I, for one, run for the hills when some nut job with a wrench in his hands suggests tackling the floorpans in his classic hot rod. Why, you ask? Put simply, on this job, there is not one single nut to turn in the entire process. Body fabricators use words such as bend, Bondo, cut, weld, etc. It's a language that very few of us speak, and when we try, we end up looking like that tourist failing to fit in with the locals.
Up here in the Northeast (and the Midwest, Northwest, New England, ...), you are almost guaranteed to find rusted floors with a few holes in them. Just about any car that sees the road salt, dirt, and grime meets this fate. So let's say you do decide you have the right stuff to tackle such a job. The seats come out first, followed by the trim that probably says "Body By Fisher." Then you start peeling up rug and find some nasty mess of sound deadening material and accrued ooze that may or may not be glowing. Now what?
Luckily, Bob Gonier over at the Mercer County [New Jersey] Technical School knows exactly what to do and is teaching the future of the hobby the tricks of the trade when faced with ill-tempered floors. He was more than happy to get to cutting on our Camaro. In reality, we didn't have much choice. The Back To The Street '71 Camaro is going to be full of goodies, including a FatMan Fabrication front and rear suspension, GM Performance Parts ZZ454 crate engine, Level 10 Transmissions 4L60E, and much more. We weren't about to start cutting corners now ... metaphorically that is.
We called Ground Up Restoration in Meriden, Connecticut, and placed an order for both a driver- and passenger-side floorpan for the second generation Camaro. The good news is these are relatively cheap in the world of sheetmetal. As with most fabrication, the work here is extremely labor intensive and Bob ended up with several hours in the pans making sure the job was done right. "I spent a good amount of time with my students showing them the proper techniques. If I, or any other fabricator was going to tackle this job, its going to take the better part of a full week to complete," said Bob.
The fabrication went smoother than expected and we banged out these floorpans on and off in approximately two weeks. After some TLC, and a coat of primer, our floorpans looked better than when they came out of the factory. Follow along as we get to cuttin'.
For safety purposes, make sure to remove all fuel lines, wires, and brake lines from underneath and around the floorpans you will be cutting. If you have a stock fuel system, the factory fuel line will be running along the passenger side framerail in the '71 Camaro. Again, we lucked out as all this was thrown in the garbage during the disassembly process.
We then cut out the pieces around the under-bracing to divide the floor into workable sections. Bob wielded the plasma cutter and made quick work of these sections. This is definitely a tool worth investing money in if you foresee cutting sheetmetal and performing fabrication such as this. The plasma cutter saves unbelievable amounts of time over a grinder or Sawzall.
After making our marks for the new floorpans, we ground down all the surface rust in the working area. This is essential, as we will be welding new sheetmetal on top of old and the last thing we want is rust to form between the two sheets. Once ground clean, it was all sprayed with weld-trough primer compliments of 3M.
We then did the same on the edges of our new floorpan and set it into place. Take your time lining this up because you don't want to have to cut out spot welds once tacked.
Once we were satisfied with placement, welding began. We jumped around in different spots of the floorpan to keep heat warpage to a minimum. We left 1/2- to 3/4-inch of overlap on the corners, as you can see. This will ensure that not only the welds, but the existing floor supports the new floorpan also.
We then flipped the body on the rotisserie and ground down all the welds. If you are doing this on the floor, make sure you have some jackstands and plenty of room to work.
Last but not least, we primed the entire floor pan and surrounding area with rust-proof primer. At this point, our passenger side floorpan was done and ready for some paint. Once both sides are complete, we will be going back and painting the underneath in gloss black and covering the cockpit with Dynamat sound deadening material.