Sunday, October 2, 2011

Get friendly with a restorer!

One of the hurdles involved in building a hot rod is finding parts! If you are building a "catalog hot rod", it's easy, just order everything from Speedway and bolt it together. But when you do that, it looks like what it is, a generic car using off shore made parts from a catalog. Yuk.

Since I only build vintage cars, I like to use as many vintage parts as I can. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a Ford flathead restorer named Ivan who has been collecting parts since the 70's. He has a huge stash of just about everything you can think of. This stash of his came in handy when I wanted to use some nice rust free vintage Ford parts for the '32.

Ivan has had this stuff stored in his dry attic for years so most of his stuff is pristine. This is a good thing to have! Getting the best pieces you can will save you a lot of time because nice parts don't require that much work to get smoothed out & into shape for paint or chrome plating.

Guys that have big stashes of parts also might have some rare parts that are hard to find and that add value to your car as opposed to run of the mill stuff. For instance, if I wanted to spend the money, I could have had Ivan set up a complete Columbia 2 speed rear end. He has all the parts including the speedometer changer that changes the gear ratio so that the speedometer maintains the correct speed when the 2nd speed on the rear end kicks in. But, since I was trying to build on a low budget, I didn't opt for the Columbia.

I did get a few pieces that I needed including a nice '40 Ford truck steering wheel, a '38 Ford truck column drop with the mast jacket attached, a '48 Ford steering shaft and a 2 bolt front cover & distributor for the flathead engine. It might have taken me months to pull all that together using ebay, Craigslist or Forbarn.com but Ivan had it all in his attic and all his parts are categorized, kind of like a Costco for vintage Ford parts! As you can see he has doubles and triples of everything and then some!

So if you ever meet someone at a show or cruise night who starts talking about cars he's restored in the past, keep asking questions and see what parts he might have lying around, you might just hit the mother load at the right time and find what you need to keep your project on track.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Shortening a Torque Tube

I f you are building a vintage ride like I am, you probably want to go with a closed drive line.
When you hear the term "closed", it means the driveshaft is enclosed by what is known as a torque tube. The torque tube bolts from the transmission mount on the K member to the rear end and the rear radius rods attach to it.

You can convert to an open drive line with these cars by either using a truck banjo rear end with an open end or buying a kit Speedway sells to convert a closed drive line Ford banjo rear end to an open drive line. Then you'd have to have a driveshaft built and you'd need a truck transmission to bolt it to or if you were using an automatic transmission, you'd have to figure out what universal joint yoke you'd need for that transmission.

But, to keep the car period correct, I'm using a '36 Ford torque tube that I am cutting down to fit between the rear end and the transmission mount. Why do I need to cut down a torque tube? You may not if you are using a stock 1932 Ford banjo rear end but, those rear ends are basically Model A rear ends and are very weak compared to later banjo rears. Plus, a '32 rear end has a pinion shaft that is part of the driveshaft. Mine was missing the pinion shaft and to buy a set of matching pinion/ring gear was way more than finding a later flathead Ford rear end and shortening the torque tube & driveshaft.

So, I found a complete banjo rear end off Craigslist for $250! I mean everything was there, drum to drum, radius rods, rear spring, and it even had the speedometer gear on the torque tube. I had the entire chassis media blasted and then I had a flathead restorer rebuild the entire rear end. It should be bulletproof! But, I still need to shorten the torque tube.

To do this, you need to completely assemble the rear end and put it up on wheels, preferably the wheels you will use in the final build along with the front end on wheels so that you know exactly how the car will sit on the ground. The rear end will sag forwards so you will need to get a scissors jack to put under the rear end to level it.

What I normally do is get a piece of pvc pipe or a long round wooden dowel to put temporarily between the coupler on the banjo to the U joint on the transmission and eyeball it to get it level. Make sure you have the torque tube bell on the transmission, that is important! That's how the car will be going down the street pretty much once the torque tube is bolted together.

The length that you come up with for the distance between the coupler & the U joint is the distance you'll need the driveshaft shortened down to. I used a '46 thru '48 Ford driveshaft which is the same diameter all around, this makes it easy for a driveshaft shop to cut and re spline or cut and re weld it. You can't cut & re weld the tube type of driveshaft found on '36 Fords. Leave those for guys to make headers out of! You can also get a '34 Ford driveshaft and cut the 10 spline end off that attaches to the banjo and use a 6 to 10 spline adapter turned down in a lathe and then welded into the drive shaft. But I would have a driveshaft shop do the welding and have it balanced.

Okay, now once you have the chassis mocked up with something simulating the driveshaft take out the mockup driveshaft and put the torque tube onto the bell on the transmission mount and then put the back of the torque tube next to the rear end as close as you can get it to where it'll be bolted. You may want to get a couple of jack stands to hold the torque tube in place, it's much easier. Now measure the distance from the front of the flange on the banjo to the tip of the torque tube. That should give you your distance and mark it on your torque tube. I can't tell you exactly what it is because it's different for every car. Even if you were using the exact same parts, you might get a measurement that is off by a half an inch.

