The mere mention of bodywork, Bondo, fiberglass repair, buffing, or panel replacement sends many hot rodders into outer space. Dealing with overly optimistic body-shop owners, who start on a project and take five times longer than planned, causes most to avoid bodywork altogether. Mounting costs are often the stumbling block on the road to building a cool-looking ride.
Then there are the hidden surprises you're guaranteed to find along the way. Maybe your car is suffering from rust, dented panels, dings, poorly performed panel mods, or simply paint that's beginning to lose its luster. Obviously, these basic body issues need to be addressed before any serious paintwork can be done.
To perform any bodywork, though, you need a plan. Begin by writing down what you want to do, your budget, and what materials and tools you'll need to make the repairs. Most reproduction companies offer many of the needed body panels as well as the supplies required to make the body repairs. In some cases, rusted panels can even be repaired while still on the car.
Before we began, we talked with several shops that specialize in metalwork for their insight and tips. In the end, we learned just how trouble-free these repairs can be by performing many of the repairs ourselves. With bodywork goals set in place-and a formidable plan-the repairs are not only easy to do, but they also pay big dividends with shining results.
Shaping metal with a hammer...
Shaping metal with a hammer requires moving the grain with hundreds of very light hits. Of course it takes the correct hammer, working surface, technique, and practice.
Ellery Engel Restoration
The rusted fender lip on this...
The rusted fender lip on this '72 Nova typically occurs because the double-wall sheetmetal tends to trap moisture. The bubbling from below the painted surface is the result of an earlier Bondo repair, when the base rust wasn't completely removed. The cure for this is to cut out the entire section and weld in a new fender lip.
We sectioned another good...
We sectioned another good fender lip from a rust-free Nova found in a wrecking yard. Classic Industries also offers the same quarter center patch panel (PN 1667289-LH) for $40. Before doing any cutting, we placed the new piece over the area and scribed the outline with a felt pen. Then we carefully trimmed off the old rusted metal, while leaving about 11/44 inch extra for final fitting.