The Shop Truck

T. Assembly Complete - The Finished Shop Truck

posted Nov 23, 2015, 1:24 PM by Dane Belden   [ updated Dec 6, 2015, 7:04 AM ]

The glass installation went off without a hitch and the fenders and front bumper cooperated as well.  The hood was a bit of a challenge which began with a bent hinge mounting boss.  After this was detected the hood was taken off and the hinge was straightened.  Back on and after a few hours of adjusting it is very close.  Over the next few days it will be tweaked to get the panel fit right on.  Until some better photos can be taken, here are some shots of the finished project.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering

Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering


Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering

And as a reminder, this is how it started
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering

S. Paint Complete, The Reassembly Begins

posted Nov 15, 2015, 6:05 AM by Dane Belden   [ updated Nov 15, 2016, 11:53 AM ]

The reward for painting the car is always the reassembly stage where you can really see the reward of the work an preparation.  The hours of preparation, wet sanding and then buffing really pay off.  To review, the entire body was media blasted to remove the 4 layers of paint and to do this the fenders, doors and tailgate were removed.  Each component was then prepared and painted, so there is quite a bit of reassembly in this case.

The first panels put on the Shop Truck were the doors.  Because the hinges were rebuilt, the process was basically begun from scratch.  Keep in mind that there is quite a bit of hinge adjustment - front to back, top to bottom and in and out.  Because the fenders are put on after the doors are hung, the alignment begins by adjusting the door to quarter panel fit along with the door to rocker fit. Once these lines are parallel then you begin the in and out adjustment to get the body panels to match as close as possible.  There will likely be additional adjustment required once the front fenders are on, so be prepared to revisit this area.  This process took about 4 hours and really takes two people.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering
It is difficult to photograph the gap at this stage because the striker and latch are not on the car and it has new weatherstripping on the door, so the door won't close and stay in the opening, but the photo above shows the result.  Also keep in mind that the quarter panels were welded on the car with the doors on to ensure good body line fit once reassembled.

The tailgate was then assembled and installed.  This process was much more straightforward.  Here you do need to have the back corner bed molding installed to establish the correct height of the tailgate on each corner.  There is no gap adjustment for the tailgate - you basically get what the El Camino was born with from the factory if you didn't replace your entire inner bed (which we didn't).
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & EngineeringDane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering

Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering
You will notice that all of the chrome bed trim has been installed in these photographs.  This is a fairly involved process if you have replaced your quarter panels and back bed panel as was done here.  The corner moldings need to all be re-established as does the horizontal trim that run under the back window.  This took the better part of a day to do on this El Camino.  Here you need to be overly careful not to scratch the paint as it can happen quickly as it did with us.  We ended up with a scrape the size of a grain of rice which will have to be blended - a process we will undertake once everything is re-assembled and the risk of more "mistakes" is gone.  

Also installed with the tailgate were new tailgate straps and springs as well as the body to bumper seal - the originals were very dried up and cracking, so out with the old and in with the new.  Most of the original chrome trim was installed with the exception of the 2 horizontal pieces under the window and on the cap of the tailgate - these were NOS GM parts.  There is a great deal of "chatter" about the poor fit of reproduction bed chrome, so it was decided to use NOS GM metal.  As difficult as it can be to put the bed trim on it isn't clear that there really is an issue with reproduction trim not fitting well, or it is just the trim in general is finicky.

The rear bumper as well as the front fenders were put on today and the final gaps set, that is until the hood goes on.  It could be that the radiator core support will need to be moved some for a good fit of the hood which may necessitate more tweaking of the gaps at the door.  Nonetheless, all is well thus far.  The door internals were put back and the latches and strikers are set so now the weather strip can be properly compressed allowing for final panel alignment.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering



The speakers were sent out to get re-coned and were installed along with the dashpad.  The next step will be the installation of a new windshield and rear window which will be coming up!

