Dealing with Decay
Restoring the structural integrity of your Tri-Five with Real Deal Steel’s complete inner quarter-panels
When taking on the build of a car that’s over 60 years old there are typically a lot of areas that will need a load of attention. Regardless of whether you’re going to run the car in its original state with enhancements or take on a full chassis-up resurrection, you’re bound to run into a bag full of surprises when you turn a particular corner. This is especially true when you decide to tear into a body to bring it back to life. Once you have it blasted clean to let you know exactly what your playing field looks like, there’s no turning back when the results are in. While some returns yield a clean, rust-free shell there are other times where the form can literally turn to dust once the rust and filler are removed.
The latter was the case for an old hopped-up '55 Chevy Bel Air brought to Peter Newell, owner of
Competition Specialties of Walpole, Massachusetts, for a full rebuild into a modern Pro Touring car with a
nostalgic edge. Owned by father and son team Gary and Peter Caruso for over 25 years, the car possessed plenty of sentimental value where the pair had put down thousands of miles together while exercising the car’s big-block mill.
The challenges, however, for bringing the body back to life were not for the faint at heart. The deeper Newell got into the body, the more surprises he found. The decades of
East Coast winters, road salt, and abuse had taken their toll on the vintage sheetmetal, leaving its mark virtually everywhere. The crowning touch, however, appeared when the rear
quarters were removed for replacement, showing off totally devastated inner quarter-panel structures.
Thankfully Real Deal Steel is devoted to the restoration of cars suffering such a fate. They specialize in top-quality, factory-style replacement parts for the Tri-Five with a wide assortment of freshly struck sheetmetal components available to breathe life
back into even the most dilapidated examples. This car has already been treated to their one-piece stamped
(like factory original) full replacement floors and trunk by Newell. Seeing that it was going to run a wider rear tire combination he ordered a pair of their complete inner quarter structures with mini-tubs. The panels flow from the doorjamb all the way back to the rear trunk opening. The wider tubs were a perfect match to Real Deal’s narrowed trunk floor exclusively designed to accommodate the update. The larger wheel tubs are 2-5/8 inches wider and are designed to accommodate up to a 13-inch-wide (335mm) rear tire, perfect for putting plenty of rubber to the pavement.
With the inner body structure fully braced, Newell worked his craft in removing the complete original inner quarter structures one side at a time, and preparing the body for the installation of the fresh panels. It’s imperative to wear eye protection when taking on a project of this magnitude due to all the cutting, grinding, and welding required to complete the job. Paying close attention to your measurements throughout the fabrication process, which is very labor intensive, will yield great results. Let’s follow along as Newell moves forward through another chapter in bringing the Caruso '55 back to life with great products from Real Deal Steel.
Once the rear quarter-panel was removed for replacement the ugly truth hidden underneath was revealed. The entire inner quarter structure had been devastated by decades of corrosion, requiring it to be replaced.
To prepare for removal of the inner structure key measurements were taken to ensure the proper structural balance upon reassembly. First was the trunk floor to the quarter-panel top, our car was 17 inches but this may vary slightly from car to car.
Peter Newell of Competition Specialties in Walpole, MA, continued on cross measuring from both sides of the trunk area at 54-1/2 inches.