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1955 Ford Part 14: Gravel Pan, Fenders, and Horns

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

(Note: You are reading the progress from a project that began in August of 2014. This information in this post was originally dated from July to September of 2016.)

Gravel Pan, Fenders, and Horns

It shouldn't surprise me but I keep finding bits and pieces of sheet metal, brackets, etc that need to be welded up. Take for instance the gravel pan here. I had forgotten that the side piece pictured had just come right off with the passenger side fender. It looked to be spot-welded to the pan, but as you can see when I started it needed to be "straightened up".

I ended up fitting it several times and doing some hammer work to get it nice and lined up. After that I drilled some small holes to the small apron piece and then put the vise grips on to keep it tight and in place. I don't think it is going to come apart any time soon. I did make sure to clean up as much of the surface rust as possible on both parts to give me a clean weld.

Next up was some blasting work in the cabinet on small brackets and the aprons that go over the top of the upper control arms. These thin sheet metal flanges and the rubber was not on the 55 when i disassembled the front end a long time ago. I had to pick these up from another 55. So.... I had to find out that the flanges are specific to each side (driver's or passenger's) and of course the rubber guard has to match as well. The originals were stapled, but the new ones came in without any staples. When I got to looking at, the cap screws should keep everything nice and tight so we will forego the staples on these pieces.

I cleaned up some of the grille and gravel pan brackets as you can see but before painting I had to weld up the cracked piece. I guess it will hold, the welds looked like they went straight through.

(a few weeks later)

Got quite a bit to do... hopefully in September I can get down to cleaning up the fenders and getting that body work done. I have ordered the drivers side anti-squeak seal from two different companies, both back ordered - fun stuff. About to place an order from C&G, but their dash bezel seals are on back order too. I guess everyone else is like me trying to get things done this month! It's been a very busy August - traveled thousands of miles literally and been in several different states. Nope, not vacation either - all work/church ministry related in training people. I have not been home very much at all. This weekend I am "off" like many of us so I decided to hit it hard with the 55 Ford and do as much as I can. First things first - take a look at the sandblaster nozzle and stopper. Think it's time for a new one?

Found new parts at the local Tractor Supply Company and we are good to go. On the Gravel Pan, I really wanted to find an Argent color that I could use but did not want to go the spray can route. I favor my gun as much as I can. So what to do? Let's see.... time to experiment and make our own. Here is a photo of the two colors I mated. The top is Rustoleum Aluminum and the bottom is ACE hardware gray.

I put some of the dark gray in with the aluminum a little at a time and voila! The photo of the headlight adjuster frame and the gravel pan together give you a point of reference. Hard to tell on a digital photo, but the headlight adjuster frame is Rustoleum Aluminum and the gravel pan is my Argent color. I like it, and I like the fact I can spray what I need through my gun. Then it was on to tackling the passenger side fender. The previous owner had a pet chipmunk that had wallowed out a hole for the antenna. You can see how this hole was all cobbled into the fender here...

I guess it's not too bad, but I did not want to put an antenna there when I repaint... planning on using just one rear antenna. At any rate, it was time to cobble it back to flush with the sheet metal! I am no professional welder, but I will show what I did. I am sure there is more of this work I will have to tackle at different points soon. Basically, I took a wire wheel and cleaned both sides of the metal, inside and out.

Then it was on to an die grinder so we could smooth out the hole.

After that, I took a stiff piece of paper and copied the circle shape with a pencil, cut out the shape, and then transferred that to a piece of sheet metal the same thickness as the fender. After some judicious grinding and shaping, we had a good fit to the hole. So i got out a magnet and put it flush with the fender like so...

One tack weld and away we went with several. I would have had it all pretty flush and looking really nice but I got carried away with my grinder - pretty dumb to do actually. Don't follow my lead. It should be pretty easy to fill though with a skim coat when it is time to prep this fender for paint. I would like to get all of my welding done and then prep each piece for primer.

Hopefully I can get more done on this fender soon.

On the installation of the gravel pan, or as Ford called it, "the stone deflector" I set out the hardware ahead of time, with two washers, a nut, and a bolt per hole. 12 holes across the front of air dams. 7/16" head on this hardware.

I also broke out some of these strips of caulk from 3M - thanks for the tips from some of the fellas on the forums. This stuff is easy to work with and seems to be industrial strength. Just put the strips down the length of the air dams before fastening the gravel pan and then lined up all 12 holes to snug down the hardware enough to leave it there until I get the fenders back on.

I also reassembled the headlight buckets with their springs and adjuster screws. I would like to go the relay route and with some Halogens.

I decided last night to rub down the SS headlight trim rings with Acetone and buff them a little bit. The PO had this car painted a long time ago, and you can see from the one headlight ring how shoddy the masking work was. Red paint was all over these things. The rings are in good shape though, and do not show any dents or other problems. I decided to put some elbow grease into it and reuse them.