R. Bodywork Complete - Time For Some Paint

posted Nov 2, 2015, 6:11 AM by Dane Belden   [ updated Nov 18, 2015, 8:14 PM ]

This El Camino  came from the factory painted in Tuxedo Black on both upper and lower panels and with a black interior it is known as "Triple Black" and quite striking - at least when new!  The goal of the work on the Shop Truck is to restore it as faithfully as possible to the condition as it came from the factory, so a 2K basecoat clearcoat Urethane paint in Tuxedo Black is being applied.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
To do the work a temporary spray booth was designed and constructed in one of the shop bays.  A 1,600 cfm fan was sized so that that air would be exchanged in the booth every 90 seconds.  The booth approximates a downdraft by having the inlet air filter high and to the back of the booth with the fan being low at the front of the booth.  It worked quite well with dust almost non-existent and any overspray was gently removed from the atmosphere.  Given the booth size, painting is being done in 2 batches - as the pictures show the first is the components that were removed from the truck.

The process is to first seal the 2K Urethane primer with Sealer and then paint the Tuxedo Black basecoat over that.  Here is a shot of the parts after Sealing and Basecoat was applied.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
Once cured (about 35 minutes per coat), the clearcoat was applied to the parts after tacking them off.  There were two coats of Sealer, two coats of Tuxcedo Basecoat and three coats of clear applied in total.  Here the parts are after the final clearcoat.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
While it would be wonderful for the paint to be complete, but now the task of wet sanding and buffing the parts had to be taken on.  With the paint system used the manufacturer strongly recommends sanding and buffing within 48 hours (after waiting 24 hours) as the cross linking of the Urethane begins to make it difficult to achieve a good result otherwise, so before the painting of the body, work got underway with getting the parts finished.  It is labor-intensive as you first block with 1,500 wet sandpaper, then move to 3,000 grit.  Once the surface is level, then the 3M Perfect-It compounding and buffing system was used with an electric buffer. It is amazing just how trans-formative the process is!  Here is a fender after sanding, but before buffing:

Fender After 3,000 Grit Sanding - Before Buffing


Here is the same fender after buffing:

Fender After Buffing


Now that all the parts have been cut and buffed, the Shop Truck body is in the booth and will be sprayed in the next few days - stay tuned!
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering

Well the El Camino is now all one color.  The first order of business was to paint and clear the bed to minimize the risk of leaning into wet paint trying to cover the entire body.  To do that the doors, windows and front end were masked.  Then the entire car except the bed was masked.  The final steps before paint were to wipe down with grease remover and then tack.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering
After Sealer, Basecoat and Clearcoat here is the result.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering

After 24 hours the bed was then masked off and the rest of the body painted with the same process - here it is after the basecoat was applied:
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering
And the final result after Clearcoat and the spray booth partially disassembled - It's all one color just as it left the factory in November of 1969.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering
With the paint work complete, the next step is to wet sand it to 3000 grit, starting first with 1500.  This is done mainly by hand, however the 3000 step is done with a DA sander.  It took about 9 hours to sand the body, but here it is after the 3000 step, ready for the compounding and buffing steps.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering
Note that the surface is a bit hazy, but it is now very flat and when viewed from a shallow angle the finish is a bit easier to see.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering
With the sanding complete buffing began using 3M's Perfect-It system.  This system is easy to use and works very well and fast.  The three step system begins with a compounding step followed by Machine Finishing and finally Micro Polishing step.  This process took about 2 1/2 hours to complete and the results are very good as you can see the the sail panel reflection.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering


The cutting and buffing is now complete for the entire Shop Truck marking the end of the painting phase.  Assembly can now commence!
Dane Belden, Belden Speed, Belden Speed & Engineering



Q. Off With The Old... Media Blasting & On With New New... Priming

posted Oct 11, 2015, 6:01 PM by Dane Belden   [ updated Nov 18, 2015, 8:09 PM ]

