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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Bright paint, dark secrets: What a little filler can hide

The proverbial "polished turd" is a pitfall into which many car enthusiasts eventually fall. Stories vary in severity, which is to say that some recently purchased rides arrive with an undisclosed patch of rust under the trunk carpet, while others are somehow more Bondo than metal.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/bright-paint-dark-secrets-what-a-little-filler-ca...
15 REPLIES 15
XJ6
Intermediate Driver

Absolutely. And never buy a car sight unseen unless you have a bona fide expert inspect it for you. Get on a cheap flight and go look at it.
Flashman
Instructor

I love how you used "champing at the bit" properly, but you missed a "be" in front of it.
audiobycarmine
Instructor

Amen. I thought the same thing.
bblhed
Advanced Driver

Whatever would we do without the Grammar police, God Bless you for keeping us safe.
tommykat1
Intermediate Driver

Carry a little rubberized kitchen refrigerator magnet for inspection of steel bodied cars. A mild magnet will stick to steel, but not to bondo.
Scottch
Pit Crew

This has always worked for me. Sometimes it is the simple things that works best. Also, crawl around with a flashlight and don't forget to look at the inside of body panels. They often tell the true story.
CJinSD
Instructor

I remember seeing bodies for 330 2+2s lined up outside the shops that used their mechanicals components and chassis to build recreations of Ferrari's desirable two-seaters. I wonder how many of them have been returned to the pool of complete cars?
hyperv6
Engineer

I see so many people get burned even buying in person. They really don't do their due diligence to investigate a car before they buy it.

It takes some effort but it pays in the end. Also never look alone. take a informed friend to help look over things with an independent eye.
Never buy sight unseen. Contact a local expert or someone who can investigate the car for you before you buy. Or pay the plane ticket. a few hundreds can save thousands of dollars.
drhino
Technician

Makes me wonder how people can sleep at night; knowing they ripped someone off. I’m a firm believer in karma (carma?). It may take a while; but it eventually gets you.
Tinkerah
Technician

"Karma". -kicked off the Grammar Police Force, just a vigilante now
jagmuff
Pit Crew

Gadzooks! Thanks Hagerty. That's definitely an eye opener...
TG
Instructor

I bought a 65 Impala out of a storage unit with the expectation of getting a car with known and declared mechanical issues but with (i hoped) a largely intact body other than minor rust spots

What I got was a car with zero metal under the windshield (you could see into the dash when the windshield was removed), the expected set of matching missing floorpans (a previous owner had covered the rotted out floor pans with a mat of duct tape to hold the carpet up) and a street sign hidden in the rear quarter under a (no kidding) half inch of bondo

For what I paid for the car though, still no regrets although the body work has significantly extended the downtime before the car is eventually road-ready. I also found out to my surprise that the car spent much of its later life sitting and rotting in my front yard before it wound up in the storage unit. Every old car has a story or two in it.
Scottch
Pit Crew

I like how he say that the body filler on the front fender is just too much for them....isn't that too much for anyone at a reputable shop by now?
bblhed
Advanced Driver

Lets step back people and look at reality. Fact, those are Million dollar cars and the body work done on them was what was done, it may not be right, but you also don't know if it was all done at once or in stages over decades. I wasn't there when the paint was removed nor were you so there is no way to know the whole story. It isn't like you can just order up a new body panel for those cars so the shop did what they could with what they had.

With that pit of perspective, if several owners of historically significant cars worth about a million dollars couldn't get the work done right I will bet you some actual money that you are going to have to lower your standards or open a HELOC and crash your 401k to get a 1970 Chevelle into the all metal state that you believe it should be in.

Reality, it will cost $100,000 to restore a one off exotic to an all metal state it will also cost $100,000 to restore a 1965 Chevrolet station wagon to an all metal state. Fact both cars will have filler on them at the end of the job, cars leave the factory with filler it is reality.

Let he who has never just had the one thing that needed to be fixed taken care of without stripping the whole car to see if there was more damage cast the first stone. No one wants to open a can of worms.
Zephyr
Instructor

Years ago I had an insured who was in an accident that caused some front end damage to a used Fiat that he had recently purchased. The car must have come from the East Coast because the undercarriage had a fresh and heavy coat of that black tar-like stuff that we never use on the West Coast. The shop hooked the car up to their frame machine and started pulling, and most of the front end of the car fell off. Turns out that the inner sheet metal on the car was rusted paper thin, which had been disguised by applying an extra heavy coat of undercoating.