Rust is one of those things you will encounter at some point during a muscle car restoration. Just about every Chevrolet product will get rust in certain common places, like the bottom of the quarters and fenders. Then there are the rust areas specific to a certain model. Take the second-generation Camaro; this car gets rust on the upper cowl right at the base of the windshield, typically at the corners. If you have one of these cars, then you probably know what we are talking about. While this is a common problem, luckily it’s not as involved as other rust repairs. As a matter of fact, this job can be done on a painted car without damaging the paint.
We have one in our stable that had such bad rust it grew to the point it broke off the corner of the windshield. We really want to drive this car, so this needed to be addressed before we could put in a new a windshield. We were very impressed with the quality and fitment of the Auto Metal Direct (AMD) quarter-panel we hung on the car, so we looked to them again for this job. The company has a full replacement panel made to factory specifications. The stamped steel piece is of OE thickness and shape, ready to be installed right out of the box.
The old piece needed to come off first, so we grabbed a few items from Eastwood to make the job much easier. We ordered the company’s Skip-Proof Spot Weld Cutter and Spot Welding kit, and added it to our collection of clamps and Lincoln 110v MIG welder. The following story will map out how to remove the original piece, treat any leftover rust, then install the new AMD cowl piece. One thing that will not be in the story is how to deal with the VIN tag. Since this job requires it to be transferred to the new dash piece, you will need to check with your local DMV to find out how to do it legally in your state.
1. This is the new Upper Cowl Panel (part number X360-3570-1) from Auto Metal Direct. It’s a full replacement piece that retails for $159.95 plus shipping. The panel is the correct thickness and shape as the original, and has every necessary hole pre-punched, so reinstalling things like the wiper assembly, cowl grille, and other items are a snap.
2. Here is our offending rust. It got so out of hand it broke the windshield. This is the worst spot, but there is rust all along the bottom of the windshield area. If this was the only area, we might have considered just doing a small patch job on the corner. Since we had rust along the entire lower area, a full replacement was the best option for us. Before we could start cutting out the cowl/dash we needed to remove the entire front clip.
3. Since this piece is spot-welded in place, we needed to locate all of them. Step one in that process is to scrape out all the old seam sealer.
4. We decided to quickly cut out as much of the panel as possible, which will aid in what’s to come.
5. A grinding disc was used to run over the top of all the metal left. We kept the grinder flat so it would quickly clean off all the high areas and leave us a tell tale dot in the low areas. These dots are the dents left by the spot welding process.
6. Eastwood’s Skip-Proof Spot Weld Cutter is specifically made to drill-out spot welds. The one-piece cutter makes clean cuts around the outside of spot welds, without damaging the bottom panel. It features a spring-loaded pilot bit in the center to prevent skipping.
7. Our grinding mapped out all the spot welds we needed to cut, so we dropped the cutter in the center …
8. … pulled the trigger on our air drill and then slowly applied more pressure. Once the cutter hit the sheetmetal, it made quick work cutting though the upper layer. If you spend too much time or get too aggressive, this cutter will cut through both panels. That means make sure to stop and check your progress a few times until you get a feel for how this thing cuts.
9. Once we had a few spot welds cut out we used a screwdriver to pry up on the panel. Cutting out most of the panel before hand made the prying up portion much easier.
10. Here’s what you should be left with once you get it all removed: a bunch of small, little disc-shaped leftovers.
11. Those come right off with an air grinder, leaving the lower panel clean and ready for the new piece.
12. We took this opportunity to fully clean and paint the lower cowl to prevent new rust from forming.
13. Make sure to look down the kick panel area, because like our car, there is probably years of accumulated dirt and other crud just sitting there, waiting to get wet and cause rust. We used a shop vac to clean this out.
14. We decided to use some left over POR-15 to coat the lower cowl area. We painted all the way down the cowl into the kick panel area.
15. We had to transfer the VIN and trim tags onto the new panel. The trim tag is pretty easy to move, as all you need to do is bend in the little tabs on the backside, move the tag and re-bend the tabs. The VIN is a whole different ball of wax, since it is held on with special rosette rivets. Each state has different laws governing this, so make sure to check with your local DMV to find out the proper procedure.