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.
7. With the car’s original coral paint showing again, we drilled out the spot welds, then split the rest of the quarter from the jamb reinforcement.
8. Next, we moved to the trunk area and split away the gutter area around the trunk opening.
9. With the old quarter completely removed, we scrubbed the inner quarter with a heavy wire brush, then treated it with Eastwood’s Fast Etch rust remover. It eliminates rust while leaving behind a zinc phosphate coating as it dries. After that, we used Eastwood’s zinc-rich galvanizing compound to prevent any further corrosion.
10. Before setting the new quarter in place, we installed a new outer wheelhouse seal, which goes between the house and the quarter.
11. After setting the Real Deal Steel quarter in place, we used clamps and the old door latch assembly to hold the panel in place up front, plus other clamps around the rear flanges.
12. The Real Deal Steel factory quarter-panel fit like a glove. The trunk gutters were a perfect match to the originals on the car, the doorjamb slid easily into place, and we swore the thickness of the metal was a heavier gauge than the original we removed. The quality was exceptional.
13. With the panel clamped securely in place, we double-checked the alignment, then started welding up by the roof brace. We used our Eastwood MIG Spot Weld Kit (PN 13901) to attach our new quarter. The special tip that comes in the kit allows you to simulate factory spot welds and works with any MIG welder.
14. From there, we moved down into the trunk gutter.
15. After the gutter, we moved up to the doorjamb. If you have rust or accident damage to the brace or inner structure, Real Deal Steel also sells replacement panels to fix this. The part number for the passenger side brace is HCDJPR-567, driver side HCDJPL-567.
16. Going underneath, we spot-welded the quarter to the inner rocker. We didn’t fully spot-weld down here because we might need to adjust the inner rocker that had already been replaced before.
17. The last part is welding where the quarter meets the rear inner fin panel. Originally, there would’ve only been some spot welds on the inner flange to hold these together, then the seam was filled with lead and covered over. We don’t like the idea of loading that much filler into the body, so the talented Greg Lovell of Antivenom Performance welded the two pieces together along the seam. After welding, he ground down the welds on the seam and smoothed them out.
18. And here’s what we’ve got. This entire part of the car is now brand new, no filler, no patches, and rust free. Our ’55 is finally starting to look like a car again. The Real Deal Steel factory quarter really impressed us with its quality, fit, and relative ease of installation. In the future, we’ll cover how to drill the proper holes to attach the Bel Air/210 trim on cars so equipped.