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1968 Chevrolet Camaro Rear Sheetmetal - Drawn Then Quartered
We Fix Out Battered '68 Camaro Project Car With New Rear Sheetmetal
Feb 17, 2009
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Best of Show Coachworks
San Marcos, CA 92069
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1968 Chevrolet Camaro Rear Sheetmetal - Drawn Then Quartered
We can’t put on the new quarter panel until the old one is out of the way. Here Dick Kvamme, of Best Of Show Coach Works (BOS), starts removing the main section with his handy Miller plasma cutter. He says it’s best to “sneak up” on the panel by removing the large sections, then carefully trim off the rest. If you try to do it all in one pass you’re likely to take off too much and just make more work for yourself than necessary.
Fire in the hole! Looks like our Track Rat project car was, at one time, home to a real rat. The rat’s bedding was stuffed between the trunk drop-off and quarter panel. Needless to say, it stank up the whole shop when the plasma cutter lit it up.
After using a variety of tools, including a plasma cutter, the main portion of the quarter panel comes off the car. It felt like we had done a lot, but getting to this point was actually pretty easy. We were then able to inspect other areas of the car, like the inner wheelhouses and the trunk drop offs, for damage and rot.
We found more evidence of a hack-job on our poor camaro when the quarter was removed. The slackers that previously installed the quarter didn’t even bother to weld the c-pillar support to the wheelhouse. We also found that the same was true of the package shelf. Let’s hope they found another profession after working on this car.
Since the inner and outer wheelhouses were installed so poorly, we decided to bite the bullet and just replace them with fresh metal. Sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward, and we want this car to be right when it’s finished.
One of the harder pieces to remove is in the doorjamb area. It’s tempting to leave this in place and make the new quarter fit to it. Don’t do it. Take the time and do it right. The extra effort put forth here will save us a lot of work down the line. Besides, more seams means more places for cracks and failures over time. The first thing we did was to find all the factory pinch welds and grind them down. Several of them are located around the area of the door striker. If you look closely you will see more evidence that this section is from a ’67 since it’s missing the doorjamb vent hole. We will cut a new one down the line.
With the main parts gone we could start trimming off the excess metal using a variety of 3M cutting and grinding discs. If you’re planning on doing this yourself, make sure to budget in the cost of materials as they can add up in a hurry.
Since the replacement panel was attached incorrectly the leaded factory seam between the roof and quarter panel was still there. The best way to get rid of the old lead is with a torch and wire brush. Remember, lead isn’t good for you or the environment, so take the proper precautions.
After trimming away all the excess and removing the inner and outer wheelhouses, this is what we were left with. If you look in the trunk you’ll notice a section of angle iron. This was tack-welded in place prior to removing all the panels to help keep the car from sagging with so much support removed. We also have the new trunk drop-off mocked up into place. Due to more bad workmanship we had to go ahead and remove the rear panels. As they say, “In for a penny, in for a pound.”
With the trunk drop-off in place we tacked it in with our MIG welder. Oftentimes the drop off is a prime spot for rust and needs to be replaced. This piece from National Parts Depot (NPD) fit well with no modifications (PN C-12981-50A, $34.95).
After double-checking fitment several times we then stitched the new NPD inner wheelhouse (PN C12941-01A, $86.95) into place. This is a very important part to the structure of the car, so care was taken to make sure it was properly welded in all the correct places. If you look at the C-pillar area you can also see where we welded the package tray to the inner structure. That would have been one nasty rattle.
The outer wheelhouse (PN C-12944-1A, $44.95) didn’t go in quite as easily as the inner one. Luckily, Dick has been down this road before and knew the right places to trim and massage with his trusty assortment of hammers. Before this part could be welded in place we had to test-fit the new quarter to make sure the lip of the wheelhouse matched up with the flange on the new NPD quarter panel.
Once the outer wheelhouse was welded in place we could secure it to the C-pillar structural support.
