Removing rust, straightening body panels, and correcting bodylines and gaps are difficult and important steps to restoring a car. This aspect of the restoration can be the longest, most expensive, and most frustrating. It can also be the most rewarding.
This Tech Tip is From the Full Book, MOPAR B-BODY RESTORATION: 1966-1970. For a comprehensive guide on this entire subject you can visit this link:
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Before you begin the bodywork, you have to know what kind of budget you have, your skills, and what facilities and equipment are available. You can choose to have a shop complete all the work, or you can do some of the work yourself and have someone else paint, or you might be able to do it all yourself.
Whatever path you choose begin by taking time to evaluate the rust areas that need to be addressed and either decide on a shop or make plans to complete the work yourself.
This chapter helps you think through the bodywork process and make a solid, wise decision about what avenue is best for your situation and how to get to the finished, painted car that you will love and show with great pride.
Rust! It’s a Dirty Word!
The only B-Body that does not have any rust issues is one that has been kept in a garage and never been driven or has already been restored. Replacing rusted metal panels and patching rusted sections must be done. Good, original body panels and NOS (new original stock) panels are difficult to find and very expensive when you do find the right ones for your specific application. Fortunately more good metal replacement panels are being produced now than ever before.
Auto Metal Direct (AMD) is a great place to acquire panels to replace all those rusted floorboards, trunk, quarter, and Dutchman panels. Often it is faster and much better to replace an entire panel rather than cutting out and replacing a section of an existing panel. It is a worthy goal to keep as much of your original sheet metal as possible. So even if you are not going to do the work yourself, you need to evaluate and document all of the rust problems that need attention and how much of these areas need to be replaced.
The extent of rust you find on one of these cars varies depending on the life it led and whether it came from the “rust belt” or the “desert.” The areas where rust occurs are common on almost all models and years of the Plymouth and Dodge B-Body lines. Before buying a car you must completely examine it, paying the most attention to the structural integrity of the car. Even though a car can actually be re-created using the technology and advanced skills of a very few shops, you should steer clear of cars that have frame rails, firewall, and extensive metal that must be replaced. But do not be afraid to replace the areas that almost always need attention on a good, solid, project car.
Common Rust Locations
Always check the trunk and floorboards. These cars were driven and these areas received a lot of wear and tear because they were directly exposed to many elements, including water, salt, dirt, and even oil and transmission fluid. While checking the trunk also check the rear panel behind the rear bumper. Just like the floors the rear sections of the quarter panels and fenders were also exposed continually to these elements. Check them to see if they can be patched or if they must be replaced.
The glass channels in the front lower corners and especially the lower rear corners allowed water to sit and often are rusted. These rear corners can be rusted into the Dutchman panel and it may also have to be replaced.
Additional places to look for rust are under the battery tray, including the inner fender under the tray. Examine all the doors, their front and rear corners, and the rocker panels.
What if the car has a vinyl roof? Even the best-kept cars rusted under the vinyl roof, especially at the seam from the quarter panel to the roof. These tops were notorious for trapping moisture. Many people are resigned to putting the vinyl roof back on a car because of the fear of rust. If your car came with a vinyl roof, replace it with the correct one. You probably will not use your restored car as a daily driver without any regard for protecting it from the elements.
Stripping to Bare Metal
Each of the several ways to strip your car down to the bare metal has its advantages. The method you select depends upon the resources available to you. A rotisserie makes all of this much easier and in the end produces good results. But using a rotisserie is not the only way to be successful. I have spent many, many hours on a creeper stripping off undercoating with a torch and putty knife with the car supported on jack stands.
Positive: It can be used to strip the entire car to bare metal. Do not use sand; it warps the car’s metal. You must take the car to a professional so the car’s suspension remains in place, or fabricated dollies must be used to transport the car.
Negative: Cost and transporting to and from the shop. Also, you may find residual media in the car for months and months.
Positive: Available at local parts stores. I recommend the “airplane” stripper. After applying it you can scrape off the layers of paint with a putty knife. Then, while wearing chemical-resistant gloves, use coarse steel wool and a stripper to reveal the bare metal. Rinse with water and dry with towels. This works well and does not require you to transport the car.
Negative: Very labor intensive and the stripper can burn your skin. Be sure to use eye and skin protection. Also, you must remove and neutralize all residual stripper before paint.
Sanding Disc and Variable-Speed Buffer
Positive: Can strip the car in one afternoon using 80-grit discs and a buffer. The scratches in the metal promote good adhesion of filler and primer but are not so deep that they are visible after proper primer coverage.
