It's well known that old cars, much like old houses, and even old journalists (ha!) have plenty of stories to tell regarding what they've done or where they've been. When taking on a full build you have the opportunity to get acquainted with each and every aspect of the car as you peel back the layers and learn many of its stories-some good and some not so good.
With regard to Orange Krate, our '71 project Camaro, it was uncovered early in the series that at some point in its life it was in an accident that damaged the passenger side from the rear quarter-panel forward. We've already touched on the replacement of the quarter-panel and repair of the door skin. There was however one last facet requiring attention, which was the rear framerail. As a result of the hit, the rail was twisted and torn, affecting some of the trunk floor as well. With the car now on the rotisserie for final bodywork, it was the perfect time to evaluate and replace the damaged framerail section.
Peter Newell of Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, is a master at revitalizing damaged steel, and for this repair he contacted Camaro Central for one of their steel replacement framerails. The unit arrived already clad in weld-through primer. Being that the replacement section was full-sized it was easy to remove the damaged area, measure and cut the new section to fit, and install it without a hitch. Since Orange Krate was picked clean, it alleviated Newell from having to remove any additional body, fuel, or suspension components to take on the job. The exact fitment of the new framerail section requires a bit of finessing. It's always a chore when having to rework a damaged area, however taking your time to address each issue makes for a better end product.
Moving to the Front
With the framerail surgery complete, it was time to move towards the front of the car and give some attention to the firewall. A while back, the factory heater box opening was filled along with a few other areas, some of which required plug-welding. Now only needing final bodywork, Newell prepared the area for paint by first heating and shrinking any adverse areas to get them nice and straight. From there he contacted our pal Ray Williams at Sherwin-Williams for repair products including a variety of 3M sandpapers and body filler. When working with body filler, Newell had a few tips: Use only what you will need, thoroughly mix your filler and hardeners for proper product drying, and begin sanding when the product reaches the manufacturer's recommended time to do so, as the product will be much easier to work with. A well-blocked area will be as flat as glass and ready for sealer and primer if done correctly.
Stay tuned as we'll be preparing the floor and firewall for paint and have Orange Krate back on its rollers in the next issue.
01 In a prior life the car suffered some major damage, which had us replace the passenger side rear quarter-panel and repair the passenger door in previous articles. With the car on a rotisserie, you can see just how bad the framerail was twisted and torn.
02 In order to correct the problem, a call was placed to Camaro Central for a full-size right-side replacement framerail (PN SHE-898). It arrived coated in weld-through primer and ready to go.
03 To get started, Peter Newell of Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, used a drill and 7/16-inch bit to remove the factory spot welds. Safety glasses are very important here.
04 Here you can see the spot welds removed from the framerail as it awaits the next step.
05 Newell started where the framerail was torn and eased into the area using an air chisel to gradually pry the section from the body.
06 After carefully utilizing the air chisel, the rear framerail section was worked away from the body. It's now easy to see some of the residual trauma suffered in the accident.
07 Continuing on, the right side of the framerail was then gradually removed with the air chisel.
08 With the framerail section completely removed it was time to evaluate the trunk pan and see what needed to be done to prepare it for the new framerail to be welded in place.
09 The original framerail took quite a beating in the accident. Here you can see the removed sections and just how much impact they absorbed.
10 To prepare the trunk floor and surrounding surfaces for the new framerail section, Newell selected a number of simple body working tools, including a variety of body hammers and dollies to help with the job.
11 The trunk area was then reworked and smoothed out using a number of body hammers and dollies. This step can take quite a bit of time until the steel is perfectly ironed out. The area was then surface primed.
12 The new full-length framerail was then measured to determine the exact amount to be used. It was then marked with masking tape for trimming.
13 With the framerail on a stand (and support assistance) Newell used a Sawzall to make the cut. The area was then deburred using a combination file.
14 The framerail section was then test-fit and any adjustments were made. Once satisfied, Pete then clamped it in place to prepare it for final welding.
15 Using a Lincoln Electric Power MIG 216, the new framerail section was plug-welded in place to complete the installation.
16 Moving on to the firewall. It was previously modified to give it a nice, clean look. A number of mounting holes were plug-welded and the factory heater box opening was filled.
17 To prep the firewall for bodywork, the surface area was stripped to bare metal using a circular grinder topped with a 36-grit disc.
18 To get the firewall nice and flat a Uni-Spotter stud welder was used with a shrinking tip to get the job done.
19 For cooling off the worked sections, a wet towel was applied to complete the metallurgical transitions.
20 Continuing to work the firewall, Newell used a number of body hammers and dollies to wrap up on straightening the last of the imperfections to the steel.
21 There are a number of bodywork supplies and tools needed to complete the job. Here you can see different sanding blocks, 36- and 80-grit 3M sandpapers, a gallon of Evercoat Rage Gold premium body filler, hardener, and a spreader.
22 Using a clean piece of cardboard, a workable amount of body filler was topped with the correct amount of hardener.
23 The products were then thoroughly mixed to prepare them for application.
24 A skim coat of the filler was then applied to the firewall section.
25 With the filler lightly cured, Newell began to block-sand and shape the area using a sanding block topped with 36-grit paper working towards a nice flat balance.
26 After working the panel, it's normal to see some bare metal areas, which indicate your high spots. The area was then blown clean of dust and debris.
27 Here you can see a few touch-ups where a small amount of filler was applied to fill a few pinholes and deep scratches. The area was then final sanded with 80-grit to a uniform smoothness.
28 With the firewall section completed, it was then sprayed with Sherwin-Williams epoxy primer and topped with a guide coat to protect it. Final sealer and paint will soon follow.