Kerry's 1957 Imperial Restoration - part 19

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October-November, 98

Patch Panels My travel schedule has been really rough and my shop time has suffered accordingly. This installment has some catch up from some hours here and there . I decided to put the rear quarter panel back on. I used some 1/4 inch bolts with washers and put them through the trim holes to hold it in place. I used some "C" clamps, Vice Grips, and similar stuff to get it positioned just right. A few minutes with the mig welder and it was back on.

Next, I decided to work on the rot around the wheel wells. Using my cutoff wheel, I cut out a rotted section about 18" long from the center to the front of the rear wheel arch. I tried to keep the cuts straight. As you can see from the photos I will post soon, the rust was just above the lip where it turns under the car and was so bad I decided to cut it out and build a completely new outer wheel arch. I've done some of this before and it's not too bad but it takes FOREVER and requires a lot of patience.

The first thing is not to cut out the rotted piece until you have your patch made. I've wanted to buy a sheet metal brake for a long time but haven't found a cheap one yet so I did this the hard way. I like to work in smaller segments so I cut two 12 inch pieces of angle iron and put them in my big vice. I then cut a 12" piece of 20 gauge paint bond. Placing about 1/2 inch down in the sheet metal, I gently bent it over 90 degrees with a rubber mallet.. Taking it out of my "brake", I gently tapped it over another 20 degrees and then beat it flat with the mallet. This will be the lip which goes toward the tire. I needed another angle so I put the folded lip back in the vice and beat it over until I had the desired angle. An cheap angle gauge is very handy for this.

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Now for the neat part. The wheel arch is not very straight. The back part of this patch is pretty straight because it is on the top of the arch but the front has about a 90 degree radius and also curves in. The ONLY way to do this is with a stretching / shrinking tool. These are really handy and can be had from several sources. I bought mine from Eastwood last year for about $100 bucks. What they are is a pair of dies with teeth like a file. Depending on which one you use they either stretch or shrink the metal as you press the handle and feed the piece through. It is magic. In about 10 minutes I had it done to my satisfaction. Now I cut out the rusty part and using my Mig, tacked the new patch in. Holding it up to the car looked good so I repeated the process with the back end of the piece I cut off. It was nearly straight and when finished and welded in it looks good. It ain't art but it will last longer than I will. I do not profess to be a great metal bender and have no concern what-so-ever about using a little filler to smooth things out. In panels as long as the rear of the 57, I'm afraid I'm going to have to use more than I would like.

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The state of this fender has me concerned. It is going to be VERY difficult to get it right. Even with filler, trying to get 8 feet of metal finished with no dips or bulges will tax my ability.

Every time I go in the shop I think more and more about doing her as a mild custom. Several things drive me toward this.

1- I've always wanted one. I was custom car crazy when I was a teenager in the early 60s.

2- Old Katherine has been rode hard and put up wet and is going to have more work in her to make her look good than she is worth.

3- Looking good is MUCH easier than looking right.

4- I don't want to have to redo all the chrome and fight the restoration prices for the "correct" fabric, etc.

5- I already have a "wrong" engine (440) and am not willing to make the investment for the correct 392.

6- Neat as Katherine is, she is not the look I want.

7- I've always wanted to build a custom. Still thinking on it.


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