Body Shop Jobs

Doing body work was not my original specialty. I picked up most of what I know by watching “old-timers” in action. I’ve converted most of what I learned into practical experience by working on my own cars as well as my friend’s cars. When I applied for the ASE certification as a Master Body & Fenderman, they accepted my personal jobs as my 2 years experience.

The test of a good bodyman is the quality of his work. Not only must he make the car safe and correct for operation, a good bodyman should NOT leave any tell-tale signs that he was there. Here are some modest examples:

Pat’s Toyota – Ever seen the damage that the front lug nuts on an 18 wheeler can do to a 1/4 panel? Yeah, fixed that.

’69 Charger from the ranch – When I first moved to Sacramento, we rented an old farm house that also included several other buildings. Inside the “shop” was a ’69 Charger that the previous renter had started doing body work on for the car’s owner. Since I was taking over that shop, the owner stopped by to retrieve his car. I asked him where he was going to take it and who was going to complete the work, and he truthfully did not know. So I offered to finish the job and that’s how I got my first side job in NoCal….

Kevin B’s ’70 Charger – My buddy got a screaming deal on this Charger R/T shell. He wanted me to fix the rust damage, so I started on the back end. Then he changed his mind and sold the car.

Fred’s daughter’s ’99 Toyota – Fred’s daughter mashed up her daily driver. The estimate to fix it was about $6K, but since she had loaned her car to a girl she knew (who was the driver in this accident), her insurance would not cover it. Fred started to take it apart, but quickly found himself beyond his skill set. Originally I wanted the car as a daily driver for my wife, so I bought it as-is for $1,000. I fixed the car with about $800 in parts. When it was completed, Fred asked if he could buy it back because his daughter did not have another car yet. I agreed, so Fred gave me my money back, plus paid me for the parts and I charged another $1,000 for labor. Her insurance company could not believe the car was fixed (correctly) for that price, so they required her to have it inspected by them. The car passed the inspection, her insurance was reinstated, then a few weeks later, she got rear-ended. I declined working on it that time.

Richard’s ’70 Challenger convertible – This car was one that I worked on for my friend Richard, on and off, for what had to have been at least a decade. An original slant 6 car, it had been wrecked and half-assed repaired when Richard bought it. Lots of rust underneath, especially in the rocker areas. It came with me during several moves from one house to another.

Then the time came to finally paint it. We opted for an “affordable” brand of paint, but that back fired in a way I had never seen before, nor since. The paint was thick, rubbery and had no shine. The paint supplier was nice enough to refund my money for the paint, mostly because I brought it all back to him, in a garbage bag.

So I stripped all the paint back off, prepped it again, and got some better paint. I thought a gallon would be enough to do the car, but I ran a little short when I got to the inside of the trunk. I went back to the paint store and guess what – that shade of yellow has 5 different pigments, 3 of those were on the federal no-lead list, and they had been used up mixing the first gallon. So the last quart was a custom hand-mix that took an entire day to perfect.

Delivered the car back to Richard and it sat for another number of years before any assembly progress was made. But that’s another story….

The Duck-ota – This was one of my personal cars. CLICK HERE to read about it.

Fred’s ’49 Studebaker truck (the first time) – Fred built this truck mostly from scrap while he tinkered at Elk Grove Auto Dismantling. The engine, trans, front subframe and differential were from a ’74 Camaro. While Fred & family went to Hawaii for a week’s vacation, I decided to give it some color.

Cuda Bob’s ’65 Barracuda – Bob had owned this car since it was 6 months old, and they had both been through the wringer over the years. It was looking quite sad, so the time came for a complete overhaul.

Mike’s ’70 Dart Swinger – This car had been decent looking, though it had been repainted many years ago.

It had been someone else’s parts car when Mike S. bought it. A legit 340 car, but it was Root Beer Brown and had been hit in the right rear corner. A quick trip to the frame shop, then some panel work. I got it into primer and painted the jambs but Mike wanted the outside painted in a booth; so that’s how he picked it up.

