I decided to start with the dent in the rear bumper and tail light panel. I figured since it was the only major dent on the car I would just straighten it out and go from there. I started removing parts to get to it and that’s where one thing lead to another.
I removed the tail lights and surprise, the whole area is rusted out. It’s pure rusty ugliness. I removed the bumper with my new and extremely fun air impact wrench along with the valance panel and discovered the total deterioration of the bottom of the tail light panel. I started the metal straightening process where the back end had been crunched and while I was banging away with the hammer gas started pouring out of the bottom of the fuel tank. Apparently I dislodged some ancient rust in the tank which revealed several rust-through holes. I decided to remove the tank and in the process I discovered the rear cross member was totally rusted out and disconnected from the tail light panel. This was not evident at first because the whole trunk area around the fuel tank had been covered in what looks like roofing tar and tar paper (not exactly a concourse type restoration repair in my estimation).
I removed the fuel tank to see if it could be repaired and discovered rust, crud, a dead cockroach and more rust. The tank is history. This is the pile of rust I dumped out of it (pictured below) and the totally corroded sending unit. It’s amazing that the car made the 60 mile drive home with all that junk in the tank. I have seen the gas flowing through a glass filter into the carb and it looked like muddy river water but the engine still ran great.
Since the tank was out and has to be replaced I decided to scrape out the trunk to see what’s what under all that tar, undercoating and other assorted rot. The worst appears to be the edge where the support is supposed to tie into the tail light panel and valance. It’s just totally gone with nothing for those panels to attach to. I will have to get a new support and weld it in along with a new tail light panel.
I spent many hours scraping and cleaning up the remaining sheet metal in the trunk before I could see bare metal. Airplane Stripper is my new best friend. It makes the job easier for sure. It appears that the right side trunk floor needs some patching and the left side was replaced years ago but is still in decent shape. The underside of the trunk area is remarkably nice. There is some surface rust but most of the original paint is still there which makes me happy. By the way, the car was originally the sickly looking light blue color seen in the photo below. Then the car was painted red and then blue with the white stripe and next (if all goes well) it will be a nice metalic charcoal.
As you can see the corner piece above has seen better days and needs replacing but it’s going to have to be repaired with fabricated steel instead. New corner pieces are not in the budget. The corners of the quarter panels where the tail light is mounted need to be replaced but they are also going to be repaired. I have already cleaned most of the metal in those areas and they are almost ready for repair. It’ll take some time to fabricate the pieces and weld them up.
In the meantime Caroline is stripping the paint from the quarter panel so we can dig into that mess later.