The remaining panels are typically not direct bolt-on pieces. Regarding the doors, replacing a damaged doorskin is more involved than simply bolting on a new panel, since the skin needs to be fitted to the door’s inner structure. Our driver’s door was deemed satisfactory, requiring minor repairs, while the passenger-side panel was damaged enough to warrant replacement. We covered this operation in detail in the Jan. ’12 issue of PHR (see “Door Prize”). Rear quarter-panels are even higher in difficulty, as they are an integral, welded part of the body tub structure. Replacement here means laborious cutting out of the original, and welding in of the new panel. Our driver-side panel was good enough to save (see “Cutting Out the Cancer” in the Feb. ’12 issue), while the passenger-side panel was rough enough to warrant replacement (see “Confined to Quarters” Mar. ’12).

While replacing individual panels might seem simple enough, the real measure of a quality job is the fit and alignment. Ron says: “Getting the panels right is really one of the toughest parts of the job. Replacement panels will typically need custom work in this area for a perfect result. You will usually need to do some welding and dolly work to get the lines and gaps perfect. On the Nova, we reworked the door edge at the replaced quarter-panel and door edge gap to make it look uniform. It required grinding and welding to stitch it back up, for a nice, even, and tight gap.” Ron at Outlaw delivered by custom-fitting the minor obtuse areas at the door-to-quarter and decklid-to-quarter gaps. Never try to build up a panel edge with filler!

The rule with panel alignment is that you start with the fixed portions of the car and add the bolt-on parts, shimming and adjusting for alignment. Naturally, the edges of the rockers and quarters are fixed, so the first step is to align the doors to these parts. Run the doors parallel to the rockers, and with the body lines aligning at the quarter with an even gap. Next, the front fenders are aligned to the front of the doors, setting the fore-and-aft and height adjustment of the fenders. The hood is laid in place and the gap at the fenders is adjusted for an even and parallel spacing at each side. The leading edge of the doors and trailing edge of the fenders can be adjusted inward or outward to meet by adjustment.

Prep and Primer

With the major panel replacement handled, it was on to minor metal massaging and repair. The right tools are a big aid here, including a selection of body hammers and a variety of dollies, which we obtained from Eastwood. Especially handy is a stud welding set, which allows a pull point to be temporarily welded to the sheetmetal for pulling. We used an Eastwood Uni-Spotter for a variety of metal-pulling repairs. (For the complete story on using the Uni-Spotter, see “Smooth Move,” in the Apr. ’12 issue.) Years worth of dings can be coaxed back to smooth metal with a combination of hammers, dollies, and stud welder. Our Nova required plenty of attention. As Ron says: “There were pretty much repairs required everywhere, but the heavier damage was at the door and front section of the quarter-panel, but it was fixable. There were plenty of old slide hammer holes to weld up. We used the hammer and dolly where we could get to it, and the stud welder where access was limited.” Only once the metal is worked to the smoothest condition possible should the filling begin.