Resto-Mod Restorations: Part 9 — Trunk Restoration
On most Resto-Mod muscle cars the trunk is going to need some bodywork type repairs that would be carried out very similar to the way that rusty floor repairs are done. Reproduction panels or patches are butt-welded in, finished with filler and prime coated. For that "show car" look, trunks can be refinished with primer and special spatter paint. Trunks also have cardboard or upholstered front and side trim panels that have to be restored or replaced.
For that "show car" look, Jeff Noll first refinished his '67 Camaro trunk with primer-filler. He then protected the trunk floor with a special gray spatter paint that gave it a factory new type of appearance.
Trunk restoration can also involve other tasks like the proper routing of electrical wires, the installation of rubber gaskets in access holes, repair or replacement of hinges and springs, repairs to the trunk lid latch mechanism, trunk lid alignment, the installation of taillights and trunk lights, the replacement of spare tire hold-downs and jacks, the replacement of rubber mats and making provisions for mounting sound system components. And you thought the trunk was just a simple open space to keep your spare tire and suitcase stored in!
What Is The "Trunk"
The area that car owners call a "trunk" is actually formed by a number of body panels. On muscle machine using unitized body construction, such as Camaros and 'Cudas, the trunk floor is part of the car's rear floor panel that runs from about the middle of the car back. The spare tire well is a separate piece that fits into the floor panel inside the trunk area. It holds the spare horizontally.
The rear roof panel, quarter window reinforcement panels, quarter panels, wheel housings, lock pillar reinforcement panels, rear body panels and rear body panel extensions are welded together and actually form the "trunk."
The rear roof panel, quarter window reinforcement panels, quarter panels, wheel housings, lock pillar reinforcement panels, rear body panels and rear body panel extensions are welded together and actually form the trunk. The trunk lid sits on top of the opening and is attached to the car with the hinges and a torque rod that serves as a spring. The taillights usually fit into openings in the rear body panel, which also has trim pieces on the outside. The fenders may have openings for side marker lamps and other trim that bolts into the trunk area.
Mid-size and full-size muscle cars with full ladder frame construction have most of these same parts, plus a few more components and a few differently shaped parts. For instance, the car's rear floor pan, which also serves as the trunk floor, runs all the way forward to the transmission tunnel instead of starting at the middle of the car. There is usually a seat to rear window reinforcement panel with coil spring trunk hinges mounted to it at each side. Ladder framed cars also have a rear floor pan cross bar filling the rear of the floor panel between trunk and bumper and a rear frame cross member that supports this piece. Often, there is a separate license plate mounting panel that bolts to the rear body panel.
Rust in the trunk of a muscle car is very common. The trunk lip seals used on these cars back in the '60s was not the greatest. When rain water or melting snow seeped into the trunk, it often found its way to the lowest point in the trunk well, where there was a drain hole. However, these holes were often partly or fully closed up by road debris so that the moisture did not drain off and became trapped under vinyl trunk liners or rubber mats. The trapped moisture tended to foster heavy rusting. Another rust-prone area was the rear floor pan cross bar, which was a U-channel type cross member that everything from water to dried leaves typically got trapped in. That's why it is so common to see cars with the rear edge of the trunk floor rusted away, even though the rest of the floor is good.
Finding Trunk Parts
Although Jeff Noll reconstructed the entire rear end of his car around the original trunk lip, adding new quarter panels on both sides, welding in other reproduction panels and restoring some original ones, his trunk floor was in pretty good shape. If his 1967 Camaro trunk floor had been totally rotted away, Jeff could have purchased a full floor and trunk pan assembly for under $3,000.
This is an example of just how rebuildable a muscle car is these days. The full floor and trunk pan assembly literally replaces all of the rotted out sheet metal on the bottom of a Camaro. This piece includes the one-piece floor pan we talked about earlier with the entire complete trunk pan attached to it. Installing it will require some sanding and bodywork, which was also necessary at the factory when the car was built. The pan may also have to be trimmed and shimmed and test fitted before final paint and priming, but it makes the job of doing a total body off frame restoration a lot easier and better than years ago.
Also available in the marketplace (use your Internet search engine to find these parts) are many reproduction "trunk" pieces for the 1967 Camaro. Here are a dozen examples of parts found in Internet listings with typical prices:
|Pair of Coupe Full rear Quarter Panels
|Pair of Convertible Full Rear Quarter Panels
|Rear Body Panel
|Houndstooth Trunk Mat
| RH Quarter panel extension/trunk floor drop off
|LH Quarter panel extension/trunk floor drop off
|Trunk Lamp Harness
|Trunk to Tailpan Bumper Brace
|Trunk Lock retainer
|Trunk Floor Spare Tire Hold Down Bracket
|Trunk Floor Drain Plug
The trunk floor panels, the factory style houndstooth trunk mat and the spare tire hold down hardware are all on the list of trunk parts available for the 1967-1969 Gen 1 Camaros.
