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1955 Ford Part 15: Fender and Door Body Work

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 September to October of 2016.)

Fender and Door Body Work

I decided to patch it up as you can see. No one makes a patch panel tall enough to reach up to that place almost in the middle of the height where the rot needs to be cut out. So I figured if I have to make a patch, what's one more? I basically tried to square things up as much as possible to make my patches easier to cut and fit. For the smaller hole I made above the original "bondo basket" I found, it was pretty easy to take the rectangle piece I cut out and use that as a template to cut a new piece. The lower hole was a little more difficult as it was not completely square and there was not a good way to get thin cardboard behind it to trace it out. I had to use poster board above it, cut, fit, cut, fit, repeat and there we go.

The patches were just cut from some left over stock I had that is the same gauge as the original fender. I was probably too cautious to cut it exactly true because I did have to do quite a bit of dressing and grinding to get each one to fit the hole with very little gap. I do believe for a butt weld with the MIG it is best to get the metal edges to be pretty close to each other. You can imagine how long the fitment took! Hopefully I can grind them down soon and get to spreading some body filler. I would like to get away with as little body filler as possible of course.

I also filled these small holes by using that copper spoon behind the panel.

I admit I was pretty agressive here. I guess because I thought I had the copper spoon it was time to just pull the trigger and feed the wire into the thing... Of course that just meant more grinding - I am not an official welder, just a "trigger puller" who puts more metal into things than needed. It really showed up when I was stitching the panels in. I got carried away with the deal and let the panel get too hot. Take a look at the concave "warped" area.

After grinding it all down and checking with a straight edge, it was time to get some filler on the thing and bring it back. Unfortunately that warped area could not be addressed from the back side because of the bracing. I reckon if I was not so lazy I would have removed the spot welds for the full length of the bracing, did some hammer and dolly work, welded the brace back on, etc, etc. Everything is a compromise between the time you have to do the work and what you plan to get out of it. Since the amount of filler needed would be less than 1/4" deep anywhere on the fender patch area I decided to get out the gallon jug and go for it.

This stuff is worth the price! It has been years since I used any body filler and for this repair I thought I would need quite a bit. I didn't even use half of what I originally mixed. The depth of what I needed to fill was more shallow than it looked.

As I went along I did check things with a straight edge.

You can see I had some low spots yet to fill in, but that did not take too much. I used a DA with 120 grit to knock it all back down and smooth it all out. As you may know, most of the filler ends up on the floor when you work with this stuff trying to get a panel as straight as it can be. I did have a couple of pinholes that needed some spot glaze but with this Evercoat product called Rage, the pinholes were few and far between. There were some other spots on the fender that got some attention too, a small spot I welded up underneath the headlight housing, a place under the stainless steel molding back towards the door, and another place up near the front under the stainless steel molding. I do need to finish removing the white paint so that I can prime this thing. I am thinking that with some primer-surfacer this fender should come out pretty smooth.

The passenger side work went much, much better. You can tell from the photos - very little warpage, and the body filler went on smooth and set up well.

After the welding and body filler work it was time to remove the old layers underneath the white of the two-tone back on the driver's side. Due to some helpful advice concerning the old white tutone paint, I decided take the white sections down to the bare metal and it was right on the money. There were various places where the metal had rusty pits and had come up through the paint layers. At first I just used a plastic wheel to remove everything, but then after checking up on the pitting I decided to break out the sand blaster.

The passenger side fender was coated once in the areas where it was bare and then also in the places where the body filler was located. Upon sanding the entire exterior of the sheet metal, the whole fender was primed with two more coats of DTM primer surfacer. Time will tell on final sanding and how much goes to the floor, but I am happy with my initial look on the surface of the areas where the patches were welded in and the body filler work was done.

