We receive quite a few email questions regarding rust repairs and patch panels. The most expensive part of most basic restorations is paint and body. The most expensive part of getting the body ready for paint is rust repair.
When you find rust in a quarter-panel, roof panel, floor panel, etc., at what point do you decide to replace the whole panel instead of installing a patch? If a panel is deeply etched by rust and has lost a significant amount of integrity, it's time to start looking at replacement. You can't weld a patch panel to a rusty surface. Rust in the lower edge of a quarter-panel or wheel opening is something easy to patch. Rust that has reached the top of the wheel opening is a bad sign.
When tackling a rust repair, how far is too far? How far to go is up to you. Maybe the car has sentimental value or it's a rare, collectible COPO. Would you strip a somewhat ordinary SS or Z/28 down to the skeleton-as seen in the accompanying image-if the car didn't have historical significance? Sometimes it's tough to know when to call it quits and try a different approach.
It can cost a few thousand dollars just to replace a quarter-panel. A brand-new Dynacorn reproduction first-gen Camaro body will cost you approximately $13,500. That's not a bad deal, considering you get a completely rust-free shell that's welded and EDP (Electro Deposit Primer) coated. The coating is applied electrically and gets into and behind all the nooks and crannies, unlike paint, which can only be sprayed on visible surfaces. EDP is much better protection against rust than our old Camaros ever received back in the day.
If you're building a hot rod or Pro Touring car and don't care if you start with an SS or Z/28, we've seen fairly complete and solid six-cylinder first-gen Camaros go for $10-15K. But when buying a car, you take a big chance that you'll get a Camaro that looks good on the surface, but may be a completely different story underneath. We've seen some cars that were purchased online without inspection and they were complete disasters.
One car in particular that we know of was purchased sight-unseen online. Its quarter and rocker panels, floor and trunk pan, and firewall were patched with body filler, wire mesh, aluminum foil, and cardboard. This car was driven around for a few months after the purchase then went into the shop for an engine upgrade. When the mechanic found something questionable, the new owner told him to dig a little deeper and make the necessary repairs. They found inch-wide gaps all the way down each rocker that had been filled with pounds of body filler and anything else they could fit in there. Every lower panel in the car had met the same fate. Now the owner is faced with replacing all the panels or start over with a new car. Not wanting to concede, reconstruction is under way and the repair bill is now in the range of what a Dynacorn body costs.
Tips so as to Avoid Purchasing a Rust Bucket
- Never buy a car without looking at it yourself or by a trustworthy friend.
- Bring a friend along when looking at a car. Another set of eyes for inspection can never hurt.
- Bring a magnet with you to check for body filler in common rust areas.
- If a seller objects to a thorough inspection, walk away.
- Never inspect and purchase a car in the dark.
If you've ever experienced a dead battery in your Camaro, you'll appreciate Eastwood's Emergency Starter Jump Pack (PN 13579). Featuring a 12v lead acid battery with a peak output of 1,000 amps, this jumper will get your car started.
Check out eastwood.com/cp513 for more info or call 800.343.9353, source code CP513