So I’m having to repair this deck lid because there aren’t any deck lids available, or at least any metal deck lids. Chevys of the ‘40s offer a fiber glass one but this customer wants metal. You know some customers are different, some will play off the fiber glass. Sometimes you can look for used deck lids and I put my feelers out there and I could not find any used deck lids for this ‘41 Chevy. The problem is the ‘41 Chevy is the only year that those deck lids would fit, especially for the sedans. From ‘42 to ‘48 they’re all interchangeable. So that narrows the options a lot .We’ve got a vehicle that doesn’t offer this deck lid as a match for any other year.
The best way to start this process is to take the deck lid off and strip it all the way down to metal, so there’s maybe 65–70 years worth of body work, bondo, paint, etc. I strip all the metal off inside and outside. From that point we’re going to depick the skin from the frame and there’s special tools out there for that. You can find them through Eastwood and different speciality companies like VIMTools. These guys carry specialty equipment where you can go back and pull things apart without damaging them too badly. Next I drilled the spot welds out then depicked it with a depick tool to roll that edge back out. I take my time on this. I don’t try to get into it too hard because these panels are 70 years old and they’re going to be brittle and have rust in them. If you’re too rough you’re going to have to go back and repair them.
The process I used takes a little bit of time so you’ve got to be patient with it. After removing the skin from the frame, I hammer it out roughly with a hammer and dolly. Use a sand bag if you need to. Try not to stretch the metal too much. Just try to rough it into its shape because metal does have memory. I used a selection of Martin Hammer tools and dollys. If you guys aren’t familiar with Martin Hammers go to their site at www.martinsprocket.com. They’ve been around for years and even have books that tell you how to hammer and dolly and show you different techniques. They have a variety of hammers, a variety of dollys, spoons, you name it—they have it. Their tools will help you to get through a process like this.
I’m going to start with the frame, and hammer it out to get it as close as I can. Then I’m going to take it back to the vehicle, bolt it on, and make sure I’ve got that frame fit as best as it can. I’ll make my adjustments as needed. Then get the latch on it now to make sure it latches, because then I can see everything without having to skin everything. I spend a little bit of time reinforcing, welding, and repairing which will pay off in the end.
After that’s completed I drill two 1/8th-inch holes in the left and right hinge so I know that this structure will go back exactly where it needs to go. I don’t want to spend a half-hour to maybe 2 hours trying to adjust it and get it back where it was. Now to reinstall it I insert two 1/8th inch dowel pins in there, put your 3 bolts on each side, tighten them, and you’re right back where you were. I call it a mock up.
I’m back on to the skin now. I’ll hammer and dolly it, slapstick it a little bit, get it as close as I can. I’m going to go use the English Wheel to try to even out the metal. You want to do this as a slow process because you don’t want to stretch the metal, you just want to get it back to where it was. You want to make sure all your high and low damage spots are mostly gone. Start working from one end to the other with the English Wheel, roll it, tighten it a little bit, go back through the same process again, roll it some more, make sure you’re not putting too much pressure on. All you want to do is just even it out, and the panel should take its shape back. You want to use the flat side of the English Wheel, the flattest wheel you can get, the ones without any radiuses on them. A slight radius basically. So it’s a back and forth motion, the more you use the English Wheel the more you’ll get comfortable with it. Just another tool. Woodward is a sponsor of mine, so check out www.woodwardfab.com. They have affordable tools from hammers to English Wheels to shears. All their stuff is affordable. They have 36-inch throats or 24-inch throats on the English Wheel. You can make that work until you start stepping it up and doing bigger panels like roofs and bigger fenders on bigger cars. You can then upgrade to something else.
After I’ve spent about an hour and a half using the English Wheel, I’ll pull the skin out, lay it on the structure that’s bolted to the car. This way it’s easier for me to see how it’s going to fit. Then I clamp it up, but not too much pressure with the clamp because too much pressure will bow the structure and it could twist on you. When it’s sitting right without too much pressure on the clamps you can remove it from the car and set it up. The next step is like putting on a regular door skin. We’re going to roll it back. Some pieces break off on the edges just because it’s been brittle so save those smaller pieces. I found some cracks where I need to roll it. I do the next step with a TIG welder. Some people use a torch. I don’t have a flame, but I TIG those areas where it allows me to roll that edge over to the frame. Then I can take the pieces that broke off, clamp them there and TIG them back on. Then hammer and dolly the welds flat. With a TIG welder you don’t have a lot of build up as long as you get your settings right.
I don’t weld it in place because I might have to shift the skin around a little bit. I reattach the deck lid to the hinges, set it down, check the gaps to get them right, and do whatever alignments I have to do to massage the skin connected to the frame. Then I put the latch in to make sure the handle fits. The handle has an alignment part where it has to go through a hole, so I make sure that’s centered and shut. Then I can massage it a little more with the hammer to get it closer to fitting perfect.
Now I go outside of the deck lid and find the low and high spots, mark them out and work from there. I can pull some of the low spots out, even out your high spots and then you can start filing at that point. I’m thinking now how far I want to take it and remember, we all need to make sure we get paid for our time.
I’ll put a skim coat of Bondo™ on it, shape it, and try to keep that Bondo™ under an 1/8th inch. Going for 1/16th inch would be better, 1/8th inch at the max. Spend a little more time, use a uni-spotter, nail gun, pull out those lows, if you have to heat a little bit, then heat it and shrink it, keep that metal tight.
I may have to split some panels if some work has been done before on the back. Not a surprise. This car’s been around for awhile. I can split the panels, get the gap a little better. Mock up is key, before you even start shaping. Once I have the gaps I’m pretty much home home free.
Then it’s left to primer block, mask and blast, you’re ready to go. So those are a few little tips for the process I use. Metal finishing versus taking the easy route and just putting a fiberglass deck lid on. Take some time. Learn and work the metal. It’s all about seat time, that’s how you’re just going to better yourself. My daily focus is to get up every morning and learn something new and try to better myself, it’s all I can do.
That’s basically how I run my day in a nutshell. You have to love what you do, and I love what I do. Anyone else working on these ‘40s might want to look up a company called Chevs of the 40s. They’ve got at least an inch thick catalog. Visit them at www.chevsofthe40s.com. They’ll give you a free catalog. They’ve got parts that I wouldn’t have even known they had.
Often I’ll come across a project where I have to reach out and spend a little time on the computer. Check with friends and find out where they’re getting parts or if they’ve worked on these types of cars. I even went to Gene Winfield to see if he had any contacts on digging up a deck lid and all the way back to South Dakota to where my brother lives to see if he knew about any deck lids. I must have spent about two days searching for a deck lid and with those two days I have pretty much knocked out this deck lid. I’ve got about 19 hours into the whole process and, again, I want everyone to make sure they get paid for that. If it’s an insurance job, make sure you get paid for metal time, for fabrication time, all of the above because it is a learned skill and it does take time as well as taking us away from other projects. Cross your T’s dot your i’s, be smart about it, have fun with it. At the end of this build, we’re going to add a little two-tone, put the color back on it while it has its down time.
The owner wanted to do a few alterations and that’s what make it fun. With this project I also found a lot of problems, the striker used house screws to hold it on, the lower bumper filler had about 50 self-tapping screws. I welded all the holes and put nut inserts on and marked them out evenly. It just makes for a cleaner job. You’re not getting paid for this, but you’re practicing to get better, and that’s what we should all do every day. When I see something wrong, I just take the time and fix it. Do what it takes to make the job better than when it came in and fix other people’s problems that they overlooked. That makes you a better tech and keep on going guys. Better yourselves.
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Talk to you guys next month.