How To Fix Quarter Panel Rust

Patch Panel Install For Rust Repair on Your Vintage Project Car

By Ron Covell   –   Photography By Brian Brennan

Rust repair is often a part of any vintage car project. While it is possible to make a patch panel of any size and shape, there are ready-made panels available for a lot of popular cars, which can ease the job and save considerable time. Unless you are proficient at metal shaping, the ready-made patch panels are likely to have a better fit and finish than a handmade panel.

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04 Close up of the rusty metal cut away revealing deeper areas for repair
With the rusty metal cut away, you can see if deeper repairs are necessary. Any metal with rust on it should be either scrupulously cleaned and sealed or replaced.

Read More: Under The 1965 Buick Riviera Detroit Speed Chassis

Hot Rods by Dean, in Phoenix, was recently tasked with repairing rusted areas on the lower rear fenders of a 1965 Chevelle and chose to use patch panels made by Golden Star Classic Auto Parts. Geoff Jones of Hot Rods by Dean is the man who did the installation, and as you will see the work was done in a very professional manner.

14 a completely tack welded patch panel with completed plug welds around the front and bottom edge
Here is the patch panel completely tack-welded into place. The plug welds around the front and bottom edge can be completed at this time, too.

Read More: More DIY Tips on How to Sand a Car for Painting

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As you look through the photos, you’ll see each of the important steps needed to prepare, fit, and attach panels like these. For this job, the patch panels are joined with a butt joint and TIG welded, but the process would be very similar for an overlapped joint and for MIG welding. The flanges on the front and lower edges of this panel were originally spot-welded into place. A good way to reattach a new panel is to drill or punch a hole in the flange and plug weld through these holes into the metal behind the panel. Done properly, this will exceed the strength of a spot weld, and when ground down flush these plug welds become nearly invisible. MR

01 Geoff Jones from Hot Rods by Dean removing rusty sheet metal from a classic car
Geoff Jones of Hot Rods by Dean is well into the process of removing old rusty sheet metal and replacing it with fresh metal for the patch panel. If you are involved with old sheet metal then working with patch panels will become a normal occurrence for you.
02 Golden Star Classic Auto Parts rear fender patch panel for a 1964 65 Chevelle
This is a rear fender patch panel (PN QP03-64RR, right hand side) made by Golden Star Classic Auto Parts. It will make an excellent repair on a 1964-65 Chevelle fender with rust damage.
03 Geoff Jones using a pneumatic die grinder with a thin cut off wheel to cut away rusty metal
Here we follow Jones as he cuts away the bulk of the rusty metal. A thin cut-off wheel in a pneumatic die grinder makes fast work of this.
04 Close up of the rusty metal cut away revealing deeper areas for repair
With the rusty metal cut away, you can see if deeper repairs are necessary. Any metal with rust on it should be either scrupulously cleaned and sealed or replaced.
05 a large patch panel being sized and marked for final trimming on a Chevelle fender
Many patch panels are made larger than needed for a particular repair. If beneficial, the panel can be cut down to any size needed. In this case, the patch panel was kept mostly intact, with only the slope on the leading edge being slightly modified. Once the patch is sized, the fender is carefully marked for the final trimming.
06 spot welds being drilled out to remove an old panel from a classic car
Some panels have edges that are spot welded into place. The spot welds can be drilled out to remove the old panel, and a good way to attach new panels is to punch or drill holes and plug weld through these holes to securely hold the new panel into place.
07 Patch panel with punched holes for plug welds on the bottom edge and wheel well opening flange
The bottom edge of this panel and the flange that goes into the wheel well opening are punched with holes for making the plug welds.
08 a cut off wheel making straight cuts on a patch panel
A cut-off wheel is great for making straight cuts, but it can’t manage tight radius curves. A good strategy for making curves is to scribe a “limit line” and make numerous straight cuts right up to the line.
09 the process of trimming away material to create a curve on a patch panel
After making many small straight cuts, the material between them can be trimmed away, leaving a curve of any needed profile.
10 Geoff Jones using an orbital sander to clean the joint area before welding a new patch panel
Before welding a new patch panel into place, the metal around the joint must be cleaned of all paint, rust, or contamination. An orbital sander is being used here to clean the metal.
11 Close up of hook and loop abrasive discs used for cleaning the metal around the joint
Hook and loop abrasive discs are excellent for this type of work. They are held securely for the sanding, but they can be easily peeled off and replaced when necessary.
12 the process of tack welding a patch panel into place using the TIG process
This panel is being tack-welded into place with a butted fit using the TIG process. Some people use overlapped joints, but overlapped joints can trap moisture, leading to further rusting over time.
13 the tack welding process continuing around the perimeter of the patch panel
The tack welding is continued all around the perimeter of the panel. The first tacks can be several inches apart, but it’s best practice to keep adding tacks until they are no more than 1 inch apart.
14 a completely tack welded patch panel with completed plug welds around the front and bottom edge
Here is the patch panel completely tack-welded into place. The plug welds around the front and bottom edge can be completed at this time, too.
15 completed TIG weld on a patch panel
Here’s a close-up shot of the completed weld. The TIG welding process leaves an exceptionally small weld bead, which is easy to clean up by grinding. MIG welding generally leaves a much larger weld bead, requiring a lot more grinding.
16 a fully painted 1965 Chevelle in the assembly process showing a seamlessly replaced patch panel blending with the factory sheet metal
Here’s a “cheater” photo. Our project 1965 Chevelle is fully painted and in the assembly process. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show you how a properly replaced patch panel will blend in with the factory sheetmetal once all the body- and paintwork is complete. PPG Black was applied to the Chevelle.

Sources
Golden Star Classic Auto Parts
(972) 315-3758
goldenstarauto.com

Hot Rods by Dean
(623) 581-1932
hotrodsbydean.com

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