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.