Negative: Creates a huge amount of dust and if not careful can warp the metal if held in one place too long. Also, care must be used around edges and along bodylines.
High-Pressure Steam Washer
Positive: With a rotisserie this method is fantastic for the undercarriage. The results are wonderful. If not using a rotisserie the old-fashioned way of heating the undercoating with a heat gun or torch and scraping it off works too.
Negative: Makes a huge mess.
When you have completely stripped your car to the bare metal and disassembled all the body parts, you can see the true condition of everything and effectively evaluate what can be repaired, replaced, or simply refinished. If you come to the conclusion that you are in over your head go back to “Start Shopping for a Shop” in Chapter 1; you may want to modify your strategy.
Having stripped and disassembled the car yourself you have saved a lot of money in labor costs. When you take the pieces of the car into a shop you will know first-hand what needs to be done to finish them. Then you and the shop owner can come up with a fair evaluation of the amount of work remaining and how much it will cost.
A good rule of thumb in a restoration is that you should only replace the parts that need to be replaced. Remove and repair all rust with patch panels when you can, but never patch something if the final result would be much better if you had replaced it.
For example, if you need to replace a quarter panel but the other side is good, don’t simply replace the good side. Why would anyone replace a factory quarter panel with a reproduction that might not fit as well as the original? However, you must not stop short by only replacing the exterior rust without dealing with the hidden rust.
If patch panels and dent repairs are the only work needed, just about anyone can achieve good results. With minimal investment in tools and a basic understanding of the principles of metal repair, metal straightening, and body filler application and finishing, the average enthusiast can successfully prepare a car for paint.
A die grinder with a cutting wheel and a plasma cutter are two very efficient tools for removing rusted areas.If you plan on doing a lot of rust repair in the future invest in a plasma cutter. The first step is to cut out the rust. Make sure you remove enough so that you have good-quality metal to weld the patch to and create a lasting repair. You can use the following general procedure.
When you have removed the rust, make a pattern so you know the shape of the new patch. If the rusted area is uniform, you can simply measure it. Cut the patch from either good metal on a donor parts car or from metal stock.
If the patch has any factory bends or contours replace it with the exact same area from a donor or purchase a panel from AMD or another manufacturer that makes replacement panels.
Make sure the mating surfaces are clean and free from paint. Use the die grinder or an electric handheld grinder and slightly bevel the edges so that the weld can be ground down and not lose its integrity.
Clamp the patch in place and spot-weld each corner. Then stitch-weld, alternating areas, so that you do not warp the metal, until the patch is completely welded.
Grind down the welds and finish with a skim coat of filler. You may need a hammer and a dolly to shape the metal before, during, or after welding the patch panel in place.
By Jefferson Bryant of Red Dirt Rods
The classic Mopar B-Body has some of the best lines of the muscle car era. Unfortunately, the B-Body also has some of the worst potential damage areas. Some of them can remain hidden for many years only to be found when the damage is too severe for simple repair. The front subframe is one such area.
The top of the subframe is open along several places on the body, allowing dirt and water to collect inside. Eventually the steel rusts through, leaving the uni-body structure in bad shape. Contributing risk factors for rust are: The K-member bolts to the subframe and B-Bodied cars have often led hard lives that subjected them to cracks. These are potentially deadly situations, so it pays to be careful.
Repairing this type of damage depends on what and where the damage is. Replacement subframes are available, but they are expensive and the installation process requires massive surgery on your car. Often you can get away with simply rebuilding the affected area with a homemade patch.
This 1969 Road Runner led a hard life before it was chosen for a major rebuild. The subframe seemed to be in excellent shape, until the K-member was removed. That was when the passenger-side rear mount fell out of the subframe. The subframe had been stressed from hard driving and the metal was so weak that the backup plate for the K-member bolt ripped free from the rest of the subframe. I found eight cracks in the side of the subframe channel. The rest of the subframe was in perfect shape, but this was an unsafe situation. Rather than cut out the entire subframe, I decided to repair it.
I reinforced the subframe using a piece of 3 x 4 box tubing. I reused the original backing plate to secure the K-member, as it was in good shape. By the time the repair was finished, the subframe was substantially stronger than it was when it left the factory. This is a serious repair that requires quality welding and fabricating skills.
