While working on my ’54 Chevy project, I’ve discovered a lot of lead filler. I’m really starting to see the real meaning of ‘lead sled’.
So, I decided to do some research into the use of lead as an autobody filler from the 1950’s.
Firstly, lead is dangerous, right? When ingested, breathed in, or gotten into your blood stream, lead can cause stomach pains, diarrhea, headaches, and in severe cases, seizures and comas. Not to mention it also attacks your central nervous system, which can pretty much make you lose your mind (think: ‘Mad Hatters Disease’)
So, as an autobody mechanic, guys like me back in the day would inhale either the fumes or the dust of the lead and slowly poison themselves. The Lead filler that was used was a combination of Lead and Tin.
Today, most autobody mechanics use Bondo, which is actually a plastic filler, but is much safer for any tradesmen to use.
In my ’54 Chev, lead filler was heavily used by the manufacturer. All the seams would have contained some lead. Until the late 1960’s, car manufacturers preferred lead filler to plastic. My car, though, has it pretty much everywhere. So I started to wonder: What are my options for removing it, and how careful do I have to be?
The answer: be careful, but don’t be terrified of the stuff.
Remove the filler as needed, either by grinding or burning the stuff away (oxy acetelyne torch).
Knowing that it is dangerous to inhale, wear a mask, long sleeves and keep the area well ventilated.
Afterwards, it’s important to dispose of the lead as safely as possible so that it doesn’t risk seeping into the ground. Although I’ve heard it would take a lot of lead to poison our well water, I didn’t want to take a chance. I took all the leftover stuff in a paint can to the city’s Toxic waste disposal, and they took care it from there.
So, if you see me running around one of these days all crazy like the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, you’ll know it isn’t from lead poisoning, but just me on a good day!