One of the most dreaded problems for anyone restoring a classic car, no matter what year or make, is rust. And one of the most common places that metal “cancer” strikes is in the trunk. If you’re lucky, the rust demons haven’t gained full possession of your lowrider’s trunk floor. When we decided to tackle the job of cleaning up and restoring the trunk of a Chevy Nova convertible, we were lucky. Of course, the procedures used here apply to repairing rust in any car’s trunk.
After close inspection of the car’s trunk, no cancerous holes were discovered, which helped make this a quick and relatively easy job. Had there been some cancer, the whole restoration project would have been a much more time-consuming affair. There are ways of dealing with that type of rust as well, but that’s another article.
It’s always a good idea to begin by scraping or sanding any flaky paint or loose rust to help find holes that may not be visible. You should start your inspection by applying pressure to all rusted areas using a screwdriver or other blunt object. If the screwdriver can be pushed through the metal with minimal effort, then you’ve got a rusted area that needs to be repaired. Do not lose hope, however, anything can be repaired.
To help with this restoration we received a POR 15 trunk floor restoration kit from RestoMotive Laboratories, one of the most trusted names in automotive chemicals. POR 15 is a high-tech, high-performance rust-preventive coating designed for application directly on rusted or seasoned metal surfaces. It dries to an incredible rock-hard, non-porous finish that won’t chip, crack, or peel, and it prevents rust from recurring by protecting metal from further exposure to moisture.
The kit comes packed with everything you’ll need to prep, neutralize and cover all types of rusty sheet metal. POR 15 even includes a material called “fabric steel,” which upon close inspection, looks very much like fiberglass sheeting. Nonetheless, if your trunk has a small amount of rust, you could patch the holes with the fabric steel supplied in the POR 15 kit. The material works similarly to fiberglass, in that there is a resin agent to harden the layers of cloth. While patching small holes with the cloth will do the job, the best way to tackle the more gaping holes is with a replacement panel and a trusty welder.
After we were finished with all of the scraping and sanding, we had to decide what type of finish–and color– with which to coat our beautiful, rust-free trunk floor. Our choice was Plasti-Kote’s gray speckled trunk spatter paint, because it closely resembles the factory finish and makes the not-so-perfect areas of the trunk look clean and uniform. Even if you decide to completely cover your trunk with upholstery, it’s a good idea to coat the floor and sides with some kind of trunk paint to ensure a strong, rust-resistant barrier.
Sometimes having a stock appearance is what you want for a low. In this example, it was decided to go with the spatter-paint look and a reproduction rubber mat from CARS, Inc. Of course, CARS, Inc. also offers stock trunk kits for all mainstream lowriders like ’55 to ’72 Impalas, Monte Carlos, Regals and Cutlasses.
1. Giving your trunk a like-new look is a simple with POR 15 and Plasti-Kote.
2. Scraping off loose paint and rust is not only the first step in this project, but also a very important one in finding weak or cancerous metal.
3. Lucky for us, the worst spot of rust was only on the surface. Using a buffing wheel from Standard Abrasives, we were able to easily clean the area, as well as sufficiently prep the sheet metal for the rust-preventive paint. Most rust-preventive paints require a small amount of rust to be left on the surface to cause the chemical reaction needed for it to bond properly.
4. A wire wheel will take care of any hard-to-reach places that should not be overlooked.
5. Here is the kit straight out of the box. POR 15 even furnishes paintbrushes, which might save a last-minute run to the hardware store.
6. & 7. Since we only have small areas of rust, we decided to brush the rust-preventive paint on instead of spraying. This method is quicker and easier than masking the entire car just to spray the trunk. The paint is very thick and will cover the trunk’s sheet metal nicely.
8. Even though we covered almost the entire trunk floor, it seemed better to be safe than sorry at this point. It took less time to brush on the paint than it took to prep the entire area. Notice that all areas, including scratches and chips in the original coating, were covered with a liberal amount of the rust-preventive paint.
9. & 10. Any pieces that can be unbolted should receive the same treatment as the trunk floor. However, the inspection plates shown in the photos needed only to be cleaned with a rotating wire brush and painted.
11. To achieve an even pattern of paint, you will need to hold the spray can–or gun–at least a foot away from what you are spraying. This causes an overspray cloud that will float around and attach itself to anything in close proximity. Make sure to mask the area completely to prevent this from happening to areas that you don’t want painted.
12. Once everything is masked, it’s time to spray. Don’t forget to pull all of the rubber plugs out of the floor before applying the first coat, as well as covering up any wiring that you don’t want painted.
13. With our project being a convertible, we also needed to mask the underside of the ragtop boot, where the package tray normally resides in a hardtop version.
14. Earlier we mentioned holding the spray can far enough away to lay down a nice, even pattern of paint. This is sometimes called fogging. It is a necessary practice when spraying any paint with a metallic or patterned type of finish.
15. After the paint has fully hardened, it’s time for final assembly. POR 15 includes two bars of epoxy putty to replace the factory goop that sealed the trunk’s inspection plates. The putty has two parts that can easily be kneaded together to produce a factory-like seal.
16. After the epoxy putty becomes pliable, twist two 1/4-inch round strips to lie between the trunk and the inspection plate.
17. You will notice the epoxy compressing to form a watertight seal when the inspection plate is finally bolted down tight.
18. & 19. Here is another look at the trunk before and after. The process was not only easy but only took one day to complete.
20. This job would not be complete without returning the original jack and tools to their intended resting places. Of course, the tools will be restored to like new condition and we’ll also install a new trunk seal.