1955 Ford Part 35: Front End Body Panels
Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Installing Front End Body Panels
"Mind the gaps" as they say. When I first considered the job of realigning the front end sheet metal to the car knowing that the hood, latch panel, and fenders would all be pretty much painted and ready to go, the concern over not scratching or denting anything came up quickly. After all that work I really did not want to have any problems that would make me go back and correct work already finished a long time ago. Of course, complete disassembly of these parts for thorough cleaning, body work, and prep is the way to go.
To go back quite a distance into this build, let's give some reminders. The front end sheet metal assembly always begins with the critical radiator support. That is the "U" shaped metal frame that bolts to the front cross member. It has a special pad to rest on, attaches with long bolts and spring keepers, and of course it also holds the radiator! Once that piece is in position the air deflectors on both the passenger and driver side are bolted on, along with the inner fenders. While the panels are aligned, care should be taken to have the entire assembly resting as centered as possible. Next would be the gravel pan. I believe that before installing your outer fenders the hood should be installed and centered with special attention given to the rear gap. You may have to temporarily attach the hood latch panel but it is worth the extra effort to be sure the hood closes correctly. And then we finally come to the fenders! I installed the rubber bumpers first while the fenders were off the car.
After that I chased any threads that I thought would be a problem (overspray, rust, etc). This is an important step that you don't want to leave out. Granted, many of us will use new hardware like J nuts or fender bolts, but I encourage you to clean up as much as you can and use some coating such as Rust Prevention Magic.
You can see in the photos immediately above that the stud on the fender that goes through the body mount hole was cleaned up and a new seal was cut and installed. In the photo below, the weld nut underneath the rocker panel on each side also needed to be chased.
One more weld nut remained and that was up top near the windshield.
It is the uppermost attachment point at the rear of the fender. The photo below shows the thin rubber strips that needed to be re-glued to both sides of the body. These are used as anti-squeak pads because the fender comes so close to the side of the cowl.
I used tape up at the front with the hood latch panel so that I would not scratch anything. The rear of the fenders lined up extremely well. I do believe it goes without saying but do not forget to mount all of your J nuts on the inner fenders and the air dams. I even a little more of the 3M pliable body sealant strips between the inner and outer fenders just to get more anti-squeak protection. You can also see in the photos above how good the gaps are - while they not be spot-on perfect, they do match at the 3 way parting line. When the hood gap is also thrown in, these gaps for the doors, fenders, and the hood itself can be tricky. I believe they were all massaged as good as possible and things went along fine.
Now for the "fun" part of all of this. The hood! I had critical problems for a few hours trying to fiddle with the adjustments, not understanding why the feet that go up front to rest on the hood latch panel itself were adjusted all the way up and the hood was still too high and loose up front.
This part was missing:
Here are three helpful videos to explain the conundrum:
Basically the piece that attaches the gravel pan, hood latch panel, et al, was not installed! When I put the bracket onto the cross member it cinched it all down. The hood not only closes correctly but it also rests in position at the proper height and the latching mechanism engages the pin properly.
Getting closer all the time!