Fixing old bodywork

JHZR2

Staff member
Joined
Dec 14, 2002
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53,436
Location
New Jersey
This is my 96 Ram. Incredibly clean, straight body, frame, and underpinnings. A few minor dents on the rear bumper from prior towing, none on the tailgate.

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But when I bought it, I knew that the standard Chrysler driftwood metallic clearcoat failure was starting. I also knew that there was some filler used on the driver side that was starting to crack.

All the original black was fine. And I knew my other driftwood truck had the clear issue…. So I knew that it was really just a matter of redoing the two tone stripe all the way around.

So now I want to start to figure this out. I want to leave the original black paint as is. Really leave the entire truck as original as possible, but redo the two tone stripe and replace the vinyl pinstriping with OE replacement that isn’t faded.

So this is what I see:

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The truck is an original survivor, a rarity in that it’s a 12v Cummins Diesel 5sp 4x4, two tone. It’s big, the 8’ bed may make it less popular than the 6.5’ bed versions. I kind of get it. It’s long and big. And I love it. Interior is original and like new. No dash cracks, working AC, everything works. So it’s worth fixing the paint and having an almost as new truck for the long run. One that will never fail on the things that newer ones do.

I’m tempted to prod into the failed bondo myself. Try to pick it away, get down to bare metal, then figure it out from there. I can keep the truck out of the elements. I wouldn’t do a final all around paint, but I’d like to see what’s going on there. I have zero body experience, and I’m not sure this is the vehicle I want to learn on, but I’m not opposed to trying either. It’s just nighttime labor and some weekend time (that I don’t have).

Is this a bad idea?

Since the truck had been painted on that side before, is there any concerns or issues with repaint on top of repaint, on top of OE paint on top of galvanized metal?

Anything else I should know?

I almost wonder if this could turn into a “go to maaco with the best quality paint you can buy” type job, since I’ve always heard that they spray more cars than anyone. That’s just thinking out loud, I have a million options.

I just want to fix the bad clear on the one side, and ensure that whatever is happening here underneath is stabilized and handled permanently.

Thanks!
 
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You are going to find rust under that slapped on Bondo. You can see rust stains running down from the cracks in the Bondo. I would take it to a body shop to get it repaired or maybe find a replacement door at a recycler. That truck is definitely a keeper. Those pre-emission Cummins are gold.
 
My understanding is that rust is always worse than it looks. What you can’t see will be scary, and over a larger area.

Methinks there is no ignoring this. The “easiest” solution is to grind down and then out to find good metal. Then seal and paint. You could later deal with straightening later. Just live with the paint mismatch, knowing it is not going to rust.

Or just have it all done now.

For all you know, it could be perforated behind that (drill holes to pull out, think how shoddy someone could have done it), and all the sealing on the outside would do naught.
 
You are going to find rust under that slapped on Bondo. You can see rust stains running down from the cracks in the Bondo. I would take it to a body shop to get it repaired or maybe find a replacement door at a recycler. That truck is definitely a keeper. Those pre-emission Cummins are gold.
It’s not the door. It’s the extended cab bodywork. This truck is pre-quad cab so no suicide doors.

Body shop is definitely the end state. I know there is some rust starting underneath. Probably because I have had it out in the rain occasionally in NJ (it lived in SD/WY dry areas before that). But I have to think that, welding aside, I might put more care and time to any surface rust treatment/prep than a shop would.
 
The filler - That has all got to come out.

Frankly if someone did that the entire painted side would be suspect to me.

Get your hands on something along these lines https://www.amazon.com/Thickness-De...x=mar+hide+mil+thickness+gauge,aps,86&sr=8-20 - Mar Hide used to make a good one but i cant find it now - and see what you actually have.

I can see tape lines in the photos that's not good - and makes me skeptical of refinish over the existing refinish.

Naturally any failed paint will have to be removed but refinish over PROPERLY applied and ADHERED paint should be no issue, Based on what i can see I would plan on having to remove most if not all of the prior repair paint work.
 
My understanding is that rust is always worse than it looks. What you can’t see will be scary, and over a larger area.

Methinks there is no ignoring this. The “easiest” solution is to grind down and then out to find good metal. Then seal and paint. You could later deal with straightening later. Just live with the paint mismatch, knowing it is not going to rust.

