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Installing a Tailgate Handle Flip Kit with Engle Bros. Fab.

Our Quest for 90’s Sport Truck Perfection Continues

May 28, 2020
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Things are heating up fast with our recently acquired 1995 Chevy C1500. The project began as a pretty worn out standard cab short bed. We limped it home and spent a couple days making it road-worthy, then we added a smooth lid from Snug Top, which instantly improved the looks of the truck. At this point, we decided to transform the truck into a respectable '90s custom. In the previous installment, we welded in a custom steel roll pan from Grant Fab. Today, we're going to do some cutting and welding on the tailgate when we install a tailgate handle flip kit.
We're not sure which shop was the first to figure out that you could cut into the tailgate of these trucks from the inside panel, turn the handle around to that side, and build a bracket to hold it. However, it does allow us to weld in a filler panel on the outside, resulting in a shaved tailgate. Hot Rods by Boyd was one of the first hot rod builders that embraced the new GM body style when they were introduced for 1988. Other companies like Traders, Gaylord's, and California Custom built their entire business around them, churning out an unimaginable amount of custom trucks over the 11-year run of the trucks for regular customers, dealerships and even exporting to other countries.
Photo 2/25   |   When we last left off of our Retro 90's C1500 build, we had just welded in our Grant Fab steel roll pan. But we had one more item to shave off the rear end before we called the back end done.
At this point, the "tailgate handle flip kit" is made by many different companies with varying degrees of precision. We ordered one up from Summit Racing, and when it arrived, we headed back down to Fountain Valley so Engle Bros. Fabrication could once again do the welding for us. We knocked this out in about an hour, and soon we were back at home, ready to do some body work and paint, which you will read all about in the very next installment. Follow along below and let us know what you think of our retro build so far!
Photo 3/25   |   The "tailgate handle flip kit" became popular with these trucks back when they were new. There were tons near-identical kits for sale online so we just picked one and waited for it to arrive. The kit consists of the new bracket, the screws to hold it in place, and the filler piece.
Photo 4/25   |   Once back at Engle Bros. Fab, we got started on the process by removing the three bolts that hold the tailgate assembly in place.
Photo 5/25   |   On the outside of the tailgate, we gently pried the tailgate handle off.
Photo 6/25   |   Then we unhooked each of the rods that run out to the latches.
Photo 7/25   |   With the factory handle out of the way, Dave begins measuring off the areas on the inside of the tailgate that will be cut out.
Photo 8/25   |   Each line was measured and taped off to ensure an accurate cut.
Photo 9/25   |   Dave used a 4-inch grinder with a metal-cutting disc for a perfectly straight cut.
Photo 10/25   |   Basically, we're cutting out a square where the relocation bracket will drop into, providing a mounting point for the handle.
Photo 11/25   |   Eventually, all four sides were cut and the section was removed and discarded.
Photo 12/25   |   The three factory bolts were used to bolt the tailgate handle to the relocation bracket. The plastic rod clips were flipped over at this time as well.
Photo 13/25   |   Then we flipped the new bracket over and popped the bezel in.
Photo 14/25   |   Now we could reclip the rods back in to the tailgate handle and drop the new handle in place, which fits perfectly in our newly cut opening. Then we drilled out each of the mounting holes.
Photo 15/25   |   The screws were snugged down in each hole, securing the new bracket in place.
Photo 16/25   |   At this point, the tailgate was closed, and we made sure it latched and unlatched as it should. With the mechanical portion of the install complete, we turned our attention to the cosmetics.
Photo 17/25   |   The kit also comes with a filler piece, the actual part that completes the "shave" of the tailgate.
Photo 18/25   |   Dave ground away the area around the opening in preparation to weld the panel in place.
Photo 19/25   |   He also cleaned up the edges of the filler piece itself.
Photo 20/25   |   With the panel sitting perfectly in the opening, we were finally ready to weld.
Photo 21/25   |   Dave started by tacking in the corners. Heat is a big factor here. If you don't take your time and tack a few spots at a time, the heat will cause the area to sink. More heat than that, and you can warp some sheet metal parts to the point that they are unusable.
Photo 22/25   |   Slowly but surely, we tacked in the filler until there was very little space between the welds.
Photo 23/25   |   Soon, we were grinding the welds smooth with the four-inch grinder and flap disc.
Photo 24/25   |   Soon, the section was perfectly smooth and ready for finish work.
Photo 25/25   |   Back at home, the back end is now up to our 90's custom standards. All that's left to do is make it all white again. Be sure and check back for the next installment where we do just that!

Source Box:

Engle Bros. Fabrication
Summit Racing


Summit Racing