Building Custom Mini Wheel Tubs for Pile House

One thing a lot of longterm builds have in common is that the builder or owner tend to change their minds throughout the build. This has definitely been the case with Project Pile House. Over the past two years I've changed Pile House from being a "thrown-together" type build to something a bit more thought out and nicer. Even small items like wheel and tire combo have changed and caused me to go back and adjust things as needed. When I was setting the body on the chassis and building the custom firewall for Pile House I had built everything around using a set of 14" wheels and tires. I later decided to upsize the wheels and tires to some shiny 15" Coker Tire wide whites and chrome steel wheels. This meant that when the truck was "aired out" the front edges of the cab sat on the tires.

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As much as I hate cutting things apart I already built on a project, it wasn't right and I had to get the weight of the cab off of the tires when parked. I decided to make up some mini wheel tubs for the corners using Eastwood tools. I started by marking out the areas of the cab that were hitting when the truck was aired out. I then measured out a few inches all around that area to give adequate clearance around the wheels and tires.

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Since I couldn't tell exactly how far I needed to cut up into the cab corners I decided to put a couple relief cuts in the cab corners and slowly let the truck down until it hit the metal, then cut again until there was no interference. From there I made the last cut and was left with a sizable hole in the cab corners.

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With my holes cut in the cab I took some chipboard and cut patterns that would make up my wheel tub. I taped the chipboard tub in place and raised and lowered the vehicle to make sure I had adequate clearance. I then took the pattern apart and cut the two pieces out of 18 gauge steel using the throatless metal shears. The side panel of the tub was just a flat piece of metal, but the top piece needed to take on a radius to fit around the tire. There are a few ways to do it including putting flanges on the ends and using the shrinker to create the desired radius, then cutting the flanges off, or bending over your knee, etc. I decided to do it the cleanest/quickest way and used the bench top english wheel to form the an even radius in the panel. I slowly worked the metal until it matched the radius I cut into the side of the cab corner.

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With the two pieces cut and formed I test fitment of them one last time and then took them to the workbench and tack welded them together. I then ran a series of short welds in the seam of the panel using the TIG 200.

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With the tubs now formed I mounted them in place and slowly tack welded them into the cab assuring that the gaps were tight and the tub was fitting correctly. There were a few spots that were a tiny bit too large so I used the angle grinder and a flap disc to shave the metal down until it was flush. After the panel was securely tack welded in place, I alternated around each seam while welding it together using the TIG 200. Once all of the seams were welded I used the flap disc to blend the seams into the surrounding metal. I then used a red sanding disc to take out the major scratches and leave an even finish on the entire area. This left a near invisible modification to the cab. I can now use a skim coat of filler or a coat of high build primer and the firewall is ready for paint.

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This solved my issues with the cab hitting the tires and it will also allow me to turn the wheels even when driving very low if I so choose. In the end I am happy I went back and did the job right instead of just letting the cab rest on the tires!

-Matt/EW

12 thoughts on “Building Custom Mini Wheel Tubs for Pile House”

  • Roger

    Project Pile House is a "cool" project and I have enjoyed watching and reading the "blog", plus I have bought tools that make my projects so much easier to do!
    One thing I noticed, and you probably have thought about it, when you have it aired down but still drive able do you have tire clearance on the inside for turning?
    Thanks,
    Roger

    Reply
    • MattM

      Hi Roger,

      I did add some additional clearance on the inside of the tubs in the cab corners for turning when the truck is very low. There is about 70-80% turning radius when it is that low, which really will only be for shows or parking lot cruising at it is dangerously low when at that height.

      Thanks for reading,

      Matt

      Reply
  • Ox

    This is precisely the kind of project I've been looking for. Meaning that I've now acquired a fair number of metal working tools but I lack the experience to use them properly so I've been looking online for small scale skill building or learning projects - preferably car related - that clearly show step by step instructions and that are small enough in scope that they could be done in a weekend so as to be able to go on to the next skill building project. Bravo!

    Reply
  • Roger

    Awesome job.
    One other thing to think about, and I didn't until after the build was completed and painted on my 37 Ford, is the clearance you have on the outside of the tire tread next to the fender edge. When you're riding looow and you turn your tires out the tire tread doesn't catch the inside edge of of the fender and bend it. After I screwed mine up that way I epoxyed a round tube on the inside fender lip so when I turn to sharpe the tire tread will ride along the tube and not catch and bend the fender lip.

    Thanks, Roger

    Reply
  • Bill in AZ

    Nice documentation of your project. This gives me ideas for clearance with larger tires on my 4X4. Good Job.

    Reply
  • CKRockett

    When writing these articles, please keep in mind that not all of us "know the vernacular". Like "when the truck was 'aired out'". ??? Huh? What the hell is "aired out"? driven down the road with the windows down? Who farted? Okay, so I was (maybe) finally able to surmise that you mean that this truck has a pneumatic suspension and when the air is let out the suspension drops, creating the conditions of interference you're talking about here. Woulda been more helpful if you'd mentioned that to begin with. Call me "Dumb", but... (or just call me "dumb butt")

    Reply
  • Dick Bozarth

    Maybe it's the perspective I get from the pictures, but I get the impression that things are going to be great until you hit a pot hole? I question the total tire clearance.

    Reply
  • James

    Great to see as I have to do a lot of welding and fabrication on the floors and trunk area on my 1971 full size Chevy convertible as no one makes hardly any sheet metal for it

    Reply
  • Lowell Hilton

    I remember the beginning of this project, seeing pictures of just a pile of metal. I hate to admit, but I haven't kept up with progress. Looking good, and being an "old dog" i was not familiar with terminology, so I, like CKRockett, had to do a little head scratching for a minute about the term, "aired out". Back in the day, the term meant pretty much as he said," roll the windows down and get some fresh air in here!" But things change and it didn't take long to figure out what you referred to. After reading and viewing this report, I shall make an effort to better keep up with your progress.

    Reply
  • Chris

    Thanks for doing the "build" for us hot rodders out there. Because of you guys sharing your knowledge with us, it gives us ideas on how to take our rides to the next level. I know that, as a result of these series, my buddies and I are looking at Eastwood products more seriously, and are purchasing more from Eastwood.
    Thanks, Chris

    Reply
  • Rich G.

    I have a 51 dodge pickup all finished and I'm also the guy who picked the name pilehouse for you. This is an area I missed in my build. When I hit a big dip in the road I get a slight wheel rub on one side. You did a great job explaining and showing how to fix it. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

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