Considering the ready-to-roll chassis options available, the salvaging of this truck's original frame and underpinnings may be the harder approach, but this time we have our reasons for wanting to do so.
Other than a stance adjustment from a new set of JC Whitney "Super Slide" springs and proper big 'n' littles, this truck won't be heavily modified, so the majority of the frame's factory-riveted bracketry could be reused. And, the original frame already bears the correct VIN number, which is a big plus where we live. So, for our particular purposes, retaining the original frame for Dan Stinson's project '55 Chevrolet second series makes sense.
Unfortunately, however, this poor little pickup has at one time or another been involved in a front end collision. The frontal impact was powerful enough to close the cab's door gaps and the front panel of the bed met the back panel of the cab. But it was the truck's frame that sustained the heaviest damage. To make matters worse, evidence of a crude frame-straightening attempt became apparent during disassembly. This can be corrected, but nobody likes going over someone else's work-and there aren't as many bona fide frame gurus as there once were.
Dave Heard of Dave's Wheel Alignment in Riverside, California, has collaborated with frame shops for over 40 years. It was his recommendation that led us to young Jason Vandenvryhoef at Color by Woz-also in Riverside. Once Jason had his way with the bent, but still-rolling chassis, it was true enough to roll straight down the road, but the front sections of both 'rails were scarred from the previous repair years ago. This would only be magnified after powdercoating-especially glossy black.
We already know that powdercoat and polyester fillers don't mix-mainly because of the oven temperatures involved in the powdercoating process. I could sling a little mud, and then prep 'n' paint the frame, but the whole job done in powdercoat would cost less than I'd spend on paint materials, and a good powdercoater has the electrostatic advantage for pulling material into crooks 'n' nannies-like inside the crossmembers where I'd have difficulty propelling paint.
So here we are, faced with a quandary, and considering experimentation. One option would be to go ahead and have the frame powdercoated glossy black, then aggressively sand the lumpy areas, do the necessary filler work, feather, prime, prep, and attempt a blended spot-repair with black, single-stage acrylic urethane, but that would entail extra steps. I was aware of metal-enriched body fillers like All-Metal, so I began to ponder the possibility that such filler might take the heat and survive between blasted steel and powdercoat. Further research revealed that Eastwood had the solution all along.
Eastwood's "Hi-Temp Lab-metal" is designed to be used in situations such as ours, where filler work meets powdercoat. When used in accordance with manufacturer's instructions, Lab-metal can be filed, or sanded, and/or reapplied as necessary to achieve the desired effect. Best of all, Hi-Temp Lab-metal can take the heat-up to 1,000 degrees, which is well above our powdercoater's oven temperature. Let's begin with prep, and take it step by step.
How We'll Do it Next Time
Lab-metal works. We'll use it again, but next time it'll be in the privacy of our own home-based shop, before the project goes to the powdercoater's place. At the home shop, Lab-metal would be afforded the recommended 24-hour air-dry time before sanding. Should a second application of Lab-metal be necessary, the project would receive it.
In retrospect, I've made two mistakes on this job. The first was expecting a production powdercoating shop to understand my own twisted desire for absolute perfection. The second was taking a back seat to the guy with the single-edge razor blade. Granted he had previous Lab-metal experience, but damn it, I'm a bodyman. I know how to smear filler to my own satisfaction, and I should have.