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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!