Now get out your chop saw and cut it but only cut it where the diameter is constant! That is very important. Then cut it again taking out how many inches you need to make the torque tube fit in the '32 frame. After it's cut, you should be able to join the 2 pieces together and they should mate up perfectly if you cut it straight. Use jack stands to hold everything where you want it and tack weld it in a few spots. I always take the torque tube back out and stand it up straight on the ground on the end with the flange to make sure it's level. You can even check it with a level on top of the torque tube while it's standing on end. If it's good, finish welding it together and than grind and smooth or just leave it if you want the raw look.

Now you can take that drive shaft and measurement to a reputable shop and have them shorten and re weld it together and balance it. Or, if you can find a place that can re spline it, it won't need to be balanced.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stewart Warner Mechanical tach drive for a ford flathead

Sometimes you just get lucky.

I went to the Long Beach swap meet in January when I was in LA for the Grand National Roadster Show. I went with the purpose of finding a vintage SW mechanical tach drive for a flathead. Believe it or not, the first vendor I went to had exactly what I was looking for at a really low price! I bought it of course.

In case you aren't familar, flatheads are tough to hook a tachometer up to. GM cars had tachs driven off the backs of generators and companies like Mallory made tach drives off distributors for small block Chevies and other engines.

But, with a flathead you had to run an electric tach setup. In the 50's, that wasn't so hard. You went down to Western Auto or SoCal Speed shop and bought a tachometer setup with instructions and you just hooked it up.

Flash forward to today, you would have to find an electric tach, then find the correct sending unit, either one of which might not work and then figure out how to wire it up, or you could buy a SW mechanical drive which mounts on the front of the flathead using two bolts that screw into factory tapped holes in the engine block and then you run a cable to the tachometer on the dash. There is also a small cable that runs from the tach drive to the crank nut.

It's a simple setup and that's why I wanted it. That's why guys in the 40's had them at the dry lakes, it was the easiest way to set it up and at the lakes, it was necessary to know your RPM's for fear that you could blow up a flathead if you revved it to high.

But for some reason, either they didn't survive the constant beating of high RPM's or they got thrown away when OHV engines came in, these mechanical tach drives are rare and usually very expensive.

I'm glad I got this one and it has nice home on the '32. It just needs some more cleaning.

All I need now is SW tachometer, anyone got one for sale???

Front end stuff

Sorry I haven't blogged in a while! I've been so busy with the '32, grinding, welding, sanding, chasing parts, etc.
I disassembled the front end to sand down & smooth out the metal after the media blasting. I found a lot of pits which I expected and some little issues that I had to fix.

I found divots in the top of the wishbone on each side where the tie rod ends made contact with the wishbone when turning. This is a common problem and I fixed it by welding globs of weld into the divot, then grinding the whole thing down and finishing with 60 grit sandpaper on an angle grinder, then 60 grit sandpaper on a palm sander.

I also redid the front spring. I had a friend re-arch the main leaf to lower the front end by an inch and I took out half the leaves in the spring pack further lowering the car. I media blasted the remaining leaves and sanded down each one as best I could. There are pits in the metal that will have to be filled in with a little putty and filler primer but, not bad for 79 year old metal!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to replace '32 Ford front frame horns

My '32 frame came with front frame horns that were "clipped" or cut off. Whoever owned it before me cut off the first 4 or 5 inches of the horns which is where the front spreader bar bolts on. Now, I could have left the frame horns as is but I wanted to use a front spreader bar because it adds rigidity to the frame and you can mount your license plate off of it like it was done at the Ford factory.

In order to do this I needed to find some genuine or "gennie" frame horns. I did buy some Brookville horns but they did not match the contour of an original '32 Ford frame correctly.
I finally found a pair from a fellow HAMBer and went to work.
The way I did this was to bolt the new frame horns directly next to the frame horns on the frame using factory holes in the top of the frame that bolted the front splash apron to the frame I believe.

Then, I marked with a marker where I wanted to cut the frame horns off by lining up the cut on the horns as best I could. I used a cut off wheel on an angle grinder because I knew that would give me the straightest cuts which is really important because the contour of the frame has to line up perfectly and the distances to the front of the frame had to be equal.

Once the horns were cut, I clamped them onto the frame and checked over and over again to make sure the frame had the right contour and length. I did have to grind down the metal on the horns slightly to get them to fit better and I did that until I was happy with the way it looked.

Then I tack welded them in place with my MIG welder and again I checked to see how they looked. When I was satisfied, I finished welding them on. Then I ground down the welds with a large grinding disc on the angle grinder in order to get inside the rails then and sanded the welds them using a 120 grit sanding disc and then I sanded down the rails with 60 grit on a palm sander. I did have to take out the front crossmember to do this. Then I hand sanded the rails with 120 grit sandpaper to make sure I got all the rough spots.

Now I can add a front spreader bar with a license plate or a car club plaque!!