Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Suspension Wrenchin'

So, prior to painting the front clip of the car, I yanked the old, foul, greasy, rusty, pathetic excuse of a front suspension and tossed it all to the side of the house. The ball joints were loose, the rubber dust caps were all mashed and covered with grease, the rubber bushings were all cracked and hardened, and the rear springs were rusted through in spots. I agonized and literally lost sleep over what to do next. Should I refurbish the existing suspension or buy new? Individually, the parts of a suspension aren't all that expensive but when you put everything together, you get up around $1400 to replace front, rear, and steering components. I also ran some numbers on refurbishing and was a bit shocked that the components of the control arms are nearly as expensive as entire control arms except you have the added bonus of time and labor to clean up the arms (rusty and pitted in my case) AND install the ball joints, shafts, etc., some of which require a press. Long story short, I decided on an entirely new suspension.

Now, if you ask the VMF folks where to buy a suspension, a cult of the church of OpenTracker will reveal itself to you and the members, known as "the happy customers", will profess their undying love and loyalty for John and Shari. Well, I'm not one to pass up a good cult so I joined up and forged a deal through John's wife, Shari, to purchase an entire suspension, front, rear, and steering, with a set of their famous roller perches and a roller idler arm because 9 out of 10 Mustang enthusiasts recommend roller perches, claiming that it "dramatically" improves the handling of the classic Mustang.

Dealing with OpenTracker is a good experience overall once I got past my me me me, now now now internet buying mentality. Evidentally, OpenTracker is well-respected in the classic Mustang community (Check out FordMuscle.com's tech article) so you have to understand that they're busy but they will get back to you (it took about 3 weeks from the first email to delivery of the parts). If you contact them with specifically what you're looking for in ride and handling, they'll customize your order to fit you're needs. I asked for 1" lower stance with a "quiet and comfortable street handling" and they delivered with front and rear springs and shocks matched to my requirements using their experience with the products they sell to determine the specs. They also claim to pre-inspect and adjust all of the control arm components prior to delivery.

The only problem I had with my order was that part of it was lost somewhere between California and here. Evidently, somewhere along transport, the post office depot ripped the box and taped it back up but didn't bother finding the lost components to put back in the box. No problem though! Shari at OpenTracker sent out replacement items with no hassle whatsoever within the week. I'm afraid I have to join the cult because I'm terribly happy with the experience.

Here are the front suspension components:

1/4" Poly coil spring insulators
560 1" drop coil springs
1" front sway bar kit
Street Upper arms
Street Lower arms
Roller spring perches
Strut rod bushings
Manual Steering kit with roller idler arm  ... All USA made MOOG
KYB Front shocks (just right for the front - too stiff for the rear)

On to the install!

I started with the new lower controls arms which come with sway bar end link washers (seen affixed with a zip tie). As you can see, the natural metal around the ball joint cup is unprotected.

So, I masked off the area and wiped it down with lacquer thinner:

I then applied self-etching primer and Rustoleum Stainless Steel paint:

I thought I'd throw in a comparison pic of the old LCA (Lower Control Arm) with the new LCA. Note that the old one has "jacking tabs" and the new one doesn't. Also, the old ones have the sway bar link washers crimped on:

From above you can see the difference in shape. The new arms probably wouldn't pass the muster for concourse judging so concourse people should keep that in mind for when you make the decision to refurbish or buy new control arms.

The Upper Control Arms (UCA) look more similar from below...

And above... BTW, it's come to my attention that my old UCA and LCA are not original to the car because I've been told by concourse judges on the VMF that 68 Mutechan, NJ cars had 4 rivets holding the ball joins to the control arms and mine only had 3. So, no loss going to new arms for me anyway.

The LCAs are ready to go on the car but the "cam" bolts that mount them to the car were pretty rusty and nasty.

Some time in the blasting cabinet and paint took care of that:

The LCAs are installed by dangling them by the skinny end from the cam bolt as so. The cam bolt provides the camber alignment adjustment by allowing the LCA to move in or out.

I then installed the UCAs by inserting the two large studs through the holes in the shock tower. I had drilled "Shelby/Arning drop" holes an inch below the original holes so those are the ones I used. I installed the large washers and self-locking nuts on the other side of the shock tower and torqued them down to the specs found in the factory service manual.

I then installed my new disc brake spindles making sure the steering arm is pointing to the rear of the car and torqued the castle nuts and inserted the cotter pins.

