Body: Pickup Bed

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Chapter 10: Body - Pickup Bed

One of the joys of scratch building is that you have the ability to alter or improve your design in midstream. And for this project, that was true in spades.

After completing the sheet metal skin and having a few days to view the finished body from a number of different angles, it was determined that the original design was lacking in overall interest and eye appeal. After pulling out the sketch paper and toying with a number of ideas, the decision was made to add a short pickup bed to the back of the body, and to add fenders and a hint of running boards.

Pickup bed design[edit]

Photo 10-1 Styrofoam panels are used to mock up the bed. Photo attribution
To visualize the pickup bed and its location, 1" sheets of Styrofoam were cut and taped together to mimic the bed (Photo 10-1). After deciding on the appropriate length and width for the bed, posterboard was used to create an enhanced design for the side of the bed (Photo 10-2).
Photo 10-2 A design for the side of the bed is created on posterboard. Photo attribution
Photo 10-3 The posterboard is taped to the Styrofoam bed. Photo attribution
This pattern was taped to the original mock-up to see the visual effect (Photo 10-3). The design work for the bed quickly made it clear that the gas tank location would have to be changed. Instead of being mounted on top of the frame as was originally planned, the tank was moved rearward and under the frame. However, this meant that the tank was now exposed in the event of a rear end collision. To help remedy that situation, the frame was extended about 12" to the rear and the side rails (arrows) were angled down so that the rear crossmember would protect the tank (Photo 10-4).
Photo 10-4 The pickup bed required that the gas tank be moved, and the frame extended to protect it from potential rear end collision. Photo attribution

Bed frame fabrication[edit]

Photo 10-5 The bed is started by welding up the tailgate, which will be fixed rather than operational. Photo attribution
Since the tailgate is to be fixed, and not operable, it can be used as the starting point for the bed skeleton. The sides and bottom of the tailgate frame are cut from 1x1 square tube, and the top (arrow) is cut from 1" round pipe. These four pieces are clamped together for welding (Photo 10-5). The finished tailgate frame is shown in Photo 10-6.
Photo 10-6 The welded framework for the tailgate. Note how round tubing is used for the top crossmember to give a nicer final look. Photo attribution
Photo 10-7 The remainder of the frame sections are squared up to the tailgate and welded together. Photo attribution
The balance of the bed framework is then squared up and welded to the tailgate (Photo 10-7). Note that the top member of both the tailgate and the front of the bed (arrows) is round tubing. The other sections of the framework are either square tubing or 1" angle iron. The sheet metal for the inside of the tailgate is cut and welded in at this juncture (Photo 10-8).
Photo 10-8 The sheet metal is welded to the inside of the tailgate, and must be installed at this juncture to provide enough access to grind the welds smooth. Photo attribution

Using the template for the side of the pickup bed as a guide, 3/4" x 3/32" flat stock is bent to create a lip that will define the lower section of the bed (Photo 10-9). These bends are made around any solid round objects you might have in your shop. As you are making the bends, lay the workpiece on a flat bench or table from time to time to make sure it remains flat. It is quite easy for the workpiece to warp in one direction or another as you make each of the bends. The lower lip is then welded to the main section of the bed (Photo 10-10).

Using the pattern once again, flat stock is cut and welded to the bed framework (arrows) to support the sheet metal, which will be installed at the front of the bed (Photo 10-11).

Photo 10-9 Flat stock is bent around the pattern made earlier to create the lower section of the bed's side panel. Photo attribution
Photo 10-10 The lower lip is welded to the upper section of the bed. Photo attribution
Photo 10-11 Side supports (arrows) are welded to the bed framework for the front panel. Photo attribution

Sheet metal fabrication[edit]