After looking a bit closer, this El Camino has had three repaints in its life.  The original paint was the base for the three repaints that followed, so there was a lot of paint to remove.  It was a pleasant surprise that while there was some filler, the majority was in the passenger side quarter that was removed, so getting to bare metal was fairly straightforward.  A Bad Boy Pot Blaster was used along with crushed glass for the media.  Because the El Camino has new quarter panels and fenders, the paint removal was in the bed, roof, rockers, tailgate, hood and doors.  It took 300 pounds of crushed glass and about 15 hours of blast time.  Special thanks to my good friend Randy for manning the blast nozzle for much of the fun!
Dane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden Speed
Dane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden Speed
With the metal exposed, the next step was to etch prime the bare metal.  The quarters and fenders were left in the original factory GM primer and the scuffed for the entire body to be primed with 2K Urethane primer / surfacer (2 coats).
Dane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden Speed

Dane Belden, Belden Speed











P. Leading the Roof / Sail Panel Seam

posted Sep 29, 2015, 10:50 AM by Dane Belden   [ updated Aug 20, 2016, 10:14 AM ]

The joint between the roof and sail panel is a seam that sees quite a bit of stress and the factory used lead to fill the valley as it provided a flexible filler while also adhering very well to the steel panels.  With the paint cleaned off this area, it is hard to tell just where the lead begins and the steel ends.  When you look at it from different angles you can see it rather easily.  Before the quarter panel was cut off, the lead needed to be removed because the cut line was going to be near the factory welds of the quarter panel to the B-pillar structure.  To remove the lead you simply use a propane torch and a wire brush.  It comes out without much effort, but be careful not to overheat the steel as it can warp the panel.  Once you get the majority of the lead out you can then go over the entire area with a wire wheel to clean it good.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
The old quarter panel was cut off just below the roof edge and the new quarter was butt welded to the part that remained of the original quarter panel.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
The area was then wire wheeled and scuffed with 80 grit to provide a clean surface for the tinning compound.  The area needs to be completely free of organic material, so take plenty of time in this process.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
You then need to tin the area that you plan to lead, here you want to put tinning compound on an area that will exceed the area that you plan to lead.  With you torch heat up the tinning compound until it melts and turns shiny.  Then wipe the area with a clean rag (cotton) so that it is shiny.  You will want to remove the brown material that is developed in the tinning compound while it is molten.  Once tinned, use 70%-30% solder (from Johnson Manufacturing) to fill the seams.  You first apply it to the panel - mound it up and once it has solidified come back and reheat to paddle it in.
Dane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden Speed
Next step is to use a body file to level the lead and then skim with filler if needed.  Beware of lead dust when you are sanding and filing - it is very dangerous and will harm you.  Always were the proper respirator and have good air flow at all times with working the leaded area.

Here are the seams after filing the lead and etch priming.  Next step in media blasting the truck and various parts and prime with 2K primer and then doing the finishing bodywork and blocking can begin!
Dane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden Speed
And here are the sail panel areas after paint, cut and buff

Dane Belden, Belden Speed & Engineering, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden Speed & Engineering, Belden Speed, El Camino SS, Sail Panel










O. Cowl Rust Repair - The Final Frontier

posted Sep 26, 2015, 6:15 AM by Dane Belden   [ updated Jul 26, 2016, 8:15 PM ]

The Shop Truck is 45 years old and it obviously spent a good deal of its like outside and if there was some rust in the back glass channel, so why wouldn't there be some in the windshield channel?  At first glance everything looks really nice.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
After you remove the stainless steel wiper trim the story gets a bit more interesting.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
Now like many, we could just put the stainless steel trim back on and move on, but that isn't the right answer and if this is going to be the Belden Speed & Engineering shop truck then it has to be made right.  So the first step is to remove the windshield.  This appears to be an older replacement windshield as there is no date code evident.  It has a number of large chips as well as wiper scoring, so a new windshield will be put in  its place.  That said, we took our time to remove it in one piece.  To do so the "sawing" method was used.  Here a piece of .025" MIG wire was poked through the sealer between the window and channel on the inside and holding each end with a screw driver handle the sealer was cut using a sawing motion.  After about a half hour the window was out in one piece.  Some good news is that the roof section and pillars are rust-free so that will save some work for sure.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
Upon closer inspection the cowl top needs to be replaced , but the cowl pan under it just has some rust through along the top edge which has been cut out and new metal welded in place.  Thankfully the windshield panel that spans across the top of the cowl has not rusted through and can be saved.  This is the piece that the VIN tag is attached to and legally cannot be altered.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
Dane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden Speed
Here is a shot of the cowl top mocked up during a trial fit (the red primer is weld through primer).  Once the pan is painted the proper low gloss black (as it came from the factory) the cowl top can be welded back on to the cowl pan and then the windshield panel welded to the the A pillars as well as the cowl top.  The assembly will be seam sealed and the rust will be gone and the repair will be done correctly.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
With the planned preparation and pan painting here is the cowl welded on without the cowl shoulders yet attached:
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
And with the shoulders welded in place - all that is left to do is to epoxy prime the areas where seam sealer will be applied and the seam seal it in preparation for the final under hood painting process.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
So here is the before and after:
Dane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden Speed
And now the final version after seam sealing and paint:
Dane Belden, Belden Speed











