Now that the fiberglass repairs to the rear clip have been finished the focus of
the restoration effort has now been switched to replacing the
damaged tail lamp panel and rear quarter panel (rear fender) which are damaged
To complete this work, it was first necessary to remount the body to the
chassis. This is an important step which helps ensure the final body lines and
door gaps will be properly aligned. So, once again the body was hoisted into the
air, the chassis rolled beneath, body shims installed in their original
locations, and the body lowered onto the chassis and bolted into place. The lifting frame
I developed and constructed several months back is starting to come in quite handy (you can find
plans for the lifting frame here).
With the rear clip of the Corvette back on the chassis it was time to remove
the body panels that need to be replaced. In the case of this restoration that
includes the rear tail lamp panel and the rear quarter panel (rear fender). Both of these
panels have a fair bit of collision damage and would require significant
fiberglass repairs. A pro probably could have repaired these panels with enough
time and patience. However, I'm no pro so I decided to replace the panels and
save myself the time and aggravation.
And, for what it's worth, yes all of these required body repairs have
turned out to be much more significant than I originally anticipated. If I had
this to do
all over again I'd pay A LOT more attention to the
condition of the body and really scrutinize it for signs of damage.
To start the removal a jigsaw was used to cut out the center
portion of the tail lamp panel. Removing this center portion will make managing
the remaining sections of the panel a bit easier. Be sure to use a bi-metal blade in your jigsaw, they
make quick work of this task and stay sharp much longer than other types of
Once the center portion of the tail lamp panel was removed a heat gun and
5-in-1 tool were used to soften and release the bonding strips connecting the
panel to the rear quarter panels.
The same process was used to remove the passenger side quarter panel. My
decision to remove and replace the rear quarter panel was quickly validated as I
soon discovered the panel had been previously removed and bonded back into place
using some mystery adhesive (the yellow stuff in the photo below) that I can
best describe as some sort of polyurethane foam. This adhesive wasn't very
strong at all and gave out VERY easily when heated with a heat gun.
Here you can see the inside face of the removed quarter panel. The inside face
of the panel didn't look all that bad and, aside from the piece missing from the very rear of
the panel, the panel was relatively intact. However, the exterior face had been
butchered by bad body work and was in need of some significant TLC. As I noted
earlier, replacing the panel was thought to be easier than rebuilding and
contouring the outside face of the panel, while also reconstructing the rear
With the rear fender removed it was obvious that significant
cleanup of the rear quarter panel bonding strips was required. Much of the
strip was covered with the yellow mystery adhesive with a few other types of bonding
materials mixed in for good measure.
So, once again I put my heat gun and 5-in-1 tool to use scraping the
bonding surfaces clean.
Soon after I had removed the rear deck I noticed something peculiar about
the bonding strip for the passenger side rear quarter panel. Not only was it
bonded in a slightly different position than the drivers side, but it was also
glued into place using yet another mystery material. This one was black and
relatively flexible, sort of like roofing cement. Sure enough a
further inspection revealed this to be yet another bogus repair so I set to work
removing the bonding strip to allow a proper repair. One thing is for certain, whoever fixed
this car way back when was quite the hack.
The majority of the bonding strip came off very easily. Heat wasn't even
required in most areas. After removing the bonding strip the remaining mystery
material was removed, the bonding surfaces sanded with 20 grit
sandpaper, and the surfaces cleaned with lacquer thinner.
Finally, after lots of disassembly, it was time for a bit of reassembly. As
I thought through the assembly process it became clear that gluing the rear
quarter panel bonding strip directly to the fender well was not the way to go. First, if
the strip were not positioned correctly front to back, the vertical bonding
seam between the tail lamp and rear quarter panels may not line up correctly with
the bonding strip. Secondly, I was not sure I'd be able to glue the bonding
strip to the fender well at the correct angle since it slopes in two directions
front to back and side to side.
Instead, it seemed the safer approach was to first glue the bonding strip to the
rear deck and then bond the rear deck and bonding strip to the car. After weighing
these options I decided to proceed with this approach.
So, after positioning and clamping the bonding strip in place on the rear
deck a black marker was used to draw a series of marks along the assembly.
These marks will aid in aligning the bonding strip on the rear deck once the
adhesive has been applied.
After the dry fit was complete the surfaces were cleaned with
lacquer thinner on last time in preparation for bonding.
To bond the two panels together a high strength epoxy adhesive was used in
lieu of the traditional bonding compound. Although more expensive, the epoxy
adhesive is stronger, more convenient, and allows a longer working time
(depending on the product selected). For this project I'm using Fusor 127EZ
manufactured by LORD Corporation. This is a two part, slow setting, high
strength structural epoxy adhesive with a 50-60 minute work time. In addition,
this is an OEM approved material (meaning it's approved by GM) for SMC and
composite panel replacement. NOTE: Per the manufacturers literature you cannot
apply polyester based body fillers over this material. You first need to prime
the area with a suitable primer.
Once selected, I ordered a few tubes of the adhesive (each tube comes with two
mixing nozzles) as well as the required dispensing gun. Note - You are able to
recap the tubes of adhesive allowing you to save any unused portion for later. So, if you
expect to be gluing lots of small pieces together at different times, you may
want to order some extra mixing nozzles (or you can simply dispense the unmixed
adhesive onto a piece of cardboard, mix it manually, and then apply it with a
Following the manufacturers directions the tube was loaded into the
dispensing gun and a small amount dispensed onto a scrap piece of cardboard.
This step levels the plungers and ensures that adhesive is coming
out of both sides of the cartridge.
Next the mixing tip was attached and another small amount dispensed onto a
scrap piece of cardboard to ensure even mixing of the two components.
Now that the adhesive and dispensing gun was set to go a generous bead
of adhesive was applied along the full length of the bonding strip.
With the adhesive applied the bonding strip was aligned using the marks made
previously and secured in place using plenty of clamps. Once secured in place a visual
inspection was completed to verify proper alignment of the strip and to ensure a
little bit of
adhesive was squeezing out from each side of the bonding strip (a sign that good
coverage has been achieved).
It's critically important that you dry fit all of your pieces ahead of time and that
you make certain that the alignment of each piece is correct before you apply
any adhesive to the pieces. Despite the relatively long working time of the
adhesive, it's extremely strong and the fiberglass panel will most likely split
before the adhesive gives out. This means if you mess up, you'll have a lot of
work ahead of you to fix it! It's just a lot easier to dry fit everything ahead
Finally, before leaving the adhesive to set up overnight, I removed the excessive adhesive
that had oozed out from the outside face of the bonding strip.
Since this excess adhesive would need to be removed later down the road I
figured it was easiest to remove the extra now before it was hardened.
The next step of the restoration will include gluing the rear deck back onto
the rear clip - a definite milestone! Stay tuned for another update in about a
In the meantime, why not stop by the new
Corvette Restoration Forum
I've developed. Already there are a number of great new members and, as with any
forum, the more the merrier! I'd love to see each viewer here become a member
and post their projects, ideas, and questions. It's free so why not stop by to