Resto-Mod Restorations: Part 6 - Metalwork
A nice thing about a Resto-Modding is the absence of a "purist" approach where body repairs must be done using lead body fillers to fix original sheet metal that's "unobtanium" (impossible to find). When you're Resto-Modding a '67 Camaro or '69 GTO, you'll find replacements for almost every piece of sheet metal in catalogs. That makes body repairs a easier and less expensive.
While that reproduction quarter panel for a Camaro coupe may seem expensive when you're saving up change to buy it, just think how much you'd spend paying a shop $50 or $75 or $100 an hour to fix up the old part. Then, imagine what it would cost to buy a NOS Packard or Duesenberg fender.
Reproduction body panels are a good deal, but some metalwork may be required to fix small rust holes in sheet metal, to weld on new rocker panels or quarter panels or to repair severe rust in structural parts such as inner body supports, door jambs and windshield or rear window channels. These are areas of a 1960s automobile that have been prone to rusting since the cars were new.
Floor Pan Repairs
Muscle cars are getting to be almost 50 years old, so there are few unrestored examples that do not need their floor panels repaired or replaced. Whether it's best to fix a hole in the existing floor or cut it completely out and install a new one depends on how big the hole is as well as your own restoration preferences. The floor pan is an important structural part of a unit-body car so huge holes ought to mean a new floor. However, if the holes aren't large enough to step through, you can probably fix the old sheet metal and save a little money.
The actual size of the hole is rarely what you see at first. It's what you wind up with after poking and cutting out rusty metal. What starts out as a small opening can become a huge crater. If you have a crater, you'll need a full-floor panel. These come single-piece (complete floor) or as right- and left-hand panels that run the full length of the floor on each side of the center transmission tunnel.
Step 1 in doing a floor panel replacement is to remove the seats, which we talked about earlier. Then, open the doors and examine the section of the floor that you want to replace. Many Camaro restorers prefer using the one-piece panel and replacing the entire floor. However, two-piece full-floor panels or even half panels are easier to install if they are big enough to replace the rusty section.
Jeff Noll replaced the driver floor and passenger rear floor in his Camaro. Since he was fixing only two sections, he needed only half-floor pan replacement panels. Don't confuse these with one half of a two-piece full-floor kit. The half-floor section is about half the size of one section (right or left) of a two-piece full-floor panel. Some folks may think of it as half of a half of a full-floor kit.
For Jeff, automotive metalwork was new. A family friend Bruce Young owns Young's Auto-body in Muskego, Wis., and gives advice to old car restorers. Every few weeks, after work, Young stopped by Jeff's garage to show him what to do, tell him if he was doing things wrong and recommend the proper next step.
Most of the time, Jeff got a task done fairly well on his first try, but Bruce Young's years of experience were a godsend. Jeff says the car would not have came out as well as it did without Young's help. In addition, Bruce's son sprayed the Camaro's final paint after Jeff did the initial preparation and bodywork.
Jeff cut out bad sections of the old floor and trimmed replacement panels to fit inside the cut out area. Then they were butt-welded in. Butt-welding eliminates overlapping sheet metal with gaps where corrosion could re-start. Jeff was able to sell leftover sections of the replacement panels on eBay to re-coup over half the cost of the new replacements he bought.
Jeff MIG welded the trimmed panels in place, putting tack welds at all four corners and filling in with tacks every few inches around the perimeter. Once everything was tacked, he welded different areas a few inches at a time to keep the pan from heating up and warping. When welding, he was careful to wear a welding helmet and heavy welding gloves to keep his eyes and hands safe.