Over decades, the firewalls of our classic Camaros have taken a lot of abuse. Aside from residing in a hostile environment, they were often riddled with holes as various owners mounted everything from wire looms to ignition boxes. And just like the rest of the car, they were subject to blunt force trauma and rust. But it’s 2013, and every part of the Camaro, including the firewall, is available in reproduction form, so it’s easier than ever to replace the panel rather than try to make numerous small repairs.
At first glance, replacing a firewall may seem pretty daunting, but in reality it’s much easier than grafting on a new quarter-panel or roof. Many times, it involves drilling close to a hundred spot welds and then carefully coaxing the panel away from the rest of the car. To see what’s involved in the process, we dropped by Hot Rods By Dean in Phoenix to see them work over the firewall of a 1968 that’s in the process of being fully restored.
01 The old firewall was just beat and had been hacked up by previous owners. There was a time when the only option was to patch it up as best as possible, but thanks to today’s replacement panel options it can be made to look factory fresh.
02 Using a spot weld bit, Hot Rods by Dean fabricator Wesley Zeller started drilling out all the factory welds. When all the welds were gone, he worked his way around the edges with a combination of wedges and air hammers.
03 It took a good deal of time but eventually the old firewall popped free from the rest of the Camaro. Wesley found it was easier to cut the old firewall in half after drilling out all of the spot welds, this way he was able to get better leverage when prying it away and off.
04 And here’s what we were left with. Notice that the firewall panel also incorporates the forward toe kick section of the Camaro’s floorpan.
05 To protect the bare steel, Wesley hit all the edges with some Eastwood Self-Etching Weld-Through primer.
06 The new panel from National Parts Depot (PN C-12804-11B, $308) came ready to go with all the factory-correct holes in place. This firewall is for a factory air car, but NPD offers the heater-only version as well (PN C-12804-11A).
07 The brake master bracket is one of the key spots used to line up the new panel. Given this, we made sure not to damage or tweak it while removing the old panel.
08 The NPD firewall fit surprisingly well with no trimming or other drama needed to get it in place.
09 The new panel also lined up perfectly with the brake master mounting studs.
10 Once fitment was confirmed, Wesley removed the panel and used a metal punch to put attachment points around the perimeter of the panel. There’s nearly a hundred needed, so it was a lot of punchin’.
11 Wesley had a co-worker push the two panels together while he rosette-welded the panel to the Camaro.
12 With the firewall tacked in place, he could then go back and hit all of the other weld spots.
13 Inside the Camaro, the new panel’s flange laid up nicely under the edge of the factory floor. It was rosette-welded in place just like the rest of the firewall.
14 Once completely welded, they hit all the edges with some seam sealer, and then sprayed on a coat of the proper gloss black paint. And just like that, the firewall on this ’68 was looking as good as it did when it rolled off the assembly line.