Automotive Restoration for beginners
By Phil Storr

What do to about the Rust:

If you have had the car or individual panels dipped in paint and rust remover or grit or sand blasted, all traces of rust should be gone by now. Rust remaining on other areas can be ground off, sanded off, or converted with rust converter materials. The first two methods remove metal also and so are often undesirable.

When removing rust scales from areas like the floor and chassis I start by scrubbing with a wire brush. I try to use a rotary wire brush in an electric drill or in my 100mm angle grinder. I bought a spare guard for my grinder and extended it so I could fit a course 100mm wire brush. When all the loose scales have been removed use a rust converter to destroy the remaining rust. For this stage I use two products from POR15. Firstly I clean the metal with POR15 Marine Clean and then I treat it with POR15 Metal Ready rust remover and pre primer. Metal Ready provides a clean etched surface for the application of any paint material.

It is important to remove all the rust before you start to repair the panels because rust makes it difficult to weld in new sections and it may be hidden after the repairs are finished. If the clean body and panels are going to be stored for some time, protect the bare metal with a light coat of red-brown oxide, it can be buffed off with a Scotch Clean and Strip pad when you need to weld the area later. If bare metal is to be left for only a few days I spray it with a light film of RP7 or WD40 and this will stop rust for quite a while even in damp weather. All traces of the RP7 or WD40 must be removed before any painting is done and this requires extensive cleaning.

Preparing for the rust protection:

While taking the vehicle apart I drill 12mm holes with a sheet metal drill in the tops of the sills under the kick plates, and in any other area where access to hidden box sections will be required when rust proofing later. If there is not already holes in or near the ends of the sill panels, I drill them now so I can wash the dirt and rust flakes out of these areas, and any other area where I suspect there is a build up of dirt over the years. Box sections across the underneath structure collect mud and hold water, causing these areas to slowly rust out. Look at these sections and the jacking points under the sills now and fix them if they look weakened. Jacking points are available as repair sections for many vehicles, and if they are not available suitable square tube can be used.

The final stage in taking the vehicle apart is to clean out all the accumulated dirt inside the sills and hidden sections. I blow out with compressed are and then use a garden hose with a high pressure jet. Best to do this in the height of summer so it dries out quickly.

Major rust repairs:

Very badly rusted areas must be replaced either by obtaining new panels or repair sections or fabricating them from sheet metal. Fabrication of such parts requires a great deal of skill and experience and it is difficult to find an expert who is prepared to do this kind of work. It is not beyond the ability of most of us to learn to do this ourselves but it takes time and patience. If you decide to give it a go, talk to your local TAFE College and see if courses are available. TAFE courses have the added advantage of having the specialized equipment available and you can usually make the panels and sections you require at the class.

Another source of inspiration and knowledge is you local Car Restorers Clubs. They may have instructional books and videos in the library, and some clubs have technical sessions to teach members how to "do it yourself". Remember if you decide to try metal fabrication you will make a lot of mistakes and ruin a few panels along the way, but you can always call in an expert if all else fails. Just do not undertake a Mercedes Benze 300 SL or something equally as rare as your first project.

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