OK, more than a little skill is required, but these are skills you, the guy (or chick) reading this, can pick up if you practice. Working with metal is a skill that is quickly disappearing in our disposable society, yet it is an extremely valuable skill to have. There are still many circumstances in which it is much more cost effective to repair and metal-finish a part than it would be to replace it. We recently spent a blisteringly hot week in Lake Havasu, Arizona, watching the guys at Recon Classic Car Bodies transform our pretty-cool '67 Mustang coupe into a righteous '67 fastback. Formally known as Drake Customs, Recon's specialty is building Mustang conversion body shells. Translation: The company buys junked coupes and transforms them into reconditioned fastbacks or convertible shells ready for you to outfit with a drivetrain and interior. The guys were gracious enough to work their magic on our forlorn coupe (last seen in the Apr. '08 issue) in less than a week's time. As if that weren't enough of a challenge, they simultaneously worked over a hashed '65 coupe, turning it into a convertible. They did both cars in an amazing six days. We're going to show the job the crew at Recon did in a series of articles starting now. This will be a brief on the basics you'll need to know before tearing into a car on your own. Even if you never plan on doing your own fastback conversion, there is plenty of information here that will apply to any major autobody job you would attempt. So lace up your steel-toed boots-the sparks are about to fly. Tools Used (Listed According To The Funness Factor) Cutting Torch Pros: The most fun you can have doing bodywork with your clothes on (autobody work-get your mind out of the gutter), the acetylene torch melts steel, shoots sparks, and sounds cool when you blast through a bulkhead. Nothing stands in the way of a 6,300-degree flame Cons: Don't get burned.Cutting Torch Pros: The most fun you can have doing bodywork with your clothes on (aut Air Hammer Pros: Rips through sheetmetal like an electric can opener through your girlfriend's cat's Fancy Feast lid. Cons: Leaves a jagged edge that needs finishing. The deafening jackhammer roar is super annoying in close quarters. Wear earplugs.Air Hammer Pros: Rips through sheetmetal like an electric can opener through your girl Sawzall Pros: A very close third to the air hammer, the Sawzall dispatches sheetmetal with the same aplomb but leaves a much cleaner, sharper edge. It's heavy, too. Use it enough and you will have forearms like Popeye. Cons: Long and bulky, it cannot fit into tight quarters. You'll still need an air hammer.Sawzall Pros: A very close third to the air hammer, the Sawzall dispatches sheetmetal Other Essential Tools Grinders You'll need both electric and pneumatic versions-air grinders are smaller and fit in tighter spaces. Grinders are versatile tools you can use to cut, smooth, and shape metal. They make quick work of weld spatter and spot-weld residue.Grinders You'll need both electric and pneumatic versions-air grinders are smaller and fi Drill with Sharp Bits You'll need a drill to cut through the factory spot welds. Electric or pneumatic are equally good, but like grinders, air drills are smaller and more versatile. Cordless drills are good for screwing together new sheetmetal. Get a Drill Doctor while you're at it. You'll need it to keep your bits sharp.Drill with Sharp Bits You'll need a drill to cut through the factory spot welds. Electric Scrapers/Razor Blades Good for ripping up carpet, upholstery, seam sealer, undercoating, window trim, glass adhesive, and a million other things. Buy a lot in a variety of sizes.Scrapers/Razor Blades Good for ripping up carpet, upholstery, seam sealer, undercoating, Clamps, Hammers, And Stuff In addition to the above, you'll need an assortment of hammers (sledge, dead-blow, and body), dollies, sanding blocks, and the usual brace of handtools. Impact wrenches and air ratchets will help speed up your work if you are on the clock. You'll also need a welder. If you're hard-core, you'll learn to weld with your acetylene torch. Otherwise, an inexpensive, consumer-level MIG welder will work 99 percent of the time. Get your hands on all this stuff and there won't be an autobody job in the world you can't conquer.Clamps, Hammers, And Stuff In addition to the above, you'll need an assortment of hammers Here's our Mustang before the guys at Drake descended on it. Sorry about the crappy, snapshot nature of the picture-we were literally pushed out of the way by four dudes with power tools as we shot this.Here's our Mustang before the guys at Drake descended on it. Sorry about the crappy, snaps Even if you aren't planning on reusing your trim, take some care when taking it off. Sometimes learning how to take stuff off will better help you put the new stuff back on.Even if you aren't planning on reusing your trim, take some care when taking it off. Somet Fixed glass is either glued in or held in place with a rubber channel, as is the case with our Mustang. Shop manager