'Alf - The Half an Elf cargo trailer

Started by Red Riley, July 22, 2020, 10:18:11 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Red Riley

This was a learning project for me that took about ten years start to stop. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, and it took a load of planning and figuring it out as I went along. I'm really happy with how it turned out and thought maybe others would be interested in seeing how I did it.

It went from this:

To this:

Red Riley

#1
From the time I first got my Elf, before it was transformed into what is now known as Kreacher, I had the idea that it would be really cool to have a matching trailer. Like the Mini ones, but Elf shaped. I started keeping my eyes peeled for a donor, but figured it would be about like finding the holey grail. But one day while looking through the posts on one of the Mini forums (I think it was North American Motoring, but I could be miss-remembering) I saw someone had shared a Craigslist post. Paraphrasing, it went something like this. "I found this car that says it's an Elf. Is this some kind of Mini? It's near Athens, Ga, and they want $600 for it. I don't really like it, but maybe I could modify it into a Mini, or something. What do you guys think, is it worth $600?" And the link for the Craigslist ad was included.
I called, made a deal to pick it up the next day with cash in hand, and replied to the post: "Yeah, I think that's probably a pretty good deal." The original poster then replied that someone had already bought it. Dang.

Next day, I loaded up the trailer, stopped on the way and picked up Eric Gibeaut, and headed to Georgia to pick up the ratty green Elf, or what was left of it.
After getting the Tacoma and trailer down a steep driveway, through a gate and down into the pig pasture in the holler, we drug the car out of axle deep muck, pulled it onto the trailer, and since there wasn't room to turn around, backed the trailer out of the holler, back up the hill and the driveway and for good measure, all the way out to the road. Don't tell me that Tacoma wasn't a tough little truck.

       


94touring

Really cool setup.  Always liked Elfs.

Red Riley

Once Eric took the sawzall to the little green guy, and rescued what parts could go to help resurrect some other cars. I got down to evaluating what I had to work with.

                 

Red Riley

I stripped everything off that I could and started figuring out where to start. I decided that the bonnet would attach to the rear bulkhead, so that's my first reference point. Not sure at this point how much of this old front clip I can use, but it's a start. It's definitely going to have to be moved back, so the door frames will be going. I thought I could use this little utility trailer for a frame, but it's way too high in the air. But it's a good starting point and the overall dimensions work for tongue length and wheel center. So after cutting off some more metal, I've got the basic layout that I'll be working with.

           

MiniDave

OK, it's starting top make sense now - but lots of work yet to get it all straight!
Complete failure at retirement

1989 Cooper Racing Green
2009 Clubman S
2014 Audi Allroad

pbraun

Nice idea - lots of room inside, but lots of work to get it!  But the final product is really cool!
Peter
65 Moke
60 Bugeye modified
66 Jaguar XJ13 ( I can wish )

Red Riley

I needed to get this huge dent straightened out, and absolutely no chance of getting a repair panel for this section on an Elf, so I put some pressure on it to see how far I could get it, and maybe save some of the boot floor. No way I was going to get the floor straight, so might as well cut it out along with what was left of the rotten valance. Now I could get somewhere with un-bending the boot lip.

             

Red Riley

Next on the list was getting a frame figured out to get the trailer down closer to the ground. I had seen an article in Mini magazine by Keith Calver on making a beam axle out of a rear subframe, so I thought I'd go in that direction using the pretzel shaped hydrolastic subframe that came on the pigpen Elf. Started by cutting off the bent crosspiece, then cutting off the rest to get it down to just the front beam. Then cleaned it up and seam welded the places where it was two layers of metal. I added some gussets and also welded some short pieces of pipe through two holes along the length of the beam to add two extra mounting points. I stripped all of the brake parts off of the radius arms, then made a couple of backing plate spacers to take the place of the now missing drums. I had the arms rebuilt with a fresh set of shafts and bushings, and had the stub axles swapped out with a set for dry cone suspension Minis, since I was going to need the shock mounts which the hydrolastic arms don't have. Fresh paint and like new. I also modified the existing bump stops with a set of control arm bumpers to make them functional.

                 

Red Riley

#9
Now I needed a place to attach the new beam axle to. Unfortunately the ends of the heel board, along with most of the surrounding metal, were MIA. I ordered a pair of patch panels. They were the wrong ones. I think these were made for a van. Oh, well, I can make it work. I just started welding patches in until I had enough metal to weld the heel board ends in. This was pretty much my first welding ever, and I was using an old borrowed flux-core MIG welder, so I was learning as I went. Hey, you gotta start somewhere.  I knocked up a pair of temporary shocks and got it on its new set of old 12 inch Minilite wheels. I think I got the ride height pretty much where I want it.

                     

Red Riley

I needed to fill in that huge hole in the boot floor, so I needed a nice big piece of flat steel. A trip to Habitat for Humanity netted me two nice old gov't gray filing cabinets. Nice.
After trimming back to clean(ish) edges, I decided that the best way to tackle it was with two pieces. After a bunch of questionable plug welds, and some better looking spot welds, I called that job done. Then, on to the rear valance. once again, no new panels to be had, so I ordered a van valance, hoping I could make it work. It's not at all the right shape, but with some cutting and pounding, and some more not so pretty welding, it almost looks right. Nobody ever looks under there anyway, so it's good enough.

