Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Custom Wheel Sneak-Peek!

Just a couple of little little teaser shots during mock-up of the custom wheels we had made for the Boss  Schott Wheels make absolute jewelry for custom aluminum wheels.  The machining tolerances on these wheels are almost unbelievable (check the fit on the billet center caps for a hint)!

More will follow as we go!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Rear Bumper Fabrication Project – Part 1

While this blog showed little activity throughout most of 2017, the fact is, there actually was a bit of progress being made on a somewhat ambitious endeavor I decided to undertake.  The following update spans several months of time in the project and MANY hours, but is condensed for easier reading.  As of this writing, we are working consistently on the project in hopes of moving the project forward with much more energy.  But first, a little background:

A few years back, I was on the hunt for a ready-made composite “tucked” rear bumper and in the market; there were a few commercial outfits that offered them.  So, I set to doing my “homework” and communicating with a number of builders who had experience ahead of mine, I was able to quickly eliminate two of the offerings for either fit issues or quality issues (or both).  That left a single source that talked a very good game and frequents most of the larger Mustang forums on the net (mostly to maintain a passive-aggressive advertisement campaign that is clearly frowned upon by most forum admins, but that’s another story).  Anyway, with some trepidation, I ordered a tucked fiberglass bumper from the outfit and was assured I would love it and that “countless” customers have installed them without a single problem.

The day came when my new bumper arrived and I headed straight out to fit it to the car and admire the end result.  Ya………never happening.  While the gel coat surface was pretty decent, the bumper fit like absolute CRAP.  So, trying to be the “good feedback” customer, I documented every issue with pictures and verbal description, along with measurements where needed and sent it over to the supplier.

Naturally, on review of my notes, the response was the usual “nobody else ever had a problem with it until now” and “there must be something wrong with your car” routine.  Given that data and Ford body assembly manuals and specifications don’t lie, I returned the garbage bumper for a refund and set off to thinking about alternatives.  At the end of it, the options that were out there really didn’t have the right “look” I was after anyway, so I guess there was little lost in the end but time.

Selecting the Fabrication Method

First on my mind was to just knuckle-up and chop and section a factory steel bumper and get on with it.  But, if you have ever done a chopped, sectioned and tucked steel bumper for a Mustang, you will understand my hesitancy in choosing that route if other viable alternatives exist.

After a number of “happy-hour” conversations with friends and colleagues in the “biz”, I was encouraged to build a bumper from scratch.  But instead of steel, go to the trouble of making a tooling-quality mold and fabricate the bumper from vacuum-bagged, resin infused epoxy/carbon fiber (or epoxy/fiberglass) laminate.

My first thought was; “Sure!  Let’s pick the one way to build a rear bumper that likely involved more work that working one up in steel!”  What a great idea!  As it turns out…….it was the perfect idea.  Will it be faster?  Nope.  Will it be less expensive?  Nope.  Do we have all of the tools to produce the mold?  Nope (but close).  Will it work to make a bumper exactly the way we want?  OH YES.  Will it allow us to make extra parts, exactly like the original, over and over again?  You betcha!  Are we just a wee bit crazy?  Beyond the shadow of a doubt!  So………..guess what we’re gunna do????

Building the Plug

On a complex shape like a rear bumper, the first order of business is to make a full scale model of the exact shape you want in a medium that can be easily shaped.  This model is often referred to as the “plug” or “buck” and in its finished form, will be a beautiful “A”-class surfaced model of the exact shape that the composite rear bumper will be.  From this plug, the tooling mold will be pulled and all finished parts will be molded in it.  This is a rather gross oversimplification, but you get the idea.

After countless hours walking my brain through the entire process I would use to create my unique, tucked rear bumper, I decided to construct the plug using a simple steel support structure with 2-part pourable, closed-cell urethane foam poured around it to perfectly match the plug form to the body.  This would allow the foam plug to perfectly index to the body every time so even the smallest details could be maintained and were repeatable each time the bumper model would need to be taken off the car for work.

After protecting the entire tail of the car with masking tape and waxed foil tape for easy release of the foam, a temporary box was fastened to the back of the car to contain the 2-part expanding foam we would use to produce the core of our bumper plug.  With an expansion ratio of roughly 30:1, we would need less than ½ gallon of foam base stock to complete the plug core.

