Sunday, June 15, 2014

New Shoes/Problem/Near Death Experience/Success

One of the most contentious chapters of the restoration story of Ol' Rusty was the retention of the original wheels and hub-caps (white walls out!).  Honestly, I liked them.  I thought they gave the car a nostalgic olde' fashioned feel.   I had received some positive comments on them from strangers but maybe those were more like the polite comments of passers-by about an ugly baby, "Oh, he has the most impressive ears and the crossed eyes give him an aire of mystery!"

Regardless, I've always had new wheels in the plans for the old girl but after visiting the local Les Schwab for a quote and coming out with a $1600 heart-stopping response.  They didn't sell 14" wheels that I could use with my existing tires so of course that meant a whole new set of tires AND wheels 15" or larger.  Now, I like slightly larger wheels as much as the next guy but am not a fan of anything larger than about 17".  Regardless of my personal tastes (or lack thereof) the guideline I've followed with this build has generally centered around originality and, above all, budget.

For the past couple of years, I had strongly believed that I was limited to larger wheels due to the largish 11" front OEM style rotors; that 14" wheels wouldn't fit them.  After discovering VMF user Dodgestang's wheel guide, and after reading several threads regarding wheel fitment, my conviction regarding wheel size receded into the realm of myth.  It was stated by several well-known experts in the area of Mustang wheels and brakes, that pretty much any wheel manufactured in the past 30 years will fit OEM discs.

One fine day CJ Pony Parts had another of their famous 20% off sales and what should be included in the sale but a set of 14" Wheel Vintiques Magnum 500 wheels in a kit with center caps and lug nuts for $599 with free shipping.  How could I pass that up?  The kit was actually a pair of 14x6 wheels for the front and 14x7 wheels for the rear.

About a week later, the wheels arrived on my doorstep.  I called my local Les Schwab tire center and set up an appointment for that evening to drop the new and old wheels off to be switched over.  Before doing so, however, I felt the extreme need to open one of the 14x6 boxes and test-fit the new wheel on my disc brakes.  Sure enough, they fit perfectly and didn't rub any part of the steering or disc assembly but the whole story wouldn't be told until the tires were mounted.

Boxes and boxes of shiny goodness

Does it fit?

Yep, seems to fit!

A bit more confident in my purchase, I threw the 4 old wheels/tires and 4 new wheels in the back of the SUV and dropped them off at the tire shop.

While the wheels were away and the car was up on jack stands, I took the opportunity to fix an issue that had cropped up during the past couple of weeks.  I had noticed a tiny puddle of oil under the rear right tire when I backed out the garage.  I wiped it up, took the car out for a drive, and parked it again.  The puddle had returned, with the unmistakable odor of gear oil.

Now, replacing an axle seal isn't really that big of a job.  The problem is the mess it leaves behind, the brake shoes were completely soaked as well as the entire brake assembly.  It all had to come out and be cleaned up or replaced.  I ordered two sets of Raybestos 151PG Professional Grade Drum Brake Shoes and a new 9569S Seal.  Why two sets of pads?  Because I was taught by the old man that brake pads/shoes should be replaced equally on both sides.  Why the 9569S seal?  Because that's the correct seal for the 8" open rear diff with 28 spline axles specifically 1.365" x 2.264" x .4375".   If you accidentally buy the seal for the 7.25" rear diff, it will look very similar but actually .0485" larger OD and will eventually fail.  Ask me how I know.  No, I didn't accidentally buy the wrong seal, I was SENT the wrong seal and failed to confirm the OD before installing it.  I felt something was wrong (look for the quote, "Those seals were very difficult to drive in and have a kind of concave look to them. Honestly, I think the repro seals from NPD are a few thousandths too large OD") but decided to put my faith (and ignorance) into it it instead of correcting it.  Fast forward a few thousand miles and there I was, staring back into the void of an axle housing tube.

I really didn't encounter any problems with the seal swap as I had removed the 4 nuts that hold the axle bearing retainer allowing the whole axle to slide out of the housing.  Once removed the brake shoes were a cinch to remove, clean up, and replace.  The old seal was popped out with a slide hammer and the new one driven back in with a seal driver and finally, the whole she-bang re-assembled.  The other side just required the shoes to be replaced so I repeated the process with the wheel hub in the way that time.

