To begin, the task of repairing 44 years’ worth of accumulated dents and dings in the left rear quarter had finally come on the menu. Having managed to clean and preserve the bare metal panel successfully, the time to sit down to the careful and particularly delicate work of dent removal and metal finishing was at hand.
After several hours of careful study of every inch of the panel, I decided it best to start at the front and top half of the quarter and methodically work my way to the back, repairing every irregularity in a given area before moving on to the front lower half and repeating the process. This method allowed me to maintain a clear focus on each repair area until the repairs were as good as I could possibly make them.Beginning in the area just behind the striker post, I had a nice, sharp dent that slightly deformed the leading edge and radiated back into the open panel by several inches. Like with any proper metal work, some form of “indicator” is required to understand and visualize the extent of the damaged area so you know exactly what needs to be repaired and how far out from the heaviest damage to begin the correction. The first rule of dent removal is to understand that dents must be removed in the reverse order in which they were created. In other words, the outer peripheral damage must be slowly moved back into shape first if you are to get the “core” damage to move as well. In simplest terms, if the dent started at the front and ended at the back, the repair of that dent starts at the back and moves to the front.
My preferred “indicator” on bare metal is a giant Sharpie marker instead of conventional guide coat paint. It dries quicker, is much thinner, very easy to clean up and does a nice job of highlighting the low spots. Oh, and it’s ridiculously cheap too! So, the first order of business is to swab the entire repair area with Sharpie and lightly scuff the surface with a rigid sanding block with 80 grit paper. Very quickly, the true extent of the dent is revealed and the road map for repair is defined.Starting at the outer edge of the dent, began the repair by welding a series of draw pins about ½” inboard of the edge of the dent and began the careful process of pulling the metal while gently tapping the outer crown with a dinging spoon. Then I cut the pins off and ground the heads smooth and inked the area. After the ink dried, I lightly sanded the surface again with the rigid sanding block to check progress and define what area would need attention next. This basic process was iterated about a dozen times over several hours to bring the surface as close to the original contour as possible. Once complete, all that remained were two small shallow points where I had to shrink the metal with heat to pull the leading edge back into form and a few shadow outlines where the welded draw pins were removed. All told, the final skim of filler that would be required will be less that about .020”.
Moving back on the quarter to the trailing fender lip radius, I had to attend to a dent that was an alarmingly similar to the first one. Fortunately, the damage was not as severe or deep, so less time was required to get the metal to return to its original position. Using the same technique as previously described, this dent was pulled and the fender lip radius restored such that almost no filler will be required at all.The final metal finishing task on this quarter panel involved straightening up the area where the marker light was filled with a welded patch as an aesthetic improvement. Since this would involve a much larger area that would require attention, I marked out the zone with a marker to help keep my mind focused on the specific repair area. Then I coated the area with machinist dye as an indicator similar to the Sharpie marker I used earlier. Machinist dye is easier to apply over a large area than Shaprie marker, so I use it for the sake of convenience. Another advantage to it is that it stays wet longer and allows you to look at the panel from various angles with a high gloss on the surface to see in great detail very subtle (and not-so-subtle) irregularities in the metal that will require attention.
Again, the repair area was sanded to provide the appropriate contrast and I went to work with more conventional hammers and dollies, dinging spoons, bulls eye picks, a large shrinking disc and rubber mallets to nudge the surfaces as close as possible to the original contour. No welded draw pins were required in this critical area. Unfortunately, I failed to properly document this operation but I am happy to report that this are too will require very little filler to get straight.The final area of concern was the front lower joint between the quarter and the rocker. This area required extensive repair for rust and other damage and I welded the seam and ground it smooth for aesthetics. Careful metal work during the reconstructive phase allowed that no heavy dent repair was required in this area as the areas that I wanted to be low (e.g. weld seams) were already in shape and the rest of the contours were very close to what they were originally. So after a few minutes with a dinging spoon and dolly, the area was ready for filler.
With that, the “heavy” metal work on the left rear quarter was complete and it was time to plan the process of applying fillers and smoothing up the panel and the associated seams before sealing everything up with primer.
|Using a huge Sharpie marker, I coat the entire damaged area and use it as a guide coat to see just where I need to work. The camera flash already makes the dent very obvious.|
|A handful of draw pins and one less dent!|
|Even sky lighting the repair area shows very little filler will be required to get this area perfectly smooth. Now to repeat this repair procedure for all of the other areas on this quarter!|
|A larger and more challenging area to straighten is the rear quarter section where the original marker light hole was welded up. To enable me to more clearly focus on the area, I outline the full extent of the work surface with a marker as seen here.|
|After several hours of very gentle manipulation from both sides of the panel, the marker light area is quite straight and ready for filler.|