Front Wheel Well Opening

By far the largest project on this "rebuild" was getting the new front tires/wheels to fit in the front fender wheel opening.
Before adding the lift kit the front tires/wheels barely fit into the wheel well opening. There was minimal clearance at the top of the tire and interference at the front of the opening when the wheels were turned. I expected adding the lift kit would solve the height problem, but because the wheel openings had a bit of an angle to them, I also hoped the lift kit would provide enough clearance for the wheels to turn....
Not so. With everything going back together the height clearance was good, but there was still interference when the wheels were turned inward. The tape in this picture shows what clearance I felt was needed. After some deliberation, I decided the best approach would be to cut out the lip around the front half of the wheel well opening and shift it forward about 1 1/2". I took the fenders to several body shops, but all were busy and really were not interested in this kind of custom work. One did come back and said they'd do it on a strictly time + material basis, but could not give me an estimate as to what they thought it would take.
I decided to tackle this myself - my first attempt at body work, but everyone has to start somewhere. I had already had the wheel wells undercoated for salt protection, so I had to strip that off where I was going to make the cut.
The lip around the wheel opening is about an inch and a half wide. I laid out the cut roughly an additional 1/2" inch onto the flat portion of the fender. This shows the outline of the two cuts needed to shift the opening forward 1 1/2" (note: this sequence of pictures mixes the work done on the left and right side fenders).
I then stripped the paint from the fender around where the cuts would be made figuring it would be easier to strip this for welding before the cut rather than stripping it after cutting. I made a vertical cut right where the wheel opening was relatively straight and relatively horizontal.
I wanted to weld the lip to the fender with the fenders mounted on the truck. Hopefully this would help avoid any stress due to the pieces being out of position. Here's the driver's side fender ready to get the lip welded on.
Here's the first rough fitting of the lip shifted forward 1 1/2". There's too large a gap in a number of places around the cut edges. The two pieces were trimmed and fitted until there was a reasonably uniform gap along the fitted edge (not perfect by any means, but to the point I was willing to work it).
After welding the lip onto the fender (while mounted on the truck), I pulled the fenders off to do some final welding touch-up on hard to reach areas.
I picked up some 16 gauge steel to fill in the gap created when the lip was moved forward. Here's a picture as I'm fitting the piece on one side.
By no means do I claim to be an expert welder, so I flipped the fenders and touched up the tack welds from the inside trying to make sure I didn't have any holes/gaps.
I wasn't too concerned about the looks/finish on the inside of the fender, so after I was happy with the general welding I hit the inside with primer, paint and rubber undercoating.
I then mounted the fenders (for the last time?) and started with the body filler, primer and paint process. I started by laying down some Duraglass over the primary weld areas. There were also some general low spots in the flat area that took a thin layer.
Several repeat applications of Duraglass followed by sanding with 80 grit got the general shape to something that was satisfactory.
I then laid down some self-etching primer and filler primer. Several repeat paint/sand sessions with 400 grit and things are looking pretty good.
Since I was doing the work anyway, I took the opportunity to patch a couple other cracks/holes in the fenders. I decided to rattle-can this and here I tried to blend/match to the existing color. Not bad, but in the end I decided simply to go with a "close" color and not try to blend/match.
Several rounds of filler primer, sanding, scuffing, filler primer, sanding, etc. got the fenders looking pretty smooth.
There were some blemishes in the original paint on parts of the fenders, so this also led to my decision to simply repaint the full fender with a close color rather than trying to match and only do a partial blending paint.
Here's the passenger fender with a full (wet) coat of etching primer.
Same fender, different view. I was rather pleased with the job as a whole.
A shot after the primer has dried.
After laying down the first coat of Rustoleum Fusion "Metallic Dark Metal". I'm sure all you real painters out there know this, but this paint does not wet sand / polish. Skipping all the pictures, let's just say I tried to buff this paint by sanding with 1500 and buffing it - didn't work. So reject that idea and simply spray on the paint.
Here's the driver's side fender ready to prime.
And here it is with the primer (wet) laid down.
About three cans per fender and it looks pretty good.
What I'm still not sure about is whether I need to add a clear sealer over the top of this. I'm happy with the looks, but are the fenders protected? Also yet to be determined is how well this will stand up to a good wax job.
I am happy with the way the hole enlargement went. Even knowing where the cut and patching went on, it is next to impossible to detect from the outside of the fender.