The Restoration of N2120E

A section to provide help and assistance to anyone restoring their airplane.
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Nathan K. Hammond
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The Restoration of N2120E

Post by Nathan K. Hammond » Thu Nov 01, 2007 00:39

After kicking the idea arround, Joe has been kind enough to let me start a thread about the rebuild of my Champ. So from here on, I'll do my best to keep a running log of what I'm doing and what I learn. Hopefully, it will help others as they tackle their own projects.

Well, here we go.

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Background

Post by Nathan K. Hammond » Thu Nov 01, 2007 02:16

A little back ground:

In September of 1996, I purchased N2120E from Mark Crowe. I was 14yrs old. Thanks to my Grandparents, they felt my brother and I should have good safe vehicles to drive, instead of the usual clunkers that a freshly minted driver gets. My brother came back with a *cherry* red convertible, and I had a Polaroid of an Airplane.

For over a year, I had searched all the publications and made hundreds of phone calls about adds. At first I was only concerned with J-3's, my father owns one and I grew up as a Cub kid. In fact, my first recollection of a Champ is not fond. I remember seeing it taxi up in original colors, and thought it looked fat and dumpy compared to the sleek lines of the Piper. But as my search continued, it became apparent very quickly, a J-3 was out of my price range. So I started looking at Luscomes, Taylorcrafts, Rearwins, C-120/140's and the occasional Champ. It wasn't until I took a ride in a C-120 and a Chief on the same day, that my opinions started to Change. While both were nice, the Chief, had a much softer, more pleasant feeling than the Cessna. Not to mention the Chief landed so much easier and had far less adverse yaw. Talking with the Chief owner, he mentioned the Champ was very similar in feeling but had a more comfortable cabin, especially compared to other tandems.

About 2 months later, I came across an add in Trade-A-Plane for a Champ and everything sounded good. The price was right, the times were decent, but the wings were taken off the year before and everything put in storage. At the time, my father was ferrying a Chipmunk in the airshow circuit, and had a trip that passed very close to were the airplane was hangared in Massachusetts. They set up a meeting at the airport café and things started to go bad. First off, the owner was late getting there, when he finally appeared, he had forgotten the hangar key.
Now I’m not one to judge a person for how they dress or act, but let me describe the feller the way my father did… A short guy, maybe 5’6’ and at least 220lbs; he was probably as tall lying down as he was standing. He throws open the café door, and starts hollering my dads name and marches over with his chest puffed out. It’s the middle of summer, but this gent’s got on a leather bomber jacket, cowboy boots, the Raybans, and to top it off…. a silk scarf wrapped around his neck and over the shoulder. At this point it’s obvious this is not gonna be good.
They finally get to the Champ, and its beat. Advertised as an 8+, it’s more along the lines of a 4…. Tops.

After bidding farewell, Dad’s back in the air, but has to stop at the next airport, because the fuel pumps were down at the previous. After fuelling up, he notices a little red and white Champ sitting on a tie down in front of the FBO. Inquiring with the line boy, turns out it might be for sale. Within 45 minutes, the owner is there with the logs and they’re discussing the airplane. The owner, Mark Crowe, decided to sell the airplane because he needed a C-180 to carry his family, but hadn’t advertised or even mentioned the thought of selling the Champ outside of the locals. To top everything off, the maintenance for the last few years had been done by a trusted friend; who had good things to say.

That night, back home, I waited for a phone call from my Dad with the news. After hearing about the Cowboy, I was disappointed to say the least. But then he started describing the little Red and White one.

“It’s a little rough on the outside, there are some patches on the wings, and the paint is starting to fade. The interior is out of a French brothel; white vinyl and red shag velour. But the airplane is straight and mechanically sound. What do you think?”
“Sounds nice” I casually answered.
“Good because you bought it.”
3 weeks later, N2120E was sitting in our shop, and I bummed rides to school.

I’ve learned a lot in that airplane; goundlooped it a couple times, taught myself aerobatics, how NOT to do aerobatics, commuted back and forth to college in it, and logged around 600hrs. Even got to rebuild the motor.

