Bottom Dollar Blazer Project – Episode 4: Off to the body shop

Bottom Dollar Blazer Project – Episode 4: Off to the body shop

As you’ve probably seen the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of prep work on the Blazer to get it ready to head to the body shop. It needs new rockers, new doors and a bit of work to the rear quarters that’s going to require grinding, welding and painting. The trick is, I don’t have an air compressor big enough to run air tools, a welder, or a paint booth. What I am fortunate enough to have in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is access to a wonderful system of vocational high schools, some of which offer — at relatively nominal cost — access to the shops after school is out.


For $399, I signed up for the Auto Body class at Assabet Valley Technical High School in Hudson, Massachusetts. Assabet Tech is one of about 15 vocational high schools across the state, and it is quietly one of the best high schools around, whether you intend to go to college or not.

The vocational program in Massachusetts is unlike any other in New England: on alternate weeks, students go through a traditional high school education program, and then spend a week in the shop, learning hands-on skills in a range of different disciplines.

I’m a huge believer in vocational education. Not every kid should be convinced that they need to go to college. A lot of kids would be much better served if this country focused as much on training kids to be electricians and plumbers. I don’t care how advanced we become as a society, you still need to get power inside your house, and you still need to flush a toilet once in a while. A disturbing number of us know all about Art History Since the Renaissance, but nobody knows how to wire a light fixture anymore.


But I digress: back to my project. I signed up for the auto body “class,” but it’s more like just 10 weeks of open shop time. I did this about 15 years ago with this Jeep CJ-7 and ended up finishing up the class with it fully-painted.


That’s my mission with the Blazer, too. Instead of the basecoat/clearcoat I applied to the Jeep, I’m thinking about single-stage black for the Blazer. It went 35 years with that on it parked out in the elements, there’s no reason I can’t spray it single stage and park it in a garage for the next 35.

The only downside of doing work at Assabet is that I have to complete work in four hours every Wednesday night, so I have to plan my activities carefully in order to be able to drive the truck home. The weather should be getting warmer as we go, but I really like to not drive home with the doors off at 35 degrees, so I’m really working hard to not waste a lot of time.


I spent the week leading up to the class fitting up the new inner fenders. I had a crisis of confidence about the fenders, though. My original thought was to just leave them off, but I figured I’d end up getting arrested without them on, so I hung them back on with a handful of bolts while I’m waiting for my shipment from LMC Truck containing my new front fenders.


After walking around and looking at everybody else’s projects, and getting the requisite talk about safety, the first night I spent cutting out the inner and outer rockers on the passenger side, and really evaluating how bad the rust was. The front floor supports aren’t in great shape, either, so I’ll end up replacing those, and I also uncovered a bit of rust in the front floors that I’ll take care of at the same time. We’re going to pop the doors off when I weld, and reinstall them with new hinge pins and bushings to stop the typical GM Truck Saggy Door Syndrome.


That’s about it for this week. Next week, we’ll get into welding in the new rockers.

Last Week’s Total: $3341.43
This Week’s Expenses: $399 – Assabet Tech Tuition

Grand Total So Far: $3740.43

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8 thoughts on “Bottom Dollar Blazer Project – Episode 4: Off to the body shop

  1. Pixel

    Is there any way to look up programs like what you signed up for? I have some of the tools, but a better equipped shop would make the rust repair on my ’64 pickup much easier, never mind painting it.
    I tried doing some googling, but had no luck.

    1. Craig Fitzgerald Post author

      Not that I know of, but I’d start by talking with any of the vocational high schools in your area, if there are any.

      Sometimes a regular high school will offer programs like that, too.

      You can also check out It’s the program that used to be known as “VICA,” which was a competitive skills contest for vocational students. That website might be able to at least point to to the vocational programs in your state.

    1. Craig Fitzgerald Post author

      I agree. We’re really fortunate to have it.

      Not all of the vocational high schools have night programs, and even when they do, not all of the shops participate.

      But Assabet has been unique in marketing itself as a community education center. They publish a full printed catalog, and any given night of the year, the place is packed.

  2. Arild Guldbrandsen

    Wouldnt surprise me it there is some kind of rust between the doors and the rear wheels..they tend to get some rust in that area too.

  3. Nick

    I wanted to take some vocational body work classes but our local school wouldn’t let me just take what I wanted to learn. It was you have to do the full on set of classes or none. I work in HVAC so I’m no slacker it just kills me that they want you to take a bunch of unrelated classes. I don’t want a certificate in body work. I just want to learn. Honestly around here nobody apprentices anything.

  4. threedoor

    Man I wish my state (Idaho) had anything like that program. I was a 3.6+ academic in school and bored out of my mind and bought into the ‘You need to go to college’ mantra. Now at 36 I have 160 some off college credits, spent untold hours not working and making money/learning a skill and still don’t have a degree. I’m much more happy now that I quit school but I don’t have the skills I would have earned by working.

    Keep up the Blazer, I’m going to watch you before I tear into my 76. How is the thickness of the LMC replacement parts compared to OEM?

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