There comes a time in building a classic truck from the frame up where it seems like the whole process takes a step backward for every two steps taken forward. While one particular item is being wrapped up, it almost always reveals an overlooked aspect that needs to be taken care of before moving forward. Fixing rusty panels, banging panels straight, finding missing pieces or replacement parts for items too damaged to restore; all these things need to be done before the initial assembly. And once the initial assembly is complete and the fit and finish satisfactory, it all still needs to come back apart before it can be sent out for paint and bodywork. The whole process can be very disillusioning, and it's no wonder why we see so many half-finished projects for sale at swap meets and car shows. For the uninspired or those who simply don't have the spare time for such consuming projects, these slow, encumbered days during a build can be enough to drag the project to a premature halt.
Over the past few months, I've been walking down this rugged path, and to say that it has not thrown a proverbial wrench in the spokes of my motivational wheel is to put it nicely. I've spent more nights coming up with excuses as to why I didn't want to work on it than I did actually putting in productive time getting anything done. The good news is that the sheetmetal work is about 95 percent complete, with the patch panel and rust repairs behind me for the most part, save that last stubborn rear fender that I just can't seem to get around to. The bad news is that it's now time to start the initial assembly of the sheetmetal, which means my bottom end is going to spend some time on the cold concrete floor of my shop bolting and unbolting the fenders, valence, and grille assembly on the F-1.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and Doc and his crew at Totally Stainless as well as the guys over at National Parts Depot have helped out tremendously by providing not only a stainless button-head body kit for the '52 (which means I won't have to make a list and countless trips to the hardware store chasing down fasteners), but also the seals, patch panels, and other items needed to get the front end sorted out. It also means that the hardware on the pickup will not only look good when it's all said and done, but will last much longer than the rusty, stripped fasteners that barely held the pickup together when I first got her home.
While repairing the front fenders and other items, it was necessary to test-fit some of the pieces before finishing up. This required a dry run of sorts in assembling the front sheetmetal, which made things a bit easier when it came time to put everything together a final time before any bodywork started. One thing I did find, however, was that bolting the fenders, inner fenders, and valence pieces together on my own was very challenging. Oftentimes, I found myself under a fender while trying to manipulate my body into a sort of contortionist pose to assemble the hardware. While a helping hand would easily cure this problem, I was determined to find a solution that enabled me to assemble the entire front end without any help, as that was likely the position I would find myself in when it came time for final assembly.
Here's the inner fender with...
Here's the inner fender with the stock-style carriage bolts installed. We'll be replacing them with a button-head-style fastener and the caged nuts.
The radiator support, inner...
The radiator support, inner fenders, and fender brackets are installed first. Two fasteners hold the upper corners of the inner fenders to the cab, while another pair of fasteners support the lower rear corners to the chassis. Six fasteners up front tie everything together to the radiator support, which is fastened securely to the chassis using a pair of half-inch stainless bolts.
With the supporting structure...
With the supporting structure in place, the fenders are ready to bolt up. Note the fender brace pad that keeps the brace from contacting the fender directly.