A simple piece of 1/2" steel bar is used as the inner structure of the foam bumper plug for support and to provide a place where hard mounting points can be welded so the bumper can be easily mounted to the body.  Also, you can see the masking that has been applied to the rear bodywork to prevent the urethane foam from sticking to the body.
The steel support structure was bolted into place through the factory bumper bracket holes and the urethane foam components were mixed and poured into the temporary box and allowed to expand to match the body contours and cure overnight.  The next day, the box as cut away from the rigidly cured foam “blob” now stuck to the back of the car.  The mounting bolts were removed and the plug core was gently pulled away from the body, revealing a perfectly molded inner surface that registered very securely into the features of the rear bodywork.

A simple box structure was attached to the back of the car in order to keep the liquid, 2-part urethane foam from leaking and to provide an outside boundary to keep the foam against the body as it expands and cures.
Next, the plug core was bolted back on and the rough trimming of the shape began with very simply hand saws, an electric knife and Surform tools.  After about an hour, the bulk of the foam core was carved away and the very slightest vestiges of a new bumper shape were starting to emerge.  At this point, there would no longer be a need for the crude tools of rough shaping and all other work would involve very delicate sanding, measuring, sanding, measuring, sanding, and………measuring.

After the foam has expanded and cured, the temporary box is removed and the rough foam buck is rough trimmed to get rid of the extra material.
There really is no secret to establishing the final shape of the bumper.  In its simplest description, it’s pretty much the “artist’s eye” that guides the form.  I have had the image of what I wanted in a rear bumper clarified in my mind’s eye for several years, so I would often close my eyes and envision what I wanted and then open ‘em up and remove bits of foam that didn’t look like my mental image.

With simple sanding boards and Surform tools, the basic bumper shape is roughed-in.  The shape is roughly 1/2" to 3/4" larger than the final shape will be.

After rough shaping, the first stages of intermediate shaping can begin.  This takes the shape to with 1/8" or less of the final bumper profile.

Since the shape is essentially a mirror image from left to right, I made a series of almost 20 templates to document the final shape of the plug and allow me to replicate the shape from left to right as closely as possible.  The process to arrive at the final shape took roughly 80 hours of hand work before I was happy with the shape and fit of the base plug.  And once I had that shape completed and all of the templates made and massaged to fit perfectly, I removed the plug, placed spacers between the body mount and plug and reinstalled the plug again.  Naturally, this placed the entire plug surface proud of the body by the thickness of the spacers, so I had to once again shape the entire plug back to the desired shape.  However, since the templates were now fully complete, the process of “drawing down” the final plug shape was only about 8 hours.

Final shaping begins with lighter grit sandpaper boards and blocks and once a shape is defined, a template is made to ensure the shape is maintained and can be repeated later on.

The final foam bumper plug shape is established and checked many times with the templates to make absolutely sure the shape is correct.

“Skinning” the Plug

With the plug now in the exact shape I want, it needs to be protected from damage so the final bodywork and finishing can take place.  The foam plug surface is now very delicate and is easily damaged by even the slightest impact.  So, to protect the plug, a thin covering of an epoxy/fiberglass laminate must be applied to the plug to allow the shape to be preserved and protected and to provide a solid base on which body fillers, primers and paints can be applied to finish the plug.  The process of applying the protective laminate surface to the plug is called “skinning”.

This very light, 2-oz fiberglass veil cloth is used in the process of skinning the plug.  This material is very shear and when wet-out with epoxy resin, it virtually disappears into the laminate skin.

A layer of regular masking tape is placed around the perimeter of the bumper to help with releasing after the epoxy laminate has cured.

All of the fiberglass cloth is carefully cut ahead of time and numbered or lettered to aid in placement when the skinning process begins.  This saves huge amounts of time and ensure accuracy in the layup.

Quite simply, skinning the plug involves wetting the surface of the foam plug with a special epoxy laminating resin and embedding (laminating) a few thin layers of very light fiberglass cloth into the resin surface.  Special tools are used to roll out any air bubbles that may be trapped in the resin and cloth and the matrix is left to cure for several days to ensure complete hardening of the resin and stabilization of the plug.

The skinning process is a rather straightforward process of wetting out and filling the closed-cell foam surface with epoxy resin and embedding two layers of light fiberglass cloth into the resin.  Then all the air bubbles are rolled out of the matrix and the entire lot is left to cure overnight.

Trimming the Plug

Once the epoxy laminate “skin” has fully hardened, the plug is pulled from the body and any excess flash is trimmed off the plug back to the original shape.  Now, the bumper plug is much more stable and solid and it can be handled with confidence that no damage will occur and the shape will be maintained even when the bumper plug is not bolted to the body.

