so I cut the decks off of the old parts and clecoed them in place on the new decks. I used drill bushings and reamers to get precise final holes.


The decks are now painted and ready to install.

Time: 4:00

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Preparing to trim the canopy

May 18, 2016 – Getting ready for the big cut.

To start out, I needed to locate the centerline of the canopy bubble. This is easier said than done, and a precise centerline really can’t be found. The bubble is molded plexiglass, and the edges are not equal. So I placed the bubble on top of the canopy frame and windshield bows on the airplane, and tried to let the bubble settle where it wanted to. I found a happy place, and marked along the canopy frame center bow and to the forward and aft positions with 1/4″ masking tape.

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I marked the location of the forward frame bow and the windshield bow, and  I also marked the tentative location of the latch hole that will be drilled.

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I put the bubble upside down on my table and placed the frame inside. The idea here is to also let the frame find its “happy place”. I had it in a frame that a friend loaned me, but I think maybe right now that frame may be putting pressure on the bubble, when I want it all to be loose and free-fitting.

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Today is just a tad cool, so I’m going to wait before I start trimming. I think I’m going to trim the molding lines off, then get ready to drill the latch hole.

No pictures, but I also spent a little bit of time deburring, dimpling and priming the forward top skin. Not sure when it will be installed, so I just set it aside.

Time: 3:00

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Drilled wing aft spars

April 29, 2016 – What a day this was! Myself and a helpful crew got the wing drilling done.

This had to be the warmest day of Spring so far this year, and I was feeling it by the time we were done.

I moved the fuselage and the wing cradle out into the driveway. We removed the flaps to help give access to the aft spar for drilling. We then slid the wings into position. It kinda looked sad with the wings there but without the wing bolts installed.

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We ground the threads off four hardware store bolts, and put them into place.


Looks much better with some dihedral…


We did have to trim the ends of the aft spars, and the forward strap of the center section “forks” to get the wings straight.

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We leveled the fuselage laterally and longitudinally, then hung four plumb bobs on the leading edges, then snapped a chalk line on the driveway. We lined up the inboard plumb bobs on the chalk line, then started working on getting the outboard ends perpendicular. Both wings had a very slight forward sweep.

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We measured from the outboard aft corner of each wing back to the upper corner of the side skin at the aft-most bulkhead. Got 173 5/8″ on each side.

We then used a level and a 3″ block to measure level on each wing. Some minor adjustments were needed, but we got it dialed in.

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I then got down into position at the aft spar to drill. I had made a nice wood block with a drill bushing in order to get a straight perpendicular hole. We realized that we couldn’t keep the spar clamped AND have the block in place. I decided to do it by hand. I started with a #30, then stepped up to #21, then used reamers to .191″, .250″, and finally .312″. And a lot of Boelube… The bolts slipped in great and were nice and straight. Those of you who know will think that the bolt is in backwards in the photo below. I just slipped the bolt in to test fit. I had to take everything back apart because I’m still in the garage.

Here’s the before and after at the aft spar:

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And here’s the proud daddy:

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Time: 24:00 (total man-hours)

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Drilled vertical stabilizer

April 18, 2016 – I think I lost a few hairs doing this one. Really needed to make sure I didn’t mis-drill, and I measured, re-measured, and so on.

The first part of this was to trim the front spar of the stabilizer. The plans called for 5/8″, but I kept it at 1/2″ for now.


I marked edge distance on the splice plate and clamped it into place.


I clamped the stabilizer into place.

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I made the angle that ties the stabilizer to the top deck of the fuselage. I ended up making another one, because it turned out just a bit too short. I wanted some more edge distance for the outboard bolts.

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I drilled the bolt holes, which have to go through the longerons, and edge distance there is critical. The center three holes are for rivets that attach to the deck.


There are several measurements that have to be made:

  • the distance from the tips of the horizontal stabilizer to the tip of the vertical. This ensures that the vertical is truly vertical. My measurement came out to 62 5/16″
  • the vertical is displaced 1/4″ to the left of the aircraft centerline. This compensates for engine torque. The splice plate at the forward spar is “joggled” to the left to allow for this.
  • the rudder hinge brackets had to be in line. This is adjusted at the forward spar splice plate. This took me the longest time to figure out. I though the center bracket was somehow incorrect, because it was just forward of the top and bottom brackets. I was able to straighten the stabilzer vertically by pushing the forward spar down lower on the splice plate.

