Rust Repair on a Ford Ranch Wagon

Restoring This Vintage 1957 Ford Station Wagon

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography By Tate Radford

Let’s take a step back to a time when the ’57 Ford Del Rio station wagon shown here rolled off the end of the assembly line. Because it was 1 of 46,105 examples of a Deluxe two-door Ranch Wagon with Fairlane trim that was built that year, it had a base price of around $2,500. To put things in perspective, the average family income that year was $5,000 and the average price for a home was $12,220.

- Advertisement -
02 Damage to the driver s side rocker panel on a rotisserie body
With the body on a rotisserie, the extent of the damage to the drivers side rocker panel could be seen.

We can only imagine how happy the beautiful, new, shiny station wagon made its original owners. But eventually, the Ford’s useful life was over; the stylish yet practical family hauler lost its luster, eventually becoming what most people considered to be just another old used car. And like most old cars of its age, the 1957 had suffered the ravages of time and needed a fair amount of TLC, but Colin and Sue Radford saw it as a diamond in the rough. A station wagon would be perfect for hauling their grandkids around, going to swap meets, and making the family’s yearly trips to the Bonneville Salt Flats—and just like that a new project was born.

03 Inner portion of rusty rocker panel being cut away
The inner portion of the rusty rocker panel was cut away, leaving solid sheet metal. Since the floor supports that tied into the inner rocker panels were in good shape they were left in place.

Read More: Chevy Nomad Balances Vintage Looks With Modern Performance

Collaborating with Colin on the wagon from the beginning has been their grandson, Tate. So far, the duo has updated the chassis with suspension components from Art Morrison Enterprises, brakes from Wilwood, and slipped in a Ford Performance Coyote engine and Gearstar 4R70W transmission in the space a Y-block and Ford-O-Matic once occupied.

- Advertisement -
04 Fabrication of new inner rocker panel from 18 gauge sheetmetal
A new inner rocker panel was fabricated from a strip of material cut from 18-gauge sheet metal.

Rocker Panel Rust Repair

With the chassis work completed, the body was lifted off the frame and mounted on a rotisserie to provide access to all the areas that required repair and Colin and Tate went to work. The worst damage was rust in the rocker panel below the driver door. Not only was the outer skin rusted, but the inner structure was destroyed and would have to be replaced as well. Fortunately, the floor supports were in good condition and will remain in place.

05 Forming of replacement panel in a sheetmetal brake
The replacement panel was formed in a sheet metal brake. A pneumatic punch was used to make holes for rosette welds.

Read More: Deuce Coupe With Vintage Vibes

Sheet Metal Rocker Panel Replacement

- Advertisement -

To repair the rusted rocker panel, a new inner portion was fabricated from sheet metal and formed to fit in a brake. The replacement piece would be welded to the floor braces and the sill below the door opening. With the inner structure repaired, a replacement outer panel was trimmed to fit and welded in place. To ensure no moisture could infiltrate the repaired rocker panel and cause more rust, all the joints received a bead of panel adhesive as they were installed.

06 Clamped new inner panel with a horizontal section at the top
Clamped in place, the new inner panel has a horizontal section at the top enclosing the doorsill; the vertical section will be the back of the rocker panel and a lip at the bottom of the panel wraps under the body.

While the driver side rocker panel required replacement, the passenger side was in relatively good shape and needed only minor repair. With all the damage to the rocker panels resolved, the next chore was to repair the bottom of the left quarter-panel behind the wheel opening. Again, all the rotted metal was cut away, which left a larger hole to patch than it first appeared, but a two-piece patch panel cured that problem.

07 Pre welding treatment of inner rocker with rust preventative
Before welding the inner rocker in place the areas that would be enclosed were sandblasted and treated with rust preventative.

Read More: The Boss 427 Ford Should Have Built

Primer & Bedliner Finish

This wagon is destined to be driven, so every effort has been made to make the Ford fit for what lies ahead. To that end, the bottom of the body was prepped and covered in epoxy primer followed by an application of Raptor pickup bed liner and then a topcoat of single-stage black urethane gloss paint was applied.

08 Placement of the inner panel under the driver door
Here the inner panel is in place. Fortunately, it was only necessary to replace the section directly under the driver door.