The repair continues with the removal of anything in the way. For the K-member mount, this meant the bumpstop brackets that are spot welded to the frame. Using a drill bit (or Rota-broach cutter), I cut out the spot welds and removed the bracket in one piece. The bracket will be reused, so I didn’t trash it or grind it off.
Using a grinder with a flap wheel (or a die-grinder with a Scotch-Brite pad), I cleaned off the frame and trimmed any jagged edges on the damaged area.
I removed all of the undercoating and paint so that I could find all of the cracks on the steel. I located each crack, found where it stopped, and drilled the end with a small drill bit. A 1/8-inch bit is usually large enough to do the job. The goal here was to remove the stress fracture so that the crack does not continue.
Next, I cut a piece of 3 x 4 tubing to fit inside the subframe. I had to add a second piece of 1/8-inch steel to the sides of the tubing because the actual subframe is 31 ⁄4 inches wide on the inside. I welded the plates to the tubing along the edges with three plug welds in the center of each plate. I cut the tubing along the 4-inch side to match the depth of the factory subframe.
I measured the location of the driver-side mount using several locating points front and rear of the bolt hole, and then duplicated these measurements on the passenger’s side. I inserted the repair channel into the subframe and marked the location of the bolt hole. I added some reference marks to ensure the channel went back to where it needed to be, as it was test-fit several times.
With the location for the K-member bolt noted, I removed the repair channel and drilled the bolt hole, along with two holes for the spots welds that secured the backing plate and nut to the channel.
The backing plate had a small section of the original subframe welded to it. I removed these spot welds using a Rota-broach cutter. I centered the backing plate in the repair channel, clamped it in place, and welded it with a MIG welder.
I marked and drilled the sides of the subframe for three spot welds. I installed the repair channel, measuring it carefully for placement. I painted the frame with some weld-through primer to protect the metal from rusting. When it was determined to be in the exact spot, I used two welding clamps to lock it in place. I threaded a bolt into the K-member nut to keep welding spatter out of the threads.
I spot-welded the channel to the subframe along the three holes on each side. Using the clamps, I pulled the edges of the subframe tight to the repair channel and welded the repair using a series of inch-long stitch welds. This deters warping. The factory subframe is only 14-gauge, so warpage is a real concern.
When the repair was welded in place, I welded up the cracks. Keeping the welds to 1-inch increments is a good idea. This reduces warping and the potential for burn-through on the relatively thin sheet metal.
Next, I dressed the welds with a right-angle grinder using a flap wheel. Unlike a standard grinding disc, the flap wheel makes quick work of the excess weld without leaving large scars on the metal. Flap wheels also don’t put as much heat into the metal. When the welds were smooth, I sprayed the frame with some weld-through primer and reinstalled the bumpstop bracket in the original location.
To finish the repair, I wiped fiberglass-reinforced body filler onto the subframe and sanded it smooth. The result is a clean repair that looks like nothing was ever done. The K-member lined up perfectly, and the repaired section is much stronger than it was from the factory.
This project took about two days to complete from start to finish.
When the K-member was removed, the backing plate literally fell out of the frame. This is not a good sign.
I used a Rota-broach spot-weld cutter to remove the spot welds on the bumpstop bracket, which is in the way of the cracks.
You can see how high the cracks go up on the subframe; this one is essentially to the top of the channel.
I used a grinder to clean up the spot welds and jagged edges of the subframe opening.
I built the repair channel from a piece of 3 x 4 tubing, with 1/8-inch plate added to the sides to make it wide enough. It was perimeter welded and plug welded in the center so that there is no chance of a future failure.
I took lots of measurements on the frame to locate the bolt hole on the passenger’s side, fore, aft, and side to side. These were noted on the frame and transferred to the driver’s side.
The repair channel slides up into the subframe and I marked it with a punch for the bolt location.
Using a large Rota-broach cutter, I cut the channel for the bolt hole. This mimics the look of the factory subframe. I also drilled two holes for the spot welds, just as the factory did.
I cut away the remaining section of the factory subframe using the Rota-broach spot-weld cutter. A center-punch makes this task much easier, as the alignment pin rides in a divot; otherwise, the cutter walks all over the place.
I then welded the backing plate into the repair channel.
I drilled the cracks, along with several spot welds for the side of the repair channel. I want this repair to be solid with no chance of moving or cracking again.
After I installed the channel and aligned it to the measurements, I clamped the frame tight to the channel and welded it up. The factory subframe is only 14-gauge, so too much heat warps the channel. I only welded an inch at a time.