Mike would later send me some pics of the car completed. He said he had overpaid for the rest of the work. C’est la vie, right….?

Tony’s ’66 Lemans – I did this car for the son-in-law of the owner of Sacramento Raceway. It needed one 1/4 panel, some light rust repair and body work, plus he wanted the tail light panel swapped out for one from a GTO. He also wanted a big honkin’ hood scoop and the car painted in House of Colors Apple Green.

Don’s ’69 Charger R/T – This car that was disassembled by another shop, then they went out of business. A mutual friend had told the owner “If there’s one person in the world that can reassemble that Rubik’s cube you call a car, it’s Bill“. I drove out to San Jose, looked at the car, then e-mailed the owner that night with an estimate to fix all of the rust, do the body work and paint it. He simply replied “When can you start?“. A luck would have it, I was just finishing up the previous project, so that weekend he brought the car over.

After finishing the body work, the owner asked if I could do the reassembly of the car. I said I could, but there was no way to give a “flat rate”; it would just have to be time & materials.

Chris G’s ’70 Challenger – This was another friend-of-a-friend’s car. He was in he Marines and was getting ready to ship overseas for about a year. Our mutual friend was already building a new engine for this car, so I suggested I do the body work while he was out on deployment. Needless to say, he had a nice surprise when he returned.

10 years later, I get a message out of the blue, saying the car still looks great and turns heads everywhere it goes.

Curtis C’s Harley Gas Tank – One of my co-workers had a Harley gas tank that was damaged. I offered to fix it for him and even though it was tougher than it looked, it still came out OK. I made a jig to hold the tank while I tried to pull the dent out. I ended up cutting out the dent, straightening it, then welding it back on.

I painted it and this was one of the first “Reflections of a Part-Time Painter” images that I took.

Chris G’s ’65 VW Notchback – My middle step-son bought this car with several layers of “school bus yellow” over top of the original color, that can only be described as “an industrial shade of something grey-ish”. It needed only minor body work and after it was done, I gave him the keys and said “Happy birthday”.

Lots of good reflections on this one too…..

Chris F’s Cobra kit car – Another co-worker had a Cobra kit car that he had completed all of the mechanical work, but did not know anything about body work. He was actually driving it around as a rough, as-cast shell. And that’s where I came in. He picked a “Midnight Blue” that I honestly thought was black until the day I rolled it out into the sun shine.

Mike A’s ’70 Duster – This was a very nice car to begin with. Mike took it to the local shows, as well as the local race track; and it got everyone’s attention wherever it went. He said the body was a good “20 footer” and he wanted it to be better. I replaced the tail lamp panel (previous accident), made the scoop functional, cleaned up the rest of the body, then primed it. Mike had it painted elsewhere.

Tom S’s ’71 Barracuda – Tom bought this car as a complete, running, driving car; then immediately started taking it apart. The shop that he was using gave up, and that’s when a mutual friend of ours suggested I look at the car. I told Tom that I was willing and able, but this was no small task. It had some rust showing and after it came back from the sand blaster, there were gaping holes in the body, thus I nick-named the car “Swiss Cheese”. The rust repair & body work took 12 months and over 200 hours just in welding. The car had previously been sectioned from the firewall forward, along with one replacement door, the decklid and both 1/4 panels. I ended up replacing all 5 of the floor boards, 2 cross members, the tail light panel, the right rear frame rail, the rear window filler panel, and numerous other small patches. I actually built my rotisserie specifically to fit this car in my garage. I finished the body work and gave the car back, ready to go into a paint booth. It would take another 2 years before it was painted. Then Tom started asking if I could od the assembly. of the car, with a few “minor changes” to the drivetrain. But that’s another story….

The Deer-tona – This was my personal car and it was looking pretty sad. CLICK HERE to read the story of that car.

The story of More Body Shop Jobs continues here; but remember, even the best of body men just can’t fix everything……


About hemibill

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