Sunday, September 23, 2012

Project: Night Mission

Today is the day.  The day I quit teasing my loyal blog readers, family, friends, co-workers and fellow Mustang enthusiasts and finally reveal what this whole project is all about.  But before I do, a little background explanation is in order.

As many of you know, my Boss 302 and I have been a pair for almost 30 years and in all that time, I have had a vision of what this car would be and I can honestly say, that vision has wavered extremely little after all these years.  I lovingly refer to this as the longest term relationship of my entire life (much to the chagrin of my S.O. Cindy who I’ve known longer than I’ve owned this car!).
The car would be white…….SCREAMING white just like every racecar I have ever driven in my career.  A pure white says something to me at my core.  Can’t explain it… just “does”.

This car would be done “my way” and in a way that I had never seen done before.  In no way had I any intention of building ANOTHER boring “concours” Boss 302 restoration.
The car had to be unique among its peers.  I wanted to build an “all-Boss” Boss 302 that was modernized in such a way as to make the car perform like it never had in its prime.  If that pissed off the purists and MCOA judges……even better!

I wanted to build a car that had its own unique identity but was never too far from its lineage.  It had to be identifiable as a Boss Mustang from 100 feet away as well as up close inspection.  I wanted to avoid something that was a caricature of the original car like so many of the “skinned and stuffed” cars that are in vogue today.  No mini tubs, back-half tube chassis, no hacked Mustang II front suspension crap, and no fuel injection.  Is it a “real” Boss 302?  Yep, in my mind it is and then some.  The VIN has the “G” in it and the door tag has the “W” code as well.  That’s all I need to know.
The car had to be loaded with details.  LOTS of details.  I wanted those details to be such that one walk around the car at a show would only scratch the surface and any hardcore car geek would find his/herself coming back to the car time after time after time to absorb yet another detail.  In all this, I wanted to build something that genuine car-guys could find something to “take-away” and fuel ideas to use when building their own cars.

Visual “pop” was mandatory but the styling had to stay true to the classic styling of the original.  The only thing “radical” was the extent of its subtlety and the laundry list of small changes that blend into a personal interpretation of what this car is.
The car would evolve into an expression of “me.”  A three-dimensional representation of the images in my mind’s eye and the manifestation of what I can accomplish with my brain, my hands, and my heart mixed with a little blood and sweat (and crap-loads of cash!).

The car has to “go” as good as it looks.  It will be heard as well as seen.  It must make NOISE!  Glorious, unbridled noise, just like any politically incorrect, knuckle-draggin’, unapologetically red-blooded AMERICAN muscle car is supposed to.  It will handle and stop without compromise and it will do so with purpose……..built in.
A few years ago, I started this blog at the suggestion of a few good friends as a way to document and share the work I would be doing to keep my mind active and to maintain some sanity after long, frustrating days in my (mostly) professional life.  I had no idea how much I would enjoy everything about this project as well as sharing the work and countless hours I spend on so many nights doing what I love to do.

Earlier this year, I came to know a phenomenal designer who inspired me in ways I had never dreamed and set me to thinking about my work in ways I had never considered (THANKS Murray, you are THE MAN!).  Pretty soon, I had commissioned his undeniable talent to put together a rendering of everything I had ever dreamed this car would be.  And in so doing, it inspired me to pursue the execution of this car in ways I had never imagined before.  For the first time, I could see the project in finished form and I now know EXACTLY how this car will be executed.
The bottom line?  If I stick to the plan I have outlined and build this car as intended, perhaps more than few people will come to appreciate it.  Perhaps it will become known to thousands.  Perhaps it will become the catalyst to yet another glorious adventure.  In the meantime, I invite everyone to have a look at the rendering and try to pick out the myriad of little changes that have been made.  They are everywhere! 

So here it is:  The Night Mission Boss 302.  Why Night Mission?  It’s really simple.  This is a car that was conceptualized and is being executed outside of my “day job”.  It’s what I lose sleep over.  It’s what I dream of every day.  It is my “mistress” when everyone else around me sleeps.  It is my therapy and I think it “fits”.  I hope you enjoy!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

