When starting any project that requires bodywork, rebuilding or even repainting, the first question is always, “What could possibly be lurking under the old paint that could come back and haunt us later?”

All-In-One Conversions

The lines of ’55-’57 Chevys are almost sacrosanct. They haven’t been modified or changed over the years with very good results. There have been a couple of exceptions, but by and large, chopped tops, restyled fenders and other modifications that alter their original lines don’t come off looking real good. The problem is in the proportions. We’re not sure if it’s because the factory got them so perfect right out of the gate, or if it’s that most have been left alone over the last 50 years, so a chopped top looks strange. Whatever the reason, the classic “greenhouse” roofline, long fenders and slab sides all work very well together.


Now, it may seem crazy that anyone would take sandpaper to a new paint job, but if you want to have a glass-like finish that is exactly what happens. Of course, it is special sandpaper, and the person doing the work needs to know exactly what he is doing or that paint job can be toast. One of the things that makes color sanding possible is that the paper used is meant to be wet while the job is taking place. The water not only works as a lubricant, but it also removes the fine paint sludge from the area. The problem is getting that water in the proper place and having enough of it to do the job. After all, who really likes sticking his arm into a cold bucket of water time after time?



Sketch out a few ideas on paper, or some people like to put tracing paper over an actual photograph. Somehow come up with a plan for your paint scheme. We opted to “visually lengthen” the car by using a base scallop to connect both sides. This pattern flows to the side chrome, and extending this outline from the front to the rear gives the longer appearance. The stock Mercury body is thick. By putting the scallops below the trim line on the car, your eye is automatically drawn downward, giving the Mercury a lower, thinner appearance.


Have you ever looked at another enthusiast’s ride and noticed something unique, yet very clever, that made the vehicle stand out or perform better and thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Well, we’ve done some of the homework, legwork and research to provide you with a similar advantage. We scoured the tuning shops and interrogated the pros to find out what tips they have done that our readers could apply to their own vehicles.


We learned that Underground Motorsports in Little Rock, Arkansas, was going to build one fast daily driver, so we thought we’d take a peek and drop some knowledge for you. We were looking for any tech procedures that may illustrate for readers how a car of this sort is built from scratch. 

Installation Tips For Those Tough Spots

Installing Fender Welting on pre-1948 Autos Author Most every pre-’48 car came with fender/body welting, consisting of a simple combination of a narrow strip of vinyl (or similar material) folded over a small-diameter woven cord and glued shut. Its purpose was, and still is, to insulate one piece of body metal from another when bolted together—not an electrical or temperature insulation, but essentially to eliminate squeaks and rattles, and to prevent paint from chipping (or cracking) as the two pieces flexed and vibrated together under normal road use. Generally referred to as fender welting, this product can also be found throughout certain car models; used to mount grilles, running boards and bumper gravel shields. That was how it was done years ago, and unless the car has special body panel fitting or these pieces are molded in, you will find it still in use today. We use the stuff mainly because our cars still need it, but also because it does the job. As far as we know, nobody ever came up with a better way to do it.  People still ask about the pre-’48 cutoff for street rods, but the answer is simple: 1949 was the year of “The Big Change” in automotive design, and it wasn’t just in looks. The new cars had no running boards and used welded-on rear fenders and isolation-mounted front fenders. The new-envelope body design extended the front fenders past the cowl and back to the front door edge. No more body part bolted joints meant no more welting. Thousands of welting folders, gluers and rollers were out of work. You’ve seen street rods without fender welting. Sometime back in the last century, street rod building pioneers such as John Buttera and Boyd Coddington declared war on such trivial detractions. We don’t have any direct input on the results of those metal-to-metal joints, but it’s a fair bet that few of those cars saw many road miles, and they most certainly required many metal finishing hours to get those parts fitting just so. But today you’ll find all sorts of varied solutions, and even welting hasn’t changed all that much. You will find it in different types of fabrics, even rubber, and it is available in many colors, including chrome. If they don’t make your color, your upholstery shop can make it for you in any material and color imaginable. Thinking now about why it hasn’t really changed over the years, we’ve concluded that in certain applications one might benefit if manufacturers were to add a thin strip of peel-and-stick adhesive to one side of it. Look at the accompanying photos and you’ll understand why we mention this. 1. On our example here, we had the rear fenders and running boards welded to the body, leaving only this joint between the front fenders and the cowl in need of fender welting. The paintwork is finished and the front clip is in place. We unbolted the fenders from the cowl one at a time in order to install the welting. 2. Looking inside the passenger door under the dash, you can see the mounting holes for the right front fender. Removing the bolts will allow you to pull the fender away from the cowl. 3. This is the view straight up under the passenger’s-side front fender showing the interface between the two. The flange on the fender (left) comes wavy from the factory. This is where the flap on the welting will come through. The white streaks are from color sanding and are still there. 4. We just happened to have a spare set of fenders (this is a driver’s side), and will use them to show how to cut and form the welting. Cut an extra-long strip and start at the top. If you can remember to make up your welting before you mount the fenders, you will be better off. 5. You can really see the wobble in the mounting flange here, especially in the shadow. We were tempted to hammer and dolly it out, but if Ford didn’t mind, why should we? Besides, there’s a good chance that you’ll distort the fender’s shape. Note the opening cut for a bolt and the slits made for the bend. Try not to cut right up to the cord, as that would allow water to get to it more easily. 6. Using masking tape, we started placing the welting with the bead right against the fender’s top surface. The trick here is to use a heat gun (yes, you can use the hair dryer if she’s not home) to form the bends. Hold the curve and remove the heat. When it cools the vinyl will hold the shape fairly closely. 7. This is about the tightest you can bend the welting with the help of the heat gun. Still, there are going to be small wrinkles. 8. Note the slit cuts for this outside bend. Look closely and you’ll see there are three thicknesses of material stacked up there. This will cause big problems with the installation of the welting, and it won’t allow a tight fit between the fender and the cowl. 9. Here you can see where we cut wedges out of the slit cuts to prevent stacking. This is pretty much our final shape. 10. With the shaped welting taped firmly in place, apply a medium heat uniformly over the whole length. Let it cool completely (about 30 minutes) and then untape it. You’ve got yourself a permanently formed fender welting, custom made just for your car, and you did it yourself. If you were smart enough to do this before mounting your fenders, this would be the perfect time to glue the welting to the fender. 11. You can see how pre-forming the welting is going to make the installation much easier, as well as ensure a perfect fit. If you’ve ever tried putting it in right off the roll, you know what we mean. 12. We very carefully applied

Scroll to Top