Or just have it all done now.

For all you know, it could be perforated behind that (drill holes to pull out, think how shoddy someone could have done it), and all the sealing on the outside would do naught.
Well that’s why I’m thinking to do the exploration myself. I know that the black above and below looks original. No signs of seams, discontinuity, etc. while I get it that it’s their job to hide seams, it does indeed seem to me like it is limited to the silver area.

Damage like that happened to my father’s previa long ago. The shop did some combo of pulling and filling and it was fine living outdoors until Hurricane Sandy dropped a tree on it. So here’s to hoping that it’s reasonably minor, and I can fix anything rust-oriented.
 
The filler - That has all got to come out.

Frankly if someone did that the entire painted side would be suspect to me.

Get your hands on something along these lines https://www.amazon.com/Thickness-Detector-Crash-Test-Resistant-Shopping/dp/B086HJHKTQ/ref=sr_1_20?crid=3GF39HUNCX99M&keywords=mar+hide+mil+thickness+gauge&qid=1671889009&sprefix=mar+hide+mil+thickness+gauge,aps,86&sr=8-20 - Mar Hide used to make a good one but i cant find it now - and see what you actually have.

I can see tape lines in the photos that's not good - and makes me skeptical of refinish over the existing refinish.

Naturally any failed paint will have to be removed but refinish over PROPERLY applied and ADHERED paint should be no issue, Based on what i can see I would plan on having to remove most if not all of the prior repair paint work.
Yes, indeed the silver repaint was a bit sloppy. That’s part of the reason why I think that the damage may have been limited to that area. No other such artifacts in the black areas, the rocker paint has slight wear from feet that is consistent on the whole length and doesn’t show signs of a second coat, etc.

My going in assumption was basic prep on 1/2 the truck that has original paint, and possibly somehow sanding/stripping the repainted side. Of course it is adhered beautifully and smooth on the rest of the repainted side. Looks really good. But the repair needs to go and be repaired correctly.
 
That explains a lot. I'd put money on it that you are going to find it needs a corner panel...
The cab corners are absolutely solid. The whole truck is. Would seem extremely wasteful to cut out an OE corner because of what was some dent on the side.

Since I can get inside of the cab, if there was any drills/pulls/etc, that perforated the sheetmetal, I can always fully epoxy seal and more from the inside. Ill also be applying waxoyl and NH oil/Krown in time, even though the truck doesn’t see salt or much rain even.
 
I have zero body experience, and I’m not sure this is the vehicle I want to learn on, but I’m not opposed to trying either. It’s just nighttime labor and some weekend time (that I don’t have).

Is this a bad idea?
Yes. Paint and bodywork is an art if you want it to look good. Spend the $500 or $600 at a bodyshop to strip the paint and filler, grind away the rust and refinish properly.
 
Yes. Paint and bodywork is an art if you want it to look good. Spend the $500 or $600 at a bodyshop to strip the paint and filler, grind away the rust and refinish properly.
Well my point is that I want to spend the $500-600, or probably more like 1500 to go all around, apply new pinstriping/OE tailgate decals, etc., on the prepa and paint job. If I can do some amount of strip and bondo repair/rust removal and metal stabilization, that would mean I’m confident in my job and the shop can apply the paint with high quality.

This isn’t intended to be a low buck backyard job, though I do not want a full repaint (keeping as much original as possible is important to me), it’s a matter of being rigorous and doing everything right, including things that I may be better off doing myself in the interest of rigor and quality.
 
This isn’t intended to be a low buck backyard job, though I do not want a full repaint
All the more reason to have a shop handle it when they have the tools and experience. I once spent days stripping the peeling paint off a hood and sprayed it with rattle can primer to prevent it from rusting before taking it in, only to be told that primer wasn't compatible with the bodyshop's paint, and that they would have to strip that all off again.
 
It sounds to me like you know exactly what you want, but don't know how to do it. Bring it to a professional. That's what I'd do in this case.
Mike B
 
Pull the inside cab trim off and see what is visible from the inside. I agree it’s going to need sanding and repair. I think the damage isn’t all that bad and is hopefully isolated to that one area. Your bedsides look great and you said the cab corners are solid so I bet it was just a poorly done repair that is now rusting through. Good luck and keep us updated, that’s a sweet truck!
 
