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How To Prep And Fit Aluminum Panels

By Mark Ehlen, Photography by Mark Ehlen, The MCR staff

It's certainly no secret that one of the ways to go faster is to reduce the weight of whatever you want to move. Racers have been looking for ways to shave pounds since the very beginning of speed contests, and clearly, there are only two ways to reduce weight-remove superfluous parts or make them lighter.

We hung out with the crew at Muscle Car Restorations in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, as they installed a set of Auto Metal Direct's (AMD) all-new and recently released aluminum body panels on a '69 Camaro. AMD is the first company to manufacture aluminum parts for this car, including the hood, fenders with extensions, upper and lower valances, both bumpers, and trunk lid. The total weight savings is more than 100 pounds.

AMD stresses that these panels are made from modern aluminum that is similar to that being used on some new cars today. It is stronger and more dent resistant than the factory panels of the '60s and even tougher than some of the ultrathin, lightweight steel panels used by some of the foreign manufacturers. Once the panels were installed, we found we could lean on the fenders without fear of damage.

They're tough, but they are still aluminum, so they need some special attention as they are fitted to the car; you can't work aluminum like you can a steel panel. No heating/shrinking, heavy hammering, or cutting and welding are allowed. They can be worked, but you must be much gentler than one would imagine.

By Mark Ehlen
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