Jesse Villarroel cut away at the weathered and dried-out window channel. Even though we will be installing a new windshield, we saved this one to test the fit after our new roof is installed. No sense risking chipping or cracking a new piece of glass.Fixed glass is either glued in or held in place with a rubber channel, as is the case with Recon owner Ray Carmody helped Ramon Aguayo remove the doors. Inspect the hinges at this time. Rebuild or replace them if they exhibit any play. When you are putting the car back together, it is nearly impossible to properly align the doors if the hinges are sloppy.Recon owner Ray Carmody helped Ramon Aguayo remove the doors. Inspect the hinges at this t The fun begins here. Carmody grabbed the loudest air hammer in the shop, chucked in a chisel bit, and attacked the roof. Air hammers are the fastest way to remove large sections of metal you don't need to save. Start by hammering straight down into the panel, cutting a pilot hole. Then cut at an angle across the panel, peeling the excess away as you go. We fully endorse the Facemelter air hammer grimace.The fun begins here. Carmody grabbed the loudest air hammer in the shop, chucked in a chis Don't just blast away indiscriminately, though. Notice how Carmody left a couple of inches of clearance around the perimeter of the quarter-panel? There are braces and support panels in the C-pillar and sail panels he wanted to save. He also took care not to cut into the outer wheelhouse, which runs close to the quarter-panel at the wheel lip. We were assuming the wheelhouses would be in good shape, and damaging them while taking off the quarter would just create more work to do later. The point: Be careful with what is behind the panel you are cutting. You may need to keep it intact.Don't just blast away indiscriminately, though. Notice how Carmody left a couple of inches After large sections of the roof and quarters were cut out, Rob Inman switched to the Sawzall. With a long blade, he was able to cut through the roof skin and sail panel bracing in a single pass.After large sections of the roof and quarters were cut out, Rob Inman switched to the Sawz Inman cut the remaining sections of the roof with the Sawzall. Here at the driprails, four different stampings come together. The Sawzall blazed through much faster than an air hammer would have been able to.Inman cut the remaining sections of the roof with the Sawzall. Here at the driprails, four Just an hour into the job, and our coupe was barely recognizable as a Mustang. After doing this for several years, Carmody knows just how much of a coupe's roof needs to be retained to fit the fastback parts to it.Just an hour into the job, and our coupe was barely recognizable as a Mustang. After doing An oxyacetylene torch with a cutting tip will remove big sections of sheetmetal almost as fast as an air hammer will, but you have to be even more cautious of what's behind the panel you are cutting. Villarroel is cut through the Mustang's seat pans to get to the spot welds underneath, but using it to cut the quarter-panel off may have damaged the wheelhouse and sail panel bracing.An oxyacetylene torch with a cutting tip will remove big sections of sheetmetal almost as When drilling out spot welds, you can save yourself a lot of aggravation if you use a punch to dimple the center of the weld. It gives the drill bit something to dig into, preventing the bit from walking all over the place. You'll have to do this if you're drilling into a curved surface.When drilling out spot welds, you can save yourself a lot of aggravation if you use a punc Once the big sections of metal are gone, you must trim away all the remaining edges in preparation for fitting the new sheetmetal. From the factory, nearly all mass-produced cars are spot-welded together. Cut through the spot welds, and the car comes apart. There are a number of ways to do this, and the easiest is to drill the spot welds out using a bit that is slightly bigger in diameter than the spot weld. Oftentimes you will only need to drill through the thickness of one of the two (or more) stampings joined together, so be careful to only drill deep enough to remove the part you want. See how the tab from the front framerail is separating from the Mustang's floorpan as the welds are drilled out? There's no sense in drilling all the way through the floor, creating extra holes you'll need to fill later.Once the big sections of metal are gone, you must trim away all the remaining edges in pre You can also buy dedicated spot-weld cutters for your drill. These incorporate a spring-loaded center point that anchors the bit-the teeth on the perimeter of the bit actually do the cutting. Villarroel recommended using something to lubricate the tip, whether you use a spot-weld cutter or a regular drill bit. He used gear lube, but you can also use WD-40. This keeps the bit from overheating and going dull. Don't push down too hard, either. That also causes excess heat that will dull your bit.You can also buy dedicated spot-weld cutters for