Macy’s Garage
© 2018-2021 - Macy’s Garage, Ltd.

Body or Frame First?

By Richard Lentinello

Editor and Publisher, CRANKSHAFT Magazine Life-Long Car Guy and Avid Triumph Collector Originally published in Hemmings Motor News, November 2016 Reprinted with permission Be it an old car or vintage truck, if you plan on undertaking a complete ground-up restoration of your beloved classic there are many issues to consider before jumping into the project and begin disassembling it down to the last nut and bolt. The most important decision you first have to make is which component do you restore first, the body or the frame? Having restored several cars through the years, I can say for certain that the body should be restored first. Here’s why. I’m about to start rebuilding the body of my 1960 Triumph TR3A which, like most 50-plus-year-old cars, has many body panels that are badly corroded. On this particular TR shell, the inner and outer sills are thoroughly rotted through, as are the left and right side floor pans and trunk floor. The rest of the body is pretty solid and very straight, having been spared any accident damage. Thanks to the popularity of these robust British sports cars, new sills and floor pans have been reproduced, along with many other structural sheetmetal components. Their quality is excellent, which makes installing these structural pieces far easier than the repro panels that were available even just 10 years ago; most of the first and second wave of repro parts were poorly made and just didn’t fit right. However, the ease and precision in which the new panels are installed all depends on the structural integrity of the body, and the extent of the work that has to be done. Which brings us back to our original question: the body or the frame? It doesn’t matter if we’re referring to a Triumph or a Buick, a Pontiac or a Studebaker, if the car that you’re about to restore has a separate body and frame, and that body needs an extensive amount of rust repair, then the body needs to be rebuilt first. Badly corroded bodies are inherently weak, which means they will twist and distort if they are removed from the frame; this problem is worsened if the body in question is a convertible, like my Triumph. Although you can install steel braces between the door openings to keep the body from flexing, there’s still the chance that the body will distort ever so slightly, which will make the installation of the new sills and floor pans that much harder. By keeping the body on its original frame you are actually using the frame as a body jig, so you know the new body parts will be located exactly where they are supposed to be located. And by rebuilding the body structure first, not only will you be making the body as strong as it can be before removing it so you can then restore the frame, but you will be getting the hardest part of the entire restoration out of the way first. This will then make the rest of the restoration be relatively easier, both physically and mentally. Once the body’s metalwork is completed then you’ll need to protect it with a few coats of primer, or perhaps even paint the entire body shell. Because bodywork is messy, and the overspray of the primer and paint gets on everything, by doing this work now before the frame is restored you won’t have to worry about getting overspray on the newly rebuilt and refinished frame, or even damaging it. With the body now repaired and painted, you can now remove it from the frame and set it aside to cure while you get to the work on the frame itself, and the engine, the suspension and brakes. Then when the frame is refinished, and all the newly restored components are reinstalled, along with new brake and fuel lines and the many other little pieces that will transform it into a rolling piece of mechanical sculpture, you will then be ready to drop the body back onto the frame and begin the final phase of the project: the reassembly. An added bonus is that while you are restoring the frame, waiting for parts to buy or searching for the proper fasteners so you can install all the ancillary components, you will have the opportunity to do some final assembly work on the previously refinished body. Windows, trim, badges, lights and the instrument panel can all be installed while the frame is being rebuilt too, thus saving you months of time. Restoring the body first really does make sense. If your experience has proven otherwise, we would appreciate hearing about it.
America’s BEST Triumph Shop
BODY OR FRAME ?
Macy’s Garage
© 2018-2021 - Macy’s Garage, Ltd.

Body or Frame First?

By Richard Lentinello

Editor and Publisher, CRANKSHAFT Magazine Life-Long Car Guy and Avid Triumph Collector Originally published in Hemmings Motor News, November 2016 Reprinted with permission Be it an old car or vintage truck, if you plan on undertaking a complete ground-up restoration of your beloved classic there are many issues to consider before jumping into the project and begin disassembling it down to the last nut and bolt. The most important decision you first have to make is which component do you restore first, the body or the frame? Having restored several cars through the years, I can say for certain that the body should be restored first. Here’s why. I’m about to start rebuilding the body of my 1960 Triumph TR3A which, like most 50-plus-year-old cars, has many body panels that are badly corroded. On this particular TR shell, the inner and outer sills are thoroughly rotted through, as are the left and right side floor pans and trunk floor. The rest of the body is pretty solid and very straight, having been spared any accident damage. Thanks to the popularity of these robust British sports cars, new sills and floor pans have been reproduced, along with many other structural sheetmetal components. Their quality is excellent, which makes installing these structural pieces far easier than the repro panels that were available even just 10 years ago; most of the first and second wave of repro parts were poorly made and just didn’t fit right. However, the ease and precision in which the new panels are installed all depends on the structural integrity of the body, and the extent of the work that has to be done. Which brings us back to our original question: the body or the frame? It doesn’t matter if we’re referring to a Triumph or a Buick, a Pontiac or a Studebaker, if the car that you’re about to restore has a separate body and frame, and that body needs an extensive amount of rust repair, then the body needs to be rebuilt first. Badly corroded bodies are inherently weak, which means they will twist and distort if they are removed from the frame; this problem is worsened if the body in question is a convertible, like my Triumph. Although you can install steel braces between the door openings to keep the body from flexing, there’s still the chance that the body will distort ever so slightly, which will make the installation of the new sills and floor pans that much harder. By keeping the body on its original frame you are actually using the frame as a body jig, so you know the new body parts will be located exactly where they are supposed to be located. And by rebuilding the body structure first, not only will you be making the body as strong as it can be before removing it so you can then restore the frame, but you will be getting the hardest part of the entire restoration out of the way first. This will then make the rest of the restoration be relatively easier, both physically and mentally. Once the body’s metalwork is completed then you’ll need to protect it with a few coats of primer, or perhaps even paint the entire body shell. Because bodywork is messy, and the overspray of the primer and paint gets on everything, by doing this work now before the frame is restored you won’t have to worry about getting overspray on the newly rebuilt and refinished frame, or even damaging it. With the body now repaired and painted, you can now remove it from the frame and set it aside to cure while you get to the work on the frame itself, and the engine, the suspension and brakes. Then when the frame is refinished, and all the newly restored components are reinstalled, along with new brake and fuel lines and the many other little pieces that will transform it into a rolling piece of mechanical sculpture, you will then be ready to drop the body back onto the frame and begin the final phase of the project: the reassembly. An added bonus is that while you are restoring the frame, waiting for parts to buy or searching for the proper fasteners so you can install all the ancillary components, you will have the opportunity to do some final assembly work on the previously refinished body. Windows, trim, badges, lights and the instrument panel can all be installed while the frame is being rebuilt too, thus saving you months of time. Restoring the body first really does make sense. If your experience has proven otherwise, we would appreciate hearing about it.
America’s BEST Triumph Shop