The '69 GTO convertible that Jim Mokwa restored is a full ladder frame car. The availability of trunk parts and associated items for the '69 GTO is a little less than it is for Camaros. For example, reproduction trunk lids for these models aren't available as yet. Here is a list of a dozen parts that you can readily find:
|1-Piece Trunk Floor with Brackets and Braces
|Trunk Pan LH 1/3
|Trunk Pan RH 1/3
|Trunk Pan Center 1/3
|RH Trunk Floor Drop Off
|RH Trunk Floor Drop Off
|Rear Window to Trunk Panel
|Rear Spoiler Stanchion
|Rear Spoiler Pad Gasket
|Spare Tire Anchor Plate
Since there are fewer reproduction trunk parts for the '69 GTO, restorers have two options for sourcing parts. They can either fix what they have or they can shop for used parts that are in reasonably good or restorable conditions. Used parts are available in a variety of places such as salvage yards, swap meets, car shows with flea markets, hobby classified magazines, club newsletters, eBay auctions and other online ads. Don't overlook the possibility of placing a "parts wanted" ad in your local newspaper or shopper. You never know what your neighbors might have put away in their garages over the years. As far as marque clubs go, the GTO Owners Association (GTOOA) and the Pontiac Oakland Club International (POCI) are excellent resources for GTO restorers.
Once you locate the parts you need and install them using your bodywork skills (as described earlier), you'll be ready to deal with the finer points of trunk restoration such as properly aligning the trunk lid, making good trunk lip seals, installs of various smaller parts, electrical wiring and painting and trimming.
Replacing/Restoring Rear End Parts
Since the rear end of any car is a likely spot to find signs of minor or major collision damage, don't be surprised if you find yourself removing and replacing several rear end elements on the car. You may have to remove the taillight housing, which generally involves removing the frame or lens screws, removing the lens and unbolting the housing. In some cases, removal may be accomplished through the trunk with the housing pulled inside the car.
Just a couple of easily bolts that can easily be removed with a combination wrench or a socket wrench hold the trunk hinges to the underside of the trunk lid.
At this stage, you'll probably have the trunk lid off, but if for some reason it still has to be removed, it's a simple process. Use a proper size socket wrench to remove the bolts that hold the trunk lid on the hinges. Be sure to use a soft towel or other pad to protect any new or re-useable paint finish. Place the pad between the trunk and the lower rear window panel so the lid slides down on the pad.
If the car has rear quarter extensions, open the trunk lid and remove the nuts holding the metal or plastic extension in place. Use a straight pull slightly down and to the rear to remove the extension. On some cars, the rear bumper has to be removed from the car before the rear quarter extension comes off.
To tighten the trunk lid, loosen the striker bolts on the rear brace just enough to move it. Re-tighten the bolts and lower the trunk lid gently to test the fit. When the adjustment is perfect, you won't have to slam the trunk to close it.
When you build your Resto-Mod, you'll want to replace the original trunk seal with the high-quality reproductions that are available today. A three-piece trunk gutter weather strip kit for a 1967 Camaro sells for around $55. GM-approved trunk weather stripping for the '69 GTO costs under $25. This is a simple job. Remove the old weather stripping with a plastic scraper tool. Some of the tools in Eastwood's Nylon Pry Tool Kit (designed for body trim removal) would work well to remove weather strip without scratching paint. Weather strip adhesive remover can be used to clean the gutter. You will want to get the metal as clean as possible so your newer sealer cement will stick to it. Then press the new weather stripping firmly and smoothly into the adhesive to get a good bond.
In doing trunk work, you may have to remove the rear bumper. Muscle cars of the late '60s did not have spring-loaded energy-absorbing bumper systems. It was in 1972 that the the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) enacted the first automotive bumper standard requiring 5-mph front and 2.5-mph rear bumpers on 1973 model cars. So, with cars like the '67 Camaro and '69 GTO, bumper removal is mainly a nuts-and-bolts job.
The Bumper Boyz are one option for Resto-Mod restorers in need of a rechromed bumper. They repair rusty and damaged originals and deliver them to car shows all over the country to save shipping costs.
Reproduction rear bumpers for the 1967 Camaro are available for about $120-$150. This is generally less expensive than fixing and replating the original bumper and we're sure most Resto-Mod builders go this way. The 1969 GTO bumper is not available in a reproduction form. When Jim Mokwa removed the bumper from his car, he used a marker to circle all the blemishes in it.
Bumpers are made of heavy, common steel that is chrome or nickel-plated. Fixing an automotive bumper is rarely an at-home restoration job. There are companies that specialize only in restoring bumpers and bumper parts. The basic steps in bumper restoration include repair of pits, rust holes and collision damage like dents and twists. The bumper has to be returned to original shape (straight or otherwise) if it's deformed. The old chrome and other substrates have to be stripped off, before re-plating the bumper with copper, nickel and chrome.
Some companies regularly buy and restore collector car bumpers and re-sell them on an exchange basis. Before sending your originals in as a core, make sure you're getting an exact replacement. There are horror stories on the Internet about honest mistakes in keeping track of parts. With high shipping costs, it appears the safest way to deal with such suppliers is face to face at swap meets.
Minor impacts will leave small dents in a bumper and these will be hammered out by hand from the rear. As the dents disappear, the metal will straighten and go back to its original shape. The process is just like straightening sheet metal, but larger hammers are used. Some restorers may use a hammer and dolly or large spoon. For larger dents, a hydraulic press will have to be used.
