Since we had plenty of work to keep us occupied, we had never paid much attention to the dents in the left side panel. As time passed by, we eventually got to the side panel that appeared to be a much bigger problem than I thought at the beginning; the dents were at some difficult to reach places! After several attempts to remove the dents with hammers and pullers we decided that the time had come to consult someone with a little more experience.
Here’s how we met Bill; an Englishman working at a close-by car repair shop. Not only a funny guy to hang around with, but also a very experienced panel beater with a long history in VW buses. Bill did not think very long before he decided that we were going to replace the entire side panel: removing the existing dents would probably take much longer…
We went out and bought a 3-meter long piece of sheet metal of which we had the top- and the front edge folded in a 90-degree angle. This was done to simplify (spot) welding the panel into place. We decided to keep the original air intake and I managed to get my hands on a replacement rear wheel arch, which made the job slightly easier.
We glued the side panel to the frame, rather than welding it, this technique (which is used on most modern cars) has some additional advantages:
- The construction is much stronger than welding (bigger contact surface).
- It is more flexible, so it can absorb vibration and deformation in the metal.
- Welds create potential rust areas; sealant doesn’t.
Bill proved to be a real craftsman, after he completed the fitting and welding of the side panel he finished with some fantastic filler work. I bet that the VW buses never even came this straight from the factory!