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What is a lead sled?

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  • Member since
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What is a lead sled?
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, November 17, 2003 12:09 PM
Ok guys forgive my ignorance.....but what exactly is a "lead sled" Ive heard the term used....Im sure Ive even seen one....but I really dont know....though I have an idea....

Thanks!
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, November 17, 2003 12:34 PM
I'm no pro either, but from what I understand: it's generally a 40-50's era custom rod. It will usually have a chop top & a phat engine, & be lowered to the ground. Basically, I've always understood it to be just an oversized muscle car. I'm sure someone else out here will help me out here.
  • Member since
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  • From: Arroyo Grande, CA
Posted by MojoDoctor on Monday, November 17, 2003 12:55 PM
The term "lead sled" did originate with the customs of the 50's, however, it refers to the material used to fill the areas surrounding the modifications. Instead of a Bondo type filler, a "real" car customizer uses lead. This was used by the major auto manufacturers to fill the seams between the body panels during assembly on factory cars. It is also a better way of filling since the lead will expand and contract with the metal, unlike synthetic fillers.

Matt

Matt Good judgement is the result of experience, Experience is the result of poor judgement. Mark Twain

  • Member since
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  • From: Calgary, AB
Posted by Canada Jeff on Monday, November 17, 2003 1:05 PM
And the sled part came from the fact that they were usually lowered quite severely (even by today's standards), and often had fender skirts hiding the rear wheels. They looked like they were sliding down the road like a sled.

Using lead body filler is almost a lost art today. Sad, really.
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, November 17, 2003 2:32 PM
Thanks for clarifying this....I thought it had to do with 50's cars...that were severely modified in the body department!
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, November 17, 2003 4:43 PM
I think the term was originally applied to the "49 Merc customs that were done in the early fifties. The earlier referal to the lead used in bodywork is correct. Bodywork in those days was done with a brazing torch and lead filler(plumber's lead) "Bondo" did'nt exist @ the time (or if it did, we were'nt aware of it)
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 9:21 PM
from what i see it looks like you guys know what they are, and thats good.


jared
  • Member since
    November 2003
  • From: Brasil
Posted by Luiz on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 3:32 PM
MojoDoctor is right. Nowadays only the top notch bodymen use lead as a filler. Here in Brasilia, Brasil, I have the good fortune of having a british guy, a first rate bodyman who works only with lead. According to him the right "mix" is 70% lead and 30% tin. He´s doing the body of my 57 Chevy coupe, 1:1 scale, of course.

The 50s custom used so much lead that they were known as "lead sleds". I imagine that several more pounds were added to the panels.


  • Member since
    November 2003
  • From: TRENTON, OHIO
Posted by FIREMODELMAN on Sunday, November 23, 2003 6:51 AM
nice to know how 'stupid' i was, i had no idea that the term was indeed for the use of lead in the fabrication of the body. thanks guys for the infoTongueThumbs UpThumbs Up

Dave http://public.fotki.com/FIREMODELMAN/

  • Member since
    November 2003
  • From: SW Missouri
Posted by kustombuilder1 on Thursday, December 4, 2003 7:45 AM
The way I've always heard the term used, was in making remarks about the LARGE size and weight of pre-1980's American cars in general.

Such as, "Hey did you see Tony's '77 New Yorker? I betcha that lead sled gets 6 gallons per mile!"

But hey, I betcha you guys are plum right. I am a hillbilly and we have our own dialect anywhoo.
Darrin Setting a new standard for painfully slow builds.
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, December 15, 2003 3:50 PM
This whole thing with "Expert Body Men use Lead only" is a load of garbage invented by old men who are afraid to change. I have been hearing that argument for years!

The truth of the matter is that in the 1950's Plastic filler existed, but it didn't have a good hardener to make it solid like today's Plastic fillers. It was a new experiment. It was runny and horrible to use and it didn't set up for days. Therefore, from the beginging, it got a bad name.

However, most of the guys in those days were trained to use lead and tin as a filler. They had to melt it into the dent with a hot torch and then paddle the Lead to a smooth shape. After that, they had to file down the Lead lump.

The drawback was that it is unsafe to use a high speed sand paper tool on a Lead patch as this makes Lead dust which is deadly to breath. However, you can't tell where the Lead starts due to the fact that the car is painted and the Lead is hidden.

Now, why they say that "Only "REAL" bodymen use lead" is that it is a harder process and most of the Body Work "Dinosaurs" are still caught up in this idea that Lead is better because that is what they had. Yet, if they had to do the same job in Plastic Filler, chances are that most of these guys wouldn't even know how to mix it properly.

These are the same people that say that adding Lead in gas and using sludge oil in cars is better for the motors. Sicence has proven otherwise! However, the reason why they used Lead in the past was that it was CHEAP! They had all the fuel additives that they have now, but why should they pay $1 per litre of that aditive when they could use Lead for $0.25? That's why we got stuck with Lead for so long!

The absolute best way to do body repairs is the "Pick and File" method where there is no filler required! This is where a Body man will hammer out the dent with a picking hammer and then file the existing metal flat with a metal file. That is the best because you restore the original metal back to its original form.