I drilled two bolt holes on the angle at the aft spar and the deck.

Once I had everything measured and located properly, I back-drilled the holes for the splice plate. Had to use an angle drill, and I couldn’t get to all the holes with the stabilizer in place.

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I took the stabilizer off and drilled the rest of the holes on the table.


Remember when I said that the plans showed to trim the stabilizer spar 5/8″ and I just trimmed 1/2″? Here’s the situation I had:


The spar¬†interfered with the bend in the splice plate. So I marked good edge distance from the rivet holes and trimmed another 1/8″ off the spar. Now it fits like a glove.


The last thing I had to do was drill the bolts attaching the aft spar of the stabilizer to the fuselage. These bolts also go through the tailwheel mount.

To give myself better access, I lifted the tail up onto a box.


I used the tooling hole in the fuselage frame just above the tailwheel mount. I used a #30 with a drill bushing, then back-drilled from inside, and took the hole up to final size.

I also measured the hole locations in just the frame, with the stabilizer off. Triple-checked everything because I’d be drilling blind through to the tailwheel mount and I needed good edge distance. I drilled the holes to #30, reinstalled the stabilizer, and back-drilled from the inside.


I think it came out pretty good…:


That did it. Here’s a few shots of the drilled front assembly:

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Time: 8:30

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Drilled horizontal stabilizer

April 6, 2016 – I drilled the stabilizer to mount to the fuselage.

I made the shims that go under the HS-714 where the stabilizer mounts.


I made sure that the stabilizer would be mounted square. I measured from the aft outboard corner on each side up to the top corner of the side skin at the firewall. Both sides were right at 170″. Perfect.

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The plans call for a 3/16″ gap between the aft deck and the bottom of the stab, so I inserted two #10 drill bits.


I marked the location for the outboard holes that go through the HS-714, the aft deck, the longerons, and the support angle underneath. I drilled the holes with a #40. You can see the open hole in the angle in this photo shot from inside:


I’m OK with the edge distance here. I drilled the two holes just inboard of these, then took these four holes up to fit -3 bolts.


Once that was done and clecoed, I drilled the four aft bolts. This was a lot easier to get to.

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Here’s the end product. I have to take it all apart to deburr.

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Next up: drilling the vertical.

Time: 2:45

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Painted Sub-Panel assembly

March 5, 2016 – Since I think I may be in a good place with the canopy frame, I decided to let that sit and move on to prepping the sub-panel parts for their eventual installation.

I mentioned previously about installing a shim just forward of the windshield brace, since a gap is created. I made that shim and drilled it.


I also drilled the forward end of the angle where it attaches to the firewall.


I took the subpanel out as an assembly, and got some pictures for future reference.

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The usual prep for paint, then everything was ready for assembly…

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I started by assembling the center rib, including my tapered shim.

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Getting the center rib through the subpanel bulkhead was interesting. I guess I had always previously done it in pieces. You have to twist everything and hold your tongue just the right way to get it to fit. The paint got a little scraped up, but I touched it up after this secondary assembly was done.

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Here’s the assembly with the shim installed. You can just see it between the rib and the reinforcing angle:


I installed nutplates in all the angles where they are required.


Then I installed the outboard angles that hold the corners of the instrument panel.

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Here’s the structure without the panel screwed in place:

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Time: 7:00

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More Canopy Frame adjustment

February 12, 2016 – I have made some progress with the canopy frame.

A friend from Chapter 168 came over to give me a second set of eyes with the frame, and to maybe talk me off the ledge. We did a little bit of bending on the front bow, which ultimately allowed me to lower everything a little bit.

As of yesterday, I removed that little ring of material that I had previously cut off the right side forward leg for the roller. I sanded the appropriate amount of the left side. I’ve done some bending on the aft bow as well. Things are looking much better. I want to get out and look at a finished airplane or two and get a feel for how everything fits together.

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Another thing I wanted to do was to shim the front windshield brace where it attaches to the sub-panel structure. The brace is sandwiched between a rib and an angle, leaving about a .070″ gap. I made a tapered shim that I will install in that gap. The alternative would have been to make a straight shim the full length of that angle and rib.

