Project car! Boy, if ever a term were to elicit emotions from an egotistical staff of magazine gearheads. Whenever we hear those words lumped together there's an immediate heightening of the senses. First and foremost it's for the excitement of getting to build a car (hey, that's what we live for), but then that's quickly followed by a pall triggered by the reality of what goes into making it all come to fruition.
The caution flag is a worthy one, however. As you know, we've built more than our share of machines over the years: Marvelous Malibu, Sedan Delivery, Speedwagon, 30th Anniversary Camaro, Silverstreak. Then there's those that sort of fall into the same category: Rusty Ragtop, Classical Resurrection, and the mega-project of them all, Saturday Night Nova. We love 'em, and at the same time, hate 'em. And for good reason. They were (and still are) a lot of work.
But the latest machine to be labeled with those heralded words may very well be one of the easiest-to-build project vehicles we've ever embarked on. The Super Chevy/Goodmark Industries Chevelle represents a modern mix of parts, using state-of-the-art components from a virtual smorgasbord of aftermarket manufacturers.
It's a combination of restored classic, real street machine, custom cruiser, and bulging musclecar. But perhaps what will ultimately make this undertaking so much more fun for us is the fact that we won't be doing the work ourselves.
Instead, Goodmark Industries, the manufacturer of reproduction sheetmetal, is spearheading the buildup of this eventual giveaway machine, and all we have to do is bring you-in detail-the different segments of it all coming together. Heck, we can do that! Taking this position doesn't mean that we haven't had our hands in the mix, though. The truth is, we've played a pivotal role in determining what type of car Goodmark is building (not to mention, making sure many of the project's contributors follow through). In the end, what we'll all have is a cool street car that some lucky magazine reader will get to drive home.
From the beginning, the car everyone agreed upon was a '70-ish Chevelle or Malibu. (Why not go for the big bang all at once?) These musclecars shout popularity, not to mention ageless design. What we (I guess I should say the folks at Goodmark) started with was a pretty warmed-over '70 SS. But what you'll see emerge will be one of the straightest 3rd-Generation G-Bodies with all of the correct go-fast and look-good pieces.
If you ever flip through channels on your TV, you've probably run across a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney musical. It seems like each of these begins with "We've got a barn, we've got the talent, so let's put on a show!" That's how the Goodmark Chevelle got started.
A casual conversation amongst the folks at Goodmark about how easy it is these days to rebody a car or truck using the company's reproduction sheetmetal and trim soon became a conservative "Let's do it!" We at SUPER CHEVY were approached with the idea of Goodmark's building a "giveaway car," and the next thing we knew, it was a done deal! (The idea, that is!)
As mentioned, the chosen car was a '70 Chevelle. It was decided that the body was going to be restored to stock using Goodmark's sheetmetal, and the rest of the car would be made up of the latest and greatest, such as a new GM Performance Parts Ram Jet fuel-injected small-block (the 502 was backordered), Hughes Performance 700R4 tranny, Nationwide Driveline rearend, ARE 200S wheels, and four-wheel disc brakes from Master Power Brakes, to name just a few contributors.
When it came time for Goodmark to choose a shop to have the car built, they gave the nod to Craig and Aaron Hopkins of Metal Finish USA in Cleveland, Georgia. There, these two "chronic" car guys would be responsible for every nut and bolt (and sun visor bushing) being installed. Shortly after that decision was made, the search began for the "Car."
The perfect vehicle for most enthusiasts is the best one they can get their hands on. For Goodmark the goal was to find the worst one possible. A perfect candidate was found in Alabama. There wasn't one body panel on the entire car that wasn't rusted or caved-in, except for a perfect roof. The hulk looked terrible in photos and even worse in real life. One order of everything was needed to restore the car. Unfortunately, the owner was looking to make big bucks (imagine that, on a worthless rust-bucket) and negotiations failed.
The search continued and what we found were too many presentable cars, too many with rusted-through roofs under vinyl, and too many totally junk cars with fantasy prices attached. Finally, our perfect donor was located a couple of hours outside of Atlanta.
