Thursday, April 26, 2012

Seat Sneak-Peek

Seats have to be one of the toughest things to choose for a hot rod muscle car.  Like custom wheels, it’s way too easy to pick a seat style that looks too “Ricky Racer” and fails to blend in with the interior of the car.  I like interiors that are “subtly modern” with styling cues that are easily identifiable to the original interior of the car.  For this reason, I have struggled to find a seat combination that looked nice, with a modern flair, but still kept some identifiable relationship to the original high-back bucket seats that were common in 69-70 Mustang interiors.

About a year or so ago, I saw few pictures of a 69 Camaro done out on the west coast that had a pair of seats that I thought might just do the trick.  Since the fellow who built the car was a friend of a friend, I asked second-hand, who made the seats he used.  I was shocked to learn they were seats taken from a 2011 Honda CRZ Hybrid!  Oh the humanity!

With this information in hand, I set about looking for a pair of seats to see how they might fare as candidates for my Boss 302.  After a year of searching, I found a pristine pair of seats locally (almost) for a fantastic price from a salvaged car with only 13 miles on it!  Score!

Once I got the seats home and started comparing the styling, dimensions and features to the old high-back buckets, I felt I had found the perfect seat option for my car.  If you can imagine the center panels in perforated black suede leather with the sides and headrest done in matte finish smooth black leather, you will quickly see how these seats will take on the appearance of a modernized Mustang high-back bucket.  After a bit of simple fabrication for seat mounts, these seats will bolt into the stock seat locations and should work fantastic!
Side by side, the Honda CRZ seat looks surprisingly similar to the original Mustang high-back bucket seat.  Proportions are very similar.  Hmmmm.....maybe a Boss 302 logo embroidered in the upper shoulder panel or headrest?

Without the often HUGE bolsters of many aftermarket seats, the Honda CRZ seat has very approachable styling that should work well with the 69-70 deluxe interior styling.........modernized of course.

Interestingly enough, the old high-back seat bottom is almost a full inch wider than the new seat.

Comparing the lower seat backs, you can see that there will be no concern for fit in this area.

Another look at the similarity in design of the old vs. new seat.  I'm lovin' this look!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

4-Link Bracket Work & Mock-Up – If it was easy, everybody would be doing it

In the middle of lots of non-Boss related work bleeding my time away, I have managed to make some progress on the rear 4-link coilover suspension…….and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
For several weeks, I have been trying to resolve a problem I discovered with the 4-link brackets that are included with the Heidt’s 4-link coilover suspension kit.  Quite simply, the brackets that are supplied were made for a 3” axle tube diameter which no classic Mustang ever came with (3” axle tubes are a popular aftermarket housing thing).  In 2011, I had an email contact at Heidt’s that I was communicating with on other things and decided to see what could be done to exchange the 3” OD brackets for the properly sized 2.75” brackets I needed.  After a number of tries, I was getting nowhere fast and ended up calling the dealer I bought the kit from (Tim’s Hot Rods) at Heidt’s recommendation (their policy).  Tim Stromberger (fantastic guy!) had never heard of the problem I was having so I explained Mustang axle tube sizes to him and he made notes for future reference.  He called Heidt’s on my behalf and I got set up with a new contact, much higher up the food chain than the individual I was originally working with (who evidently was no longer with the company).  After a few conversations back and forth and some philosophical point and counterpoint, I learned that Heidt’s had “small” tube brackets they offered in the instance that the supplied brackets didn’t fit, so I jumped on that like Rosie O’Donnell on a doughnut.
A few days later, the “smaller” brackets arrived and I realized my first error:  In my excitement to solve the problem, I didn’t specify what axle tube size I had and the brackets that were sent were for the rare and ultra-small 2.5” axle tubes.  S*(&^%#T!  Another few phone calls and we determined that the proper 2.75” brackets did not (yet) exist to allow a stock 9-inch Mustang axle housing to be used with the kit.  Apparently, most of the kits Heidt’s sells include their axle housing option with the brackets pre-installed and this never came up before.  So, the guys at Heidt’s went back to the drawing board and produced a new set of brackets for my 2.75” axle tubes and sent them my way in about a week and we were in business (thanks Mike)!
So, the lessons learned are rather simple.  Never again will I get so complacent with the ease and convenience of email communication.  When technical issues arise like this, I will be much quicker to pick up the telephone and persist until I talk to someone who can help (what’s old is new?).  This same policy should apply when ordering parts to make sure what is offered will in fact fit “out-of-the-box” or if certain models may require alternate parts. 
Secondly, never assume a parts manufacturer knows more about your car than you do.  As much as we may like to believe that every supplier is an expert on the intricacies of our beloved ponies, this will rarely be the case as they are often in the business of offering parts for many different makes of vehicle, making absolute expertise nearly impossible for them to approach. 
And third, you never know what benefit may come from running a problem all the way to ground such that a genuine solution is found.  As frustrating as the process may have been, the end result from this rather protracted exercise is the satisfaction in knowing that Heidts can now supply Mustang 4-link axle brackets to fit 2.5”, 2.75” and 3.0” axle tubes, and that is good for the market in general.  Now, let’s get on with it…..
 After getting some of the minor repairs completed on the axle housing and in between stints working on the 9-inch center section, I was finally to the point that I could get the housing brackets tacked into place and the system mocked up in the car to verify fit (and entertain myself good bit as well).  A digital angle finder was indispensable in easily getting the bracket angles perfectly set to allow me to tack them in place.  This is definitely a 2-person job and my bestest buddy and partner in crime (a.k.a. Dad) put up with my endless fiddling and fussing to help me get things just right.  Once we had the 4-link brackets positioned and tacked into place, it was time to see what the setup would roughly look like under the car, bearing in mind that the panhard bracket could not be mocked-up as that can only be put in place after the 4-link brackets have been permanently welded.
With the car on its side in the rotisserie, we were able to easily place the empty axle housing in place while we loosely hung the short and long links as well as the top coilover mounts.  With the axle basically located, we loosely connected the lower coilover mounts and rolled the car level to have a look at things.  And like so many other things we have completed on this car, the look of the coilover rear makes me smile……big.  In simple street terms……it looks pretty bad-ass and will be even better when it is completed.
I have a lot of work left in the rear suspension and several modifications I plan to make (much to Heidts’ chagrin I am sure) to improve the suspension’s roll-bind characteristics and allow much easier suspension setup, alignment and tuning.  Those modifications will of course be documented here, but at least for now, I can move forward with the remaining housing modifications, sandblasting the housing, continuing the build of the 9-inch differential, rear caliper rebuilds and installation, brake hose and hard line routing and powder coating the whole works.  So in short, I am plenty busy, even though it doesn’t really LOOK like it at the moment.  More to come!
With the help of my Dad and a nice digital angle finder, tacking the 4-link brackets to the housing was not difficult.  This is the view from the front of the housing where the 4-link bars connect.