With the clamps removed, I welded up the cracks.
I used the flap wheel to smooth out the welds, leaving a clean surface, ready for the finish work.
I applied a high-zinc weld-through primer and welded the original bumpstop bracket back into position.
The last step was the addition of a coat of Duraglas fiberglass-reinforced body filler. This filler is water resistant, fills pinholes, and is more durable than standard body fillers available off the shelf today.
By Jefferson Bryant of Red Dirt Rods
B-Bodies have several common rust issues, and the front floorpans are near the top of the list. The driver’s side is usually the worst, but both front pans are highly susceptible to the ravages of rust. When you have it, the only option is to cut it out; otherwise the cancer spreads.
This 1969 Road Runner was purchased as a mild restoration, but upon further inspection, the floors had merely been covered up in an attempt to mask the rust issues. Most of the holes could have been patched with partial sections, but this method often takes more effort and the results are not as good as replacing the entire floorpan.
Before jumping feet first into a project of this magnitude think through the key components to this task: materials, available tools, and most important, your skills.
Both old and new materials should closely match; mismatched gauges of sheet metal lead to burn-through and cold-welds. Welding 14-gauge steel to 20-gauge steel will likely end with lots of burn-through on the 20-gauge because it is much thinner than the 14-gauge. This means that you need to purchase a quality reproduction panel because it is made of material similar to the factory floor.
Another potential headache with floorpans is that they are available in many forms, from small sections to entire floors. Buying a single-sheet floor is nice, but actually fitting it into the car is difficult, especially for post or 4-door B-Bodies.
Buy the sections you need. Measure the area that is damaged and replace only what it necessary. Make sure you know which models use the pan; sometimes variances require modification in order to fit the panel.
To properly install a set of floorpans you need several tools.
MIG welder: You really don’t want to do this type of work with a stick welder; using a MIG torch is much easier and the results are significantly better. Flux-core wire works, but a solid wire with separate shielding gas is the best option for welding sheet metal. For the wire, .030-inch is okay, but .025-inch is optimum for thin-gauge sheet metal.
Cut-off wheel and die grinder: Either air or electric; you need a way to cleanly cut the rusty metal out of the car. A thin cut-off wheel works best. Air-powered die grinders are more maneuverable, but electric 90-degree grinders with a thin cut-off wheel slice through rusty steel as if it were butter.
90-degree grinder with flap wheel: This is for cleaning up the welds after the install. A flap wheel removes excess weld without leaving rough edges as does a standard grinding wheel.
Sheet-metal hole punch and 3/8-inch drill bit: Floorpans are spot welded in many places, including floor braces, brackets, and along the rocker panel. You need a drill bit or spot-weld cutter to remove these welds and a hole punch or drill bit to drill matching holes in the new floorpan. You can’t eliminate these spot welds; they are critical for the structural integrity of the uni-body vehicle.
One saving grace for the novice welder is that floorpans are always hidden from view. If you are not an experienced welder, that is okay; the best place to learn is by welding in a floorpan. The biggest problem here is that B-Body Mopars are uni-body chassis, so the floor is structural to rest of the vehicle. Take care with this project and start small; don’t cut out the entire floor first.
Roof Skin Replacement
By Restorations by Rick
Not many 1966–1970 B-Bodies need to have their roof replaced, but many of them came with a vinyl-top option. Because vinyl-top cars had only primer coats and topcoat color only around the perimeter, it’s common to find serious rust issues under the vinyl. On cars with a severely rusted roof panel, it can be much easier and result in a better quality job to simply replace the roof skin. Although this project features a third-gen Charger, the procedures are universal.
The first thing you must do is dig out all the seam sealer in the drip-rail trough. You can use a small chisel or screwdriver; sometimes you have to tap the chisel with a hammer to get it all out. Be careful not to damage the drip-rail lip.
Thankfully, the roof skin is relatively easy to replace. Spot welds found around the entire perimeter must be drilled out. A specialized spot-weld drill with an adjustable-depth setting is the easiest, but a spot-weld cutter bit in a drill works fine; it’s just a little slower. You can also use a die grinder with a cut-off wheel and carefully grind off the weld. No matter which method you choose be sure to wear eye protection and gloves.
Work from the center out on all four sides. Also, take advantage of the replacement top being accessible from both sides before installing and work out any dings or dents at this time.
A “rough cut” around the top is recommended first. This way the top is easier to manage in pieces. A rough cut allows you to pry up what is left after the spot welds are drilled. Do not forget that the sub structure is right under the top layer; do not cut so deep that you cut into the framework under the roof skin.
