Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dino Hell: The fiberglass panel restoration

If ever there was a hell in the world of Dino restoration it comes in the fiberglass panels that make up much of the inner structure of the car. In order to do a proper and comprehensive restoration, it is not enough to strip the car down to the bare shell, the fiberglass panels that act as the structure for the floor, firewall, front bulkhead, inner wheel arches and front and rear trunks need to be removed. This gains access to all of the frame tubes to assess their condition and subsequent restoration. These panels are held in with a combination of glue and hundreds of pop rivets which need to be drilled out one by one.

Once out the panels reveal 40 years of dirt, oil, undercoating, and paint that needs to be stripped off so that you can start fresh. Media blasting does not work well on these soft surfaces so the only approach is to use more of our trusty Goudey's paint stripper, scrapers, brushes and just plain hard graft. It is awful work that is messy and not in the least bit self-improving.

Now that the panels are clean any damage or rot needs to be repaired with fiberglass cloth and resin taking supreme care to match the strand orientation on the original layup. This way you can be assured of seamless joins when the parts are installed and painted. In addition, the panels are littered with threaded steel plates that are riveted in. Over the years these plates have had their holes stripped many times over so all new plates were fabricated and installed. We can now be sure that all the threads are perfect and new.

With the job now done we can take solace in the fact that had we given this work to someone else the labor bill would have easily paid for a new compact car. This makes us feel good until we remember that once installed all of this fiberglass is all but invisible. Lunacy knows no bounds.


  1. Have you ever tried dry ice media blasting to remove the gunk from the fiberglass panels? It is very selective and easy to control and the thermal shock of the cold dry ice media stream might peel it off more effectively.

  2. We never did try the dry ice media blasting. I have heard of it but I was not sure if media blasting was the answer as there were multiple layers of very soft coatings that media tends to bounce off of. Even so once the panels were stripped, the really big work came in repairing tons of accumulated holes and edge rot.

  3. On the advice of Steve Kouracos, I had the media blaster hit all of my removed fiberglass panels. Cost $150 for all but needed light Gel Coating