Time to bust open the Rust Seal from KBS Coatings. After all, there’s never going to be a better time to give this area a good coat of rust protection. We followed KBS’ instructions and used a separate container rather than dip our brush into the factory can. See, sometimes we do read the instructions.
Here are all of the inner panels attached, painted, and ready to receive the new NPD quarter panel. When we did our painting we made sure to leave the areas to be welded in bare metal. In the spots where we got a little carried away with the paintbrush, we cleaned off the paint with a wire wheel. Also, before welding, make sure the paint is cured and not giving off volatile fumes.
The first thing we noticed about the new NPD quarter panel (PN C12940-3A, $369.95) was that it has nice, sharp lines and seemed to have the proper shape. Many people think that going with an OEM GM panel is a better route, but unless you have a rare, numbers-matching Camaro, it just doesn’t make financial sense. The cost differential can easily be over $700. Even if the aftermarket panel requires a bit more work, you will still be heavier in the wallet with the non-OEM version.
Gregg Blundell was just visiting the shop when he was pressed into service helping Dick test-fit the panel. This process took several attempts as it was trimmed, and the car was tweaked until it slid into place properly.
Where the outer wheelhouse met the quarter was one area that needed some persuading to fit. According to Dick, this is fairly common with all panels. Even the OEM ones need help getting mated up to the car correctly. He also stated that all cars, even with the same brand replacement panels, need metal work in various areas. It’s just the nature of the beast.
With the quarter aligned just right, we could start welding it to the car. When welding the quarter to the roof panel it’s critical to get it right. A quality weld here will save on the amount of bodywork needed afterwards. We were careful not to overheat and warp the new panel or roof. One trick Dick uses is to pause during the weld and use an air hose to cool down the area.
After drilling holes in the window flange of the quarter panel, we welded it to the structure of the car.
We also trimmed, fitted, and attached the new rear NPD panel (PN C-12966-1A, $69.95). The driver’s quarter was a bit mangled from the previous “repair”, but with some effort, we got the panel to fit properly. Dick used sheetmetal screws and clamps to hold it place for welding.
With the rear panel secured we could then go around and methodically weld the perimeter of the quarter panel to the car.
The trunk gutter strip isn’t included with the quarter panel, so make sure you order one. Generally, they come in complete sets of three (left, center, right) for about sixty bucks. We happened to have one left over from a previous orange ’68 Camaro repair.
We could then gaze upon the beauty of the new quarter panel. Total time to install all of the panels, including the rear ones, was about 39 hours. With this done we could dive into the bodywork needed to get our Track Rat ready for its satin paint.
It was now time to start tackling the bodywork on our battered ’68 Camaro. First up is filling the area where the roof meets the quarter. In the old days they used lead, but today, technology has a better idea. With the weld ground down, we smeared on a layer of U-POL SMC Bonding Compound. This is a fiber reinforced filler, and while the label implies that’s it’s mainly for plastics, it’s perfect for areas that require a thicker fill. This is due to the strength imparted by the material’s fibers, including carbon fiber. Once mixed we only had a short time to get it on the panel before it started to set up.
After 20 minutes the SMC was set up and ready for sanding. To knock it down in a hurry we hit it with our rotary and a 3M Imperial Hook-It II 40-grit sanding pad.
With that done, we then applied a thick coat of U-POL’s Flyweight lightweight body filler. This stuff sets up even faster than the SMC so time is of the essence.
Ten minutes later we could hit the area with a short hand-block and some 3M 40-grit paper. This is where we got the shape of the panel right.
With the shape right the final step was to apply a very thin coat of U-POL high viscosity Dolphin Glaze. This polyester putty is perfect for final skimming as it easily fills most pinholes. Since it’s thick it’s also great for vertical panels.
The Dolphin Glaze took under 10 minutes to set up. We then we hit the area with some 80-grit followed by 120-grit sanding-pads. With the bodywork complete, this area is ready for some primer and more TLC. At this rate we should be hitting the spray booth in no time.
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