Another way to Get Perfect Panel Gaps- With TC Penick

Posted: April 21, 2015 By: MattM

We recently posted an episode of Hands on Cars where Kevin Tetz started putting the Zed Sled Camaro back together and aligning the panels. If you remember, Kevin showed you how to make the gap perfect between the door and quarter panel by building up and working the metal. TC Penick of Bay One Customs, an award winning car builder in his own right, has another way to fix wavy panel gaps that doesn’t involve welding.
As Kevin pointed out, trying to build up the edge of a door panel with body filler is not a durable long term solution. The trick is, to avoid parking lot door ding heartbreak, you don’t build up the panel edge, you build up the solid part of the panel it meets. TC shows us the special easy to make tools, and his special tricks on the bonnet of a classic Jaguar E type, ending up with gaps more uniform than the handmade panels ever had when they left the factory in the 1960s.

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At this point TC has worked the metal, applied a skim coat of Contour Premium Body Filler and sanded it smooth all over the hood and cowl/rocker area. Some fiberglass reinforced filler has been applied to the area of the seam in the course of smoothing the surrounding areas, but the gap itself hasn’t been addressed yet. The Contour filler with fiberglass is used for a base layer because of it extra strong nature.

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The first cheap, homemade time saving tool needed involved a piece of flat wooden paint stirrer with two single-edge razor blades taped and screwed to it. It depends on the thickness of the paint stirrer, but this ought to give you two cutting tools, parallel to each other and about 4mm apart.

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Next, take another piece of the paint stirrer and stick sand paper to just one side of it. This gives you the ability to sand the inside edge of the gap you just cut with the first tool, one side at a time.

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The last secret ingredient is this foam tape. It’s not important that this tape be particularly adhesive, it just need to be about the right size to fill under the gap. Without the tape the body filler would tend to get squished behind the panel as you tried to smooth it with the spreader paddle.

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Now with the tape filling in under the gap it’s time to apply the filler and demonstrate the cool tools and tricks.
1) First wipe the area clean with some PRE cleaner on a paper towel.

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2) Mix up some of the Contour body filler and spread it across the panel gap, paying attention to how and when it starts to harden. If you wait too long and it does dry it may take a cut off wheel to re-open that gap again. This may look like a lot of body filler in he’s spreading on there, but it is a very thin coat.

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3) Just before the filler hardens completely, it’s time to use your dual bladed razor tool. Find the edge of the panel gap, and insert the razors in the body filler. Let the edge of one of the panels, in this case the bonnet, guide the blade perfectly along the panel.

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4) Before the filler is dry it should adhere to itself enough, and not stick to the foam, so that after cutting it you can peel it off in one easy pull. However, as long as you did cut it all the way through you can leave it in place once it hardens completely, just to protect the edges of the panels as you sand off the excess body filler. When that’s all done the part you cut out will just pop out when you remove the foam tape.

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5) Next take your paint stirrer with sandpaper and sand inside the gap smooth. Again, you can use one side of the gap as a guide, which is why there isn’t sandpaper on both sides.

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6) Once the edge is smooth, open up the hood/bonnet and fill in the resulting ridge between the edge filler and the firewall with body filler.

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7) Then just sand everything smooth, maybe add a little more filler as needed, and you are done. Perfect 4mm panel gaps.

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Of course if you need to do this on any gap that isn’t a straight line, you will have to modify your methods to get the blades to corner. You may need to use 2 pointy Exacto knife blades. It may mean smaller blades, or doing things the old fashioned way.
Doesn’t this seem much quicker and easier that the way you were doing it? Kevin’s metal work solution is probably the way to go for anything like a door that gets banged around, but for gaps that lead less stressful lives it looks like TC’s methods are the way to go.

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