Main.TrailIndexPage | Chassis and Body | ChassisBody.Bodywork

Bodywork

This component is part of Chassis and Body.

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Maintenance

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Old Yahoo content

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Anybody have extensive body work done on their SL? I am asking because I noticed a spot on the rear left fender that needs to be fixed. Would you recommend replacing the entire rear fender or just putting a patch on?

A patch is OK, I guess (certainly cheaper), but remember: "Bondo is the work of the Devil." Rust can be hiding everywhere. But, if all you have is a small spot of rust, you might look for a good restoration shop, not just a body shop. A good restoration shop should be able to cut out the offending section and weld in a patch without replacing the entire panel. A small amount of filler is needed to finish it up, but when done right the rust is completely gone and you can't tell it's been patched.

I've replaced every single panel on my car. It's been in the shop for 11 months now with about 8 more to go on a frame up restoration. The rear quarter panels ran about $650 for the right one and $500 for the left one from K&K about a year ago. The labor for one side was about $800. The rear fenders are a bit tricky because they include the door jams. Alignment is key. Be careful what you start! When you remove a fender you may be surprised to find rotted wheelhouses and tailpan. I did. The prices above didn't include the parts or labor for these items.

Body work using a quality plastic filler or two part body putty is not considered a no-no anymore. When properly used these materials can make for a lasting repair. Bondo got a bad name when novices attempted to use it to "sculpt" new fenders using an old T-shirt as a backer on large rusted-through holes. Plastic filler definitely has its place in autobody repair. While lead was the industry standard years ago when the heavier gauge steel was used on body components, some of the newer steels would not hold up so well under the heating. It also my understanding that the leading process does not work very well on the aluminum alloys used on many cars like ours--that leaves two options--design panels that fit together so well they don't require tweaking or use some sort of plastic filler/putty to tweak the final finishied product. I might add even new panels most times have blemishes on them that will show through on the final finish unless they are tweaked with one of these products--it may be something as simple as a surfacer coat which these days with the introduction of catalyzed products are really nothing more than sprayable plastic filler.

From my, rather extensive, (to say the least) experience, I would have the area patched for now by a quality restoration shop. As you say, a paint job is in the future so replace the entire panel if you have to then. K&K sell various patch panels for the rear fenders. A note on body filler. My car is in for a complete frame-up restoration at a quality shop. They have been using lead to bond the joints and finishing it off with a small amount of plastic filler to smooth things out. They then sprayed the entire body with a spray-on filler which coats the entire car about 1 mm thick. This is then fine-sanded smooth. The paint sticks to this finish better than to metal and primer. This process really fills in the small dents and dings on the aluminum panels (doors, trunklid and hood). The Autosurfacer is expensive though. About $130 per gallon. If you were to strip any vehicle down to the bare metal, old or new off the line, you would find some body filler.

After being painted, my car is being reassembled. The doors are on, and I'm noticing that the gap between the front edge of the driver's door and the body is not constant. Specifically, it's wider near the top of the door than it is in the vertical section lower down. How much tolerance should there be for variations?

The fit should be very close and exact. Around 3 or 4 mm. On each pannel there's a number stamped into it. On the hood it's at the back where you lift it. This number is the same as the last three numbers in your serial number and is made to fit your car. The cars were hand-fitted and each one is slightly different. Not a lot different - just a little. When you repannel a car it changes all the original geometry so even your original hood won't fit. That's why an original car is worth more money in most cases. The factory added a bit of lead to finish the corners and gaps. Believe me , these were very smooth and well fitting cars. The magic of body work isn't just a smooth shiny paint job - itís also pannel fit and finish. Hood, doors, and trunk lid should fit perfectly flush with surrounding metal with the same gap all the way around. This is harder to do than it sounds.

How hard is it to remove/replace the rocker panels? This is the black piece below the door, correct? I looked at removing mine to see what lies behind, but couldn't see how to remove them. From what I can barely remember, the stopping point was the chrome strip between the rubber and the carpet and what it took to remove that.

The rocker panel covers are attached by round phillips screws underneath, you need to run your fingers over the rough surface or use a drop light and eyeball the bottom of the panel where it flattens out to the floor(not the curved part), and there should be 2 or 3 screws holding the panel hiding under the lower fender aluminum trim(need to remove), and 1 or 2 behind the rear aluminum trim (also remove), and then open the door all the way and remove the tiny chrome phillips screws holding the aluminum threshold strip in place, and then peel the rubber covering up to expose the joint line between the rocker panel and the sill. On the rocker panel side you will see the flat head phillips screws(unsure of the approx #) and then you need to pry the cover off. There is no need to remove the long aluminum strip on the inner side of the sill(closest to the seat) because it is a tedious job of peeling back the carpet from the groove and removing the kick panel, floor mat and then the aluminum trim.

Star Quality offers screw kits for rocker panels, interior trim and the front grill surround. It's important to remove and clean out behind the rocker panel covers periodically. The rails behind the rocker panel cover offer important structural support and are prone to rust. Dirt gets behind the panel cover, gets wet, stays wet for extended periods and becomes an environment ripe for rust.

