Date registered: May 2013
Vehicle: 1961 190SL
Location: Northern California, USA
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
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"waldbaum, not everyone 'slathers' bondo. when I restored my nova, the body was brought back to a very straight state, however a thin skim of filler is always needed. even the riddler winners and the best in show at the grand nationals and the concours delegance all have filler. i don't believe any car can be an award winner without filler."
I am by no means a car professional, I'm a geologist. I am, however, an old man, turning 69 next month. In my youth I read all the car magazines and even watched Indy cars built in a shop right across the street from my elementary school. None of that early exposure to car stuff included bondo, a substance that came along later.
As a young adult I had the pleasure of a tour through Harrah's Auto Museum in Reno Nevada where highly skilled practicioners of the art of "coachwork" restored body panels to perfection without "filler" and in fact fabricated fenders and panels from flat sheet metal without "filler".
Thus I know for a fact that perfect results can be achieved without the crutch of filler. In the early 1970s when my '36 Chevy pickup was done being a daily driver "rat rod" and restoring it was a goal I took around to a few body shops who said they could "straighten" the body with bondo. Because I believed by then that use of bondo is plastering, not body repair, I set out to learn body repair and do the job myself.
The first step in that was finding an evening, adult education class in body repair. The instructor, an old school body shop owner, demonstrated the basics of actual metal straightening on some body parts removed from vehicles in his shop. He explained the economics of actual metal straightening versus filliing dents with bondo in the real world of fixing customers' wrecks.
Three semesters later I felt ready to start on my '36. The bed looked like a sack full of rocks, the bottoms of the doors were rusted away so that one could see the floor board from outside the vehicle and the fenders were a mess as well. Finally in 1976 the job was done just in time for the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America (VCCA) National Meet in Colorado Springs.
I had never been to a car show so I ignorantly assumed that it was a gathering that people drove their special cars to and then displayed them. I drove from Southern California to Colorado Spings, a distance of about 1300 miles, camping along the way on the desert and in the Rocky Mountains. When I got to the show site I was astonished to see peple unloading perfect vehicles from enclosed trailers towed by motor homes and here I was with accumulated road grime and splattered bugs. But having already invested in a show entry, award banquet tickets and a long drive I shrugged my shoulders and parked with the other commercial vehicles after a trip to the self serve car wash.
At the awards banquet when the winners of Class T-2 (1929-36 commercial vehicles) were announced, I didn't expect anything. Third was announced and it wasn't me, then second, the same, then first. The home restored, no-bondo driver specimen won the class. So, I think that shows beyond any doubt that bondo is not necessary to get a good outcome and, more importantly, that a motivated amateur can beat the high dollar professionals at their own game.
I may be wrong in this assumption (I often am) but it seems to me that forums like this exist, at least partially, to facilitate exchanges of information between do it yourselfers. The greatest gifts I have ever been given in the car hobby is the encouragement of others to try stuff that at first I assumed was way beyond my ability.
It would be interesting to know whether the "you can do it" perspective is welcome or unwelcome here. It is unwelcome in the VCCA and very welcome in the 1936 Chevy Owners forum.