So, after throwing around all of those ideas related to fender flares, I made my decision. No fender flares!
I know!? How can I tease all (6) of my readers with grand plans and then not do anything cool/new/out there? Because I'm going to do some minor tubbing work to the inside of the wheelhouse - not the outside.
My good friend Shaun over at Street or Track has a nice write-up on the process he used. Essentially, he cut out the inner wheel house and moved it over to the frame rail. He then filled the gap with sheetmetal. Great idea, but the problem is the frame rail location. It's really close to the inner wheel house in the rear, so that's the limiting factor. In the front he got an impressive 3" of extra width. In the back - only a single inch wider. Bummer. While Shaun's happy how it turned out, there's always that thought that it could be more.
With this result in mind, I looked around and found the Detroit Speed Deep Tubs. They solve the close frame rail issue by simply moving the frame rail over! The do this from about the middle of the stock axle bump stop to the back of the wheel house. They provide a new rail that just goes straight back and then has a quick jog back over to meet up with the rear portion of the stock rail that has the leaf spring shackle mount.
|The rail in my kit sitting on top of my driver's side frame rail|
|The DSE tub installed as seen in a YouTube install video I found.|
|These are the parts that come in the DSE kit.|
I think you could actually do a DIY mini tub with a combination of Shaun's process and the DSE frame rail move if you just made your own frame rails from the bump stop straight all the way back or even make your own jog in the rail. You could then cut out your stock inner wheel house, move it over to the frame rail and then fill the gap with sheet metal like Shaun did. I liked that the DSE kit comes with all new metal, so it's another opportunity to get rids of rusty metal from the car. Plus, time in the shop is getting more limited for me so the kit was the way for me to go on this one.
So what about that 3 link?
An important point is that this new frame rail section from DSE is just about precisely where the Watts link mount for the Street or Track 3 link will be mounting. This isn't their fault. I would never expect them to design around a competitor's product. The great thing is that I'm going to get my Watts link frame without powder coating and without complete welding so I can modify it to fit the DSE rail. Below are a couple of pictures from a quick test session with a prototype Watts link frame fit up against the stock frame rail so we could see how much of an issue this will be.
With the front of the frame rails being close to the same place, but the rear of the rail being the big change (inward), the upper shock mount won't move much. I can then move the U-channel of the Watts frame over to fit on the DSE frame and keep the center section of the Watts frame in the right place.
So that's the plan, but what's next? Cutting out lots of spot welds! None of this is earth shattering news or a late breaking how-to, so pictures can do most of the talking.
|First, the trunk floor came out.|
|Then I cut out the driver's side rear quarter|
|Then the rear tail light panel came off|
|Then the passenger rear quarter came off.|
|Then the passenger wheel house. Notice that you can see the chair against the wall all the way through the car!|
These is a box section inside the C-pillar that comes down out of the roof and sits on top of the outer wheel house. This means that the spot welds between the roof and the quarter panel actually go all the way down to the box section. In the rear of each side, there's actually another piece in the mix between the quarter and the box section with hidden spot welds! When I didn't know about this taking the first quarter off I got a bit aggressive with the chisel and I have some work to do to flatten out that piece under the roof panel before this all goes back together.
|The piece that surprised me is on the rear side of the box section coming down out of the C-pillar|
|This is the piece that surprised. Up inside, above the row of spot welds, I have to flatten it back out somehow.|
So once all of this metal was out I spent an entire weekend with wire wheels and grinders and it barely looks like I got anything done. It was thankless work, but I'm at least close to fitting the new sheet metal. I did also get the trunk floor screwed in place - at least a good initial starting point.
In fact, Shaun came over Monday night and we fit up the passenger rear quarter and then the (Ford stamping) rear tail light panel!
Process and Plan
I spent a good bit of time figuring out what order I should do things at this point.
My first decision was when I should do the DSE frame rail mods. I decided on doing the DSE work absolutely last. If I cut the frame rails off at this point I'm going to lose the only reference points that I have left - XYZ the location of the ends of the frame rails. I'm actually sleeping better now that I've made this call. I had considered fixturing that location and doing the frame rail mods first. I'm not sure it would be close enough.
Next I was trying to decide what goes first, the outer wheel house or the rear quarter panel. I've decided on fitting the rear quarter panels first. This way I'll be happy with their location and how 'straight' the car is as a whole. I can set the trunk lid on there and check gaps, get the rear valance gaps and fitment, door fitment, etc. Then, once I pull the quarters off and I've fit the outer wheel houses to a decent point I can set the quarter on and see how much the wheel house is pushing the quarter around compared to my original marks for the quarter fitment. I was afraid that if I set the wheel houses first I would be fighting another variable to get the quarters to fit how I want.
Of course, the welder will be far far away from the car until I have every panel (except the DSE parts) in place and screwed, cleko'd, and/or clamped in place and I'm happy with the overall fitment of the sheet metal.
I can then take it all apart after tons of marking and work from the inside out. There are lots of welds that need to be done before the quarters are in place. Also, while it's apart for that last time I can paint the inside areas that I'll never get access to again.
I think with the process above the body will be in the normal, fully welded, condition to start the DSE deep tub install. I'm just going to leave the trunk floors screwed to the top of the frame rails even if the floors are welded everywhere else. This way I can make a singe vertical cut on the frame rail (near the stock bumpstop location), pull some screws out and then the frame rails will drop out off the car. I have new fresh frame rails to put in the back so I can eliminate even some more minor rust that was lurking in there.