Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rust is the Car Guy’s Enemy

Rust is the Car Guy’s Enemy

-Alan Arnell

My friend Neil keeps a hat on the dash of his 1956 Chevy Bel Air that says, “Rust is my favorite color.”

rust is my favorite color.JPG

Rust is my favorite color.

Rat Rods lovers aside, your average car guy hates rust.  I live in Texas.  People here do not understand rust. Where I grew up in Illinois cars started to rust on the showroom floor back in the day.  When I turned 16 in 1974 there was not a Tri-Five Chevy around that was not a rusted hulk in a field somewhere.  I wanted a ‘57 Chevy in the worst way, but thanks a lot for nothing rust, you ate them all.

My first car was a 1969 Chevelle.  Don’t get excited is was not a 396 SS.  It was a 307 cubic inch-dog of a motor V-8.  I don’t care what you do you can never make a 307 fast with bolt on speed auto parts.  When I got the car in 1975 it was badly rusted.  With a teenager’s enthusiasm I fixed the holes with bondo,  blood, sweat and tears.  Talk about a quick fix.  I used galvanized sheet metal that I screwed in place, covered with great quantities of plastic.  I tried to cut the rusted metal out with tin snips the best I could, which was not very well.

My first car a 1969 Chevelle Malibu

I slapped on the plastic and used a body file to get the shape back close to what it had been.  Then by hand, I sanded the plastic filler smooth.  Ignorance is bliss!  

A $100 MAACO paint job, air shocks and mag wheels and I was ready to go.  Actually, the car looked better than it did before I worked on it.  Sadly, 4 years later all the rust holes came back.

Today, even in Texas it is rare to find a totally rust-free classic car to restore.  The old saying goes, “rust never sleeps.”  As I set here typing on my computer rust is eating my 1957-150 Chevy,  The bottom line is that the classic car owner must kill the rust to prevent further damage.

The best way to combat rust is to completely disassemble the vehicle, have it media-blasted or acid dipped, and then apply metal-etching primer to stop the the hated oxidation of auto sheet metal and other car parts.  Sadly, this is not a viable option for the weekend builder.  

My friend Joel faced the rust predicament restoring his 1968 Camaro in 1993.  He searched all over Texas and finally found an unmolested car without rust in Arizona. When, the car transporter dropped the car off and Joel drove in in his garage he found that indeed the body was rust free, however after 25 years even in Arizona he found the car had a few small water leaks.  There was light rust spots in half a dozen spots on the interior floor, and several more in the trunk.  Luckily, the rust was only to the point of wire brushing and spot puttying, not rusted through or in need of replacement panels

1968 Camaro

Years latter, my friend Danny found and introduced me to Rust-Mort.  The product relies on a slight amount of rust present to convert the rust with a hard impenetrable seal and then keeps oxygen away from the rust.  Rust is also known as  iron oxide, ferric oxide and hematite. The substance is also known by its chemical formula, Fe2O3, which represents the two elements--iron and oxygen--that compose rust.  Rust is both a substance and a verb describing the process that creates the substance. While corrosion is the result of oxidation leaching the metallic properties of metals such as iron, copper and aluminum, rusting is specifically the corrosion of iron. The process occurs most often in alloy steel. The brown and red-colored flakes that appear on iron as the metal deteriorates during the process is referred to as rust.

Converts Rust To a Hard Insoluble, Protective Coating
Must Be Rinsed After 24 Hours
Must Be Painted After Use
Prime Before Using an Enamel, Lacquer or Urethane

After using the Rust-Mort Joel painted a top coat of primer, because left exposed to the elements the hard chemical seal will degrade and rust will reappear.  Joel found out the hard way that Rust-Mort works great on rust, and quickly too, but the liquid is like water.  It ran and dripped everywhere. After his first application he covered everything he don't want touched, because Rust-Mort was very corrosive and left a white film. He found that he also needed to wipe off all excess Rust-Mort. Later, after sweeping under the car Joel found out that the overflow dripped on the flow allowing the Rust-Mort to eat a hole into concrete. Woops!

A pint of the stuff costs around $22 here in North Texas.  I plan on buying some when I start on my ‘57, however I am also going to have to replace several side panels where rust has eaten through old repairs and the right-rear corner panel.  I have learned a little bit since I was 16 and feel confident that I will do better auto body repairs to my hobby car in 2016.  I plan on keeping my classic Chevy for many years to come and would like it to be rust free and shiney.



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