Tailgate chains do have a place – up on the wall hanging next to the whips (whips 'n' chains, get it?), not hanging on our tailgates anymore. Pat Helferich, one of the owners of Z Best Hot Rods, suggested I get rid of those chains and switch over a customer truck to a set of Stealth pins from Classic Performance Products. I had just installed a set on Pat's own 1955 Chevy pickup that I'm assembling for him and we really liked them. The owner in question agreed, they were ordered, and here we are.
For years, a custom trick was to remove the tailgate chains and latches to clean up the look and not have something hanging there that could mess up the paintjob. Since tailgates usually aren't sat on when you have a custom truck or really opened that much, the need for the chains is gone. Of course if you would like to still open it and have it hang, there are several options available. I have used the folding chromed brass marine lid supports for years. There are some with nylon straps to retain the gate. Dan Carpenter has come out with a stainless cable that holds the gate open and hides in the bedpost and box area of the tailgate when closed.
When it comes to latches, there are a few options; marine-application latches have been popular for years and are carried by Mid Fifty F-100 Parts. On my own 1956 Ford, I just welded up the ends of the tailgate and drilled a small hole through the bedsides and into the areas I covered. A #10 stainless screw on each side holds it closed. Easy, cheap, and you can't see them.
For those who prefer working tailgates, Classic Performance Products offers a neat set of tailgate latches called Stealth Tailgate Latch Pins. These were designed for a Chevy tailgate, but could be surely adapted to other makes too. The installation only requires a couple of single holes and two slotted holes. They're easy to install, work great, and are the ones featured here. The instruction sheet included was helpful in showing what was needed and the basic install steps. (By the way, if you want to stick to units specifically designed for Ford's, Mid Fifty F-100 Parts also offers a latch pin kit for the F-100s. They are designed to fit into the top roll of the F-100 tailgate. Made from aluminum, they also require a couple of mounting holes and two slots for the release pins to move in. These have nice, longer-than-usual release pins to grab onto.)
Neither of these kits require any welding and I installed them with basic fabrication tools. It took me about an hour to install them. The bottom line is these really clean up the tailgate area and still allow you to open the tailgate. Follow along and see just how easy these can be installed.
01. Classic Performance Product's Stealth Tailgate Latch Pin kit comes with everything needed. The total outside diameter of the pin assembly is 5⁄8-inch and they could easily be adapted to all sorts of things that might need securing. Instructions are included.
02. It's nice to start out with something new. The owner of this 1953 Chevy pickup wanted the tailgate replaced since the old one had been hurt in an accident. With a call to Brother's Truck Parts in Corona, California, I had a new one in hand. The owner chose a new louvered tailgate to give the truck a classic look, but didn't want the chains hanging anymore. That is no problem since Classic Performance Products has a neat little Stealth Latch Pin kit that rids you of all the stock ugliness.
03. These are never really fun to remove, but if you think it through, they can come off pretty easily. The welds can be sliced with a cutoff wheel, but the spot weld will need to be drilled out. This reproduction gate only has one 1⁄4-inch spot weld where the stock gates have three smaller ones on these latches.
04. These welds are taken care of by slicing in parallel to the latch. You need to cut all the way up to the bend.
05. Then I ended up cutting half the latch out of the way to get the cutoff wheel into the corners at an angle. Be careful not to cut into the tailgate itself.