01 1955 Chevy Wagon ready for Spare Tire Delete
This is what we are starting with—a 1955 Chevy wagon loaded with patina and not much else! Our Modern Rodding project car will be seen a lot over the coming months as we have plans for lots of cool tricks and upgrades.

By Brian Brennan – Photography by the Author
Videography by Ryan Foss Productions

All of us grew up knowing how to change a spare tire or we learned quickly while parked on the side of the road. Odds are we haven’t changed many flats in recent years as a result of tire technology, better roads, and the cell phone that have transformed the way we live. So, what to do with the spare tire well in our ’50s and ’60s cars as they, for the most part, no longer comply with the specs of our new tire sizing and wheels of choice. Of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared, but that’s a story for a different page. Today, we perform a spare-tire delete on our 1955 Chevy wagon.

02 Chevy Station Wagon welding
Remember this article can also be viewed by scanning the QR code (provided) in this article, which will allow you to see the step-by-step procedure on how all the work was done. Ryan Foss Productions handles all of In The Garage Media video projects, thereby giving us consistency along with quality.

The 1955 Chevy wagon in these photos is Modern Rodding’s very own project car with the work to be handled in our In The Garage Media Tech Center. (We will also be unveiling our Model A roadster in the coming months.) This will be the first of a long string of stories that will deal with everything from spare tire delete that now provides for a larger gas tank mounted underneath to upgrading the tailgate and the surrounding sheet metal.

A little background on the 1955 Chevy wagon as it is offered in both two- (Nomad) and four-door wagons. Our four-door is a six-passenger, seven-window Chevy Station Wagon that’s in need of a lot of help.

03 1955 Chevy Wagon Chevy 265 V8 factory spare tire well
The original wagon tailgate opened and rested with the rear spare tire well visible. Great spot for a spare tire back in the ’50s, not so much today given the growth of the wheels and tires we now use.

Chevrolet made a dramatic change to its body design in 1955 with the new smooth straight panels on the hood and sides. This was a noticeable change from previous years, which was still reminiscent of the prewar styling. Aside from the flatter panels, the wrap-around windshield and rear glass, and the noticeably different taillights, the new look clearly distinguished itself from early models. It was also the first-year style and performance were combined through the introduction of the Chevy 265 V8.

As you can tell from the photos our 1955 Chevy wagon has seen better days. In other words, patina is alive and well and lots of work will be needed to bring our 1955 Chevy wagon back to summertime drivetime specs while keeping the “character” years of use and abuse have produced.

04 Removing Wagon tailgate for Spare Tire Delete
First step is to remove the wagon tailgate, which also exposes the tail pan; this immediately told us it too needed replacement after decades of being attacked by rust.

Read More: Dream Build: LS2-Powered 1954 Chevy 3100

The first step, in our many steps forward, is to remove the spare tire well, as it’s no longer needed and what’s needed is a large gas tank. It just so happens that the space underneath the floorboard via the spare tire well removal will afford us the space required to install a 29-gallon gas tank from Classic Performance Products (CPP), ideally suited for cross-country drives.

Spare-Tire Delete Parts

There are three major components to this story; removal of the tirewell and replacement with a Real Deal Steel (RDS) Spare Tire Delete Panel  (PN SWNFF-567), a Golden Star Classic Auto Parts (GSCAP) tail pan (PN TP13-553), and a GSCAP tailgate (PN TG13-55). (Next time around we will get into the tailgate and all of the required hardware to make it fully operational, which we gathered from Danchuk.)

05 New wagon tailgate from Golden Star Classic Auto Parts
A Golden Star Classic Auto Parts (GSCAP) tailgate (PN TG13-55) was one of three major components to complete this project.
06 Tail pan for a 1955 Chevy Wagon
A GSCAP tail pan (PN TP13-553) is a not-so-much seen but equally important piece of sheet metal that should always be looked at. Because of its location it is subject to rust, especially after decades of water and weather abuse.