your drill. These incorporate a spring-lo The spot-weld cutter cuts around the weld in the pattern seen here. Notice how the floor is starting to separate from the panel it had been welded to underneath it?The spot-weld cutter cuts around the weld in the pattern seen here. Notice how the floor i You can also use a grinder to cut out spot welds. This works in spaces too tight to fit a drill. Use the edge of the grinder to cut into the weld, leaving behind something looking like a major divot in the grass of a driving range (especially if you're a hack golfer; we won't name names).You can also use a grinder to cut out spot welds. This works in spaces too tight to fit a If you're lucky, the panels will separate after grinding. Most likely, you will need to use a combination of chisels, an air hammer, pliers, and cursing to pull apart the panels.If you're lucky, the panels will separate after grinding. Most likely, you will need to us Oftentimes, you can just bust the spot welds apart with a little persuasion from the air hammer. Here, Inman showed the decklid mounting brackets who's in charge.Oftentimes, you can just bust the spot welds apart with a little persuasion from the air h One more method we've heard about but have never tried is using a torch to cut spot welds. Fire it up and hold the cutting tip directly at the face of the spot weld. When it glows cherry red, push the cutting lever and blast out the weld. Use a narrow flame, and theoretically, it should work.One more method we've heard about but have never tried is using a torch to cut spot welds. Here's a cool trick the guys at Recon showed us. In really confined areas, you will sometimes need to cut away sections of a panel to get to the spot welds, like where the quarter-panel meets the wheelhouse. These two panels are spot-welded together at the wheel lip, and that can be an awkward place to get a drill into. So Aguayo cut pleats into the remaining sections of the quarter-panel and peeled them back individually. This worked better than just trying to peel off the whole thing in one big section. Because sheetmetal is strongest where bends and body lines are stamped into it, the wheel arch is the strongest section of the quarter-panel. The force required to pull it away in one piece may have damaged the wheelhouse behind it.Here's a cool trick the guys at Recon showed us. In really confined areas, you will someti With the quarter-panel peeled away, Aguayo was able to break the spot welds up with the air hammer.With the quarter-panel peeled away, Aguayo was able to break the spot welds up with the ai No matter which method you use to remove the spot welds, there will always be some remnant of the weld left behind. Grind those sections flat with 36- or 40-grit discs on an angle grinder, or use a flap disc on an electric grinder.No matter which method you use to remove the spot welds, there will always be some remnant Using air hammers to take cars apart will cause some damage to the chassis-bent flanges and stuff like that. Here, Inman used a body hammer and railroad dolly to straighten the framerail flange edge under the Mustang's floorpan. A new floor will be welded to it soon. This is also a good time to run a grinder across the edges of all the panels. It's hard to weld to a rusty panel, and you don't want to trap rust behind your new sheetmetal.Using air hammers to take cars apart will cause some damage to the chassis-bent flanges an At the end of the first day, this is what was left of our coupe. The guys at Recon cut off all the coupe stuff and sandblasted the chassis. Because it was nearly 11 p.m., Aguayo held a pair of shop lights while Villarroel sprayed the bare chassis with primer.At the end of the first day, this is what was left of our coupe. The guys at Recon cut off Buy It Or Build It? Admittedly, this is a huge job that may well be outside the scope of what the average guy would want to attempt in his garage. If that's the case, you can buy a complete shell from Recon for $9,500. The company builds '65 to '68 Mustangs in either fastbacks or convertibles. The bodies are delivered just as you see in this picture. That is a bargain considering each body comes with a title in addition to all-new sheetmetal. You won't have the hassles of registering the car as a re-body or a new car, which is subject to your state's emissions laws. Recon does more than Mustangs, too. You can send Recon any American muscle car, and the crew will recondition it for you.Buy It Or Build It? Admittedly, this is a huge job that may well be outside the scope of Next month, you'll also see how they transformed this worthless, rolled-over '65 coupe into a convertible. You won't want to miss it.Next month, you'll also see how they transformed this worthless, rolled-over '65 coupe int SOURCES Dynacorn Classic Bodies 4030 Via Pescador Camarillo CA 93012 805-987-8818 www.dynacornclassicbodies.com Recon Classic Car Bodies and Performance Products 877-647-1193 www.reconclassics.com By John McGann Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!