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The cab corners are absolutely solid. The whole truck is. Would seem extremely wasteful to cut out an OE corner because of what was some dent on the side.

Since I can get inside of the cab, if there was any drills/pulls/etc, that perforated the sheetmetal, I can always fully epoxy seal and more from the inside. Ill also be applying waxoyl and NH oil/Krown in time, even though the truck doesn’t see salt or much rain even.

When i say cab corner i mean the cab side since that is how many in this era were constructed. I'll try to look it up next week. The panel might be solid, but if it is mangled beyond repair it doesn't matter.

Getting a look at the back would be a good step.

If it is Wyoming / South Dakota truck i'm surprised it doesn't have prior hail repair. Is it from the Sturgis / Spearfish / Belle Fouche area?

Edit: BTW on additional look at the pictures that panel has plastic filler all the way from the door to the bed, you can see the defects in the silver where it wraps around above the moulding. the black looks like its been painted there too to me... The body contour between the door and side panel is a disaster too.

I'm not trying to cut your truck down, it is a nice truck obviously, but while further investigation is warranted I think you need to prepare yourself for finding out that panel is damaged beyond (proper) repair and needs a least a patch panel, maybe i'm wrong, i hope so...

Keep in mind painting up to the black presents the problem of prepping properly up to the paint line it is a built in failure point.
 
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It sounds to me like you know exactly what you want, but don't know how to do it. Bring it to a professional. That's what I'd do in this case.
Mike B
That’s true. And I will absolutely bring in a professional. But the initial fact finding I feel like I’ll do every it as good and potentially apply more care to the substrate. I’m not interested in spraying any finish coats. But I can remove bondo and sand things and etch metal and whatnot.

Pull the inside cab trim off and see what is visible from the inside. I agree it’s going to need sanding and repair. I think the damage isn’t all that bad and is hopefully isolated to that one area. Your bedsides look great and you said the cab corners are solid so I bet it was just a poorly done repair that is now rusting through. Good luck and keep us updated, that’s a sweet truck!

Thanks, I’d tend to agree. That’s why I’m kind of inclined to do an initial “dig in” before going elsewhere.

When i say cab corner i mean the cab side since that is how many in this era were constructed. I'll try to look it up next week. The panel might be solid, but if it is mangled beyond repair it doesn't matter.

Getting a look at the back would be a good step.

If it is Wyoming / South Dakota truck i'm surprised it doesn't have prior hail repair. Is it from the Sturgis / Spearfish / Belle Fouche area?

Edit: BTW on additional look at the pictures that panel has plastic filler all the way from the door to the bed, you can see the defects in the silver where it wraps around above the moulding. the black looks like its been painted there too to me... The body contour between the door and side panel is a disaster too.

I'm not trying to cut your truck down, it is a nice truck obviously, but while further investigation is warranted I think you need to prepare yourself for finding out that panel is damaged beyond (proper) repair and needs a least a patch panel, maybe i'm wrong, i hope so...

Keep in mind painting up to the black presents the problem of prepping properly up to the paint line it is a built in failure point.
Yes, it does indeed have filler across that panel, and I’m not thrilled with how the lines meet up at the one end. But that’s part of any redo anyway, so I’m not terribly concerned.

I agree the silver tape lines aren’t great. They’re better in some places than others. I don’t know how you can tell that the black was redone from the photos I’ve sent. Maybe it was in some spots. From my investigations, I’d say no.

Frankly, I’m not interested in cutting anything out. I’d rather redo bondo than cut my original sheetmetal. Of course if it was porous underneath or something it may be different, but I’ll doubt that. And the truck isn’t going to be exposed to the same conditions anymore, nor am I going to leave it out in the rain. I’m sure a well prepped bondo job and quality paint job will last a decade or much more.
 
You are going to find rust under that slapped on Bondo. You can see rust stains running down from the cracks in the Bondo. I would take it to a body shop to get it repaired or maybe find a replacement door at a recycler. That truck is definitely a keeper. Those pre-emission Cummins are gold.
Replacement door if you can find one in good shape.

Paco
 
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