Installing the replacement top is simply a matter of aligning and clamping it in place, then welding the spot welds back together. Remember: Always work from the center out on all four corners. Be sure to strip off all of the black coating the panel may have on it from the factory.
You can use either a TIG or MIG welder to weld the new spot welds in the roof skin with similar results.
Roof Skin Replacement
After digging out all the seam sealer from the drip-rail trough, grind or drill out all the spot welds around the perimeter of the old roof. Also grind out the original lead used to fill the roof to the quarter seam. Remove all of the old roof skin.
Grind all the spot welds that are rough after removing the roof skin. Clean up all rusted areas and treat them with a rust killer or converter. Shoot everything with weld-through primer. Although not a B-Body, this E-Body serves the purpose for these steps.
Now is the perfect time to clean and prime all the substructure and inspect for any other areas that may need special attention. If any of the sub-structure has been dented or pushed in, straighten them back into the original shape.
If you are leaving the original quarter in place be sure to grind out all the lead and prepare the seam for welding. If you are replacing the quarter with full new sheet metal remove all the black factory paint and shoot with weldable primer.
On this example the drip-rail lip is in good shape, but it must be straightened where it was moved during the removal of the old roof skin. Carefully inspect all metal for any rust damage. Repair or replace any metal that is not in good condition and make sure you are ready to install the new roof skin over these areas.
Pre-drill all the holes where you are going to weld the replacement roof skin onto the car. Cover with weld-through primer and alternate weld locations working from the inside outward.
Grind all the spot-welds flush and re-lead the seam. Refinish and prime the roof skin. Whether you use original metal (shown) or replacement metal the process is the same.
Quarter Panel Replacement
By Restorations by Rick
How do you decide whether or not to replace a quarter panel? As a general rule, if you have rust at the front and back of the wheelwell and a significant area above it, the car likely needs a full panel. I’ve heard of special cases where a car still had presentable factory paint and the owner wanted to preserve as much of it as possible.
In this example, the restoration shop purchased a half skin and used it to fit replacement pieces. This can be an excellent way to make quick, accurate patches if you elect to repair only rusted-through areas. Meticulous butt-fitted patches that are TIG welded are the best way to go, but it does require a high level of skill. If a new replacement panel isn’t available for your particular model you have no choice but to repair what you have or find a used panel in good condition; this is seldom an easy proposition.
If the panel in question has massive accident damage that can’t be repaired easily it may also push you toward the decision to replace. It’s also possible to remove the panel and do the metalwork off the car, then reinstall it. A great deal of work, but it may be worth the effort.
If you have rusted-through areas and you’re in doubt, trim a couple of inches around them. Inspect the backside of the trimmed-off metal and keep trimming back until you see solid, clean steel. Also inspect the areas exposed behind the panel for corrosion. If you’re seeing a great deal of rust it may be better to replace the whole panel. The areas behind the panel can be cleaned up and preserved better with full access.
Trunk floor extensions, wheelhouse replacement or repair, etc., are all much easier to do without the outer skin in place as well.
Patch Panel Installation
Using a half skin, cut the new metal carefully to the exact shape of the fender that was removed.
After making sure everything is aligned for a good fit tack weld the patch panel in place.
Stitch weld alternating from front to middle to back, so you don’t get any one place of the metal too hot and warp it.
Grind the welded seam flat and be careful not to go through any part of the seam or patch panel. Dress the seam with filler, and mask and prime until you are ready to apply topcoat.
Stay below the bodyline so that you do not need to paint the entire quarter. Pre-fit the wheel trim molding. Mask and shoot the topcoat right up to the bottom of the bodyline. Blend in the new paint with the old just under the edge of the line so it is not visible. Also, if your B-Body has wheelwell molding, now is the time to pre-drill the holes.
Color sand and buff the new paint to match the texture of the original paint. Apply the stripes and you still have most of the original quarter and paint saved.
Quarter Panel Installation
Panel alignment begins at the quarter panels and is limited by the welded-on cowl position. First, align the deck lid, doors, fenders, and hood with the car sitting on its suspension. Door position is set relative to the quarter panel at the doors’ back edge and to the rocker panel at the bottom. It’s common for the rocker panel–to-door gap to be wider because the car was assembled originally. It’s usually possible to install the new quarter panels slightly lower to allow the doors to fit closer to the rocker panel.
