Metal Panel Replacement, as Easy as OPGI

The Cure for Rust

At the start of every LOWRIDER build, everyone is faced with the dilemma of trying to find the perfect candidate to begin with. There are many factors that play into this decision-making process, but the one major common denominator across the board that everyone must deal with is whether a vehicle has rust or not. Sometimes the rarity of a particular vehicle makes us have to deal with more allowable rust repair than we normally would.

For this installment of LOWRIDER tech, we visit a 1971 Buick Boattail Riviera that has formed some troublesome rust in the lower rocker area of the quarter-panel. Over time the window rubber hardens up and fails to keep the water out of the quarter-panel. This area then becomes a common problem spot in many cars due to the buildup of dirt and debris that clogs up the drain holes that would typically allow water to run out of the inner rocker panels freely. This can certainly be an intimidating area to fix since you never know how much sheetmetal replacement is really entailed until you start the cutting process.

Thanks to our partners at Original Parts Group Inc. (OPGI) Body and Restoration Parts, this type of metal surgery isn’t nearly as precarious as it once was. OPGI has always been known for their vast array of muscle car parts, but within the past decade they’ve expanded their catalog to cater to those of us with a ’60s-’80s Cadillac, Monte Carlo, Cutlass, Regal, and Buick Riviera restoration part needs. Their rust removal replacement patch panels that are available make it so much easier to fix cancerous spots in our projects, whereas we used to have to search all over for original donor cars with viable sheetmetal to cut pieces from.

For this metal surgery, we turned to David and Greg of Engle Bros. Fabrication to take care of our cancer spots. With OPGI replacement panels and Miller Electric Manufacturing Company welders in hand, our Buick Riviera Boattail will have pristine metal in no time. Once you have all the old rusted metal cut out, always be sure to spray down all inner pieces with a good rust inhibiting coating to prevent any future rust from forming. The key to any type of sheetmetal replacement is good panel fitment with tight gaps before any welding occurs. The tighter the seams the less welding heat that’s required, so minimal distortion occurs. And always be sure to fully weld up your seams to prevent any of your bodywork from cracking back through. There’s nothing worse than having your lowrider all painted up and done, only to discover a crack popping back through the bodywork and paint.

Please follow along as we show you the few easy steps it takes to replace a rust-rotted panel on our somewhat “Rusty Riviera.”

We started off here at our LOWRIDER Tech Center to begin our quest to remove the rust from this 1971 Boattail Buick Riviera.

1. We removed the rear tire, wheel chrome strips, and rocker panel molding to get in close for some cutting and grinding. As you can see here up close, over the years water leaked through the rear window rubber seals like all other ’60s and ’70s GM cars. Problem here is that the drains were clogged and the water got out eventually, one way or the other.

2. Dave Engle from Engle Bros. Fabrication gets the rust removal underway as he begins to cut and grind away.

3. A cutting wheel is used to cut away and remove any corroded metal left on the lower panel.

4. Engle places the OPGI body restoration panel up against the area to get a good look at the soon-to-be-perfect placement.

5. The metal panel is fixed into place and held with vise grip holders so that Engle could use it as a template and outline the areas to be cut away for the proper fitment.

6. Engle makes the final and exact cuts so that the metal patch will fit like a glove.

7. After grinding away and cleaning up whatever rust was inside the interior walls and rocker frame, Engle places the OPGI panel into its permanent place.

8. With helmet fastened for safety reasons, Engle and his trusty Millermatic 211 MIG welder begin to tack-weld the metal panel into its final resting place.

9. The metal panel is tacked into place and from here will be welded up completely and then ground down smoothly before a protective primer is used. All gone is the rust, and we are also all done as well. Most of our favorite classic rides have some rust issues so before you choose your ride of choice, make sure OPGI has you covered, not only in restoration panels and parts but in accessories too!