For us, we have to admit to having a soft spot for original, unrestored survivor cars. They're never as perfect as their restored brethren, but that might be part of their allure. Original, low mileage cars have been given the name "Survivors," and with good reason. Not only have they survived the daily pitfalls, wear, tear and mishaps that befall a car during the course of its life, but they've also survived being restored to as-delivered (and often better-than delivered) condition. Sure, the engine may be dirty and grimy, the suspension parts are rusty, the paint has seen better days, and the interior may have a few loose threads, but think about this: you can restore a car over and over (and many people do), but a car can only be original once. There's a history there that can't be dupli-cated-it may be able to be preserved, it can certainly be lost, but never duplicated.

Jeff Johnson owns Classic Events, which puts on the Chrysler Classic shows in the Midwest. Jeff is also lucky enough to own an original, unrestored Formal Black '72 340 Road Runner with less than 30,000 miles on the clock. Like all original cars, this one has a couple of flaws, the most noticeable being several door dings on the sides, but is otherwise a beautiful car. With an original car, you just accept dings and such, and don't really give them much thought. And owners of survivors rightfully never consider bodywork. But what about the option of making minor repairs if no paint is harmed? It is possible.

We had heard of paintless dent removal, but had never found a good candidate for demonstration. Jeff's black car seemed like the ideal demo model, and he was definitely excited about the prospect of getting rid of the dings in his beautiful factory black paint. We found a Dent Wizard franchise in Columbus (they're a national chain), and set up this story with them.

There are several things to understand when dealing with paintless dent repair. The first is the physics behind what makes a dent in sheetmetal, and how to remove it. When a dent is made, the metal is pushed and stretched out of shape. The Dent Wizard process is unique, because rather than fix the metal in the traditional way of hammering it back into shape, they use specialized tools and push the metal back into shape from behind the dent, reversing the forces that created the dent. While it takes only one action to create a dent, the Dent Wizard process uses dozens of small pushes from behind, working the metal back into its original shape. Because the dent repair is slow, gentle, and gradual, the original paint isn't stressed and maintains its adhesion to the metal. If the paint wasn't broken by the forces that made the dent, Dent Wizard can save it during the repair.

Because the Dent Wizard process pushes the original metal back into shape, the process cannot be used on panels that have plastic body filler on them, as pushing the dent out from behind will separate the filler from the metal. With extremely careful evaluation of Jeff's car, they discovered that the driver's side door had a factory repair made to it, evidenced by nearly undetectable sanding marks below the paint. The car is known to never have had any body work done by the previous owners, and the paint is all perfectly matched. It wasn't uncommon for a car to go to the factory body shop right from the assembly line to fix imperfections, and we suspect this was the case with this car, especially since it's black and shows any flaws more easily. A new car dealer wouldn't have wanted to take delivery of a brand new black car with an imperfection in the driver's side door, where customers were sure to see it. Because of potential filler on the panel, Dent Wizard would not have made any repairs to the area were there any dents.