When you come right down to it, we have the same hopes for our classic Chevys' steel bodies as we do for our own flesh and bones. We want both to look good, and we want them to be disease- and injury-free. If something does go wrong, we hope the cure is minor: a pill, an ointment, maybe a little rubbing compound. Unfortunately, some maladies require major surgery to cure, and automotively speaking, rust is second only to catastrophic collision when it comes to bodily health. The bottom line is this: When rust has eaten all the way through a body panel, the only answer is to excise the affected area and replace it with new metal.
Of course, many areas affected by rust in our favorite musclecars are part of the structure, meaning old metal must be cut away and new metal welded into place. Add in the fact that these structures often consist of multiple layers of metal, and you're facing nothing short of reconstructive surgery. We joined the crew at Studio Auto Body as they rehabbed the lower rear quarter-panel area on an old A-body. The cancer here penetrated all the way through the outer fender and into the inner fender, so both pieces had to be replaced. Because the crew at Studio fabricated the necessary pieces instead of buying repro patch panels, this is a job that shouldn't be tackled by the faint of heart. Here's a taste of what it takes to graft in a piece of new, healthy metal.
What We Did
Patched a rusted rear quarter-panel on a '69 Chevelle
A well-done patch job restores a car's structure and appearance.
Starts at $800
This was our rot-ridden starting...
This was our rot-ridden starting point; over this Chevelle's life, moisture had collected in between the lower rear quarter-panel and its juncture with the outer wheelhouse. Left unchecked, rust ate all the way through the factory sheetmetal and started to work on the underlying structure. Dig the big chunk of old body filler along the panel edge (arrow); this was sanded away before cutting commenced.
Studio Auto Body's Hector...
Studio Auto Body's Hector Valdivia began by cutting away the rusted remnants of the panel edge. The idea here is to cut as little as possible, but to also make sure that all the rust is cut away; you don't want to leave any of this cancer behind to spread to the new panel. Note that part of the quarter-panel is still attached to the outer wheelhouse; we ground down the factory spot welds that attached the two then removed this piece as well.