Street News

Challenger Sun Roof Cover Up

In the late seventies and eighties, adding creature comforts to lesser-equipped cars was huge. All kinds of modifications were made, such as power locks, power windows, and fog lights. Those were all fine and good but if you really wanted to add some panache to a car you would add a sunroof. Yeah buddy, nothing is cooler than an early 80’s sunroof that sits 2 inches higher than the rest of the roof and leaks worse than the Titanic (post-iceberg of course). The reality is that this type of “upgrade” was common place and it really hurts a cars value. The trouble is patching a roof panel is much easier said than done. The large expanse of steel with a very mild compound curve is quite difficult to copy and welding on a roof can cause so many warps you would think it had been used for a tap dance routine. This is not the kind of information you want to hear when you need to repair this kind of problem.

Now that you have been thoroughly scared away from attempting this type of repair, we are going to show you how to do it right. Using a few specialized tools that make the job simpler, and some tools you should already own, the task at hand will become more manageable. As with any automotive job, consult a professional if your skills are not up to the task at hand, it usually costs more if you make it worse.

We found a 1973 Challenger in Ramsey Autobody in Stillwater, OK. This particular model had been treated to a sunroof job that left a little to be desired. The new owners had smartly decided to remove it during the restoration of the car. Toby Ramsey graciously allowed our cameras in the shop to document the process.

One of the unique steps we used on this car was an English wheel and plannishing hammer. While their initial costs might be prohibitve, with a little practice, their uses are immeasurable. Adding a compound curve to a patch panel is not easily done, and matching an existing panel is even trickier. The english wheel can quickly work a piece of steel or aluminum into the correct shape. The plannishing hammer is used to smooth the panel and add the final shape. Since English wheels and plannishing hammers are stretching devices, the possibility of over-stretching is ever present.

To combat this, a set of shrinking jaws are kept on hand to bring the panel back. These tools are not absolutely necessary, but they make thing easier and reduce the amount of body filler needed to smooth out the roof. There will be a good amount of body filler on ANY roof job, so be prepared.

Another trick Toby Ramsey employed was heat shrinking. This process uses a torch to heat the metal to cherry red in the bottom of a dent or warp, then a wet rag is placed on the metal. This shocks the metal and causes it to shrink rapidly, removing the dent of warp. For large warps or dents, a shrinking hammer can be used in conjunction with the torch and rag.

In the end, the roof came out smooth and clean, which is a good thing considering this car is getting painted black. As most of you know, black is the worst color for any body man as it shows every tiny defect. Toby and his crew spent about 4 days working on the roof, getting it perfect before spraying the primer.

01. While not completely mangled, the roof of this Challenger has an extra hole. Working on the roof is tricky. The metal is thin and warps very easy. There are some tricks that can reduce the amount of warpage and subsequent body filler.

01. While not completely mangled, the roof of this Challenger has an extra hole. Working on the roof is tricky. The metal is thin and warps very easy. There are some tricks that can reduce the amount of warpage and subsequent body filler.

 

02. Using a high-crown dies, we set up the English wheel to pre-shape the sheet metal panel. This allows us to weld in a patch panel with the correct shape, instead of a large flat piece, which would require a lot of body filler.

02. Using a high-crown dies, we set up the English wheel to pre-shape the sheet metal panel. This allows us to weld in a patch panel with the correct shape, instead of a large flat piece, which would require a lot of body filler.

 

03. The panel is run through the wheel in a back-and-forth zig-zag pattern. Both length and width have to be run on the machine to get the compound curve we need. Of course, how much curve and where is the hard part.

03. The panel is run through the wheel in a back-and-forth zig-zag pattern. Both length and width have to be run on the machine to get the compound curve we need. Of course, how much curve and where is the hard part.

 

04. The panel was test fit several time to see how it is coming along. It is getting close here.

04. The panel was test fit several times to see how it was coming along. It is getting close here.

 

05. Once the panel is close, we moved to the plannishing hammer. This tool smoothes the metal and removes the wheel marks from the wheel. You can also shape with tool. We added the last tweaks to the curve with the hammer.

