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Camaro Paneling, Part 2
Classic Industries' Restoration Of An "unsalvageable" '69 Coup, Junk In The Trunk.
Jun 17, 2005
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
AMERICAN MUSCLE CARS, INC.
Ontario, CA 91743
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Camaro Paneling, Part 2
When last seen, our basket-case '69 coupe had received a successful floor and rocker transplant at American Muscle Cars in Ontario, California, giving the unibody a firm base for reconstruction to come. At the rear, every panel had defects, and after cutting off the main portion of the quarter panels, it was even more sinister.
"Holy oxidation, Bodyman!" With the left quarter off, here's what the front of the trunk floor corners looked like.
As invigorating as the dip in the stripping tank had been for this 35-year-old ponycar, when panels are dissected, you find places that still exhibit cancer. Here's the rotten bottom edge of the left inner fenderwell and the portion of the trunk floor formerly hidden by the quarter.
Doing a proper job of installing the full-length inner and outer Classic Industries rocker panel had meant opening the lower portion of the quarter panels for access and welding (part 1 of this project). Here there's enough access to remove the inner well, but later all remnants of the quarter will be removed.
When faced with tedious procedures, you find the fastest way to get started, which at AMC is with a small cutting torch that makes short work of removing the outer (shown on the floor) and inner fenderwells. The flanges are left in place, to be removed by drilling out the factory spot-welds at the body braces.
The taillight panel had to go, and the rear of the quarters went to the scrap heap at the same time, after which attention turned to the trunk floor.
After trimming a little of the rear floor away, the inside of the rear frame rails, which are actually like heavy sheetmetal stampings, appeared to be rusty but salvageable.
We've heard of back-halving a car, this is no-halving! The trunk floor is bye-bye, leaving a skeleton of the rear of the Classic Camaro's body. The rear frame rails are now fully exposed so they can be de-rusted, sealed and the flanges straightened to accept the new floor. Notice that the rear of the rails are supported and spaced properly.
Classic part number C339 is position over the rear frame rails and it's like an instant TV makeover story. The one-piece stamping must be aligned to the fenderwell braces, backseat braces, and of course where it laps with the car's main floorpan.
In the previous photo, this reproduction inner rear valance panel had already been attached with screws to the trunk floor, giving the floor additional stiffness at the rear, where there is no transverse crossmember.
Nothing is welded until the mating parts are secured with screws through the spot-weld holes. The inner fenderwells being installed here are a crucial part of aligning and strengthening the rear floor and the body.
As each piece of the puzzle is put in place, the ensemble becomes stiffer. The compound radius of the outer fenderwells makes for a strong base to eventually accept the relatively flat quarter panels. Look closely and you can see all the mounting holes ready to be welded shut once alignment is perfect.
Here on the right side, you can see how the rear of the outer fenderwell attaches to the side of the floorpan stamping.
As new panels are attached to old, such as with the inner and outer fenderwells, braces and floorpan, AMC technicians start aligning with screws, then occasionally using body hammers to straighten flanges for a tight fit before final welding.
At the right, the trunk's floorpan extension has been attached with one screw near the fenderwell. It will then be slid over and aligned with the floor's flange, drilled and welded. You can also see the alignment holes for the floor-to-framerail welds in this shot.
Once all the fenderwell holes are filled with temporary screws, the rear floor flange should be fixed to the main floor, and the structurally important rear seat braces aligned and screwed to the trunk floor riser.
If there are areas to be welded that may be covered with the quarters installed, the screws in those holes are removed one at a time and the holes through-welded. Slipping the new quarter panels in place now marks a milestone of progress.
For now, while other quarter-panel areas still need alignment, the front flange can be temporarily clamped to the inner body structure at the doorjamb. The latter flange must be hammer-and-dolly straightened first, before clamping the two panels.
Here's a close look at how the inner panel for the rear valance is the rearmost attachment point for the quarter-panel, here secured only with screws for now.
The panel below the rear window is the last remaining piece of rear body structure to deal with. In this project's case, AMC started by cutting out the rusted outer skin, in hopes the bottom structure was salvageable.
The inner panels were de-rusted and saved, but for more serious cases, there's Classic's 866-page catalog to the rescue, with part number C831, including inner and outer panels, braces and hinges.
At this juncture, the floorpan has been welded to the rear framerails and several other key points, including some spotwelds to join the new top panel to the inner piece below the rear window.
Once the top flanges were permanently hitched, much "clampage" was employed so the AMC craftsmen could weld the trunk-opening edges of the two panels. The idea is to weld a little, move a few inches further and weld again, until the whole edge is secure.
Now that the quarter-panel is where it needs to be, the fenderwells can be welded and the clamps gradually removed. This is all part of a slow, methodical process that shows what is required to do this kind of work and have it be as good or better than factory, for show, auction or restoration.
Here's a complete right fenderwell with all the clamps and screws replaced by weld-throughs about every inch or two. The next step is to lightly grind the top of each spotweld flush with the parent metal, for a stock appearance when painted.
The final piece to complete the back-half of the Camaro is the "rear body panel", also referred to as the taillight panel. It is spot-welded to the inner valance at the rear of the trunk floor, and also attached to the quarter panels, but not before a perfect '69 trunk lid is trial-fit in the trunk opening to make absolutely sure all panels are aligned.
AMC is using their lift because the final welding is to tack the bottom flange of the quarter to the trunk floor, and the bottom of the taillight panel to its inner valance flange.
Final adjustment at the doorjamb to quarter flanges is done after installing a known-good door and checking for fit. At AMC, they also measure the width of the top and bottom of the door opening, as well as diagonal measurements that indicate if the opening is square. You'll see the top of the quarters attached to the (new) roof in the next issue's installment.
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