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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello. Im trying to access the rust damage on my fenders, doors, rockers, and the frame. The driver side seems to be in better shape than the passenger side. Bubbling through the paint on all sides along the bottom of the car. Major rust along the old chrome trim holes. For context the car has been outside under a roof for around 20 years. I also plan on replacing the floorplan tail end.

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Probably some repair and some replace. You will have to get the paint stripped back to see what you are really dealing with. I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but rust is almost never better than it looks.
I see you getting some quality time with a welder and a grinder! But it’s all doable
 

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Figure what you intend for the car, and select components from there. A stock chassis with a few geometry tweaks and good shocks will get you pretty far, and won’t cost $15k!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Figure what you intend for the car, and select components from there. A stock chassis with a few geometry tweaks and good shocks will get you pretty far, and won’t cost $15k!
As of writing, I would like to make this car a roadworthy car. Disk Brakes, Better suspension, power steering, Increased engine power. I refuse to think about an LS engine and want a stronger small block to replace the 265. Frame Integrity and Maneuverability are my main concern with the original frame.
 

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What you are describing can be done with a stock frame with some judicious changes. Peruse the chassis section and see what folks have done.
 

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Rust is always worse than it first seems to be, best thing to do is replace but that gets expensive, if you can do the work your self that will save you some money, original parts fit best but repo is new steel, rust is hard to repair and not have it not come back, Either way it’s a lot of time and money ,good luck
 

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Your budget and bodywork skill level will play in to the decision. If you're awesome at welding and finishing patches and budget is tight, you'll repair more than you might if you're not that handy with autobody but have a healthy budget for nice panels then more of the unboltable stuff might get replaced.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
So separate frame from body and work on the powertrain than fix the body? I'm not building a trailer queen but there are holes in various places and if the interior under panel wasn't there I reckon I could opt for flintstone brakes for extra stopping power!;). I do have time to learn and save for the project (at least 3 years while I'm away.)
 

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I think if you pull the body off, you run a high risk of a never ending project. I can’t see from the pics if the car is structurally sound or not (as in, structurally unsafe); the pics don’t look that far gone.
Does the car run and drive? If not, get that sorted. Then brakes and the things to make it drive safely. Then improvements to make it drive like you want it to.
If you go the nuclear option and go right to blowing the car apart, it’s easy to get over your head and lose interest. Or…you run into doing a complete restoration and spend cubic dollars. It’s a 4 door, and those are awesome cars, but the cost of a frame off can easily shoot beyond $50k even if you do most of the work. And the only way to sell a 4 door for more than about $25k is to have $10k cash in the trunk. Nobody gets all their money back from a build, but I’d always keep investment to potential sale price in mind- life is uncertain.
Some will disagree with the above- it’s just an opinion, albeit an informed one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I think if you pull the body off, you run a high risk of a never ending project. I can’t see from the pics if the car is structurally sound or not (as in, structurally unsafe); the pics don’t look that far gone.
Does the car run and drive? If not, get that sorted. Then brakes and the things to make it drive safely. Then improvements to make it drive like you want it to.
If you go the nuclear option and go right to blowing the car apart, it’s easy to get over your head and lose interest. Or…you run into doing a complete restoration and spend cubic dollars. It’s a 4 door, and those are awesome cars, but the cost of a frame off can easily shoot beyond $50k even if you do most of the work. And the only way to sell a 4 door for more than about $25k is to have $10k cash in the trunk. Nobody gets all their money back from a build, but I’d always keep investment to potential sale price in mind- life is uncertain.
Some will disagree with the above- it’s just an opinion, albeit an informed one.
So the floor pan has multiple holes and is rotten enough for me to rip it out by hand in areas. I'm not sure if the whole floor is the exact same but I expect it to be. The engine has not been started since shortly after it was parked, and I personally ripped out the fuel line after I found it leaning on the dirt after the car was rolled out. It had holes in it and came out in two pieces. As for price I came to a similar conclusion when looking at equipment , upgrades, services, etc.. I'm also not offended at true statements. It is a 4 door but its my Bel Air and my Great Great Grandfather's Bel air at that. The car's interior was from him. The paint was from my great grandfather (originally sea mist green) and some modifications from my grand parents as well. Although there was always one problem: Money. My family wasn't rich by any means. They were Tobacco Farmers up in King NC. While they did what they could with the car there was only so much they could do with the time they had left. It was my GGGF's last car and my GGF did what he could to keep it in shape. It then went to my Grandmother and was supposed to be my mother's but she got me as an unexpected blessing (her words) and juggled college, a divorce, moving to SC, and two more troublemaking boys soon after. So, the car sat, waiting for someone to save it. I want to be the one to do it. I want to bring it back and make it better than was before. To hell with the fact that its not as valuable as the rest. It's already priceless to me, and I'll make it priceless for the next person to hold the torch. But I'll take your advice on starting simple. You probably have a more down to earth mindset than I do and what matters most is that the car lives on.
 

