Thursday, April 14, 2016

Engine crossmember upgrade

This isn't meant to be a shameless product plug, as I'm not compensated for it, but this piece is so nice, and the typical reproduction part is so bad, that I felt like I wanted to show the differences.

These cars are supposed to have a piece of bracing, called an Engine Crossmember, that tie the bottom of the front frame rails together and help hold the front of car a little more square. More specifically, they help spread the side loading and prevent deflection of the suspension when the car is going around a turn.

My car didn't have one when I got it. I had to discover it in a catalog and ask myself "where's my crossmember?"  Apparently, it's not terribly uncommon for these pieces to have been removed over the years to facilitate an oil pan gasket change or an engine pull or some other maintenance activity, and simply not put it back. It just became one of those 'extra' pieces.

Hint: if it's supposed to be on your car, it's not 'extra'. Ford was trying to pinch pennies until they bled as they made these cars. There wasn't a lot of margin in these cars. So try not to end up with a box of 'extra' parts when you do a project. It's bad form, and the next owner will not appreciate it either.


If there was one, you'd see the crossmember running parallel to the steering linkage in there. But there isn't one. Yes, it's a picture of something that's not there. 


So I bought a crossmember out of The Catalog and primed it with black epoxy when I primed the rear axle housing.

The crossmember requires (yes, requires!!) these special shouldered bolts to center the crossmember correctly. And, no, they're not at your local big box store. AMK makes them, I got mine from NPD.

So, just two bolts, tighten to factory torque and move on, right? This should be easier than falling down the stairs. Well the darn thing just did not fit. It would not seat flush to the rail nor did the holes line up. 

This freaked me out a little as I was in the process of lining up the new frame rail on the jig to get it welded in. I thought everything was in the right position, but this piece - which should line up fine on a good car with an unbent frame - refused to fit. What's up here? 

After poking around the interwebs, I discovered these reproductions are not necessarily "accurate". I was pointed to a member on the VMF forums that goes by 'zray' that made his own improved design. It was more expensive, so naturally I bought it (just kidding, dear!)


The new piece is better in all respects. Better, thicker tubing, welded to brackets at the ends that not only mount the the frame rail but also to the lower control arm bolts, something the factory piece does not do (but really should).

New & Improved vs. Original & Inferior. Please note that the factory approach to this problem is crushed tubing. 


Check out this little feature - a perfectly sized jack pad right welded onto the bottom of the improved piece. Also notice the cheaper non-mandrel bends in the original style crossmember. (Naturally, I've had the first one for so long can't return it, either. Therein lies the danger of buying parts before you really need to...)

Here it is installed in the engine bay. I don't have the LCA bolts in yet, but they fit fine - just follow the included installation instructions. As of now it's the nicest piece in my freshly primed engine bay!

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