Buying a new project over the internet can yield some interesting surprises. When we purchased this 1951 Ford 2-door on Ebay, we got a special gift, handed down from 3 previous owners (and probably the barn it sat in for 30 years); 2 feet worth of rat’s nest piled in the trunk. Not only that, but the trunk lid was rusted shut. We had to cut the trunk open from the outside just to get in there. We filled a 55-gallon drum twice during the clean up. The pics on Ebay certainly didn’t show this aspect of the car. Needless to say, the trunk pans had seen better days.
Luckily, shoebox Fords are fairly popular, mostly as hot rod fodder, but in restoration too. This made it easier to find replacement sheet metal. A few clicks on the ‘ol computer brought up Mill Supply, a sheet metal supply company that specializes in everything from hot rods and restos to snowmobiles. We picked up a 3-piece trunk pan replacement set for the ’51 and got busy.
The pans arrived in excellent shape and we sat down to look them over. These panels had an excellent fit and finish. They come coated in an electro-coating that somewhat resembles galvanizing. One note about these floors is that they do not come pre-punched for the fuel filler neck, access cover, or spare tire well. These pans are considered “hot rod” pans, leaving the pan solid. For restoration use, the spare tire well is marked with a stamping line. The bad thing is that the spare tire well itself is not currently reproduced and the original must be reused, or a suitable replacement found.
The work itself was completed in about 2 days. We took the car to Ramsey and Son Automotive in Stillwater, Ok and watched them make it look easy. Labor on a job like this would run in the $250 to $500 range depending on how much prep and finish work you are willing to do. We prepped the entire car and did all the finish work, so we got out of the shop pretty cheap. For less than $750, we got a new trunk floor and the hard part was done, not too shabby.
1. This disgusting pile of trash is really a rat’s nest. The offending rat (at least one of them was still in there, albeit slightly mummified. 20-year old beer cans were also in there, its been awhile since anybody was in here.
2. With the mess cleaned out, the damage was evident. Surprisingly, the spare tire well was actually in great shape compared to most of the ones we have seen in other shoeboxes, we will save it for later. The rest of the trunk did not fair so well.
3. The new panels from Mill Supply are well designed and fit beautifully. Everything lines up in the pre-assembly.
4. Before anything is cut, the trunk is measured along with the new pans to see how much needs to be cut. This is an important step.
5. There are 3 rubber plugs, covering 3 bolts, that attach the body to the rear frame support. Save these as they can be hard to find. Also remove the gas tank and filler neck.
6. Using an impact (starting with a low setting) the bolts were removed. Ours actually came out pretty easy. The trunk latch hardware was also removed. Ours will need replacement.
7. We are lucky enough to have a plasma cutter on hand, which makes the removal step much faster. A body ripper or cutting wheel should be used otherwise, because a torch will just warp everything.
8. This is the part that always scares the novice- no floors. Since the body is not coming off the frame, this is an excellent time to get at any of those otherwise hard to reach spots.
9. There are several bolt attachment points that need to be removed from the original floor and welded to the new pan. We sliced them off with the ESAB plasma torch.
10. The frame rails, crossmembers, and remaining sheetmetal needed to be cleaned up with a wire wheel and\or a 50-grit Roloc sanding pad. Otherwise, the welds won’t hold. We found some extra rust we will have to fix later too.
11. The frame was painted with some Eastwood Rust Encapsulator, which will keep it from rusting in the future.
12. The previously removed bolt stands were painted with weld-thru primer and allowed to dry. The weld-thru primer is a high-zinc paint that protects the welds from rusting.
13. The rear trunk section has 3 holes punched to match the stock holes. Ours were a touch on the small side, so we had to open them up with a carbide bit.
14. Jason Flowers, of Ramsey Autobody, welded up the rear pan to the car. Notice all the clamps; this assures the pan does not move during the welding process.
15. The rear section had to be slotted to fit around a few pinch welds in the car. Note the 4 plug welds around the bolt stand.
16. Toby Ramsey again uses the plasma cutter and a level (for a straight edge) to trim the main floor sections.
17. Toby also uses a punch\flange tool to punch holes for spot welds in the front section of the pan.
18. The main sections had to be notched around several pinch welds, and the bolt tab, as shown here.
19. The top sections were spot welded while the butt joints were stitch welded. The stitch welds help reduce warping.
20. With all the welding completed, and the welds smoothed with a Roloc sanding pad, all of the seams were coated with 3M seam sealer. The brushable version (shown) works well for large areas like this and is similar to what the factory would have used.
21. Once the sealer has dried (a couple of hours) the entire surface was prepped with Eastwood’s PRE spray to clean any oils or residue from the pans. This stuff is also excellent for removing the product labels. The PRE simply wipes clean.
22. The pans were then sprayed with the same rust prohibitive coating as before. Notice that we left the spare tire well stamping clean; we will be cutting that out and installing the original spare tire well at a later date.
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).