Thursday, April 30, 2009

Removing the Front Suspension

The next part of Ol' Rusty in line for spit-n-polish is the front end and engine compartment. But, her big feet are dangling in the way so we need to pop 'em off of there.

The front suspension consists of a shock absorber tucked inside of a coil spring...

... the coil spring is connected to the spring perch. The spring perch is connected to the upper control arm. The upper control arm is connected to the upper ball joint. The upper ball joint is connected to the spindle. The spindle is connected to the lower ball joint. And, the lower ball joint is connected to the lower control arm. The upper control arm and lower control arm are both connected to the shock tower and that's what it's all about.

So, now that I'm up on my suspension anatomy, it's time to tear it down starting with the front shock absorber which is bolted to the shock tower cap which is bolted to the shock tower via 3 nuts. Two nuts under the spring perch holds the bottom of the shock so these are removed as well to remove the shock from within the spring.

The coil spring needs to be compressed to allow the removal of the shock perch from the upper control arm. Compressing coil springs is serious business. A sudden decompression can do you serious harm so I lost a little sleep over what to do about this. I searched the VMF and the web in general and found some people that had good luck with internal claw-type spring compressors and generally agree that external compressors are bad news for this application. However, some guys still mentioned that the claws on the internal style slip if you're not careful and recommend clamping the claws to the spring as a precaution. Other folks mentioned using something called a bolt-in spring compressor like Ford service centers supposedly originally used. They recommended a site called Daze Cars so I took a look. I was sold by the claim that a bolt-in compressor is safer than the other styles so I printed out the instructions from the Daze site on how to construct one and bought my parts at the local True Value hardware. Total cost was around $30 for more than twice as much material as I needed.
I measured, cut, and welded until I had something that looked reasonably like it was supposed to:

Now, there were general instructions around the net about how to use one of these compressors but I couldn't find actual step-by-step instructions on how to install it so consider this my gift to whomever else wants a to see one in action, so here it is.
Basically, the compressor installs in place of the shock.
The bottom of the compressor bolts to the spring perch where the lower shock absorber mounts were bolted.

And the top of the compressor is bolted to the top of the shock tower cap where the top of the shock absorber was mounted. The threaded rod portion of the compressor is separate from the plate that's bolted to the shock tower cap and the rod extends up through the plate. A large nut is torqued down against the plate which compresses the spring upwards.

Here's the spring after being compressed about 50% of the required amount.

The task at hand is to remove the shock perch from the upper control arm and then to remove the upper control arm so that the spring can be uncompressed and removed. Here I've separated the upper ball joint from the spindle using a pickle fork (I had a fairly difficult time finding one to purchase, btw).

These two large nuts as seen from the engine compartment are what's holding the upper control arm to the shock tower. Remove those, and the upper control arm drops away.

After the upper control arm is removed, the spring can be decompressed. The shock tower cap can be removed, and the spring and compressor can be removed.

Here's the spring after being removed. Note that the spring perch came out with the spring. I then removed the two nuts from the spring perch and removed the compressor.

Before removing the lower control arm, however, the spindle had to be removed first. The outer steering tie rod had to be separated from the spindle as did the lower control arm ball joint. Then the sway bar link had to be removed from the lower control arm followed by the two big nuts of the passenger side strut rod. Finally, one long bolt could then be removed allowing the separation of the lower control arm.

Nothing left but a empty shock tower.
The driver side was done next in the same manner. I then removed the steering assembly by removing three bolts from the steering box on the drivers side and two bolts on the passenger side. The sway bar was removed by removing two bolts from the bushing mounts on both sides of the car.

The strut rods, on the other hand, were and adventure. To get them off, you need to remove a smaller 7/8" nut and then a larger 1" nut. The problem is that you need to remove that larger nut over miles and miles of rusty thread.

Also, to remove that 1" nut requires a lot of torque so it's best removed while still attached to the lower control arm... which I had removed. So, I had to temporarily reinstall the lower control arm, insert the two strut rod studs and replace their nuts before I could start wrenching on that unholy monstrosity. I had to go so far as to purchase a 1" combination wrench just for this task. I also bought some deep 1/2" impact sockets but the 1" socket wasn't deep enough to reach the nut. It worked to hook a jack handle tube over the open end of the combination wrench to use as a cheater bar to break the bolts. Then a lot of wrenching and WD40 to get it past the threads. The strut rods slide out of the big rubber bushings toward the control arms thus completing the removal of the suspension.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Seam Sealer, Undercoat, Repaint, Oh My!

We worked so hard on all this pretty new sheet metal that it would be a shame if water were to get in between the seams and rust it all out again. Fortunately, there's something we can do to prevent that from happening. Seam sealer is to cars as caulk is to kitchens. Same concept, different application. Ford had originally sealed the appropriate seams at the factory in 1968. Unfortunately, they used a sealer that tended to flake away from the seams. Case in point, this image of this car *URP!* (excuse me, this image always makes me a little ill) a little over a year ago. Note the tarry substance over the seams. It's actually pretty brittle stuff that pops off of the seams very easily. The problem is that when it pops off, the seam is free and clear to rust away because Ford applied the sealer before paint or primer so what you're left with is shiny bare metal.

Nowadays, we do things a little differently. We apply a good coat of primer before the sealer is applied and todays sealers need a lot of coaxing to remove them from the car. Here I started by applying a bead of NAPA brand black firm sealer to the seam between the right hand toe board and the front of the floor.

Then I follow up with a cheap paint brush that I cut down to about 3/4" long and dipped in lacquer thinner. This allows you to brush the sealer into the seam and the sealer won't stick to the brush.