N. Quarters and Bed Panels Back On

posted Sep 9, 2015, 6:24 AM by Dane Belden   [ updated Nov 18, 2015, 8:01 PM ]

The panels replaced on the El Camino were the smugglers box floor pan, smugglers box cover, spare tire panel, back bed panel, and both quarter panels (front fenders were also replaced, but are bolt-ins).  Of those the fenders and quarter panels were NOS GM sheet metal and the others were after market (DII floor pan, Dynacorn remaining panels).  Many people mistakenly think that NOS panels fit perfectly, but this really isn't always the case.  Manufacturing differences as well as 45 years of body movement can make very large panels (of which El Camino quarters qualify) have fitment issues.  There is always the need to trim and fit and bend (and sometimes bang) panels a bit to get as close to the original fit as possible.
Dane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden Speed
So it takes a great deal of preparation and trimming and fitting and grinding and hammer-dollying and taking panels off and putting them back on before the very-rewarding process of welding the panels back on to the car begins.  Once it begins things move very quickly and all of those spot welds you remove get replaced by as many plug welds (plug welds were used because we don't have pinch weld equipment nor all of the fixtures the factory has).
Dane Belden, Belden Speed


The process is pretty straightforward, you hammer dolly the mating flanges to make them flat again, you grind those surfaces to remove all rust and remaining spot weld material and then you spray the flange surfaces with a weld through primer.  In this case we used Rubber Seal RS 512 which seems to work well.  Before you weld triple check your body lines!  If you replace the back bed panel as we did also put your rear window in to ensure the channels line up.  It also helps to fit the bed quarter moldings in to get the revel correct.  Take your time because once it's welded in fixing mistakes will be very time consuming!

Dane Belden, Belden Speed
The sail panel to roof panel joint was made using a butt weld.  The old quarter panel was cut off about 1/4" below where it was welded under the roof panel so as not to disturb that factory joint.  Then the new quarter panel was trimmed so that it could be butt welded to the original quarter material that was left.  This makes for a strong joint and the weld is in the valley which will be leaded back in later.  Butt welding is a bit tricky and must be done in small stitches so that the sheet metal isn't distorted, but if you take your time and cool with compressed air periodically it can be done with good results.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
 So with help from friends of the shop as well as a few days of burning wire the results are gratifying.  Next phase is to repair a small area on the door skin and then remove the remaining paint in the bed, roof and doors to get ready to paint the Shop Truck.
Dane Belden, Belden Speed

Dane Belden, Belden SpeedDane Belden, Belden Speed
Dane Belden, Belden Speed


M. Quarter Panel Removal

posted Aug 23, 2015, 6:07 AM by Dane Belden   [ updated Nov 18, 2015, 7:55 PM ]

There was an obvious repair made at some point to the passenger side quarter panel and there was a good bit of rust present behind the rear wheel.  While the drivers side quarter looked OK it was decided to replace it at the same time.  Both sides will be using NOS GM quarters that were acquired for this job.  Before the bed panels can be welded back in the quarters must be removed as they have a flange that is sandwiched between the bed back panel and roof structure.

