Body Work - Part 2

By: Patrick Smith
Automotive Wisdom through the Ages

We left off last time with the 1980 SE trans am entering the body shop for a complete make over. The original paint was heat checked and worn. The interior had seen better days. Our teardown revealed some rust in the rear wheel well areas behind the fender spats, a rusty trunk lid, and little bit of nibbling on the top of one fender. Not bad at all for an Ontario car. We start with sheet metal removal of rusted areas and patch panel fabrications for the fender spat areas.

The panels were welded in place with arc welder, then ground smooth to remove any rough spots. The areas were touched with a thin layer of filler before color sanding. The biggest job by far had to have been the driver side lower rear quarter. The body man removed all the old filler and pulled out the panel, then straightened as best as he could before putting on a thin layer of filler. The doors, hood and front fenders came off and were treated separately with paint removal, metal prep, sanding and primer. Iíve just encapsulated about two weeks of body work. It doesnít do justice to the body menís craft. I canít begin to accurately this art skill, anyway.
One thing I learned from it is to avoid using light primer on a black car. We used something that was light yellow when dry and any little chip will show a bright spot underneath. I shouldíve asked for grey primer. The entire car was block sanded, checked for high and low spots and redone until it was ready for primer. It took all Saturday to shoot it in yellow. It dried over the weekend.

Next week, the men started doing the car while smaller pieces such as the hood, doors, nose and rear spoilers were sprayed separately. They used an air dry base/clear finish. It produced a brilliant finish but it takes time for the catalyst to burn off. I didnít apply decals for a month afterwards because I could smell solvents after driving the car. You want the paint to be totally cured before applying decals or something called ďdiebackĒ will ruin your decals. The trapped gas will burn the decal from underneath and mar it.
I added a new trunk lid from Cross Canada. I regret doing that move. The trunk lid isnít identical in measurement to an original piece and lining up the spoilers was impossible. Somehow, the trunk lid is just a little off in measurement and you either have to move the lid too far inboard or keep the lid correctly proportioned and live with misaligned spoilers. You are best off using a factory original trunk lid.

The car was sprayed black and the paint finish was excellent. That part turned out perfectly. No wet sanding or buffing required. It was just great. Weíll get into some of the fun stuff next time such as weather strip installation and decals. I learned a lot from this car and will hopefully make the next Trans Am a better project.