Last November, during its annual, there were 2 new anomalies in the spars. First was a noticeable change coming out of the aileron pulley bracket; what appeared as a glue line, had grown and turned black. I could push my knife blade into the area almost ¼ inch deep: ROT. The next issue was an obvious glue joint failure. At the root on the rear spar, 3 layers of wood were edge glued to build up the spar (common practice at the factory.) One of those glue joints had failed and there was evidence of separation that went under the plate and into the attach fitting. So reluctantly, I buttoned everything back up and filled my freshly rebuilt engine with pickling oil and flew the 10 minutes back to its home field and hangar. Knowing I wouldn’t get to fly it again for some time made the flight rather mornful.

It’s taken a year to do it, but now I have a small shop behind the house where I can rebuild the Champ. I learned real early in marriage, it’s easier to work late at the house than at the hangar. June 5th is the target date for completion, that way I’ve got a week to tweak the airplane before the NAA convention in 2008.

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Breakdown

Post by Nathan K. Hammond » Thu Nov 01, 2007 02:36

Dad helping pull the engine. After pickling it, my concern for internal rust was still high so we installed the motor on his Cub, which happen to be down needing an engine overhaul.
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I only had to go 300 yards down the road, so no need for fancy jigs or slings to hold wings. My wife did ride back there to keep the wing from sliding out the back.
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Post by MikeB » Thu Nov 01, 2007 08:48

Great photos Nathan ! Keep them coming. I'm sure we're all going to learn something as you progress through your project.

BTW! I agree..... it's much easier to work at home than at the airport, although you must live on or near the airport. I'm just finishing an addition to my shop (at home) and will have a dedicated spot just to work on my A/C projects (no more tractors, trucks, mowers or cars :x to clutter up my work space).


Mike
"If God had intended man to fly He would have given us more money"

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wings

Post by big chief 48 » Thu Nov 01, 2007 19:26

cool!! one comment-I hope you didn't drive too far with the wings in the back of the pickup like that. I know i learned the hard way, when I went up to calgery canada to pick mine up. I did some damage by not packing it right thinking they were just "old" wings that could be fixed. I know a guy who specializes in wing rebuilding. He has a cool rig for carrying wings. The root of the wing is bolted to a v shaped bar that comes straight up from the front bumper. The back is secured to the strut fitting and that goes straight down to the bed of the truck, and down the road he goes. I should take a picture because this fellow is getting old.

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Post by Nathan K. Hammond » Thu Nov 01, 2007 20:36

Big Chief, I didn't have to go far, maybe 300-400 yards down the road. If it were anybody else's wings I would have loaded them on a trailer, or on a set of racks I built for the truck. But it was a short ride so we tossed them in the back.

Now, when we go the other direction, I guarantee they'll be on a trailer with 3 feet of foam under, around and on top! :)

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feathers

Post by Nathan K. Hammond » Thu Nov 01, 2007 21:28

Pulled the fabric off the tail feathers today. So far everything is looking okay. The left horizontal took a whack on the leading edge at some point, then it was filled in with bondo. The rust appears to be surface for the most part, but does have some pitting in areas. The inboard rib is crushed in a little, I suspect where someone tried to pry the horizontal off with a screw driver or pry bar. The rudder also had a repair to the trailing edge at the bottom. Looks like the tailwheel might have hit it, so they scarfed in a new piece of tubing.

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Paint delamination

Post by Nathan K. Hammond » Thu Nov 01, 2007 21:50

One of the big problems I started to have with the airplane involved the paint flaking and peeling off. It was covered using the 'Dura-Film' process which appears to be a blend of several different methods. Initial coat seems to be Nitrate Dope, then a silver UV blocker and topped with Enamel. The problem though, the adhession of the Dope to fabric is very poor. I can slide my pocket knife under a crack in the paint and pull rather large pieces of paint off the fabric.

Here's a horizontal with the paint peeled off.

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What's worse, is when I saw the inside of the fabric. Here is a spot where I did a Maule test. You can see a little circle where the point of the tool was, but look at the paint surrounding that mark. It has all lifted, leaving a area about 1 inch square seperated. Here's the problem: since the paint has seperated, that small area of fabric is exposed to the outside elements including rain, soap, gas and oil. Because it has this exposure, it will fail before the surrounding fabric, but since you already tested that area once, chances are you won't test it again.

