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Frame Off Restoration - Step 10 - Restoring the outer body shell (hood, fenders, trunk/boot lid, etc.) of a vehicle.


All cars, whether they are the latest and greatest or something from the dawn of the automotive era, have external body panels of some sort that are attached to the body/chassis. Now the amount of removeable panels varies from car to car. Additionally, the way that they are attached differs as well. They may be bolted, riveted or welded in place.

For comparative purposes, nearly the entire exterior of an Austin Healey 3000 may be removed by removing the bolts that hold it all in place. On a Jensen Healey, you need to remove bolts as well as rivets. On my wife's Corolla, there are spot welds that need to be removed to get the outer body panels off.

Before you get into this, you need to decide who's doing the body work: you or a body shop. If it's the former, follow my instructions. If it's the latter, find a good body shop and then ask them specifically what you can do to offset the costs that may be incurred otherwise. That way, you and your body shop will be on the same page, you can do the grunt work, and they can do the detailed work.

Hood/Bonnet and Trunk/Boot Lid

These two parts are the easiest to remove from any vehicle. Most of the time they are attached to the car by some sort of latch and at least one, normally two hinges. Now, before you go tearing into things, take many, many pictures of what you're planning on taking apart. This is imperative for ensuring good body fit afterwards. Now, many folks disagree with me on this part of the process, but I'm firmly convinced through my experiences that you're best off removing one part at a time, knocking out any dents, sandblasting and priming it. I start with the trunk/boot lid, then the hood/bonnet. The goal, then done with the removal, repair and priming, is having a properly shaped and fitted part.

Many of the intrinsics of panel beating are far outside of the scope of this article. Rather than go into massive amounts of detail, I would recommend one of my favorite books on the subject:

Next step are the fenders. Now, one might think you'd go straight for the doors, but on many cars they are part of the chassis structure, and in some cases a significant amount. To keep body sag from occurring you want to wait on the doors. Follow the same overall process for the fenders (front and rear). as well as any front or rear valances that are removeable.

Remember that for each part you remove they need to have the body panels fully repaired, primed and refitted. Then, once all these panels are all set, wrap them in blankets and store them carefully away. By the time you're done you should have the primary chassis, engine, suspension and/or frame left.

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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

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