Prepping the Plug for Finishing

With the plug now fully skinned, the heavy masking was removed from the body and the plug was test fit to the body to begin to establish the scope of the finish work required.  In the “skinned” state, the plug is still pretty rough on the surface and will require very fine detail work to get all of the gaps perfected and the surfaces filled and finished to the perfect, class ”A” surface necessary to pull a mold from.  The bottom line is simple:  To get a perfect part, we need a perfect mold surface.  And to get a perfect mold surface, we need a perfect plug!  Needless to say there is a TON of work left on this plug to get where we need to go, but at this point, the shape is exactly what I want and it achieves the exact look I want in a tucked rear bumper.  When mocked up on the car with tail light bezels in place, the look is very clean and changes the look of the 70 Mustang tail substantially without looking odd, angular or “industrial.”

The skinned plug is now well protected and offers an excellent foundation to begin the final plug finishing process.  When completed, the plug will be a fully finished, "A"-Class surface from which the actual mold will be pulled.

This shot really captures the look of the bumper nicely.  This bumper shape is exactly what I have kept in my mind's eye for years and we will soon be able to reproduce it in either an epoxy/carbon composite or an epoxy/fiberglass composite.

Now, the process will slow down once again as we begin to refine the plug edges to achieve the desired gaps all the way around the surface and to begin final shaping of the license plate aperture.  Then we will move on to preparing the surfaces for final finishing on our way to mold making.  LOTS of work to go, but in the end, I think it will all be worth it!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2017 In Review – New Rear Bumper Project

"Where the heck have you been?"

Yep.  That's does indeed seem to be the popular question from most of the loyal followers of this blog and from friends all over the world. 

Honestly, 2017 was an unimaginable blur in life that welded together some of the happiest, stressful, frustrating and saddest times all into a year that, in the end, I was happy to see off with my beloved family around me.  In the end, there was A LOT that happened in 2017 that took precedence over car building, but believe it or not, progress was made on a particularly complex element of the Boss project as you will see in a later post.  However, as a quick catch-up, 2017 went something like this:
  • I Got Engaged!
Yep.  My unimaginably patient and undeniably “better half” of the last 11 years will finally become my bride within the next 12-18 months.  I have been blessed to know Cindy for almost 45 years and if there was ever a story of "second chances" well.........we could write the book on it!  I finally got it right!
  • Wind Storm
Early Spring brought a substantial wind storm to the area that managed to do significant damage to my house roof (shop was good!!).  End result was a load of expensive repairs required.  More later.
  • Coupe Tuning

I spent a lot of time getting the carb and ignition tuning straight on the ’32 Coupe.  This was a much-needed exercise that has yielded an excellent running hot rod that we were able to enjoy quite a lot this season.  In the end, I had gathered so much data that I was able to write a fairly comprehensive "tuning manual" for the Edelbrock Thunder AVS carburetor series that turned out pretty well.  In fact, with a bit more touch-up, I may just publish it!
  • Bathroom Remodel (Finished in October)

After putting it off for far too long, we finally dove into a complete remodel of our master bathroom.  Gutted to the studs rebuild.  Work I do not enjoy, but the end result looks and functions fantastic.  Had to be done.
  • Crushed Shed (First casualty of wind storm)

Technically the first casualty of the earlier windstorm, our home storage shed was crushed by a huge fallen branch from an oak tree in our back yard.  Sucker was about 14” in diameter and over 30 feet long.  The shed never stood a chance.  Haul-away of the tree alone was $2k!  Sheeeeeeit!
  • New Roof & Gutters (Second casualty of wind storm)
The second casualty of the windstorm, we had to have the entire roof replaced on the house, and while we were at it, replaced the house gutters and added them to the shop!  Bottom line = $$$$$$
  • Introducing:  The Dodge Demon SRT

After almost 2 years of my secret day-job life, I was proud to have been able to enjoy the launch of my latest “baby”.  After extremely confidential work, our FCA SRT Engine Group was able to enjoy the launch of our Dodge SRT Demon!  Currently the quickest production car in the world and the highest output V8 in history, the lists of “firsts” in this car are indeed impressive.  But perhaps most entertaining and rewarding is watching this production car heft the front tires clear of the track surface on production tires!  Yes ladies and gents, THIS is what I do in my “day job”.
  • New Tractor

This was one of those “too-good-to-pass-up” moments to purchase a mid-sized diesel tractor that would easily handle the work around the house.  It needed a bit of work, but was otherwise complete and in surprisingly good shape.  Bought it.  Fixing it.  Still can’t plow snow with it.  Just ran out of time…..
  • Niagara Falls with Family

