Metalwork – Part 1 of…

Posted: February 10, 2012 in 300ZX Build
Tags: , , ,

If you’re following along, you’ll remember from my Rebirth! post that Eagle Valley Auto Body got the Z to a good starting point after frame straightening (working wonders given the limited time and budget I gave them). But there’s still plenty of metal & bodywork to be done. Here’s where my journey begins.

I’ll start right off by saying I’m no expert. I worked at a friend’s body shop after high school (mostly to pay off fixing up my own cars in their shop), and spent countless hours watching shows like Horsepower TV, Muscle Car, Hot Rod TV, Overhauling, and Chop Cut Rebuild over the years.

So I’m armed with a lot of knowledge, but in the “actual” experience department, I’m still very much a novice. I’ll be learning on the fly as I go along. (I’d love feedback from my readers, so if you know metalwork/bodywork, and have some tips for me, I’d like to hear from you!)

So without further ado, let’s dive in.

During frame straightening, some of the metal wouldn’t come back to its original shape. Tears were left where the metal refused to stretch. (As seen here in the engine compartment.)

I figured this was the best place to start, as it’s mostly an unseen area. It would be good practice before I tackle the more visible areas like the rear quarter panel. That way, if it didn’t turn out so good, no one would really see it!

Starting to split the frame rail.

The area above bore the brunt of the accident. The frame rail was pulled within 3/8” of factory spec by Eagle Valley, but I felt there was room for improvement. The goal was to finish straightening the rail and make sure everything was welded solid.

I began by splitting the rail open at the seams, using a 5lb sledge hammer and large pry bar (as a backing brace) to form the metal back into rough shape. A traditional hammer & dolly didn’t have enough force to move the metal in this area at all.

This caused the rail to tear as it moved upward back into place (because the metal was so weak from fatigue/stretching).

I put my recent welding class knowledge into play and used a backstrap (small piece of metal placed behind the weld seam) to allow me to weld the seam closed without blowing holes through it (which happens often when the metal is so thin).

Backstrap was sourced from the car's damaged fender.

Finished rail (with ground down welds).

The same method was used to plug an access hole I created while straightening the lower part of the rail. The metal was just too thin to attempt a straight butt weld. 











With the top and bottom sections of the frame rail fairly straight, I turned my attention to the center of the rail. The factory ribs this section for strength.

Channel locks were used to secure the top section to the center. I used a large screwdriver and mallet to beat the center section of the rail back into shape. (Zip ties make a great workaround for lack of fingers.)

I then drilled several holes to spot weld the two panels together as the factory did. (More zip tie ingenuity to hold the center punch.)

For being my first attempt, I think it came out pretty well. It’s not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but it’s strong, straight, and functional again.

The factory sheet metal has a galvanized coating that must be removed when welding (leaving it susceptible to rust), so plan to use Eastwood’s internal frame coating to stop any rust from developing inside the rail where I welded.

The last item on the list was filling the broken gap between the rail and inner engine apron. A clean hole was cut back to the base metal to simplify the process.

More patch metal was lifted from the damaged fender and bent into rough shape on the vice.

Once bent, I locked it in place with some C-clamps and used the hammer & dolly to form it to the apron.

Tracing the bottom for rough trimming.

A file was used for final trimming to ensure an exact fit.

More holes were drilled to spot weld the patch to the rail like factory.

The bronze color is a coat of weld through primer applied before welding.

Followed by butt welding to the original apron metal. This was tricky as it takes finesse. Too much heat and you burn through the seam, not enough and you get globs of weld that don’t penetrate or “fuse” the two pieces together. (I burned through in a few spots and had to go back and fill the holes I created.)

View from below.

Final look with the welds ground down. Not too bad! A skim coat of body filler and you’ll never see the repair.

I made myself crazy trying to get the seam as flat as I could, but in the end it’s still visible if you look closely. Won’t be a problem here as the filler will cover it nicely (and I’ll tackle that once the engine’s pulled when I prep for paint), but it’s got me concerned once I start on the rear quarter. I’ll want the seam weld to be as flat as possible to minimize filler and waves.

Overall not a bad start to what’s sure to be many late nights doing metalwork.

Stay tuned!



  1. Good job, if you needed that section, I would of donated it to you, since I am parting it out.And I have most of what I want to keep from it. It seems you do need the lower left rocker and the dog leg section. If you want it let me know.I ‘ll cut it out for you.


  2. Wow, thank you for the offer Gilbert! I already purchased a used rear quarter/rocker last year unfortunately. But I’ll be sure to check with you if there’s any other sheet metal I end up needing in the future. It’s much appreciated. Thanks! Jay

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