Photo 10-12 Skinning the bed skeleton begins with a side panel. Photo attribution
To skin the side panel of the bed, the framework is tilted up on its side and set on a piece of sheet metal, and the outline of the bed side is traced onto the metal. The sheet metal is then cut and clamped solidly to the framework for tack welding (Photo 10-12). The tacked side is shown in Photo 10-13.
Photo 10-13 The side panel tack welded to the framework. Photo attribution
Photo 10-14 The front panel in place. Photo attribution
The front panel is cut and welded in place as shown in Photo 10-14. We want a rolled pan at the rear of the bed. However, before that can be fabricated, we need to mount the trailer hitch receptacle, which is being installed so we can tow a very lightweight (teardrop) trailer behind the car. Holes are drilled using the receptacle mounting plate as a guide, and the receptacle is bolted in (Photo 10-15).
Photo 10-15 A 3500-pound hitch receptacle is mounted to the frame. Photo attribution
Photo 10-16 The rolled pan begins with a piece of flat sheet metal. Photo attribution
To create the rolled rear pan we begin by cutting a piece of sheet metal to the width of the bed, and to a height that will span from the bottom of the tailgate to well under the bed (Photo 10-16).

This panel is then "rolled" using a 4' long section of 5" PVC pipe. The sheet metal is first clamped to the work table under 1x2 rectangular tubing (arrow A) which runs the width of the table. Next, the PVC pipe is placed tightly against the 1x2 tubing, and the pipe is clamped solidly to the table at each end (Photo 10-17).

To do the bending, a 5' length of angle iron (arrow B) is placed under the edge of the sheet metal. The entire length of the sheet metal can then be pried or lifted up and rolled evenly around the PVC pipe. As the sheet metal is lifted upward, it may also be necessary to use a mallet or hammer to tap on the underside of the panel, to coax the bending process along. However, this should be done in small increments, moving left and right on the panel so that the bend can be made evenly and uniformly.
Photo 10-17 The pan is "rolled" using PVC pipe. Photo attribution

Photo 10-18 shows the completed roll, and Photo 10-19 shows the rolled panel welded to the bed. To complete the rolled pan, an access hole is cut so that the hitch receptacle can be installed and removed. The hole is cut with a 4 1/2" angle grinder (with cutting blade), and then 3/16" steel rod is cut and welded all around the inside edge of the opening and ground smooth. This gives a more rounded and finished look to the access hole (Photo 10-20).

Photo 10-18 The panel after being formed over the PVC pipe. Photo attribution
Photo 10-19 The pan welded to the bed. Photo attribution
Photo 10-20 The hitch cutout is finished off around the edges with 3/16" steel rod. Photo attribution

Corner posts and wings[edit]

Photo 10-21 The corner post for the bed is cut from 2x3 rectangular tubing. Photo attribution
The rear corner posts for the bed are cut from 2x3 rectangular tubing. The bottom is cut in a semicircle pattern, and the top is cut at an angle for the "wing" to sit on (Photo 10-21). A small plate is cut and bent to cover the bottom of the post and then welded and ground smooth (Photo 10-22).
Photo 10-22 The finished corner post ready for mounting. Photo attribution
Photo 10-23 The rear post clamped to the bed. Photo attribution
The post can then be clamped in place for welding (Photo 10-23). The front posts are made differently, since they must be bent to follow the curve at the back of the body. Two separate pieces of 1x1 are cut, bent to fit the contour of the body, and welded together (Photo 10-24).
Photo 10-24 The front post is made with two separate pieces of 1x1, so that they can be bent to shape using our Harbor Freight bender which is not equipped to bend 1x2 or 2x3 tubing. Photo attribution
Photo 10-25 The front post ready for mounting. Photo attribution
The bottom of the post is then cut in a curve to match the curve at the bottom of the rear posts, and the cut section is filled with a plate and welded. The welds are ground smooth before the post is installed (Photo 10-25). The "wing" is cut from 1/8" flat stock, and is laid on the posts to mark the length (Photo 10-26).
Photo 10-26 The wing being measured for length. Photo attribution
Photo 10-27 The wing being tack welded in place. Photo attribution
The wing is then tack welded to the posts and the bed (Photo 10-27). The outer edge of the wing is given the appearance of being rolled by welding on a length of 1" pipe (Photo 10-28).
Photo 10-28 1" pipe is used to create the outer rolled edge of the wing. Photo attribution
Photo 10-29 Photo attribution
Both wings are shown in Photo 10-29. To bridge the void at the end of each wing (arrow Photo 10-30), a small plate is cut and ground to match the wing and tubing roll (Photo 10-31).
Photo 10-30 This void (arrow) must be bridged, and the end of the round tubing covered. Photo attribution
Photo 10-31 A pattern is made using posterboard, and then this plate is cut and ground to match the curve of the bed wing. Photo attribution
The plate is then welded to the post and wing, and ground smooth (Photo 10-32).
Photo 10-32 The end plate after welding and grinding. Photo attribution
Photo 10-33 A plate must be fabricated to cover this area on the back side of the post as well (the plate has already been installed in this photo). Photo attribution
A similar plate must also be made to cover the back side of the post, in the area shown already completed in Photo 10-33. This plate is a little more difficult to make since it wraps around the pipe, rather than covering the end of the pipe. To do this, the plate material is first drilled with a 1" hole (Photo 10-34). The template in the photo is then used to draw and cut out the rest of the plate.
Photo 10-34 The back side plate is made by first drilling a 1" hole in the flat stock, so that the plate will fit tightly around the tubing at the edge of the wing. Photo attribution

