Chapter 15: Front end rebuild

So these are updates are getting further apart, but things are still happening on the old girl slowly. Progress has been recently aided by Ana (my wife) subtly hinting that I should speed things up a bit, or in her words, “fix that piece of shit on our patio or I am sending it to the dump”.

She apparently doesn’t share my thoughts that a laid up rusty car is a great conversation piece.

Obviously my love for the car needs to be weighed up against impending divorce proceedings, but there is no way I am quitting after 4 years of (sporadic) work. So I have got a few quotes, and managed to get a decent price to have the rust issues sorted professionally, along with a tidy up the paint. So that will be happening in the next few weeks. Then I need to get the motor back in and go get her registered.

In the meantime an absolute non negotiable to get the car roadworthy has been a rebuild of the steering and front suspension. I bought a kit for that a couple of years ago on sale, so it was just a case of getting stuck in. I’d read a fair bit on the net about the pain in the arse that is this job, but after watching a few how to videos and reading some of the guides that are available, I tackled the job with a bit of confidence.

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Half way through and the old girl is missing her front legs

In summary, yes it is an absolute bastard of a job, but doable and I managed to do it all without paying a workshop hundreds of bucks to do it for me. To summarise my experiences:

  • Undoing rusty fasteners by hand gets old quick. Buy a decent impact driver if you want to do this job without the hassle
  • A ball joint splitter is also a decent investment. A pickle fork works but is very agricultural and takes a big hammer to do the job.
  • The upper ball joints are supposed to be undone using a special tool, a CNC socket that costs 70 bucks…for a job you are likely to do once, maybe twice in your life. I did mine with a massive open ended spanner which worked but is probably not recommended. It was hard work
  • The biggest head scratcher is getting the pivot bushes out of the lower arms, mainly the outer sleeve. I ended up tapping into the sleeve with a big tap, and knocking it out with a soft drift (see pics). Worked well, but a tap that big isn’t generally in most people’s tool box, I borrowed one from the workshop at my job site.
  • It is bloody hard getting the new pivot bush sleeve in. A weak hand press will struggle, again I used some gear at work, namely a hydraulic power pack operated press.
  • Take your time and take lots of photos prior to disassembly, it makes reassembly much easier and will minimise stuff ups (like me putting the drivers side spindle on the passenger side then having to bust it all apart again when I realised)
  • Check and double check all the fasteners are tightened to the specified torque and your cotter pins are back in place. Dying due to a linkage coming loose at 110km/h is problematic. Also spend a few bucks and get some new fasteners. The old ones are 50+ years old and you are reliant on them to not fail and kill you.

As mentioned there are some good online guides, and the main ones I used are listed below. Follow that step by step and its hard to go wrong.

http://www.moparmax.com/tech/2011/vi_10-torsiontips-1.html

http://www.moparmax.com/tech/2011/vi_11-torsiontips-1.html

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The lower control arm bushes wouldn’t have passed roadworthy, and the 50 year old plus rubber would likely have fallen apart in the first 100km

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36mm tap used to extract the lower control arm metal outer sleeve. I simply threaded it in and tapped it out with the soft drift.

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Front strut bush, old on left, new on right. These were stuffed too

I also talked work into getting a new sandblasting booth (for work related maintenance of course), which was great to clean the decades of rust and grime off everything prior to painting and installation. In the end I managed to get it all done, and turn my crusty, loose, worn out junk suspension and steering into something that approximates factory new.

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New sandblaster made cleaning up rusty bits a breeze. They paint up so nice after blasting

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Shiny bits back in car prior to adding the brakes. Makes the inner guards look like shit now

After a few months with the front end out of the car, it was nice to have the old girl on 4 legs again and ready to for her time in the body shop.

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Back on 4 legs again!