The process begins by removing the majority of the quarter panel sheet metal to leave a strip of metal around the perimeter where it was spot welded to the mating panels.  Once this is done, then the spot welds can be drilled or ground and the remaining ribbon can be removed.  Using a cut off wheel as well as an electric metal shear the panels are removed.

Dane Belden, Belden Speed
Dane Belden, Belden Speed
While it looks dramatic, the real work is ahead because removing the spot welds is a time-consuming process.  We choose to drill each weld or use a grinder to thin the weld and then use a body knife to separate the panels.  Others just use a pneumatic chisel and while this is effective, it runs the risk of damaging the remaining panel if not very careful.

As noted before, there was evidence of some prior bodywork on the passenger's side quarter panel and now we can see just how much - this seems consistent with the body work done on this car in other spots.  I suppose the one doing this gets an "A" for making it look passable, but this is no way to do body work.  There was well over 1/4" of filler along the side of this quarter panel - miracle it hadn't cracked.

Dane Belden, Belden Speed
After about 2 hours the passengers side panel is nearing completion with the door jam and sail panel yet to be done.  The sail panel area needs to be addressed, but that will be done once we determine where we will be welding the new quarter to the structure in that area.

Dane Belden, Belden Speed
In all the underlying sheet metal looks very good.  Some surface rust to be removed and a few very minor patches to be welded in, but a great foundation for this repair!  

So now the leaded seam between the roof and sail panel needs to be cleaned out.  This joint welds the roof to the sail panel and to the remaining structure.  Since the quarter panel is welded under the roof panel, we will cut off the original quarter and not disturb the roof weld.  When the new quarter is put on it will be butt welded to the piece of remaining quarter which accomplishes two things - it doesn't disturb the roof and the weld will be in the "valley" of the seam which gets filled again anyway.

To remove the lead use a MAP gas torch and fold a wet towel to put on the roof above the seam just to dissipate as much heat as possible so you don't distort the roof.  Heat up and area and with a wire brush clean it out.  Do this in an area with good airflow and don't breathe the lead - it's not good for you!

Dane Belden, Belden Speed
With the lead removed from the seam (a twisted wire wheel was used to remove any remaining lead) you can easily see how the quarter gets tucked under the roof.  With this done the next step is to break the spot welds that hold the sail panel to the drip rail.  This is a bit tricky and requires a soft touch with a thin, small diameter grinding wheel (3")  First you need to get a small (thin) wire wheel into the drip rail to clean out the paint and seam sealer to expose the spot welds.  If you look close you can see that they've been marked on the outside of the rail with a yellow grease pencil.  Once you have located them you want to grind the sail panel metal just enough to release the weld.  You do not want to grind through the drip rail.

Dane Belden, Belden Speed
Once the welds are broken you can make the cut across the top of the sail panel and then break the remaining piece away.  I am over-simplifying this - this is a tedious process because the sail panel is also spot welded in the window channel as well as the bed side wall.  Take your time, do it in small pieces and when you are done it looks like this - a completely removed quarter panel from a 1970 El Camino - cool huh?

Dane Belden, Belden Speed





L. Test Fitting New Bed And Floor Panels

posted Aug 10, 2015, 9:56 AM by Dane Belden   [ updated Nov 18, 2015, 7:49 PM ]

After cutting out the Smugglers Box floor, back bed panel, back package tray and spare tire carrier the rust was mostly removed from the bed.  Then came time to drill countless spot welds out to remove the flange areas of the panels that were removed.  All of that resulted in this:
And that left the El Camino looking like this:
Dane Belden, Beldenspeed
With the old out the process of fitting the new panels began.  The floor pan used for replacement is a great approximation of what was removed, but it differs a bit from the original.  It is the only one available for this replacement and is a DII piece.  It is a one piece floor pan which is great except that it can't be physically fit in one price.  This is because the entire body wasn't disassembled and rebuilt from the beginning.  So first the pan needs to be split in half and then each half fitted.  Once that is done a filler patch will need to be welded in to make it one piece again.

