Saturday, July 2, 2011

Subframe Removal and Cleanup

I have the subframe out, and most of the crap taken off of it.  This part of the process is very simple, and fairly straightforward.  There are only 4 large bolts/bushings holding the subframe to the unibody.  Really, the big thing to watch is how you have the unibody supported while you unbolt the subframe.

I jacked the car up slightly, to take some of the load off the front suspension, and placed jack stands in a couple strategic spots.  From there it was a simple matter of winding out some big bolts.

I had a scare on one of the subframe mounts:  There was a nice rusty crunch and grind, and the bolt was simply not coming out.  It really looked like the whole subframe mount had rusted completely out.  Which luckily wasn't the case.  The bolt was pretty rusty, but after it was all apart, the mount didn't look bad at all.  I am most likely going to reinforce the front subframe mounts with some extra sheet metal.  Care needs to be taken, because any change in the position of those mounts will have an effect on the alignment of the subframe.  I'll have more on that later.

I simply cut the emergency brake cable and fuel lines from the subframe, as they will all have to be replaced anyway.  I will be doing a 4-wheel disk conversion, and virtually all of the stock brake hardware will have to go.

Removal of the steering box, steering assembly (tie rods, idler arm, etc. . .) and sway bar was very simple.  All you need is a pickle fork and  a few whacks on the hammer.

Once again, this was a great opportunity to see just how solid this car is under all the dirt and crap.  Most of these parts are still in excellent shape, and once I break the bolts free, they almost all turn the rest of the way by hand.  Very encouraging.

I was a little careless with the A-arms, and just unbolted the top spindle until the spring popped it loose.  I don't recommend doing it this way, although it is very quick.  The lower A-arm will pop with considerable force, and you could end up with some kind of nasty injury.

See the pic below for an idea of the kind of gunk that collects underneath.  It's pretty nasty.  I have to scrape it off with a putty knife, then wire brush and then scrub with some good soap (a little softscrub gel or laundry soap).  The parts I'm keeping will go down the road for some sandblasting. 

A note on the suspension:  I had planned to mostly stick with the stock parts on this, but I am reconsidering.  I may have to save some pennies and do some upgrading.  Hotchkis has what looks like a great old-school suspension setup.  The only trouble is that it would be right up there cost-wise with the disk brake conversion--somewhere in the $1,000 to $1,500 range (give or take).  I do think it would be worth it in the long run.  Hotchkis linky: Hotchkis TVS

One other thing to take note of:  The shims on the suspension are also very important.  Even though considerable adjustment will have to be made down the road, knowing where everything started out at is very important.  I shot pictures of all the shims, for future reference.

I ended the day with the one half of the suspension removed.  Tomorrow morning I'll get started on the other side.  Once that's done, I'll have to take off the transmission cross-member.  Then scrape off some crud, and get these parts off for sandblasting.  Once the subframe is cleaned, I'll be able to finish up welding all the open seams left by the factory, cleaning it up and coating with POR-15.

One last thing, poly bushings will be used throughout.  I actually already did much of the work with the poly on these A-arms several years back.  I'll need bushings for the rest of it, though.  Poly is a huge upgrade over the stock rubber stuff.  It's stiffer, and should last much, much longer.

I gotta say, this is a both exciting and scary time in the build.  There's really no turning back from this point.  But that's the beauty of it too, because this is progressing much faster than I planned for.

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