What we got our hands on was a 20/20 car. By that we mean from 20 feet away and 20 miles an hour it was presentable. Upon closer inspection, however, the car needed everything (which was good for the gurus at Goodmark). There were things wrong with the body that the average buyer would more than likely overlook, only to be surprised when the restoration got underway. The cowl actually was worse than it appeared, the floorboards were completely rusted out under the carpet, and there was enough plastic filler in the car to drastically change the quarter-panel dimensions. To get on with the project, a deal was cut and the car headed to Goodmark and then on to Cleveland.
After examining the Chevelle, it was decided that the roof, bottom rails, the rear panel between the taillights, and the interior back deck where the package tray resides were in good enough shape and weren't in need of replacement. But the rest of the car had to go.
Ready to rebody a car? Not only was Goodmark going to rebody the car in reproduction sheetmetal and trim, it was decided that to show how straight the panels were the car was going to be painted black! Since Goodmark is the largest supplier of reproduction sheetmetal and trim licensed through the GM Restoration Parts program, they were anxious to dispel the comments about how bad aftermarket reproduction sheetmetal panels are. And what better way than to paint them black!
For this, the kick-off of Project Goodmark Chevelle, we are going to show you the removal and installation of the rear quarter-panels and all their accompanying components, like the removal of the outer and inner wheelwells and the trunk extension. So follow along as we get ready to embark on one of the most detailed vehicle buildups that we've done during the last 10 years. And remember, when it's completed, you could be this project car's new owner.
With all inner replacement panels in place, it's important to double check the alignment before tack-welding.
First order of business is to tack only the places where the new panels connect to each other and to the car itself. Remember, it's very important to allow space between tack-welds so the sheetmetal won't become hot enough to warp. This is similar to stitch welding. It's a good idea to leave 4 or 5 inches between tack-welds.
Here we can see the package tray and trunk hinge support welded to the inner fenderwells. Every place there are factory spot-welds will need to be re-tacked, even in those hard-to-reach areas.
A lot of the work is going to take place inside your car. These panels really fit and look great. Not much modification is needed here, just don't forget to weld in all the required places.
If you look closely, you can see it was necessary to replace the edge of the trunk floor where it meets the inner fenderwell. If the sheetmetal is too thin from years of rust, it will be important to replace it so the spot-welds will have a strong base to hold to. In this case it was only necessary along the edge of the floor.
At this point it's time to line up the new quarter-panel. Many clamps and a few other hands will be helpful at this stage. Re-check and then re-check the alignment again. Very, very, important!!!
Once you are happy with the alignment, tack-weld only in a few choice spots, so the alignment can be re-checked before you get too far. It's also a good idea to leave the clamps on until the panel has been fully welded on.
The funny looking Vise-Grips are perfect for this kind of work. They allow you to tack-weld between the pressure points of the pliers. A hammer and dolly will also be helpful in persuading the sheetmetal to line-up perfect. Again, place each weld away from the previous one to keep the sheetmetal from becoming too hot and causing warpage. If needed, it is a good idea to have a bucket of water and a rag close at hand to cool the tack-welds.
The new quarter-panel is starting to look right-at-home. You will notice anywhere there is a tack-weld, the steel has been ground to leave clean metal to weld to. This is the correct way of welding steel together. (If you want your welds to stick, that is!)
Here everything is tacked together and it's time to fully weld the roof-to-quarter seam. Here is a helpful hint: Stand back at various times and take a nice long look at how everything is lining up. Even when all panels seem to line up perfectly up close, standing back 15 to 20 feet will give you a better overall view of the work.
This seam is a little different from the others, it will need to be fully welded for strength and to keep the body filler from cracking. The same rules apply with respect to stitch-welding, not making one pass over the entire seam.
In this close-up shot, the seam is about half-way done. Running small tacks, back and forth, may take longer but will keep the roof from warping. After these tacks have cooled, you can go back and tack in between them. At this point we can see real progress as well as seeing how nice the Goodmark sheetmetal is fitting with the remainder of the Chevelle's body. Stay tuned, as the door skins, rockers, and much more will be getting the correct kind of attention in the coming months.