Doors without glass and a window regulator should be adjusted slightly higher at the rear edge to compensate for the weight difference. If any glass is in the car when welding or grinding, be very careful to protect it from sparks. You’ll hate yourself if you ruin good glass!
Fenders align to the doors first then to the hood between the fenders. If the hood side gaps are too tight, the fenders must be moved outboard and the doors tipped outward at the top. In some cases, it can be beneficial to push the quarter panel tops outboard slightly with a porta-power. Also note that B-Body doors can twist fairly easily. The vent window assembly helps stabilize this.
Because of the fixed cowl position on B-Bodies, the back of the hood–to-cowl gap can sometimes be too wide; the width of the door-to– quarter panel front edge gap is ideal. To make the hood back gap an acceptable size, the front edge of the quarter panel can be moved back.
To do this, cut a slit approximately 3/16-inch behind the front edge and tap it back, followed by tack welds. Do a 3-inch section at a time to prevent the panel from losing its shape. After tacking the whole edge in its new position, finish weld. You can follow these general procedures for quarter panel installation:
Support the car before the original quarters are removed. The front and rear frame rails are supported with two jack stands, one on each end. Verify that the doors align to the quarter panels after supporting the car. This procedure ensures that the body doesn’t sag or move when the quarter panel(s) is removed.
If you’re installing reproduction quarter panels, compare the edge widths to the car’s originals. Trim the edges to match the original. Incorrect widths on these edges are a dead giveaway to panel replacement and look awful. This is the ideal time to trim them.
Study the placement of spot welds and bracketry carefully. A digital camera is your friend! Take close-up pictures of all welds, brackets, edges, seam sealer placements, and so on. A rough trim staying a couple of inches from the panel perimeter using a plasma cutter or other cutting tool saves time. Inspect the cut lines closely to avoid accidentally cutting support structure behind the panel.
After the rough trim, drill spot welds using a Rota-broach bit. Use cutting oil on the bit to maximize its life. If the original panel is being scrapped, the spot welds can be ground thin with a cut-off wheel and popped easily. With the rough-cut method, you’re left with strips of metal that are easier to pop loose, rather than fighting the whole panel.
Strip the paint using an abrasive stripping wheel or wire wheel in the spot-weld areas to make them easier to find.
Melt out the lead joints at the roof and rocker panel seams. A basic propane torch does the job, but be sure to wear a respirator.
Inspect your replacement panel closely to be sure you’re not trimming too much of the original panel. An example of this is at the lower lead seam where many replacement panels don’t extend all the way to the front.
If replacing the full panel, the roof seam area of the panel can be butt fit just below the overlap. This technique makes fitting the new panel much easier and removal of the original much less invasive.
Some restorers prefer to leave the factory spot welds and front edge flange in place and seam the front edge of the quarter panel just behind the door. If the replacement panel has a well-formed flange and crisp edge you can use it, as it allows more alignment options and reduces extra welding and finish work.
When a quality full panel is available it generally gives the best overall finished job. Partial panel replacement with a full-length weld seam requires much more welding, grinding, and finish work. Special care must be given to prevent weld “telegraphing.” If a thick weld is left after finishing, the weld moves in the sun, showing a slight puffing outline. Grinding the weld flush on both sides of the panel prevents this.
Convertibles require seaming at the top edge around the deck. Leave the factory step in place and butt fit a seam approximately 3/16 inch from the edge. For the perfectionist, tack fit this seam and then drill out the spot welds on the step and remove the whole panel to finish the weld off the car. This way the seam can be perfected on the top and backside. An alternate method is to form a step flange; however, it’s difficult to make it exact for a perfect fit of the stainless trim that attaches here.
Address any issues behind the panel. Now is the time to clean up any rust and treat accordingly. Wheelhouse rust repairs are especially critical because this panel sets the curve of the quarter panel as viewed from above. Unless the repairs are minimal, it’s usually better to replace the wheelhouse. Trunk floor extensions should also be closely inspected and often require rust repair or replacement. The trunk floor is much easier to access for replacement at this time as well.
It’s time to flop that new panel on and see how it fits! Clamp it in place and check the gaps. When the gaps are established, mark areas for trimming, such as the top gap or lower rocker joint. Mark the placement of spot welds and be sure they’re positioned correctly.
Pull the panel back and drill or punch 1/4-inch holes for plug welds if you’re MIG welding. A spot welder is another option and preferred by the most particular restorers; however, it requires a high-quality machine for proper strength.
