Knock Knock

Check out this electronically-controlled hidden Gas Door

Grant Peterson Jun 29, 2005 0 Comment(s)

The "new-model-year-blues" has hit more than a few of us when we've come to realize that our car wasn't the latest and greatest any more. It's a dilemma that has been going on ever since the beginning of automotive time (and, of course, helps sell new cars). While the '55 Chevrolet was ahead of its time in many ways when new, after a few years had passed it was in the history books.

Over the years, many things old have seemingly become new again and we are still updating and thinking of "new" things for our favorite Tri-fives. Rocky, at Rocky Hinge, has developed something new for the '55 to help it catch up to--and surpass--its Tri-Five brethren in terms of its (to some) ugly flap-style gas door, which is located dead square in the middle of the left quarter panel. He made it possible to relocate the gas filler behind the taillight, like the '56 and '57s, but made the taillight open electronically with the flip of a switch from inside the car.

To see just how meticulous a system the Rocky's kit is, we took a short trip to Firehouse Fabrication where owner/fabricator Brett Maxwell had our project '55 Bel Air anxiously awaiting the subtle yet significant change.

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Here is the '55 two-door post project car at Firehouse Fabrication. It's been the host of many updates and it's not stopping there, sounds like a perfect candidate for the power hidden gas door.

This is the kit, complete with the wiring harness, motor plate with motor, filler neck and mounting plate, and new taillight socket and bulb.

After removing the taillight assembly, the horizontal mount gets cut out.

There is a seam on the inside of the quarter-panel that needs to be ground down for clearance of the motor plate.

Bolt "part A" to the motor plate. Our kit came with stainless hardware-- make sure to use anti-seize on the threads.

Trim the lip in the taillight opening so that "part A" will replace it once it gets welded in. When fitting and trimming, make sure that from the outside, bottom of the taillight opening to the back of the motor plate(towards the front of the car) measures close to 8 1/8 inches.

With the filler neck plate attached to the motor plate we can see that it fit pretty well inside the quarter-panel. With both sheet metal pieces fitting well and measuring correctly "part A" gets tack welded in.

We had to figure out a way to anchor the top of the filler neck plate to the inside of the quarter-panel. Brett quickly drilled a hole in a little piece of angle iron then we put everything back in and marked a spot on the filler neck plate to drill the matching hole. Disassemble, drill 1/4-inch hole for the 1/4-inch 20-bolt, bolt angle iron to panel, install, and then weld the angle iron to the top of the inside of the quarter-panel.

The stock taillight socket has to be removed or it will interfere with the gas filler. We cut the end off with a cut-off wheel and CAREFULLY ground the rest off with the angle grinder with a 60-grit disk.

We used the template in the kit to mark the hole for the new taillight socket. Center punch your mark, drill an 1/8-inch pilot hole, and finally we used a hole saw for the socket hole.

Bingo! In goes the new bulb and socket. There is a plug in the kit to plug the old hole.

Brett came up with a simple way to mark the blind holes in the motor plate to mount the tail light housing. First, cut the heads off two 1/4-inch 20 X 3/4-inch bolts. Next, grind and dress the cut end. Screw them into the motor plate and leave maybe a 1/4 inch out.

Brett had this piece of 5/8 inch tube in the scrap pile and quickly cleaned it up. Now, place one end over the cut off bolt in the motor plate. Grab some spray paint and give a couple of squirts inside the tube.

Doing this will leave ample paint on top of the cut off bolts, but won't get everywhere else. Quickly put the taillight housing in its place in the quarter-panel and plant it firmly on the motor plate while trying not to move it around too much and smear the paint. When done right, it will leave two little paint spots on the bottom of the taillight housing.

After center punching our marks, we drilled 1/8-inch pilots and then 5/16-inch holes. Start with that to give you a little adjustment. Check that out! It worked perfectly!

We bolted the housing in place and just so we didn't get ahead of ourselves, we hooked up some temporary power to the motor and did a test run. Not bad for the first run, but we needed to do some trimming.

Since the taillight isn't permanently attached to the quarter-panel any more we can trim these tabs flush with the rest of the opening. Other than that there were just a few spots around the opening that the housing was rubbing on.

Sources

Rocky Hinge Inc.
Girard, OH 44420
Firehouse Fabrication
Placentia, CA 92870
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