The Weld & Sealant manual calls for sealer along pretty much any seam that might allow the elements into the passenger compartment. This seems to be Ford's entire goal rather than actually protecting the seams themselves. Many seams were left unsealed at the factory. Seams that were sealed from top include the afformentioned toe board to kick panel/floor seam, all around the perimeter of the seat platform.

All around the rear torque boxes, and along the rear floor to the rear hump transition seam.

Then in the trunk sealer was applied along the trunk floor to rear seat panel seam, the fuel tank transition/trunk floor seams, and around each wheel well to trunk floor seam.

And around the the back end of each trunk floor panel and around the perimeter of bumper reinforcement brackets. (oh jeez... please excuse the mess, it looks like somebody threw up in this one.

Since I wanted to have a concourse look but a more complete seam sealing experience, I had sealed several seams that were not necessarily concourse, and coupled with the fact that the floor top and bottom were a bit chipped and scuffed from general car work, I opted for another fresh coat of DP74LF over everything including the newly applied sealer. I then plan to come back over just the concourse seams with black brushable seam sealer for a more factory look.

So, I went over the entire floor top and bottom, front to back, with a scuff pad and lacquer thinner to prepare for a new coat of primer. I then broke out my spray gun and a fresh batch of primer and lightly resprayed the whole kit-n-kaboodle for a more uniformly-colored finish since this project was reduced to a patchwork of DP74LF, ZeroRust, bare metal, and gray primer. I actually sprayed more lightly over the existing concourse seams just in case it was more concourse to be lightly primered because the sealer was applied before primer right? So it follows that the sealer from the factory would not be clean and fresh. I'm not sure why I bother though since this isn't going to be a show car... who knows?

Resprayed trunk.

Resprayed passenger compartment. Frontal view.
Resprayed passenger compartment. Rear view.

I also sealed most every seam on the bottom prior to reprimering the floor. The factory seams included the side floor to inner rocker seams, and the top of the front toruqe boxes.

The rear bottom of the car was sealed around the rear torque boxs, around each of the four seat belt anchors, around the trunk floor to wheel well seam, and around the outside seam where the outer wheelhouse mates with the rear quarter opening.

Speaking of which, here's a look into the rear passenger wheel house after sealer.

... And then again after applying two coats of 3M rubberized undercoating. Applied to both sides. Stop laughing, the overspray on the frame rail is supposed to be there from what I've read on the concourse forum of the VMF.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Oops! Emergency Brake Brackets.

So I was about to cut the tip off of a fresh tube of seam sealer to begin the long-awaited task of sealing up the bottom of the car when I spotted three little brackets laying under the jumble of stuff on my w0rk bench. It was a forehead slapping moment when I'd discovered that I had forgotten to weld the emergency brake brackets to the floor!

Notice anything missing? Emergency brake brackets!

Great... now, where do they go? After about an hour thumbing through the weld and sealant manual, reference pictures I had taken last year, and measuring the old tunnel section I still had laying out in the back yard, I came up with these locations for the brackets.

I marked and drilled appropriate plug weld holes in the floor, held the brackets in place with big welding magnets and plug welded the brackets into place.

Here's what supposed to go on the bottom of the floor (not the magnets, I'm just keeping them there).

More research and digging through more old reference pics and I found the appropriate location for the front emergency brake bracket. Hey, I didn't pick those plug weld hole locations. That's where the I drilled out the original spot welds so I'm just reusing them.

And completion. After some cleanup, I can start seam sealing.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Finishing The Trunk

During the installation of the trunk floors, I got a good look at the rear wheel wells and was not pleased with what I saw, no sir, not pleased at all. This passenger side wheel well looks like the south end of a north-bound pig.

I spun up the 4 1/2" knotted wire bevel brush with the angle grinder and went to town. Let me tell you, this is a messy job. I had the remnants of the old sound deadener and rust all over myself and every surface within 10 feet of the wheel well but I got it cleaned up somewhat.

I treated it with Ospho and a scouring pad and got it to a point where I felt that it could use a coat of ZeroRust. Note that the outer wheel house has been replaced with a repro part some time in the 80's. I can tell by the black EDP coating, the unground glob welds, and newer type of seam sealer in the joint. I'm going to re-apply sealer on this seam and new sound deadener within the wheel well so I'm not going to clean up the welds or do anything aesthetic.

Finally I sprayed on a coat of ZeroRust. Yes, I said sprayed. This is the first time I've attempted to spray ZeroRust rather than brush it on as I've done in the past. I reduced it about an eighth with Laquer Thinner. It sprayed a little slow but was workable using my Harbor Freight touch-up gun. I'm just showing the passenger side here but I repeated this process on the drivers side as well. It's ready for seam sealer and sound deadener.
A while back, I attacked the trunk transition panel underside and shock mount panel with a wire brush and Ospho. Here it is before being coated with ZeroRust.

And a shot from the back towards the rear floor transition/shock mounting panel. I'd done a test with another primer and decided to go with ZeroRust all the way.

As with the wheel wells, I sprayed laquer thinner-reduced ZeroRust over the entire trunk underside. Here's a completed shot from the rear...

And a completed shot from the front. Ugh... an a shot of the suspension and engine compartment, but that's another entry for another time.

Next was the interior area of the trunk. The transition panel was wire wheeled and treated with ospho and then wire wheeled again along with the rear reinforment panel.

I don't feel comfortable spraying DP74LF epoxy primer directly over Ospho-treated metal so I experimented by first spraying a coat of etching primer reasoning that the etchant would be more compatible with Ospho than the epoxy but it itself would be more compatible with DP74LF. I could be wrong... who knows?

After letting the gray etching primer cure for a week, I cleaned the entire trunk area with degreaser and Laquer Thinner and then sprayed a coat of DP74LF. Man, that's one pretty trunk. Next comes seam sealer and sound deadener.