1955 T-BIRD CAR RESTORATION PROJECT
T-Bird Car Restoration Project - Part 7 - Front End Conversion - Page 2
Once the frame sections are welded it's time for the center cross member to go into place. This component is marked with the axle centerline and its marks should line up with the "C" section's centerline. If it doesn't, there's something horribly wrong, but if everything has been measured up to now, the cross member will line up.
The cross member is heavy, so the best way to "clamp" it in place is to jack it up from underneath until it contacts the frame, and then slightly lift the frame off the jack stands. This will apply more than enough clamping pressure for welding. Make sure the centerlines are mated and the cross member isn't twisted where it meets the bottom of the frame. If the cross member's inside lip doesn't quite snug up to the inside of the frame, slide an appropriate piece of shim material into the gap to allow for a good weld joint. Every joint where the cross member and frame touch must be welded its entire length, so take your time and get to work.
Once the cross member is welded into place you can install the spring/upper A-arm housings. These also have the centerlines marked, so aligning them to the frame sections should be easy. A slight amount of the inside edge of the housings has to be ground away to fit the curvature of the frame section, but otherwise the housing should wrap over the top of the frame section and fit snugly. As with the cross member, every joint where these components meet must be welded over its entire length.
Time For Assembly
Once all the above components are welded into place, go back and check all the welds for quality. Touch up any area that needs it and then grind or smooth out everything until it meets your standards for visual appeal. Prime and paint the bare metal components after you've cleaned them up.
Once the paint is dry you can install the steering rack. Two mounting bolts and associated bushings/washers secure the steering rack and these must be tightened properly. Test the steering rack for ease of operation.
Before going any further, get the grease gun out and fill the tie rod ends and all four ball joints with grease.
Next, install the lower A-arms. These are held in place on the cross member by long bolts and locking hardware. It's possible to install the arms upside down, so make sure the ball joints are facing up. Roll a floor jack under the A-arm to position it close to horizontal.
Install the upper A-arms using the special attaching bolts. Position each roughly in the center of the two slots in the upper housing and lightly tighten the bolts. Using the spring compressor, position each spring (with its rubber insulator) into the housing and compress it to allow fitting into the lower A-arm's "saddle." It has to be compressed enough to allow installation of the spindle assembly onto the upper and lower ball joints.
Note: there is a top and bottom to the coil springs. The top has a white stripe painted onto the coil.
The spindle assembly is heavy, so make sure it's the correct one for the side on which you are working. Position it onto the lower ball joint and then push the upper ball joint down into the spindle's upper mount. Quickly hand-turn the castle nuts and washers that hold the ball joints in place to keep everything together, then tighten the nuts as firmly as possible before the coil spring is released.
Make sure the coil spring's end is positioned into the lower A-arm's spring saddle and then slowly release the compressor's tension. The spring will stay in place once it expands enough, but take your time to get it right. Once the spring has expanded into place and all tension is off the compressor, take it out and double-check the tightness of the ball joint castle nuts. These must be tightened as hard as you can pull the wrench, after which you need to install the cotter pins. Assemble the other side and you're almost done.
No. There's no point in trying to align the new suspension until the entire frame is fitted with the engine, transmission, drive shaft, etc., and the body is completely assembled and "drive-ready." For now, straighten the front wheel hubs by eye and center the steering rack. Once centered, hand-turn the tie rod ends until they fit the wheel positions and insert their shafts into the steering arms. Hand-tighten the castle nuts, just to keep the tie rod ends from falling out and allow you to steer the wheels.
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