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Replacement Classic Fender Installation - Original Tin Sin

When Repairing Fenders 'N' Boards Is Beyond Budget, Replace!
From the November, 2009 issue of Classic Trucks
By Rob Fortier

Like many people, I prefer to have good ol' original tin on my trucks. Recently, though, after seeing the cost of even decent OG sheetmetal rising faster than the price of gas, I also noticed a wide variety of excellent-quality replacement sheetmetal available on the market. Rumors of ill-fitting parts made from paper-thin material aside, the stuff I was seeing could easily pass for N.O.S.-heavy-gauge steel, matching contours/shapes, and most importantly, near-perfect fit. Forget original tin-I'm sinning with replacements.

The replacement sheetmetal came from Goodmark Industries-rear fenders, running boards, and upper splash aprons. On the '53, these parts were beyond used and abused. Repairing them would have meant untold hours of welding up tears in everything from mounting tabs to corners to places where tears shouldn't have been in the first place. As a result, the panels were very fatigued, making repair that much more difficult-not impossible, just time consuming, which as we all know translates to mucho dinero! I'm sure someone out there in truck land will be more than happy to take the weary parts off my hands. Knowing what I now know about early replacement sheetmetal, I was more than comfortable unbolting and bolting them on, leaving the added effort of minor bodywork (mainly pre-paint prep) to the individuals who'll be painting the truck in the near future (JBC Customs).

With the Goodmark parts passing the visual test, it was up to me to verify the fit test for all of you to see. After the bed was completed and snugly secured to the chassis all straight-like (the fenders were hung on temporarily at the time for photo purposes), I was able to remove the remaining old parts and begin installing the new. Fortunately, this turned out to be one of the easier jobs, requiring less than a half day's effort to install, adjust, and walk away smiling. This time, though, it helped that I was fully prepared with all the various "associated" parts. I had acquired a stainless clutch-head fastener kit, welting, and support rods for the fenders, carriage bolts, and rubber seals for the running boards from Brothers. On top of that, I also had all the right tools, namely the clutch-head drivers.

You'll notice that all the sheetmetal is shown installed with the "shipping primer"-I would not recommend running parts in this finish for any length of time, as it's not sufficient to seal the metal. After final fitting, the fenders, boards, and aprons were removed in order to be properly prepped for paint. You'll only create more work for yourself-or worse, your body/paint man-if you try for the instant suede look. Just don't do it!

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Forgive me, for I have sinned-I'm replacing my original tin with new aftermarket parts! Upon discovering the quality and fit of certain offerings, like these AD rear fenders from Goodmark Industries, I never thought twice about my original tin sin, either.
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For starters, the OG fenders were in need of plenty of bodywork. Moreover, they were torn pretty bad in numerous spots, so repair was out of the question for me.
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Same goes for the running boards-why repair when replacing puts you that much ahead of the game, not to mention possibly saving you some needed coin as well? The boards from Goodmark equaled the fenders' quality in form and function.
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Years of abuse and neglect will do it every time. Basically, the running boards were held on (each side) with two out of six fasteners.
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Actually, if you recall when the truck was first featured, tie-down straps were also used to hold the panels in place. Shape-wise, the same tears and dents found on the fenders were evident on the boards, too.
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Removing the fenders, boards, and splash aprons is very straightforward; that is, unless your truck's underbelly is coated with an inch of gunk like mine. In that case, a good washing might be the first order of business.
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Once rid of the old tin, all that should remain protruding from the framerails are the riveted-on board braces. You'll also notice the running board-to-body seals beneath each door (if they're still intact). Now's the time to replace them.
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A series of clutch-head sheetmetal screws holds the seals in a pinch channel on the bottom of the cab. Generally, new seals will come as one long piece, so keep the old ones for attachment hole and length reference.
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While you've got the chance, you might as well spiff up the braces, too. Also, if you have any concerns about alignment, place the new running boards on top of the braces to verify that all the holes line up; if not, use a little muscle to coerce the braces a bit.
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This is how the fasteners should fit the slots, unlike the old boards suggested. Having the right-size carriage bolts (1/4-20, 3/4-, or 1-inch length) helps ensure the boards' proper security.
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I found it was much easier to drop the carriage bolts into the braces first, then set the running boards on top and finagle the bolt heads into the board's slots instead of trying to guide the threads into the brace holes.
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If your braces mate up dead-nuts with the boards, either way will work.
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The splash aprons come with an inner bracket that attaches to the running board.
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You can either fasten it to the apron first, then the board, or the other way around, whichever is easier.
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There are two mounting points on the apron and one on the running board, which uses the same carriage bolts as the board braces.
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Install, but don't completely tighten, the three 10-24 bolts and nuts along the bottom edge of the apron to the top of the running board edge, and this part's done for now.
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If you're not 100 percent concerned with Chevy authenticity, forgo the stainless clutch-head fasteners and use standard Allen or hex bolts to mount the fenders. I just like the looks of them, not to mention I've got a full set of clutch drivers and sockets!
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If you've only got two hands, masking tape often works great as a good stand-in third, especially when you get sick of bolts popping out each time you try to thread a nut on, no matter how careful you are.
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A good thing about a pre-made fastener kit, like this stainless one from Brothers, is that you get the right-size flat washers. You'll notice the mounting holes on the fenders are slotted large to provide the most adjustability; large washers ensure a good, secure fit once the nuts are tightened down (which you don't want to do just right yet).
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While the fender and running board are still awaiting final adjustment, squeeze the rubber seal between the two, then guide the three fasteners in place and secure finger-tight, as there's still a step or two remaining before you can torque everything down.
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In most cases, fender tears result from weak or no support braces. You can avoid this by simply putting them to their intended use.
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Welting usually comes without cutouts for mounting hardware, so it's up to you to accommodate. I took the welting to the back side of the fender before it was mounted, marked the appropriate areas, and cut with scissors.
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With the fender still loose, start the welting from one end and work it into place all the way to the other, just snugging the nuts.
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Even though this step is a lot easier with another set of eyes/hands, if you're still on your own, make sure to step back and ensure fender alignment before fully tightening everything up. Once you're in the ballpark, take one hand to hold the welting in place while you tighten each nut, working your way from one end to the other for a uniform fit.
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With the fender finally in place (and yes, tightened down), go back and make any adjustments to the running boards and aprons, and then tighten them down. Make sure all the gaps are as even as can be from the front fenders all the way back.
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It's a shame knowing that before long, all the new parts will be back off the truck, but at least I'm confident of their proper fit and won't be fussing around with freshly painted parts in an attempt to do so later on. At least I have a good idea of how the Apple Green and black two-tone will look!



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