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Jeep CJ Bodywork Tips and Tricks: Part 3

Posted in How To: Body Chassis on December 11, 2017
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Each day in the shop is a day closer to completion of the CJ-6A Tuxedo Park at Quick Draw Jeep Restoration. Dave and Preston Delight have already torn down the CJ-6A, had the sheetmetal sandblasted, cut out all of the panels that were beyond repair, and then installed some made-in-USA pre-fabricated repair panels that were available through Classic Enterprises in Iowa.

A lot of work was done on this restoration project in a short amount of time. There was still one piece missing though, and that was the rear passenger quarter-panel. The original panel was banged up and full of holes. What was left of the sheetmetal was worn too thin for reasonable repair, so it had to be cut out and replaced. The only catch was that a new passenger-side rear quarter-panel for a Kaiser-era CJ-5 and CJ-6 was not available yet. That didn’t slow down Preston though. It simply meant that he had to dust off the old English wheel in the corner of the shop and fabricate a curved panel the old fashioned way.

New prefabricated weld-in panels are nice, but they don’t always fit the project budget or project intent. Maybe you just want to learn another skill in the garage. Whatever the motivation, tackling a project like this is always easier with some professional guidance. Watch as the guys at Quick Draw show you how.

Something is missing here. The passenger rear quarter-panel had some significant damage and was rusted through in spots. It was obvious that it needed to be removed, considering the level of restoration required for this project. While the entire driver-side panel is available aftermarket, the passenger side is not at this time. Preston picked a strategic seam to do his cutting to make it easy for him to build a new corner from scratch.
The new inner fenderwell has already been welded into place. A quick check with a straightedge along the rear of the Jeep ensured that everything was going according to plan and lining up nicely. The straightedge was brought out often through this part of the project to maintain quality.
The straightness of the long side of the Jeep was also critical to building the rear fender piece. Some long clamps were used to dial in the location of the rails exactly where the Delights wanted it to be. Well-thought-out prep is the key to a smooth fabrication process.
The rear passenger-side quarter-panel was not yet available during this build because the manufacturing tooling is still in the works. This meant that Preston had to fab the panel from scratch. He started by marking where the beginning, middle, and end of the radius lined up on the new flat piece of steel as he rolled it around the corner.
Those guidelines are necessary in order to evenly shape the new radius using an English wheel. An English wheel is designed to stretch flat metal to create complex round shapes. There are several different shapes and radii of the wheels available to get the proper shape for your specific project.
The metal is carefully rolled back and forth through the wheels, end to end, stretching the metal as it goes. This corner radius was simple, and a skilled hand had the basic shape worked out in no time. The wheel is doing all of the bending and forming here. There is no downward pressure applied by the operator, just a slow and controlled push and pull motion.
If we went a little bit too far with the English wheel, the day was not lost. A little hammer action made sure we had the bend just right. Metal fabrication takes time and patience if you want the job done right.
Once the corner is well formed, it is marked and trimmed to fit. This first trim is simply to fit it into place. After the fender fit well, the guys moved on to trimming out the details like the wheelwell.
Sometimes the best template is the mirror image. The new panel was lined up on the driver side so that the wheelwell arch could be transferred and trimmed.
Measure twice, cut once, as they say. We always double-check before cutting anything (admittedly, sometimes we need to take our own advice). The traced wheelwell was a perfect match to the location it would be welded to.
Once the final trimming was finished, it was a perfect fit. This panel probably only took about an hour or so to get into shape. Not bad at all. Don’t be intimidated by how long something may take you to accomplish. Most of the time you’ll contemplate it longer than it would just take to do it. Don’t overthink it, but don’t rush the job either.
Sheetmetal welding is tough. The thin pieces are easy to burn holes through, and it’s very difficult to fill in any edge gaps that didn’t come out well. A copper backing plate is a very useful tool to have in your welding supplies. It dissipates the heat so you don’t burn through the steel. It also acts as a backing plate for the weld bead to pool up on nicely. The best part is that the molten steel won’t stick to the copper. Copper backing tools can be purchased at your local welding shop, or fashioned from pieces of copper pipe crushed flat in a vise or with a hammer.
The welds on all of the body patches were ground smooth using a die grinder with several different grits of sanding discs. By the time Preston was done with the die grinder you couldn’t even tell a panel had been welded in place.
The factory rolled edge of the wheel opening was formed in a stamping die at the factory. When doing a repair like this it is necessary to weld on a section of strap steel to mimic that edge. After some work with a welder and die grinder, this too looked like it was from the factory.
The strap steel was bent by hand, and tack welded as it was formed to hold it in place. In no time at all the edge of the fender was finished, one tack weld at a time in different locations along the edge. It is important not to attempt to run a weld bead from top to bottom. That much heat will definitely warp the sheetmetal.
The new piece is all welded up and ground down to a nice, smooth finish. It sure looks as factory as factory gets.
Well, it is starting to look like a Jeep again. All of the repair panels have been installed, new rear quarter-panel fabricated, several old patches redone correctly, and non-factory holes repaired in the firewall. It was a lot of work, but totally worth it in the end.
Multitasking is a part of life out in the shop. While waiting for some pieces to arrive, Preston used the time to do the body work and painting on some of the peripheral items. Stay tuned to Jp for the next segment of tips and tricks for building a better body on your classic round-fender Jeep!
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Quick Draw Jeep Restoration

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