Q. I have a customized 1968 Chevy Stepside, and I want to move up to monster rear wheels and tires. This will require widening the fenders by about 1½ inches on each side. My plan is to make a cut in the fender about 1 inch from the bed, move the outer portion out 1½ inches, and weld a strip of filler metal into place to fill the gap. Is this a good approach or would you do it some other way?
I'm a little less certain about how to widen the step plate in front of the fender. This is more complicated because of the embossed beads on the top of the panel. Any ideas on how to manage that detail? I know I could leave the step plate the stock width, but I'd prefer to have it match the bulged-out fender.
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A.Your plan for widening the fenders is spot-on. Placing the seam close to the bed will minimize the amount of misalignment you'll have when welding in the filler piece, since the taper of the fender is very small at that point. You are also wise to make the cut 1 inch away from the bed, so you'll be able to get a dolly under both sides of the filler piece to work the joint after welding. If you have a welded joint too close to a flanged edge it's nearly impossible to hold a dolly underneath it to allow you to straighten it with a hammer.
One approach to widening the step plate is to get another plate, and section them together. The spacing for the beads is right around 1½ inches, so you should be able to make your cuts in such a way that the pattern is not disturbed.
You might also consider tapering the step, so it tucks in tight to the cab on the front edge, but gets wider toward the rear. This is more tricky, since you will need to build a new outer edge for the step that incorporates one extra bead, and the front edge of the bead should match the taper of the step.
With some careful work with a bead roller equipped with a step die, you can create a new panel that has this detail. It's best to use an edge guide for the straight runs of the bead, since it's difficult to create a razor-straight edge freehand. I'd recommend doing a couple of test pieces to get some experience under your belt before you tackle the finished piece. Once you get the hang of this sort of work, it's really not too difficult to do.
Q. I have a 1948 Studebaker M-15 truck. The tailgate is 18-gauge metal, wrapped around a ¾-inch pipe with an axle in it. How can I make that tight roll around the ¾-inch pipe? I have a roller that has 2-inch diameter rolls. Is there an easier way to do it?
A. It's exceedingly difficult to make a bend as tight as you need on 18-gauge metal, and the fact that it's about 4-feet wide pretty much rules out using handtools or a slip roll. The best way to do that type of bend is on a press brake, and even that is problematic, since the most common press brake tooling can only go to 90 degrees, and your bend is probably around 300 degrees.
There is special tooling made for press brakes that is used for such bends, but you'll have to "call around" to find a shop that can do that job, and of course there will be a "setup" charge to get that tooling into their machinery to run your job. A friend of mine had a similar job done at a large industrial fabrication shop in Petaluma, California. I can get the name and number of the shop if you like, but with some searching, you can probably find a shop closer to you that is equipped to do the job.
Here's another approach: you might try contacting an aftermarket manufacturer of pickup beds (there are many for Fords and Chevys) and see if they can sell you a blank of metal with that roll on one edge, which you could then cut down to fit your Studebaker.
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