Considering just how popular the ‘32 Ford is for street rod projects, it’s rare to find original tin, and it usually needs a lot of rust repair. Due to the puddling of water mixed with road salt, the bottom areas of the doors are particularly vulnerable (which is true of many older cars, so these repair tips apply to a wide range of vehicles). For a high-quality rod, repairing with body filler is not the way to go. You’ve got cut out the old rust and weld in a new patch.
Unfortunately, replacement patches from aftermarket sources can be fairly expensive compared with a custom repair. A reproduction door skin might run as high as $1000, while a repair would cost $600 for two doors. Doing it yourself isn’t all that difficult, if you have the right tools.
What you’ll need are relatively inexpensive items that will doubtless come in handy for a number of other projects. Using the following metalworking tools and techniques, it’s relatively simple to create just about any frame piece or bracket.
Some of the tools shown here are professional-grade, such as the four-foot-wide press brake. Instead of spending $2000 on this industrial unit, though, you can get a 20-inch one costing only $150, which is fine for handling most do-it-yourself projects.
Most of the other metalworking tools, such as a shrinker, stretcher, and bead roller, run about $150 each, and it’s amazing the range of things you can do with them. You also don’t need a professional shear cutter, since a pair of $15 tin snips is sufficient for most small jobs. You can also use an air-powered disc grinder, which has an attachment for a cutting wheel. For straight cuts of flat panels, an air saw with a metal-cutting blade simplifies the job.
For those who don’t have experience using these tools, before you tackle the actual part that needs repair, practice on some scrap pieces of metal to hone your skills. After you build up a bit of confidence with throwaway pieces and simple projects, then you’ll be ready to take on that street rod.
After removing the door, start by marking off the section to be repaired with a straight edge.
Don’t attempt to fill these holes with Bondo. You’ll need to add a fresh piece of metal for a proper resto job.
Use a die grinder to trim the bottom edge of the skin and around the corner.
Remove just enough metal to allow the skin to separate from the frame. Note all the corrosion that builds up from water and road salt collecting in the crevices.
Use a cutting wheel at the edge to make a slot for the air saw.
An air saw is ideal for doing straight cuts on flat panels.
After removing the piece you’ve cut away, examine the door frame for additional damage.
These holes are beyond repair, so the bottom edge will need to be sliced off and replaced with a custom-fabricated piece.
Use the cutting wheel on curved surfaces and corners. Be sure to wear eye protection.
The air saw works fine in the straight sections of the frame.
Measure the piece you’ve sliced off the door, and allow some extra material for “fudging.” You have to make the piece big, and it’s better to align it to the car, not the part (which may not fit exactly on the car anyway).
An industrial-grade metal shear is ideal for cutting, but for small parts a pair of tin snips will work too.
Use a pair of dividers to transfer the dimensions from the original piece to the repair patch. You’ll be working in three dimensions, so you’ll have to take several measurements to get the right shape.
Simply score the metal with the tips of the dividers to the width of the piece you want to replicate.
For curves, you’ll need to scribe the piece against the repair patch.
After scribing with a pencil and laying down masking tape, brush on some Dychem to stain the part, so it’s easier to cut and shape it.
Again, transfer the shape of the fold to the patch with your dividers, and use it to make guide marks on the stain.
Tin snips are needed for cutting a curve with accuracy.
Check your cut against the original part to make sure it follows the contours correctly.
Use a file to remove any burrs.
Now your patch is ready for shaping in a flange or edge turner. The wheels and attachments for this tool allow you to make a wide variety of shapes and sharp curves.
The shrinker/stretcher allows you to put long bends in the piece.
Use a hammer and metal backing block for some gentle persuasion.
A professional-grade press brake runs about $1000. You can get a small one for about $150, or even create a cheap substitute with a piece wood against some angle iron clamped to a table.
Here are the curves the press brake imparts to the patch. You may need to fine-tune the bends with a hammer, to make sure it matches the original part.
Now you’re ready to weld the patch on to the door frame. Note the excess at the ends, which will be trimmed back.
Use an air saw to cut a slot and bend the ends around the frame. Afterwards, you can then weld on a new flat panel, and finish the seams.