9-Inch Axle Powder Coated & Assembled

I have decided that long weekends are God’s gift to car guys.  At least to those that plan ahead a little to capitalize on the extra time wherever possible.  Most times, I am NOT that guy, but over the Labor Day Weekend, I finally WAS for a change!
In preparation for the final finish work on the axle housing, I tidied up a few details the week before the holiday weekend by fabricating a pair of axle bearing retainer shims to make up for the slightly wider axle bearings I used on my Moser 31-spline axles.  Without these shims, the Street or Track Cobra rear disc brake adapter brackets wouldn’t seat properly on the axle flanges (not good).  So, using a Fel-Pro replacement flange gasket as a pattern, I made two sheet metal shims of the appropriate thickness to properly space the bracket out to allow it to fully seat against the axle bearing flange and retain the bearing as intended.  Once this detail was addressed, the rest of the rear brake kit fitting was pure textbook.  Kudos to Shaun at Street or Track for a fine kit that fits as intended and looks factory once installed.
The final detail I had to address before moving on to sandblasting the housing was to move the right side brake line mounting tab up on the axle to avoid any possibility of interference with the rear coilover setup.  This was a rather simple and quick fabrication job to make a new tab and then a few minutes cutting the old one off and welding the new one on in the correct spot.  Following that, I had to tweak the brake line a slight bit and we were in business.
At this point, I had everything in order with the axle housing and was ready to begin the sand blasting process to get all of the crud seen in the build-up photos off the housing and ready for powder coating.  However, I had been toying with an idea on how to improve my blasting operation efficiency and decided to spend a few hours chasing down parts.  In short, I wanted to build an air “manifold” that would allow me to gang both of my air compressors together to allow a larger reserve of air and more flow volume to my pressure blaster in hopes it would respond.  I am happy to say the results were worth the effort as this was perhaps the best my pressure blaster had ever operated and I was able to blast non-stop (except for sand refills) until the entire axle housing was clean.
What I basically did was to take a three-way air manifold adapter I picked up at Home Depot and plumb it in reverse with two air feed lines going in one end with the third line plugged and then plumbing my quick connect for my sand blaster into the single outlet on the other end.  As simple as it looks and sounds, this little device dramatically cut down the compressor(s) cycling frequency and kept ample air supply available at all times.
The sand blasting operation went like clockwork and after about two hours of total time (including clean-up!); my rear axle housing was free of four decades’ worth of crap and looked pristine.  With time in the day to spare, I went straight to etching and phosphatizing the housing to ensure every last trace of rust was neutralized and the entire surface was etched and ready for powder coating after an overnight drying period.
In prep for powder coating, I went over the entire housing with a wire brush to remove any excess phosphate residue and masked all of the surfaces that needed to remain in bare metal.  Then I attached my hanging loop to one end of the housing and then I attached a lifting fixture to the housing to allow me to safely lift the housing off the hook in the spray booth and into the oven without killing myself.
With my powder coating equipment ready for battle and the oven steaming along at a steady 400 degrees, I laid down the first of two coats of powder and dropped the works into the oven for a full cure cycle.  After the second coat was applied and cured, I removed the housing from the oven and let it cool for a few hours while I tended to other chores.  When I came back to it, I removed all of the masking materials and fixturing and was extremely pleased with the final result.  My once putrid looking housing was now sporting a beautiful satin black urethane powder coated finish that is done no justice by my lousy photography.
With renewed energy, I spent the next few days assembling the rear axle housing into final shape.  I started the assembly by installing new ARP studs in the housing to secure the differential and followed that up by installing a stainless steel axle vent similar to those used in many GM housings.  Now, I am the LAST guy on the planet to give GM any credit for anything, but they certainly had a much cleaner axle vent solution to the hideous whip-hose device Ford used on the Mustang.
Next up, I installed my axle drain plug followed quickly by the fresh 9-inch nodular iron center section I rebuilt earlier in the Spring/Summer.  At this point, the assembly was getting a little hard to handle so I recruited my trusty ‘ol Dad to help finish this project up.
With Dad as my wing man, we fitted the axles and disc brake adapter brackets and drew everything down with fresh fasteners from NPD.  Then came a fresh set of Raybestos Premium Grade rotors and new Ford caliper brackets, followed by my rebuilt and powder coated calipers.  With the major hardware in place, we finished up the assembly by installing the brake “hard” line, distribution block and braided stainless flex lines, rounded out by a pair of Moser axle end covers for a clean look.
This particular assembly represents a significant milestone in this project as it is he first mechanical assembly that went back together since this project began two years ago.  I am happy to say I spared nothing in getting this axle done properly and with the best equipment and parts available, and I managed to get it finished in a way that reflects the project as I have imagined it.  I still have to prep and coat the trailing link and panhard bars in the same color (easy work) and get everything protected and stored.
Now that this work is in the books, I am already moving back to the body structure to pick up where I left off in the trunk floor area and wheel wells and complete the final repairs in the left rear rocker area.  The fall and winter work plan is looking good!

These two axle flange shims were fabricated to allow the disc brake adapter brackets to seat properly on the axle flanges with the wider bearings used on the Moser 31-spline axles I use.

The yellow arrow indicates the shim location.  This measure may be required based on the axle housing and bearing combination you have.  Careful measurement and mock-up is the key.
I had to move the brake line mounting tab up on the right axle tube to ensure there would be no interference with the coilover assembly.

This simple device allowed me to gang together my two air compressors to feed my pressure sand blaster.  The difference in blasting performance was astounding and may even get better if I were to use a 1/2" I.D. air hose between this manifold and the blaster.

The freshly blasted housing is quite inspiring to look at after four decades worth of crap was removed.

Another look at the freshly blasted housing with my 30-year-old blaster and some of my "sand recovery equipment."

After a good degreasing with acetone, I let the housing dry completely and then treated it with a 3:1 water/phosphoric acid solution to eliminate any microscopic rust left on the surface and to provide a nice, evenly etched surface for good coating adhesion.

Here is a look at the drain bung fully etched and phosphatized.  Soon after this image was taken, the entire housing was brushed with a fine steel cup brush to prep the surface for powder coating.

Here is the housing hanging in my powder booth after the first coat of powder has been applied.  Note the hanging loop at the top and the lift handle fixture across the center.

After two coats of cured powder, the result was a pristine housing by most any definition.

The first order of business was to load the rebuilt differential section into the housing using new ARP mounting fasteners.

The Street or Track Cobra rear disc brake mounting brackets are mounted using news flange fasteners from NPD.

Fully assembled left rear disc brake assembly.

Completed right side rear brake assembly.

One of the last install items was the brake line distribution block and hard and soft brake lines.

 nice finishing touch are these axle end caps supplied by Moser with a new pair of axles.  No one will ever see them in the end, but who cares?  I know they are there.
The finished axle assembly!  This picture does the effort no justice at all, but the truth is, it looks fantastic in person.  Almost a shame to put it under a car.........almost.