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How to articles; classic car restoration

How to know when a classic car is restorable.

Page 5

The front bumper filler panel

64 Impala picture of the filler panel under the grillNow we return to the front of the car where the front bumper filler panel is located under the grill. There is a long strip of molding along the front just under the grill. This molding covers a seam where the upper and lower halfs of the filler panel are spot welded together. The space between this molding and the seam can hold water and dirt which is the worst combination for harboring rust. You will need to inspect this area carefully, even opening the hood to look at the filler panel from behind the grill. I have seen cases where the filler panel appeared to be fine but is completely rotted out behind this molding and the molding is held in place by the rust and dirt.

64 Impala picture of the hood lipThe hood is another area where rust will be hidden by the molding. After the molding is removed you can see where there is a rust hole in the hood. The underside of the hood is even worse. 64 Impala picture of the underside of the hoodA level 5 person would fix this with meticulous care. The price of a new hood however, compared to the cost of materials and time, makes replacement a more efficient option. You could always use the hood for patch metal since it is a nice large flat panel. A new hood would cost just over $400 and of course a used hood would be less.

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Surface rust on the body

You will find surface rust on large areas of the body on some classic cars. Surface rust does not mean the car is not restorable though. Surface rust can appear in numerous places and most of the time it is because of problems with the classic car being neglected while being stored. A car can rust due to storage because of trapped moisture under a tarp or plastic sheeting. The wide flat surfaces of the classic car such as the hood and trunk deck lid will rust under a cover where moisture gets trapped, but this condition occurs mostly on the roof. The paint would appear to be peeling in a pattern reminiscent of frost on a window.

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64 Impala picture of the rust at the windshield molding and vent coverWhen a car is stored outdoors and left covered under tree leaves, you will see surface rust coming out from under the body moldings around the windows. 64 Impala picture of the rust at the windshield molding and vent coverHow bad the rust is behind the molding is anyone's guess, but once the molding has been removed you can generally assume the molding clips are rusted to the point where they cannot be reused. Note the picture where the vent cover in front of the windshield is pitted with surface rust. This is a sign the car was left covered in wet tree leaves.

Floor pans

Floor pans will rust out for a variety of reasons and where they rust out is generally determined by the reason.

The mufflers are located under the floor pans in the front of the car on the 64 Impala. The heat from the muffler can advance the rust process on these cars and even more so if the muffler has a leak. The exhaust gases have the same effect on the floor pans as they do on the rear deck filler panel.

64 Impala picture of the floor pan at back seatThe number one cause is water soaked carpeting. The water can get into the carpeting from driving with the window down but this tends to cause the rear floor pans to rust out more than the front. The front floor pans tend to rust along the inside of the rocker panels. Once the weather stripping in front of the vent window starts to fail, water will run directly down the door frame onto the floor on the inside of the car. I've watched it happen on other Impalas I've owned while sitting in the car in the rain.

Floor pans can also rust through from below. The floor pan supports are open at the ends where they meet the inner rocker panel and will accumulate dirt. This dirt is really bad for keeping the floor pan supports wet. I have seen these floor pan supports packed solid with dirt and rust while doing floor pan repairs. This condition is generally worse in cars driven on country dirt roads.

64 Impala picture of a rusted floor pan on the passenger sideAir conditioning in these old classic cars is a common cause of the floor pans rusting through on the passenger side. The condensation fills the heater box, and eventually winds up draining into the passenger compartment and saturating the carpeting. In extreme cases such as with this car, the firewall will be rusted out where the heater box is mounted. Note the pictures.

You have probably guessed it by now. A level 4 or 5 person would fix this, a level 3 would send it out for repairs and a level 1 or 2 would not have bought the car.

Floor pan supports

64 Impala picture of floor pan supportsThere are 4 sets of floor pan supports. 64 Impala picture of the floor pan supportsThe floor pan supports are just sheet metal box braces running the width of the car and are fastened to the underside of the floor and the inner rocker panels. The front 3 floor pan supports on each side of the 64 Impala are typically the worst. As I noted earlier, because the ends are open or more accurately, not completely sealed, the floor pan supports will fill with dirt an water, then rust out. You will rarely see a floor pan support rusted out anywhere other than the ends at the inner rocker panels.

Rocker panels

64 Impala picture of the inner rocker panelRocker panels will generally rust out from behind. The floor pan support is usually where it starts. The inner rocker panel will rust through from behind the floor pan support and will penetrate the rocker panel with dirt and water. If you find a car with rust coming through the rocker panel on the outside, you are guaranteed it is rusted through on the inner rocker panel and the floor pan support immediately behind. This is not the kind of job that anyone but a level 5 person wants to touch. Most body men will just cover it with a new outer rocker panel, ignoring the real rust in behind. Eventually the new outer rocker panel will rust through again, but even worse this time, and there will be no denying that the inner rocker panel and floor pan supports need replacing. I've seen examples of this at car shows where you can see the rocker panel is distorted. This is a sure sign the job was not done right the first time.

You can see in these pictures, the floor pan supports on this car are still solid. Since I have to replace the floor pans however, I will not ignore the rocker panels. I might even remove the floor pan supports to thoroughly inspect the inner rockers.  Next page

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