Joe and Patty Reed have a lot in common with our Editorial Director Brian Brennan; they are all very passionate about two things: great hamburgers and vintage trucks. You see, Joe and Patty Reed are the owners of Brakeman American Grill in Victor, Idaho, and they are longtime hot rodders. Brennan, on the other hand, loves to consume their hamburgers, and he too is a longtime hot rodder. It's a proverbial match made in heaven.
And so, while scarfing down a famous burger at Brakeman's last month, talk turned to Joe's latest project, a '61 Chevrolet Apache Panel Delivery. Finding a decent '61 C10 is getting tougher by the day, and finding a Panel is even more difficult. For that reason Joe wasn't concerned with the rusted fenders, he was simply glad to have a complete and fairly solid panel truck in his shop. Joe has always done all the work on his vehicles so he was both qualified and prepared for the upcoming project.
As it turned out, the big brown truck had just delivered panels from LMC to repair the front fenders and our pal Brennan figured he should follow along as Joe handled the rust repair the following day. As quick as you can say "I'll have fries with that," they were in the shop.
The process is quite straightforward, but like any repair if you don't take your time and measure and mark things properly you'll most likely run into some problems. LMC panels fit perfectly and the fact that they have the structural fender brackets makes it a complete repair using all-new parts. With that in mind it always pays to first inventory all the parts to be certain you have everything you need to complete the repair. Holding, clamping, and fitting panels and brackets in place over the rusted area before any cutting is done will dramatically lower your chances of error. It's the same old rule, measure twice, cut once.
After one day in the shop Joe had both front fenders repaired and he was well on his way to having a rust-free Apache Panel Delivery. Follow along to see how the process works.
1. Joe Reed checks out the condition of the bolts holding his rusted front fender in place. The '61 Chevrolet Apache Panel has typical front fender rust. The rest of the truck is pretty solid.
2. The rust problem is clearly defined, with the exact shape of the inner fender brace providing the silhouette of rust. Dirt, debris, and water become trapped between the inner brace and the fender to produce rust in this area.
3. Removing the upper fender bolts proved to be easy enough. At this point Joe is simply loosening the bolt to ensure there would be no problem removing the fender later.
4. Happily, the area above the fender and between the hood and door was in good condition, no structural rust in this area at all. This is another area that often gets rusty due to collected dirt and debris.
5. When you remove a fender bolt take special care to collect all of the shims and place them in a marked bag for reassembly. This will save you a lot of alignment time later.
6. A quick test-fit of the LMC lower patch panel proves the panel fits the fender perfectly. Always test-fit and examine all panels before cutting them up.
7. Certain the panel will fit, Nelley Dolgaia scribes the line while Joe holds the panel in place.
8. This line should be the actual cut line. As you can see, the LMC panel will take care of all the rust in one easy process, but don't cut that line just yet.
9. Proving this isn't Joe's first time at rust repair, he opts to cut slightly below the line, this leaves a little metal that can be trimmed for a perfect fit later.
10. A piece of masking tape makes for an easy guide to follow in the cutoff process. Once again notice the tape is slightly below the scribe line.
11. After the bolts are removed the fender is lifted off the truck. Joe was fortunate to be able to remove all the bolts with a wrench and not have any snap off due to rust.
12. Often, the lower fender mount is rusted badly. Happily, LMC has these brackets stamped just like the originals. Rust was relatively minor in this area of the truck.
13. The LMC reproduction is spot-on, a perfect fit for the truck.
14. A couple squirts of penetrating oil goes a long way to removing the rusty bolts. After the bolt has loosened it pays to spray again and work the bolt in and out to allow the oil to get into the threads.
15. Here we see the two brackets side by side, with the LMC bracket on the right. While the original bracket could probably have been sandblasted and reused, we opted to go with all new parts.
16. Here is the new bracket bolted in place using the factory fasteners. This entire area will be cleaned and then painted later in the build.
17. The inner brace on the fender is also the upper mount and once again the LMC part is a perfect match. You can see by the shape that this is the brace that captured the dirt and water to provide a rusty fender.
18. A cutoff wheel makes quick work of removing the rusted area. Again, tape was used as a cut line guide.
19. The lower piece hits the recycle bin while the top half of the fender is mated to a new patch panel.
20. The top half of the fender (the good part) was removed from the old fender brace by carefully unfolding the fender panel from the brace. Work slowly and take care not to bend the outer face of the panel.
21. While you are unfolding the fender you will discover a series of spot welds. These spot welds must be drilled out to remove the outer skin.
22. Our upper crossbrace was in good condition so it will be reused after a little cleaning and painting.
23. The new vertical fender brace is now test-fit to the truck. It aligned perfectly with the new lower brace and our original upper horizontal brace so we are ready to fit sheetmetal.
24. The new LMC patch panel fits the new braces nicely and should provide a perfect door gap, too.
25. With the top half of the fender shimmed and bolted in place, the LMC patch panel undergoes final fitting and trimming.
26. A close-up view shows the new panel will mate nicely with the original cutoff mark, but it will require the “grind a little, test-fit, and grind again” process until a perfect fit is achieved.
27. After fitting the patch panel, Joe used six sheetmetal screws to temporarily hold the panels in place. This ensures a perfect fit and prevents the panels from moving while they are being tacked in place.
28. This close-up view shows how perfect the gap is between the patch panel and the original fender. Nice work.
29. A series of tack welds are used to hold the panels together. Spacing the initial tack welds a couple inches apart prevents warping.
30. After initially tack welding every 2 inches, come back and weld up the gaps between the tack welds until you have stitched the entire seam. Moving around the perimeter of the panel while welding up the seams lessens the chances of excessive heat buildup, which causes panel warpage.
31. After completing the welding and grinding the entire fender will be finished and rust free. The panels will be painted on the underside using Eastwood's 2K Aero-Spray Chassis Black for rust protection. (Shortly after this photo was taken Brennan was spotted in a booth at Brakeman American Grill attacking a hamburger.)