There comes a time in almost every Jeep’s life when it needs some reconstructive surgery. Whether it’s age, hard use, abuse, neglect, an accident, or the ravages of nature, a Jeep can become rusty, crusty, bent, crunched, or twisted. In this article, we are going to focus on structural repair and bodywork. These tips and tricks for body and frame repair are applicable to any Jeep from flattie to Wrangler because, after all, sheet metal is sheet metal. There are several companies that produce aftermarket replacement panels, floorboards, floor supports, rear fenders, side panels, frame sections, and crossmembers to help you get your project back on the road and looking great, but if you don’t know how to blend them in to your ride, then they’re just parts taking up garage space.
Our subject vehicle is a really cool (and rare) Jeep CJ-6A Tuxedo Park. The owner used it to run around town and go to local car shows where it became a local favorite. One day the Jeep was rear-ended just as it was pulling into a car show, and the damage to the body and chassis was significant. We joined Dave and Preston Delight, a father-son team, who own and operate Quick Draw Jeep Restoration in Huntsville, Utah, to learn body and frame repair from these professionals.
Follow along was we pass that information on to you, starting from square one with this project: initial evaluation, tear down, sand blasting, the hard truth under the paint, and frame repair. Learn from the pros all of the tips and tricks to a proper restoration, and stay tuned to jpmagazine.com for more frame and body repair tips.
After a rear-end wreck left this CJ-6A with body and frame damage, the only way to get it straight and true again was to separate the body from the frame. No shortcuts were taken to bring this rare Jeep back to showroom quality. Follow along as we dig into the start of a frame-off restoration with Quick Draw Jeep Restoration.
This rare ’65 CJ-6A Tuxedo Park Mark IV is number 63 of only 459 to roll off the assembly line in Toledo, Ohio. Yes, these are the “before” shots of the Jeep shortly after arriving at Quick Draw Jeep Restoration.
This is the last known photo of #63 before the transformation began. It’s hard to believe that such a good-looking jeep is about to be completely disassembled for a restoration. The better the condition of the base project, the better the finished product will be. This Jeep will end of being the poster child for the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.”
As soon as the garage door hit the concrete, the crew got to work and began removing the interior of the Jeep and hitting all of the body mounts with some lubricant to bust through any corrosion. It’s amazing how quickly two knowledgeable guys can take apart a Jeep. They had the body off the frame in about four hours.
With most of the interior out, all that spray-on bedliner used to coat the floor was obvious. While this is a popular modification to help keep your Jeep protected from corrosion and wheeling chaos, it is a nightmare for a purist Jeeper doing a factory restoration. All of this will need to be removed somehow. Sandblasting will just bounce off the rubberized coating though, this all needs to be removed manually.
Here is one of the many gremlins that we found during the teardown process. The damage to the fuel tank couldn’t be seen until the seat was removed. We wish we could say that this was the only surprise, but it turned out to be one of many. That is to be expected of a 52-year-old Jeep that has gone through many owners and has had some substandard “restoration” work done in the past. Add a new fuel tank to the growing parts list.
Dave and Preston Delight of Quick Draw Jeep Restoration are the pros working on this cool Jeep. They are experts on all things Jeep, but their specialty is Bantam to Kaiser-era rigs. Time to get that front clip off!
“Ol’ Sparky” was found under the hood, in good shape and running well. The powertrain will be left alone for this project. It will get cleaned up and a fresh coat of chassis black paint added. There is a petition to keep the mini beer keg for the coolant overflow bottle, but the jury is still out on that one.
The coolant was drained from the system and headlights disconnected so the front grille could be removed. All of the wires on the engine were individually marked before being taken off. This is a pretty simple old motor, though, and luckily there were only a few wires to disconnect.
Preston unbolted the dashboard from the cowl so he could disconnect the components without having to lie uncomfortably on his back. Intelligently turning under-dash work into over dash-work, genius.
The last bits of the wiring harness were removed from the body. It took a team of two to snake it all through the firewall. A bird’s nest of wiring can get frustrating, but it’s important to avoid any yanking or pulling so that nothing gets damaged. The wires were all in great shape for their age so the harness will be reused. There are aftermarket replacement wiring kits available if the wiring in your Jeep is beyond repair.
When there is nothing left to take out, you’re done! There’s a great deal of satisfaction and enthusiasm getting into a project like this, especially when the progress is so fast. At this point, though, we just kept trying to figure out how to remove all of that spray-on bedliner.