From the back, the brackets are quite tidy looking.  The three holes at the lower part of the photo are where the bottom of the coilover shocks mount.

With the car on it's side in the rotisserie, it was a easy job to loosely hang all of the parts on the housing and the chassis for mock-up purposes.

Here is the lower arm chassis mount without the steel spacer installed.  Since I will be reconfiguring this entire end of the arm, the finished installation of this connection will look completely different than this photo.

I can't help but like the look of this suspension under the car.  It is quite a motivator to see things start to take shape.

Another shot showing the simple functionality of a compact 4-link coilover rear suspension.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Back in Black – Oxide, That Is

Being certifiably out of my mind, when I endeavor to do strange and unusual things in my shop, it rarely raises any eyebrows.  However, my latest little foray into the unknown has a few of my car-guy buddies rather enthused.
Specifically, I spent several months complaining about the apparent difficulty and cost associated with getting parts coated in black oxide for corrosion protection and good looks.  It’s not that it can’t be done locally you understand (I’m all about that whenever possible), it’s the entire headache of the experience, from cost, to “down-time” to cost…… get the idea.

So, I set off to research what options were out there to accomplish this type of work on a smaller, more affordable scale at home.  Pretty quickly, I found there are basically two players in the “aftermarket” that offer viable black oxide kits:  The venerable Eastwood Company and Caswell Inc. 

As much as I appreciate the efforts of the Eastwood Company to support our hobby, my personal experience with most of these types of “kits” they offer has been anything but shining.  On the other hand, I have dealt with Caswell for several years on powder coating matters and find everything they offer to be top shelf and have never been disappointed.  With little hesitation, I purchased Caswell’s 1.25 Gallon Black Oxide Kit and waited only a few short days before it was at my door.  This kit was particularly interesting to me based on the fact that it was a “cold” process as opposed to the old standard “hot” process.  This technology was pioneered by the gun industry and the finish is found on countless firearms in almost every conceivable form.

The kit arrived very well packed and was rather surprising in its simplicity.  The instructions were very easy to follow and with a few gallons of distilled water on hand, I was able to get started with my first batch of parts within minutes.

The simple process involved mixing the blackening agent with distilled water in the supplied 1.5 gallon bucket.  Then, as simple as you please, I submerged my freshly blasted pinion support bolts as well as a tapered snap ring installation sleeve I made to help in rebuilding Ford Cobra Mustang rear brake calipers (long story).  I used an old pair of long needle nosed pliers to place and retrieve the parts in the solution with the total submerged time of less than 5 minutes total.

