When John was a young man (late teens I think) he worked hard and saved his money. It was back in the days when muscle car drivers were the top dogs and he wanted a special car. He ordered his Road Runner with a combination of colors not normally seen, a medium metallic blue body with a bright and bold red stripe. When the gas crunch of the 70s hit he needed to down size his engine so he sold his muscle car for a more economical transportation but he sure missed his fun car. As he got older John continued to work hard and became a successful business man saw the opportunity to have his fun car again. Last year he purchased a similar car on EBay and decided to make it into a replica of his long lost machine. Below is the story of John’s 73 Road Runner transformation(s) that he hired us to perform.

When the car arrived it had a cheap enamel paint job on it that was trying to hide a lot of poor quality body work. It looked good on the EBay pictures but in person the trained eye sees complications.


We told the John to have his mechanic remove the engine and transmission so that we could change the car into his baby more easily.

We cleaned the engine compartment, repaired some major rust cause by leaves and dirt getting into the cowl through the upper vent opening.

The battery also produced quite a bit of damage to the left wheelhouse that needed to be patched.


We then began stripping the red paint off the car exposing the old filler work. Some of the old filler was in good shape so we decided to just cut it down and recoat it. However, a lot of the filler was hiding damage so severe that the metal needed repair under the filler and a lot of the metal needed to be cut off and replaced.

Stripping Tools and Materials


Both quarters were particularly bad but there were no aftermarket patch panels available so John sent for used quarters that needed to be purchased sight unseen and shipped three thousand miles. This was risky but it was well worth it because they were in decent shape and we used a lot more than just the outer skin.

Tools For Cutting Sheet Metal


 

We sectioned the wheelhouse on both sides, replaced the trunk well on both sides and replaced the rear seat belt anchor sections on both sides as well as parts of the rockers. This use of good sheet metal installed properly changed this car from a patch job to a solid car again.

Mig Welders


The outer quarter skins were replaced using the backing strip method.....

.....which allows you to have some slight gap between the old and new panels and still have a strong seam. If the backing strips are cut from either the old or new steel they will already have the shape of the panel.

This is unlike using new sheet metal which is usually flat or a different shape than the panel and needs to be bent into submission.

Backing Strip Method Explained


Because we had to use recycled parts there were areas that needed to be rebuilt using new metal. This picture shows one of the low areas that was rebuilt showing new metal being installed.


In many areas we knew that the replacement sheet metal would make our repairs inaccessible so we applied Zero Rust and sealed the seams.

Once these areas were sealed and coated the new metal could be installed.


In areas where the metal edges were completely gone they were easily rebuilt using pieces of EZ Edge.

 

Easy Edge Link


After the EZ Edge is installed a pattern is made out of paper or cardboard and transferred onto a piece of sheet metal and cutout then welded into place.


Once the panels are welded in place the welds are leveled and a coat of moisture resistant filler is applied over the seam.

 

Grinder - Moister Resistant Filler


When the seam is high on the panel, away from moisture, we normally don’t weld the seams solid because it distorts the metal too much and doesn’t really improve the repair. We usually leave the welds about ¼” apart before we seal them on the front with fiberglass paste and on the back with a good urethane seam sealer.

Seam Sealer


After the moisture resistant filler is leveled we apply good quality body filler until the surface is leveled.

While the initial filler may be removed using air powered tools, the final leveling is ALWAYS done by hand.

Filler Tools - Filler Materials


We use bondo-type filler as well as more liquid filler to level the surface and sometimes we will even mix the two together as shown here.


When the work is close to being level we use Dry Guide Coat in order to see the exact shape of the panel. This helps tremendously if you want the panel to be perfect. We are careful to blow off the sanding dust between applications of filler.

The final coats of polyester putty are tweaked with finer grit stick-on paper on flexible blocks. Here the quarters are being finished with 80 then 180 grit on a 24” Dura Block.

Stick-On Sand Paper


Once the filler work is finished we mask the car and clean the surface for primer. We usually use an epoxy primer, allow it to flash the recommended amount of time them apply our filler primer on top while the epoxy is still within the recoat window of time so that sanding is not needed between primers.

