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Metal Makeover

A replacement body panel solution for this 1969 Camaro

Geoff Stunkard - May 31, 2012 10:00 AM

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Since the wheelhouses had been modified for bigger tires, the decision was made to “segment in” AMD’s outer wheelhouses over what was on the car. Once done, it will be dressed smooth and nobody will see any sign of the work we just did.

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We got new AMD trunk drop-offs to match the fresh quarters, but they did not match the replacement trunk floor from Brand X, which we left in place. Time for some mods. Tracy determined the best course would be to cut the lip off and fabricate a new forward lip to abut to the wheelhouse opening.

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 The cut drop-off is checked for fitment. In any sort of sheetmetal work, double and triple checking things is important; drilling out fresh welds is a real bummer, and you can always cut a little more off; adding a little on is a BIG problem!

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With the wheelhouses and drop-offs fixed, it was time to begin getting serious about the quarter panel. Once alignment was completed, a little tweaking to fit this specific car was needed. Hammer and dolly work is part of any body rebuild, whether using OEM, NOS or replacement pieces, because each car is a little different. Before drilling any weld holes, the panel is held in place by clamps.

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The filler panel between the window and deck lid opening was not from AMD, however. It would need a little massaging on both ends before it was ready, but nothing major.

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We also test-fitted the new AMD aluminum decklid at this time.

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Another piece of important reference material is the window trim; have all of it available to double check positioning of sheetmetal. As you can see, the roof was now laid on the car for fitment as well.

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The driver’s quarter went on pretty easily and was clamped in place but not welded; working the passenger side was a different story. The tolerances on these cars can vary pretty widely, and the new quarter did not align over the original vent or striker mechanism properly. To fit it, we moved the new quarter’s opening a little instead. We’re still not welding the quarters yet, because we will fit the new roof first.

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The big issue on the passenger side is visible here; where the metal fits into the drip rail was too far out on this side. Since it would have to be trimmed on both sides, Tracy chose to create another lip further in to help seal it all in. He also called AMD and ordered a new set of drip rails.

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The biggest part of removing the old rail is patience. Locate the original spot welds and drill them out. Keep the two clips that connect the roof rail from the windshield pillar rail.

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A putty knife is an excellent tool for sliding the rail away from the car. Persuasion, gentle but firm, comes via a ball-peen hammer as needed. A cut-off wheel removes the front of the loosened rail.

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Here is our new roof looking from the front corner; you can see exactly how the drip rail was cut and where the clips we took off are to be reinstalled.

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You can see our issues of misalignment in the quarter lip. Tracy holds the replacement rail up and measures how much of the quarter’s lip will be removed.

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Todd and Tracy do the last fitment before welding the new drip rail in place.

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The new rail is on and the quarter and roof are laid in place again. On the driver’s side, the new roof lip required an edge trim on that quarter to match the gutter width as well as some welding.

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The AMD rear panel and replacement filler panel were checked for alignment with the car’s structure and the new quarter panels.

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The top of the quarter is welded to the car’s substructure, then the welds used to attach the roof to the quarter. This will be welded solid, smoothed out and filled in before the car gets ready for paint. The remaining areas of the quarter, which have also been checked and rechecked for fitment, will also be welded (door opening, lower valance, wheel housing lip, drop-offs and rear panel) now that this has started.

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The rear edge of the quarter and the rear panel have been welded back up; very tight and clean. As for the point where our quarter, our rear panel, and our OEM drip rail aligned, there was a little hammer work there, but it was still an easy fit.

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AMD’s new doors will go on this car once they arrive. Meanwhile, with the old door is hung on the car for reference, Tracy is busy welding the rest of the roof area into the drip rail. After the sides are done, the Cleco clips in the front and rear window openings will be removed and those areas welded in place.

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Few muscle cars are as popular as the 1969 Camaro, but many were abused over the past 40-plus years.

Such was the case of the car that Bob Treadway bought as a project. Bob spent several months gathering body parts from a variety of sources and turned it all over to Tracy Hicks at Wizeguy Rod & Custom to begin the process of building his dream car.

As we recounted in the May issue, the mishmash of aftermarket fenders, door skins, valances and such that Bob had purchased had very few points of reference to each other. Nothing fit like it should, and any attempt to fix it would require something else to be cut, sectioned, bent, or radically modified.

Auto Metal Direct (AMD) has become one of the premier players in the business of aftermarket sheetmetal, and they have tried very hard to address these issues. As mentioned last month, they use a single group of Pacific Rim-based suppliers and a set of restrictive measuring tools to ensure accuracy. We will not lie to you and tell you that every single piece AMD produces will just fall onto your car; OEM production tolerances still come into play here, but it sure fits better than anything we had.

We covered some of the problems last month; this time, we’ll show you how Tracy and his guys began sewing this car back together, turning the sheetmetal nightmare into the project that Bob had dreamed of owning. Here we go.

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