Captainkirk's Duster project
OK; twist my arm! It's cold, rainy and damp out in Dusterland tonight so I'll continue......
It was obvious the hood was FUBAR'd so off it came. The deck lid (trunk) was rusted through along the bottom edge, so off with it's head as well. The front fenders, while both damaged, looked repairable, so I pulled them both off and began the tedious job of pounding out the dents as best I could and body grinding/applying body filler. I was fairly new to the whole filler thing and butched it up a couple of times until my good friend Mike, a recent grad of Wyoming Tech (body & fender) showed me the magic trick of globbing on the filler and shaping it before it hardened completely with a Surform file, instead of worrying about trying to shape it with the rubber spatula-thingy. This really stepped up production...you could be a complete buffoon and still get it right. (not that I'm admitting to being a buffoon, mind you! In fact, I can't even tell you what a buffoon might look like; perhaps a cross between a bassoon and a baboon? Or a buffer and a raccoon? I don't know.) Meanwhile, I was scavenging through all the local boneyards and finally scrounged up a faded metallic-blue Demon deck lid, an orange Duster hood, and a rust-free quarter panel off a vinyl-topped Gold Duster. The quarter was an interesting piece of work; the yard just cut the whole section off with a SawzAll and gave me the whole chunk! Sort of like hacking off a chunk of cheese with your pocket knife. I managed to scrounge up a couple of good hood hinges as well.
The original rear quarters had some small rust holes back behind the rear wheels. I glassed and filled the ones on the right quarter, the left side didn't concern me because of the Gold Duster quarter.
It really didn't take all that long to get the deck lid, new hood and hinges, and front fenders back on. Now the quarter; that was a horse of a different color (no, really, it was gold!) With Mike showing me what to do, (more importantly, what NOT to do) we drilled out the spot welds around the trunk, rear panel and door jamb. We chewed up more than a few 1/4 inch drill bits; those welds were tough! Then we took an air chisel, found the leaded seam where the roof joins the quarter, and let 'er rip. After peeling away the quarter skin there was this split-second of regret of "Oh, man...what the heck did we just do?" ( Notice how I use the word "we" here)Well, too late now to turn back. So we did the same thing to the mangled corpse from the Gold Duster. Once we peeled off the vinyl top and removed the glue, we trimmed the roofline panels to overlap. On the Gold Duster doner panel, I just heated up the roof joint with a propane torch and melted the lead filler right out of there, and the two panels just separated like a couple of tired Legos. After a dozen or so mock-ups, edge trimmings, etc I finally felt the quarter fit like I wanted, so we drilled a couple of "strategically-placed" 1/8" holes and secured it in place with a few pop-rivets. Then we began the tedious task of filling each one of the spot weld holes we'd drilled out with a welding torch and brazing rod. Of course, the holes in the new quarter didn't line up with the holes in the old structure; this is exactly what we wanted. The actual install time for the quarter, once we passed the "Oh man, what did we just do?" barrier was surprisingly quick.
The hardest part for me was blending the roofline with the quarter. We chose to use filler instead of lead; it was easier to manage, (hot molten lead runs down-hill; duh!) but I must have done that seam at least 10 times before I was satisfied. I remember dispairing over it; feeling like I'd never get it right. I'll clue you in right now; I'm a hopeless perfectionist who can't stand shoddy workmanship and I wasn't any different back then. After much hair-pulling and many do-overs, I finally got it to where I was satisfied. One neat trick I learned; the pop-rivets we'd used to secure the new quarter, of course, protruded. We simply backed up the pop-rivet with a socket on a breaker bar and smacked the pop rivet with the business end (round side) of a ball peen hammer until we'd dented it down below surface level, the filled it in with body filler.
Next I began the nasty job of scraping and wire-wheeling the underside of the car. Once I got all the undercoating and rust off, I zinc-chromated the entire underside and then recoated it with undercoating. All the rear suspension parts got de-greased, wire wheeled, then got a couple coats of white Rust-Oleum, including the rear end, drive shaft, springs, shackles and shocks. The gas tank came out and got undercoated as well, along with the hanger brackets. Rust was not going to be an issue here. (Not that it mattered; as you'll see later)
The engine bay and K-frame were in pretty good shape; remember, this car was only three years old at the time. I rattle-canned the engine bay with Tor-Red touch-up paint and repainted the K-frame and front suspension parts with black Rust-Oleum as original. Things were really starting to shape up.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch........