Bigger is Better
By Don Emmons

In today's world of classic automobiles, there are many companies that produce patch panels to repair rusted section, whether it's a truck or a car. Patch panels can bring n old rusty body back to shining glory. A new product made my Mike Chessers Auto Emporium is a metal Big Window conversation unit that transforms a '56 standard cab into a deluxe cab model that all Ford F-100 owners dream about.

The Mike Chessers' Big Window unit is made just like Ford made the rear cab section originally, but this piece extends down approximately 3 inches below the lower edge of the window opening. In order to make the conversion, the top back body seam must be cut open. Also, both doorjambs must be cut, and the back panel must be cut below the small window opening. Now that may sound easy. That is how it's done, but it is far from easy. Ask y any professional body man about welding across a wide, basically flat expanse like the back of an F-100 cab and they will be emphatic that you need good welding skills or the body could end up badly warped. If you have to start heating shrinking wide body panels, a talented craftsman would be needed to save the project We are not trying to talk anyone out of making the changeover, because it does work out very well, but be aware that a talented body man is needed here. You may want to contact a good body shop in your area, show them this article, and ask if they will do the conversion. The project works out so well if done right and no one will be the wiser as you tool down Main Street in your newly acquired Big Window '56.

Kirk Bates is fond of F-100 pickups, especially the '56 Custom Cab model with that big wraparound back window. However, because of the limited number that were built for 1956, they are not easy to find and those out there come at a premium. He settled for a small window that was within his means and built an enjoyable vehicle , but always eyed a Big Window with envy. Now Kirk's standard model draws those same looks after the crew at Bobco in Lake Elsinore, California, performed the makeover magic. Thanks to the new factory-type metal wraparound window unit and the new glass that's available now, everyone can own a fishbowl cab.

1.Kirk bates owns this very nice '56 Ford F-100. He drove it daily and enjoyed it to the fullest until he heard that Bobco in Lake Elsinore, California, was converting a standard cab into a wrap around.

2.Here's what it takes to convert a '56 F-100 to the more desirable Big Window model. It is a metal stamping that is like the original Ford setup, except when those trucks were built, the window area was part of the entire rear cab section. Now, the new piece extends only about 3 inches below the lower edge of the window opening.

3.This truck really is good-looking after the body makeover surgery at Bobco. A few days, a paint touchup, and this one is ready to strut its stuff.

4.If the cab undergoing the makeover is a completely finished truck such as Kirk's, precautions must be taken not to damage any of the interior, including the upholstery on the doors that will be help open while work is being done. The seat must be removed along with the rear portion of the headliner and any upholstery installed to the rear section of the cab. If the gas tank is still in the cab, it must be covered up as well. The easiest way to cover the entire front portion of the interior is to use a large cardboard box, opened and placed inside to cover everything including the doors. Sparks from the welder and grinders will damage everything in the interior so good covering is a must.

5.Apply inch masking tape on both sides of the body seam. Measure the height of the new window unit and mark it off on the cab for reference.

6.Place inch masking tape along the edge of the bodyline, which will provide a line for the lower cut. You will have to make another cut in the area later when the new unit is set into place, but that gets rid of the old section for now.

7.Drill out the spot-welds from the doorjamb, so you will be able to remove the back panel brace. It is best to first center-punch the middle of the weld and then drill it out with a inch drill bit. You need to drill only through the jamb area to cut the weld loose.

8.The center top brace must also be cut loose. There are several spot-welds here. Center punch each and drill them to release the brace. When cutting out spot-welds like these, cut through the front piece of the sheet metal only. That usually cuts it loose, but some spots may require a little more drilling.

9.A hammer and chisel can be used to break the welded pieces apart. If they do not break loose easily, each spot-weld may have to be drilled a little deeper.

10. The lower tape is inch below the body seam. The tape acts as a guide for making the top cut. It is best to cut the panel loose, rather then trying to cut through the body seam. Start at the doorjamb, but do not cut completely through. Follow the lower edge and cut all the way across.

11. Repeat the same procedure along the lower tape guideline. Be sure to cut along the lower edge.

12. Again, use the die grinder and cutoff wheel to cut the doorjamb area. Cut down the sides just inside the outside edge. It's important to check that the top and bottom cuts are all the way into the doorjambs.

13. Now that all cuts s have been made, lift out the window section. Say goodbye to that old small window.

14. Notice that the majority of each doorjamb was left uncut. We know that the lower cut looks to be very much out of line, but it's just the camera angle. Trust us.

15. Now that the window area is gone, it's easy to get into the lower portion of the body seam to locate the spot-welds. To get a better look at the spots, work a piece of rough sandpaper along the surface. That makes it much easier to see all of them.

16. Drill out the spot-welds so the seam can be separated and the small strip of metal that is still connected to the top section can be removed.

17. After all spot-welds have been drilled out, start removing the remaining window metal. A chisel will help in areas where the spot-welds were not cut all the way out. Work carefully and do not bend the remaining jamb pieces any more then necessary.

18. Separate the two pieces up on the seam. Drilling the spot-welds does not cut it all loose, so a chisel will be needed to cut the two apart. A power chisel is a little quicker then a hammer and chisel, but work carefully if using a stronger power unit not to cut into the lip of the top section or bend the edges.

19. When working in the corners, you may have to cut slightly into the jamb to free the pieces that are being removed.

20. Now that everything has been cut loose and removed, work the areas where the welds were cut loose with a hammer and dolly to make them good and flat again. That will also need to be done across the top seam.

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