Fitting the doors so the gaps are consistent is really tough work, but is very noticeable if it's not done correctly. I'm in the process of refitting mine after a total strip down on a 67 230SL. I did all my filler work prior to fitting the doors. Did not need much, but the door had the normal amount of dings and I had to replace the lower rear portion of each front fender by mig welding in repair sections, so that also needed a small amount of filler. What I found when I refitted the dooors is that the gaps and body contours didn't exactly match up. This now explains why there were small amounts of body putty at several points around the edge of the door before I stripped it. I'm in the process of re-doing the doors while they are mounted--using a guide coat and blending them into the front and rear fender--fortunately they had only been primed and again it is taking only very small amounts of filler and putty to get it right.

I recall reading "somewhere" that on 60's cars, panel edges were sometimes straightened / made to exacter fit by melting tin onto the edges where needed. I suppose then it could be worked / filed etc to fit exactly.

You may be right about the tin, but the doors, hood and trunk lid on these cars are made of aluminum alloy. I've been told--not sure how true this is-- that one of the drawbacks of aluminum is that you can't get regular tin/lead solder to stick to it very well and consequently that's why you may find some plastic filler/putty used to adjust the gaps. Not sure how true this is, but my car was never hit, never "body worked" as far as I know--I've owned it for 26 years now--and I found the slightest amount of filler/putty in those areas where the gaps needed to be slightly adjusted.

You are correct. I have found some areas of a very thin layer of green colored filler on the aluminum panels when I was removing the original paint. But need to add the part where the panels were fitted to each car individually. When they were assembling the bodies for the SL's, they had purposely made the aluminum parts a bit oversized, and then when fitting to the cars they cut them down to make an even gap. So in other words, if you wreck a panel or enchange it for a better one, you lose the original panel gaps and need to file or rebuild the gaps to match. In my case I was fortunate to find a hood that was slighly bigger than the panel gaps would allow, and filed it down to fit. One of my doors is not quite straight as one side(front) the reveals are bigger and the other side(rear) is smaller, will need to play with shims and spacers to get it right. But these doors are heavy and require 2 people to adjust.

Achim says: another problem or reason for unequal gaps in this area is when your front fenders were once replaced in the past. Even when the body shop did a pretty good job (with like original dot welding spots, etc.), this is one of the toughest areas to align properly. It is almost never correct/equal even on very good cars. New trunk lid and engine hood are oversized, however, this is not true for the doors. They have just to be "aligned" by a good experienced craftsman (or very patient enthusiast).

I always thought the doorframes were put on the car and the measurements taken off from them to create the right sized doorskin to fit over the frame. And then when the door was assembled they shaved off a bit to make the gaps even. And yes the fenders are a paint to do. Which explains why the alignment is slightly askew. The small swage line that runs slighly above the door handle from front to back of car is not lined up at the door to front fender junction, thus making it look awful. The entire front end of this car was replaced as it was involved in a severe frontal impact, the transmission punched a hole into the tunnel near the gear selector.

The swage lines you refer to are the problems I'm dealing with right now. I've seen other cars where these things just do not line up either vertically or laterally and they do look horrible. Prior to the strip job on my car, they all lined up fairly well. I found the same greenish blue putty in just those areas and I believe this was done at the factory to custom fit the doors. I've heard others say the factory never used plastic filler, but based upon what I heard about lead solder sticking to aluminum alloy, it would only make sense that they would use something like plastic body putty in very small amounts. As I said in an earlier post, I've owned my car for over 26 years and it was never worked on bodily during the time I owned it. Prior to that it sat in a Dr.'s garage in Rovigo Italy for a number of years as part of an estate deal.

In the experience of the members, how much does it cost to replace rusty floor pans. The car I'm looking at looks like it can get away with replacing just the fronts, but I think I would want to replace both sides completly. I figure this is a time and material job for a bodyshop, but how many hours do you think it should take?

Don Czapski: If you can find a good welding shop, you'll probably save money over using a body shop to replace your floor pans. The job is a sawsall "cut out" and tack weld replacement with the new piece. You can buy the metal pans from K&K in Michigan (616) 784-4286. You can see the parts at their web site www.kkmfg.com and decide which parts you need prior to talking to them on the phone. I have found wide price variation from one welding shop to another, so look around. If the rust holes are not too big, I would recommend letting the shop fabricate small patches for your floor rather than a complete large cut out. While you're at it, look around for other trouble spots needing repair, such as behind the seats and under the storage shelf. It's usually cheaper to have it all done at once rather than piecemeal. If I remember correctly, the front floor is comprised of 2 pieces, one for the floor pan itself, and the other slopes diagonally up towards the firewall. Usually, it is the floor pan that becomes the most seriously damaged. The diagonal piece usually can be repaired with a small cut out near the bottom and a flat piece of sheet metal patch welded in, rather than replace the entire piece. A floor pan is around $100 if you need to replace it. With the carpet and seat removed, it's probably a 1-2 hour job to cut and re-weld.

I've been very impressed with POr-15. Don't buy more than the smallest quantity for your purposes because it doesn't keep well at all. Good surface prep is important and although they say to only remove loose rust, I would grind it off as well as possible with a grinding disk and 60 or 80 grit carborundum paper. After that shoot some quality (3m) "Schutz" material which is close to the original texture.


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