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Vintage Muscle Cars are Being Saved One Panel at a Time

Firing Up: Sheetmetal surgeons

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Ah, the almighty aftermarket. It’s a diverse bunch of companies that represent various corners of our beloved automotive industry that ranges from high-performance engines to stick-to-the-pavement suspension components and everything in between. And in the body panel segment, there are companies we refer to as the “surgeons of sheetmetal,” as they can be credited with saving the lives of thousands of classic muscle cars that in years past would have been left for dead.

If you go back to 1982 it was in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when Jeff Spicoli took an unintentional flight in Charles Jefferson’s 1979 Z28 Camaro that left the once-cherry F-body in ruins. Now, if that little incident would have happened to the high school football star’s car today, Spicoli may have actually been able to use his old man’s “ultimate set of tools” to fix the Camaro with some brand-new sheetmetal from the aftermarket.

Unfortunately, that was at a time when a car with a rotted quarter-panel or a “cancer-ridden” roof would have been sent out to pasture (i.e., the crusher). Unfortunately, we can’t go back and save those cars, but more companies are now scrubbing in and taking cars off life support with offerings of new roofs, quarter-panels, doors, and of course, fenders and hoods.

One example is Project Orange Krate. When we bought the 1971 Camaro, it looked like a super solid car with original sheetmetal in excellent condition. We were right about the sheetmetal being original, but after a date with the sandblaster, some deep history of abuse was revealed. The passenger-side quarter-panel had been crunched and poorly repaired, and the driver-side quarter was rust-ridden and fed a heavy diet of body filler. The doors were barely salvageable. Thankfully, the crew at Competition Specialties performed some sheetmetal magic with a few hammers, dollies, and years of experience.

On the other side of the coin, when Chevy High Performance took delivery of a 1969 Camaro as a long-term project, there was no hiding the fact that the car was way beyond rough. We actually went in with the idea of replacing just about every bit of sheetmetal, except the firewall, to show our readers that it’s possible to bring a car back from the dead by using aftermarket parts.

Being that some of our favorite classic muscle cars are heading into their 50th birthdays, it’s fairly common to find cars that have gone under the knife at some point in their life.

So, before you give up on that vintage hunk of rust on the side of the house, a new hood, roof, dash, door, or quarter-panel are just a phone call or a few web clicks away.

Now is a good time to get that project back on track.

You in?

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Shell 2/3

Here is the Chevy High Performance 1969 Camaro project prior to a treatment of all new sheetmetal from Auto Metal Direct.

1969 Chevrolet Restored Camaro 3/3

And here is the same Camaro after a successful restoration performed by the crew at Hot Rods and Hobbies in Signal Hill, California. Photo: Jorge Nunez

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