Tech | Metal Bodywork
Last month we shared with our readers some great tips and photos of the custom fiberglass work that was performed on our '68 Mustang project by Classic Creations of Central Florida. While fiberglass parts fitment can be hit or miss, getting the parts to fit and line up is no harder than trimming them or adding more fiberglass to the part. Frankly, if you cut off too much you can just add some fiberglass back on to it. The same can be said for working with metal parts, but the welding skills required are a little more involved than the basic skills for fiberglass work.
Can you still do it? Of course you can. Prices on welding equipment have really come down in the last few years and you can equip your home shop with a nice 110v MIG welder for $300-$600, depending upon options. A 110v MIG will get the majority of sheetmetal work done with no problems and allow you to modify your project to your heart's content. You want to weld in your own custom cowl vent treatment, or perhaps weld in foglight pockets to a stock front valance? It's no problem with your little shop welder, some bulk metal materials, and some patience.
Our '68's fiberglass work is nearly complete, with just a few small things left to tackle, like the rear valance and bumper. Do we bolt them on or bond them on? Do we cut out openings for exhaust tips or use turn downs? Do we flush mount the bumper, leave a small gap, or completely mold it to the car to match the front? These are all things we'll be tackling soon between stories. But this month we're focusing on some custom sheetmetal treatments that anyone can do and then we'll get started on applying our filler and the fun task of hours and hours of sanding. So let's get started, this fastback's not going to paint itself!
Sometimes You Just Can't Be Gentle
In a perfect world a replacement sheetmetal part would practically "fall" on your car. The reality of it all is, while the reproduction parts are getting better-much better in many cases-they still aren't brand-new production line parts. But let's be honest with ourselves too. We're not repairing a car that's a couple of years old with a minor fender dent. The newest classic Mustang is still 37 years old and the most popular classic Mustangs being worked on today are north of 40 years old.
These unibody cars have been rusting away or have been tweaked by hard driving and road damage so it's no wonder some of these parts don't fit like they should; and in cases like our fastback conversion where so much of the car was replaced at once it's really hard to get a car perfect. Within specs, yes; perfect, no. So don't be surprised when you're putting together your project that a little finesse with a hammer and spoon or dolly is required to line up a fender and door surface or that you have to drill or grind out an adjustment slot a bit to get things to fit. No one has to know and your project will look better when the shiny stuff is laid down in the paint booth. In a nutshell, do what you have to do to get the parts to fit right and the end result will be a nicer looking car.