In late summer, we kicked off a flurry of activities with an overnight trip to Niagara Falls with family from Germany.  There is no doubt why this spectacle of nature is a wonder of the world and is truly something special to behold.
  • Daughter’s Wedding

Undoubtedly one of the best days of my life, the day our daughter married was as perfect as any could be.  From the weather, to the venue, to the ceremony and the reception, to having all but one of our living family members in one place for the first time, just seeing our daughter the happiest she could be in her marriage to her best friend was truly one of my greatest moments.  The path was a long one, with many ups and downs, but I am proud of the woman she has become and proud of the man she married.  Many who follow this blog will recall her (now) husband Ted as he put a tremendous amount of work into our Boss project a few summer ago.  Well, he’s now my son-in-law and we couldn’t be happier or more proud of them both.
  • Mom’s New Knee
After years of suffering with painful, failing knee joints, my Mom finally decided to have her worst knee replaced in mid-September.  With outstanding preparation on her part and equally excellent surgical prowess from her surgeon, Mom’s knee replacement was textbook-perfect and her recovery truly impressive.  In just a month from her surgery, she was done with rehab and discharged from physical therapy.  And here, at just three months after surgery, Mom is already planning the replacement of her other knee!  Lack of pain is evidently a remarkable motivator!
  • Mom & Dad’s 50th

Though the actual date was in late August, we were finally able to celebrate Mom & Dad’s 50th anniversary in October!  With wedding, surgery and family visits out of the way, we were able to concentrate on celebrating one of the most awesome events of the year (in my estimation anyway).  Mom and Dad have set the bar very high at 50 years of marriage (and counting) and I am proud beyond words of their milestone.  We were able to enjoy a nice party with friends and family all gathered to celebrate with them.  Another truly great day!
  • Well Tank & Main Gas Line

In another unexpected series of events, we got the pleasure (?) of having to replace our entire interior water well tank and plumbing system along with our main natural gas feed line into the house.  Not one to tolerate the outrageous ransoms demanded by the local “trades”, we (Dad and I) tackled both projects with urgency as winter weather was only a few weeks away.  Both fixed.  Both working better than ever.
  • Lost My Grandmother

Sadly, the year began drawing to a close on a very sad footing.  In late November, our tiny family said goodbye to our “Omi”.  My grandmother left her earthly bounds to the comfort of our Lord and the waiting arms of her beloved mate “Walty”.  Reminded again of the difficulty of being part of a small family spread widely across the globe, saying goodbye was a cruel, remote affair that I rather abhor.  However, I take comfort in knowing she is at peace and renewed.  Again, I find myself regularly pondering "life" and where everything fits.  Still confounds me so.....
  • New Grandchild on the Way
As it seems to have always been in our family, blessings come in the most unexpected ways and times.  On the heels of losing our beloved “Omi”, our son informed us that he and his betrothed were expecting a child, our fourth grandchild.  So where loss had dominated the mind and heart, a new life will arrive and be celebrated in the summer of 2018!
  • Shop Tool Re Org

In the whirlwind involved in building and “populating” our new shop, there was little time to spend organizing tools and spaces to allow optimum work flow and efficiency.  In the few remaining weeks of 2017, I made the decision to put my hands on every tool, empty every toolbox, and organize everything in such a manner to keep the work space clean, functional and easy to access.  Once I was satisfied that I had everything where I wanted it, I was in good shape to look at 2018 with more optimism and capability than ever before.  Guess we’ll see what happens!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Lokar E-Brake Overview & Install – Mostly Good, but…..

Lokar is well known for a host of innovative, nice looking and top quality hot rod and muscle car components.  Quite a while ago, I decided to go with their universal emergency brake handle kit along with their premium cable kit to craft a tunnel-mounted e-brake that looked simple and unobtrusive in the car.  I looked long and hard at the many factory Ford e-brake setups out there and they just didn’t quite have the right look I was after.

A while back, I mocked up the Lokar handle as an “underhung” configuration, mainly to allow me to fabricate the slot for the mechanism in the transmission tunnel and get all of that finished before the under car bed liner coating could go on.  Unfortunately, I pretty much knew that configuration was going to present significant clearance issues to the front drive shaft u-joint if I allowed it to hand that low in the tunnel.  The fix, as it ended up, required a bit of surgery on the Lokar E-Brake frame to get the handle and cable setup to tuck tightly up into the tunnel and still operate the rear e-brake levers on the calipers (more on this later).

