The BugShop: Project '57, pg 11

This page last modified- 11/3/01

Although slow, work is progressing. On this page we'll learn that "Bondo" is not bad. Body fillers get a bad rap because most novices use them incorrectly. Fillers should only be applied to bare metal and only to a thickness of 1/8" or less. The metal should be roughed up with 36 grit paper and completely free of rust, dirt or liquids of any kind.

Here is the roof of the '57, still in bare metal. To you and me, this roof probably looks "just fine". But close your eyes and slowly drag your flat hand over the surface and you would feel shallow bumps. This car was stored in a barn for many years, and all I can guess is that stuff was dropped and/or stored on it. These imperfections may not be visible here, but paint this roof without addressing them with a high gloss paint, and they would show up like wavy glass.


Here is the filler (the term "Bondo" is not used in body shops) that Tom uses. It is made by Evercoat and is called "Rage". Like Bondo, it is a loose plastic that you apply a creme hardener to. But it sets up very quickly, working time is only about 5-7 minutes. It can be worked down in just 20 minutes. Filler is used in almost every panel repair in Tom's shop. But it is always applied to bare, 36 grit sanded metal, and never more than a thickness of 1/8". 

Here, Tom is "skimming" the roof. The biggest dent is on the upper right corner of the oval window opening, you can see it in the picture on the right. The filler is applied in a very thin, uniform layer. There were a couple dents in the front center area too.

As you can see, a large area of the roof was skimmed to insure a uniform surface. You can see the rear quarter in white primer on the left. 

IT'S PAINTED!!! Well almost. Tom surprised me (3/14/99) when I called him one Monday. I called up his shop "What's up?" "Not much dude, what's up with you?". "Ahh, just wondering when you might be able to work on IT next. Staying late any days this week?"

 "It's done."

"Yeah sure. Thursday maybe?"

"It's DONE, I finished it Sunday."

"You jambed it!?"

"Yep. And undercoated it and colored the roof"

 Needless to say, I was thrilled and had to drive over to check it out. The exterior panels just have the color coat on them, the trunk area is done with the 2 stage color and clear... 

Of course I called Bill on the way over (he lives 5 mins from Tom's shop) and he had to come out and look at it.

Remember how that right quarter was clipped? Now have a look at the fender well bulge inside the trunk area! A clip can be made undetectable if you want to spend the time.....

You can see how Tom has used just about every vice grip that he owns to clamp (epoxy) that louvered panel in, under the vents under the back window. I tried to take a picture of the area behind the vents but it didn't come out. It is SUPER shiney back there. The area where the clamps are touching the outside panel has to be worked over anyway, in spite of the fact that it is already color coated.

Another shot of the trunk area. If you know where I "have been" rebuilding the nose of this car, you can imagine how gratifying it must be to see it finally done and painted...

This is what you pay a body man for. How he could get this whole roof so smooth and uniform is beyond me (uses a looonnng "sled" sander for one). This roof (and the whole car for that matter) look like "plastic" right out of a mold. This is just the base coat of the color, L412. Tom tells me that it has a lot of "silver" in it. The clear 2nd stage will give it the deep shine.

Here you can see Spies-Hecker's "Stonegaurd" undercoating. The whole underside (bottoms of heater channels included) has been sandblasted, sprayed with "red/brown" corrosion resistant etching primer and then this undercoat.

Funny thing is that I have no intention of this stuff ever getting wet.

You can see the array of clamps in the engine bay holding the forward edge of the louvered panel in place while the epoxy sets up.

A few weeks later, we "hung" the doors. The driver's side was perfect. Uniform gap all the way areound, perfect "waist" alignment (that "crease" that is just above the moulding that goes across the door and rear quarter). The passenger side door was a different story. Turns out the drip rail was rolled down a bit just above the upper hinge. The door didn't hit, but you couldn't slip a business card between it and the door opening. So Tom grabbed a hammer and block of wood and whacked the painted drip rail. Believe it or not we straightened it out without damaging the paint!

That is a plastic woodworkers clamp you see holding the door closed, and it is wet bacause I was wet sanding it before taking these pictures.

Now check this out. Here you can see the "shine" of the area behind those vent slots. Tom used his spotweld cutter tool to make those 5 holes in the outer body so the rear edge of the panel can be welded (that whole edge needed to be smoothed and skimmed anyway). 

You can see all of the places on the forward edge (against the firewall) where I drilled out the factory spotwelds. Those holes will be filled so it won't look like the panel was ever removed. We also later tacked a few places there with the MIG too, in spite of the fact that the whole panel had been epoxied in. Remember that this panel holds the decklid hinges so it needs to be very strong.

Here Tom has completed the work on the engine bay and the exterior slots. The louverd panel was MIG'ed in 4 places along the firewall, in addition to being epoxied. The welds were then ground down and the factory spotweld holes (all 22 of them, as seen in the previous picture) were filled and the whole area sanded, sprayed and cleared.  I have to keep reminding myself this is the engine bay. But I didn't want it to look like the louverd panel had been removed and re-attached. I'm not sure how he did it, but Tom specifically left little dimples in a few places to make it look like the original factory spotwelds (can't see them in this picture).

The work is complete above and on the exterior too. Five MIG welds were made here too, to further strengthen the attacement of the louverd panel below (you can see the preliminary drillings in the previous picture). And the thin solid strip just below the slots was a bit munged as I really had to wiggle and yank the louvered panel from below when breaking the factory spotwelds to remove it. So Tom dressed the welds, worked the metal to achieve a uniform curvature, then used a bit of filler, primer and color coated. 

As I said earlier, one of the tricks was making sure that we didn't get overspray on the interior surfaces and ruin that shine while painting the outside. Tom got pretty clever with the paper. Working from the openings underneath, on either end of the louvered panel, he somehow taped paper behind the slotted vents without actually placing tape directly on the back of the vents themselves (tape is above and below the slots). Then he crammed a lot of crumpled up paper behind that to insure that no paint "floated up" from underneath. Lastly, he had to tape up the louvers underneath in the louvered panel so no spray went behind them.

In hindsight, I'm not so sure I'd go this route again. Yeah it looks great, but it was a huge effort and cost a lot of time (and Tom's time is money). I guess if I were to do it all myself and I was doing a '51 split or something, well, maybe. If you think you might want to do this, give it careful thought. It is hard. But it is do-able. 

If you should happen to see my car at a show in the coming years, be sure to "Ooooohhh!"" loudly when you look at this infamous cavity's paint.