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How To Spot Bad Bodywork

In The Search For Your Latest Muscle Car Adventure, Bondo Can Hide The Ravages Of Decades Of Rust And Abuse, So We'll Show You How To Spot Bad Bodywork

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If you watch television, CSI: Las Vegas and its string of spin-offs are all about collecting evidence and determining how the crime went down. In the hunt for an old car to turn into the next ultimate street machine, the process is much the same. Evaluating a car requires careful attention to details-and the car will reveal its story (and its bad bodywork). We talked with Frank Saenz who does muscle car restoration in Ventura, California, to get some tips on ways to evaluate a car and look for bad bodywork. According to Saenz, "It's like you're doing a CSI on the car, trying to re-create the crime that happened to it." So slap on your latex gloves and Car Scene Investigator hat and we'll take a run at some old car investigator tricks.

Bad Bodywork This story will outline typical problem areas that crop up with most '60s-and-later production cars. Even so-called rust-free West Coast- and Southwest-area cars can exhibit nasty corrosion that can be hard to spot unless you look closely. The other big land mine is poorly repaired collision damage that is often concealed with buckets of plastic body filler. These efforts are not as easy to spot with a casual glance and may require the use of a simple tool like a pocket magnet to help identify areas where the Bondo hides.

This leads us to the final chapter of the story where, after finding the car and performing a thorough inspection, you must make a decision as to whether the damage you've uncovered still makes the car a decent purchase. You must also realize that there is almost certainly much more evil lurking underneath that paint and bad bodywork that you didn't find. This is where advice from dispassionate friends can be extremely helpful, since they will look at the car with a much more objective eye and give you feedback on whether it's a good deal. It's important to listen carefully when your buddy tells you, "It's a rust bucket-walk away." Of course, that's assuming you trust him not to come back and buy the car when your back is turned. Buying old cars is equal parts science, art, and finance that requires you to be enthusiastic about what you're about to buy but not get lost in the romance without knowing at least most of the car's secrets.

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