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TECH: A Fitment Fix for a ’50 Ford


 Backtrackin' for Gaps

An out-of-sequence solution for bad panel alignment

By Rotten Rodney



In any body ‘n’ paint shop, panel alignment can be challenging, and more often than not, frustrating work. This holds especially true with ‘50s-vintage American-manufactured classics. Generally speaking, cars of the ‘50s didn’t really fit very well—even when they were new. Today’s conscientious restorers of such automobiles, however, tend to exhibit elevated standards.


While Hot Rods & Custom Stuff is best known for their long string of high-profile hot rod homers, they’re also available to assist us restorer types with any or all phases of our projects. From media blasting to painting, polishing, and even pinstriping, HR&CS is truly a one-stop-shop, with each restorative phase being handled in sequence, at the appropriate time. Panel alignment for example, is squared away in the body department, before a project is passed along for paint. Sadly, however, not all “restorers” adhere to the same rule—and Jim Sartor's rare ’50 Ford Crestliner exemplifies that statement.


This is the Crestliner’s second visit. It rolled in looking pretty much as it appears here, but with particularly ill-fitting doors. A month or so ago, the car was brought to HR&CS for a freshening-up of its 8BA flathead, as well as a sorting-out of some handling issues. Now that it has returned for its 500-mile checkup, the decision was made to correct the offending door gaps, which had been the main detraction to the car’s overall appeal.


After paint is not the ideal time for panel alignment procedures to begin, but HR&CS body ‘n’ paint pro, Troy has been down this ol’ familiar road before. In the business, Troy is what we call a “combination man.” Well versed in body, and paint shop operations, Troy possesses a full bag o’ tricks, not the least of which includes expert panel alignment ability. Here as he has many times in the past, Troy will begin by protecting the Crestliner’s pre-existing finish, just as if it had come from his own ‘gun. At the end of this session, another shop’s work will be refined, and no one (‘cept for us) will be the wiser.


With the doors safely removed, secured to, and stored upon experienced, portable work stands, Troy can now turn his attention to the needs of the badly neglected door hinges.


Even with an impact driver, the leading brand penetrant and finally heat applied, removal of the doors wasn’t easy. In fact they put up a fight, and judging by the amount of rust, both under the hinges and around the threads of each of the factory-original Phillips screws, we can be fairly certain that this is the first time they’ve been disturbed.


So by this time, the door hinges with their worn pins and holes have already undergone major reconstructive surgery, which began in the ol’ bead blasting cabinet.


One hinge pin in particular was actually broken, rusted in position and only goin’ along for the ride.


At the end of this day, this ol’ Ford’s door hinges are restored. Using a hydraulic press, their worn and rusty pins have been freed and their wear-distorted holes have been re-drilled to accept the next-size-up new pins, which will tighten things up nicely.


Ford Motor Company’s Phillips screws will be replaced for the better by stainless steel socket-headed fasteners.


Granted, the use of stainless steel socket-headed fasteners may not be “period-correct” for this ’50 Ford. However, this car already has a few outside-the-lines upgrades, and some 60-plus-some-odd years down the road when Troy must repeat this procedure, he’ll be glad he’s done the job his way.


With threads appropriately cleaned and lubed, Troy now prepares to rehang and adjust the ol’ Ford’s doors, using a well-padded floor jack (door jack?) and a fair amount of 3M masking tape at panel edges—only as an ounce o’ proverbial prevention.


So there y’all have that—a straight forward fix for a previously-ignored phase, which really, truly, should have been addressed prior to paintwork. Another shop’s work is now refined, and no one (‘cept for us) will be the wiser.