Uh-oh, that's not good.  A black spot of trouble.

Yep, it's fatal.

Four nuts hold the axle shaft in.
Axle removed

See.. that don't look right...

I shouldn't have left it like this when I refurbished the rear diff.

The new seal.  It's narrower than the original.  We'll see if it lasts.

Looks like it fits better.

New brake shoes.

Axle installed with cleaned-up drum

Ready for the wheel.

Finally, I could install in the new wheels.  I put the 14 x 7's on the back and the 14 x 6's on the front and gave them a snugging with the air hammer and ensured that they rotated fine with the tires on the wheels (they did!).  I dropped the car off of the jack stands and checked the clearance again while I popped the new center caps over the hub.  I wondered to myself, "How do they looked out in the daylight?"  I jumped in the car and back out onto the driveway to take a look.  Nice!  I called my wife out and said, "Want to take a test drive?"   She got her coat and off we went... see anything wrong yet?   If so, I wish you would have called me!  If not, it's okay, I didn't either...

We got about a half mile down the road with the radio on and the wind in our hair and my wife reaches over and turns the radio down.   This bums me out a bit, is she just getting too old for a good tune on an evening drive?  I begin to protest and she says, "Sush!  Do you hear that 'thunking' sound?".  I listened... and I did.  Ooohhhhhh..... crap.  My blood ran cold and the hairs stood up on my neck and I started muttering expletives while s..l..o..w..l..y.. turning into the nearest parking lot.  Yup, you guessed it, the friggen wheel was LOOSE!  Clunkity... clunkity... clunkity... with every rotation.  I grimaced with every 'clunk' as I got her pulled into a parking lot and let out a huge breath while I set the brake.  The right front wheel was very slightly askew.  I pulled the jack and lug wrench from the trunk and lifted the car up at each wheel to push the wheel back to the hub and friggen tighten that son-of-a-gun down.

I was so thankful for having my loving wife at my side at that time, you'll never know.  Thanks again Kelly, sorry  I tried to kill us Hon!  I came > < this close to going onto the freeway so she very probably saved our lives.  After I was sure that each wheel was secure, we continued our test drive without any more drama.  The new wheels look great and ride is very smooth.  We're very fortunate that no damage was done during my brain fart.  I know this is common-sense stuff but I hope others will remember this and laugh at my stupidity while they torque their wheels down.

Ohhh... sssssexy.  Whitewalls IN this time.

This story has a fairly happy ending, however, because that weekend we took Ol' Rusty to participate in the Mustang Wrangler's 37th Annual All Ford Show and Swap Meet.  This is an event that my club puts on once a year and although we're not allowed to judge, we can enter and be judged by the public and members of other regional Ford clubs.  We were honored to received 1st Place in 67-68 Convertible Mustang class.  The trophy is in the shape of an old visible gas pump and serves as a liquor dispenser.

Winner winner chicken dinner!

What to fill it with?
I don't know if it was the new wheels or just luck but I think I now see why some folks buy the wheels before they even begin to fix up the car.


  1. Wheels are looking good Alex. Glad to see that nothing did happen to you, or *gasp* the car. :)

  2. Well Alex, I am also a member of the "loose nut" club. I was rotating tires on my Civic a while back and someone stopped by to chat about "the Mustang in the garage" and I got distracted. When I went back to finish the job, I didn't tighten the lugs on the left rear wheel all the way. Guess what? Clunk...clunk...clunk. So don't feel too badly about it. At least the Mags were not damaged. You pride? Maybe a little. :- )

    1. LOL! Definitely my pride Dennis. Thanks, your story makes me feel a little better. :-)

  3. The old girl looks good in the new shoes Alex. Glad you are intact. Actually had this happen as a young kid. My Dad, the ace mechanic that he is, did the same. But in our case the wheel actually came off. Luckily we were on a back road and it was a rear tire. The car? A beautiful 57 Ford hard-top retractable - mint green and white. Little bumper damage but we all lived to tell about it :/

    1. Thanks RJ. I'm glad you weren't hurt either. Thanks for the story. :-)

  4. Great stories on your mustang.
    I have a the same car in my garage foe 22 years. Going to resume work on it this spring!! It needs everything.
    All parts were bought in 96. 289 c4. Going to be sunlit gold metallic(orignal colour)