Sunday, May 15, 2016

Steering system installation

With the suspension in place, now the steering system can go back in. (Relax, mom, given the inherently informal nature of a blog, it's really ok to end a sentence with a preposition!)

The steering setup will be "improved stock components", just like the suspension. We're rebuilding and restoring what we can, and buying some parts new. The biggest change is the move from the factory power steering to manual steering by using an adapter piece. More on that later.

This being my first experience with this sort of steering linkage design ("recirculating ball w/ drag link", instead of a more modern "rack-and-pinion"), I had to sort of figure out what I was looking at as it came apart.

First up, the steering box . Here's how it came out of the car:

The bottom of the box has all kinds of identifying markings on it (including the part number C6ZR-3550-A), but the one that really counts is the metal tag on the end of the box that details what sort of box it is. 

SMB-E is the code on this box. which indicates it's a 16:1 ratio (the quick one) short-shaft box with a 1-inch pitman arm connection., using the decoder ring I found at Stanger's Site. (For 1967, there are no less than 6 different variations of steering system configurations. It takes a while to figure out what's going on here.)

The quick ratio of the box means better steering feel when driving (good!),  at the expense of more required effort to move the wheels at slow speeds. (um...) Because I'm converting this setup to manual steering, it also means there won't be a power steering pump to rob horsepower from the motor (also good!) 

The downside of this box means that I have to keep my drag link because that particular version isn't reproduced. That's fine, mine's in good shape. (Until I buggered it up, anyway...)

Since I've never actually driven the car, I have no idea if the box is working ok or not. So I decided to send the box off to Dan at Chockostang to get the box stripped down, rebuilt and cleaned up. Dan's the man, and turnaround time was less than a week. I asked him after the rebuild what kind of shape it was in beforehand. He said it was low on grease, well used but not too badly worn out. It's good as new now, and ready for install. Dan paints the box a light cast-iron, which goes well with the rest of the steering parts.


The rag joint connects the steering box to the steering shaft. The rubber's good, and the splines are still sharp, so it's a keeper.

Cleaned up and ready to go.

Onto the drag link (a.k.a. the 'center link'). Some funny things happened as I starting it stripping it down and getting it ready to restore. First off, the end of the link that's opposite the steering box (where the idler arm attaches) has some funky thing on it. I thought it should be a smooth bearing surface. Turns out (steering pun!) that the bushing from the old idler arm is stuck on there and has to be cut off. No problem, I can handle this...

The end of the drag link needs to be freed from that old bushing.

Dremel and a cutting wheel - no problems!

Except for the new groove I just cut into the bearing surface. Aaaaaah, crud. A new problem to fix.

The other end of the drag link hosts the power steering control valve. Nasty thing - this is the source of most of the mess under the car I've had to clean and scrape off. The bolt facing down is what the pitman arm connects to. I'll be replacing this entire assembly with the manual steering adapter. Just have to get it off the the drag link. It should be easy. It just unscrews off the link once the clamp is loosened and the roll pin is removed. Easy, right?

Look closely - the clamp is centered right over a little roll pin that's driven into a hole in the drag link. The clamp holds the control valve in place. The roll pin is there as back-up to the clamp to keep the control valve from unwinding off the link and binding up the steering. That miserable little roll pin is made of hardened steel and is mounted in a blind hole, so you have to carefully pull it out of the hole in one piece. 

Naturally, the roll pin broke off while being removed. (Please note the use of the passive voice here. It sounds better then the more correct active voice version "I broke the roll pin". Which, to be honest, is exactly what happened. Hint: pull, don't bend.)

It can't be drilled out (hardened steel), and it's in a blind hole, so I can't push it out from the other side. Sometimes I hate learning.

 All taken apart, and now featuring two new problems to fix. Remember, this is not a reproduced part! I must fix this or start shopping for golf clubs!

Dirty drag link. I hate you.

Clean drag link. I hate you less, but you're useless to me until I get you fixed on both ends.

Here's the rare 1-inch sector pitman arm, covered in crud. Also not reproduced as far as I can tell.

Cleaning it off reveals the part number, C4ZA-3590-A; good news, it's supposed to be here.

To fix the groove that was cut that I cut into the surface of the drag link / idler arm interface, I decided to fill it with JB Weld and sand it to match the rounded contour of the shaft.

This worked out surprisingly well. The surface is very smooth now, ready for use, and shouldn't chew up the new idler arm that mounts to it.

The final solution for the broken roll pin? I took the link down to my favorite machine shop and had them drill a new hole in line with the old one. Here the manual steering adapter is in place. The roll pin simply has to be somewhere along that groove to work. I screwed the adapter on the end of the link (2 turns off the last thread per the instructions) and drove in the roll pin with a punch. 

And only then did I realize I had forgotten to put the clamp on before all this, thus complicating my life again. >face-palm<

All the parts are fixed, painted, and ready to go. Note the Manual Steering adapter shown here on the drag link where the power steering control valve used to go.