If you’re minimally experienced with MIG welding, it’s a good idea to spend time practicing on some scrap metal. Use the same-gauge metal as the panels. To get the flattest plug weld, set your welder on the “hot side” and do a fast circular pass. With practice you wind up with a nice, flat-to–slightly dimpled finished weld that minimizes finish-grinding time. The factory spot-weld appearance can be accomplished many ways, such as re-melting the dressed plug weld with a TIG welder, pressing with a fabricated dimpling tool, pressing a pencil eraser in wet primer or filler, etc.
Now is the time to work out any dings or flaws. It’s much easier with the panel off and you can do a much better job when you have access to both sides of the panel.
Sand the back of the panel and apply epoxy primer. Apply sound deadener/undercoating using your original panel for reference. Cardboard can be used as a mask template for the front edge, the side-marker opening area, etc. A cardboard square held above the deadener spray area works well to create the fan pattern stop build-ups often seen on factory applications.
Allow the sound deadener to dry overnight to prevent damaging it and/or igniting it with weld sparks while installing the panel.
Hang the panel on the car. Once again, clamp it in place.
It’s best to start with the critical alignments first because they have to stay where they belong. First, weld the front-edge spot welds, being mindful of aligning to the door curvature and maintaining an even gap. Keep the gaps reasonable; 3/16-inch is a good target. Primer and paint thickness reduces it slightly.
Next weld the edge next to the deck lid, again being careful to monitor the alignment gap and rear-edge matchup. Test fit the quarter panel rear extension to be sure it matches the deck lid. Verify the fit of the deck filler panel and weld it at the end underneath where it meets the quarter panel and at the trunk trough jamb corner. At each end of the deck filler–to–quarter panel gap, weld approximately 3/16 inch and grind judiciously to slightly below the desired finish-seam sealer level. This helps prevent this sealer from cracking in the future.
Move to the wheelhouse next. It’s important not to “trap a warp” in the area above the wheelwell; avoid this by starting in the middle and working outward. Be sure to alternate between front and rear.
Weld the front of the wheelwell at the rocker panel. The vertical seam to the rocker panel is welded solid to prevent moisture creeping under the lead work.
Next weld the rear edge where it attaches to the tail panel. Test fit the quarter panel extension to verify alignment. Now the area behind the bumper and the lower edge behind the wheel opening can be welded.
Last, weld the top roof seam. Just like the lower vertical rocker seam, you want to weld this solid to prevent moisture from creeping under the lead work. To prevent telegraphing of this weld, I highly recommend leading this seam as well as the lower rocker joint. Then grind off the excess lead and finish the seam with filler and primer.
Quarter Panel Replacement
Use a good spot-weld cutter and a drill to remove the original spot welds. You may have to sand or grind off the original paint so you can see where the spot welds are.
If you are planning on doing more of this kind of work in the future it is a good idea to invest in some heavy-duty equipment so the work goes faster. This drill for removing spot welds is great!
After you remove the quarter, inspect, remove, and repair any rusted inner structure or supports and then finish in a good epoxy primer.
Notice the unique wheelwell housing on this convertible B-Body. If your convertible is rusted you must fabricate the replacement from a full hardtop wheelwell to create the flat top of the housing.
Before installation grind down the wheelwell lip and rear lower edge to match the width of the original. Drill the spot welds and perform any bodywork to ensure the panel is straight when attached. Paint it in epoxy primer.
You may need to replace the trunk extension. After all the correct welding, paint it in primer.
If you have damage at the edge of the wheelwell opening you need to patch, weld, and finish it.
After you apply the light gray primer, spray the sound deadener on the inside of the quarter before installation.
On a convertible body the original panel may need to be cut off about 3/16 inch from the top edge because the step for the trim is nearly impossible to duplicate. You then cut a new quarter to match and tack weld it into place.
As you can see, the important door and quarter seam is perfect in height and in width. Tack it in so it does not move from this desired placement
Stitch weld the entire seam alternating locations so that you do not warp the metal.
Grind down the welds and finish with filler.
Having pre-fit the quarter with the correct trunk seam and with the rear taillight housing you can be assured of the correct gaps and final fit.
After finishing and applying epoxy primer the quarter is ready for sanding primer and final blocking before it is ready for its topcoat.
You can save the original doorjamb along with all the factory spot welds and features by seaming the new quarter before the jamb corner.
