1972 Nova Project: Replacing The Roof Edition

Cutting the roof off of a car can be a little intimidating, but sometimes you have no choice.  In my case, my friend’s 1972 Nova had a vinyl roof for its entire life, which rotted out the steel beneath it quite nicely. With the wheel houses repaired, and both quarter panels finally welded on, I decided to tackle the haggard looking roof skin next.

I began by melting the lead out of the factory seams on the a-pillars and the upper rear section of the roof skin. With a torch, it doesn’t take much heat for the lead to turn into a liquid and pour out like the Terminator movies.

Once I could access the factory roof seams on the pillars, I bent back the rain drip edges and dug in to find the side seams.  They were easily found under a heaping pile of seam sealer.  At first, I was gently removing the roof, 1 spot weld at a time.  Then I realized the whole thing is trash anyway and got the air hammer out.  With a sharpened tip, the air hammer moves through sheetmetal like it is made of warm butter.  If you have never seen it in action, leave a comment and let me know, and maybe I will make a video to show it off.  It’s truly awesome.

Before long, I had the roof skin separated from the roof structure, and it was ready to tear off.  I was a bit nervous about what I would find underneath, but much to my surprise, the structure of the roof was in great shape.  It had the typical “New England car” rust coating, but the metal itself was perfectly solid and not pitted.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable plopping the new skin on with the structure uncoated, so I grabbed my favorite metal coating – POR-15.  Seriously, the stuff works just as awesome as people say.  Just don’t get it on your skin, because it doesn’t come off. Like. Ever.

Poof! I POR-15′ed it in the “chassis coat semi-gloss black” color. Man I love that stuff.

I then spent about 6 hours meticulously cutting the skin away from another 1972 Nova roof.  It was about 300 times more work, because I had to be extremely careful not to damage the skin that I would be reusing. By the time the day was done, it looked like I had been living in a soot-filled chimney for the last few months.

NOTE: One lesson I learned long ago was to always wear a breathing mask, goggles, and gloves when doing this stuff.  If you don’t, your basically killing yourself. So yea, be smart and stuff. You’ll be happy you did.

So the “new” roof skin was finally separated and I needed to see what it looked like resting on the car.  Tada!

As you can see, the new roof skin will need many more hours of massaging if I want it to look like it belongs there.  Then I need to decide what to do with the roof seams. Do I try my skillzzzz at using lead body filler for the first time or to stick with the fiberglass reinforced filler?  What do you guys think?

2 comments to 1972 Nova Project: Replacing The Roof Edition

  • Tom Stevenson

    I prefer 3M panel adhesive, welding small areas on the corners. Fill with fiberglass reinforced filler. If you feel the need to use lead, Eastwood has a lead free filler that is slightly more difficult to apply than lead but is much safer. Good luck

    • Thanks for the input Tom! I have never tried panel adhesive before, but people tell me it works great. Also, I have checked out those “body solder” kits from Eastwood, and I would love to try one, but I am a bit hesitant because of the initial investment. We’ll see in the weeks ahead!

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