I hadn't had my '78 Scout Terra painted for more than a week when I found myself plodding along a crooked farm road in the dead of night amidst a howling thunderstorm. Rain threw itself at the flat-pane windshield in violent splashes, threatening to drown out the static cough of the one-speaker AM radio in the dash. Soft green light poured from the gauges as I flicked through the dial, curious to hear what the low clouds would drag across the airwaves from the farthest corners of the state. The needle slid to a talk radio show with host and guest locked mid-debate on the merits of extraterrestrial visitation and the federal government's continued efforts at an ongoing cover-up.

The headlights did their best to shove through the deluge with decreasing efficacy. I dialed back the speed as the old International rounded a corner into a long straight. The radio began to speak in low tones as the guest carefully detailed his own personal visitation experience. There was talk of paralysis. Operating tables. The guest began painting a vivid picture of the cold, vacant eyes of his captors when the signal dropped into pure static. I began to reach for the dial when the countryside exploded in brilliant white light, flicking down the strands of wet barbed-wire on either side of the road and splashing across the Death by Stereo skull and lightning bolts I had stenciled onto a black field on the hood in my parents' driveway a few nights prior. The deafening clap of thunder that ensued a half breath later felt like a boot to the chest, voicing itself even over the low grumble of the truck's lumbering V8 and producing in me a primal urge to bolt for cover.

The radio sparked back to life before the thunder had ceased making its rounds down the valley, leaving me with the afterimage of that white skull etched on the inside of my eyelids. I can't tell you why, but that was the moment that made the truck mine.

It didn't take long for word to get around that I was the kid in town with a rusty old Scout slathered in matte black Rustoleum enamel with a skull on the hood and DTH PRUF vanity plates at each bumper. Through the years, the truck has been my most loyal vehicle, proving to be shockingly reliable and nie-unstoppable off road. So when it came time for a new batch of sheetmetal to replace the corroded bits, I had to find a suitable way to honor the hood that had pointed me toward the life I now lead. Rather than stick it in a corner of the garage or send it off to scrap, I decided to take a shot at hanging it my office. Odds are, if you've spun enough wrenches, you may just have a body panel or two itching for a spot on your own wall. Here's how to make it happen.
Step 1: Tools and Materials

Your tools and materials may vary depending on what panel you're hanging and the era of automotive engineering from whence it came. The hood for the Scout is approximately 45 inches tall by 55 inches wide and weighs about as much as an unladen Spanish galleon. Lighter fenders and such will require less substantial hardware. I used:

Mounting channels:
  • Two pieces of 48-inch long, 1-inch by 1-inch aluminum L stock

  • Sheetmetal screws
  • Aluimnum pop rivets
  • 2-inch drywall screws
  • A fistful of nickels

  • Safety glasses
  • Ratchet (for attaching sheetmetal screws)
  • Drill
  • Hacksaw
  • Punch or 16-penny nail
  • Rat-tail file
  • Sharpie
  • Tape Measure
  • Level
  • Various sized metal drill bits
  • Did we mention safety glasses? Safety glasses.

You may find the construction of your body panel doesn't allow for the use of sheetmetal screws as fasteners. In that case, industrial-strength structural adhesive or construction adhesive may work. Just read the label and use common sense. We're not responsible if you drop a bumper on your face. Swim at your own risk.

Step 2: Measure and mark

I started by finding the center point on the hood and carefully marking the location with the Sharpie. If it's been awhile since you've divided fractions, here's a helpful hint: Dividing a fraction by two is as simple as doubling the denominator. For example, half of 1/4 is 1/8. Half of 1/8 is 1/16, etc. We can't help you with whole numbers.

While the brackets don't necessarily need to be perfectly centered, doing so will cut out a lot of leveling headaches later down the line. Do your best to keep everything as even and level as possible throughout the hanging process.

You'll also want to find the studs in your wall before cutting, drilling or otherwise laying waste to the countryside. Since the hood is so heavy, I wanted to anchor the studs with at least two three-inch drywall screws to prevent it from decapitating me at some point during the work day. Studs are generally spaced on 16-inch centers, meaning I needed to have a bracket at least 18 inches long in order to leave one inch of material on either side of the screw mounting points. Locate and clearly mark the studs by either using a stud finder or punching a bunch of holes in the wall with a nail and hammer until you hit pay dirt. You can guess which option I chose.

Step 3: Make some cuts

Put your safety glasses/goggles/blast shield on your face. Leave them/it there. Seriously, aluminum filings are tiny and razor sharp. They also love nothing more than to get cozy with the human eyeball.

