To the uninitiated this looks...
To the uninitiated this looks like a pretty primo '55, but Chris Sondles, of Woody's Hot Rodz, knows Tri-Five Chevys inside and out-he knew what we were getting into with this one and was confident it could be brought up to his exact standards.
With the Art Morrison chassis for the 2011 AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour's '55 Chevy completed, Chris Sondles and the crew at Woody's Hot Rodz turned their attention to the body. As true authorities on Tri-Fives, they knew where to look for trouble on our two-door-and believe us, they found it. Over the years our Tri-Five had been subjected to corrosion, general wear and tear, and repair work, ranging from miserable to passable. But at Woody's there's only one way to do things, which meant if there was any part of the body that wasn't perfect it wasn't going to be that way for long.
At first glance our Chevy's shell looked good but primer can hide a multitude of sins, and after a trip to Ken Engel's Powder Coating Specialty for sandblasting it was obvious there was much to be done to make it right. Of course the first rule of sandblasting sheetmetal is to not make it worse by heavy-handed methods, too much air pressure, or media that is too coarse. Engel has earned Woody's confidence and the results show why-while we were left with less than perfect sheetmetal, it was perfectly clean and no worse off for being blasted.
Ken Engle, of Powder Coating...
Ken Engle, of Powder Coating Specialty, was entrusted with sandblasting the body. It takes experience and the correct equipment and material to blast sheetmetal without doing damage.
Once back at Woody's it was obvious it would take some effort to make this diamond less rough, the complete floor, rockers, lower quarter-panels, bottoms of the doors, and the ends of both fenders would have to be replaced. While that seems to be an enormous undertaking, it's made much easier thanks to the precision replacement panels from Danchuck Manufacturing. One look at their catalog confirmed that they offer everything we needed:
||Full Floor with Braces Two-Door sedan
||Headlight Patch Panels
||Headlight Patch Panels
||Fender Lower Panels
||Fender Lower Panels
Hidden under the primer was...
Hidden under the primer was some ugly stuff, fortunately Danchuck Manufacturing makes the replacement panels that will be needed and Woody's has the expertise to put them in place.
In most cases, replacement panels come flanged, which allows a little "wiggle room" in the fit and makes a natural recess for welding. Generally the procedure consists of holding the replacement panel in place, allowing for the width of the flange, and then removing the sheetmetal to be replaced with a cutoff wheel or plasma cutter. In some cases the replacement panels are held in close proximity to the body with clamps and butt welded in place. This is usually done when the patch panel is cut down in size.
Our '55 is off to a good start to having a beautiful body but there is still much to be accomplished so follow along-then plan on joining the 2011 AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour to see the results for yourself.
Look closely and daylight...
Look closely and daylight can be seen shining through the floorboards; typically the floor supports and the sills are shot as well.
Tada! A few minutes with the...
Tada! A few minutes with the Miller plasma cutter and the Chevy's floor was on the shop floor. Note the tubing welded between the B-pillars to maintain body alignment.
Danchuck supplied a new floor,...
Danchuck supplied a new floor, with new support in place. Replacing the entire floor is often less work in the long run than patching the original, particularly when the underfloor supports are bad.
The new floor is clamped to...
The new floor is clamped to the flanges on the body-note how the floor supports fit against the sill (top of the photo). Sills are another area where these bodies tend to disintegrate, however Danchuck has replacements for those as well.
Thanks to the new rocker panels,...
Thanks to the new rocker panels, floor, and supports, once welded in place the body will be on its way to being good as new-if not better.
The new floor in place-note...
The new floor in place-note the low areas around where the front seat mounts-they're naturals to collect water, which is what causes the originals to rot.
Tri-Five quarters often succumb...
Tri-Five quarters often succumb to rust and in some cases they've been bashed and repaired poorly-our car had been subjected to both so replacements from Danchuck were in order.
Here the new panel has been...
Here the new panel has been clamped in place. The new panel is flanged to fit under the original sheetmetal-as a bonus the seam ends up under the factory trim strips.
More typical problem areas...
More typical problem areas on these cars are the "eyebrows" over the headlights and the Road Tour Chevy was no exception. Here the rusted area is being removed with a cutoff wheel.
Like the lower quarter-panel...
Like the lower quarter-panel patches, Danchuck's headlight repair pieces are flanged to fit under the original sheetmetal. Note the reference marks made to ensure the new pieces are oriented properly.
After welding, the bead was...
After welding, the bead was ground smooth...
...then a skim coat of filler...
...then a skim coat of filler made the front of the fenders good as new.
With the fronts of the fenders...
With the fronts of the fenders fixed, Woody's crew turned their attention to the other typical problem area-the lower rear edges. Again, Danchuck came to the rescue with repair panels.
More cutting, welding, grinding,...
More cutting, welding, grinding, body filler, and a trashed fender is ready for service. With the replacement sheetmetal that's available Woody's can bring the sorriest of Tri-Fives back to life.
A few more repairs and the...
A few more repairs and the '55 will be looking good. Over the years the drain holes in the doors plug up, then the combination of dirt and moisture wreaks havoc.
In our case the bottom of...
In our case the bottom of the inner door structure required replacement, so we made one more call to Danchuck. Note the drain holes in the bottom of the replacement panels.
The lower parts of the outer...
The lower parts of the outer doorskins had suffered the ravages of rust and also required repair.
The Danchuck replacement panel...
The Danchuck replacement panel was larger than we needed so it would be trimmed to size.
Trimmed to fit, the patch...
Trimmed to fit, the patch panel was held in place with spacer clamps that left a gap for butt-welding the old and new together.
In a few instances a custom...
In a few instances a custom repair piece is called for-the cure is some new sheetmetal and a plasma cutter.
Woody's fabricated this panel...
Woody's fabricated this panel that fits below the lower corner of the trunk lid and the inside of the quarter-panel-nice work.