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Moral of the story; Maule testers, while an effective tool to help judge fabric life, can do more bad than good. Second, if your paint is starting to fail, test inside of a failed area.

Now the best part... Here's a video of how the paint was failing. If you turn up the volume, you can hear the paint seperate from the fabric before it breaks.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgCa8K3Fpic

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Post by pablo » Thu Nov 01, 2007 23:19

Nathan:

My 7AC N2126E is anxiously awaiting for further information of her first cousin N2120E health and recovery... Keep us informed of your progress.
You are an amazing teacher. You should qualify to provide Continuing Education credits.

Thanks,
Pablo

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Post by marklamon » Thu Nov 01, 2007 23:25

Nathan, Great thread! Wonderful pic's. Mark

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Ailerons

Post by Nathan K. Hammond » Fri Nov 02, 2007 23:19

Had a minor set back today. While cutting some 2x4's to be used on another airplane project, I whacked my finger with the table saw. Well, several stitches later and feeling a little :oops: it's back to work. Now my hunt-and-peck method of typing has taken a serious blow, so don't hold my typing against me.

On to Aeronca's.......

Got the Ailerons stripped of their old fabric. They were in remarkable condition considering their age. Only slight signs of surface corrotion, which can be removed easily. I did find a cotton patch over the ceconite, a major no-no.

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The cotton patch
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Post by Captgrumps » Sat Nov 03, 2007 01:37

Nathan --

I have a Sayboth tester and and Maule--but for a real test I use my finger-Nowadays some folks put on some much "paint" the testers are not a true indication--(Remember a true test is to remove the paint and have bare fabric) I have been doing this for 60 years and the current finishes are more for looks than reality--in the original days airplanes were Grade A and covered every two or three years --labor cost were nothing--about like it is going to be with globalarization--maybe we can go back to grade A days--costs and-the cover jobs. (Don't hold your breath) In the mean time let our finger do the walking on fabric and modern fancy paint. I am still looking for an original 7AC Champ and PreWar Chief--The current sellers don't have a clue--Sorry folks but I've been around too long. Years ago I was a judge of antique/classic at OSH and was appalled at the ignorance of originality..So folks either make our old airplane useable and practical or original..(Trophy hunters are easlity recoginized) you can't have both--unless you are a died in the wool antiquer and have a lot of money and are young enough to have a number of recover/rebuilds. Nothing is forever...The Shadow knows...

Doug

PS--I have found that most trophy hunters with fancy airplanes aren't real Aeronca anitquerers--they are sellers..just passsing though..trying to prove their manily hood to their wife or girl friend --maybe single and tired of scrabble and community get togethers..

Have at me, I am soooo old that I am past fair game prime. But I will have on my headstone --"Antiquer" and then there are phoneys"..
Keep the pointed end forward--
The dirty side down.....
And the blue skies on top....

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Post by Robert Henley » Sat Nov 03, 2007 16:56

Nathan

What a great idea to provide your progress here on the forum. I purchased my first Champ at age 16, but that was in 1965. I didn't own a car at the time either. I paid $900 for mine and it was flying and in pretty good shape. I kept it until my second year in college. Sold it for $1,500.

I am interested in hearing where you are getting your replacement spars and more importantly, the AC301-18-5 nails to attach the ribs to the wood spars. I am having problems in finding a source for these nails. I have tried Wag-Aero, Aircraft Spruce, Wicks and Univair. No luck on the nails called out in the L16 parts manual.

Thanks for your willingness to do this.

Regards
1947 7AC Champ
N3621E, 7AC-6950
Cont C-85-12F
Restoring

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Post by drjeff » Sat Nov 03, 2007 23:47

Nathan,
Glad your fingers are still attached! Hope the weather holds out for next weekend!

Great pictures too! Keep them coming our way!

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Post by joea » Sun Nov 04, 2007 02:48

Nathan,

Very nice photos and keep them coming.

You and the rest of the group now have a "Restoration" section. Lets all post some photos of our work and help the others along the way.

Joe

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