The cables were an off-the-shelf setup designed for the “Thunderbird” rear disk brakes according to Lokar.  This is important as the “Mustang” brake cables won’t fit the Cobra rear brake calipers correctly.  Who knew!  Ha!  Once we got this little detail ironed out with Lokar, the installation was a matter of proper routing and cutting them to the proper length to interface with the e-brake handle.  Easiest part of the job!

The final fit-up of the system was a walk in the park.  Everything bolted together like a factory setup, in spite of the fact that the Lokar installation instructions are rather “modest” at best.  Now, for the “rest of the story”:  If you have your heart set on the Lokar e-brake setup stopping or even positively securing your car in a fixed spot, you will be disappointed.  The bottom line is the handle is too short to develop enough leverage on an integrated disk brake caliper e-brake to make it much more than a symbolic gesture at the job.  This was not altogether a surprise, mind you, but it was a bit more disappointing than I expected given the otherwise top quality of every part in the kit.  That being said, this same basic setup works just fine on the drum brake combination on our 32 Ford Coupe hot rod and I suspect that has a lot to do with the fact that there is a lot more friction surface available with the brake shoes and the drum brake is “self-energizing” to a greater extent.  But, at the end of the day, for a disk brake setup with an integrated e-brake mechanism, the handle length dictates available leverage and this just ain’t got enough of it to be 100% there.

At the end of the day, I won’t change a thing for the time being and will revisit the idea of fabricating my own handle at some later date.  But for now, the spirit and intent of the system is in place and it really does look very clean.

The Lokar handle mounting scheme required a bit of modification to get the mechanism low enough in the tunnel to work as intended.  The original under hung mounting strategy that I first envisioned simply wasn't going to work.
Without modifications to drop the assembly into the tunnel slot about 3/8", the Lokar e-brake handle would not have fit quite right.  Notice how tight to the tunnel roof the pivot is.

The cable anchor bracket eventually dictated the target height of the e-brake handle.  Here, you can see how clean a simple the cable mount hardware is.

Fully fit up and in the "off" position, the entire cable mechanism is snug to the top of the tunnel and will easily clear the drive shaft.

Looking from the back of the car, the Lokar e-brake cables route nicely along the top of the tunnel.

From the tunnel, the left side e-brake cable routes to the caliper without much drama.

Left caliper showing the cable housing connection and cable end detail.

Here is the right side cable routing.  Again, simple with no drama.

Right side caliper with cable connection and end detail.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Fuel System Install Part 2 – Hard Lines, Front Soft Lines & Pump Plumbing

When we left off last, the rear soft lines had been completed and the fuel pump module had been placed in the tank.  Moving forward from here, we started phase 2 of the fuel system install by permanently mounting the fuel tank in place using butyl strip caulking to seal the tank flange to the trunk aperture.  With momentum on our side, the selection and routing of the short lengths of soft line to the trunk area bulkhead fittings could be easily worked out.  Once we had something that allowed clean bends in the hoses and no interference with any surrounding points, the lines and fittings were mated up and set into place.  Almost a shame that all of this will be covered by the trunk floor during upholstering.

Next on the agenda was perhaps the most difficult aspect of fuel system installation:  Custom fabricated hard lines that make up the bulk of the feed and return line length.  I am a bit particular in how fluid lines look, and prefer that they remain as unseen as absolutely possible without compromising function.  In addition, I demand that all fluid lines are leak-free straight off and that they are easy to work with.  LOTS of builders (most in fact) use stainless steel tubing for hard lines in both brake and fuel systems and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  However, anyone who has worked with stainless will tell you it can be rather unforgiving to bend and flare and leaks are something to be chased on all too frequent of occasions.  Coupled with that, stainless is rather expensive and can be somewhat variable in quality.

Over the years, I have become an absolute cheerleader for American-made copper-nickel-ferrous alloy (a.k.a. “cunifer”) hard line material in everything from brakes to fuel and oil lines.  This material is very durable, will not corrode, bends easily and cleanly, flares like a dream and is good to about 3000psi. 

Since most of the fitting hardware on this fuel system is of the 37-degree AN flare variety, the hard lines will have to be flared accordingly.  And since I insist on using an aircraft industry roll-flaring tool for hard line work, the cunifer material outshines any stainless tubing in almost all respects, save perhaps, visual appeal in an exposed application.  What can I say, some people like shiny stuff!

