A lot of what we need to do to our classic Chevys, in terms of bodywork, revolves around fixing the ravages of time. Rust, dents, and other damage has to be repaired, but some metal manipulation falls squarely into the “want” category. One of these are mini-tubs. Yep, chicks (and let’s be honest, guys, too) love big rear tires but most of our classic Chevys, especially the earlier years, were never designed to run über-wide rear rubber. Thanks to the aftermarket, the fix for this oversight is easy, pre-formed mini-tubs. Yep, metal inner tubs that are formed to look factory but engineered to allow the biggest tire possible under your ride. Our 1963 Chevy II project will eventually be getting a Schwartz Performance chassis, so with all of that handling potential we wanted to get wider rubber out back. Fortunately, the fine folks over at Detroit Speed (DSE) have a mini-tub kit specifically designed for the 1962-’67 Chevy II (PN 040404). The mini-tub kits allows for a 295mm wide tire for the 1962-’65 rides and a 315mm tire for 1966-’67 cars. That’s a ton more room than stock, and the kit comes with all the templates needed to make it as painless as possible.
Our Chevy II project was in pretty rough shape with a ton of rust, rot, and other crimes against metal. We cut both quarters away so we could mediablast the inner structure and this made doing wider wheeltubs a no-brainer since they were so easy to access by the craftsmen at Superstition Restoration in Mesa, Arizona. Of course, most of you will be doing this dance with the quarters in place, so keep in mind that the process is roughly the same except our way made it easier to snap photos. Once this project is done we’re going to stitch on some fresh Golden Star Classic Auto Parts quarter-panels, which should go a long way toward making our Chevy II look like a solid car again.
1. The first things to go were the trunk hinge supports. We cut them free from the old inner wheeltubs with an air chisel. At the end of the project they will be reattached to the new DSE inner tubs.
2. Superstition Restoration’s Justin Smith then used a cutoff wheel to remove the majority of the outer wheeltubs. Take note of how we cut around the brace near the C-pillar.
3. With the big chunks out of the way we started drilling out all the spot welds so we could remove the edges of the old panels. You can use a regular drill bit, but specialized spot weld bits makes the job easier and cleaner.
4. Once a flange was free of spot welds it was removed from the Chevy II.
5. The DSE kit comes with paper templates that makes the job much easier. We simply cut them out, put them in place on the Chevy, and traced outlines. This also gives you a good idea of how much space we’ll be gaining with the mini-tub kit.
6. With our line marked, we started cutting away the metal. You can use a cutoff wheel or any type of tool you choose. We opted for our Miller plasma cutter.
7. With that section removed we could see that our new tubs will intrude into the framerail area. With the DSE kit, the framerail is “thinned” out a bit to allow for wider tires.
8. More DSE templates, this time for the framerail patch panels, were traced onto some new sheetmetal.
9. Once traced, we cut out the pieces using our Miller Spectrum 375 Xtreme plasma cutter.
10. We then used our newly made patch panel to mark where we would need to cut the stock framerail.
11. Once marked, we cut away the side of the stock framerail.
12. The new panel was then MIG welded in place flush with the edge of where our DSE wheeltub will end up. This way we will have maximized the amount of room for larger tires.
13. With that done, we could test-fit our new Detroit Speed mini-tub. As you can see, the initial fitment was excellent. The tubs are stamped from 18-gauge steel here in the USA and are 2.5-inches wider than stock.
14. We also could test-fit our outer wheelhouse from Golden Star Classic Auto Parts. Now, this portion of the job was easier since the rotted quarters had been removed but the overall order of operations would be the same if the quarters were still there.
15. Using a pneumatic punch we prepped the DSE mini-tubs and Golden Star Classic Auto Parts outer tubs by adding welding holes along the flanges. You can use a drill for this, it will just take a bit longer to get done.
16. Before we fired up the Miller 215 MIG welder we hit all the exposed metal (where it would be covered by the new panels) with some weld-through primer. This will help protect the metal and the next guy to restore this Chevy will thank us.
17. The DSE inner mini-tub was then put in place and Superstition Restoration’s Mike Rossi started MIG welding it to the Chevy II. A good selection of locking pliers were used to hold everything in place.
18. In addition to welding the DSE inner tub to the framerail and trunk floor we also spot-welded it to the rocker panel.
19. The Golden Star Classic Auto Parts outer wheeltub was then put in place with the forward flange sandwiched between the Chevy’s flange and the DSE mini-tub.
20. We then started tacking it all together with the Miller MIG.
21. The key to having a nice finished job is keeping the various flanges up against each other as tightly as possible. To do this we used locking pliers, which we moved as we went, and a small body hammer.
22. This process was repeated along the entire flange of the wheeltubs.
23. The C-pillar brace was welded to the Golden Star Classic Auto Parts outer wheeltub.
24. The C-pillar brace was protected with some primer and later, paint.
25. Lastly, we reattached the trunk support brace to the Detroit Speed mini-tub.
26. Some trimming of the back seat support bracing was needed (using templates supplied in the DSE kit) and, to make sure everything was secure, the edges were tacked to the new DSE mini-tubs.
27. Just to make everything extra nice, we went over all of the seams with 3M brushable seam sealer. With the mini-tubs done we could now work on getting new quarter-panels on our rescued 1963 Chevy II. But that’s a story for another day.
Photography by Jason Scudellari