The next parts I needed to install were the strut rods that adjust the caster alignment by moving the LCAs forward or back. However, my strut rods were in ugly condition.

About and inch of the inside threads of the passenger rod was stripped so I only bothered to clean up the driver side strut rod. I used my angle grinder with wire wheel and then 60 grit flap disk.

And then I sprayed 2 coats of self-etching primer:

I ordered a new passenger side strut rod from Mustangs Unlimited. I was a bit disappointed to see that even though I ordered the 67/68 rod, the design had been changed. As you can see from the photo below, the new rod (center), doesn't have the small threaded section at the end that was used for a safety nut. Also, the new rod seems to have a shorter threaded section than the original (bottom). I decided to go ahead and use the new strut rod for now. I'm considering taking the original passenger rod to a machine shop to have the stripped threads recut.

The strut rods, after paint. Something to keep in mind when buying an after-market strut rod is that they don't come with LCA mounting studs so keep your originals!

The new strut rods were then installed with the LCA nuts torqued to specs and the cotter pins installed. The threaded area of the strut rods was adjusted to approximately center of the threads but not yet torqued because and alignment needs to be performed after the car is back together. BTW, here's a good LINK on aligning a classing Mustang.

And finally, the new 1" sway bar. Here's the kit with bushings and links compared to the wimpy original sway bar.

I started by affixing the sway bar bushings to the mounting points on the frame. The sway bar bushings came with a special grease that I smeared around inside the bushings presumabely to prevent squeaking. Next, the end links were assembled and bolted through the LCA mounting holes (remember the LCA washers) and torqued to specs. I then squirted a couple pumps of grease into all of the grease fittings.

With the exception of the steering assembly, that's pretty much it for the front suspension install except for the springs and shocks but they won't be installed until I put the car back down on it's wheels. Here's the money shot from below:

Update: I decided to try to install the springs even though there was no weight on the suspension. The springs are 1" lowered 520 lb rating with polyurethane shock tower insulator. The shocks are KYB gas-adjust.

Well it turns out that I could manually force the control arms down enough to pop the springs into place. I was a hair disappointed that I didn't get to use my home-built spring compressor but with the 1" shorter springs and the 1" Arning drop, I had enough clearance. Before hand, I had to torque down my new OpenTracker roller perches though. Tab goes toward the back and the "loose coil" end of the spring butts up against the tab.

I then could bolt in the shocks although I am unable to compress them enough to be properly mounted to the top of the shock caps until there is weight on the suspension to compress the springs another 3" or so.

Here are some pictures from a few months ago to remember the good old days by:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Let's Take a Brake

It's come time to install the front suspension. But I need to do one small task first.

Several months ago, I purchased a set of front disc brakes that came off of a 71 Ford Ranchero Squire. Prior to purchasing them I asked the guys on the VMF who confirmed that they would be a direct bolt-on for the 68 Mustang. $125 later I had a pair of these:

A bit worn and rusty looking aren't they? Here's a shot of the back side:

Not to worry, I wasn't about to trust my life to a set of brakes with an unknown repair history so I set to taking them apart for refurbishment. First the grease cap comes off:

Then a cotter pin, a nut cover, and the spindle nut itself. The rotor then just lifts off the spindle as so:

It helps to see what your doing if you wipe the old grease off:

Finally, the dust shield is removed to expose the bare spindle and caliper mount:

In preparation for the blasting cabinet, I masked off all of the mounting points and the spindle shaft:

Finished with the blasting cabinet:

Finally, the spindle is painted with self-etching primer and Seymour Cast Blast paint. The masking is removed and viola!

Well, my buzz only lasted a couple of seconds because as I scanned across my bench I saw this and knew that I'd just begun:

After a mad flurry of bench wire wheel and blast cabinet, I stood there and rubbed my stiff neck and beheld... clean stuff!

I wiped my newly clean stuff down with lacquer thinner and set to painting the parts either with Dupli-Color semi-black or Rustoleum Stainless Steel depending on my whim:

I painted the caliper mount with Cast Blast and reattached the dust sheild:

I bought refurbished calipers for $28 each and new Rotors for $49 each, and new bearings and seals, all from NAPA, and reassembled the brakes. Looks a damn-sight better than when I started eh? Overall, the front disc brakes cost me around $350 total including new 68 Mustang disc flexible brake tubes. Edit: This caliper is on the wrong spindle. If this spindle were mounted, the bleeder valve would incorrectly face forward and the calipers wouldn't bleed all of the air. The bleeder valves should face rearward.

