2017

My 2017 car repair season opened on April 30th. I got into the trunk and tried repairing the floor where it tied into the back of the left wheelhouse/fender. At this point I had not bought any steel yet, as I had just been let go from my job, so I was using what I found in the garage. In this case, some 22-gauge galvanized (as you can see, I cleaned the zinc off the edges).

The year got off to a slow start, with me not getting to the boneyard until Memorial Day weekend, where I picked up a left side quarter panel lower and some wheelhouse.

Left quarter panel before panel separation and patching.

The quarter panel was not in the greatest shape, but having called around, it was the only one available, so it was that or nothing. So I loaded up a cordless saw, an extra battery, and two packs of blades and went to the yard.

On June 10th, I got back to it, starting with separating the various panels and then repairing the lip of the wheel opening.

I also had to repair one of those “typical rust-outs” that cars get. At this point, I’m repairing this car on the absolute cheap, using some old refrigerator skin that I had after disassembling the pieces.

As you can see, the bottom of the quarter here where it falls behind the back door is pretty bad, so I started creating patches for that as well. I was still new to the shaping game, so I took it in sections.

Left quarter with patches on the lower front welded in.

At this point, I knew I could either stand on my head to repair the wheelhouse flange (I have the frame only 16″ off the floor) or I could repair the wheelhouse edge that came with the quarter. I went the second route, although in retrospect that was not the best idea.

Unfortunately at this point, I dropped my phone in the toilet and lost the rest of my photos before I could get them off the phone. In summary, when I welded the new lip onto the wheel house and fitted the quarter, I had about a 1/4″ gap between them, so I had to remove the panel (it was only screwed on at this point), cut the wheelhouse edge, weld in a strip of metal to lower the edge, and test fit (repeatedly). After 2 or 3 tries, I got a tolerable gap and got the quarter bottom welded on with suitable amount of cussing and swearing.

2018

2018 got off to a start on May 1st with cutting into the left side B-pillar base, as I noted some rust there. After removing the back door, the trim bits, and the outer metal, I found this waiting for me:

B-pillar inner layer with rust on rocker panel.

The outer metal had a substantial hole in it, and I could see the rocker panel was rusted, but at this point I knew that 22-gauge refrigerator skin was not going to be sufficient. I needed “real” metal. So I got a square foot of 16-gauge at Ace for about $13. The next photo is the “shoe” of the pillar that I had cut off.

B-pillar “shoe”, separated from the main pillar.

The first step was clearing the rusty metal off and repairing what lay behind. You can see I knocked a substantial amount of rust off the car at this point.

May 8th: Next up, I got the 16-gauge measured out, bent to shape, and clamped into place to check for fit.

Then I got the lower part of the middle layer of metal that I had cut off taped back in place with some cardboard taped to it to make a template for the replacement. Not having any kind of diagrams for the body, and the other side being even worse than this one, I had no idea if this panel was supposed to extend over the face of the rocker panel or just weld to the top. I opted for the second.

I then made a cardboard template for the “shoe”, which is placed backward on the shoe in this picture. That’s the glory of replacement metal – there’s no front side or back side until you start shaping it or you weld it in place.

May 23rd: All the layers were welded back together and the shoe went back on.

At the same time, I turned my attention to the front of the door opening in the A-pillar. I outlined the 3 patch pieces I made. The bottom one, I had to heat the metal with a MAPP gas torch to get the bend on it because it was so narrow. The top piece I was able to round over with a hammer. After doing the other side in 2020, I know now I’ll have to remove the front quarter and repair the front end of the rocker panel most likely. The right side was pretty bad.

Since I already had the rear door off to do the rocker panel, I decided to stand it on its head and repair some minor accident damage from back around 2005. Somebody stuck his nose out between two snowbanks at 69th & Beloit and caught me as I was going by. It also damaged the rear quarter, but that was already cut off by this point. I didn’t get much – just a little ripple in the metal.

May 30th: A year after getting the quarter panel, I folded back the carpeting to the largest disaster I had seen on this car. As bad as it looks, it’s even worse. But again, I went forward with no diagrams and nothing but guesswork. This is the part where it would have been really handy to have this as a frame-off restore and throw it on the rotisserie. But I didn’t have that, so I did it the hard way.

The anchor point, where the floor pan should be bolted to the frame. No bolt. It’s rusted and gone.

I started by planning my pieces.

June 4th: Then I got the rest of the floorboard/firewall cut away so I could see the structure.

The first thing I wanted to do was sand blast and see what was left that I could salvage and/or weld to. There was more than I expected. I started fabricating floor pan pieces at this point, as you can see by the silver bit.

I took stock once more of the pieces I would need to fabricate, now that I had more of an idea how the 16-gauge was going to bend for me. During all this, the body is supported by a jack stand under the rocker panel. I ended up having to lift this corner about an inch as the floor had rusted out around the bushing (red circle) and the body was almost sitting directly on the frame. One error I made, once I opened the other side, was the blue piece should have been joined to the orange.

