How to Replace The Quarter Panel on a 1968-1969 Ford Torino Sportsroof

By Brian Brennan

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Metalwork is one of, if not, the most demanding projects any of us can undertake when working on our hot rod project. It can start out as a sheet metal repair, patch panel replacement, right on up to rear quarter-panel replacement, which is one of the more ambitious projects to undertake.

The new panels from Auto Metal Direct (AMD) arrive with EPD coating. Familiarize yourself with the parts and be very careful not to remove any metal unnecessarily. These panels are intended to fit as-is and are sent with E-coating. Inspect the new panels so you are familiar with the shape.

On a recent visit to The Installation Center, we checked in with Craig Hopkins as he and Wesley Kennedy were about to undertake a massive sheetmetal project on a 1969 Ford Torino Sportsroof (fastback). In fact, this particular project was on a highly desirable 1969 Ford Torino 428 Cobra Jet car, making it advantageous to perform whatever sheet metal work it took to bring this body back to life.

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Here is the driver side quarter-panel (PN 700-8469) and the same panel from the rear looking down the side
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The Installation Center had on hand all of the common panels required for a 1968-1969 Torino Sportsroof, such as the quarter-panels, tail panel, inner fender panels, and a few others, all from Auto Metal Direct, commonly known as AMD. For our story we zeroed in on the rear quarter panel replacement (PN 700-8469-L, driver side; PN 700-8469-R, passenger side). Also, the 1968 Torino and 1969 Torino are similar sheetmetal with the discernible difference being the side markers. (It should be noted that Auto Metal Direct has replacement sheet metal for the 1970 and 1971 Torino as well, but this is a different body style.)

Here is the driver side quarter-panel (PN 700-8469) and the same panel from the rear looking down the side

The AMD sheet metal is known for its OE condition, meaning that it’s stamped from high-quality OE gauge steel on Auto Metal Direct’s own tooling. Each quarter-panel displays features that are as correct as original shape, size, bends, curves, and body lines. Like all Auto Metal Direct parts, these items arrive EPD coated to help protect against rust and corrosion. (EPD stands for electrophoretic deposition. It’s an industrial process that includes electrocoating. E-coating, as it is commonly referred to, is an immersion wet paint process that uses electrical current to attract material, paint, to the metal surface.)

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It’s recommended to melt the lead out of the joints instead of grinding as you do not want to breathe in the lead grindings. There are two spots of lead removal; one at the roof panel and the second at the deck filler panel. Don’t overheat, use just enough heat to get the lead to melt without warping the panel. A handheld propane torch is best.

This is the type of project best left for those with copious amounts of metalworking experience. You will need to be proficient in MIG welding as well as the removal of lead, an air chisel, and spot welding. The topic of MIG welding alone can fill a book, a library, and in time we will be getting into welding techniques and how to go about gaining this skill.

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How to Remove Sheet Metal Filler

Once you cut out the sail panel, save the old metal as it will serve as a guide when you realign the emblems on the new quarter-panel. Begin by aligning your cuts along the edges of the panel at the rear glass and at the quarter glass openings. This will give you a good reference to correctly mark the new panels. Take note not to plunge cut this off as you will damage the components underneath, costing yourself more work to fix it. Drill the holes prior to painting and use small screws as replacements.

Remember, we said this was a major project and as such you will be removing sheet metal panels that are joined to other sheet metal panels from the factory. The cars of the ’60s had their major body panels joined by welding the panels together, then lead was used to fill the weld area, and then from this process it would go through the body- and paintwork process.

The initial panel removal will be accomplished with an air chisel. Two main chisel tips, one for ripping and one for removing spot welds. By opting for the better air chisel, you will save work down the road as it will enhance your control.

To remove the factory lead you will first want to strip the body of all paint, primer, and fillers. There are a number of ways to do this, such as sandblasting, dipping, or the old fashion way—by hand. It’s always recommended to remove lead via heat rather than grinding as the lead particulates are unhealthy to breathe into your lungs.

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The initial panel removal will be accomplished with an air chisel. Two main chisel tips, one for ripping and one for removing spot welds. By opting for the better air chisel, you will save work down the road as it will enhance your control.

Once you have the joint exposed you will see the original factory lead. At this point you will need a torch. Hopkins recommends a handheld propane model to heat the original material and then follow up with a wire brush to remove the lead. When using the torch remember to use the “tail” of the flame and methodically move the flame over the old lead. The lead will melt out. One of the time-honored ways to clean up the area is to then take a clean rag soaked in baking soda as this will neutralize the flux. You will want to use a second clean rag to wipe the surface clean.

Time to switch chisels and work off the rest of the panel. By working with one plane to surface this will make your work easier by not fighting any leftover flanges.

We have learned a great deal about hazardous materials since the ’60s, so suffice it to say, be careful! Act accordingly by wearing a respirator and gloves, at the very least. You should also protect your body, especially your eyes, by wearing protection to cover any exposed skin.

Using An Air Chisel

Time to switch chisels and work off the rest of the panel. By working with one plane to surface this will make your work easier by not fighting any leftover flanges.

You may have to remove some material from the original body when fitting your new replacement panel, especially if the area in question was, at one time, involved in a fender bender. Here’s where an air chisel, a tool easily found at Harbor Freight, typically comes with an assortment of tools, and it turns out to be a handy one to have. In our case you will use your air chisel with the appropriate tool to “nibble” a clean strip of metal away. It’s at this fresh-cut edge that you will match the new quarter-panel and MIG weld together.

What is a Plunge Cut?

There’s a simple way to put on the quarter-panel without pushing the roof panel out of control. Cut the quarter-panel along the edge of the lead well, then come back and cut the roof panel layer. Note, the cut area is marked and you are only going to cut one layer—don’t plunge cut because this will bring about more work for yourself.

The plunge cut is called the most difficult of saw cuts with any tool. It requires an oscillating tool that can cut quick, clean holes and finish off plunge cuts started by other tools in tougher materials. This type of cut also takes a great deal of practice to get them right—clean cuts that don’t burn or overshoot. Ideally once you have this skill down you can make cuts that used to require a hammer and a hand chisel.

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Grind any remaining spot welds flush with the remaining panel. Here Hopkins used a 3/16-inch grind wheel.

What is Spot Welding?

There are a handful of spots (no pun intended) where you will need to spot weld. It’s a form of resistance welding that’s one of the oldest welding forms whereby two or more metal panels are welded together without a filler material. It works by contacting copper alloy electrodes to the metal surface and then electrical current is applied, now generating heat. Hence, the spot is now melted together, or spot welded, and forms a solid bond.

Hammer and dolly the car as needed. This step may need to be repeated a second or third time after each test-fit of the new quarter-panel. As Hopkins tells us, “Good welds start with a nice, tight fit.”

Replacement Sheet Metal Fitment

Fortunately, the AMD panels are known for their shape, size, bends, curves, and body lines that match OE sheet metal and, therefore, fit very well. That still doesn’t mean you won’t be moving panels about to get the fit, including gaps, that you wish.

Clean up the surfaces in preparation to weld.

Follow along with the photos and let’s watch Hopkins and Wesley Kennedy as they go from start to finish to bring back this 1969 Ford Torino Cobra Jet 428 Q-code Sportsroof.

Auto Metal Direct
(877) 575-3586

The Installation Center
(706) 348-6653

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