Trial fitting is a tedious process and should be done with many small cuts.  After endless cycles of installing and un-installing the fit is reasonable for the trial.
Dane Belden, Beldenspeed
With the floor pan fit, the spare tire panel, back bed panel were fit.  These items are Dynacorn parts and fit remarkably well.  Some additional tweaking of the flanges will be required, but nothing major.
Dane Belden, Beldenspeed
And finally, with the back package tray and Smugglers Box Cover.
Dane Belden, Beldenspeed
Before all the panels can be welded in, the rear quarter panels must be removed.  The reason is the quarter panel in the sail area is sandwiched between the roof structure and the inner wall of the bed.  That back bed panel welds to the bed inner wall and so once it is installs the quarter cannot be fit to the car.  It would be possible to replace the quarter without the sail panel, but in the case of the Shop Truck the sail panels are one of the problem areas.  So the plan is to tack in the Smugglers Box floor pan and the spare tire panel to give the body some of its rigidity back and then attack the quarter panels.

Here is a quick look at what is ahead - the first photo is the sail panel area from inside the bed looking out (passenger's side).  The second photo is the same, but with outlines showing how the panels fit.  The solid red outline is the quarter panel and where it turns to dashed red it is behind the inner bed wall panel (outlined in yellow).  So the spot welds holding them must be drilled - probably completely as there is an inner structure panel on the other side of the quarter panel.  There is also a filler piece that fills the area between the quarter and the inner bed wall.  This is necessary as it is impossible to stamp that detail complete in the quarter panel.  The factory then brazed this joint at the front.  Of course having 2 dissimilar metals joined isn't a good idea as it will result in a galvanic reaction with water present.  You can see the corrosion that ensued because of this.
Dane Belden, Beldenspeed   Dane Belden, Beldenspeed



K. Getting The Rust Out

posted Jul 27, 2015, 8:29 AM by Dane Belden   [ updated Jul 30, 2015, 6:43 PM ]

A 45 year old El Camino that has spent most of its time outside is bound to have some rust issues and the Shop Truck is no different.  It helped that its outdoor life was spent in California so there is no underside rust, but El Camino beds are good at collecting water - and water leads to rust over time.

El Caminos start life with the under-pinnings of the 4 door Chevelle and Station Wagon.  The creative engineers at Chevy put a bed on the chassis, but had a rear floor pan to cover which they did with a bolted in panel creating what is called a Smuggelers Box.  It's odd that this exists because it serves no useful purpose for the very reason that the bolted in panel was also glued in so there was no access to it.
Dane Belden
From a distance things don't look so bad, but when you get a bit closer you can see that the cover panel and the back panel of the bed are rusted where water accumulated.  You can also see rust around the bottom or the rear window as well as a few spots in the sail panel of the rear quarters.  Because the car has had one repaint, it's likely things are worse that they appear from the outside. 

When up on the lift you can see that the floor pan in the Smugglers Box area is rusted through in spots, so no real surprises, but things need to be opened up.  The rest of the floors look like new, so with the rear window out and the panel off here is what you see:

Dane Belden
As bad as it looks, it was better than anticipated.  The rust has been contained to the floor pan, the under window back bed panel. the spare tire panel and the back shelf tray and the sail panels in the quarters.  Because NOS quarters will be installed, the repair work, while labor-intensive, is pretty straight forward.

Aside from the Smuggelers Box lid panel being bolted on, the other panels are all spot welded, so all of the spot welds need to be located and drilled to take the panels apart.  Here a cutoff wheel and spot weld drill are your best friends.  The biggest trick in all of this is assessing how the factory jointed the panels so that you can remove them in an order that is logical and most importantly in a way that the new metal can be joined to what remains.  There will most likely be issues because there are areas where 3 panels are pinch welded and the one you are removing is the one in the middle of the sandwich.  Another problem is access to the spot welds themselves.  Because this work is being done with the body on, there will be some welds that cannot be drilled easily.  It could be that the existing panel will need to be cut and the new panel welded in a different way.

That said, with cutoff wheel in hand, let the bloodbath begin!
Dane Belden
The first of many cuts - more later!

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