From the ground up: body repairs and restoration

1962 Impala SS Revival: Metal

We started with a 1962 Impala SS two-door hardtop, but the customer’s car was really rusty, so I suggested that we get better starting material. We found one in Apache Junction, Ariz. So we bought that off eBay and had it trailered here, and it was a much better rust-free car, and it was complete.

By Ken Stadele – Photos by Ken’s Klassics

Old Cars Guide To Auto Restoration recently took a trip through the rural countryside of southwestern Wisconsin to visit Ken’s Klassics, a top-shelf restoration shop near the tiny town of Muscoda. Ken’s Klassics has been around for more than three decades and has made a reputation restoring high-end classics – Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Cord,  Auburn, Porsche, Cadillac, Ferrari – you name it, it’s probably been through Ken’s doors.

The shop gained a reputation early for its work on several Pierce-Arrow projects, but owner Ken Stadele takes on all kinds of projects, from vintage muscle, to 1950s favorites, to trucks, resto-mods and hot rods. Most of the projects involve a total ground-up restoration, and that was the case with a 1962 Chevrolet Impala SS the shop took on this year.

The project vehicle was a solid but weather-beaten hardtop that was located in Arizona. It was immediately ticketed for a complete rebuilt that would eventually include a new Ferrari Red paint job, tan interior, new GM crate motor and modern automatic four-speed tranny.

We had Stadele narrarate the major steps the shop has undertaken to get the Impala’s exterior ready for final bodywork and paint.

Ken’s Klassics takes no shortcuts when it comes to making a car look its best…


This is the way the body came back from the soda blaster, nice and clean. The soda blasting did expose some previous body work.


We tore the car all apart and dismantled it, so all of the sheet metal, doors, mechanisms were taken out and taken in for chemical stripping.

These parts have come back from the chemical stripper and are perfectly clean and rust-free.


If we would not have had the vehicle blasted, we may not have seen these pinholes. When you go that far, then you expose that kind of stuff.

There was some perforation on the floor, underneath the driver’s feet. A lot of times you get into a car with moisture on your feet, and almost all carpet has a jute backing that holds moisture. It’s not uncommon to get some thin areas there, and then on the passenger side, beneath where a heater core has leaked.

This area did have Bondo. It had many holes drilled into it. That was very common years ago – people would drill holes in the body to repair a dent, and the Bondo would ooze in there and hold on, but that is not done in a professional shop anymore.

With this waffle material, you spot weld it on and you can grab onto it and pull the metal out in a number of areas, and that’s really nice with a longer crease like this one had. It looks like they ran over a curb or something low.

After the crease is pulled, the waffle strip is cut off and the spot is ground smooth.

This is a hole that for some reason was cut into a support underneath. That’s the way it looked before we patched it.

Two pieces of metal were welded together and shaped to fit the hole and make a patch.

After a test fit, the patch is welded into place and ground smooth.

This isn’t uncommon on a factory panel – the gas door lid really doesn’t fit the contour. A lot of times we’ll re-radius the door or the opening so it’s a consistent gap all the way around.

Here we’re putting the body shell back on the frame. This is the proper way to do it because if you’re doing any floor pan work, or going to cut out any section, the body won’t twist. You don’t want to weld a panel in when the body is twisted. We’re using all brand-new body mounts. We did this a little different with the frame. Normally, you would leave the frame in rough condition so you don’t have to worry about getting any damage on it. We have it wrapped up with paper to protect it.


To really do a professional job, you want to have the door gap be the same all the way around the top, sides and bottom, and many times vehicles are just not that good. We spend a lot of time on getting gaps perfect because that’s what our customers want.

We try to make sure the fenders and hood line up and all the gaps are correct. The thickness of a paint stick is about what we shoot for.

The gap is not good on the front left fender and the hood, even with the factory fender and hood. This fender looks like it has had some bodywork done to it in the past.

When you get reproduction trim pieces, they don’t always fit the sheet metal perfectly. You always want to pre-fit those before you paint the car so you don’t find out they don’t fit afterwards. This is very common on the longer pieces of trim. The hood molding on this car didn’t fit, so a second one was ordered.

The gap between the front edge of this rocker panel and the front fender was bad. We took a cut-off saw and made a slice about 1/16-inch thick, and with that slice, we could condense the rocker or make it wider.

We cut the front of the rocker with a cutoff tool and brought it a little farther forward to make it fit better. It’s filled in with weld and ground smooth.

On the rocker and rear quarter panel, a horizontal cut was made and filled with weld to make the door gap better. We also cut around the corner to make the radius of the door opening fit the radius of the door.

Here is the other rocker panel on the driver’s side. A horizontal cut was made and filled with weld to make the door gap better.

This is much better gap on the bottom of the door.

Invariably, front fenders have some sort of drain toward the back of the fender with a hole in the bottom. It’s not uncommon even for western vehicles to have dirt or leaves get in there and plug the hole. Water will then get in there and it will rust out.

Here we’ll make our own repair panel because we’ve got an English wheel and planishing hammers. We didn’t need to buy a panel or patch panel. Always use weld-through primer on any areas that you’re going to cover up with a repair panel. The inner structure of the front fender is primed before we put the custom-made patch on it.

The patch is primed on the back with weld-through primer and then welded in.

The floor pans on both sides will be replaced.

The replacement floor pan is bigger than needed, so it will be cut to fit.

The old floor pan is cut with plasma cutter or cut-off saw.

The factory brace under the old floor pan is saved and re-used on the replacement floor pan, which does not come with that brace. The brace is painted with weld-through primer.

Josh Wiser welds in the new floor pan on the passenger side.

The process will be repeated on the driver’s side.



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