Replacing the Tail Pan on a Tri Five Chevy

Getting Rid of Decades of Deteriorating Metal

By Eric Geisert   –   Photography By The Author

As you get into any metal repair or replacement work on your project car you must always balance time versus money. Sometimes you may have more of one than the other (with rarely an abundance of both) but doing rust repair work on a vehicle can eat up a lot of time and money. Luckily for Tri-Five Chevy owners, Texas-based Golden Star Classic Auto Parts can save you a bit of both.

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Read More: How To Replace a Tri-Five Chevy Tailgate

02 1955 1956 1957 chevy replacement sheetmetal repair
Golden Star parts used in this remove-and-replace project are the left and right rear quarter-panel (PN QP13-56P) sections, the 10-inch ’55, ‘56, 57 Chevy trunk floor patch (PN TF13-553), the trunk floor brace (PN TP13-551), the ’55, ‘56, 57 Chevy tail panel (PN TP13-55), the ’55, ‘56, 57 Chevy trunklid alignment kit (PN TL13-55A), and the trunklid latch lower mounting bracket (PN TL13-55LS).

Golden Star Classic Auto Parts is a family owned/operated business that sells a huge amount of replacement parts and pieces for everything from old Ford Broncos, Mustangs, Chevelles, GTOs, A- and G-body GMs, to ’60s VW Buses and Mercedes-Benzes, but they also carry a full line of 1955, 1956, 1957 Chevy replacement panels to make repair work more manageable.

Read More: Shop Truck: Keeping The Patina, 1955 Chevy Wagon Roof Swap

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03 replacement goldenstar Tri Five Chevy sheetmetal
The Golden Star ’55-’56 Chevy trunklid (PN TL13-55) comes without emblem holes and is what helped indicate the positioning of most of the other parts during the reconstruction.

At Orange County Hot Rods (Corona, California) owner Aaron Hamusek had a customer’s 1956 Chevy Bel Air hardtop in his shop that needed some major repair work done, including quarter-panel and floor replacement but, as he turned his attention to the back end of the car, he found a large amount of heavily rusted and Swiss-cheesed metal that was beyond repair, so he decided to do a full replacement of the car’s tail pan section—basically everything below and between the taillights, including the trunk lid, which is a commonplace for Tri-Fives to rust. After an order to Golden Star Classic Auto Parts for the seven pieces needed, Hamusek started the removal process documented here. MR

Also Check Out: Spare Tire Delete On A 1955 Chevy Wagon

04 Cut just inboard of the seam with the quarter panel section below the taillights the tailpanel was the first piece removed which revealed more rust damage beneath
Cut just inboard of the seam with the quarter-panel section below the taillights, the tail panel was the first piece removed, which revealed more rust damage beneath.
05 we drill out the spot welds and pop the parts apart with either a screwdriver or chisel
Besides lead to fill seams, Chevrolet also loved their spot welds, and they’re used in abundance with the parts used in this fix. Aaron Hamusek will drill all of them out and pop the parts apart with either a screwdriver or chisel.
06 two outboard body mount bolts one on each side that will need to be removed
The new 10-inch-wide Tri Five Chevy tail pan will lay out (see line) just to the rear of the two gas tank mounting bolts under the two spot-welded flat braces here. There are also two outboard body mount bolts (see arrow), one on each side, that will need to be removed.
07 1955 1956 1957 chevy rust repair at the tailpan
Here’s how to get started with the new sheetmetal. The new tail pan section was laid inside the trunk to help define the cutline and, with a piece of carboard shoved up between the aftermarket gas tank and the floor, Hamusek makes a rough cut and removes the old tail pan.
08 drilling out spot welds on a tri five chevy
Using a special drill bit made for removing spot welds (called a “spot weld cutter”), Hamusek removes the ones behind each outboard tail pan seam.
09 55 56 57 chevy replacement panels removing the old rust
Having done a rough cut on the tail pan left a small section of the tail pan spot-welded to the inner quarter-panel piece, which then had its spot-welds drilled and the pieces pried apart.

