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. The first thing to do when inspecting the car is to look at it as a whole, sighting down the body to inspect the lines. It's possible to catch some flaws just by visually examining the car. Mismatched body lines between the door and fenders are not unusual, however. If you can stand directly behind the car and see the whole left side of it, it would be best to find a new candidate. The first thing to do when inspecting the car is to look at it as a whole, sighting down t A simple rust check on most '60s and '70s cars is to open the trunk. GM A-bodies and most Chrysler products suffered from chronic-leaking-rear-window syndrome that spewed water into the trunk, leading to nasty rust-through. As you can see, this '64 Olds trunk floor is badly corroded. Also look for rusty water stains leading from the corners of the rear window into the trunk, especially on the driver side. This guarantees that the rear window channel will have to be repaired. A simple rust check on most '60s and '70s cars is to open the trunk. GM A-bodies and most If the trunk looks intact, look for a seam that may indicate that a portion of the trunk floor has been replaced (arrows). This gives you more information about the car's condition and should lead you to look carefully at the rear window area because trunk floors are easier to replace than the rear window panel. If the trunk looks intact, look for a seam that may indicate that a portion of the trunk f Even if the trunk looks cherry, that's no guarantee the rear window doesn't leak. The only way to tell if the window channel is intact is to remove the stainless trim around the window, but telltale signs like paint stains and rust pits around the outside of the window on this Camaro are an excellent clue. Even if the trunk looks cherry, that's no guarantee the rear window doesn't leak. The only Another favorite place for rust to hide is in the footwell area where a leaking seam or the front window channel can funnel water directly to the floor and soak the carpet, eventually rusting the floor. You can try inspecting underneath the car, but the best approach will require peeling back the carpet. Another favorite place for rust to hide is in the footwell area where a leaking seam or th Run your hand carefully up into the leading edges of the rear quarter-panels to look for a nonoriginal seam. We purchased a '67 Camaro that we thought was pristine only to discover later it had been treated to a partial driver-side quarter-panel that had to be replaced. Run your hand carefully up into the leading edges of the rear quarter-panels to look for a 1 | 2 | » | View Full Article By Jeff Smith Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!