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How to articles; classic car restoration

How to know when a classic car is restorable.

Page 4

The Wheel wells

64 Impala rear wheel well The wheel wells rot out from the outside, generally through the rust proofing material on the outside of the wheel wells. Over time the rust proofing hardens and cracks due to vibration and flexing of the body. 64 Impala wheel well seamsMoisture gets behind it, thrown towards the wheel well by the spinning tire. Once behind the rust proofing, the water will stay there for a very long time and when salt gets behind the rust proofing material, you can kiss that part goodbye. Most often the wheel wells will rust out at the seams, sometimes all the way around from the trunk deck to the inner rocker panel in front of the rear tire. Mild cases of wheel well rust will usually occur where the verticle seam meets the trunk deck lid and in front of the rear tire at the end of the rocker panel. 64 Impala top side of the wheel well inside the trunkThe first photo shows a line that I've drawn where the verticle seam is located in the 2 part wheel well construction. The rust generally starts near the bottom of the line where the horizontal ledge is located. Road salt will cause the wheel well to rust out around the lip where it is welded to the quarter panel.

Wheel wells are very difficult to replace without removing the quarter panel. Space contraints make it nearly impossible. Fixing this problem is a catch 22. If you are going to replace the quarter panel it makes sense to replace the wheel wells in the process. If your wheel wells are badly rusted, and rust is often worse that it appears, you should remove the quarter panel to replace the wheel wells.

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The quarter panel

64 Impala top side of the wheel well inside the trunkThe lower half of the rear quarter panel is another area that is commonly rusted out. This however is a simple replacement and a lower rear quarter panel is not expensive. 64 Impala top side of the wheel well inside the trunkYou can usually get this part for around $70. Labor to replace this body panel is of course additional. There is an inner lower rear quarter panel on the 64 Impala that could be rusted out too. You need to be sure that the rust has not advanced upwards to the trunk deck.

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64 Impala top side of the wheel well inside the trunkMoving up the outside of the body to the top side of the quarter panel where the trunk deck lid meets the quarter panel, you find the weather stripping trough. The weatherstripping trough is a serious water trap on the 64 Impala. Years of dirt collects here and works it's way down along side the weather stripping and creates mud when it gets wet from rain. It can stay wet for days. Note how the weatherstripping lip on this quarter panel has holes in it and the inside rolled edge is no longer straight. If the weatherstripping is dry rotted and crumbly or even missing, you can count on the trunk deck or trunk pan being rusted out as you see in the picture below. Most likely the rust will have followed the effects of gravity on the water and the weatherstripping trough will be rusted out all the way down towards the deck lid latch in the center. The weatherstipping trough can be rusted out at the corners near the hinged part of the deck lid if the car was typically parked facing downhill.

When this weatherstripping lip is rusted out, the quarter panel should be replaced. New quarter panels for the 64 Impala can be had for a bit more than $400, but used would be a bit less than that. A level 4 or 5 person could replace a full or partial quarter panel themselves.

Another area of the quarter panel that is prone to rusting is where it meets the base of the roof. There is a molding across that seam on the 64 Impala 2 door sport coupes. 64 Impala top side of the wheel well inside the trunkDirt collects under this molding and holds moisture. Eventually the seam will rust out and the rust will spread beyond the edges of the molding. If the seam is rusted out here, the quarter panel should be relaced unless you are good with making custom pieces. You can't stop rust at this location unless you take this seam apart.

The trunk

The insides of the trunk rust out often enough that replacement wheel wells, trunk decks and trunk pans are a common replacement part. As with other parts of the 64 Impala, anywhere there is a seam you will find the most rust damage. The factory installed seam sealer hardens and cracks over time and becomes a moisture trap as it separates from the seam.

64 Impala top side of the wheel well inside the trunkThe trunk pan will rust out due to water getting into the trunk, unable to drain.

The filler panel or tail panel between the rear bumper and the bottom lip of the trunk can be rusted out on some cars for a couple of reasons. 64 Impala top side of the wheel well inside the trunk This is too often caused by driving the car with a leaky exhaust system for far too long, or too short a tail pipe. The corrosive exhaust gases will swirl around under the car while driving if they are not contained within the exhaust system and correctly exhausted out the tail pipe and past the body sheet metal. The tail panel was covered by a rubber seal from the factory. This rubber seal created a dirt and moisture trap. The flexing and vibration of the body at the bumper combined with the wet dirt trapped underneath would wear the paint off the tail panel and rust out the tail panel.

64 Impala top side of the wheel well inside the trunkThe tail light mounting assembly at the back of the car on the quarter panel will rust out at the bottom for the same reason. The picture from inside the trunk shows where someone had tried to fill this area with some white plastic strips and body filler. They managed to fill the hole but did nothing to repair the rust. The plastic strip runs the width of the trunk from one tail light mounting to the other. Luckily for me, these body panel parts are available new.

64 Impala trunk deck lid seamJust like the doors, the trunk deck lid on a 64 Impala can be rusted in hidden places, like the seams around the edges. The seams around the trunk deck lid tend to be worse at the bottom edge above the filler panel. If it is rusted through to the outside below the tail lights, you should consider replacing it with a new trunk deck lid. Just like any other part on a 64 Impala, you can spend more time fixing a rusted out trunk deck lid than it is worth to buy a new one. A new trunk deck lid can be had for around $400.

64 Impala trunk deck lid seamIf the trunk deck lid is rusty at the seems but not seriously, just like the doors or hood, it can be acid dipped to remove the rust from inside the folded seams. I've seen pictures of the finished product, and it is very impressive. The parts look just like new. There are a couple of companies around that do this sort of thing. Some will dip the entire body or the frame too. Notice the condition of the seams in the pictures. This trunk deck lid is not rusted through so it is worth keeping. I might have it acid dipped just to get the rust out from inside the unreachable folds of the seam. A level 5 person would likely do the rust repair on the trunk deck lid. Next page

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