Deal­ing with De­cay

Restor­ing the struc­tural in­tegrity of your Tri-Five with Real Deal Steel’s com­plete in­ner quar­ter-pan­els

Street Rodder - - Contents - By Chuck Vranas Pho­tog­ra­phy & Videog­ra­phy by the Au­thor

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.

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