Assessment & Blasting
Our gut always wants to just sand and spray, but sometimes it's not the wisest decision. In this case, we knew that we had to take Max down to bare steel since much of the paint had been sanded off for fabrication purposes. Moreover, the quality of the paint that was still clinging was a poor base to apply new color over, and rust was bubbling in the driver's door, both rear quarter-panels, the trunk floor, below the rear windshield, and (we suspected) the cowl vent as well.
For paint stripping, Pacific Coast Powder Coating (PCPC), our go-to blasting shop, typically uses nonabrasive plastic bead, which is essentially just crushed buttons. This stuff will remove paint, but it will not build heat and will be kind to the body panels. In areas that need more aggressive material to remove heavy rust, undercoating, or other more dense buildup, PCPC used aluminum oxide to blast away the crud. If you find yourself in this situation where the rust is piling up, and you want to get to the bottom of it fast, a commercial stripper like PCPC is the way to go, but it's not the only route. Eastwood offers affordable mediablasting solutions for home use, such as the dual-media Master Blaster covered in our Project Nova resto.
As is typical, all the small spots of rust that were visible grew greatly in size once the paint was removed. Unfortunately, that's typical with rust, and like the iceberg that sunk the Titanic, there's always a lot more than meets the eye. The rear windshield filler panel on Max was perhaps the biggest surprise and the most extensive rust that was uncovered. Before moving on to the repairs, PCPC applied an epoxy primer powdercoat over the entire body and chassis to completely seal it. Since it's applied as powdercoat, the tiny particles drift into every nook and cranny and completely seal the body.
Rust & Damage Repair
Despite being fairly popular in their day, Cougar's don't have a great deal of aftermarket replacement patches available for rust repair. That's why we were extremely excited when West Coast Classic Cougars (WCCC) offered up the very first preproduction version of their rear windshield filler for 1967-68 Cougars to help us with Max's repairs. This panel is an extremely common spot for Cougars to rust, especially those equipped with vinyl roofs. Until now the only option was to seek out a less damaged one in a junkyard or spend a great deal of time patching. Now, the process is as simple as drilling out spot welds, clamping in the new panel, and spotting it in place. Watch for the full tech article on this exciting new patch in an upcoming issue.
Unfortunately, the rest of the rust patches would need to be handformed. Thankfully, Adkins has a well-equipped shop and is adept at creating custom steel. We already knew there was rust on the trunk floor, but the driver-side door was also revealed to have significantly more damage than previously thought, and both quarter-panels were harboring rust behind the wheelwells. For all affected areas, Adkins used a Norton cut-off wheel to remove all the affected steel and create a simple geometric hole to patch.
Starting with flat pieces of steel snipped to roughly the correct size, Adkins used a combination of Eastwood body hammers and dollies, as well as an Eastwood shrinker to compress excess material and form patches that laid precisely into the cut hole. Once he welded it into place and ground it down, it was impossible to tell that there had even been rust. Becoming an expert takes practice, but the techniques are quite simple and easy to learn. (Look for more in the Apr. '14 issue with the details on how Adkins shapes steel.)