Resto Mod Restorations Part 2: Chassis and Undercar Teardown
For Jeff Noll and Jim Mokwa getting their muscle cars restored took effort on their parts. Jeff did the media blasting and body work himself. Jim divided tasks into jobs that he could do and jobs he felt more comfortable with others doing. The engine body work. Jim repaired the frame. Both men took many photos. These helped determine their car's strengths and weaknesses and gave them a good idea of what parts they needed. Tearing the car apart came next.
Both of them had a head start on the tear-down, as the cars were partly disassembled when purchased. Jeff's Camaro was towed home with no front sheet metal and no engine. Jim's came home on the trailer in almost the same state. The front end was off the car and the engine was out of it. He did, however, get two rear axles. One was installed and the other was a spare. The car had no windshield or door glass. A tire was stuck in the empty engine bay.
Taking a car apart requires tools. Standard automotive tools such as combination wrenches (one end shaped like an open claw and the other like a gear), socket sets and drivers in the three common sizes (1/4-, 3/8- and 1/2-inch) as well as a hefty 3/4-inch drive socket set. The big sockets make it easier to take out big chassis bolts that are stuck. Cheap sets are available and come with a bar and a ratchet handle. The bearings in the ratchet handle may not be up to the job of breaking big rusty bolts loose, but the bar and socket will usually do it.
You'll also want flat and Phillips head crosscut screwdrivers, razor cutters, flare wrenches for brass fittings and a variety of hammers from tiny ones to sledges. For some jobs you'll want hammers with soft brass or plastic heads. Other tasks may require wooden or rubber mallets in various sizes and weights.
Specialty items such as pullers, pry bars, vise-grip pliers, body hammers, door handle removal tools and a set of bead-filled plastic trim removal tools will be very helpful in a teardown. An air powered impact wrench is a very handy tool for spinning off stubborn fasteners like the bolt on the front end of the crankshaft.
If you are serious about doing automotive restorations and plan to do more, you might want to invest in a cutting torch or plasma cutter. Miller Electric Company did hands-on demonstrations of their plasma cutter at the 2010 SEMA Show and it seemed like the perfect tool for our last teardown. We had two parts in particular that we could not take off a frame and we had to hire the job out. With minimal training, we could have easily removed them with a plasma cutter.
Moving Heavy Cars & Parts
Jeff Noll and Jim Mokwa dealt with moving cars around. The Camaro is a unit body car with only a stub frame, Jeff kept it as a roller with wheels and tires in place for a time. Jim arranged for a man with a Case skid steer to lift his body off the chassis and place it on a wheeled dolly. He then rolled the dolly (with the GTO body on it) onto a trailer to take it to the body shop. The frame, with the rear axle removed, sat outside with wheels and tires on the front only.
Restorers often have to deal with moving heavy car parts from one spot to the next. A floor jack can help. Car skates and body dollies are even better. It is nice to leave the wheels and tires on the car for as long as possible like Jeff did However, if you're doing body off frame job, this isn't practical. One option is the Easy-Access system made by a company named Backyard Buddy.