Classic Camaros are sweet, but unless you have the deep pockets required to buy one in pristine or already-restored condition, then you're going to have to contend with sheetmetal repairs. How much you'll have to deal with is usually proportional to what you spent on purchasing your project car. Of course, there's some luck involved as well. After all, you don't always get what you pay for; sometimes you get less, much less. The amount of sheetmetal repair necessary typically shows up once you start getting a car ready for paint and you find a host of hidden issues, from rot to shoddy repair work. Find enough, and it becomes easier to replace a corrupted panel rather than repair it.
The good news is Camaros are pretty dang popular, and as such, just about every panel is available through the aftermarket. There was a time when the best, but most expensive, option was to find factory GM panels. Today, several aftermarket companies are churning out pieces that are even nicer than the OE stuff.
When Jesus Gonzalez bought his 1972 Camaro for $4,000, he was pretty happy, but after digging into his new project he kept finding trouble. One problematic area was the quarters, which were abused beyond rehabilitation. The solution turned out to be hitting up Auto Metal Direct for a pair of their recently released, second-gen full quarters along with the associated outer wheelhouses. Of course, quarters, unlike front fenders, aren't bolt-on endeavors, so follow along as we bring a Camaro back from the brink of junkyard oblivion.
1. Normally you get what you pay for, and in some cases you get less. The quarters on this 1972 Camaro looked fairly decent, but after being stripped down, something even more insidious than rust was found: lousy previous repairs.
2. It seemed nearly every inch of the quarters had been mangled and then haphazardly "fixed". Oh, and as a bonus we found rust. The best way to fix this mess was new quarters.
3. Removing old quarters is pretty labor intensive, especially if you want to do it right. We started out by drilling out the factory spot welds. Sometimes this area, where the quarter meets the roof, is filled in with lead. If that's the case, it would need to be burned out first. Remember that lead isn't a healthy snack food, so use caution.
4. After working our way around the perimeter with the drill, we could then start to separate the panel from the rest of the car. We found the roof-to-quarter seam to be the most difficult. For this, we used a hammer and a sharp wedge tool.
5. We then continued the process around the perimeter of the quarter-panel.
6. Another way to skin the proverbial feline is to use a cutoff wheel to remove the majority of the panel. To go this route, we started cutting the panel free well back from the edge.
7. We also had to cut under the car. Our outer wheelhouses were trashed as well. This is typically the case when the quarters are bad. The good news is that it made cutting easier since we didn't need to try and save the existing outer wheelhouses.
8. When it came time to cut the quarter free of the trunk area, we made sure to retain the trunk edge since it was in usable shape. If this was junked up, then we could have bought a replacement. Keep in mind that this part isn't included with aftermarket quarters.
9. Once cut free, we were able to remove the quarter-panel and wheelhouse as a single piece.
10. And here's what we were left with. This looks intimidating, but fear not. We'll fix this mess.
11. We then went back and tended to various bits of the old quarter that were still clinging to the Camaro. An air chisel comes in handy here, but we managed to get the parts off with hand tools.
12. This is what the rear quarter of our Camaro looked like once we carefully removed the rest of the quarter and wheelhouse. Again, taking your time and doing it right will make things easier and better looking on the install side of the equation.
13. We were treated to a bonus round of rust in the rocker panel that was covered by the quarter.
14. Rather than replace the rockers, we opted to cut away the rust and use patch panels.
15. For replacements, we turned to the folks over at Auto Metal Direct (AMD) and ordered up a pair of their replacement wheelhouses (PN 770-3570-L/R, $60). Before installing, we first put them in place to make sure they were good to go. They fit perfectly, which made us happy campers.
16. After the mock up, we pulled the wheelhouses and drilled holes every few inches along the perimeter.
17. We also took a moment to hit the exposed metal areas with some Eastwood self-etching weld-through primer. After all, we don't want rust to get a fresh foothold on our Camaro in a few years.
18. The wheelhouse was set in place and secured with locking pliers and a few temporary self-tapping screws. Once perfectly aligned, we hit each of our drilled holes with a MIG welder.
19. Once fully welded to the Camaro, we hit the whole area with a layer of Eastwood rust encapsulating paint. We then prepped our new AMD quarter-panels for install by drilling out all of the welding holes.
20. The new quarters from Auto Metal Direct (PN 700-3570-L/R, $330 each) looked great with very crisp lines. In fact, the shop we were at thought they were some of the nicest reproduction panels they've seen. They came EDP (Electro Deposit Coating) coated for corrosion protection
21. After shooting the edges with more weld-through primer, we were ready to install the new AMD quarter-panel. We bolted on the trunk lid so we could ensure proper alignment along that edge as well before flipping on the welder.
22. To hold the panel in place prior to welding, we used a few self-tapping screws and a bunch of locking pliers.
23. The panel was adjusted and massaged until it lined up with our door and trunk lid properly.
24. It was then time to start stitching the panel to the Camaro. Once an area was partially welded in place, the screws were removed and the holes hit with the MIG.
25. Same idea as the factory pinch welds. Once done, these rosettes will be ground down smooth for an even cleaner look.
26. And with that, our quarters were ready for some seam sealer and bodywork. Expect to spend a touch over 30 hours to replace the quarters, with another 10 hours for the outer wheelhouses. But in the end, it'll be worth it because saving a classic Camaro is always time well spent.