Tools Required

You should have already noticed that there’s a video (scan the QR code) that follows this process step by step, again done in our tech center under the watchful eye of Tech Center Manager Jason Scudellari (we call him “IJ,” short for “Installation Jason”) and Louis Fernandez. First step was to round up the required tools we would use, like the Harbor Freight Vulcan OmniPro 220 multi-process welder with 120/240-volt input. The welder comes with a full-color LCD display that’s very handy and can handle MIG, TIG, and stick welding. In this situation we set it up for MIG.

07 Vulcan OmniPro 220 from Harbor Freight
Louis Fernandez handled much of the welding. Here he’s using the Harbor Freight (HF) Vulcan OmniPro 220 multi-process welder set for MIG. Good tools make any job easier.

We also brought into service our Harbor Freight Central Pneumatic high-speed metal air saw (10,000 spm), ideal for cutting through plastic and, in our case, sheet metal. It will handle 16-gauge metal.

Read More: A Slice Above: Harbor Freight Plasma Cutter Review

We were also going to need a cordless electric impact driver capable of installing and removing small hardware. In this application we selected a Harbor Freight Hercules 20V lithium battery 20V Lithium-Ion Cordless Compact ¼-inch hex impact driver. It’s capable of 1,500 in-lb of torque and 0-3200 IPM, making it very capable to handle a wide range of fastening.

08 Central Pneumatic high speed metal air saw
HF Central Pneumatic high-speed metal air saw proved idea for cutting the brace that’s on the back side that holds this tail pan in place.

We also found ourselves requiring an air punch and flange tool and this time we selected the HR Central Pneumatic unit that is capable of cutting 16-gauge sheet metal and punching a 3/16-inch hole. We would need these holes punched into the spare tire well panel at precise locations where we would install sheet metal screws for fastening and holes for spot welds.

09 cordless electric impact driver
You will also need to drill out spot welds, and to accomplish this we used an HF Hercules 20V lithium battery 20V Lithium-Ion Cordless Compact ¼-inch hex impact driver. First drill out the spot weld heads and then punch out the spot weld remnant.

Lastly, of the major tools, we needed an angle die grinder. Here we selected the HR ¼-inch Professional Mini Air Angle Die Grinder. Called the Chief, it has a compact aluminum body for working in tight spaces. It comes with a 90-degree head, again ideal for tight spaces, and front exhaust, which blows debris away from the work area. It’s ideal for grinding, deburring, sanding, and polishing.

10 angle die grinder on a wagon tailgate
ITGM Tech Center’s own Jason Scudellari used an HF cutoff wheel to remove metal and rusted out bracketry to remove the tail pan.

What Needs to be Done

Given the condition of the 1955 Chevy wagon there was no denying that while we would be removing the spare tire well and replacing with fresh sheet metal we would also change out the tail pan that rests beneath the wagon tailgate, and it was perfect timing as it was exposed and easily dealt with.

11 Real Deal Steel Spare Tire Delete Panel
The Real Deal Steel spare tire delete panel is resting above the area it will eventually occupy. Note the blue tape as this signifies where the panel will rest once the wheel well is cut out.

The wagon tailgate is also in need of changing and while we would perform this task, we will get to the myriad of other items that go along with the wagon tailgate swap, such as the retractor cables, striker plates, rubber seals, and so on the next time around, and that’s where we relied on Danchuk to help us out with our fresh Golden Star Classic Auto Parts wagon tailgate.

12 Real Deal Steel Spare Tire Delete Panel install
The fresh Real Deal Steel spare tire delete panel is resting in positioning. Once you cut your hole, measure twice, and cut once, the panel is dropped into position.

Read More: How to Install a Gas Filler Door and Custom Fuel Filler Neck

You can follow along for a step by step on how we removed the spare tire well and installed the new floor pan, tail pan, and swapped out for the new wagon tailgate in the accompanying photos or video. Follow along as we describe how Scudellari and  Fernandez get the job done in our In The Garage Media Tech Center. MR

Sources

Danchuk
(800) 648-9554
danchuk.com

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

Harbor Freight
harborfreight.com

Real Deal Steel
(407) 585-1957)
realdealsteel.com

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