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Before tearing it apart, I'd realistically evaluate and make sure you're set up with shop space, tools, skills, and budget for a multi year restoration. I can definitely appreciate wanting to fix that particular car regardless of the financial sense it makes, but if the car means that much it would be a shame to just disassemble it and have to stop there.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I agree. Like I said I do have time to prepare. I've already ordered an enclosed garage to house the car and when I come back a large garage will be on the list of wants for my first home. I dabbled in welding in high school and took a great liking to the MIG welder but I'll see if I can take some classes when I get back to the states. I've also ben able to save quite a bit of money (about 80k) in 2 years, and I can wiggle some more money to save each month. I've also been reading books on restoration, have the assembly and repair manuals, and I reckon I can ask about the kind of tools I'll need on the site.
 

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It might not hurt to get some practice on something that matters less than your '55 as well. Grab an old pickup truck that needs floors and cab corners etc, maybe flip it if you have no need for it. Get your feet wet on the easier stuff before tearing in to the '55.
 
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First let me say I understand the attachment to the car that’s priceless.
But that car has lots of rust issues I wouldn’t put much time or money in it till you get it raised up and spend some time checking it over. My first thought would be buy a really nice doner car to build with the good parts from your car. A few years ago I bought a really nice rust free 57 four door wagon shell with doors and frame for $2500.00. Had it shipped from California to mid west another $1800.00. But I then had a solid foundation for the build.
The time and money I would have spent to get to that starting point made sense. If that seems overwhelming it’s a tip of the iceberg to all the the work and money involved in getting your car to that point. It takes lots of expertise to weld and fit all the after market parts and end up with a well put together car.
A few years ago I built a 55 two door sedan Complete floor pan, trunk pan, quarter panels, doors, truck lid, hood, top and frame all aftermarket parts. Would I been better off finding a doner hell yes but at the time I couldn’t find one. I think cars like yours are still out there.
Just give it some thought once your in up to your elbows it makes a lot of sleepless nights.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
First let me say I understand the attachment to the car that’s priceless.
But that car has lots of rust issues I wouldn’t put much time or money in it till you get it raised up and spend some time checking it over. My first thought would be buy a really nice doner car to build with the good parts from your car. A few years ago I bought a really nice rust free 57 four door wagon shell with doors and frame for $2500.00. Had it shipped from California to mid west another $1800.00. But I then had a solid foundation for the build.
The time and money I would have spent to get to that starting point made sense. If that seems overwhelming it’s a tip of the iceberg to all the the work and money involved in getting your car to that point. It takes lots of expertise to weld and fit all the after market parts and end up with a well put together car.
A few years ago I built a 55 two door sedan Complete floor pan, trunk pan, quarter panels, doors, truck lid, hood, top and frame all aftermarket parts. Would I been better off finding a doner hell yes but at the time I couldn’t find one. I think cars like yours are still out there.
Just give it some thought once your in up to your elbows it makes a lot of sleepless nights.
Thank you for the insight. The undercarriage is my biggest problem by far and rust along the lower body. The car upwards of that is in solid shape aside from the trim holes. Managed to get most of the rust patches off the front of the car with belt sanders. I know it will it will be harder to fix the car but it doesn't scare me. I have and will face harder challenges with my job and I want to learn metalworking. That said I think I would be fine if I was putting in patches to the body instead of the entire floor. I would love to find a bare shell with a solid floor and repair the other parts.
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Determination is the first and best ingredient, and you seem to have that covered!
I would still say your life will be simpler if you get the car running first and foremost. Even if rust on the floors make it unsafe to drive, the simple ability for the car to move under its own power will prevent a ton of complications. I have been carting my beautifully painted shell across the country, and just being able to drive it up onto a trailer would have been so much easier (and cheaper!)
I totally understand not wanting to fuss with an engine you might not want to keep when there are gaping holes in the floor. I went in the order you are talking about. I have often wished I’d done things in a different order.
Best of luck and keep us posted!
 

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No problem I understand check that frame from the rear spring front spring hanger to the rear spring shackle. Some reason I see a lot of rust thru on those areas. A share ice pick works well to poke at rust.
Good luck with your job sounds like a three year commitment be safe you’ll do fine.
 
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