The downslope of the mountain is becoming clearer as we have ripped off every piece of '71 metal off the Back To The Street Camaro and have begun to slowly replace the old with the new. Last we left off, we repaired the floors and had the Camaro completely stripped naked. The front and rear suspension hit the paint booth and were over at Mike Cramer's Automotive Service class getting the final assembly before installation.
At this point, we are ready to dive into bodywork and molding this 'Maro into a streamlined butterfly. National Parts Depot stepped up in a big way and dug us out of a huge hole we buried ourselves in with deadlines approaching. It supplied everything we needed to complete the exterior sheetmetal work from the fenders, nose, valance, hardware, and everything in between. We added a steel stock-style hood while we were at it, and transformed the plain grille/one-piece bumper to an RS-style grille. Having the help of 15 students eager to learn was a huge advantage as we were never short of hands when it came to grinding and smoothing.
Countless man-hours have been spent on our Camaro and we could not have asked for more out of teacher Bob Gonier, the entire Votech staff, and the students. At the end of the day, we had both fenders ready for Dupont primer, a shell primed, blocked and ready for the first coat, a hood being massaged on, and all eyes ready to check out that beautiful deep blue paint we had sitting in jugs, armed for the first coat.
Our beastly ZZ454 stirred up some excellent controversy in the power department and proved our little Camaro was making waves on the pages. In a few weeks, the Back To The Street Camaro will be on all fours and powered by the ever-rugged foot power until the delivery of our dyno-proven ZZ454 GM Performance Parts crate engine. We are making a point to get the motor over to the Sypek Center before the kids head out for the summer simply because I had no less than five students ask me, "where is the motor and when can we see it?" They have put some serious man-hours in this car and I am making a point to get the motor over there before the final bell rings on June 16th. Follow along as the puzzle pieces have been laid out and we start the resurrection process.
The shell of the Back To The Street Camaro is where we performed most of our work. First and foremost, we taped up the doors, and front and rear glass. Paul Heston of 3M works closely with the Mercer County Vocational School to ensure that the students have the proper supplies while learning the trade and is constantly bringing in painters tape.On the pieces we were reusing, including the shell, quarter panels, tail, and trunk lid, we sanded down until we had penetrated the clearcoat and were down to paint. The new pieces from National Parts Depot were sanded down to bare metal using hand grinders and then sanded smooth. This is a tedious process, but as usual, the students were happy to jump in and get some hands-on experience. This is how you learn.
Both the driver- and passenger-side doors needed new skins. We started by grinding off the crimp flange of the factory doors that hold the skin on and drilling out any spot welds that we came across. Using a chisel and a whole lot of grinding, we were able to pry the old door skin away from the frame taking much of the problem area with it.
Using seam sealer, we liberally made globs where the frame and skin will meet. This will hold the door skin in place as we are reinstalling the crimp flange, and provide a vibration-free door down the road. The last thing we would want is the door skin and frame to separate from each other.
It was then time to place the door skin on the frame with the help of two volunteers. Seam sealer takes some time to set so there was no rush positioning them in place. Once satisfied with our positioning, we let the sealer set. We will be banging away on the crimp flange shortly.
Using a hammer and dolly, we cautiously folded the flange over the doorframe. Using a dolly on the underneath of the door is essential at this point to ensure the skin side does not bow out during the process. Never use just a hammer, as the results will be subpar.
The final step was to use a spot welder to ensure the piece does not move. A spot welder, such as this one, saves a great deal of time and many of them can be run off a 110-volt source unlike MIG and TIG welders which require a 220-volt source.
The hood was the largest single piece on the car. As with the door skins and fenders, we ground it down to bare metal then covered it with a thin layer of body filler. Then, blocking and sanding commenced to achieve a perfectly consistent finish. Many of these pieces were gone over multiple times with the same process to achieve the perfect finish. Body filler, sanding, blocking, body filler, sanding, blocking, and over again.
Dupont and Ray Setters from Midstate Automotive Paint Supply supplied us with all the paint we needed for the project. Like 3M, it is committed to these students so when they do enter the workforce, they'll know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it.
Pieces were then brought over to the paint booth for a coat of Dupont 1101S Primer/Filler. The repetitive action of bodywork never ends, as this primer will be blocked smooth and reapplied until the shell and body pieces are absolutely perfect for paint. The science of painting lies in reducers and adding the correct amount. Reducers serve many purposes, such as thinning out paint for the gun, changing the transparency of the final coat, and as a cost-savings device as the price of paint continues to rise.
Using a side-to-side motion, the shell was primed from bottom to top. Another important piece of the puzzle is being able to work the gun in the proper fashion as to create an even coat. The paint booth being occupied, we opened all the doors in the shop and made sure everyone was wearing their masks for this process. Bob and the entire staff at the Mercer County Vo-tech not only teach proper technique, but also safety.
Check out the shell in primed form. Next month we will be tackling paint and the final assembly of the body panels. And who knows? Maybe we will have this baby on all four wheels. Stay tuned for the next installment as the pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together.