It's been said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It started out innocently enough. ron Finkelstein, a friend of editor Jim Campisano and a devoted vintage car nut, had a couple of pieces of NoS trim for a '68 Chevy (still in the original boxes) and donated them for my Bel Air wagon. They were beautiful-too beautiful, in fact. They looked out of place on the aged wagon grille, so I decided to pull the wagon's grille, bumpers, guards, etc., and have them refinished in order to match the shiny new NoS parts.
Once the grille and bumpers were off and at the chrome shop, it seemed easy enough to pull the hood and front fenders off as well. It spiraled out of control after that, and quickly I was in the middle of a full restoration-type situation. I blame Editor Campisano for this mess. It was he who sent those shiny new pieces. Since I was chest deep in bodywork, Harrison Ortis and Albert Venegas of Harrison Restorations halted work on customer cars and helped with the tedious amounts of bodywork.
You've heard the saying, "Do your best and Bondo the rest"? It turns out whoever owned this wagon in the previous decades of its life didn't believe in doing his best, but he sure believed he could build a Bondo barge. The word Bondo has become synonymous with all body fillers. Bondo, mud, plastic body filler: What is this stuff and why has it earned such a bad reputation? Simply put, body filler is a compound mix of fiberglass/polyester resin and talc (among other chemicals). When mixed with the catalyst agent of methyl ethyl ketone, or MEK, the mixture chemically reacts and becomes a thermal-set plastic. Anyone who has mixed this and put in too much catalyst knows it can get very warm and dry before you can spread it.
The bad reputation that plastic body fillers have received is from the horrible misuse of the product. Most of us have seen entire panels sculpted with this stuff, and eventually it cracks and falls away if used improperly. This wagon is an example of poorly used body filler. We are going to change that. It's industry standard to use body filler now. Why use lead? After all, don't we have enough lead in our cheap Chinese toys? Of course, none of the automotive shows where they build a car in five days will ever show it, but rest assured there is filler on those vehicles, too.