As the pieces were taken off the Jeep, a pretty good parts pile accumulated. Keep everything nice and organized, and avoid throwing things in unmarked boxes that will get lost on the shelves or under the stairs never to be found again. There was a pile for stuff heading to the sand blaster, a pile for the chrome shop, and a pile of stuff to not lose. Can you pick out the most important item on the table? If you guessed the factory chrome license plate light, you are correct! This was one of the special Tuxedo Park trim pieces and reproductions are not available.
During disassembly, bolts that were from the Jeep factory were kept, and anything that was not a factory bolt was thrown in the trash. All of the Jeeps these guys work on get the purist touch, and that means everything is assembled with 100 percent Jeep factory hardware when possible.
Four hours earlier this Jeep drove into the Quick Draw shop under its own power. Now that everything is exposed, a true evaluation of how much love this Jeep needs can be done. Now if only it took four hours to put it all back together.
What seems straight from 15 feet away is not so true when a straight edge puts it to the test. Preston was eager to see how much work may lie ahead.
Using a wire wheel to hit a few spots on the body to see what was causing all of the bowing exposed whole lot more bondo on this Jeep than anyone expected to see.
Preston knew right off the bat that there were several factory sheet metal seams that were missing on this Jeep. It didn’t take long for some of those seams to be uncovered, just to make sure they were still there. Those seems were visible from the factory, and in our opinion, they should never be covered up with body filler.
The body buckling slightly during the rear end collision caused this crack in the driver front kick panel. After removing another spot with 3/8-inch thick bondo, an old patch panel weld had failed. The good-looking Jeep that entered the garage was telling all of its dirty secrets now.
This Jeep will be heading to the sand blaster, but that process will not take off the rubberized undercoating and spray-on bedliner. Jasco paint remover worked well to remove the undercoating on the bottom of the tub and firewall, as well as the spray-on bedliner on the interior of the tub. It is a labor-intensive process. The chemicals loosen the unwanted material from the steel, and some work with a scraper gets the job done. In this case, it took several sessions of remover solution, soak time, and scraping to get it to a usable state.
With the body off to the sand blaster, the guys focused on some necessary frame repairs. It is common to find this section of the frame horns to be broken off or rusted through. A matching piece was cut out, welded in place, and the factory holes drilled. Good as new.
The V-brace in the rear of the frame buckled from the traffic accident, along with other damage to the draw bar hitch, towing ball, and rear crossmember. The passenger side of the rear crossmember had been cut off so it will be replaced with a remanufactured one. The rest of the damaged components will be fixed.
Straightening parts of a frame can be a tricky task and often requires heating with a torch and thinking outside of the box. A little farm ingenuity can be seen here with a combination of heat, a floor jack, and a come-along hooked up to a pry bar. Use your imagination and the tools you have at hand to get the job done. The key here is to not fatigue the steel more than is needed. Work the area a little bit at a time, relaxing the pressure in between pulls. Do not try to move things too far in one shot.
With the rear of the frame back in order, it was time to install the new rear crossmember. From the factory, the crossmembers were installed with rivets. When ordering remanufactured crossmembers from Walck’s 4 Wheel Drive, new rivets come in the box. Some assembly is required, of course. The first step was to heat the new rivet cherry red. When it begins to spark, it is ready to be smashed into place.
The rivet is “backed up” with a rivet tool that forms the red-hot rivet stem into its mushroom, which secures the two pieces of frame. When being formed, the rivet also expands inside of the hole in the steel ensuring it stays in place.
Installing the hot rivets is a two-man job. One guy holds the back-up forming tool and applies as much force as possible. The other fella is using an air hammer with a blunt end. If the team is unsuccessful at seating the rivet on the first try, it can be reheated to a sparkler and a second attempt can be made until it is fully smashed into place.
The rear of the frame is all back together with the proper factory hardware.
After a serious degreasing session, the frame was coated with POR15, and a topcoat of chassis black was added to protect the POR15 from UV damage. Without a topcoat of paint to protect it, the POR15 coating will fade to brown over time.
In case anyone was wondering, a CJ-6A body tub and all of the components will fit in the back of a fullsize pickup truck bed. Just as the frame was being finished, the body was making its way back from sandblaster. The test areas revealed quite a bit of body filler, and now it is time to see what was under all of the mud! Stay tuned to jpmagazine.com for the next part of the restoration: sheet metal!