Automotive Restoration for beginners
By Phil Storr

Repairing major accident damage

Firstly I will point you in the direction of The restoration of two Alfa Romeo 164'sjust to prove it can be done by two "back yarders" but I must warn you this was a big job, one we will never tackle again. The first problem is getting the suspension geometry exactly right, this is particularly critical with front wheel drive. We managed to get both cars within better that 2mm, a feat no expert believed we could ever do without a professional chassis jig.

If you are going to repair accident damaged vehicles and wish to straighten out things yourself, you will need some form of chassis straightener. When Bill and I did the Alfa Romeo 164's we used some Blackhawk "pulling pots" fixed into holes in the concrete floor, two hydraulic body jacks and a couple of home made pulling devices. We used the same setup for the 2600 Sprint project when Steve discovered it had had a hit in the rear. This was not obvious at first, it showed up as he made and fitted a new boot lid.

I have seen several home made systems for carrying out this sort of work and they all worked fine. The most extensive system was two long lengths of railway track set in the concrete floor and a series of big square tube holes in the concrete, welded to a railway line frame under the floor. The car was clamped to the rails by welding lugs on where needed and thick walled 150mm square tube posts were put into the holes and the body jacks and chains were clamped to the poles.

Most accident damage seems to be front or rear collision and there are people around who buy a good front and a good back and cut-and-shut the two together. If this process is done properly, with overlaps and staggering of the joins, the vehicle will be almost as good as new. To repair a car in this way you must have quite a bit of room, equipment to hold the half's together at the correct alignment, and be a very good welder. The book Donald Waits Panel Beating and Car Restoration from the publisher Child and Associates has very good chapters on the above topics and was a great help to us when we were doing our Alfa Romeo 164 project.

Accident damage that involves only removable panels is quite easy but if you find other structural damage once the old panels are removed the project gets a lot more difficult and you may have to get the partly dismantled vehicle, to a panel shop for professional help. If in doubt get someone to access your future project before you buy it, it may cost you an hour or two of the persons time but it may be money well spent.

Lastly there is the disposal of the left over bits of sheet metal. It is getting expensive to dispose of any unwanted objects from the suburban backyard and bent body panels, like old tyres, are not in any demand. The scrap value is lower than the cost of disposal.

This car was scrificed to fix three others The rear cut was used to replace badly repaired rear panels

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Written by Phil. Storr, last updated 8th September 2000