The Shoebox Ford is not the most stylistic body, there just isn’t much to them. While they are plain, they are also plentiful, making them excellent fodder for a custom ride. One aspect of the classic shoebox that can always be modified is the taillights. Shoebox Fords are 1949-51 models, and while there were a few changes for 1951, they are basically the same. The taillights however are different. The 49-50 lights are smaller, more compact and the lenses are glass. In 1951, the taillights were larger, more elaborate and plastic. Another unique aspect of these cars is that in July 1950 the Korean war began. This effected the production of automobiles and resulted in “Korean Chrome,” in which the second stage of the chroming process, adding brass, was removed to help with the war effort. The ending product was chrome that rusted right out of the gate. All 1951 Fords had this problem. The housing for the taillights were no exception. We chose to use a frenching kit from RPPG in Arkansas City, KS. Their kit comes pre assembled and die-cut to fit the 49-50 taillight housings. This makes everything easy to complete and makes for a quick job. We sourced the taillight housings from Shoebox Ford in Midwest City, OK, they specialize in 49-51 Fords and have about 100 in their yard for scavenging. The total mod took about 3 hours to complete, and really wakes up the rear of the car.
1. The 1951 stock taillights were pretty sad shape. These lenses are not easily obtained in reproductions, and frenched tails look cooler. Plus the Korean chrome is trashed.
2. The rusted taillight housing was held on with 2 nuts. They came off and we trashed the housing.
3. The frenching bucket is made for 49-50 Fords, in 1951, Ford made some minor changes to the body, including the larger taillights. Underneath the chrome spears, they are basically the same. The panel was marked with a sharpie around the bucket for cutting.
4. Using a jig saw with a metal blade, the panel was cut. There are other ways to do this, but the jig saw cuts clean.
5. The panel was opened up just enough to fit the bucket. There were a few sections that needed tweaking.
6. Using a respousse hammer, the edges were tweaked so the bucket fits tight.
7. The bucket was slid through the panel. Here the edges extend past the panel. We could trim this back, but we chose not to.
8. Again using body hammers, the panel was reshaped to match the bucket.
9. We welded in the bucket using stitch welds, about 1-inch long, every couple of inches until the entire perimeter was welded.
10. Then we cleaned up the welds with a die-grinder.
11. The seam was wiped with Duraglass and sanded down. Duraglass is fiberglass-reinforced body filler that will seal up the seam and keep moisture from getting to the welds.
12. Then entire area was covered with body filler and allowed to go green. The green stage is when the filler is firm, but not fully cured.
13. While in the green stage, the filler was hit with some 36-grit paper by hand. This area is too contoured to use a DA or board sander. If this is done while the bondo is green, the sanding is much easier.
14. The sanding is followed up with 80 and 150 grit paper.
15. We used some rattle-can primer to protect the metal until we complete the body mods on the rest of the car.
16. The buckets require using 49-50 taillights. The entire housing must be used. These need minor cleaning up, but the glass lenses are perfect.
17. With the housing bolted in from behind, the job is complete. This is a mod that is an absolute must for a Shoebox.
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).
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