View original topic: Time to face the body work
deezelcaddy Mon Sep 09, 2019 3:48 pm

Ok, after rebuilding my engine, a trans swap and fixing a bunch of mechanical gremlins, I am ready to face the bodywork. I have a donor van. My questions are:
1 would you try to pull the dents and bonds or just weld in a new nose panel? As you can see, the windshield and seal are junk so no loss there.
2 how do you remove the nose panel? Iím guessing you pull the windshield and the dash and drill out the spot welds?
3 the front drivers corner looks like a big panel. Iím guessing I should just but weld a piece in?
Thanx in advance for any advice

MarkWard Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:22 pm

Depends on your skill set. Take a sawzal and cut out way more than you need. Then dissect it down to the factory spot welds. Drill out those spotwelds and you have a good idea of whatís required replacing factory panels using the original seams. Or

There is a tool that welds tiny rods to the original panel. There is a puller and some other tools designed to grab these studs and pull the dents. You get it as close as possible and use good quality filler and primer to finish it off.

Iíd be watching you tube videos doing body work on unibody vehicles. Then decide.

deezelcaddy Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:32 pm

Thanx for the advice. Iím pretty solid with mig welding. Iíve never tried a stud welder. Iím really skeptical about pulling out those body lines and creases in the heavy vw sheet metal. Has anyone had luck?

Howesight Mon Sep 09, 2019 5:17 pm

I will finally be starting my own body repairs in preparation for a re-spray on my rig. I have some dents in the same areas, but not nearly as large as your dents. Having examined access to the reverse side of those panels, here are my observations:

1. The panel below the windshield can be accessed, for either dent removal or welding in a replacement panel, by removing the dash board and the heater box and, depending, the windshield wiper mechanism. Bear in mind that after replacing that panel with a new one, you will still need to get in there to apply paint or other rust-preventing coating which will require removal of the dash, heater box and wiper motor mechanism.

2. That is a good time to repair your heater box anyway, perhaps doing a replacement of the heater fan motor (or installing a lubricating hose to lube the bearing which eventually fails if not lubricated). The heater box flaps always need replacement to fix air leakage. The heater core may need replacement.

3. The area beside and behind your driver side headlight does have several modes of access once the grille and headlights are removed.

4. I like to buff dull paint and use the shine to help me in pushing out dents from behind the panel. An accomplished body man can feel when a panel is straightened enough and that is why they can get away with using a stud-gun dent puller system. I don't have that feel, so I go old-school.

5. Instead, I rely on seeing the shiny or polished panel and massaging it from behind until it is as straight as I can get it without body filler. Then I grind down to bare metal, shoot on epoxy primer and then apply body filler over the epoxy primer. Epoxy primer over the bare metal is the best rust preventative and is now the standard approach. FYI, even as recently as the 1980's and 1990's many body shops still applied body filler directly to bare metal which resulted in far more rust later on than anyone wanted in repair areas.

So, I suggest doing the removal and disassembly of the dash, heater box and wiper mechanism and attempting to push out the dents first and only if you make a hash of that would I recommend replacing the whole panels.

Here is a link to a website where the proprietor, Ben, has replaced many rusty panels on Quebec vans, Quebec being a hub of rusty vehicles as bad as Ohio and Pennsylvania:

For removing the dashboard, see this link:

alaskadan Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:14 pm

All that can be pulled. Do you want to take out the interior? If so then replace the main nose piece above the grill. If you dont want to gut the interior then studs and slide hammer. FWIW, in a pinch i made a setup a long time ago. I welded a pair of needle nose vice grips to the end of a small slide hammer. Buy a lb of 2 3\8 ring shank nails. With the mig, i zap em on 2 sides of the head. These actually hold better than the actual studs from the real stud gun. Dont weld them on 3 sides of the head, with 2 sides you can wiggle them back and forth to remove most of the time. Often times with the slide hammer clamped onto a stud I just apply firm pulling force and gently tap on the high spots around the dent to raise the low and hammer down the high spot.

nemobuscaptain Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:27 pm

deezelcaddy wrote: Thanx for the advice. Iím pretty solid with mig welding. Iíve never tried a stud welder. Iím really skeptical about pulling out those body lines and creases in the heavy vw sheet metal. Has anyone had luck?
Those stud welders are damn easy and I've seen it repair FAR worse than that in just a few minutes. Grinding the nubs that are left and filling the the area takes much more time than actually pulling out the dent. The creased one will me a bit harder and you will need filler when you are done still.

The key is to start at the outsides and work around. Remember that you are going to have some high areas too around it that will need (light) hammer work.

Personally, I don't have the skill but I have some cheap body work guys in the Mexican area of town. Probably you do also.

Some times the local votech schools will have night time hobby body repair courses. That might be something to look into also.

If you do the whole nose take lots of measurements around the windshield in particular. It's easy to get that wrong and have trouble with getting the windshield back in.

Scottn59c Mon Sep 09, 2019 8:31 pm

Those dents can be fixed with a combo of pulling and filling with bondo. I've been working on similar damage inflicted to my '81 and have documented it here. I used a combination of stud welder and slide hammer. Had mixed results with the stud welder, had good ones drilling holes and pulling with the slide hammer. See my thread:

michaelbteam Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:31 pm

I sure admire your ambition! I don't have any rust but do have many dents. I think as long as the original paint holds up, I'm going the leave the "character" of my van as is. Best wishes with your own labor of love!

deezelcaddy Tue Sep 10, 2019 3:42 am

Thanx. A lot of great points here. You have emboldened me to try the slide hammer. At the end of the day, if I screw it up, I can always weld in a new panel. I live in the Pennsyltuckey hills, so I donít drive it in the winter. The salt here is a nightmare. I got it from Virginia so itís basically rust free. My plan was to strip it down over the winter and prep it for paint. Iíve had pretty good success painting cars in the past and Iím not preparing it for The Riddler. I want to change the scheme to orange and ivory and all the glass rubber needs to be replaced anyway. I also want to swap the little remaining carpet for raptor liner. It is a labor of love to be sure. The Vanagon is my favorite vehicle to drive of all time. Itís a factory 9 passenger diesel which I think is rare but I expect members to burst my bubble with their same rides. I have 4 kids so the whole family can go along and I get a kick out of how happy seeing this thing makes people on the street. On a side note, whatever VW used as factory or dealer installed undercoating is amazing. When I swapped what I assume to be the original rubber brake lines, the fittings were like brand new when I chipped the undercoating off. I need to find some NOS and do all my pa vehicles.

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