Since the aluminum L brackets come in convenient 48-inch sections, I simply opted to cut them in half, leaving me with four 24-inch sections. Being unburdened by space constraints either on the hood or the wall itself, having an extra six inches of material to work with wasn't going to be an issue. It also gave more space for fasteners.

Aluminum is a very soft material and incredibly easy to cut with a hacksaw and a little patience. You may also use an air grinder if you prefer. If you have a bench vice, use it to steady the piece while you're cutting, though asking a friend to risk life and limb while you wield the saw is also an acceptable method.

Here comes a bit of trickery. Odds are you won't be working with a single straight or flat edge on your body panel. Don't fret, as the problem is easy enough to overcome. The Scout hood had a gentle concave curve toward the outside, which was dealt with by making a single V notch in the center. Pressing down toward the curve of the body panel was all it took to get the bracket to successfully match the arc. Repeat the same V cut on one of the remaining 24-inch L brackets.

Step 4: Make your wall bracket

The channel system I devised to hang the hood is pretty simple. It uses two L brackets mounted to the wall to form a tray in which the second set of L brackets, positioned 180 degrees from the first set, may then sit. Start by placing one of the non-V brackets on the wall where you marked your studs. You'll want the piece to look like an inverted shelf, with the horizontal portion of the bracket below the vertical section. Center the bracket between the marks and transfer the location of the studs to the vertical section of the bracket. Next, find the center of the vertical leg at each mark and draw a precise X. This is the future home of your drywall screws. If you feel like getting fancy, you can also counter-sink the holes with a larger diameter drill bit.

Next, evenly divide the horizontal leg into four sections, leaving about an inch of clearance on either end, and mark them. Find the center of the leg and place an X at each mark. These will be the pilot holes for your rivets.

The second non-V bracket will sit with its horizontal leg on top of the horizontal leg we just marked so that the pair form a U shape. Transfer the same rivet hole locations to the second bracket. This is easiest done by measuring from the inside corner of the L of the first bracket to the X. The same measurement can then be used starting from the leading edge of the second bracket. If you simply try to use the same measurement pulled from the same direction on both brackets, your holes will be off by approximately the thickness of the aluminum. Ask me how I know.

Next, using the same measuring technique, transfer the marks for the drywall screws to the vertical leg of the second bracket. These marks indicate the location of the drill access holes. Without those holes, there will be no way to get the driver bit to the screws themselves. With the wall bracket properly marked, measured, checked and double checked, you can go ahead and check everything a third time. Seriously. Then feel free to go crazy with the drill/drill press. Using your punch or nail, gently tap a divot at the center of your X. This will help keep the bit on mark when you start drilling.

Once your holes are drilled, use the rivet gun to pop rivet the two L brackets together. Odds are, your holes won't line up perfectly. Fortunately, the rat-tail file can help you make the adjustments you need to get the two pieces to work together. Using a level and plenty of patience, fasten the bracket to the wall using the 3-inch drywall screws. Congratulate yourself on a job half-done.

Step 5: Make your body-panel bracket

Your two remaining V-notched L brackets will form an upside-down U once assembled. As before, evenly divide both the horizontal and vertical legs of one of the brackets and mark with an X at each division. This piece will form an upside-down L, with the notched portion forming the horizontal leg. With the holes drilled, use four sheetmetal screws to attach the vertical leg of the bracket to the body panel. Again, keep everything as even and level as humanly possible.

Transfer the hole locations from the horizontal leg of the bracket we just attached to the body panel to the horizontal, V-notched leg of the last remaining L bracket. Drill holes at the marked locations and use the pop rivet gun to assemble the two pieces. I put mine together with the wall-facing bracket below the hood-facing bracket. I'm not sure it matters. As with the wall bracket, use the rat-tail file to coerce any uncooperative holes into playing nicely.

Step 6: Hang that sucker

At this point, you should have a body panel with an upside down U bracket and a wall with a right-side up U bracket. Hopefully, you can see where this is going. Using either boundless feats of strength or an assistant, carefully place the vertical leg of your body panel bracket into the channel made by the vertical leg of your wall bracket. Stand back and admire how crooked everything looks.

No matter how careful you've been, there will be some fine-tuning involved. I found nickels to be an excellent shim to level everything out.

Step 7: Now, show us yours

We want to see your own body-part craft projects, so be sure to send us a photo or two when you get your sheetmetal where you want it. If you have any questions, drop me a line at zach dot bowman at autoblog dot com.

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