June 11th: I fabricated a new floor support out of some leftover quarter panel metal. It’s not my neatest work ever, and would have benefited from an English wheel, but it’s hidden.

June 12th: The next move was to fabricate the floor that would sit on top of the body bushing. I had enough of a lip from the original to weld into it on the edge. At this point, I had only the gap in the curve.

June 14th: I got the edge piece fabricated and formed to the curve needed.

I made the necessary cuts to fit it in and welded it. Again, the grinding is sloppy because it was very close quarters working around the brake pedal (I could not get the working unhooked to move it) and it would be hidden under carpeting anyway.

June 18th: I banged a floor patch out of the refrigerator skin. Yes, it’s thin, but it’s the only metal I had that was big enough. I was still unemployed here, so keeping it cheap was the watchword. I’m doing the best I can with as little as possible. To get the bracing in the floor, I hammered two strips of wood to a 2X8, lined up my marks at each end, put a notch in the metal, and held it in place while I embossed the rest. A bead roller would have been handy here, but again, I didn’t have one.

June 19th: Remember where I said it was worse? Now we hit “worse”. I noticed the rust on the floor pan went under the driver’s seat mount.

And the rust continued into the rear seat footwell.

So I started by cutting out the seat mount…

So I did some trimming, wire wheeled the metal, and then hit it with naval jelly to stop whatever rust was left.

June 23rd: I pulled the other seats and the carpeting out so I could see the whole story. Holes on the bottom of the floor too. So I made the cuts.

The passenger side wasn’t nearly as bad.

The one along the inside of the rear door, rather than replace a 1″ strip, which would involve more welding distance, I trimmed out to the top of the floor pan and replaced that whole edge.

June 24th: I got the rest patched up and Rust-oleum on it.

On the 25th, I tacked the floor in place, making this not a Flintstone-mobile for the first time in many years.

June 26th: I tore into the passenger side of the floor. 2nd side, same as the first.

June 27th: With left side experience under my belt, this side went a bit faster in clearing the damage and making new pieces. The bits I had, I had to raise part of the 16-gauge to go over the top of the body bushing. Between the MAPP torch and the arbor press, I was able to get some sort of reasonable facsimile that would more or less fit. I got a little daring on this one and made it a bit bigger and tried rounding the inside edge over the frame to save on the number of pieces to be made.

June 28th: Pieces welded in, and the body is bolted back down.

And the floor is back down.

Sept. 13th: It was a heck of a summer. At this point, I stepped back and took some time away, just doing simple stuff like skimming off the trunk skin repairs, deep cleaning the interior, and leveling up the back door and quarter panel.

2019

A part-time job kept me busy a good share of the summer, so not much got done. I did some superficial work around the doors and such, but started no major reconstruction.

2020

I got an early start to the year in March, tearing into the right side B-pillar. I knew what I’d find, and I knew how to fix it. You know the drill – second side same as the first or worse.

While the shoe wasn’t as eaten away as the other side, most of this metal was too thin to save.

I also had a mess around the bottom of the A-pillar.

April 16th: The top and bottom of the rocker panel weren’t as bad on this side, so I had to replace only the face for the most part. The rear of the patch is tacked on.

Breaking for dinner, the patch is about half welded.

April 17th: I kept burning through the top of the rocker, so I chopped some metal out and replaced it, then continued welding.

April 20th: Patched up the middle layer of metal.

April 25th: Removed the front quarter to get a better look at the A-pillar damage. Again, worse than I expected.

April 28th: I cut into the mess to see how much was left.

I decided to quit screwing around with little patches and just make one big one.

May 4th: After a lot of sandblasting, wire-wheeling, and acid-treating the metal, I closed up the rocker panel…at least the side.

May 6th: I fabricated a new side for the A-pillar – all this work is in 16-gauge. Since that bolt hole is a critical spot, I decided to cut around it to keep it in its original location.

May 9th: Big day – clean-up day. Bondo Day, whatever you want to call it. The big work got closed up and finalized.

Bottom of the rigth B-pillar in primer.

May 13th: I turn my attention to a rust-out on the front door that I had welded up the previous year. Now that I don’t have to stand on my head to work on it, it’s time to get it done.

At the same time, let’s take care of another typical Caprice/Impala/Roadmaster rust-out point – where the bumper joins the front quarter.

And let’s deal with some stone or door damage that got out of hand.

I don’t have any more photos for now, but the front quarter is painted and loosely hung to the car. I am now dealing with a dent that is the result of running over some ice coming out Schlotzsky’s Deli back in 2004 or ’05 when I was delivering The Onion. The bottom body line (right about the stainless steel trim) got pushed in about 1/8 of an inch. I pulled it out, but it was still a bit low in spots. I got a long hammer head on the air hammer and banged to back to profile as close as I could get it. That is now getting finalized for primer as Labor Day weekend arrives, as well as pushing ahead with work on the daily driver to get it buttoned up for winter.

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