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Time: 1:45

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Continued slider canopy frame fitting

January 29, 2016 – OK I’m going to try to get some of this written down. In hindsight, some of this may seem silly, but since I’m not sure about how some of this should be, I’m going to take my time to get this right. I’ll be consulting with my EAA Tech Advisors and maybe some experienced builders before I move on.

On the surface, this frame looks really good. I don’t think any re-bending will be required.

I did cut roughly 3/16″ off of each front leg where the rollers mount. I later realized that evidently the front legs may not have been the same length. I cut the same amount from each side, and the frame was not square. So I cleaned up one of the “rings” I cut off, taking it down to about 1/8″. You can see the ring in the second and third photos below. If it is in place, the frame is level and I have 3/8″ height difference between the rollbar and the front bow of the frame. The instructions say the frame will be slightly higher, the plans show a 3/8″ difference, and later in the instructions it says to not worry about the dimension right now.


I have 2 19/32″ between the square tubing of the frame and the canopy deck. This is on both sides, within 1/32″, so I call the frame level.


The instructions state that this measurement should be within 1/8″ from front to back.


I had to raise the aft end of the frame to make the square tubes parallel. To do this, I moved the rear slider track forward. This raises the aft end of the frame. There’s a couple of issues with this.

  1. 012916008On the plans, there is a full scale detail drawing that shows the profile of the entire canopy side structure. The dimension between the bottom of the square tube and the canopy rail is 2 7/16″. so I have a 5/16″ difference between the drawing and what’s on my airplane. A small difference, but it worries me that something won’t fit correctly later.
  2. The aft bow of the frame is supposed to be inset from the outside of the aft skin by about 1/16″. Because I raised the frame enough to get the square tubes level, the aft bow is above the level of the skin at the top. I could try to lower the aft end by 1/8″ to get the aft bow to clear the level of the skin.

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Finally, I have the side rails clamped in place. The square tubes are supposed to be inset from the outer skin by 1/16″. I believe I can achieve that up front with no problem, but there is a bit of overhang on the aft end. The side rails, however, are in a position that I like. They are parallel, and the instructions say they will be about 40 13/16″ apart. Mine are 40 15/16″ apart. That I can live with. I¬†just need to make sure that the rollers inside the tracks will be centered when the canopy plastic is installed.

What I think I’d like to do is lower the entire canopy by maybe the 1/8″ that is the thickness of that little ring that I put back in after cutting the front legs. What scares me about doing this is losing the height difference between the forward bow and the rollbar.

Time: 1:30

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Started fitting canopy frame

January 26, 2016 – The first thing to do with the actual canopy is to assemble the rollers that go in the side tracks.

These were straight-forward; I just had to find the parts and the screws. Here’s one disassembled, and one assembled.


I then cut the tracks to their specified length.


I laid out the attach holes per the plans, and drilled them with a #40. I drilled the two tracks together to get identical spacing.

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I drilled the slider block for the rear track of the canopy. Here it’s shown in place on the frame.

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I checked the bend of the rear track against the plans, then laid out the rivet and screw pattern. This track consists of a rectangular extrusion paired with a strap, to make a T-shaped track.

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The track gets taped into place during frame adjustment.

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I tried to lay out the fasteners per the drawing, but I had substantial conflicts with rivets in the fuselage where the track is installed, so I moved the holes based on existing fastener location. Now that I have started adjusting the frame, I may have made a mistake doing that. It appears that the track can be slid backwards or forward to raise or lower the canopy frame. I’ll keep you posted.

Anyway, here’s the first time the frame was put in place:


Here’s the forward rollers in the side tracks:

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…and the rear track with the slider block:


Now I’m working on tweaking the frame so that it fits correctly. I’ve had quite a bit of what I would call “unproductive time” just standing and staring at it all, then going to read the plans, then going ¬†back to staring at it. If an adjustment is made in one place, it will affect dimensions in another, so this could take some time…

Time: 6:30

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Finished roll bar drilling

January 26, 2016 – I drilled the front brace for the rollbar.

I drilled the forward end of the front brace. I used a drill bushing to start the holes centered in the existing holes, then used a reamer to final size for the bolts.

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I traced the edge of the support angle onto the brace, so I could trim the brace.

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I also trimmed the gussets for each side the rollbar.

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I then reamed the holes for the four spacers that mount the rollbar to final size. I’ll paint these, and they’ll be ready to install when the time is right.


Time: 1:50

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