87 Monte SS - What's New

   Saturday 3/2/13 - Driver's Side Door - Blocking Begins

So... with one door successfully modified and sitting on a shelf, it's time to turn my attention to its mate, the driver's side door.  Once again though, family obligations reared their ugly head and I lost a weekend.  If this crap doesn't stop I'm never going to get this thing finished.  At any rate, I'm back on task, working out the surface imperfections of my 26 year old daily driven door skin.  Between parking lot dings, opening the door into obstructions and my own modifications, there's much to be done.

With our trusty 16" blocking board loaded with some 180 grit (and one tensioning rod removed), we were ready to begin the process of block sanding this door.  The nice thing about these long sanding blocks is the way they give you the smooth surface I could never in a million years get back in the day, using my 3M rubber sanding block.  The thing was only about 4 inches long and made of soft pliable rubber.

By using alternating diagonal strokes, I'm able to take off only the body filler that is the highest.  On the flip-side, any place where I am unable to sand the epoxy primer indicates a low spot (the red circled areas), that needs my attention.  In this instance, that means using some body filler to get the surface as level as possible.

In this shot, you can clearly see the glossy primer on the upper door panel where we have not yet sanded.  The lower third of the door now has a flat appearance where it has been sanded, although the low spots are still glossy and in some places we're down to bare steel once again.

In addition to the low spots we discovered on the rear edge of the door, we also discovered one low spot in the bottom center of the outer door skin.  Interestingly, our epoxy primer filled in some of the marks left from removing the nail-shaped studs that dotted the raised center panel of the door.  These were previously used to anchor the plastic clips that held the wide chrome strip in place along the center of the door.

The first door required filler in each spot the factory originally welded the studs to.  This door was obviously made on another assembly line or the same line, but with on a different operator/welder settings.  Or even any combination of factors that resulted in less work for us as we prep this baby for paint.  Just one of those things you notice as you go along.

Actually, far from being the hardest part of the project, you can kind of zone out, with the radio playing in the background it almost becomes theraputical, the mind wanders as muscle memory takes over the repetative motions required.

Once you get the entire door sanded, you can still feel the low spots and other imperfections, but they become almost impossible to see.  This is why we marked off the area we were working on with green masking tape.  Not that we have to fill this entire area with filler, but that this is our work zone and the problem spots that need attention are inside this border.

The primary area in question here is the leading edge of the door, which has some indentations between the factory crimped edge and about 3 inches towards the rear of the door.  Those are the trouble spots that we'll be attending to shortly with the application of a thin coat of filler.

When you're working on a street machine, you kind of have to strike a balance between absolute perfection and practicality.  If this were to be a trailer queen... sure, I'd go for a glass smooth surface no matter what.  But in actuality, I do actually plan on driving this car when I'm done.  Maybe not every day of the week, but I don't want an ulcer worrying about it if I'm in a store or something.

Here's our other major work zone.  Due to the nature of this extreme modification, we're taking extra care to make sure this area IS as perfect as possible, due primarily to its location high up on the car where it can easily be seen and because as a "custom feature" it's designed to attract attention.

When you invite scrutiny, you want to make sure that your work can stand up to it.  Along this line of thinking, we're making absolutely certain to prep the area carefully before we begin applying the various layers of filler necessary to blend everything together as seamlessly as possible.

One technique we've used with good results elsewhere is to make use of a sanding sponge.  The advantage here is that the sponge can be manipulated into various nooks and crannies that we want to rough up to give enough "tooth" for the filler to bite into.

Here's one last shot of the area before we lay down our first layer of fill.  The places where we've worn through the epoxy primer are the actual high spots that will need to be leveled off with the application of our filler.

This is where the various car restoration shows can lure you in with the magic of editing, making it look like all you need is one application of filler and presto!  The job-a she's-a-done!  In the real world, uh, there's a little more to it then just applying a skim coat of filler and making it look like it took 5 minutes to pull off.  Not so in the real world!  Unless of course you are a PRO (aka an AR-TEEST), in which case, maybe you can.

With the door finally prepped to our satisfaction, it's time to mix up a batch of filler.  Since this particular area has been extensively worked, we want to use a product that will lend an additonal amount of strength and durability to the repair.  That means we've got to use something a little bit better than just run of the mill Bondo.

Once again, we turn to Dynaglass, a short-strand fiberglass reinforced product that we've used before.  If you look closely as you're removing the product from the can, you can actually see the strands of fiberglass.  Not only is the product reinforced, but the resin is also much harder to sand and when you go to snap a sample in half, you have to work at it... much more so than you would with simple Bondo.

To keep "drop through" (patent pending) from occuring, we taped off the openings on the inside of the door.  This enabled us to just ladel the stuff on, smoothing it out as best we could with a plastic spreader.  At this stage of the game it almost looks like we've shaved the door handles and are puttying over the patch.  Nope.  The door handle opening is under there... somewhere.

Like most fiberglass fillers, Dynaglass has this waxy coating once it has fully cured.  This stuff will gum up your sandpaper like nobody's business.  The best method is to go after it with a "cheese grater" style of rasp for the initial shaping.  Then, once you've gotten past that waxy coating it's time to break out the traditional sandpaper and return to blocking the area.

