Repairing Collision Damage on Classic Cars
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Repairing Collision Damage on Classic Cars

Restoring a classic car is a process that can take years of work and substantial amounts of money. That means a garden variety accident can turn into a major headache. What issues should you expect when having collision damage repaired on your classic car?

Repairs Can and Will Reveal Other Issues 

It may have been decades since parts of your car have seen the light of day, which means ongoing issues may only be discovered during collision repair. Rust is almost always a problem, and should be considered when having the vehicle assessed: many panels have a second structural panel underneath that can rot away, even if the surface panel still looks good. Likewise, poor repairs in the car’s past may need to be fixed, especially if body fillers were used.

Keep in mind that collision insurance only covers damage caused by the accident. However, by rolling these repairs in with the collision repair, it reduces the total amount of labor and repair needed, saving you money. Thinking about a new paint job? Getting it done now will save you from paying for paint twice, first for the collision repairs, and then for the full vehicle.

Getting Parts Takes More Time

If you need a body part for a modern car, it’s simply a matter of calling around local salvage yards and dealers to find a replacement. With a classic car, replacement factory parts are often long out of production, requiring specialty aftermarket replacements or looking across the country for a serviceable salvage part. Some components may even need to be fabricated: it’s common for damaged door cards to be repaired by an upholstery shop, rather than trying for source reproductions.

Replacing Classic Paint with Modern Paint is Not a Problem 

As much as 85% of a lacquer paint will evaporate as it cures, sending toxic chemicals into the air, while enamel paints can use water as a solvent, making them relatively safe. This has led to the replacement of lacquer-based with enamel paints to reduce pollution.


Clearcoat wasn’t widely used until the early 1990s so in order to repair an older finish, we often go to the edge of a different panel to achieve an acceptable look.

Frame Damage is Common

Modern cars use frames that are built to crush at the ends of the vehicle to absorb impact force, while the area underneath the cabin stays rigid to prevent parts of the car from intruding and injuring passengers. In smaller impacts, this effectively isolates the center of the body from the force exerted at the ends of the vehicle. Older vehicles use solid frame members with the same density and structure from end to end, so even minor impacts can bend the entire frame.

Only trucks use body-on-frame designs today, but this was common in older cars as well. Fortunately, a frame straightening machine can bend the underlying ladder or X-frame back into shape without extensive repair.

Your Car May Look Better than New

We like classic cars because they’re part of our memories, they provide a driving experience that isn’t available in modern cars, and they have unique styling. However, there’s no denying that auto manufacturing has come a long way, making a major difference in fit and finish between an old car and a new one. Likewise, auto body repair has improved to match the quality standards of new vehicles, which means repairs to your vehicle will often result in more even panel gaps and fewer paint flaws than what it had off of the assembly line.

When Your Car is More Than a Car, Trust Merton Auto Body

Merton Auto Body has been in business since the 1940s, so we know what it takes to get classic cars back on the road. We offer the latest in auto repair technology, and we have an on-staff appraiser to help get repairs approved by your insurance company. Our shop is between highways 164 and 83, just off of Silver Spring Drive in the heart of Lake Country. That means we’re just a short drive away whether you live in Pewaukee, North Lake or Hartland.



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