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1973
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Sheetmetal Prep and Priming

Now that the rust repair is done I really feel like I'm starting to make progress. In this installment the shell gets a coat of primer.

passenger quarter 01

Since I'd already done my best with a hammer and dolly, this quarter panel is now going to get a couple of skim coats of body filler. I lightly went over the entire panel with a 24-grit disc on an angle grinder. This gives the filler something to hang on to.

passenger quarter 01

Body filler costs less than primer-surfacer; so the idea here is to fill in the low spots first with the cheaper stuff and use the primer-surfacer later to get the panel really straight. I try to spread the filler out as evenly as possible, and I only work one section at a time.

You'll no doubt notice that I am putting the filler on bare metal. There are two schools of thought here: The older approach is to put the filler on bare metal and then apply primer. The newer approach is prime first and then use the filler. Well, I'm used to doing it this way. So I say "go with what you comfortable with".

passenger quarter 01

This is the part that involves some timing and finesse. If you let the filler completely harden before you start to sand, it's gonna be a long, miserable job. So just as the filler is beginning to set up, I get after it with a "cheese grater". When doing this, work the tool in long criss-cross pattern, never in a straight line. Otherwise, you'll just cut a groove.

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While the filler is still hardening, I quickly grab the air file with 40-grit paper and start sanding. If the panel is pretty straight, most of the filler is going to end on the floor. I like to keep a wire brush handy to clean the sandpaper as it loads up.

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Here's the section after two cycles of filler and sanding.

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Now it's finally time to get the shell ready for primer. A lot of the metal hasn't really been touched since it was stripped—5 years ago. So everything is going to need a good sanding and cleaning. First, all of the bracing was removed.

passenger quarter 01

As a preventative measure against future rust, I painted many of those hard-to-reach places with POR-15. This is the underside of the dash.

passenger quarter 01

The entire shell was then sanded. I used a DA with 80-grit discs on large areas, a die-grinder with 50-grit discs on tough spots, a drill with a wire brush, and lots of hand sanding. The kids thought it was fun for about 30 minutes, then they disappeared.

All of the excess POR-15 was either stripped away or sanded enough to roughen it up. POR-15 is too glossy for other primers and paints to reliably stick to it. The e-coat primer on the new panels was also sanded for the same reason.

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And more sanding... It took about three solid weekends to get the shell ready to prime.

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After sanding, my Dad and I moved the shell over to the paint booth we built in his barn.

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The last big job before shooting the primer was to put some filler in the panel seam above the tail light opening. Maybe I could have used bondo here, but I was worried that cracks would develop once the car was back on the road. So I decided to go with lead—just like the factory did.

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My Dad's friend, Jim, dropped by to give me a lesson on lead filler. First, Jim uses some steel wool to spread flux on the metal.

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Next, Jim added some solder. He was careful with the heat, too much and the solder could just run on to the floor.

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Jim spread the solder around with a wooden tool. The tool had tallow on it to keep it from burning.

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Glare from the flash makes it kind of hard to see, but here's the other side after working it with a body file. I think it turned out pretty good. I'll probably use a little body filler to make it nice and smooth.

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After wiping things down with degreaser it was finally time for primer. I'll be using PPG products on this project. This is DPLF 50. I generally like to start out shooting the awkward parts first and then move on to the easy stuff.

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One day, this'll be where the steering wheel goes. I like to use my cheap gravity-feed gun for parts like this.

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This is why I built the rotisserie. I can't really think of a better way to paint the bottom of car.

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The trunk.

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Once I've got all weird parts painted I like to switch over this Mattson gun. It lays down a lot more material, with a much wider pattern.

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I picked up this detail gun at Lowes for about $40. It has a side-mounted cup that you can rotate to different positions. You can even shoot upside down. It was a big help for all those places "where the sun don't shine".

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It's starting to look good, even in primer.

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A view from the other side.

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The passenger compartment.

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I took the shell off the rotisserie to prime the bottom of the frame rails...

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...and the tail panel as well.

The car is back home now. Next spring, I'll move it back to the paint booth for multiple rounds of primer-surfacer and block sanding. And if things really come together it should be painted in Inka a year from now. In the meantime, during the winter months, I'll focus on getting the panels dialed in. I may also mock up the drive line so that the tranny mounts can be repositioned for the 5-speed conversion.

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