Now that the firewall has been cleaned, and all of the leftover bonding compound has been
sanded away, my focus switched to repairing several areas damaged fiberglass.
Unfortunately, during separation of the front clip from the firewall, and removal of the firewall from the body,
the firewall fiberglass sustained damage in several locations. Prior to painting and reinstallation
these areas of damage need to be repaired.
In total there were about a half dozen spots that needed attention. I'll show
the fiberglass repairs that were completed to a couple of these locations as an
The first area requiring repair was located in the passenger
foot well. The damage included a crack in the firewall as well as damage to the
surface of the fiberglass. As best I can tell, this damage occurred when
the firewall was separated from the rest of the body. During removal the
fiberglass cracked and the top layer of
fiberglass was pulled away leaving a very rough, uneven surface. The two photos
below show the damage.
To start it's important to understand that, when repairing cracked fiberglass,
you need to create a repair that
extends the full thickness of the fiberglass panel. Creating a partial depth
repair will simply result in a weak spot that will ultimately crack again in the
To begin the repair a die grinder with an 80 grit sanding disk was used to
sand down the repair area. In the immediate area of the crack the full thickness
of the fiberglass was sanded away with the surrounding area feathered into the
remaining panel. The areas showing surface damage were also sanded down to remove
stray fibers and to provide a uniform surface to accept the repair areas.
After sanding the repair area it was thoroughly cleaned with
lacquer thinner. Next, a piece of cardboard backing was taped into place behind
the repair to provide support for the wet fiberglass.
With the repair area cleaned and ready to go, a few small pieces
of fiberglass mat were torn off a larger sheet. It's much easier to do this
beforehand - the resin gets your fingers quite sticky which makes tearing away
small pieces of fiberglass difficult. It's important to note here that you want to
use fiberglass mat (pictured below) rather than fiberglass cloth. Fiberglass mat has a randomly orientated strands whereas cloth is
a woven fabric.
With several small pieces of fiberglass mat ready to be applied a small batch of fiberglass resin
was mixed in a glass jar. The resin hardens in about 10 to
20 minutes, so be sure to mix small batches. For these repairs, I used Evercoat
fiberglass mat and resin which I've heard good things about.
The fiberglass resin is applied using a cheap paintbrush - the cheapest you can
find. Cleaning the brushes is pretty tough and not worth the effort so don't buy
anything expensive. Start by applying a thin coating of resin to the area of fiberglass
which will receive the repair.
Next, the first piece of fiberglass mat was applied and wetted down with the brush.
Once the first layer becomes
transparent the next layer of mat is applied and wetted down. This process is
repeated until the desired repair thickness is developed. The goal here is to develop a
fairly 'dry' repair with no air bubbles. The fiberglass mat
is what makes a strong repair so you want to avoid using too much resin. Once
the repair was built up to the desired thickness the excess resin was removed from the
brush and the repair area dabbed with the brush to remove excess resin.
After allowing the repair area to harden overnight (several hours probably would have sufficed),
the repair material overhanging the edge of the firewall was cut off using a Dremel. Once the trimming
was complete, the entire repair area was sanded smooth using a DA sander and a die grinder - just be careful not to
get carried away. If you remove too much material or you'll be repeating the process all over again.
With the first repair complete, I moved onto fixing a second area of fiberglass
damage in the drivers foot well. This area was repaired using the same procedure
Fast forwarding a few repairs, it was time to prepare the firewall
surface for paint. There was quite a bit of grime, dirt, and excess bonding
compound on the surface of the firewall that I wanted removed before
painting. After a good cleaning and degreasing, a die grinder was used with an
80 grit scotch-brite pad to provide a smooth uniform surface for painting.
I should note before going any further that during the cleaning and painting
process I ended up removing and painting over the original factory writing on
the firewal. There are some purists out there that go through great pains to
preserve or recreate these factory markings. The attention to these small
details are what create truly remarkable, original, cars that bring in high
prices at auction. Ultimately, the condition of the car should be the
determining factor on whether this is the right path for your project. A
relatively clean original numbers matching car, with all of the markings from
the factory (even in wax pencil) still visible is probably a good candidate. If
this is an option, care should be taken to document as much of the original
condition of the car as possible so that it can be recreated later if needed.
Although this is an option for some restorations, for my non-numbers matching
car I didn't feel it necessary.
After several hours of cleaning the firewall was dry fit to the body to ensure
the repairs that were completed didn't adversely affect the firewall fit up. It would be a pity to have to modify
a freshly painted firewall if things didn't line up, so this is a good time to
double check everything. Thankfully, both sections lined up very
well and no modifications were required.
After another thorough soap and water cleaning, followed by wiping the entire
surface down with a pre-paint cleaner, it was time to apply an epoxy
sealer/primer to the bare fiberglass. For this task some leftover PPG DP40 epoxy
primer left over from my windshield frame repairs was used. Using an epoxy
primer is particularly good for this application because it holds up well
against solvents such as gas and oil (very common in engine compartments). It
will also provide an excellent bonding surface for any lightweight filler that
needs to be applied in order to provide an even, uniform surface. In fact, many
folks will say that you shouldn't apply body filler directly to the fiberglass
at all. Rather, the fiberglass should be painted with an epoxy primer first and
the body filler applied over that.
With the primer applied the firewall looked pretty good, but there are still a few
minor cosmetic issues that require attention. In particular, the grain of the fiberglass is quite visible
in some areas. In other locations there
are divots and minor gouges in the firewall leftover from the disassembly process. These will be
smoothed over with body filler followed by the application of a high build sanding sealer
and final top coat. After all this work the firewall should come out looking
great! Plus, this provides an excellent opportunity to hone your skills before
starting on the actual body work that most folks will see!
Stay tuned for the next installment and the finished firewall!