The feed and return lines for the Boss are fabricated from 3/8” cunifer material as an (almost) matching pair of lines run down the inboard side of the subframe connectors from the rear to the front and then passing through the right front subframe to just under the right torque box enclosure. Of course, this sounds so easy like that, but there is about 6 hours of work in fabricating these two lines to ensure they match beautifully and terminate in exactly the location they are needed to allow the front soft lines to be fitted with precision.

In response to the many questions I get regarding tubing work; it’s worth mentioning that you should consider the investment in top quality tools a necessity in making hard lines worthy of display.  Quality tubing benders are an absolute must and the same goes for flaring tools.  I swear by my Imperial Eastman benders, Ridgid #376 roll-form 37-degree AN flaring tool, Kwix-UK tube straightening tools, and the Eastwood #25304 pro flaring tool and can’t imagine being able to do the work on this fuel system without them!

With hard lines run, the fuel lines could be finished up with the final (and rather tricky) job of making the front soft lines that pass through the right torque box to the inner apron in the engine bay.  It begins with careful placement of the pass-thru holes that will get grommets inserted to prevent any damage to the rubber lines as they pass through the sheet metal panels.  Since the lower and upper hard line “pierce points” are almost lined up from front to back, the rubber lines can be passed through the torque box is a “lazy S” fashion that keeps the lines kink-free and away from any sharp edges along the way.

With a bit of extra hose length on both ends of each hose, the apron fittings are secured first to establish the absolute routing of the lines in the fender well area.  Following that, the rear hose ends can be precisely cut to length and the AN fittings added to mate to the hard lines perfectly and with minimal visibility.

With the exception of a few small detail bits, that puts a period on the fuel system installation!  The routing of the lines is such that, even when on the lift, the system is exceptionally tidy and gives little away to the fact that the car will be fuel injected and therefore maintains the style of subtle detail we’ve been after from the start.
Before the rubber lines could be run efficiently, a little noodling on fitting choice and position was required.

With fittings chosen, it was a simple matter of measuring and cutting each hose to length and assembling the fittings and clamps.  Done!

With the hard lines flared and tube nuts installed, the rear hard line connections were made.  These fittings almost fell together on their own.  A reward of very careful line layout and fabrication.

The cunifer hard lines were carefully formed to the inner subframe connector contours and remain out of sight with the car at ride height.

Using factory holes through the front subframe, the hard lines were routed cleanly through to the outside of the rail and aligned with the lower rear torque box.

Here you can see the finished hard lines at the front termination .  The soft lines will mate directly to these lines once they have been passed through the torque box rear wall.

I am frequently asked about the type of line clamps I use in my builds and here they are "nekid".  These are Quick Clips and install in a drilled hole using a "Christmas tree" barb stem.  Very clean.

Another shot of the Quick Clips used for mounting the hard lines.

Here, you can clearly see the routing of the front soft lines into the forward wall of the right torque box.  Note the pass through holes have grommets installed to eliminate damage to the soft lines as they transition through the torque box.

Here, the front hard line to soft line fittings are visible.  You can see how inconspicuous the entire operation is, giving little away that the car will be fuel injected.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Fuel System Install Part 1 – Rear Soft Lines and In-Tank Fuel Pump

A little while ago, it was decided that the Boss would get fuel injection.  However, the intent in the whole plan was to make the injection system as “minimalistic” in appearance as possible.  In other words, when the hood is raised, the intent is that the engine bay carries “the look” of a modified engine bay belonging to a Boss 302.

Until rather recently, there were no throttle body injection systems that quite fit the bill.  But now, the market has almost exploded with very reasonably priced and well-rounded systems that satisfy “the look” as well as the functionality and convenience of modern fuel injection.

Since our path is determined, the time had come to start configuring the fuel system to support a sporty fuel injected engine combination, while maintaining “the look” as much as possible all over the car.  I admit, I’ve always wanted people to have to really work to take in all of the details of this build (and there are/will be THOUSANDS), with some being relatively obvious and clearly drawing attention while many others lurk in your subconscious before your eye recognizes them.

For a long time, I have been a fan of Aeromotive fuel system components, so it was a natural fit that we would choose their Phantom 340 Stealth in-tank fuel pump system as our go-to combination.  This kit is of exceptional quality and installation is relatively straight forward.  However, the entire system would require quite a lot of plumbing and careful component selection to ensure peak performance and longevity in a clean and unassuming package.  So, that’s where we started.

First on the agenda was to select proper fuel line materials and fittings along with a routing path that worked well the full length of the floor to the engine bay.  For fuel line, the first reaction by many is to install the venerable braided stainless lines with AN fittings.  While the AN fittings are more than adequate, the typical braided stainless fuel line isn’t really optimum for modern injection systems and fuels. 