With the rusted areas repaired the body was reunited with the frame that was previously covered in gloss black urethane. Next Team Radford will turn their attention to finish bodywork and paint, which means the Del Rio Ranch Wagon is well on its way to its new life—and with all the improvements that new life will be even better than the first.  MR

09 Fabricated inner rocker panel ready for welding
This is the fabricated inner rocker panel in place. It will be welded to the floor supports and the upper and lower flanges on the body.
10 Full length stamped replacements for outer rocker panels
Due to the complicated concave shape of the outer rocker panels, a pair of full-length stamped replacements were purchased.
11 Trimmed replacement of rusted rocker panel section
Rather than replace the entire rocker panel, Colin trimmed the replacement to repair only the section that was rusted.
12 Application of panel adhesive to the inner and outer rocker panels
A bead of panel adhesive was applied to the attachment flanges on the inner and outer rocker panels before installation. This not only makes a strong structural bond but it acts as seam sealer as well.
13 Trimmed replacement outer rocker clamped in place
Here the replacement outer rocker has been trimmed to fit and clamped in place.
14 Securing of outer replacement panel to fabricated inner portion
Along the bottom the outer replacement panel was secured to the fabricated inner portion with rosette welds, as well as the adhesive.
15 TIG welding of the upper edge of the outer rocker
Colin TIG welded the upper edge of the outer rocker to the flange on the floor. The seam was then ground smooth for a finished, factory look.
16 Finished repair of rocker panel matching the original shape
Although it’s hard to tell in bare metal, the finished repair matches the shape at the bottom of the front fender and blends into the quarter-panel in the rear just like the original.
17 Damage caused by bottoming out on solid surfaces
Another typical rocker panel problem is the damage caused by bottoming out on solid surfaces like rocks and curbs.
18 Repair of crumpled rocker panel using brute force and leverage
Sometimes using a combination of brute force and leverage is the only way to repair a crumpled rocker panel.
19 Finish work on a smashed rocker using a hammer and dolly
With the smashed rocker roughed into shape, Colin used a hammer and dolly to do the finish work, returning it to the proper shape.
20 Repair of passenger side rocker panel using a stud gun welder
Fortunately the passenger side rocker panel was solid, but it too had been caved in. Tate used a stud gun welder to attach studs to the damaged area. A slide hammer was used to pull out the dents then the studs were ground off.
21 Typical rust damage found in lower body panels
This is typical of the rust found in lower body panels where dirt that can hold moisture collects.
22 Cutting away rust from a larger section than anticipated
It’s not unusual to start cutting away rust and finding that a larger section than first thought must be removed.
23 Repair of lower quarter panel with a patch panel made from 18 gauge sheetmetal
To repair the lower quarter-panel the patch panel was made from two pieces of 18-gauge sheet metal. The longer front portion was made on a roller.
24 Shaping of patch panel in a Speedway Motors shrinker stretcher
Due to the convex shape, the rear portion of the patch panel was shaped in a Speedway Motors shrinker/stretcher.
25 Tack welding of fabricated patches into place
As the fabricated patches were tack welded into place, they were pushed and tapped to line up with the surrounding metal using a body hammer.
26 Repaired quarter panel after grinding and a skim coat of body filler
After some grinding and a skim coat of body filler the repaired quarter-panel looks as good as new.
27 Primed and painted bottom of the body after rust damage repair
With all the rust damage repaired the bottom of the body was primed, coated with bedliner, and painted gloss black.
28 Reunited body and frame with new mounts and hardware after rust repair
The body and frame were reunited with new rubber mounts and hardware. At this point, the chassis is finished and the rust repair has been completed. Now it’s time to focus on making the body laser straight.


Radford Automotive
(208) 745-1350

Speedway Motors
(800) 979-0122

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Rust Repair on a Ford Ranch april 2024

- Advertisement -

Related Articles

Search Our Site

More Modern Rodding

Kevin Hart’s 1969 Pontiac GTO

Detroit Speed Built This SEMA Show Stopper By Brian Brennan  ...

Chopping The Buick Coupe Top

Tips For Chopping Your Pre War Classic Car By Curt...

Prepping The ‘57 Ford Ranch Wagon Rolling Chassis

The Del Rio Ranch Wagon Gets Plenty of Brake...

Chevy Nomad Balances Vintage Looks With Modern Performance

This Candy Red ‘55 Chevy Nomad Has Plenty of...

Beth Myers’ 2024 AMBR winning 1932 Ford Phaeton Built by Roy Brizio Street Rods

By Brian Brennan   -   Photography By Michael Christensen ...

Vintage Sheetmetal: Repair Or Replace?

An age-old question for DIY Hot Rodders By Gerry Burger  ...
More Modern Rodding

How To Rebuild An 8 3/4 Chrysler Rearend

DIY Guide To Rebuilding A Rearend At Home By Barry...

Coyote Swapped Custom Lincoln Zephyr

SaltWorks Fabrication Built 1938 Lincoln Zephyr By Brian Brennan   - ...

The 2024 Grand National Roadster Show

By Brian Brennan   -   Photography By the Author &...

LS Swapped 1950 Chevrolet 3100

Tom’s “Advance Design” Chevrolet 3100 Hot Rod By Gary Rosier...

Unmistakable Bahama Blue Deuce Coupe

Custom Flair & Hot Rod Appeal By Brian Brennan   - ...

1000HP LS Engine Built For Street, Strip, & Track

The Best Engine Oil For Your LS Engine By Ron...