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"We looked at each other like, 'How are we going to pay for this?'" ...
In its heyday, this ’71 ’Cuda was an absolute showstopper in Gold Metallic with a black top and black interior. But when it came to Rob Paddock of Paddock’s Paint Works in Chesterfield, Michigan, it was nothing more than a shell, and a dinged up one at that.
“When I get a car that comes in like this,” said Paddock, “it reaffirms how much I love the work I do.”
An accidental find, the body of the soon-to-be-beast was in a state of ill repair.
“The owner, Jim Jarrett, was looking for a convertible HEMI® engine ‘Cuda to restore and cruise. As if it was meant to be, his friend Rick found this diamond-in-the-rough tucked away for some 20+ years in a Georgia garage. It needed work. A lot of work,” said Paddock.
So Paddock became the guy in charge of healing the bruises, mending the cuts and finding the parts to get the ’Cuda’s body back to its former splendor. “I won’t let it leave my sight until it’s perfect,” said Paddock. “I’ve cut, mended, bonded and seamed it with a zero tolerance for error. The final body is really a thing of beauty.”
The front end had been hit at one time or another, and it had more pits in it than the olives in a Greek salad. But that didn’t stop Paddock from making it pristine. “I had to configure a new piece,” said Paddock.
“I’m guessing it was hit from the side, too, because the trunk seams were way misaligned. It took some doing, but it’s completely flush now. I’m really happy with it. It looks completely seamless.”
In fact, all of the sheet metal on the car has been replaced short of the windshield surround, firewall and rear wheel tubs, and extensive metal work needed to be done to make the aftermarket parts all fit.
The project, now nearly done, is flawless. And with the time and effort Paddock has taken, it should be. To date, Paddock and his staff are almost 1,000 hours deep into the project.
Without giving away all of Paddock’s trade secrets, the process and painstaking effort he goes through to make sure the ’71 (and every other vehicle that comes to his shop) leaves unflawed, is quite impressive.
In addition to making sure the body fits together better than it did when the car rolled off the line in 1971, Paddock spares no expense in making sure the integrity of the bodywork and paint is going to last. Every inch of the vehicle is sandblasted and spray cleaned. Then the bare metal gets an application of premium zinc chromate primer – a product that costs about $500 per gallon. After that, things get really intense. All of the bodywork is completed before the vehicle gets a rust-defending, non-shrinking polyester primer. Then, Paddock sands out any imperfections before re-priming the masterpiece.
The next stop in the story of the ’71 ’Cuda: turning the body into a beast.
In future issues, we’ll showcase Dave Dudek as he helps the ’Cuda get its muscle and turns it into a HEMI® engine ‘Cuda clone. By that time, it will be painted back to its O.E. color, complete with black decals, a black top and a beautiful all-black interior.