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1982 El Camino restoration – Day 1

March 10, 2012

So this is a bit off topic from my normal blog posts, but I figure it would be fun to blog about something other than coding for a change, so I am going to be blogging about a probably 10 – 20 day ( spread over 2 – 3 months ) process in restoring my new El Camino!

Ever since I was a child I have had this crazy fascination with El Camino’s. I know it’s weird that most kids like Mustangs, Corvettes, or other well known muscle cars, but I couldn’t get over the uniqueness of the El Camino.  Maybe because it so closely resembled a truck, but still wasn’t one ( might have had something to do with that my Dad has always driven a pick up truck – seriously I’ve never seen him drive a car or even ride in one ).  To me it was the best of both worlds, and it’s a car that I have always dreamed of owning.  Recently I’ve picked up a few side jobs and have been saving a good chunk of money since about January. I shopped around for the last couple weeks to try to find the right one – something not too expensive, but also not a complete peace of trash.  I knew I would buy something that would be a bit of a project, I mean, that’s half the fun!  So I settled on a 1982 orange El Camino on Tuesday of last week, it was an amazing day to say the least! My brother Ryan ( he’s a heavy equipment mechanic by trade, so he is basically the one doing most of the work or delegating it to me when he can ) went up to Barrie, Ontario to pick it up.  The car cost me $3800 in total, which is pretty good compared to some of the other ones I looked at. We took that car back to my Dad’s shop in Action, Ontario that night and tore the inside of the car apart until about 2am that night. When did a complete inspection of the car and determined what we needed.

The car overall was in pretty good shape.  It had a recently rebuilt transmission in it that looked almost new, as well as a rebuilt 350 ( motor ) with about 30000km on it.  The breaks were also in good shape, and sadly were in better shape than my current vehicle haha. The tires and rim’s were also in pretty decent shape.  The rim’s were a bit rusted, but the chrome around the outside was still in pretty good shape and in addition to the tread on the tires.  The floor of the car was in really ruff shape, and probably the biggest issue on the car.  It was completely rusted through and we determined instead of trying to weld indivdual panels on and try and patch it that we would bite the bullet ( or I would ) and buy a whole new floor.  We ordered this yesterday and it should be arriving on Monday, so next weekend we hope to have a new floor! The body was also in pretty rough shape.

From a distance the body looked to be in great shape, it’s actually a really nice looking car considering it’s 30 years old ( definitely had some body work done in the past, but not a big deal ).  On closer inspection their was some glaring problems that needed to be fixed.  There were quite a few small rust spots that needed to be filled. This included one major section above the drivers side door which actually leaked into the interior of the car, causing the roof to rot a bit and the material inside to fall apart.  There were spots where the paint was peeling, rust was showing, pieces falling off, and generally bad stuff.  Originally the owner had a tonneau cover on it which meant there was a ton of left over snaps all over the back of the car. A lot of these were rusting and just didn’t fit with the overall look that I was going for.  This was probably the most annoying thing that we were going to have to fix, so we decided to tackle this first.

We began by grinding off all of the tonneau cover snaps and grinding any rust own to bare metal.  Doing something like this definitely hurt’s at first.  you start to see your brand new car being torn into pieces and it begins to look like complete chaos to be honest.  What was nice orange paint initially becomes scratched up bare metal – small holes become bigger and more issues begin to come up. Neither of us are very good at body work, so this will probably be the hackiest fix we do on the car and were really praying for a nice outcome haha.  We grinded down any remaning spots and sanding the area surrounding it.  The reason that we sand around the area’s where we grinded is so that the primer will stick to it ( a rough surface is better than a smooth one ). Next we covered all of the spots we touched in primer, which preps it for bondo. We let this try for a bit and had a few beers.

Next we filled all of the holes with a thick bondo and let it harden.  For those of you who don’t know what bondo is ( or cheese as my brother likes to call it ), it’s essentially filler for wholes or deep scratches. We applied it on quite liberally and let it harden, which doesn’t take long as we added a hardening agent to the mixture.  After that we took some coarse sandpaper to the affected areas and begin smoothing it out. The goal here is to make the area we covered in bondo flush with the body of the car, ensuring that their is no visible bumps or waves in the area.  This sounds easier than it is and actually requires a lot of elbow grease and hard work. In total tonight I estimated that I sanded about 3 – 4 hours on and off, which really gives your arms a workout. After this we mixed up a thiner version of the bondo we used before and covered the affected area a bit more.  We did this because the initial bondo was to fill the holes that were there, where this bondo was to fill any smaller crevices and easier to sand a smooth out.  Instead of using coarse sand paper, we can use a finer grain that ultimately allows us to make the finish much smoother.  I also forgot to mention that there was a ton of taping that was done before any priming/sanding/bondo was done.  We do this because we do not want to mess up the chrome finish at all and only want to touch the affected areas. It may look like a mess, but I swear we no what were doing ( I think ).

We worked for about 6 hours tonight and are in good shape to fix a lot of stuff tomorrow ( today? ). We will be able to come in in the morning and sand down the last layer of bondo that we applied and smooth it out as best we can.  We are also going to remove the tires and sand off any rust and down to the bare metal. After that we are going to paint the rim’s gloss black which should stand out nicely with the chrome outside of the tires. We are also going to hit up the paint shop in the morning to try and match the color of the car to some paint so we can clean up all the areas that we covered patched up today.

This is going to be a long and probably expensive process, but it’s also extremely rewarding. It’s awesome being able to go from coding and manipulating the web to using my hands to bend, shape, and manipulate a vehicle.  Being able to have this change of pace in my life is really something I need, as I was beginning to get into a repetitive 18 hour a day coding grind and really needed to switch stuff up. My goal is to have the car on the road with a few nice upgrades this by mid May, so wish my friends, brother, and I luck! Expect lots of pictures and videos!

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  1. 1982 El Camino restoration – Day 2 « David Seifried

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