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1955 Ford Part 28: SS Buffing & Door Panel Fabrication

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

With the cutting and buffing underway, it is time to start preparing the stainless steel trim to be installed back onto the car. There are what seems to be an endless amount of clips that are used to fasten each piece of trim to the sheet metal, and back when I removed the stainless a long time ago to prepare for body work I noticed that there were also a host of different types!

Most of the clips, if not all of the clips that were up front on the fenders, doors, or hood, were just too rotten to save. You may recall that when I removed the stainless steel strips from the fenders the clips that were holding them on basically disintegrated in my hands. They were so far gone it was hard to distinguish what size and what type clip went into which particular hole.

Since that time I have either purchased a trim clip kit that is packaged specifically for the 55 Ford Fairlane trim (doors and fenders) or I have done some research to discover what type of clip off the shelf would work for specific pieces. At this time I believe we are almost there to have what we need. I do plan to reuse the clips the retainers that hold the SS strips at the top of the quarter panels. These look to be very strong metal and can be placed in the blast cabinet, coated, and reused. One end of each clip is basically a threaded stud and all 12 of the clips look to be in good shape.

Speaking of the stainless steel trim, I have been busy at night, or at other spare moments, to begin the work of lightly hammering out dings, sanding down the surfaces (180 if needed, 400, 800, 1500, 2000, and then 3000 grit) to prepare each piece to be buffed soon. The plan I have is to get all of the trim wet sanded with a final grit of 3000, and then on one particular day, buff each piece that goes on the car. Wetsanding this stuff is a messy proposition, so I have some materials set up in the basement to help with the process.

Along the way I am continuing to work on projects that will need to be completed once the cutting and buffing is through. One of these projects would be the door panels. While the seats are in great condition, the door panels leave a lot to be desired: we’ve got serious deterioration, panel warpage, stripped mounting holes, mold, discoloration, etc. First up was to find a suitable backer board. I did consider ABS plastic but this was not readily available to me and I was unsure of using plastic for the particular clips that hold the panels to the car. I went to the local big box hardware store and picked up a sheet of coated panel board. They come in 4x8 foot sizes, and since I already had a piece extra at the house in storage, the rough dimensions I needed were available. I did have one of the associates at the store cut the 4x8 foot sheet for me since I had already measured how tall the panels were.

I removed the old door panel stainless steel trim – the long thin pieces are fine, but the short, broad section has tabs that are broken. Both door panels seemed to be this way. I guess back about 20-25 years ago when these door panels were recovered someone had not been kind enough to these pieces – that metal is pretty thin though so I can see how easy it would be to break a tab.

Next came the material and the vinyl – yuck! This stuff was nasty and needed to be trashed a long time ago. I did save any and all clips first – there were some of the retainers that go along both sides of each panel, and there were also small, rectangular clips that held the weight of the panel up on the door (there are pockets towards the bottom of the door’s sheet metal) where these clips insert.

I took the best backer board of the front doors and decided to use that one as a template for the shape and the size and location of each hole that had to be transferred. This took some time of course and some use of various tools such as a jigsaw, step drill bit, hole saw, etc. You can tell in the pictures below that the process included removing the door from the stand and putting it into position during the cutting so that we could ensure things were lining up.

If you are making your own panels for a 55 Ford or for a car that uses these clips, it is important to note that the holes used for the L-shaped clips on both sides of the panels will not line up by sight to the holes on your doors. Remember that because of the L shape of the clip, these holes will be offset. Here is photo of the clip in question...

The same procedures were used to prepare the panels for rear of the car. I am not sure what you call these – rear interior quarter panels? rear wall side panels? quarter trim panels? Since this is a two door these panels obviously just go on the sheet metal wall below the quarter window on either side of the rear seat.

As far as color and material to cover the panels, I have located a nice marine vinyl at a local fabric store. The plan is to cover the panels by gluing ¼” foam, and then to glue a solid red marine vinyl. The holes are all cut for trim, clips, etc. Prayerfully these panels will not have any trouble when it comes time to install.

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