Second Generation Camaro Owners Group - Exterior Restoration & Bodywork

The car body is susceptable to dings, rust and other imperfections over time. If you neglect to fix these, the problems will only get worse, until there is major damage on your car. Using little money and a lot of personal elbow grease, you can protect the body of your car or restore it if necessary. Due to the complexity of this subject, it has been broken down into many smaller individual tasks or components.

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General Topics & Information:

Disclaimer, Safety warning. | Inspecting & Accessing bodywork | Structural Damage | Priming/Painting
Refinishing sheet metal | Rechroming | Underhood detailing
Exterior Camaro Information FAQ | Exterior Restoration Discussion - Q&A
How to select, buy or shop for your sheet metal.

Section Repairs: Sheet Metal | Doors | Front End Metal | Hood | Fenders | Floor | Rocker Panel | 1/4 Panels
Exterior subsections: Bumpers | Chrome Trim & Weatherstrip | Emblems & Decals | Lights | Spoilers | Grilles
Related Articles: Trunk Replacement | Paint stripping | Refinishing Wheels | After repair car care

Resources - The Fisher Body Manual for your year car will be invaluable in getting specifics on working with the various parts of your cars body. Another manual which is extremely handy to have on hand is the Assembly Manual for your particular car.

The point of this article is to elaborate on my personal experience & opinions above and beyond what the body manual states. Sometimes "things don't work according to plan". Also, I'll try and depict several ongoing restorations so you can get an idea of what's involved in doing some basic bodywork. Of course, this article can't cover everything.... obviously removing the nose of a 1971 Camaro is different than removing the nose of a 1979 Camaro. Which is why you want the manuals around in case you need to refer to them.

Can you do this job little by little?
You can perform the work over time if you're carefull. If you can't finish a particular job, your car will rust to hell in no time at all once you start grinding on it and leave it exposed to the elements. Primer absorbs water too, which is why you'll notice some primed cars will show rust coming through the primer.

There's an order in which things need to be done: Obviously the order is determined by how involved the restoration is. Little by little, or completely stripping and refinishing the car.

What components are we dealing with?
Introduction. The car is spot welded together and some extra stuff bolted on.

Stuff that can be unbolted and replaced with a better component is usually more cost effective.

Inspecting & Accessing the cars exterior
What type of screw ups are you faced with?

Dimples. - slamming the hood down on top of the air cleaner stud will cause a dimple.

Big Dents. - usually having someone elses bumper run into a section of your car makes a "big dent".

Surface rust. - usually rust that's bubbling up under the paint.

Holes. - some surface rust will turn into a hole when removed. Other holes are already present from long term neglect.

Structural damage - "totalled", or close to it. Depending on where the damage is will determine if you'd consider a car totalled. Removing bolted on parts isn't that difficult. If the underlying structure is bent it needs to be straighted out before you can safely use the car. Repairing major structure that's spotwelded on the car can be very expensive.

Severe rust in/on major sections of the car can be the kiss of death too. While rear frame rails can be replaced, the job is significant and the amount of expended effort may not be cost justifyable.

If your car meets the above criteria your best bet is to seek professional advice before buying or working on the car.

Underhood detailing
Hood hinges, release mechanisms, inner fender panels.
Assuming the part is in good condition, I like to sandblast these parts. Then I spray them with some "underhood paint" from OER.

Paint Systems.
Here's where we need to think some stuff out. Paint is made up of chemicals. Some chemicals don't like to mix with other chemicals. Therefore, all your paint must be compatible and why painting today is called "a system". I'll discuss some of the general items here, but it's best if you consult with your paint supplier before selecting whatever system you decide to use.

Dupont DP90 - epoxy primer. - a heavy and protective primer base.

Dupont ChromaBase. - Base Coat/Clear Coat.

Single stage paintjobs....

Spray can stuff.
Don't laugh, Krylon holds up pretty good... except it's not recommended as a top coat on Muscle cars. Spray can primers are good for making spot repairs, or priming small sized metal parts.


It's always best to read the manufacturers instructions and go with what they recommend. Three coats of color should be adequate, although some color coats are more transparent than others and require either a tinted primer, or additional coats of base. three of clear should be adequate as well. too much paint is a bad thing, it invites solvent "popping" through the upper coats causing it to dull and break down. one way of getting additional shine is to use a slow reducer in the final coat of clear,this allows the paint to "flow out" smoother,and shiner,another is to wet sand the clear to eliminate "orange peel" then re-clear, re-wetsand, and polish to a high luster. either way you will probably have to sand and polish,but if the clear is shiney, and not much dirt or runs, you can just sand and polish the defects. One coat of clear will not (if proberly applied) cover the base color coat.if enough is applied to cover the base sufficiently,any metallic in the paint will run(looks like vertical streaks)or craze,and the clear will undoubtedly run everywhere.

Preventing Rust:
POR-15 & Corroless
both products have very good reputations, I have used POR-15, but not Corroless. POR-15 works well, but get the kit. they say you should clean any loose rust off first,and use their cleaner first(acid based)to neutralize the rust.If you have already painted the inside of the repair areas,POR-15 could be of some value,but I dont know how much.I always try to use the wax sprays inside major repair areas after all of the welding is can buy it in spray can form.

Fit the part first.hold it in place with sheetmetal screws around the primeter ( 2 or 3 on each side), grind the surfaces to be mated (do not paint or coat with anything!) then you can apply the adhesive. I like to apply to both surfaces and spread with an acid brush to cover all bare metal (it seals it) then run a bead on one of the surfaces, press together, and re-attach with the screws for at least 8 hours, you can fill the holes with sealer, or more adhesive, or pop rivits if so inclined. A frame machine with 10 tons of pull cant tear the parts apart-the metal will rip can however hammer a screwdriver between and peel them apart. to weld them together you will have to strip (or somehow protect)the interior,and all the glass-those little welding sparks will ruin the glass-TRUST ME. the down side to the adhesives is cost, about $30 a tube (enough to do a quarter panel+) and you will need a Brand Specific "caulking gun" for whichever brand you choose,maybe the body shop supplier will loan you one,they're not cheap.make sure you read the directions,not all brands are the same.I prefer 3M,they give a warranty,Fusor is also good.Both also make awsome sealers and other automotive products,all using their particular "gun".

Bodywork, GOOD bodywork is labor intensive. Labor generally runs $40 - 50/hour. If you spend 100 hours doing this work - do the math. Good bodywork is generally basic effort that was done with patience. Not half-assed or rushed.

Last updated: 10/20/2011
Author: MadMike Maciolek

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