Your guy sounds pretty knowledgeable about the repair process in general. His INFO was RIGHT ON in regards to the current state of convertible rear quarter sheet metal. I don't do body work myself but since I am currently having my car redone I acquired some info along the way from a guy that is just an unbelievable body/paint man.
There are some DEFINITE differences even from the panels from the SAME manufacturer. For example, Goodmark has some panels that supposedly are made according to specifications they supply to the manufacturer themselves. The LATEST rear deck lid sheet metal is VERY GOOD and caries a "GM Licensed" tag BUT the version just prior to the latest was not.
The problem is this, if the place you are buying sheet metal from, STOCKS alot of it, it still possible that they would have an earlier version of that deck lid and you wouldn't want that one. So I would deal with someone that is aware of these differences and can advise you of the current differences in what they can get you.
I am sure others can do this like Ground-UP but I would call Patti at firewheelclassics.com
1-800-711-0125 and ask her what she would suggest in regards to sheet metal. They restore cars themselves also and believe me they are pretty aware from a hands-on perspective what is good and what is not because they use the stuff on their own cars.
Having said all that, I know that the rear quarter sheet panels CURRENTLY are not very good. Sometimes even if you find an OEM fender that has ALOT of bondo in it, a good body man can strip all the bondo off, work the metal out by repulling the dented areas out as flush as possible with the surrounding areas and then if necessary apply a very then layer of bondo (1/8" to 1/4" thickness MAX)to in effect block the fender absolutley smooth to the surrounding areas.
So on a scale of 1-10 current IMO opinion current sheet metal offerings from Goodmark are as follows: (1- forget it, 10- NOS quality)
Rear Deck Lid (8)
Front fenders (6-7) (have new ones out)
Door Skins (6-7)
Rear Quarters (80%) (4-5)
Cowl Hood (8-9)
Lower Valance (6-7)
As far as patch panels go, I wouldn't hesitate in using them if needed epecially if you are patching into an OEM quarter panel. A patched OEM fender GENERALLY requires a LOT LESS work that a complete reproduction panel. With a good body guy, you won't EVER be able to tell where the fender was patched.
In my case I had a damaged fender that had ALOT of bondo it it and I found an NOS rally sport fender for $550.00 so I grabbed it and ran because these puppys normally for for 700.00 min!!!
Hope this helps!!!
[This message has been edited by sr71bb (edited 08-24-2000).]