The biggest problem with typical rubber AN lines is they essentially out gas fuel vapor over their lifetime at a fairly high rate (about 1 gallon fuel loss per foot of -06 hose per year!).  The two solutions are a Teflon lined AN hose or a modern rubber fuel injection hose like Gates Barricade.  With the Gates product, fuel vapor loss is eliminated and the flexibility and ease use makes it a perfect candidate for a modern hot rod when trying to keep the appearance subtle.  And best of all, the availability of push-on AN fittings like the Aeroquip AQP Socketless fittings makes this system capable of satisfying all of our needs in a simple package.

Another consideration is that running flexible AN lines for the length of the car makes for a difficult routing job and makes cleanliness an even tougher objective.  In our case, the soft lines are exclusive to the front and rear zones of the car with the connection between them (and the longest runs) taken up by the use of “Cunifer” metal hard lines.  Cunifer lines are among the very finest available and are an alloy of copper (Cu), nickel (Ni) and iron (Fe) in a 60/20/20% typical composition respectively.  They are highly resistant to corrosion, bend and flare beautifully, and are most often found in brake lines on higher-end performance and racing cars all over the world.

Our fuel system would be a combination of soft and hard lines beginning in the trunk and ending in the engine bay.  The first order of business was to carefully plan the entire feed and return circuit route from front to back and measure and sketch the plan making notes on component placement, bend locations, fittings required and component clearance.  At the same time, we needed to make sure the entire system was easily accessible and serviceable anywhere the car would be driven.
With our line plan established, we set off to plumbing the soft lines at the rear of the car.  This began with installation of the bulkhead fittings exiting the trunk area on the right side of the car as well as installing the mating fittings at the front of the car in the engine bay.  This established our absolute “pierce points” at the front and back and we could now easily visualize the start and end of our under-car fuel system.

Next, we mounted the Aeromotive 10-micron fuel filter and bracket in its predetermined spot, inboard of the rear sub frame.  The filter is, of course, another pair of absolute hard points and needed to be permanently positions to allow accurate routing of the soft lines in and out.

With the hard points now finalized, we began fabricating the rear soft lines starting at the rear and working forward to the filter.  I like to install an AN fitting in the free end of the hose and mount it to the bulkhead fitting so it is a stable and easy reference while routing the rest of the line in the most optimum way.  This acts as a “third hand” in a way and makes routing so much easier.

Once the feed line route to the filter is finalized, I cut the line about a foot longer than required and move to the return line.  The return line is routed it along the same path, and the line is cut at the same length as the feed line to ensure we can match the fitting locations as they join the chassis hard lines that we will make later on.

To aid in securing the lines and maintaining the proper routing, we used a few aluminum line clamps that secure and separate the feed and return soft lines and allow them to be mounted to the chassis in a very clean way.

With the rear soft lines in place, it was time to address the installation of the Aeromotive in-tank fuel pump system.  This kit is a rather amazing piece of business that allows almost any original muscle car fuel tank to be converted to a modern, in-tank electric fuel pump module in an evening.  The process, in fact, is pretty straight forward, with the most critical and complicated event being that of properly positioning and cutting the hole in the top of the tank for the pump mount.  Once the hole is cut to the proper 3.25” diameter, a nifty positioning ring is used to establish the drill pattern for the 10 mounting studs to pass through the top of the tank from the inside stud flange out.

Deburring the fresh holes is going to be a challenge, especially if you have ham fists like mine and can barely get a paw down the hole to try to access the drilled holes from inside.  A skinny, malnourished, but enthusiastic helper will go a long way in this endeavor for little more investment that a few pops and a box of Band-Aids.

Next, it is best to vacuum out as much of the chips and debris from the tank as possible followed by a thorough washing with a solution of simple green and water.  This will do a very good job of getting all of the metallic dust and schmutz out of the tank so no future damage to the pump will occur.  Of course, the tank should be dried completely before installing the pump module components.

With the tank modifications complete and the inside washed and dried, the foam and ballistic rubber “basket” can be trimmed to fit the tank depth (plus 1 inch).  Once that is complete, and with the help of the pattern fixture, the basket can be inserted into the tank.  The compression on the foam will act to help retain the stud ring and make the rest of the installation much easier.  With that, the hardest part of the installation is over!

At this point, the pump hanger is measured and trimmed to make the pump module overall length a match to the tank depth and the module is assembled as a unit for the final time.  Next, the pump flange gasket is placed over the mounting studs and the pump module is lowered into the foam basket and secured to the studs with the sealing washers and lock nuts provided in the kit.

