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FENDERS & SHEET METAL: Front Fenders - 1955 vs. 1956
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BH
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Replacing front fenders on the 55-56 cars seems to generate some recurring questions on identification and interchange. Based on my personal ownership, parts inventory, and shopping experiences, I thought I would try to provide some insight.

All 1955 fenders have a slight feature line (crease) that runs along the top - both Junior AND Senior. That line was eliminated from the tooling for all 1956 fenders, to provide a smooth crown. While there may be some vehicles out there that run counter to this observation, it's my opinion that they've had fender replacements that are not authentic to the original build.

For 1955, there are only four part numbers to service all models: two (RH-LH) for Juniors (ALL Clippers) and two (RH-LH) for Seniors (Patrician, Four Hundred, and Caribbean). These service fenders have to be drilled/punched specifically for their respective script plates.

Above and beyond moulding locations, the only other difference between Junior and Senior fenders for 55 is the opening for the parking light - used on Seniors only. As a result, you can make a 55 Senior fender from a 55 Junior by carefully marking and cutting the opening, drilling the mounting holes, and fabricating and installing a sheet metal splasher for the lamp. (However, it's not as easy as it sounds.) Transplanting a section from a Senior fender to a Junior is another possibility - provided you have a solid donor.

For 1956, there were SIX part numbers to service all models: two (RH-LH) for all Clippers models; two (RH-LH) for Patrician, Four Hundred, and Caribbean models; and two (RH-LH) for Executive models. Some of these service fenders have to be drilled/punched specifically for their respective script plates.

I believe that all 56 fenders start out from the same basic stamping - from reworked 55 tooling. The 56 Senior fender appears to have been made from 56 Clipper stamping by cutting off the Clipper headlamp brow and welding on a "cap" with an extended brow and lead filling the seam. The 56 Clipper fender has the same parking light opening as a 56 Senior, but with a small strut bridging that opening, about 2/3 of the way back. I've seen that same strut in more than one NOS 56 Senior fender; it might be part and parcel of the stamping that just gets cut out for Seniors.

The 56 Executive fender is a 56 Senior fender with the holes for the lower spear moulding plugged from behind, with little tabs of sheet metal, and then filled from the front, with lead. New holes were then punched for the unique upper spear, which is a bit longer than corresponding part on 56 Clipper.

For both years, splashers (inner fenders) were pre-assembled to the front fenders for production, with MANY spot welds. However, the fenders and splashers were serviced separately, rather than as an assembly. The same splashers were used, Junior vs. Senior, within their respective model years - EXCEPT for the Caribbean convertible. The convertibles required additional reinforcement for bracing, as shown in this post from "Randy Berger's 1956 Caribbean" project blog, and affirmed in the discussion that followed.

Finally, on a related note, you might also be interested in this post from member Ross (Miller), which provides some documented insight as to a few of the whys and wherefores of "Engine Bay Detailing" on these cars.

Posted on: 2012/1/8 21:31
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