 

After the exteriors and jambs are primed the exterior is guide coated then the jambs were masked and painted. At this time we also painted the door jambs, engine compartment and under the lids so that the car could be reassembled and returned to the mechanic to have the engine and transmission installed.

We reinstalled all the wiring and hardware in the engine compartment before it left.


Months went by before the car was returned with its rebuilt engine but now we could drive it around which made it a little easier to work on. The primer was wet sanded the car is masked.

We lift the car onto stands so that the low areas are easily accessible without crawling around on the floor. I would rather step up onto something to paint the roof than crawl around to paint the rocker panels.


Since the windows are out we mask the holes solid, cover all the jambs and install a paper skirt around the entire car to protect the finished underside and the engine compartment.

 


Then we clean and clean and clean for painting.

 

We usually blow the dust off while wiping with a dry cloth then wipe the surface with clean water and a sponge to pick up more dust. We continually rinse the sponge in clean water and dry the surface with a clean towel.


After the car is masked and the dust is removed we go over it one last time with solvent cleaner (grease and wax remover) by spraying it on with a pump sprayer and absorbing it off with paper towels. We usually don’t spray the car on the same day that it’s prepped because we want to start fresh and we don’t want to be tired or rush the paint application. The next day we use a good tack cloth to remove any surface dust that may have settled overnight. We also tack the masking paper that cover the windows so that dust won’t blow onto the wet paint.

After painting we usually start sanding and polishing the next day but because we were using an unfamiliar paint on this car (in order to get the color we wanted) we waited an extra day before color sanding and polishing.


This car didn’t need very much sanding because it was painted with a new DeVilbiss gun that sprayed the clear on VERY smoothly so there was a minimum amount of sanding but we did go over the entire car lightly. We normally sand with 1500 Finishing Film on our AirVantage 6” random orbital sander then sand the tight spots with some ultra-fine wet sanding paper usually between 1500 and 2500 grit.

We nib filed a couple of dust nibs off the Road Runner then lightly sanded most of the car using some 1500 dry paper but mostly 3000 grit wet paper.

We then polished the entire car using our Makita and Sure Finish Polish.


Small parts were painted separately then the car is reassembled.


Note the tape between the bumper and the paint. Don’t want a scratch it now.


We had a lot of vinyl stripes to apply and lining them up properly is always a trick with these multiple stripe designs. The method of wetting the car’s surface and the stripe’s adhesive with Right-On helps position the stripe and get the bubbles out.

 
 


The stripes were all on one sheet that needed to be cut apart then accurately taped to the car and marked with tape. After the stripes’ protective layer was removed and everything was coated with Right-On the stripes were then laid on the vehicle using the tape outline as a guide.

As shown here the door handle was the determining factor on the placement of the side stripes because the stripe was already cut to fit around the handle.


The quarter panels weren’t the only parts that we had trouble finding. The filler panel between the back bumper and the body had been old technology plastic or rubber that had disintegrated and new or used ones were non-existent. So we took the two end shapes that we had left and repaired them then went looking for something to go in between. I found some plastic at Lowes that looked good so we made the center section and used our plastic repair materials do the job. We think that the original fillers were silver but we decided to paint them the same color as the car only we flattened the clear. It turned out real well as you can see.


   



I didn’t want to be drilling on the car after it was painted but I forgot to install the hood pins and now had some drilling to do late in the process. Luckily everything turned out fine. We even touched up the drilled metal with some Zero Rust before we screwed down the plate.

 


One of the last things (also done out of sequence) was to call in a glass company and have them install a new windshield. Prior to their arrival we prepped the dash so that we could paint it quickly when the old glass was removed. The glass installer was good about giving us a few minutes to make the dash pretty.



The biggest problem I had with the hood pins was that when you raised the hood the clip would bang around on the paint. So we decided to use some masking tape to protect the paint and hold the clip. I’m instructing the owner on this little trick.


So the Road Runner came out real nice and the owner loved the car.

Those repaired quarter panels are perfectly shaped and show no sign of repairs.

I’d like to take the credit but I’m only part of the picture. Mike (shown here) did most of the actual work. Believe it or not Mike has only been doing body work for a little over a year and has turned out show winners for me from day one. Goes to show you what you can accomplish if you’re patient and focus on the task at hand.

Here are a couple pictures of the finished Road Runner.

 


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