New idler arm - this one is a version from Opentracker Racing Parts with roller bearings instead of the stock rubber bushings.

Steering box mounted, and pitman arm installed on the sector shaft on the bottom. For the record, the nut that secures the pitman arm to the steering box has the highest torque value of anything I've seen so far on the car: 150-225 ft. lbs.

Here's the manual steering adapter as installed. Apparently, the adapter was first used on early Corvette's as a way to to bypass the power steering for track days. Mustangs and Corvettes shared a similar power steering setup, so the adapter works here as well. 

Tie rod ends connecting the drag link to the spindles. 

The sleeves that connect the inner and outer tie rods together are one of the steering alignment adjustments. My old settings were based on bent parts and a bent frame rail, so I'm starting from scratch and putting them at a 'best guess' setting.

Here's the final setup. There are some grease fittings to fill and the wheels will still need to be aligned later, but for the most part, it's done.

Astute readers will note that without a steering column and wheel, it's not really done. I'd ask the astute readers to keep their collective criticisms to themselves. I'm working on it.

Much improved over where we started!

Tips and tricks:
1. Respect the roll pin. It will ruin your day if you let it.
2. Don't apply all 150 foot-pounds of torque to the steering box internals. Use a block of wood to brace the spindle to the strut rod. This way, the wood takes the force, not the steering box.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Front Suspension Installation

Now that the rear suspension is place, I moved up to the front end of the car and started assembling all the running gear up there.

There's three major systems at the front of the car -  suspension, steering, and brakes. I'm going to do the suspension first, which includes the wheel spindles, then the steering and the brakes. The factory assembly manuals don't really tell you what order things go in, and the factory service manual assumes each piece being installed is the only thing being worked on. This is fine in a shop environment, but maddeningly vague for me in my garage starting from a bare shell. As a result, I ended up removing and installing several pieces more than once. Lessons learned are at the end.

For the record, the suspension philosophy I'm employing here is "slightly upgraded stock". No rack-and-pinion steering, no coil-over springs, no tubular A-arms, or other such things. My goal is a car that retains the character and feeling of classic American iron. If I wanted modern or precise, I'd drive my Saturn (See how I did that? All of a sudden, the Plastic Fantastic is 'modern').

Here's everything in the suspension system all laid out and ready to go on the car. There's some old part restoration and some new part unwrapping.  New parts are the upper and lower control arms, roller spring perches, and stock big-block coil springs, all from Opentracker Racing Products. Fantastic stuff, great customer support, and quick shipping. The control arms are upgraded a bit, and the roller perches are known to be a significant upgrade over the stock rubber-based parts. All these parts feel like good stuff. Wheel spindles, strut rods, and sway bar + brackets are original parts off the car. The rest of the consumables came from NPD. 

Part of the fun is the restoration of old parts. Here are the old strut rods. The threads on the front are still good, so we'll reuse them. 

Here they are stripped clean and the old mounting bolts pressed out.

Strut rods (in black) and steering drag link (in cast iron) ready to go. That drag link is quite a story, I'll tell you about it next time.

Sway bar brackets getting cleaned up. Nothing's simple, though. I almost bought a new set plus polyurethane bushings for a few bucks until I realized these brackets are rare/special/expensive as they go with the 15/16" diameter sway bar on my car. They're special because they came on the few Mustangs that had the competition handling package suspension, as well as on all Shelby GT350's. So I decided to keep these, clean them up, and get proper bushings for them.

Here's the sway bar brackets cleaned and ready to get painted, along with the new bushings made by a small company called "Dead Nuts On". And they're spot-on replacements to the worn originals shown here.

I'm painting most of the parts that were originally made in cast-iron with a similar cast-iron look spray paint from Rustoleum. Similar in look and should keep the corrosion away.

67 mustang competition handling sway bar
Here's the cool 15/16" front sway bar that came off the car.

Like I've said, it pays to closely examine and clean these parts before stripping. Sure enough, hiding under the crud is the tell-tale yellow and green stripes that denote the competition handling package. I took pics and measurements for posterity's sake...

...and then stripped bare with the angry grinder and a wire wheel. There was enough surface rust to make this necessary.

I'm using a satin Rustoleum black paint for all the suspension parts, like the sway bar. I maybe should've used the epoxy primer, but this was a chance to try it out and see how it holds up. The crossmember, shown here before installation, came in a nice (powder?) coating - it's super nice, but apparently I'm not allowed to use the new kitchen oven for powder coating pats.

Fun fact - the 15/16" sway bar is contoured such that it actually uses the longer sway bar end link kit that comes on '68 and up cars (on the right), as the '67 parts (on the left) will be too short. Of course I discovered this after ordering my first set of parts...the catalogs won't tell you that little nugget!

Wheel spindles were blasted in Ted's blast cabinet and given the same cast iron paint treatment.  The wheel spindle surface itself is left bare clean metal. That's where the inner and outer wheel bearings will ride, so no coatings are allowed there.