Grinding comes next. The bumper restorer will use a grinder to remove large pits and imperfections in the bumper metal. Brass will be used to weld up holes in the bumper bar and if the holes are due to corrosion, all of the rust will have to be chemically removed or ground back until the restorer gets to good, solid, rust-free, patchable metal. Cracks in the metal can also be fixed with brass.
After repairs are made, the metal has to be polished using different grit polishing wheels. As it is smoothed and the imperfections are disappearing, the metal will take on a mirror finish. An experienced restorer will accomplish this without creating warping or distortion. When the bumper is plated in the first phase of the chroming process, soft copper will fill any minor imperfections.
Some restorers offer to polish the back of the bumper to a mirror finish as an option. Terry Meetz, at Custom Plating Service, in Brillion, Wis., suggests that customers may want to paint the back of a bumper with silver Rustoleum.
The bumper is re-plated the same as other metal parts, with an initial coat of copper to seal the metal and provide good adhesion. Next comes a soft copper "primer" coat that builds up the surface prior to polishing. When the copper looks mirror-like, it's time to apply nickel plating. After more polishing, If any problems are found, the polishing and plating continue until the bumper looks perfect. The backside is generally blasted clean and plated with copper and nickel. Chrome plates the back of some, but not all bumpers. Like paint, chrome adheres well in some spots and poorly in others. It may just run off the rear contour of many bumpers. Since it's unpolished, the back of the bumper will also be rougher than the front. Paint the backside to reduce the chance of rust.
If the Resto-Mod that you're restoring has ever been in an accident or if you've removed the trunk lid (very likely) during your restoration work, the trunk lid will have to be properly aligned for a good fit. Most misalignments are fairly easy to fix because most deck lids can be moved forwards and backwards, as well as side to side, simply by loosening the bolts that hold the lid to the hinges.
When you have the trunk lid in place on the car, inspect the panel gaps to see if they are straight and even all around. Also check to see if the trunk lid fits loose or snug. Holding the lid with one hand, loosen all the bolts to the point where they are just snug in their holes. Leave one of them a little tighter than the others, so that it takes a little pressure to move the lid. If you think that the lock or striker plate are misaligned, unbolt and remove them. That way, if the lid is accidentally closed during alignment, the locking mechanism won't get jammed.
Align the trunk lid by gently lowering it into the hood gutter lip (with the weather stripping installed of course) and move it fore and aft or sideways to adjust its fit. After each movement, tighten the bolts and re-check the fit. You'll have to do this up to 20 times to get the fit and the gaps as perfect as possible.
Once the trunk lid is correctly seated in the trunk opening, you'll have to match up the lock and the striker. The lock, of course, is at the center of the rear edge of the trunk lid and the trunk key goes into it from the outside.
Keep the striker attaching bolts snug, so that it can be easily shifted around in position until it's just right. If the striker is pushed in towards the car, it could mean that the car took a rear end bump that bent it.
Once the trunk lid is correctly seated in the trunk opening, you'll have to match up the lock and the striker. Keep the striker attaching bolts snug, so that it can be easily shifted around in position until it's just right. If the striker is pushed in towards the car, it could mean that the car took a rear end bump that bent it. This can usually be corrected by tapping the striker gently, a few times with a hammer. Then, continue your adjustments. If the locking mechanism and the striker still won't mate up properly no matter what you do, loosen up the locking mechanism and move it to the left or right until it lines up properly with the striker.
If the trunk lid won't line up with even panel gaps, the hinges (seen here in upper right corner) are probably bent a little. With great care it is possible to bend them back to shape, but the best fix is to get new or good used hinges.
If you suspect that the car was involved in a rear end crash sometime in its life and you can't get the trunk lid to line up with even panel gaps, the hinges are probably bent a little. The best fix is to get new or good used hinges and replace the old ones. This is a nuts-and-bolts job. Be careful when working with spring loaded hinges designed to keep the trunk lid raised. Like any strong spring, they are under tension and shouldn't be removed without proper tools.
Reproduction cardboard or upholstered trim panels are available for many muscle cars, but since your Resto-Mod doesn't have to be 1000 percent factory original, you can probably make your own replacements with careful measuring and cutting. Remember that color-coordinated trim looks best and professional touches like beaded edges and snaps add an authentic look.
Jeff Noll's Camaro has a nice new sealing gasket all around the trunk lip. These are readily available from mail order muscle car parts catalogs.
Originality is not as important as detailing in a Resto-Mod. Route your electrical wires neatly and clip them in place. Use new rubber "lifesaver" gaskets in all access holes. These have a groove in the center and you squeeze one end through the hole until the groove "sandwiches" the sheet metal. A factory or aftermarket trunk light is a nice touch. Ditto for correct spare tire hold-downs and refinished jacks. Replacement trunk mats are available. Pre-plan any openings needed for sound system components.
A correct spare tire hold-down system, a refinished bumper jack stored inside the left rear fender and a correct plaid gray trunk mat add the crowning touches to the trunk of a 1970 Dodge Charger R/T.