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  • Installing CPP’s Hidden Tailgate Latches on a 1956 Ford F-100

Installing CPP’s Hidden Tailgate Latches on a 1956 Ford F-100

Hidden Latches, Deleting the Chains, and Hydraulic Rams

Kev Elliott
Sep 21, 2015
Photographers: Kev Elliott
After adding wheel tubs and a new front panel, fabricating a roll pan, and adding trick exhaust outlets and new lights, our much-modified '56 F-100 pickup bed was almost ready to be media blasted and reunited with the chassis. Almost, because the tailgate required some attention first.
We've never been a fan of the chains used by Ford on these tailgates, or the method of latching the 'gate shut, and decided both needed to go on this build. The latter problem was easily solved with a visit to Classic Performance Products for a pair of their stainless steel Stealth Tailgate Latches, while the former took some figuring out. As we've raised the floor in this bed, we figured a pair of stops that only allowed the tailgate to fold down at 90 degrees could be hidden under there, which quickly led us to consider hiding a pair of gas rams there too.
Sure, it's a lot of fabrication, but such work can be enjoyable, almost therapeutic. At least it is for us, in the same way some enjoy building engines. Finally, our bed is ready to go back on the chassis.
Photo 2/30   |   Stealth Tailgate Latches
1 The Stealth Tailgate Latches were supplied by CPP with all hardware and rubber grommets, as well as a detailed instruction guide. However, as they are designed for Chevy pickups, we read the instructions then adapted them for our F-100.
Photo 3/30   |   One Of The Stealth Tailgate Latches Exploded
2 Here's one of the latches "exploded." The black knob retains the spring-loaded inner "bolt" that latches into the bedside panel through the rubber grommet. The stainless Allen bolt holds the assembly to the tailgate.
Photo 4/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Hook Welded To Tailgate
3 The F-100 has these hooks welded to the tailgate, to which the chain latches when shut, or hooks into when open. No chains meant no need for the hooks.
Photo 5/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Hook Removed From Tailgate
4 With the hooks removed, the tailgate looked like this. We then extended the lip on the side of the tailgate all the way to the top and extended the curved "tube" across the top of the tailgate out to the edge.
Photo 6/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 New Latches Mount Here
5 The new latches mount here, but inside the top of the tailgate.
Photo 7/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Hole Drilled For The Mounting Bolt
6 With a centerline scribed for the latch, we drilled a 3/16-inch hole for the mounting bolt, and a pair of ¼-inch holes that will become the ends of a slot for the actuating knob.
Photo 8/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Cutting Slot Between Two Holes
7 Cutting between the two holes using a cut-off wheel, the slot was dressed with a small file then de-burred.
Photo 9/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Marked Centerline For The Grommet
8 As the latches are intended for Chevys, there's more leeway in where they can pass through the bedsides. On the Ford, they had to pass through the small lip where the stake pocket pinch welds to the bedside. We transferred the forward edge of this lip to the inside of the bed, then marked a centerline for the grommet.
Photo 10/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Latch In Place
9 With the latch in place, you can see it's forward of the centerline, meaning any hole drilled here would cut into the stake pocket on the outside. It needed to come rearward by 3/16-inch.
Photo 11/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Fabbed Three Sixteenth Spacer
10 Our solution was to fab a 3/16 spacer...
Photo 12/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Spacer Plug Welded To Inside Of Tailgate
11 ...and plug weld it to the inside of the tailgate. The slot lined up with the holes we'd already drilled in the tailgate.
Photo 13/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Latch Fit Where It Needs To Be
12 The latch now fit where it needed to, aligning with our centerline mark.
Photo 14/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Pulling And Releasing Actuating Knob
13 Now the latch was installed, pulling and releasing the actuating knob a few times, the point on the pin marked where we needed to drill a 7/16-inch hole for the grommet.
Photo 15/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Grommet Installed And Tailgate Latched
14 With the grommet installed, the tailgate is securely latched, and we could now set about finishing off the ends of the tailgate neatly.
Photo 16/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Making Sure Hole Is Positioned Correctly
15 After making a card template to ensure the 5/8-inch hole for the latch was positioned correctly, we fabricated it in steel and welded it in place. Note we also relieved the lip to allow the latch to be installed.
Photo 17/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Welds Ground Down And Latch Installed
16 With the welds ground down, the latch was installed.
Photo 18/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Tailgate Latch Completely Installed
17 The completed installation. No more clunky chains for this Effie!
Photo 19/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Welds By Tailget Hinge
18 While we were working on the tailgate, we decided to lose these ugly welds down near the hinges.
Photo 20/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Drilled And Plug Welded Panel
19 We drilled and plug welded the panel, then ground the welds down and carefully ground away the old welds for a smoother appearance. Small details...
Photo 21/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Tailgate Chains Gone
20 With the chains gone, our tailgate now had no way to be held open. We used a square to determine when it was open at 90 degrees, and since we've raised the floor to clear the notched chassis, decided to fabricate stops under the floor that would be hidden with the tailgate closed.
Photo 22/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Card Template For Pivot Point Of Hinge
21 Another card template allowed us to determine where to locate the stops in relation to the pivot point of the hinge, as well as keeping them under the floor.
Photo 23/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Cutting Down Section Of Steel Tube
22 Cutting down a section of 3/8-inch-wall large-diameter steel tube and welding it to a straight section of similar thickness steel, produced a pair of stops, here clamped in place ready for welding.
Photo 24/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Welding Stops And Paltes To Tailgate
23 We used our Miller Diversion TIG welder, both to weld the stops and to plug and seam weld the plates to the tailgate.
Photo 25/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Plates Bolted To The Arms
24 The parts that actually hold the tailgate at 90 degrees are these plates bolted to the arms. They have to be bolted in order to remove the tailgate. We cut a slot in the plate and welded a tab through the slot, then used a ¼-20 bolt on the underside of the arm, and a pair of 10-32 bolts in the ends (the double washers are temporary, until we get shorter bolts).
Photo 26/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Adding Gas Struts To The Stops
25 We then decided to add gas struts to the stops, so fabricated these brackets to attach the struts, using 10mm balls.
Photo 27/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Adding Gas Struts Parallel To The Floor
26 We tried various positions for the struts, the best being mounting them parallel with the floor. However, we swapped out these 50-pound struts for some 35-pound versions that offered much smoother operation.
Photo 28/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Forward End Of The Struts
27 At the forward end of the struts, we used these readily available brackets.
Photo 29/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Tailgate Shut
28 Here's what the stops and struts look like with the tailgate shut.
Photo 30/30   |   1956 Ford F 100 Tailgate Finished
29 The finished project with no chains and a much cleaner appearance.


Miller Electric
Appleton, WI 54912
Classic Performance Parts



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