The Build Process
The process of building a project car is a lengthy and sometimes very costly undertaking. Bonnell’s Rod Shop has come up with a system to try to help customers navigate through this process. Very similar to the standard operating procedures the shop follows during a build. This process can take several hundred hours on an average build or even several thousand on a large one off build. With an average build reaching upwards of a thousand hours projects can change dramatically along the way. Each time Bonnell’s Rod Shop sits down with a customer the process is explained.
First things first. After meeting with a customer and getting the ball rolling the car arrives. The car is cleaned and then prepped for work. By now a real good idea of what the customer is expecting has been established. There are always details to be worked out.
The very first stage before the real work starts is an evaluation. The project vehicle is checked over from top to bottom inside and out. Looking at all the mechanical working of the project. This stage of the process tells the Rod Shop what works and what doesn’t. Things such as gauges, radio, power windows and other electronics are checked to see if they work. Questions such as: How does it run? or Does everything work? are answered.
The planning is usually well under way by now. Things such as renderings and parts list come into play. A blueprint so to9 speak is created. Detailing what the vehicle is really going to be. This part of the process usually involves color and wheel choices. Type of engine and driveline parts may be planned and ordered. All the components that are known to be needed are ordered.
Now the real work begins. The parts come off the project. In most cases the vehicle is torn completely down. What was once a complete car is now a shell. As parts and pieces are removed they are checked over. To see what is used and what is not. Some parts are good some are not. Some may great and never used on a custom project.
Once everything is removed inventory is taken. What is good and usable is separated from what needs replaced. Parts are then put in there temporary homes until they can be refurbished, replaced, or recycled.
Media Blasting is the next phase of this process. Bonnell’s Rod Shop can blast an entire vehicle to remove all of the paint and rust. This is where the true scope of what the vehicle is like is revealed. As the paint flies of the the body and all the small parts the true condition shows through. Some builds change drastically after this stage. Many old repairs surface. Rust and corrosion may have eaten away vital parts of the project. The vehicle is put into an epoxy coat as soon as the blast media is cleaned out of it. The project is evaluated again at this point.
After the epoxy dries the next step starts. This part of the process goes on through multiple stages of the build. New and old parts meet the chassis and body and are bolted in place. This is where the parts are test fitted and panels are started to be aligned. As much as possible is installed. This shows where the modifications and fitment comes into play. If a part does not fit it is modified or even replaced if need be. The shape of the vehicle starts to come together.
The process moves to the fabrication portion of the build. The vehicle is made to fit together. Gaps are tightened. New parts are modified to look like the belong. In some case complete panels are constructed and installed. Many parts and pieces are welded and bolted in place. The heavy metal work is completed.
Once the heavy fabrication is finished the process continues with body work. The Body is smoothed and the imperfections worked away. Body filler is applied where needed. Panels are fit as they should be. The vehicle is prepped for the primer stage. Epoxy is applied and the primer process is set to begin.
Bonnell’s Rod Shop uses a high build polyester for the first coat in the priming process. This primer is used to true up the panels and lock down the bodywork. The vehicle is given time to cure before the actual block sanding takes place.
While polyester primer is curing the vehicle is moved into the heavy fabrication stage of interior work. While some pieces may be created in the metal work process, this is where the real fabrication begins. Door panels and seats are created the nuts and bolts of the interior are ironed out. Many custom panels are made and fit properly to the car. This is done in the polyester stage to minimize the chance of damage to a fresh painted project. True body shapes are in place making it so the interior panels can be fit properly.
Blocking sanded is one of the most important parts of the build process. The entire vehicle is sanded using various grits and sanding blocks. A powder guide coat is used to show highs and lows and reveal anything that may have been missed in the body work stage. Numerous hours are required to get a vehicle arrow straight. Parts such as taillights and emblems are checked for final fitment. The Rod Shop crew is constantly examining the surface to make sure it is ready to move to final primer
The last of the priming process is a thin coat of urethane primer. This is the last look before the build moves to paint. The final sanding procedures include
the same basic steps used in the polyester sanding stage. Special attention is payed to all the details making sure that no defects remain. Finish sanding to a p600 grit finish is a time consuming but necessary process this is what makes a quality paint job.
After the Primer stage is complete the masking process starts. The vehicle is thoroughly cleaned and wiped before tape is applied. Time is taken to completely cover the areas that do not get painted. The cleaner the masking job the better the paint work comes out.
The paint process is often the smallest part but one of the most important parts of a build. Time is taken to apply all of the products according to the specifications provided by the manufacturer. Extra coats of color and extra clear is applied to give room for wet sanding and buffing. Graphics are laid out and buried under the clear. Custom colors are created and applied. In many cases projects will be sprayed there own one off color.
Wet sanding the clear is done to smooth all of the imperfections out of the paint. Orange peal is smoothed out so the finish is true and smooth. Imperfections like dirt and the occasional run are removed. This process starts with p600 grit followed by p800, p1000, p1200, p1500, and p2000 by hand with various sanding blocks. The final sanding of 3000 grit and 5000 grit are done by machine.
The buffing process involves polishing out the wet sanding scratches with various buffers and polishers. Buffing brings out the shine and luster of the color. This is where the true finish comes from. Hours and Hours are spent in the wet sanding and buffing process. This is usually where the most distinction between street cars and show cars are evident. Up until this point there is little difference. Door jambs undersides of hoods and all the hard to reach areas are sanded and buffed for a show finish. Typically a street car the exterior main areas are sanded and buffed.
The painstaking process of putting the car back together begins. Care is taken not to damage freshly painted and polished parts. All of the new chrome, stainless, and awesome little gadgets are installed. The wiring and electrical systems are put in place. Finally it starts to look like a vehicle. The engine fires and it moves under it’s own power. All of the systems are finished and checked. This can take as much time as fabrication and bodywork.
After all of the systems are in place and tested the vehicle moves to final interior assembly. A lot of times this takes place simultaneously with final assembly. The seats, door panels, headliner and carpet are covered. Materials like leather, vinyl and carpeting are used in this stage. Installation of all of the panels make the car look amazing.
After all of the work and all of the hours the process of building the vehicle is complete. All of the systems are working. The vehicle looks spectacular. A final look over the vehicle is performed. Delivery day comes and it is time for the newly completed project to meet the world. The new owners are proudly thought of as friends or even family. Building these projects are not done as just a job. These builds are a passion and are a part of each and every technician when they are complete. Often car owners are missed and car shows and events are anticipated so that owners and builders can visit and reminisces about the entire process.
Bonnell’s Rod Shop prides itself in building great cars but mostly in building great relationships with all those involved in the process. Once a customer’s project is completed that is not the end. During the process of completing a build many things have taken place. The biggest is an attachment to the build and the customer. They have become part of the Rod Shop’s life. As the build enters the completed phase it is not the end. New things such as car shows and events take place. As owners enjoy their build they come to visit and for maintenance. These vehicles are never done they are a way of life for everyone involved.