Before it got dark I decided to drag out that passenger fender and the sandblaster(s) to the yard and get some of that white paint removed. This was an excercise in futility. I had replaced the pressure blaster nozzle with the largest nozzle that TSC had (that is where I got the sandblaster from a few years back) and did not recognize the fact that the black diamond I had in the pot from before was 2040 - way too coarse. It kept clogging up obviously. So, I whipped out the siphon blaster that has regular sand in it since it is only a spot blaster kind of thing and that was pretty slow, although there was no worry about heating up a panel lol!

I am going to have to buy the finer grain Black Diamond to get things going on the sandblaster, but whoever had the idea that the white part of the body needed to be taken down to bare metal was right on the money. It looks like there is a thin layer of surface rust underneath the paint layer in places. The sandblaster cleans that up nicely.

(a week or two later)

We had some time on Monday night to get in the garage and do a little bit... and lo and behold a good lesson learned!!! Check out these photos:

Yep, I was pretty dumb after I blasted this fender - got my sweaty hands all over the freshly cleaned metal and after a few days surface rust began to show. Just a couple quick shots with the grinder though and it's gone. I've got to get this thing primed soon. And of course, it always goes to show - keep that metal clean and dry. Hopefully next time I will remember. This passenger fender has a small problem with it's lip up front.

The original spot welds had come apart. This lip does carry some significance since it is in a place where the front part of the fender bolts to the air dam so the pieces have to be welded together to proceed. I drilled 3/16" holes in the overlapping sheet metal and got things lined up with a couple of my handy-dandy vise grips... these things are just the ticket. I probably have 8 or 9 different sizes, shapes, and ends with these things.

Aaaaaaaaaaand if you check the following photo you will see another lesson learned.

TURN UP THE HEAT! you can see in the photo above that my "welds" did not penetrate, and off popped my lip. So we ground down the proud welds, redrilled holes, and then ended up with this strong repair.

Next, it was on to the horns. What a fun way to wake up the neighborhood. First we did a simple test of each unit to make sure they were working. I broke out the battery charger and hooked up each horn.

BBBWWWAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! And away we went. No problems there. Just a couple of neighbor's lights came on in the bedroom next door! By they way, if you are putting together a basket case, make sure you have a set of Hi and Lo horns. You can find the "Hi" or "Lo" stamped somewhere on the horn itself. Of course, you can also listen to each horn and see what you have too. Note the "Hi" stamped on this horn here...

Next would be to disassemble each one. Basically the bracket just unbolts from the side. I like to either zip tie the hardware to the bracket as shown before blasting, or I use a cricket tube like the one in the picture. That way, nothing gets lost and it is easy to hold in the cabinet!

After you remove the bracket, go ahead and remove the cover. You should have a place on the cover where you can insert a flat blade screwdriver and simply pop it off.

When I removed the covers, I had one horn that looked to be in really clean shape, and the other one had a little corrosion.

The difference? This small seal that goes in the slot in the cover where the "hot" side of things hooks to each horn. One seal was intact... the other was disintegrated. I took the cover and the bracket/hardware and blasted them. But the horn assembly I basically took a wire wheel and other hand-powered instruments to clean so that no debris got into the contacts and what have you. The horns were painted with Rustoleum Semi Gloss Black, received new seals, and were re-installed on the radiator support.

Another small detail down, many more to go!

Time for a "bondoscopy" of both the fenders, and the diagnosis/discovery ain't good.

...but it could be worse! Both areas showed some sign of problems, so time to grind away...When you notice some signs of cancer we just know how we can be, keep digging until you find all traces. But little did I know I would have to grind away about 3 gallons of body filler and other "imitation metal" products that a would be body man used to form 55 Ford body panels.

What this gray stuff is I do not know, but it was a different texture than the body filler like the Bondo brand and this stuff was very porous. Maybe it was a part of a kit to "build your own backyard body panel" from the 1980's - I have no idea. You can see this shot of the stuff getting chipped away...

Yes my friends, at least a 1/2" thick in places. On top of this repair was about 1/4" of the regular Bondo brand filler and then primer surfacer, then primer, then base coat. I have no idea what this is. It is still "pliable" - in other words it was not really brittle and was still flexible. It did grind away with a lot of dust like regular body filler. So we did the driver's side fender too, and wouldn't you know it, the same guy did the work! Only the passenger side had some body filler up front near the "V-8" insignia. No rot issues or anything, but it will have to be addressed to make it look it good. How much hammer and dolly I can use because of restricted access may make this one a little difficult. That lip may get in the way more than I want it to.

Next session I will cut out the rotted portions, blast the metal underneath as clean as possible, use some weld thru primer, weld in new patches, straighten, epoxy, apply some body filler and get ready for primer. Easy breezy right?

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