Anyone reading this magazine knows full well building a street rod is a tricky deal. Until you have that body down to bare metal you are never certain exactly what you are working on. In our last installment Flintstone Media Blasting removed all the paint, dirt, grime, and rust from our AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour ’51 Ford and what was uncovered was daunting. Not only did this old Ford have a lot of rust, it even had rusted-out patch panels that had been installed many years ago.
When rust is this extensive you may consider finding a better body, but happily the team at Honest Charley Garage felt this was a good opportunity to show that rough and rusty can be converted into solid steel with time, tools, and talent along with repair panels from Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts (DC). The Honest Charley Garage team of Greg Cunningham, Delton Scott, Richard Marter, and Jonathan Myren would be performing the salvage operation on our ’51 Ford.
The car had been crossbraced with angle iron and box tubing prior to being sent to the media blaster so no structural twisting or bending would occur. Now it was time to restore structural integrity to the body. The rust was extensive enough that the crossbracing was the only thing maintaining the body shape.
The first step was to cut out the rusted main floor section to expose the body mounts that attach to the bottom of the floor. Cut-off wheels and the occasional Sawzall removed the rusted metal with ease, exposing the channel body mounts, or at least what was left of them. With the body mounts exposed it became apparent that the first order of business would be repairing the rusty lower cowl area. This repair was a matter of fabricating box panels to replace the lower rusted pieces and connecting it to the toeboard portion of the floorboard. These repair panels were formed by Honest Charley Garage and welded in place using a combination of MIG welding with a Millermatic 211 and TIG welding with a Miller Dynasty 200 machine. Once the lower corner of the cowl was repaired the lower portion of the doorjamb was repaired in preparation for the installation of the new DC inner and outer rocker panels.
The inner rocker panel was tack-welded in place on the inside of the rocker panel prior to fitting it to the body. Happily our door opening was the exact same size as the replacement rocker panel so we felt certain the door opening had not been compromised. A little tweaking on the repaired corners and the DC rocker panel was tack-welded in place. The door was then installed to be certain the opening was correct and the gaps were all uniform between the new rocker panel and the door. The gaps were nearly perfect and after a bit of adjustment the gaps were better than any new ’51 Ford. The door was removed and the rocker panels were welded in place. We now had the cowl connected to the rest of the body and the inner rocker panels provide the mounting surface for the body mounts.
The body mounts were test-fit alongside the original mounts before cutting out the old rusted units. Delton Scott cut the new DC body mount and formed a 3/8-inch flange that fit flush with the new inner rocker panels. The new mounts were bolted to the Fatman Fabrications chassis and then tack-welded in place to the inner rocker. During rust repair it is best to tack-weld all your panels prior to finish welding. Most of these panels connect to one another so it may be necessary to go back and move one repair panel to line up with the next panel and tack welding makes such adjustment easy.
When the shipment of Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts replacement panels arrived at the Honest Charley Garage we spread them out in front of our ’51 Ford project car. We used every piece repairing the car.
We knew it wasn’t exactly “rust free” but when Flintstone Media finished with the body we could see through most panels.
The good news is the Ford rides on a brand-new Fatman Fabrications chassis, so there will be no rust repair on the frame, and no, it will not be painted yellow when finished.
Delton Scott spent many hours going over the body with a DA sander cleaning up bare metal and removing any small areas not cleaned with the media blasting.
Resting in the Honest Charley Garage spray booth the body already looks a lot better, but don’t let this picture deceive you; this is one rusty old car.
The entire floor was wafer-thin or rusted completely through. We’ll remove all of the main floor section and replace it with DC panels.
This is the lower cowl area. It is very important to restore this properly as it is a main structural point on the body; the rocker panels connect here.
From the side it was apparent the rust had traveled well up the cowl and also on the interior toeboard of the floor.
More surgery was required to remove the rusted area from the cowl, providing solid metal for attaching the patch panel.
The toeboard panel is tack-welded in place. Note the flanged outer edge that matches the factory flange on the cowl.
The toeboard is fully welded and now it is time to construct the lower cowl box and repair the upper cowl.
A 3/4-inch plywood buck was cut out to match the shape of the cowl repair, and then the 18-gauge steel was hammer-formed around the buck.
The hammer-formed patch panel sandwiches the toeboard flange and extends down into the lower doorjamb to form the basis for the rocker panel mounting point.
Next, a small box was formed in a metal brake to construct the lower doorjamb box. This box connects to the doorjamb and to the floorboard.
Certain the box is in the proper size it is finish-welded using the Millermatic 211. The box was built to conform to the new DC outer rocker panel.
The final welding and grinding make the lower doorjamb as good as new and ready for the DC connection.
The new rocker panels are two pieces; the inner rocker panel is basically a flat filler piece and then the formed outer rocker panel.
The Honest Charley Garage–built lower doorjamb and the DC rocker panel fit together perfectly.