While this is a bit of an oversimplified account, the project is certainly worth the effort and all of the included hardware is of the finest quality.  The remaining electrical connectors and wiring terminal boots will be saved for the wiring project later on, but for now, the tank is complete and we will move on to mounting it in the chassis and finishing the soft lines in the trunk area.

From here, we will move on to fabricating the front soft lines and finish it up by fabricating the hard lines to connect the works together.  Look for Part 2 soon!

We start by laying out the position of each AN bulkhead fitting so the fuel line "end-points" can be established. 
With the hole positions established, the centers are marked and pilot drilled.

A Uni-Bit is the best tool to open up nice clean holes in sheet metal.  Here, the second bulkhead fitting hole is drilled in the right side trunk area.
With the bulkhead fittings in place, the trunk fittings look especially clean.  The silver-white washers are actually Earl's Stat-O-Seal washers that provide a weather tight seal to the fittings.

On the opposite side of the trunk floor, the feed and return line end point fittings are put into place to ensure proper fit.
The front engine bay apron bulkhead fittings are next and install in exactly the same way as the trunk fittings.

From inside the engine bay, the feed and return fittings are very unassuming and tidy.

The final "hard point" element is the 10-micron fuel filter and bracket.  Here we have mounted the assembly in a secure location just inside of the right rear sub frame.

Using Gates Barricade fuel injection hose, we plumb the soft lines at the rear of the car by anchoring the rear trunk fittings first.  This acts as a "third hand" when routing the fuel lines by maintaining a firm anchor to the ends of each line, allowing full freedom to route the lines in the best possible way without a bundle of snakes coiling up behind you as you go.

Here are the soft lines for the feed and return circuits completed.  Notice there are a minimal number of fittings and no severe bends of disruptions in the line routing.  Smooth is good!

Here is an awesome little tip.  This is an Oetiker clamp (often called an ear clamp).  I use these extensively on high pressure fluid lines as they do not damage the rubber jacket of the line and they clamp very snugly around the entire circumference of the line.  These make worm-screw clamps look like something less than civilized.

Here are the aluminum line separator clamps I use when routing fluid hoses.  Th bolt in the center is modified to no only close the clamp but to mount it to the chassis as well.

Fuel pump installation begins by carefully positioning and then drilling the 3 1/4" hole in the top of the tank that allows the pump module to pass through. 

With the hole cut, the painful deburring process can begin.  The large hole is by far the easiest to deburr.  The whole game changes when the smaller mounting stud holes are drilled.......
This clever pattern fixture is included in the kit and helps to position the flange mounting holes as well as aid in the installation of the pump basket later on.
With the mounting hole pattern carefully mapped, the fixture is used to drill the 10 mounting holes required.  Once that is done, its best to kidnap a skinny car enthusiast that need money to reach in and deburr the holes for you.  Trust me, it's worth the investment in Band-Aids, smokes, beers, booty or whatever, 'cuz you WILL get cut otherwise.  Get it?

Once ll of the drilling and deburring work is complete,. the tank is thoroughly vacuumed out and then washed with Simple Green and water to get all of the remaining crap out.
With the tank depth accurately measured, the filter basket foam is marked and cut to size.  The foam is always cut 1 inch LONGER than the measured tank depth to ensure proper fit.
The interior stud ring ins placed inside the tank and held in place by the pattern fixture.  Notice the smooth funnel shape the fixture has?  This will make installing the foam basket a piece of cake shortly.
And just like that, the foam basket in inserted into the tank and the compression against the bottom of the mounting stud ring inside is enough to keep it in place during the rest of the install.

Here's a little detail that is not mentioned in the instructions:  This little dust cap must be removed from the pump inlet and outlet before the pump can be installed.  very easy to overlook if you don't know what to look for.
With the pump hanger bracket measured and trimmed to fit, the pump assembly is mounted to match the tank depth and the entire assembly is lowered into the tank over the thick foam sealing gasket and mounting studs.

The nuts and sealing washers are snugged up around the mounting flange and the installation is done!  The finished product looks mighty impressive and will support our fuel injection system with ease.
Here's a clever shot of the fuel pump module and foam basket mounted in the tank.  You can see the basket is flush with the bottom of the tank floor and doesn't interfere with any feature inside the tank.  With the exception of the small tuft of paper towel fluff I deposited into the tank just prior to this picture, the tank is clean and ready for battle.  Thank God for Shop-Vacs!