The parts emerged from the solution a wonderful, even and very attractive black oxide finish, ready for sealing.  The protective, penetrating sealant supplied in the kit is an oddly oily dark amber fluid that smells a bit like shellac.  A quick 5-minute bath in the sealant was all that was required and I set the parts to the side for a few days to allow the sealant to penetrate and dry per the instructions.  A quick drying off with a paper towel revealed perfectly uniform and evenly blackened parts with absolutely no headache whatsoever.

Since I have many more small parts I want to finish in black oxide, I expect to get a lot of use from this inexpensive and easy-to-use kit from Caswell.  The packaging allows you to preserve the solution in the bucket it is shipped in and that makes storage between uses quite painless.  So far…….I’m a big fan!
Here is the Caswell black oxide kit ready for use.  The parts in the foreground are my intended victims:  my 9-inch pinion support bolts as well as a tapered snap ring compressor I made for assembling Cobra rear brake calipers.

I was half-way expecting complicated instructions with the kit, but I was pleasantly surprised at their simplicity.
Caswell supplies two cans of their penetrating sealant that is to be applied immediately after the blackening process is completed.

The mixed blackening solution has the appearance of light blue, slightly soapy dishwater with almost no odor at all.

I had to laugh a bit as the solution quickly blackened the pliers I used to retrieve the parts after the prescribed treatment time.

Here are the pinion bolts after about 3 minutes of soak time in the blackening solution.  As you can see, they are already very well coated in black oxide.  I followed the bolts up with the tapered sleeve tool I made and the results were equally impressive.

If you look closely, you can just make out the tapered sleeve at the bottom of the can of sealant.

And here are the parts fresh out of the sealant and ready for the drying phase.  The finish is excellent and once dry, the parts look every bit as nice as any commercial black oxide coating I have seen.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Axles and Brackets & Welding – Oh my! - Lots of little projects crammed into a few weeks

Now that most of the major chassis work is done, there has been a bit of a “phase shift” in working on my car and it’s taken me a bit of time to get used to.  In short, I got a little spoiled with the “visual” reward I got when making large panel replacement progress because it simply looked like I was making big progress.  In the past few weeks, I have accomplished a lot of small things that add up, but I found myself struggling with feeling like I was underachieving on all these smaller jobs because the visual impact just wasn’t what I was used to after the past two years.  But, as I have conditioned myself to do, I put my head down and kept moving and pretty soon………more progress.  I like that!

When I last left off, I had to complete the front trunk floor seam by fully welding it along the bottom of the car and grinding all that work smooth for priming a filling later on.  In addition, I added the front corner reinforcements and the rear bumper brackets to round out the repairs at the back of the car.  Fortunately, all of this work was quite uneventful as everything had pretty much been nailed down in the earlier work such that this remaining work practically fell into place.  As a final test (and a bit of personal entertainment), I test fit the upper coilover mount in place and was happy to see it lined up perfectly and will do a good job hiding any sign of the weld seem in the axle tunnel area that may try to give itself away.
My next short project was to make some small repairs to my axle housing, tidy up the 9-inch differential housing and get the new Moser 31-spline axles ready for battle.

Quite some time ago, I identified some small cracks at the spring perch welds on the axle housing no doubt caused by past abuse.  After cutting of the spring perches in preparation for the installation of the Heidts 4-link brackets, the time was right to weld up these flaws along with filling a few weld gouges left behind so that the axle tubes would be in good shape for the new brackets.  With these repairs out of the way, I can now concentrate on getting the 4-link brackets mocked up, welded and finished in time for the weather here to warm up enough to allow me to sand blast the completed housing in preparation for powder coating.
Once I had the housing in shape, I shifted focus to the 9-inch differential case restoration.  In the past few months I spent a good bit of time “decoding” the differential in my car.  While I knew the housing was original, I also knew the differential case was not.  Originally, my car came with a 4.30 Detroit Locker diff, however when I purchased the car, the diff it came with was a measly 3.50 open 31-spline crapper.  As luck would have it, the housing itself was the genuine article:  A nodular iron case with a rare Daytona pinion support intact and in fantastic condition.

Confident that I was working with something worthy, I stripped the differential completely and deburred everything to remove all of the clag and sharp edges.  I soaked the parts in Purple Power liquid cleaner to remove all traces of the original red oxide coating on the unit and ran it through the blast cabinet to clean the more stubborn soil off the parts.  Then, everything spent a few days soaking in a nice, fresh chelant bath using Esprit Performance’s new chelant offering that does not include metal cleaners.  As I have become so accustomed to over the past year, this stuff kicks major butt!  Every piece of the differential (and a lot more pieces I will report on at a later time) came out perfectly free of rust with absolutely no elbow grease.  The part condition was so good in fact, that I simply dried the parts off and went straight to powder coating with no hassles whatsoever.

