Bodywork #3: That dent in the corner

Warning:  I don’t have any training at what I am attempting here, this is all new territory for me, so use this as a guide at your own risk! 

I decided I could take on this dent in the corner without much trouble.  I made some measurements and found that the mounting face for the tail light bases had been pushed in about an inch in compared to the same face on the other side.  This is the  not so obvious effect of the dent on the edge.  The metal in this corner is still very sound so I don’t want to cut anything out that I don’t have to.  Secondary to this dent is the shallow dent, right in the seam about a foot to the left of the corner dent.  This will need straightening and shrinking.

I’m not sure how this dent happened, it’s very high and narrow and at an odd angle to the car.

The tail lights came out easily enough, with only 1 in 8 studs breaking and no electrical connectors breaking off.  Fortunately there was no damage to the tail light bases due to the bump that caused this dent.  Once the bases were out of the way I used a hammer and a blunt dowel to push the center of the worst of the dent out, because I was thinking that pushing the base out before the worst of the crease was out would make the crease worse.  Getting both my hands, a dowel and hammer all in the tight corner of the trunk was tough, probably the hardest part of the job.  The crease pushed out surprisingly quickly.  

Here is the dent after I pushed the crease out, notice there is a lot of work to be done above the dent too.

To push out the face the lights mount to I put a wood block over the weld seams that joins the plane made by this face to the rear fender and curved vertical Kamm panel.  Once I had a block the right size I found I couldn’t get at the block with a hammer because the trunk support, seen in the picture above through the upper tail light opening, was in the way.  A lot of welding is going to be required at some point so I just cut the support out.  Amazingly it only took 3 or 4 blows from a heavy hammer to bring the face out to where it is supposed to be.  I next used the same block on the broad dent on the vertical panel.  It came right up after a few blows but when it was pushed on in the accident that caused the dent, the surrounding structure stayed in place so the metal stretched a little to dissipate the energy of impact.

The rough body work is done here, but already it looks a lot better.  A low quality body shop would probably start in with masses of filler at this point.

To understand the metal a little better I cleaned this area with a DA sander using 80 grit sand paper.  These cars are all lead filled so a quality respirator rated for this kind of work is essential unless you don’t mind going crazy and cutting your ear off later in life.  I used a shrinking hammer on the stretched metal of the vertical panel.  The only part that didn’t come out as expected is the seam where this panel meets the lower horizontal shelf.  I’ll save this for later when I can get some guidance from an experienced body shaper. 

To try and shape the corner correctly I made a cardboard template of the drivers side corner contours and some alignment marks then transferred the shape to the corner I’m working on.  The curve starting from about 3 o’clock on the lower tail light mounting face up and around to the trunk corner was basically right, so I tapped the lows out of the leading edge and around the curve on the fender side.  I had some metal split on the leading edge of the curve, but nothing a little welding can’t take care of.

Here is the nearly finished corner.  The arch at the top of the curve still needs a little work but it is all about 80% or more done.

You can start to see the plane made up by the Kamm-tail is almost right.  I’m not sure if I am going to keep the thin edge around the back horizontal shelf, it is hidden by the rear bumper, but I don’t plan on running bumpers.

The marks left by the shrinking hammer are obvious in this shot.  It will be interesting to see the car after it’s blasted.

Once I get more confident working on other dents and/or get guidance form someone who has done this sort of thing before, I will finish this area out.  First though, I need to get the body blasted so I can cut all the rust out. 
Up next, scraping away years of crud on the underside.

Click here to see the last installment in this series.

Click here to see the next installment.


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