When it comes to Tri-Fives, there are common areas on all three model years that have rust problems. For ’55 and ’56 owners, one is the front fender eyebrows. The pockets inside the fenders where the eyebrow shape was stamped never saw any paint or rust preventative from the factory, and the area was a natural place for moisture and crud to collect, creating an ideal place to breed rust, especially in northern states that use salt on the roads during winter.
Today, a lot of otherwise good front fenders have been sent to the scrap heap because their eyebrows were so rusted that the cost of repairing them was nearly the same as purchasing a whole used fender with solid eyebrows. But with the supply of good used fenders dwindling, this isn’t the most cost effective option anymore (unless you score some sort of killer deal), and while new fenders are being made, there are those who prefer to keep as much original sheetmetal as possible on their cars.
To address this growing need, CARS Inc. came up with fender eyebrow patch panels for both the ’55 and ’56 Chevy so people could more easily repair their fenders. The patch panels are stamped in the USA out of factory gauge, high-quality steel so they’ll match the original fenders precisely. They come fully shaped with a tab included to help graft it onto the existing fender.
The front fenders on this 210 four-door sedan were in great shape, apart from a healthy case of eyebrow rust. They gave us the perfect opportunity to try out the CARS Inc. patch pieces, and they didn’t disappoint. See the following pics on what we did to install them.
01. Fixing rusty ’55 fender eyebrows is easier than ever and can save an otherwise good fender from going in the scrap pile.
02. Eyebrow rust is a common problem on ’55 and ’56 front fenders. From the factory, the only rust protection the area got was any overspray from the painting process, which was usually minimal, if non-existent. The cavity underneath would collect moisture and gunk, which caused them to rust out. To fix this, CARS Inc. offers eyebrow patch panels (PNs 8960 (left) and 8961 (right)) that are made in the USA and give you all the metal and shape necessary to replace your rusted-out eyebrows. They also make them for ’56s.
03. The first step was removing the headlight trim ring and headlight bucket assembly.
04. Our eyebrows were in very bad shape. They’d rusted out in the past and been “patched” using a slathering of Bondo and some shaping. There was very little metal left in this area on our otherwise rust-free fenders.
05. Here’s what we had after we chipped and pried away all the Bondo that had been used to fill in the gap.
06. The CARS Inc. patch comes with enough metal to repair a large portion of the fender eyebrow. An old rule of bodywork is don’t cut out metal that isn’t rusty, so we trimmed away what we wouldn’t need and test-fit what was left to our fender.
07. The underside of the eyebrow that forms part of the headlight bucket mount was rusted out as well. We used some of the surplus metal from our CARS Inc. patch to make a repair piece for this area as well.
08. After some shaping, trimming, and tweaking, here’s what we had to fix the area.
09. With that done, we did another test-fit on our eyebrow patch to verify fit and form.
10. Before welding in our patch we wiped it down with solvent then sprayed the inside with Eastwood’s zinc-rich galvanizing compound. This will protect the bare steel from rust and corrosion for decades to come, while not affecting the welding process.
11. While the patch was drying, we went to work prepping the rest of the area for welding. Using a DA we sanded away all the old paint and any corrosion till we had clean steel to weld to.
12. We fired up our Eastwood MIG 135 welder and started slowly tacking the patch in place. We did a slow bead style welding method here so we didn’t heat the panel up too much and cause shrinkage that would affect the fit and shape. When welding on metal, anytime you create too much heat in the metal with too long a welding bead/stream, you’ll create excessive heat in the metal, which will cause it to shrink substantially. This can ruin both the piece of replacement metal and what you’re trying to weld it to.
13. Moving slowly and allowing time for heat to dissipate, here’s what we had after about an hour’s worth of welding. We moved around the seam welding in different spots with plenty of space between welds to minimize the heat in any one area of the patch and fender. Once the seam is filled in, we’ll go back and grind down the welds to smooth out the seam and blend the two pieces of metal together.
14, 15. After some patient grinding and sanding, here’s what we ended up with. The seam is almost totally gone, and the metal is nice and smooth. A skim coat of body filler will provide the final smooth, then we can prime, final sand, and prep the area for painting to match the rest of the fender. The whole install took about half a day’s worth of work, and the result was a rust-free eyebrow and a completely solid fender.