05. Once the panel is close, we moved to the plannishing hammer. This tool smoothes the metal and removes the wheel marks from the wheel. You can also shape with tool. We added the last tweaks to the curve with the hammer.

 

06. With the edges cut to fit, the entire panel was flanged with a punch\flange tool. This added a 1\16” flange all around the panel, adding a little rigidity and brings the center section flush with the roof.

06. With the edges cut to fit, the entire panel was flanged with a punch\flange tool. This added a 1\16” flange all around the panel, adding a little rigidity and brings the center section flush with the roof.

 

07. The jagged edges of the existing roof were trimmed off using a cutting wheel.

07. The jagged edges of the existing roof were trimmed off using a cutting wheel.

 

08. Using a screwdriver to put pressure on the roof, the panel was stitch welded to the roof.

08. Using a screwdriver to put pressure on the roof, the panel was stitch welded to the roof.

 

09. Between stitches, the roof was cooled using an air gun. This helps minimize warping.

09. Between stitches, the roof was cooled using an air gun. This helps minimize warping.

 

10. While the panel is hot, Toby Ramsey taps the welds with a hammer. This is a quick and easy way to drop the high spots.

10. While the panel is hot, Toby Ramsey taps the welds with a hammer. This is a quick and easy way to drop the high spots.

 

11. With the welding done, the grinder comes to clean things up.

11. With the welding done, the grinder comes to clean things up.

 

12. There were a lot of dings and some warpage on the roof. Toby used the hot-ice method. First, the bottom of the dent was heated cherry red.

12. There were a lot of dings and some warpage on the roof. Toby used the hot-ice method. First, the bottom of the dent was heated cherry red.

 

13. Then a wet towel was placed over the spot. This action forces the metal to cool very quickly, popping the dent up.

13. Then a wet towel was placed over the spot. This action forces the metal to cool very quickly, popping the dent up.

 

14. A little tweaking with a pick hammer and all is well.

14. A little tweaking with a pick hammer and all is well.

 

15. The metal work is done.

15. The metal work is done.

 

16. To seal the new roof, bottom of the panel was coated with seam sealer.

16. To seal the new roof, bottom of the panel was coated with seam sealer.

 

17. Then the underside of the roof was sprayed with undercoating. This will ensure the repairs will last for years and not rust.

17. Then the underside of the roof was sprayed with undercoating. This will ensure the repairs will last for years and not rust.

 

18. The roof was wiped with Duraglass to seal any pinholes in the welds. Once cured, the Duraglass was knocked down with a cheese-grater.

18. The roof was wiped with Duraglass to seal any pinholes in the welds. Once cured, the Duraglass was knocked down with a cheese-grater.

 

19. To make sure the roof was perfect; the entire top was covered with a layer of body filler. While most of this will come off, it is important to do this step, otherwise the roof will look have waves.

19. To make sure the roof was perfect; the entire top was covered with a layer of body filler. While most of this will come off, it is important to do this step, otherwise the roof will look like it has waves.

 

20. Using a board file, the entire roof section was sanded. This is the best way to keep the roof even and flat, a DA-sander will not get the job done and look right.

20. Using a board file, the entire roof section was sanded. This is the best way to keep the roof even and flat, a DA-sander will not get the job done or look right.

 

21. Jordan Lewis sprayed the sanded roof with primer-sealer to seal up the metal.

21. Jordan Lewis sprayed the sanded roof with primer-sealer to seal up the metal.

 

22. Jordan worked the roof over with a sanding block and increasingly finer grit paper, starting at 80, to 220.

22. Jordan worked the roof over with a sanding block and increasingly finer grit paper, starting at 80, to 220.

 

23. The roof is ready for another coat of primer and paint. Of course that will have to wait until the rest is done.

23. The roof is ready for another coat of primer and paint. Of course that will have to wait until the rest is done.

Sources-

Ramsey Autobody

(405)743-3107

About Jefferson Bryant (221 Articles)
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).

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