Dennis Duff didnt know much about body work until he started training to be a paintless dent technician a few years ago. I think he actually heard about paintless dent repair from myself and another buddy, after we had a couple of rear quarter panels repaired after tirewall hits at the racetrack. Dennis worked through the ranks of paintless dent guys in Chicago and the midwest, and eventually started making a living fixing cars worth more than most houses at high end dealerships. Dennis had gotten good at popping dents. (follow him on instagram for dent pics...@dennisdoesdents , or call him for your dent poppin' needs in the midwest area, , 872.395.DENT(3368)). Don't call him to chop rust out of your car....he just does that for fun on his own clunkers, and hasn't been trained in it. The main purpose of this article is to point out that this isn't voodoo witchcraft that only pros can try.
You must know a bit of backstory on Dennis before you see more pictures here. Dennis is weird. He is weird because he has a completely unnatural and obsessive love for Honda Civic Wagovans and Hatchbacks. We have all accepted him, so you must too.
The problem with loving the 1984-1991 Hondas, and residing in the midwest, is that they are rusty. Almost all of them are. Sometimes (many times actually) the rust isnt just superficial, cosmetic-brown-ugliness, its STRUCTURAL. several years ago, Nissan actually recalled the entire crop of 89-94 maximas it sold in the rust belt that remained on the road, and either bought them back or paid body shops to fix them properly, because the rear shock tower areas got incredibly rusty and the cars became dangerous . Our article inspiration, Dennis, loved his rusty cars and wanted to semi-restore and track them. Thankfully, he took some pictures, and will keep us updated in the future. Look for a feature on Dennis' EF generation hatchback track car in the next issue of S3 magazine as well. The brown wagon is a long term project and hopefully it'll be prowling Chicago next year, filled with the torture-device looking toolset that he carts around for doing paintless dent work.
Rust wouldn't be so bad if it didnt completely ruin the steel it resides on so quickly.... especially on the thin unibody cars many of us call "racecars" or "track rats".. Dennis' pics of rust repair are a few examples of how to stop the rust correctly and virtually eliminate the possibility of it returning. For years, the quick and dirty way to "repair" rust was to sand it down, the the pitted metal in body filler, sand, re-apply filler, sand, primer, and paint it. The problem with doing this is the rust will inevitably bubble up to the surface again. Trust me, I've slung some cans of body filler at cars before. Cutting all the rust-affected areas out of the car is the only way to stop the oxidation dead in its tracks.
Besides the welding equipment (borrow it at first if you can! Everyone knows SOMEONE who can weld, at least a little), the tools to do major surgery to the shell of your track car are pretty simple at first. you'll need a cutting wheel (many choices there), some random hammers, a vice to help form the metal , and heavy duty tin snips can help. Cut the affected area out of the car, and start replicating it with equivelent-thick sheetmetal. Many cars have patch panels available online or through body shops too, usually for drastically cheaper than you'd think, so investigate that before you get started. Part of the fun of building cars is learning skills, and feeling the accomplishment that goes along with the build process. This doesnt need to be too intimidating, these cars are really just hunks of nicely formed steel sheetmetal usually.....you can do likely do this!
If digging too deep into a unibody car, one must pay special attention to how the seams of the different panels and structures tie together, especially if the car will be driven on track. The strength of every portion of the unibody relies on the integrity of the pieces it ties to. A simple search online will reveal a million pictures of restoration, but usually in the capable (and expensive) hands of a professional. For a cheap track car, maybe its worth the effort to learn to weld, and zap some new metal in!
Lastly, obviously this isn't a step by step tech article , as much as it is simply encouragement to get out in the garage and clean up the rust on your lovely track rat. Be sure , after all is done and smoothed, to properly coat and seal all the fresh new metal too, inside and out. And send us more pics of your projects for future tech articles or project features! -Adam@tracktuned.com