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Steel Body Panels: Getting the Look You Want

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Steel Body Panels: Getting the Look You Want

Lindsey Fontana
April 19, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Lindsey Fontana

Are you giving new life to a classic American muscle car like a Chevelle or El Camino? Restoring the bodywork is a crucial step in the restoration process.

Time and weather can both take their toll on steel body panels causing rust and other damage to occur. Removing rusted body panels is a big part of classic car restoration. Unfortunately, once the oxidization process has begun, rust will eat away at the body panels until there is nothing left.

The first step is to determine how badly the panels are rusted or damaged. If the damage is not too extensive, the rust can be removed, rust holes can be patched, and the body panels repainted. You can either take the car into an auto repair or do the work yourself. Sadly, as is the case for many classic muscle cars, if the body panels are too badly rusted to be repaired they must be completely replaced. Luckily new reproductions including Chevelle body panels, El Camino body panels, and Monte Carlo body panels are exactly like the GM originals, making the restoration process more convenient.

Getting the right steel body panels for your restoration and making sure the alignment is correct is vital in creating good aesthetics for your car. Read on to learn how to properly install steel body panels to your restoration.

Bolt-on Panels

- Make sure the panel is correct for your make and model

- Check all mounting points

Bolt holes and flanges to the body

Check threaded holes

Accessory mounting holes (marker lights, etc)

- Test fit the panel prior to body and paint

- Test fit accessories (headlight extensions, hood moldings, door latches, etc)

- Pre-drill any necessary holes prior to painting

Weld-on Panels

- Make sure panel is correct

- Fit new panel over old panel on car

- Mark area for new panel using a sharpie or metal scribe

- Remove old rusted panel carefully using metal cutting saws, snips & assorted tools

When cutting panels, use caution & refer to markings

Always cut inside markings to avoid removal of too much material. It is easier to make another cut than to add more material.

- Fit panel to vehicle with old panels removed

- Check markings & make necessary adjustments

- Use clamps, clips and screws to hold panel in place while welding to vehicle

- Minimize panel warping by welding a small area and moving to the opposite end of panel to weld another small area, reducing heat build-up and allowing time to cool.

- When welding is finished, grind welds smooth using the same principles to prevent warping. Grind a small area and move to opposite end of panel.

- Finish body work and paint can now begin.

When restoring your car it is important to not overlook rust and decay on the body panels as it will only get worse with time. Follow these suggestions when replacing steel body panels in your restoration.

http://www.opgi.com is the industry leading manufacturer of over 75,000 classic GM restoration parts and high performance accessories. Since 1983, OPGI has the largest selection of Chevelle parts, Monte Carlo, GTO, Le Mans, and Tempest, Cutlass 442, Skylark GS, Cadillac, Riviera, and El Camino parts in the world.

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