Hey, check out that truck. How did they get it to sit so low with wide tires and stock rear fenders? Proper planning, that’s how. With that planning comes the properly sized rearend width, installation of wheelwells in the bedsides and properly measured for wheel backspacing. To start with, you need to know what you want to run for a wheel and tire width. Are the wheels you want 8-, 10-, or 12-inches wide? I have always run a 10-inch wide wheel in the back and an 8-inch wide one in the front.
Tire size is the next consideration. Normally on a 10-inch wheel the tire ends up right around 12-inches wide at its sidewall bulge.
The rearend width I have found to work well in the ’53-56 Ford F-100s and the ’55-59 Chevy is 55 inches overall. This means you’ll need a rearend housing that measures 50 inches. The axle flanges will stick out the extra 2½ inches on each side to make up the other 5 inches. This is not a set-in-stone measurement either. If 56 inches works better in your situation, no problem; it will only change the backspacing by ½ inch.
The usual clearance between the inner fender lip and the bedside is about 11-12 inches for Fords and Chevys. These 2¼-inch wheelwells will open you up to the 14-inch range. You’ll want to leave at least ¾ inch (an inch is better) between the widest part of the tire and the fender lip and wheelwell.
Having the narrower rearend will allow you to run a wheel with its center around the center of the rim. A 10-inch rear wheel will have around 5 inches of backspacing. This will give the wheel a deep look. This will also allow you to run a 12-inch wide tire within the 14-inch clearance.
When it comes to which type of wheelwell to run it depends on what kind of look you want. I have used and loved the spun-looking 2¼-inch wheelwell from Dan Carpenter for years. They are easy to install, look great, and also come in a 4-inch version. C10 Chevy truck’s square, boxey-shaped wheelwells could work also. No Limit Engineering offers some fiberglass wheelwells. There are plenty of others I can’t think of off the top of my head along with years of trucks in the wrecking yards that might yield a pair to your liking.
Attaching the wheelwells is another consideration. Some could be screwed in with nice 10⁄32 stainless button heads or the usual route is to weld them in. We all know the problems welding can cause and the time involved. There has to be an easier way. Then it hit me one morning – why not glue them in with a structural adhesive like the new cars use? We tried it at Bobco, it worked, and we have been doing them this way for a few years.
The adhesives available now are pretty incredible. If you properly apply this stuff and bond two pieces of sheetmetal together, you will destroy the metal trying to separate them. This stuff is forever. It’s a two-part epoxy adhesive that is dispensed with a caulking-style gun. Since it is a two part, there are two cylinders and the gun has two rams. The special tube you attach to the cylinders to apply the adhesive is a special mixing tube. As the adhesive is working its way out of the tube, it passes back and forth through the tube and each part mixes together.
Specifically the type and brand we’re using here is 3M Panel Bonding Adhesive (part number 08116). (The manual applicator gun needed is part number 08117.) It was designed to bond non-structural steel, aluminum, SMC, and FRP body panels. It is used in the replacement of automotive doorskins, quarter panels, box sides, van sides, roofs, and other outer body sheetmetal. This particular adhesive gives you a working time of 90 minutes. It will be set up so you can unclamp it in six hours and it’s fully cured in 24.
I went over the bedsides and the wheelwells with a sander to rough up the metal a bit. Then applied a 1⁄8-inch bead of adhesive to the wheelwell flange. Since I have 90 minutes of working time, I put the adhesive on both wheelwells then installed them into the bedsides with small 1⁄8-inch sheetmetal screws. When the adhesive set, I removed the screws. The small holes will get filled in the bodywork stage.
Follow along and see how I put the same wheelwells into both a 1956 Ford F-100 and a 1955 Chevy bed. The Ford bed was done at Bobco’s in Lake Elsinore, California, and the Chevy bed was done at a new little hot rod shop in Lake Elsinore called Z Best Hot Rods.