There's something about that "tucked" look of bigger-than-stock tires (wider and/or taller) beneath the front or rear flanks of a lowered 'Stang, especially when the car sits level or when a slight rake is in effect, thanks to the perfect combination of front and rear wheels and tires.
For years, one of the most popular and widely shared tricks for creating more tire clearance in the wheelwell has been to push back the lips (the edges of the fender panels that are tucked inside the wheelwells). This practice has become known as "rolling the fenders." Baseball bats, axes, jack handles, and other forms of cylindrical devices have been used for this procedure, in which the device is leveraged against a tire, then passed along the entire contour of a fender's lip as the tire is rotated slowly, and it presses the lip closer into the backside of the fender. We acknowledge that it's hypocritical to call this practice flat-out wrong because most of us have either done it or entertained the idea. But rolling the fender lips with a bat can certainly cause more damage than good if it isn't done carefully.
In the spirit of doing the right thing for your 'Stang, we took a closer, hands-on look at The Eastwood Company's fender roller (PN 31158; $249.99). This is a cool tool that makes increasing tire and fender clearance much easier and eliminates the worry of damaging fenders or paint.
While common practice is to make more room in the rear-fender area, we decided to use the fender roller to open up the front fenders on Dave Conrey's '97 Mustang GT coupe. Dave's 'Stang occasionally sees action on the road course and sports a full Griggs suspension system. The front end sits fairly low and, with the larger Nitto tires Dave uses, the outside walls occasionally scrub against the inside of the fenders when making turns or hitting bumps
After a few passes across the arch of each fender, Eastwood's fender roller remedied the situation in little time and without any hassle. This tool teeters on being a "must-have" for 'Stangbangers who want perfection with this type of mod or for those who might not have the necessary skills-or the Louisville Slugger-for handling it the old-fashioned way.
The first order of business is to lift the entire car or the corner (front/rear) on which the fender-rolling procedure is being performed. We're working without a chassis lift in the cozy confines of Primedia's underground parking garage, so we're using a super-lightweight (43 pounds) OTC two-ton aluminum racing jack (PN 1532; $324.95) to lift the car. The neat thing about this jack is that it has a low profile, so sliding it into a good jacking position under Dave's lowered 'Stang is no problem.
The baseball-bat method of rolling fenders requires keeping the wheels in place and using the tires for leverage as you roll the lip. Since Eastwood's fender roller mounts directly over the wheel lugs, removing tires is a must. Snap-on Tools' 18-volt, half-inch drive, cordless impact gun (PN CT4850; $449.96) cranks out 350 lb-ft of torque and makes this part of the job easier. A 131/416 deep-impact socket is also necessary, and make sure you have the key to your wheel locks before you begin.
The hub adapter plate on Eastwood's fender roller (PN 31158; $249.99) features holes that fit the four-lug and five-lug bolt patterns of '79-'06 Mustangs, and it's secured using the included dished washers and Dave's original lug nuts. The tool's forming arm is adjustable from 14 to 2231/44 inches, which makes it easily adaptable to seriously lowered 'Stangs or cars with higher ride heights.
Once the arm is in place, we simply guide it, which passes the roller across the arch of the fender and presses back the fender lip. While it isn't mandatory, Eastwood recommends using a heat gun on the area being rolled to help prevent it from cracking.
This is the Delrin forming roller that makes knocking down the fender lips a snap. The roller is mounted on a pivot that can be adjusted in or out to achieve the desired form without damaging your 'Stang's paint.
After the 40-minute process, Dave's front fenders have additional tire clearance that better suits his 'Stang's lowered stance and bonsai driving style on the road course.