Warning – the rust you’re about to see is severe and will strike at the hearts of all classic car lovers. Once seen, it cannot be unseen. Proceed at your own risk.
Ah, rust – the scourge of all classic car enthusiasts. Once rust infests a car’s sheetmetal, there’s only one way to cure it – cut it out, and replace it with fresh sheetmetal. On 50+ year old cars like my ’61 Impala rust is all too common. A previous owner of my car decided to address the rust the cheap way – using rivets, sheetmetal, and bondo to patch the holes in the floor. Once I cut away the floor, I discovered that the rocker panels were rusted to flaky conditions. And once I had the paint stripped from the entire body, I discovered that the same Leonardo da Bondo had applied his skills to the lower portion of both rear quarter panels.
Cutting out the old metal completely, the right way, requires drilling out tons of spot welds, followed by careful fit up and welding of the new panels. And cutting out floors and rockers leaves the body shell weak and prone to bending in funny ways, so before cutting and drilling, we welded in bracing. First, we cut the floors out, and then we welded in bracing before cutting and drilling the rockers out.
Once the floors were out of the way, the rot in the rockers was easy to see. The exposed metal disintegrated from the strength of the breeze through the garage.
Piles of rusted metal and rust crumbs look much better when detached from your car.
The aftermarket is keen to the rust often seen in the Impalas and thankfully supplies all sorts of new replacement parts. But 1961 is a relatively low volume year for Impalas – production volume doubled in 1962 and then stayed up there for some time – but thankfully the floorpans and rocker panels for the ’61 are identical from ’61 – ’64. A complete floorpan assembly, with underside braces, is available new, as are inner and outer rockers. For the quarters, no complete stampings are reproduced currently, and new old stock quarters are hideously expensive. However, patch panels are available.