Sometimes to fix things right, you just gotta go back to the beginning. Such is the case with our subject ’55. After unearthing some old (we’re talking Lyndon Johnson–era old!) repairs on the driver-side quarter-panel, combined with some not quite right modern repairs on the passenger side, the rear half of our sport coupe was not in good shape.
After Tri-Five expert Greg Lovell of Antivenom Performance in Seffner, Florida, and automotive paint guru Raleigh Carpenter of RC Customz in Pinellas Park, Florida, both looked at this ’55 and said, “You need to replace the whole quarters,” we knew there was no denying the reality of the situation. We needed more than skins or lower halves. To fix our hardtop, we needed the same thing the factory used back when the car was built by Fisher Body, a factory full quarter-panel.
Thankfully, we live in a fantastic time, one when every single piece of metal (short of the dash) is being reproduced, so completely new ’55, ’56 and ’57 Chevys can be built from scratch at Real Deal Steel in Sanford, Florida. The side benefit of this is previously unavailable parts for restoring original Tri-Fives are now available for purchase. In our case, that meant we could get factory full quarters to put our ’55 back into shape and ready for final blasting, then priming for bodywork and the paint booth.
After talking to Real Deal’s Joe Whitaker, we headed for Sanford, where we picked up passenger-side (PN QP13-55ROE) and driver-side (PN QP13-55LOE) quarters. Both panels come clean, with no trim holes drilled, so we’ll cover how to add those in a later story. These panels are fantastic, and we’ll point out how in the accompanying pictures.
So, let’s get to it!
1. With the quarters off, we’ll have access to areas of the car that haven’t seen daylight since going down the St. Louis assembly line in 1955. To clean them of corrosion and seal them against future rust, we’ll be using Eastwood’s assortment of rust treatment/prevention products.
2. Another handy item to have for this operation will be a good wire brush—better yet, an assortment of different size ones. We picked up a bag of them at our local Harbor Freight store for less than five bucks.
3. To make the job easier, we cut away the central sections of our old quarter to make it easier for drilling out the spot-welded parts. Then we started by breaking out our trusty Eastwood skip-proof spot-weld driller (PN 11283), and going to work on all the old spot welds.
4. With the welds drilled, we used a screwdriver and hammer to split the metal apart.
5. The seam between the quarter- and filler panel was filled with lead from the factory. We’d already melted the lead out of this joint. Since we’ll be replacing the filler panel in a later story, we used a cutoff wheel here to get better access to splitting off the old quarter-panel flange.
6. Most unrestored Tri-Fives have multiple layers of paint in the doorjambs. To make finding the spot welds around the jamb area easier, we used a MAP gas torch to melt away the old paint.