1986-1988 GT Rear Quarter Glass Panels � The Real Story By Paul Vargyas
After some research into the replacement availability of the 86-88 GT rear quarter panels, I found out that you have several options if you have cracking, �spliting�, or �crazing� in your quarter panels. GM makes these original replacement panels from a material called Lexan, and they are probably vacuum molded. After a period of time, as they are left outside, the constant temperature changes and internal flexing causes these panels to develop a �craze� or internal splitting. The only real fix is replacement.
GM meant well, in their infinite wisdom, when they included a built-in �removal� method. After you remove the black inner sail panels, you can reach in behind the window and find a �fishline� poly string. This string goes all around the panel, imbedded in the foam tape that holds these windows in (no other fasteners are used). Removal instructions are simple, just pull on the �string� and as you pull, the idea is to cut the foam bond all around the window, thereby releasing it. Sounds good, but the one element that GM did not engineer into the system is the fact that after 10-14 years, the material used in the �string� deteriorates, (along with a hardening of the foam tape), and as you begin to pull, the �string� breaks. So, removal is done either by one of two ways. The first is cracking out the panel in pieces (by the way, this material is like sharp glass on the edges; you MUST wear heavy gloves if you attempt to remove broken pieces, a word from personal experience) The second is by slipping a guitar string under the edge of the panel, wrapping the ends on 2 screwdrivers or 2 large dowel rod pieces, and carefully working around the edges to cut through the foam tape. Using the 2nd method, you must be very careful not to start cutting into the fiberglass body panel, or chipping paint off the edges. Then, it is important to clean off the old foam residue before mounting any new window. I have found that careful use of a sharp �� wide wood chisel, used on the backside, gets under the old foam nicely, and you can get down to the fiberglass base very cleanly with even, slow pressure. Use of chemicals or high strength removers could damage nearby paint surfaces.
Now to the matter of availability of new panels! As of this writing, new GM panels are still available:
Part# 20701106 Window � RH List $231.00, wholesale $157.50
Part# 20701107 Window � LH List $218.00, wholesale $149.25
Wholesale prices are available from our local parts-friendly dealer, Grossinger Chevrolet in Palatine (see info in Bit�s N Pieces). With tax, total for 2 windows would be about $327.00 (you pick up at Grossinger). The 2nd GM alternative is to place a web order through www.gmpartsdirect.com. This is an Internet parts sales department of a large multiple-line GM dealer called Flow Chevrolet/Oldsmobile/Cadillac in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. You can go to their website and type in the GM part numbers you are looking for and you will get an instant quote on price and shipping/handling. You can then place an order via credit card. The latest quote/price for these panels are: RH $126.00, LH $119.40 plus a total shipping/handling of $28.67, or a total of $273.67, still a substantial savings over wholesale and list prices. The panels are very well packed, and the foam tape (along with the infamous �string�) is in place, ready to install. GM just ran a new batch of these panels recently, and who knows if they will make more after this �batch� is used up? However, you also have an alternative of purchasing non-GM, aftermarket panels.
Aftermarket panels have been available for some time. Made of acrylic, they are a perfect visual graphics match, but due to the complexities of molding, they are rather �flat� rather than exhibiting the slight convex shape of the originals. However, to the �non-educated� eye, you probably cannot see the difference once they are mounted. These are very nice if you see no need to be 100% original. Since there were 2 different sources for these aftermarket panels, I ordered a set from both vendors to compare quality.
1654 Hoefgen St.
Indianapolis, IN. 46203
Chris is the early developer of these panels. His price is $75.00 per panel plus $10.00 S/H. Chris offers some additional designs such as a �black out� panel, tinted with no logo, and the availability of custom wording (at a additional cost). I have bought Chris�s panels before, and his quality and service are excellent. He sends you the mounting tape separate, which you must apply to the back of the panel before mounting. No �string� is supplied (who cares?)!
The second source for these panels is:
610 6th Street
Glen Dale, WV 26038
Website for panels: http://www.geocities.com/fierowarehouse
Costs are $100.00 each including shipping. I compared both of these panels side by side, and found no differences in the Chris Cook and Doug Kinney panels. You can order �on line� from Doug�s site, and even use Paypal, so it may be convenient for some users.
It is up to you whether you need original GM panels or aftermarket replacement panels. If you want to pay the price, go ahead and order them from GM. I would guess that eventually (who knows when?), GM will discontinue these parts and we will then have to rely on aftermarket suppliers like Chris, Doug, and perhaps folks like the Fiero Store, FOCOA, and Rodney Dickman!!