However, it's all fun and games until you realize that the front brake line kit you bought was for drum brakes! I bought a set of 68 Mustang disc brake hoses. They mount differently than the drum brake hoses and face in the opposite direction! Note the location on the hard line where the connector should be to mate with a disc flexible line:

Well, it's a problem but not a show stopper. I took the short hard lines to a local brake shop and had them cut the lines and move the compression nuts to the new locations. I was happy until I got them home and discovered another difference between the drum and disc brake tubes. The disc brake tubes have a 3/16" fitting but the drum brake tubes have a 1/4" fitting... d'oh!!

Long story short, I bought a double flare tool from CarQuest for $24, and a pair of the correct 3/16" compression nuts from NAPA for $1 and was able to fix the driver side line but I had to make a new line for the passenger side. But hey! I learned how to make brake lines!

Here, I test fitted the new spindle and caliper to test the brake tube reach. Looks like it's going to work.

Note: The brake tubes I bought were 68 Mustang brake tubes. The 71 Ranchero brakes I bought came with tubes but although 70-71 brake tubes look similar, they're not the same. The mounting holes are a little further apart in the 70-71 tubes and won't line up with the factory disc holes in the Mustang frame rail. Yes, the holes are drilled but you have to drive a screw into one of them to tap it if converting from drum.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bringing fuel to the fire

The floor is in, the rear is clean, the engine compartment is painted, and now it's time to install the fuel and brake lines. My brake lines were patched in several places and my fuel lines were not original. In fact, the fuel lines were kinked in several places and it was a wonder that the engine even ran when I got it. So, I gave in to my heart-felt belief that "cars should have gas and be able to stop when you want them to", and bought a new set of both from NPD. I get amazing shipping times from NPD since I'm in OR and they have a warehouse in CA. So in about 2 days I found this big box on my doorstep:

Looking at the packing paper, I was reminded of Christmas so I tore into it like a 10 year-old looking for my new Red-Rider BB Gun and found... this:

You might notice that the lines are all... kind of... rolled up. That's pretty much the only way they could be shipped short of sending out a 12 foot long box. They didn't roll them up too much such that they couldn't be easily unrolled, however. It just takes a few moments to roll them flat against the floor and knead them into shape with your hands.

I compared my existing fuel lines to the new ones. The short segment that goes along the driver frame rail is at the top and the long segment that goes to the tank is below. Rather than seeing if the bends of the new lines are accurate by comparing to the old, I did the other way around and noted how wrong the existing lines were compared to how the new (correct) lines look. The rusty line at the top has been cut and patched and I think the patch is somewhere on the side of my house. The long line is at the bottom, notice how my old line has a mating connector, is kinked, and bent completely wrong at the right end?

A closeup shot comparing the end of the new line (top) to the old (bottom). Would you reinstall the old ones?
This is the front, middle, and rear brake line sets.

Here's the new long tunnel segment compared to the old. Note that the old segment contains a couple of mating connector patches.

I had failed to take detailed reference pictures of the fuel and brake lines when I had disassembled the car last year. Reference pics wouldn't have helped for the fuel lines though since the existing lines were A) Bent wrong, and B) Weren't attached to the driver side rocker since there was no driver side rocker when I bought the car.

So, I shouted for help on the VMF and received some very helpful reference pictures from a local guy here in the Pacific NorthWest (Thanks Eric!).

I started out by installing the brake lines first beginning with the passenger front brake line:

Then the lines across the engine compartment firewall to the distribution block, and the driver side front brake line.

And then down the tunnel:

And finally to the rear brake flexible line bracket.

Next, I installed the fuel lines starting at the driver outside frame rail and going from a rubber grommet in the apron through the pre-cut hole in the torque box.

On the other side of the torque box, is where the long fuel line connects via a flexible tube. I'm using the wrong clamps on this since I used standard hose clamps and the factory used crimp style clamps.

From the flex line, the fuel line goes back along the floor support, across the front of the lower seat reinforcement and then down along the inner rocker.

At the rear torque box, it crosses to the inside of the rear frame rail under a shield plate and follows the rear frame rail up and over the differential hump.

It then routes down along the front of the fuel tank well and terminates at the fuel tank.

The hardest part of this task was fixing the sheet metal holes through which the various fuel line clamps where bolted. A few of them had been stripped out so I had to weld them closed, drill them out again, and repaint the area. Also, the butterfly style brake line clamps took me a few minutes to figure out but generally, this was a very easy task.