Last month's inaugural story on our newest long-term project, the AMD Chevelle, showed how Craig Hopkins and his crew at The Installation Center stripped the car down to a bare skeleton in preparation for all the new AMD sheetmetal. You see, this car was so rusty and beat up everyone was telling us it was too gone to fix. Since the car is a real big-block SS, we decided to prove that just about anything is fixable with the right parts, the right crew, and the determination to do the work. The work being done on this car is pretty extensive, so think of this as a worst-case scenario. Most of you will not need to go this deep in your build/project, but we figure there is something you can relate to. Craig Hopkins likes to build cars just as the factory did and in the same order. So that is what you will see here: a look inside original build procedures. Craig uses OEM-quality spot welders and assembly-line-style jigs to rewind the clock and make vehicle assembly line-fresh. The best welding in the world would be wasted if the parts used were substandard. Well, we won't have that problem with this build as all the sheetmetal is from Auto Metal Direct (AMD). The company not only offers smaller patch panels for the home DIY guy; they also make full panels like the complete floor system covered in this story. AMD's sheetmetal is built to OEM thickness or thicker with all-new tooling to produce crisp lines. They are so good, in fact, that all the company's panels are licensed by GM. Next month's story will cover hanging sheetmetal and how to re-skin a door, so make sure to look for that when it comes out. 1 We left off last month with the car stripped down to a skeleton, so we will pick up right where we left off. Caesar Brecino is going to address the lower cowl area on the passenger side that has enough rust it needs to be replaced. First he removed what was left of the brace that is attached to the lower cowl piece. Then he grinded out the spot-welds along the doorjamb.1 We left off last month with the car stripped down to a skeleton, so we will pick up rig 2 Then he did a rough cut to get the bulk of the lower cowl out. Then he came back and carefully removed the salvage, leaving a clean area to weld in the new piece.2 Then he did a rough cut to get the bulk of the lower cowl out. Then he came back and ca 3 Here you can see the side-by-side of the old piece (left) and the new donor piece (right). You might notice that the factory piece has a different opening for the A/C compared to the new piece, which is from a non-A/C car. Since we will be using an aftermarket A/C system, the car is being converted to a heater car so all the new aftermarket stuff will fit like it was designed. Also, look at the bottom right side of the new panel that is the brace piece that was removed earlier. At the time of the work AMD did not produce these panels, but they are now available so there will be no need to find a good donor car.3 Here you can see the side-by-side of the old piece (left) and the new donor piece (righ 4 Caesar now welds in the new donor piece that was removed from a '66 Chevelle. After lining it up and clamping it in place, he starts by plug-welding the doorjamb area and then comes back and burns in along the perimeter. The only reason he is plug-welding this piece instead of using the spot welder is because this is a donor piece and the spot welds that used to hold it on have been grinded through, which left a bunch of holes.4 Caesar now welds in the new donor piece that was removed from a '66 Chevelle. After lin 5 While Caesar was finishing up the welding, Chris Dyer was placing the new AMD floor system onto a jig, which locates to the factory body mount locations. If you are a home builder and do not have this jig, then you will need to do the floors in sections. The floor system from AMD is constructed out of 18-gauge steel with all the braces and inner rockers already installed. AMD sends the little tabs for things like the rear seat hold down and wire harness that will need to be welded in.5 While Caesar was finishing up the welding, Chris Dyer was placing the new AMD floor sys 6 The body skeleton was lowered down on the new floor system and lined up before being clamed together. Then just like it was done at the factory, the floor is spot-welded to the body. They start with the rockers, then move to the wheelwells, then finish it off by welding around the perimeter.6 The body skeleton was lowered down on the new floor system and lined up before being cl 7 Now that the floor is in place, the body is once again a structural piece that won’t move or shift Caesar begins prepping the firewall piece. He is going around the edges with a red Scotch-Brite pad on an angle grinder to remove the EDP coating so the welder can produce a clean bead.7 Now that the floor is in place, the body is once again a structural piece that won’t mo 8 Just like all the other panels, the firewall gets clamped in place before being welded in. Again, this car is being converted to a non-A/C vehicle so the new firewall was ordered as such. The crew will also need to fill the upper hole in the cowl area (arrow) with a fabricated patch panel but that should be a piece of cake for these talented guys.8 Just like all the other panels, the firewall gets clamped in place before being welded 9 The firewall piece is permanently spot-welded in. Caesar starts along the top edge and then comes down and welds it into the floor and inner rocker area.9 The firewall piece is permanently spot-welded in. Caesar starts along the top edge and 10 The rear wheelwells are next. Here Craig is fitting the inner piece and clamping it to the floor panel.10 The rear wheelwells are next. Here Craig is fitting the inner piece and clamping it to 11 The outer section of the wheelwell slips down into the rocker. 12 Once the two parts were lined up, Chris spots them in along the top, creating the proper pinch weld. The lower areas are then welded.12 Once the two parts were lined up, Chris spots them in along the top, creating the prop 13 The pinch weld area is then primed to prevent rust. After that, the door is hung and lined up to the rocker panel. The door is installed so the quarter-panels can be aligned in the next step.13 The pinch weld area is then primed to prevent rust. After that, the door is hung and l 14 Now the deck filler and taillight panels are clamped on so the quarters and roof can be test-fitted. Everything lines up perfectly, which is a true testament to the quality of the AMD panels and Craig and his crew’s work.14 Now the deck filler and taillight panels are clamped on so the quarters and roof can b 15 Since everything fits nicely, Craig and Popeye cover the underside of the roof skin with Damplifier Pro vibration-damping mat from Second Skin.15 Since everything fits nicely, Craig and Popeye cover the underside of the roof skin wi 16 The decklid is now bolted to the hinges to allow for the alignment of the quarters, deck filler, and taillight panels. Craig is setting the body gaps to the factory 3/16-inch spacing since we want a factory look. Gaps can be made tighter for a more street rod look, but that will require more hours or work to make it all correct and that is not what we are going for on this project.16 The decklid is now bolted to the hinges to allow for the alignment of the quarters, de 17 The quarters were a bit too far out so they are unclamped and pulled in toward the center of the car.17 The quarters were a bit too far out so they are unclamped and pulled in toward the cen 18 The quarters and taillight panels were spotted in along with the deck filler before the roof skin was placed back on. The deck filer piece gets welded inside the trunk along the sail panel and to the seal trough of the quarter-panels. Then with a smaller HTP spot welder that fits down into the drip rail area, the roof is welded in place.18 The quarters and taillight panels were spotted in along with the deck filler before th 19 Here is a close up shot of the HTP welder and how small the tips are. 20 Now the areas where the roof and quarter meet are addressed. 21 Here is an inside look at the welding process. Now you know what all those odd holes are inside the interior of the car. They are the access holes for the spot welder. We will stop there. Next month we will get into hanging the front clip and re-skinning the doors.21 Here is an inside look at the welding process. Now you know what all those odd holes a SOURCES Auto Metal Direct 940 Sherwin Parkway Suite 180 Buford GA 30518 866-684-5942 www.autometaldirect.com Second Skin Automotive Insulation 800-679-8511 http://www.secondskinaudio.com C. Hopkins Rod & Custom 7314 Hwy 115 E. Cleveland GA 30528 706-348-6653 www.theinstallationcenter.com By Calin Head Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!