Even though this is an E-Body it is a fine example of a horizontal seam replacement on this quarter. By leaving the top of the quarter and only replacing the side of the quarter panel on the original, you can save important bodylines.
As you can see here, only the metal was replaced on the quarter panel and C-pillar. Many go overboard and replace more metal than is needed. Don’t do that.
Even though this is a roofline of an A-Body the seam is of the same design as on the B-Bodies. You weld the seam from the middle out and grind down the welds until they are smooth
On this E-Body, lead was applied to the seam just as the factory did it. Eastwood Company has all the instructions, tools, and supplies if you are not familiar with how to accomplish this skill. Be sure to use a respirator.
Door Hinge Rebuild
Many times the doors sag after years of use and do not close or fit correctly. The culprit is usually worn-out door hinges. It is important to rebuild these now rather than after you’ve painted and aligned all of the panels. If you don’t feel comfortable restoring your original hinges, replacement aftermarket hinge kits are available through outlets such as YearOne and Classic Industries.
You can use the following procedure to disassemble and restore your door hinges.
The upper hinges have pressed-in bronze bushings; each side has two. Catch the top edge of the bushing from the inside. With a relatively soft blow, drive the bushing out. Strike the bushing from various spots to drive it out evenly.
Inspect lower hinge bodies for cracks. Weld any cracks found being sure not to leave any weld buildup that would interfere with hinge movement.
Remove the lower S-springs. This is easily accomplished using a bench vise and an adjustable wrench. Clamp the round end of the S-spring in the vise. Now use the adjustable wrench and pull toward you; at the same time, tap on the hinge body to drive the spring past its stop. Release the wrench.
Ream the pin holes in the lower hinge bodies oversize to 11/32 inch (.3437). The reamer bit cuts without pre-drilling. Use oil for best cutting. De-burr the holes. The upper hinges don’t need to be reamed; new bushings are supplied in the kit.
Inspect the detent rollers. Use penetrating oil and rotate the wheels with a vise grips. Be sure to have new pins and wavy washers available to replace them if the detent rollers rotate too far out of round (requires welding). These are not included in the standard door-hinge rebuild kit.
Purchase your new pins and wavy washers from Resto Rick or another supplier. Hardened star washers don’t wear out and are re-used. Sandblast the body before installing the new pins; you don’t want to fill them with grit. Liberally coat the parts with grease.
Clamp the washers in place with a copper bar. Blow cool air with an air gun after each weld to prevent overheating the wavy washer.
Grind the weld to approximately 3/32-inch thickness to avoid interference with hinge parts.
Clamp the upper hinge in a bench vise and tap in the bushings evenly. Soft taps are best.
Assemble the upper hinges (grease pins and bushings) first, and then tap in the pins. Be sure to orient the parts correctly; it’s possible to put them together upside down. Install the pins from opposite sides. When installed on the car, the pins should be oriented with the heads on the top.
If the fit of the door swing bracket is too loose, you can tighten it with a slight squeeze in the bench vise. It should have a little play.
For the lower hinge assembly, grease the pins and slide them through while holding them together. Also grease and rotate the detent rollers a few times. Tap the pin all the way down to seat the knurling while aligning the parts.
Be sure to orient the pins from the opposite sides.
Finally, test the function of the detent rollers. Congratulations! Your door hinges are ready for paint and installation.
Wheel-Opening Molding Installation
By Restorations by Rick
It’s always a good idea to pre-fit all of your trim before painting. Screwing on those pieces of automotive jewelry can become a huge disappointment if you don’t take time to install them before paint and adjust them while you can. Even the factory original trim on original panels can often be improved.
Wheel-opening moldings are one of the more commonly missed items. An excellent way to begin installing wheel-opening moldings is with a few spring clamps. They allow you to position the trim correctly and determine what adjustments might be needed. Weld closed any old molding screw holes; they seldom line up to the re-fit molding.
Getting the fit just right might mean simply bending an edge or perhaps using a shrinker-stretcher tool on the molding. Sometimes the body panel needs some reworking to correct a contour.
When the fit is perfect, clamp the molding in place with a few spring clamps. Start at the center drilling a 1/8-inch pilot hole and install a screw. Use a temporary screw of the same size as your finished ones; that way you’re not deforming the screw head while cutting the initial thread. Drill one hole at a time working from the center out, alternating front and rear. Be sure to verify that the trim is fitting snug as you drill each hole.
Installing trim on your beautiful paint job will now be simple!
Written by Mike Wilkins & Mike Wilkins and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks
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