How to Replace a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Hardtop Filler Panel and Package Tray

Tri Five Package Tray Redux - We replace our hardtop’s hacked-up and rusty package tray and filler panel with new parts from Classic Industries.

Patrick Hill Jun 30, 2014 0 Comment(s)
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If you’ve ever bought an unrestored Tri-Five, you know that it’s a rare sight to find one with an unmolested package tray. All too often successive owners would want a pair of stereo speakers in the back to blast tunes or holes to clear the bars for a rollcage, usually leaving some really hacked up sheetmetal (typically covered up by the package tray cover panel). You could also find rust if the car had leaky rear windows.

Today, repairing the package tray is easier than ever thanks to Classic Industries’ new filler panel/package tray assemblies available for two-door hardtops (PN 400650) and sedans (PN 400651). They’re patterned off original virgin metal, so the fit and finish is superb, making installation a breeze.

Our ’55 hardtop had the usual speaker hack job done to it decades ago and needed some new metal thanks to rust in the channel area on the driver side from the galvanic corrosion issues we found once we started digging into the car to fix other rust. One call to Classic Industries and they sent us our new panel assembly. Classic sells just about everything you’d need to fix a two-door hardtop or sedan, providing one-stop shopping for anyone with a ’55-’57 project in their garage.

Installing the panel was pretty easy. Our Eastwood plasma cutter made removal of the old panel simple, but a cutoff wheel will work just as well and only take a little more time and patience. When installing the new panel, a MIG welder is a must (or a TIG if you’ve got the skills, bonus points to any readers so qualified!) and if you don’t have one, Eastwood sells a great MIG that runs on household current for only $350, including the welding cart. We’ve been using ours on several projects, it welds fantastically.

So, enough yacking, let’s get to the installation.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Eastwood Plasma Cutter 2/11

1. To make removing the old filler panel/package tray easier, we used our handy Eastwood plasma cutter and sectioned out pieces of the panel so we’d have easier access to drilling out the spot welds holding it in.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Plasma Cutter Metal 3/11

2. The plasma cutter made quick work of removing the old metal. Since our ’55 was already gutted from earlier work, we didn’t have to worry about the sparks from the cutter igniting anything. Something to always keep in mind when using a plasma cutter.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Trunk Hinges 4/11

3. We cut around the trunk hinges, leaving a section of metal spot-welded to the hinge.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Bare Steel 5/11

4. The filler panel is actually two pieces spot-welded together. Our first cuts with the plasma removed the upper panel. Interestingly enough, you can see where the inside of this assembly was bare steel when it left the factory and never painted.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Package Tray 6/11

5. Back to work with the plasma, we cut out the lower section of the filler, along with the package tray.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Eastwood Spot Weld Cutter 7/11

6. We left the trunk hinges in place, so the way we cut the rest of the filler panel out meant we didn’t have to deal with measuring and relocating our hinges to the new panel, a time consuming process. If the hinges are off even a little bit you won’t be able to install the decklid, let alone close it. We used our Eastwood spot weld cutter (PN 11283) to drill out the spots welds and clean up the last bits of the old panels. Getting the other metal out of the way made it a lot easier.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Decklid 8/11

7. After cleaning up the mounting tabs and shooting them with some Eastwood zinc rich galvanizing compound, we set the decklid filler panel assembly (PN TF400650) in place. The decklid filler panel is also available separately under part number TF400661. They’re made based off original panels, so the fitment was spot-on when we set it in place.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Clecos 9/11

8. To hold the panel in place, we used Clecos from our Eastwood Panel Holding Kit (PN 19074) so we could prep for welding.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Spot Welder Holes 10/11

9. Where the filler panel and the passenger-side quarter-panel meet, we drilled a series of holes using our spot-weld cutter for welding the two pieces together. We then used our 135-amp Eastwood MIG welder to stitch everything up. Underneath, we seam-welded the panel to the mounting tabs on the trunk hinges.

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Eastwood Galvanizing Spray 11/11

10. And there you have it. After the welds had cooled, we hit them with some Eastwood galvanizing spray to keep them from rusting. We left the driver-side loose for when we install that side’s quarter-panel. We’ll install the reinforcement strip for the rear window once that’s in place and we can set our rear window in place to properly align the reinforcement strip.

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