After I had applied a fresh coating of satin black urethane powder on all of the diff pieces, I shifted focus to the interior surfaces.  To coat and protect these surfaces, I turned to a venerable coating know far and wide in performance circles.  The product is called Glyptal and is an offshoot of General Electric.  The proper name for the paint is #1201 Red Enamel (insulating paint), but its original purpose was an armature paint for industrial electric motors.  Over the decades, its uses have expanded considerably, even to include the interiors of many performance and racing engines.  I have never condoned painting the interior surfaces of any machine using a pressurized lubrication system, but in cases where the machine is splash oiled, like a differential or perhaps a Model T engine, then Glyptal is a fine candidate.  The product does an excellent job sealing the casting to prevent residual core sand and rust from soiling the lube and to provide a nice slippery surface to keep the lube in the sump where it can do its job.  A few coats of Glyptal, applied by brush and cured at 250 degrees F for two hours leaves a finish that is surprisingly durable and looks remarkably good.

As I complete this installment, I have my rear Cobra calipers and front pinion support baking in the powder oven with a close eye on the door for Summit Racing to deliver the one lone pinion bearing I need to start putting the restored differential together.  Timken roller bearings throughout.  Should be as close to bulletproof as I can make it.  Also, I plan to mock up the rear axle housing and 4-link suspension in the car to allow me to weld up the rear brackets in place and prep everything for sand blasting and powder. Once that is complete, I will finish assembling the rear axle assembly and put it away until the time comes to put it in there for good.

The lower seam of the forward trunk floor patch was finally welded in.  Short stitches of about 1" long were staggered across the seam to minimize warping.

With the welding complete, I could feel confident that the repair was sturdy and grinding could begin.

Here is a close-up of the top side of the weld seam showing complete penetration of the weld.

The trunk floor seam from the top.  This will all be invisible once the Dynamat material is installed.

After grinding all of the welds on the bottom of the repair, I was pleased that everything looked like it require little filler to smooth things out.

I finished the trunk floor repair by adding the corner brackets to duplicate the original feature.

As a test, I test fit the upper coilover mounting bracket and found that this will work well to hide any imperfections in the joint.

Bumper bracket alignment was very good right out of the box.  This is the left rear bumper bracket after final welding and a pass with the angle grinder to clean things up.

Here is the left rear bumper bracket from the inside.

The right rear bumper bracket alignment was also very good straight off.

Right rear bumper bracket inside view.

After cutting off the original leaf spring brackets, I found weld gouges and a few small cracks that needed to be repaired before moving on with other modifications.

Here is a better view of the areas requiring weld repair.

I dialed up my trusty MIG welder and filled the u-bolt chaffing scars on the housing along with the small cracks and weld gouges.

A few minutes with the angle grinder and the welds were smoothed up and the evidence of any prior damage was now gone.

After powder coating the axle bearing retainer plates and installing new wheel studs in the Moser 31-spline axles, I pressed new bearings and lock rings on each axle.

The finished assembly looks all-business.  Note the o-ring seal around the O.D. of the axle bearing.  This eliminates the need for axles seals in the housing.

Decoding my rear differential case revealed a genuine nodular iron unit.

The interior of the differential was actually in surprisingly good shape.  Note the factory red oxide paint on the interior surfaces.

Another bonus!  This is a very desirable but rare "Daytona" pinion support.  Other than the casting number, Daytona pinion supports are identified by the very large rear pinion bearings used as opposed to the identically sized (small) bearings used on the front and rear of the pinion in a "standard" 9-inch.

After stripping the factory paint and scrubbing the red oxide paint off in a bath of Purple Power degreaser, I ran the parts through my blast cabinet and then deburred all the sharp edges with my die grinder.

Inside the case, I ground down all of the casting flash and sharp edges.

In preparation for coating, I soaked all of the differential parts in Esprit Performance Rust Remover, my favorite and extremely effective chelation rust remover chemical.  Magic stuff.

Since chelant is 80% water, I cover the tub with a trash bag and a piece of panelling to reduce the evaporation rate.

With little more prep work than drying the part off straight out of the chelant, I applied my favorite semi-gloss urethane powder coating to the diff case and cured it up.  This is a shot straight from the oven and the part is still too hot to touch when I snapped this photo.

The pinion yoke looks great in fresh powder.

With the powder work complete, I prepared the inside surfaces of the diff case for a couple of coats of Glyptal #1201.

Using nothing more than a simple 1" brush, I painted all of the inside surfaces with Glyptal to seal everything up.  A second coat was applied a day later.

Another shot of the fresh Glyptal coating from the pinion nose area.

Once the Glyptal coating is dry, it's hard to believe it was applied by brush.  No brush strokes visible anywhere!

A look inside the case just before oven curing @ 250 degrees F for two hours.

Here is the case right from the oven.  The Glyptal got a bit darker and slightly more glossy after curing.

A look inside the pinion nose are and the Glyptal looks great.