                 

MiniDave

How well does that spot welder work? I've read mixed reviews but I like the idea of it and the clean results it should give compared to the flux core welds.
Complete failure at retirement

1989 Cooper Racing Green
2009 Clubman S
2014 Audi Allroad

Red Riley

Quote from: MiniDave on July 23, 2020, 11:41:03 AM
How well does that spot welder work? I've read mixed reviews but I like the idea of it and the clean results it should give compared to the flux core welds.

It does okay as long as you don't try to go through too many layers. It didn't like the triple layer putting the valance on, so I ended up using my spot weld nozzle on the MIG welder to do the valance. The tips that come with it are crap, but it's pretty easy to re-thread the arms to take better Miller tips.

BruceK

1988 Austin Mini
2002 MINI Cooper S
1992 Toyota LiteAce (JDM)
1997 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

Red Riley

After many hours of precise measurements and a few best guesses, I got a pretty idea of where the bonnet needed to sit, and mounted the hinges to the bulkhead. I had found a full set of usable front wings, and trimmed the front clip down to just the grill panel and valance. Then it was lots of trial and error to get the jigsaw puzzle more or less where it needed to be. I had to trim the lip of of the wings, since they needed to blend into the rear quarters. There was lots of sitting and thinking before I took a deep breath and starting cutting into the quarter panels. I needed to blend the mostly flat rear into the round front, while at the same time filling in the area where the wheel well used to be. I finally settled on a diagonal and curved cut going from above the rear arch down to the front corner of the grill panel. Then lots more measuring and clamping and fitting before cutting into the wings to prepare for butt-welding.

           

Red Riley

#15
I got fed up with the flux-core welder. Time to upgrade. I went through a few ideas to give this thing some suspension. The wooden shocks were a bit too bouncy. I tried motorcycle shocks, junkyard struts from some kind of BMW, and finally bit the bullet and ordered a set of GAZ coilovers for a classic Mini. They had two options for weight and I went with the lightest ones. They wouldn't fit inside the stock shock towers, so I needed to make more space. I cut out the stock towers, leaving enough on the sides to weld to. I didn't think the filing cabinet that I used for the boot floor was heavy enough, so I cut up the old rusty steel garden trailer that I conveniently had behind the garage. Never throw anything away. 

           

Red Riley

I needed to finish the frame under this thing, so I hit the scrap pile again for a piece of 2x2 square tubing and a another piece of lightened 2x2 that the county road sign guys conveniently left next to the road. 

   

Red Riley

#17
More welding up top. I turned filing cabinet parts into bracing under the wings. Then worked on fitting a Mini scuttle panel to close the gap behind the bonnet. There were some gaps at the sides, so patched those up, along with the redundant fuel filler hole.

             

Red Riley

I needed to fill in the hole in the floor in what was now the front compartment. I started by bending the front part of the rear seat pan down to make a front cover and box in the heel board. The I cut up more of the good heavy steel from the old garden trailer and built a floor in five sections. I decided to use the inside of the front grill and valance panel as my attachment point and bring the floor down from there as sort of a skid plate. That's the bottom of the trailer buttoned up.

             

Red Riley

I don't need the grill opening, so time to button that up. This method is used to convert a standard Mini front panel into an Elf/Hornet front, except in this case I'll be leaving it closed up.

       

Red Riley

#20
Many hours of seam welding, rust-proofing, and seam sealing later.

         

MiniDave

#21
I keep hearing "Eric the Half a Bee" in my head when I read the title!   ;D

I'd be curious about the hitch on the tow vehicle too.

What do you carry with you, just stuff for a weekend event or something?

So you have two "chambers", one in front and one in back?

A good welder makes all the difference, doesn't it?
Complete failure at retirement

1989 Cooper Racing Green
2009 Clubman S
2014 Audi Allroad

Red Riley

My plan involved keeping the parcel shelf intact since that's what the boot lid hinges mount to. So I needed to bring this edge all the way around. Then I needed to make a rain gutter. I ended up making some special tools to do the bending. I really wished I had a shrinker-stretcher for this job. But I made it work with what I had.

           

Red Riley

Quote from: MiniDave on July 24, 2020, 11:47:35 AM
I'd be curious about the hitch on the tow vehicle too.
What do you carry with you, just stuff for a weekend event or something?
Stay tuned, I'll get to that.

So you have two "chambers", one in front and one in back? Yep.

A good welder makes all the difference, doesn't it?
It does if you know how to use it.

pbraun

Outstanding job!  I have seen the trailer, but didn't put much thought into what it took to build it. Next time I will check it out with much more appreciation!   4.gif
Peter
65 Moke
60 Bugeye modified
66 Jaguar XJ13 ( I can wish )

­čí▒ ­čí│