Frenching the tail lights[edit]

Photo 10-35 Holes are drilled in the rolled pan using a hole saw. Photo attribution
To create frenched tail lights, we begin by drilling three holes on each side of the rolled pan using a 2 1/4" hole saw (Photo 10-35). A backer plate is cut from sheet metal and drilled with the same size holes spaced exactly the same as the holes in the rolled pan (Photo 10-36).
Photo 10-36 A backer plate is made with holes drilled with the same spacing. Photo attribution
Photo 10-37 The lens material is from a common dropped ceiling lighting panel. Photo attribution
The lens for the tail light is cut from common plastic sheeting normally used for dropped ceiling light fixtures (Photo 10-37). The lens is fastened to the backer plate with screws (photo 10-38).
Photo 10-38 The lens is screwed to the backer plate. Photo attribution
Photo 10-39 The frenching "buckets" are cut from exhaust tubing. Photo attribution
The "buckets" used to recess the tail lights are cut from 2 1/4" 16-gauge exhaust tubing (Photo 10-39). The buckets are fitted into the holes in the pan (Photo 10-40) and the backer plate is fitted over the opposite ends of the buckets (Photo 10-41).
Photo 10-40 The "buckets" being fitted into the back side of the pan holes. Photo attribution
Photo 10-41 The backer plate is then fitted over the other end of the buckets. Photo attribution
Note that exhaust tubing has a welded seam on the inside. That seam should first be ground down with a burr, and then sanded smooth. If the seam is still a bit visible, it should be installed so that it will be at the top of the bucket where it will be the least visible. The buckets are then welded in place on each end (Photo 10-42).
Photo 10-42 The frenching buckets are welded to the pan and the backer plate. Photo attribution
Photo 10-43 The lenses are painted translucent candy apple red. Photo attribution
The lens is painted candy apple red (Photo 10-43). This paint can be purchased in very small spray cans at any hobby store and at many hardware stores. The candy paint is translucent. It will also be used in conjunction with red LED bulbs, to ensure a vivid red hue to the tail lights. The tail lights are housed in "boxes", which are fabricated from 1/8" flat stock. Photo 10-44 is an outside view of the box. The bulb socket is from the F-100 donor truck. The somewhat odd shape to the box is due to limited room between the rolled pan and the chassis.
Photo 10-44 The "light box" exterior view. Photo attribution
Photo 10-45 The inside of the "light box" showing the LED bulb and reflective material. Photo attribution
Photo 10-45 is a view of the inside of the box, and shows the LED bulb, as well as aluminum flashing being used to better reflect the light within the box. (Note: after the car was completed and driven for a period of time, a second "strip" of LED lights was added to the box to provide full illumination to all three tail light holes.) Photo 10-46 shows the light box installed, and Photo 10-47 shows the finished frenched tail lights.
Photo 10-46 The light box is mounted to the backer plate behind the rolled pan. Photo attribution
Photo 10-47. The completed bed. Photo attribution

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