Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Playing In the Mud Again

Update 1/30/2011:  A fellow VMFer with a LOT more experience than me (Thanks Steve!) in body work came over to give me a realistic estimate of what it would take to get the body of this car ready for paint and in addition, I received a free course on Basic Auto Body 101.  He showed me how to feel the metal (something you just can't learn from internet media) and gave me many good tips on how to apply and sand filler correctly.  So, this blog entry is a lesson on what NOT to do.   This is not a good example of auto body correction so please don't stop here for any kind of example other than for an example of the wrong way.  He did, however, feel that the top of the hood and deck lid were adequate which made me feel better.  The bad news was that even with what I did here (in spite of perhaps) there's still about 60 hours of filler work to do on the body before it's ready for blocking primer.

I've pretty much got the body panels repaired and test fitted so now I'm ready to begin the REAL work, preparing the car for primer and paint. The body is pretty darned straight for the massive project it's been but there are still a few little dings here and there not to mention the various patches I've made in the doors, the bottoms of the rear quarters, and the fenders. I tried to weld them in the best I could but compared to the panel skins they're welded into, they're noticeable. I could just start filling any and all low spots in the body, but as I was searching the net for body-working tips, I came across this YouTube video entitled Car Dent Repair Training - No Filler by Restolad. He demonstrates the use of a home made "slapper". I thought to myself, "Hey self, I'd like to give that a try!"   So, I set out to make a tool similar to that used in the video. I borrowed an old bastard file from a coworker (thanks Mark!) but files are hardened steel and I don't have a torch so what to do? Well, I DO have a home-made hobby metal melting furnace and it has a home-made burner that can get stuff up to a couple thousand degrees. Out in the open air it's considerably less capable but will at least get the file cherry hot so it can be bent. I clamped the file to one jack stand and the burner to another and fired it up. Pretty soon the file was ready to bend. I'd heat up a section, bend it in my vice with a 5 pound sledge and then heat up the next section and bend it again:

That's one hot bastard.. file

Until it looked like a "Z".  The wide end of the file with the rat tail became the beating end of the slapper and the narrow end of the file became the handle after some smoothing.  After I was done shaping the file, I reheated it and quenched it in a bucket of water.
My newly forged tool

If you didn't watch the video I linked to above the process pretty much involves slapping the dent evenly from the outside with a dolly on the backside of the panel shrinking the metal back into shape.

I decided to  do just the passenger side first.  I started at the rear quarter and ran over it completely with an 80 grit sanding block to find uneven spots that needed repaired.  I found two dings that I could beat out, the others were very small and shallow so I just marked them for filler.  You can see where I exercised my new slapper on the two shiny spots in the picture below.  I'm not good enough to get it perfectly level yet so the spots will still require a skim of filler. 

Scuffed, beaten, and ready for filler

The rear quarter was followed by the passenger door which I scuffed and marked the locations of the flaws.  The flaws are the shiny spots that the sanding block wasn't able to scuff.  I had attempted to use my slapper on those door dings by the upper ridge of the scoop intention but the door was too awkward to get my hand inside and hold a dolly in the right spot.  Also, the contour would have required a rounded slapper which I don't have yet so I gave up on the idea here and felt it safer to just use filler.

Then I got a bit sidetracked.  I decided I didn't like the wide gap between the rear quarter and the rear of the door.

Pretty big gap

So I went and bought some 1/8" welding rods, knocked the flux off them, and welded a couple to the edge of the door.  I've seen this mentioned on various car restoration forums such as the VMF and also recently on Spiderman's Blog.

Starting at the middle and working out

Tack, bend, tack bend, rinse, repeat

Ground down and ready for filler

After patching up the door gap, I decided to revisit the B-Pillar.  Yet more shoddy work by yours truly.  On recommendation by a VMF friend (thanks again Pete), I cleaned the seam sealer out of the quarter skin flange, layered several layers of masking tape along the flange as thick as the flange sheet metal and then applied filler to the flange and sanded it level.  The tape was then removed and the flange was wet sanded level.

Yuck!  Who made THAT mess?
I can't believe I was going to leave it that way
Masking tape was built up next to the flange to form the new edge.

Filler applied and sanded level.

Finally, it was time to play in the mud... well, play WITH mud anyway.  This is the same Evercoat filler I used on the hood and deck lid.  I laid down a good thick layer over the old mud in the tail reflector indention that isn't supposed to be there.  The previous owner replaced the quarter skins sometime in the 80's with the wrong type.  I hope this filler doesn't crack on me 5 years down the road.   I also applied filler to the quarter panel patch behind the rear wheel.

Lay down a moderately thick layer of mud.

Level it with a 40 grit "idiot board"
Same here

Glazing putty applied to fill scratches

Same treatment for the back edge of the door.

New improved door gap

I then pulled the fender and started working on it as well.  When the time came to sand it down, however, the filler started peeling away.  WTF!?


I scraped the new mud off the fender and determined that the problem was that I had initially sprayed the fender patch with etching primer and then sprayed over that with DP40LF.  Well, that didn't fly at all as the DP de-laminated from the etching primer.  I took my 80 grit sanding disk to it, cleaned it up with wax and grease remover and applied the mud directly to the bare metal.

Strip it clean and start over
Idiot board work done.
Glazing putty awaiting wet sanding.

As I'd done with the hood and deck lid, I applied a thin skim of polyester glazing putty across anywhere that I'd worked with my 40 grit idiot board to fill the scratches and then wet sanded that with 220.  Just to be clear this is 2 Part Polyester filler.  Not the traditional lacquer glazing putty.  The only difference between this and regular filler is the ultra-fine size of the talc that fills the sanding scratches quite nicely.

Rear quarter done and wet sanded.

Door done and wet sanded.

Front fender wet sanded and temporarily stuck on the car to get it out of the way.

While I had the fender off, I thought I'd take a shot at closing the gap between the fender extension and the front of the fender.  It took me about 1.5 hours to get it as close as I did with much difficulty.  I drilled the mounting holes a tad larger to allow more play but even then I noticed that the very front inch or so where the most pointed part of the fender is was tweaked out of alignment ever so slightly so  I massaged it a bit.



I need to touch up a couple of spots along the passenger side of the car but I think I got a majority of the damage repaired such that running a hand over the repairs, it feels nice and level with the exception of some missed scratches that I need to run another skim coat of glazing putty over and re-sand and then it's on to the driver side.


  1. Hi Alex, I did a short panel beating course some time back and one of the very first tools we were introduced to was none other than... wait for it... YES - THE SLAPPER!!!! There is certainly an art to panel beating and of course my short introduction does not make me a master but the principles are easy enough to pick up.

    On another point in your post, I have been wondering what, more so how, I will address any gaps that may be too wide ie fenders to doors, doors to quarters, doors to rockers etc. I was thinking it would be to extend the edge a little but with what?? Well, a welding rod seems the perfect choice... 2 thumbs up for you again thanks mate.

    Top post.

  2. Thanks Mike. I actually wish my car had more dings to beat out with it, LOL!

  3. Nice post Tube Tape can be used to fill almost and jamb.The Large-Size Tube Tape is used to mask the a pillar.

  4. The Original Tube Tape can be used to fill almost and jamb.The Large Tube Tape is used to fill unusually large gaps.