I haven't taken any pictures of the backside of the fenders, but they were cleaned up a little bit and painted with black Rustoleum. I did thin the first coat pretty good to get behind the brace at the rear of each fender, and then gave it a good coat. Thankfully things are pretty stout with fenders - very little body work outside of the patches that were welded in. Are we having fun yet?

(a week later...)

After scurrying around trying to beat a temperature drop and daylight wasting to prime the passenger side fender again and put a full coat on the driver's side look what I did...

Dufus me happened to knock the paint gun out of its stand and although it did not fall far the tit on the bottom of the red bulb filter broke off in the fitting... aaaarrrrgggghhhh! Tonight was like one of those stupid reality TV shows where idiots play around like they can put a car together in a week.

Ridiculous. I did use the following glaze to prep my pinholes and what have you. This Evercoat brand is not cheap but I like its characteristics so far. It is super smooth and easy to sand. It set up quickly. However, I did not get the chance to paint until this afternoon so it did sit for quite some time.

When I began this project to repaint the car, I was not too familiar with paint guns (still learning every week), but I do like what I am using for primer and have become accustomed to its nuances. It is a cheap HF unit but it sprays very well and lays the primer really good. It has a 1.8 tip - the primer-surfacer goes on pretty good and since this is a primer gun, not rebuildable (at least I don't think so), and it's cheap, once I get done with this project it can be tossed if need be. I have a Devilbiss Finishline gun to spray the SSU topcoats. Before applying the glaze and next coat of primer-surfacer I did some block sanding on the passenger side fender. Basically I sprayed the hi build primer on the low spots where I put in patches, used Rage Ultra, etc, trying to meet the red that was already on the fender. Things looked pretty good. I did wet sand as you can see. It's messy, I know, but when the water runs down the panel it is easy to see the high's and low's. Plus it keeps the sandpaper from filling up so much. After everything was dry the next coat of primer-surfacer was put on and then after a couple of days the glaze was applied. The driver's side fender looks really good with a wet surface after primer and looking down the panel it seems pretty straight.

However, if you look at this photo here...

You can see that my Evercoat Metal Glaze is showing through. This is after two good coats of primer-surfacer. I did reduce the surfacer a little more than normal, but not that much, so my build is not as much as the other coat of primer I put on this fender. I followed the manufacturer's instructions pretty closely, but maybe I should have put less reducer in the primer? After another several hours of block, prime, block, etc, I am reminding myself that we are saving quite a bit of money by going DIY. The previous issue with the glaze showing through the primer was just simply too much reducer. Problem easily saved with the most recent coat of primer/surfacer.

Passenger side is almost ready for a top coat, but the driver's side needs a little more attention. I did get around to mechanically stripping most of the white today. Some of the places I stripped on the door had over 1/4" of Bondo 3M Putty! I guess someone years ago had decided the best way to fill the mounting holes for mirrors on either door was to simply hammer the metal down and fill the dent they made.

The plan next is to simply get some primer on this unprotected metal, remove all of the glass and door guts, and strip those edges without getting too much in the interior.

The stripping was done with a couple of these... and a few of these 80 grit... These are inexpensive tools to strip so much paint, no warp to the panels, and no sand all over the place - although there was quite a bit of dust. Most of the layers underneath of the crow's feet white paint were just fine, but there were places where pitted rust shown up. For those places I did spot blast with sand to get it all out, but things seem very solid and pretty straight. The only thing I am missing is the video footage of the people that drove by the house and slowed down as they watched me work on this thing half the day . One guy with a 66 Fairlane showed up though - had a 427 cammer installed and that thing had every appearance of an original restoration car (minus the keystones and nice tires) ... of course when you heard the thing coming down the street you lost any inkling that it was stock!

Hopefully I can get all glass out, the door guts out, and then strip the edges underneath the glass seals, etc. They have not been done since the car was new. I do have new seals, but wanted to remove all of the old stuff and then paint. That last paint job about 25 years ago was just taped up to the edges of the trim and sprayed. Surprised things have held up this long.

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