Here's a shot of the Dynaglass sanded down until the high spots (shiny bare metal) appeared in the surface.  We used Mr. Dremel (equipped with a router/drill bit) to cut out the general opening in the filler.  Here, I have yet to trim back the filler from the reveal line that you can almost see (click for enlargement) if you look closely at the right hand side of the door handle.

By looking closely at the outline of the reveal line in the steel, I used an X-acto knife to carefully follow the line and trim back the unnecessary filler.  By the time I was finished, I'd completely rounded off the previously surgically sharp blade.  Dynaglass is some pretty tough stuff brother!

After trimming back the filler with the knife, I used some 80 grit scraps of sandpaper to finish cleaning out the reveal ridges.  I've found this is also a good method of sanding down the thumbnail on my right hand (yes I'm a righty) as I worked my way around the opening.  This seems to be my GO-TO method for sanding intricate parts when all else fails.

Afterwards, as I ran my fingers over the filled area, I discovered several low spots that would need to be filled in with another layer of body filler.  For the second layer (and inevitably a couple beyond that), I'll probably turn to the Rage Extreme that I've already used on other parts of the car.  It spreads and sands easier and with the underlying strength of the Dynaglass should make a long lasting repair.

Another day enjoying the multifaceted mental stimulation that is block sanding.  Just kidding.  Once again we started off with the boring, mundane (albeit necessary) process of block sanding the epoxy primer and filler to ensure as smooth/flat a surface as possible.

   Saturday 3/16/13 - More Filler Applied!

Saturday dawned unseasonably warm (March can be a real rollercoaster ride) with predicted highs in the mid to upper 70's, we broke out the body filler, hardener, sandpaper, a couple of sanding blocks, cranked up some oldies on the boom box and jumped right in.

Whether it was the ambient air temperature (doubtful, since the filler had been taken into the house to avoid temperature extremes), or simply the age of the filler (as I'm discovering these products do have a limited shelf life), but this time out the filler was EXTREMELY stiff.

One technique we're using this time out is alternating colored hardener.  Although not apparent in this shot, the two tubes shown are different (one blue and one red), colors to help us see when we reach different layers of filler material as we're sanding.  Since the reinforced Dynaglass is dark green and the regular filler is gold, the products themselves planted the seeds of this idea.

Once again, due to the thickness of the filler, we pulled out the Evercoat Plastik Honey (premium autobody filler thinner), mixing it in thoroughly to make the filler flow more easily.  I was a bit messy in my application, but after having to toss one batch of filler which hardened prematurely, I wanted to get this batch on the door.  I was attempting to eliminate multiple coats of body filler, but we'll still need another batch.

By moving fast, I may not have been the neatest bodyman in history, but I did get a layer laid down in all the appropriate spots.  The temptation was great to keep smoothing out the filler, but previous experience taught me to move fast, smooth 'er out and move on.

So, with all the necessary spots attended to it was time to once again break out the Lacquer Thinner and clean up the mixing board and all the spreaders.  Back in the day, I'd let the bondo cure on the spreaders, then peel it off.  Worked pretty good too, although once you got a few scratches in the spreader you ended up with grooves in your putty.

Once everything had cured, it was time once again to break out the sanding blocks and go over the area and see if all the low spots had been filled in sufficiently.  As you can see in this shot, there's a spot just above the raised ridge will need another coat of body filler.

Click the close up for a better view.  With bare steel to the left, right and beneath the lower area I'm working on, it's painfully obvious that I'm going to need another layer of filler in this spot.  Another trick I'm trying to master is to look at the edges of the filled in area.

When the edges of the filler become transparent it's time to stop sanding.  If you can see a clearly defined edge, you've got more sanding to do.  Unless you're down to bare metal on the surrounding areas like I ran into here.  More filler coming up!

Here's another shot of a low spot in the filler near the door handle opening.  When I'm all through with this pass of block sanding I will take a scrap of 80 grit and rough up these low spots so that the next layer will adhere properly.

The one thing to remember is that in order to achieve proper adhesion between layers, each layer needs enough tooth (roughing up the surface) for the filler to bond to.  Back in my Bondo days, I thought the unsanded surface would provide superior adhesion.

Then again, I'm also the guy who sanded my first car with 80 grit before my buddy sprayed it with a single coat of (Candy Apple Red woo hoo!), enamel paint.  Always could see the scratches on a bright sunny day afterwards... of course I was only 18 at the time... cringe worthy nonetheless.

We attempted to apply a third layer before knocking off for the night, but once again the ratio of hardener to filler was off and the damned stuff cured way too quickly.  A third pass with the spreader proved to be one pass too many and left us with a high ridge and one rather significant gouge left to fill.

This tends to happen to me no matter what I am attempting.  Whether it's downloading a file, answering one last phone call at work, you name it... trying to squeeze in one last thing before knocking off for the day tends to be the kiss of death as far as I'm concerned.

At any rate this is no unfixable tradgedy, we'll mix up another batch of filler and keep rolling right along.

Production fell to a mere 5 hours this time out.  A later than usual start and two stops along the way (one rather lengthy) contributed to the fall off.  What're ya gonna do?  At least some progress was made and forward momentum maintained.