Take it from me. I was trained in Bodywork!
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, December 18, 2003 12:30 PM
best to be know'n the lead didnt fall out when you ran over a pot hole. The bondo would over time and crack and look like trash in less then 3 years and your paint would flake off. The lead did not crack or fall out as you where going down the the road or even a good body man still can not make bondo look smooth or make the right shape of body lines like you can with steel or lead.
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, December 18, 2003 10:20 PM
Funny, but I have had bondo on my car for 10 years and it is still straight, smooth, and hasn't cracked out yet! This car is a daily driver and has been on the road since the day I bought it. It lived in Vancouver, B.C., one of the rainiest Proviences in Canada and now lives in Alberta, one of the coldest and driest! I have put on some 60 000 + miles on it and the Bondo where I patched it is as good as the day I put it on there.

You can cut it, smooth it, sand it, and paint it. If you are very skilled and have a good set of tools as well as an understanding of what you're doing, you should be able to keep that plastic fill on there forever.

Can I ask a question? If two cars were done by George Barris, one with lead and one with plastic filler, both done to the highest quality that Barris could do them, would you be able to tell, without a doubt, which one had the Plastic fill? :)

I'll give another answer based on your quote.
QUOTE: The bondo would over time and crack and look like trash in less then 3 years and your paint would flake off.


There are many explinations to this statement. First off, Bondo can display these characturistics if :

You apply too much in one spot. Bondo has a hard time sticking to any dent over 1/8 inch deep.

You mix it incorrectly. Bondo is a 2 part plastic. An incorrect mix of hardener can alter it's properties. Too little hardener and it won't set propperly - too much and it will harden too quickly. Also the solvents used to harden it will leech out under the paint.

The paint itself wasn't the right kind to use on plastic filler.

And ultimatly : someone who doesn't know how to use plastic filler and isn't a trained bodyman worked on the car in question! Approve

Just my thoughts on the matter!
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, December 18, 2003 10:24 PM
what make and kind of car we talk about. Not even some of the best body men (non Big Three Engineer's) know about the 3 body line's that are in a lot of the cars. Even the bondo you can not English wheel it to make it have the lines. And the one i would buy and it keep the value of the car is the one with out the bondo.
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, December 18, 2003 10:41 PM
Sure, I'll agree with that.

I think everyone wants a car that doesn't need bodywork done to it. The thing that makes an expert body man isn't how much filler he used, Plastic or Lead, but how much he didn't use.

The Bodyman textbook that I was trained on said that the deepest you should go with filler is 1/16 of an inch. The best bodymen I knew were the guys that could torch, pick and file the dent back out to the point where they were able to level the sheet metal and file it flat. No filler was used and no dent remained! When the car was painted, you couldn't tell that it had ever been dented in the first place! Have you ever seen that? It is amazing!
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, December 18, 2003 10:43 PM
QUOTE: The one I would buy and it keep the value of the car is the one with out the bondo.


Sure, I'll agree with that.

I think everyone wants a car that doesn't need bodywork done to it. The thing that makes an expert body man isn't how much filler he used, Plastic or Lead, but how much he didn't use.

The Bodyman textbook that I was trained on said that the deepest you should go with filler is 1/16 of an inch. The best bodymen I knew were the guys that could torch, pick and file the dent back out to the point where they were able to level the sheet metal and file it flat. No filler was used and no dent remained! When the car was painted, you couldn't tell that it had ever been dented in the first place! Have you ever seen that? It is amazing!
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, December 18, 2003 10:45 PM
Yes i have seen it! i build Street Rods for year and im a long way from not seeing any thing new done for cars.

Sorry i did answer you though on if you could tell between the two and even with a 1/16th if you do know about the thurd body line you can still see it messed up.
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, December 18, 2003 10:58 PM
The paint itself wasn't the right kind to use on plastic filler.

And ultimatly : someone who doesn't know how to use plastic filler and isn't a trained bodyman worked on the car in question!


I lived in the worse town here in Michigan with roads still have brick on them and pot hole city and every body place i see and i know of have the same trouble with every car they have.
I also have a cousin that has ben the body man for one of the top Auto Repair people here in town for over 20yrs he also has done are Custom Cars for use when we needed special work done.
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, December 18, 2003 11:16 PM
Well, bodywork is definatly an art. That's all I can say! Some people are good at it, some are not, and the rest fall between. Plastic or Lead - both have Pros and both have Cons. Like everything, it is preference.

You make the choice! :)
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, December 18, 2003 11:50 PM
you right about that but that also comes in to real cars and models is how some one wants to do it or make it right or just throw it together.
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, December 26, 2003 10:49 PM
Interesting discussion in this thread -

My recollection is that lead sled referred to early customized cars, using lead to form interesting details, like frenching, chopping, etc.

I visualize a slammed 55 shoebox with shaved hood, doorhandles - frenched antennas - tail dragging stance.

I would love to be able to craft metal - It is a true art.

best regards -

mqqn
  • Member since
    May 2008
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, January 30, 2004 8:27 AM
i thought this was a forum not a novel.. anyway, the way they got their cars so low was by actually raising the interior floor and lettting the frame come up past the body.. so the car could lay on the ground http://westcoastchoppers.com/cars/****initupagain/a.html
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, January 30, 2004 8:55 AM
that is called channeling a body and that is not the reason for being called a led sled.

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