 

10 how to align new replacement sheetmetal on a tri five chevy
Working on the back side of the 10-inch floorpan piece, the trunk floor brace is laid out, marked for position for a new set of spot welds.
11 clamping new replacement sheetmetal in place
A handful of clamps keeps the parts in alignment so Hamusek can spot weld them together in the same location as the factory.
12 The new rear tailpan section (with brace added) is set in place to check fitment
The new rear tail pan section (with brace added) is set in place to check fitment.
13 removing the original body filler lead from our tri five
Using a Bernzomatic MAP/PRO propane torch Hamusek starts to melt the factory lead out of the quarter-panel seam, removing it with a wire brush.
14 A rough cut is made to remove the section of quarter panel that’s below the taillight
A rough cut is made to remove the section of quarter-panel that’s below the taillight but has left the spot-welded piece that will need to be drilled out.
15 Once drilled out the spot welds can be popped apart with a screwdriver or in some cases a pneumatic chisel
Once drilled out the spot welds can be popped apart with a screwdriver or, in some cases, a pneumatic chisel.

 

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16 performing bodywork with a hammer and dolly
Hamusek found out this portion of the quarter-panel had been previously hit, so some bodywork with a hammer and dolly needed to be done.
17 The Tri Five Chevy features little braces and brackets to keep panels from coming apart or shifting
The Tri Five Chevy features little braces and brackets to keep panels from coming apart or shifting and there is a tiny one (less than 2×3 inches) on the backside of the lower taillight area, just under the lower taillight housing screw. Make sure you don’t cut through it!
18 trimming around the taillight
Checking the fit of the original taillight assembly Hamusek finds more bodywork is needed so the assembly can fit in its hole better.
19 the tri five chevy quarter panels need some custom metal work
A slide hammer, followed by more hammer and dolly work, solves the problem.
20 tri five chevy replacement sheetmetal fitment
Now the new left-side quarter-panel piece can be checked for fit. There are a lot of contours in this piece, and they all must line up, so some massaging might need to take place.
21 new sheetmetal tack welded into place now we check for fitment
Once satisfied with the fit, the righthand quarter-panel piece is tacked and Cleco’d in place.
22 Having laid the new tailpan section over the old one a thin (0 035 inch) cut can be made that will produce a perfect seam to be welded
Having laid the new tail pan section over the old one, a thin (0.035-inch) cut can be made that will produce a perfect seam to be welded.
23 check that all the gaps are tight and the parts are fitting as they’re supposed to
During all this test-fitting of pieces Hamusek also has installed the trunklid, which he often brings down to check that all the gaps are tight and the parts are fitting as they’re supposed to.
24 this section needed to be trimmed for better fitment of the tailpanel
On this build, a little bit of the tail pan section needed to be trimmed for better fitment of the tail panel.
25 some massaging with a hammer and dolly will help bring all the lines together
A rough fit of the tail panel shows the fitment is close, but some massaging with a hammer and dolly will help bring all the lines together.
26 heat it up a little with a torch which makes wire brushing to get to clean metal a breeze
One of Hamusek’s tricks to remove the primer (as well as the old seam-sealer) on the new pieces is to heat it up a little with a torch, which makes wire brushing to get to clean metal a breeze.
27 The Tri Five’s tailpanel is clamped and Cleco’d in place and ready to be tacked and welded
The Tri Five’s tail panel is clamped and Cleco’d in place and ready to be tacked and welded.
28 we replace the original lead with new lead body filler
Some of the areas that had been filled with lead by the factory will again be covered with a minimal amount of lead.
29 seam sealer is used around the edges the way the factory did
Once the final welding has taken place, SEM 29372 seam sealer is used around the edges the way the factory did.
30 tri five custom spare tire cover hand fabricated
Hamusek fab’d up a cover for the old spare tire hole, rolling some beads in for strength.
31 using a shrinker stretcher to copy the contour of the trunk panel to quarter panel
This simple aluminum template was fab’d on the shop’s shrinker/stretcher to copy the contour of the trunk panel to quarter-panel, then laid on the same area on the opposite quarter (note the gaps between the body and template) to see how bad the previous metalwork was.
32 1955 1956 1957 chevy decklid replacement
Hamusek takes the view that the Golden Star part is the right shape, and the previous poor bodywork produces an uneven trunk gap.
33 1955 1956 1957 chevy tailpan replacement golden star classic auto parts
A slice is made just a fraction outside the channel to create a new lip edge and then tacked and welded.
34 The trunk latch and alignment kit can now be installed
The trunk latch and alignment kit can now be installed.
35 Just seven Golden Star parts were used to take this rusty rear section and transform it into a respectable hot rod
Just seven Golden Star parts were used to take this rusty rear section and transform it into a respectable hot rod.

Sources

Golden Star Classic Auto Parts
(972) 315-3758
goldenstarauto.com

Orange County Hot Rods
(714) 514-3887
orangecountyhotrods.com

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Replacing the Tail Pan on a Tri Five Chevy.

mr october 2023

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