And now it's just a matter of putting it together. Upper arms and lower arms go in first, and then they're bolted to the spindle. Each of the arms already has a ball joint installed, so it's just a few bolts and castle nuts. The inner bolt on the lower control arm doesn't get torqued until the car is on ground on its own wheels.

Next up the strut rods and sway bar get bolted to the lower control arm and then to the chassis.

Repeat for the other side.

Here's the front of the strut rods. This setting is part of the wheel alignment adjustments. The factory assembly manual gives details on how much thread to leave exposed when installing new parts. 

Sway bar mounted in it's new home.

And, because I can't help myself, I decided to restore the yellow and green stripes that were originally on the sway bar. I know, it's not a concours car, but I want assembly line identification stripes that no one will ever see back on my sway bar! My car, my rules.

Stripes marked off per the previous pics and measurements. In hindsight, I should've just used chalk to rough out the line and let it get as sloppy as the factory markings.

Cool, right? 

Lessons learned:
1. The sway bar end links should go on after the springs are installed.
2. Jack up the lower control arm to make the strut rod parallel to the ground so you can tighten the nuts on the front of the strut rods.
3. If the car isn't bent, note how much thread is showing on both ends of the front of the strut rod before removing it. Also note any shims on the upper control arms and the position of the lower control arm eccentric bolt before disassembly. All this feeds into alignment settings.
4. Castle nuts are to be torqued to LOWER SPEC numbers, then tightened to align the nut with the holes for the cotter pins. Don't tighten more than the lower spec. Yes, the FSM says this, but it's actually really worth reading and heeding.
5. The factory service manual has all the torque values in it. Stop asking Google and get the manual.

Astute readers will note the springs aren't in yet. That's a story in its own right. I'll save that for another day as they're more complicated than I expected them to be. Plus, any installation exercise that requires using an equation should get its own post.

Next up - steering!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rear Axle and Suspension Installation

After priming the engine bay and the bottom of the car, I've finally reached a point where I'm actually able to start >gasp!< putting parts back on the car! The car has been off its wheels for so long I sometimes forget it's a car. Besides, once I get it back on its wheels I can roll it in and out of the garage so maybe some of the messy things like the rest of the sanding and priming on the body could be done outside for a change, thus keeping the mess down in the garage, restoring balance to the Force and peace in the galaxy.

Here, we'll be installing the rear axle and rear suspension. The rear end was actually removed from the car back in February of 2014. Since then, the car has been essentially immobile. (I'm putting the "essentially" in there because when the car was on the frame jig, it could have - theoretically, and with great effort - been rolled out of the garage on its casters in case of fire* or an outbreak of winged black widows**). It'll be nice to get it rolling again.

* A legitimate concern
** Less probable, or so I'm told.

I've had the new leafs springs and attaching hardware for while now - like a dummy, I ordered them as soon as I figured out what I needed, instead of waiting until when I needed them. As a result, they've been stored in the parts shed for the past 2 years. I restored the rear axle and brakes back in October of 2014. The leaf springs are made by Eaton, a well-known manufacturer who builds springs to original Ford specs. I purchased factory GT springs for a '67 Mustang, matching rear shackles and hardware from NPD. I had to get a set of larger U-bolts and special mounting plates from Currie because the rear axle is from a late 50's full size Ford, not a Mustang, so the typical stuff in the Mustang parts catalogs won't fit.

The only special tools used here are a good torque wrench and four extra hands.

The leaf springs were loosely bolted to the forward mounting hole. Then the wheeled axle jig was rolled in place. The jig is built so a floor jack can just reach in and lift the axle up. 

It's a team effort - the rear axle is unstable and heavy enough to need a crew to muscle it into place. 

The rear axle is held up with jack stands (including one under the yoke because it's so nose-heavy) high enough to allow the leaf springs to be pulled up and bolted to the rear of the car.

Once the rear shackles are bolted in (but not torqed! not yet!), the spring plates and U-bolts are are installed around the axle (yes, torque these now!).  The shackles don't get torqued until the car is on the ground, supported by it's own weight. I just have to remember to go back and do it. Those are the new parking brake cables all wound up there just sitting on the ground. 

The rear view of the spring plates and U-bolts. Since it's not a "Mustang" rear axle, the ends of the axle tubes are not tapered down to a smaller size. As a result, I had to get larger 3" U-bolts and matching spring plates. I mention this because one could source a Ford 9-inch rear end from a lot of places, and they're not all the same. The front bolt on each leaf spring is torqued at this step. 

Here's the finished product. The rear wheel wells are still a mess, but I'll get to it. This is the first big assembly back on the car. After I get the front end put back together, and the new fuel and brake lines installed, the car will be upgraded to "rolling shell" status. 

Tips and tricks:
1. Many hands make this easier.
2. A torque wrench good to 100 ft. lbs. is needed to tighten the front leaf spring bolts.
3. In most cases, it's better to order parts just before you're likely to need them, not as soon as you discover a need for them. I'm still storing a lower shifter boot that I'm years away from needing...

And, in case you don't recall...this is where we started.