Front Suspension Assembly

9/30/2010 to 10/12/2010

First step is to put the shock mount flanges back on the upper arms. The bolts were good enough to reuse but I bought new lock washers
Finally got the steering knuckles and spindles back from the machine shop. They did a nice job but they managed to destroy the other spacer. I could have done that myself… I cleaned and degreased all the bearings to get the preservative goop out.
Now I can fit the kingpins to the control arms. Here I have the new pin and rubber rings installed and I am installing the metal wedge that keeps the pin from turning inside the kingpin.
This bad picture from the manual shows the special tool Studebaker used to keep the arm from flexing as the pin is tightened. I don’t have this tool so this is my homebrew version make from a 5/8″ bolt and some nuts and washers. I wonder if it will work…
The manual says to use the tool to spread the arm .010″ then install the end caps. I could not get it to open up that much but it did move. I think the goal here is to keep the caps from flexing the arm when they are tightened. This could cause the pin to bind.
Next it is big wrench time. I was not sure now this was supposed to work so I centered the pin by eye then tightened the caps a little at a time switching sides
Looks like a winner. The pin is tight with no wiggle but moves freely. I packed the upper thrust bearing with grease and installed the bearing and shims. I also tightened the grease fittings in the caps.
This cork gaskets goes in the yoke that holds the kingpin in the spindle. The cork gasket is old stock and cracked when I installed it. Still it should work OK. The yoke has a keyway for a woodruff key on the end of the kingpin.
After greasing the needle bearing and bushing the spindle slides right on. Here the yoke is in place but the washer and nut are not yet installed.
The finished product. The yoke is in place, nut tightened, and a new cotter pin installed. I also installed the grease fitting in the spindle. Now I get to repeat on the other side and the arms are ready to go back in the car.
The other (drivers) side. This one went back together pretty much the same except I used too many shims on the kingpin and had to take it apart again to fix it. I carefully measured for the shims but ended up removing all of them. I am not sure what happened but it feels great so I am leaving it be.
Here are all the parts to install the control arm in the driver’s side. From left to right we have the front mount and its bolts, the new front bushings, the bushing hardware, the shims, the control arm and spindle, and rear bushings and hardware.
It is easier to work on this stuff out of the car so I installed the front mount and bushings on the floor. The bolt is only loosely installed because I don’t want to clamp the bushings in place until I have the arm positioned properly. I also slipped the inner rear bushing on.
Tap the bolts though, slip the rear of the arm in the rear mount, and install the front mount very loosely. Everything is going smoothly so far.
The last (rear) bushing slipped right in so I reinstalled the shims under the front mount and cranked the front mount bolts tight. You can see the shims clearly in the right picture.
Bushing and frame bolts are tight and everything looks good. Time to install a shock.
Bolting the shock in place is easy enough. one of the bolts was pretty corroded so I replaced it with a new grade 5 nut and bolt. Now for the tricky part. The shock arm to frame hardware is in the picture on the right. I have new isolation bushings and a new upper washer too.
Now things are getting interesting. At left you can see the hole in the wheel well required to snake this very long bolt through the bushings, shock arm, and frame rail. But this bolt is not long enough. The end of the bolt does not reach the bottom of the frame.
Here is the last surviving old bushing. The idea is the dished washers and bolt squish the cylindrical bushings into this UFO shape. But I am not sure how to get the bolt shoved though enough to get the nut on. Maybe someone pushing from above can compress it enough. I will try it tomorrow. Time for bed.
OK, a new day and a new attempt. Let’s see how things are supposed to work. I put the old shock on the bench and used a shorter bolt to pull things together. Looks like I am trying to do the right thing here.
My first thought was to put a bar clamp or big channel locks on the bolt and squeeze it down. But I could not find an angle that would work. Then I found that I could put the bar clamp on the arm of the shock. So I took out the upper bushing to get some working room, pulled the lower bushing flat, and used the bar clamp to hold it in the squished position.
I then put the top bushing back in. I still could not get the nut on so I had my daughter push on the top of the bolt with a long metal rod. That did it! I cranked that sucker down. It looks great. In an attempt to make this easier on the other side I put those bushings in my test rig and left them squished. Maybe it will help.
I installed the control arm and spindle on the passenger side. That went the same as the driver’s side except I still have not found a shock absorber so that fun step is deferred for now. I then went to install the lower pin though the spring. The manual is very clear that the spring should be centered in the yoke before putting the pin in. On the driver’s side it lined up perfectly. However on the passenger side I could not even get the yoke over the spring. After some head scratching I figured out that the only way to make this work is to move the spring.
The spring is held to the frame by these U-bolts. I loosened them up then took a ball-peen hammer and a block of wood to the end of the spring to try and shift it. It moved a tiny, tiny bit. The problem with hitting a spring is that it is a spring. It is designed to absorb energy and return to shape. So I got out the REAL hammer. That worked! As you can see above the yoke is almost perfectly centered.
The pin has this locking plate. When I took it apart I could not figure out what good it did but I was very careful to replace it just the way it was when I removed it. I must be really dense because it was not until I had the pin installed that I realized how this was supposed to work. So I took the pin back out, flipped the plate, and reinstalled. Some nimrod before me had installed the plates wrong. This looks much better. But now I have another problem…
The #*$&@& pin has play in it! When I took all this apart I cleaned and inspected the pins but totally failed to notice how badly worn they are. I am not doing all this work to leave slop in the suspension so now this job is on hold until I can get new pins. Looks like a couple of vendors have them (whew!). I am hoping I can get away with just replacing the pin. If I have to get new bushings in the spring that will be a whole new world of suck. I am taking that gamble because when I put the pin in just a little it seems tight. If the bushings are cheap enough I might pick them up just in case.
The new pins and bushings arrived so we can get back to work. As I suspected the old bushings are pretty good. I ran the new pins in the old bushings and compared the play to the new bushing. There is certainly more play in the old bushing but not enough to make it worth messing with. The bushings were about $8 each so I will just keep them.
Again the manual makes it very clear that the yoke is supposed to be centered in over the spring and yet when I put the new pin in I was not paying attention and did this. Stupid. I took the pin out, whacked the spring a couple times, and tried again. Much better the second time.
And the other side…
Now the control links can go in. It took a little tweaking to get everything lined up but it looks great. I also re-tightened the spring u-bolts
Next I can hook up the tie rod ends. The driver’s side outer tie rod end had a badly worn cover. This is where not throwing anything way comes in handy. Here is my collection of old tie rod ends. The middle one has a torn up cover but the top and bottom ones look good. On the right we have the lucky winner.
There! That looks good. This is the drivers side. The other side is going to wait until the shock is installed.
Before reinstalling the brakes I greased everything up. The zerk on the front side leaked a little. I did not have it tight enough.
The finished product I also finally found a passenger side shock absorber. I cleaned and painted it. The new shock will get installed as soon as the paint dries. but until then
Yet another shot of the brakes. We are a brake drum and tire away from putting this down on the ground. The other side went together pretty much the same. The shock mount was just as much of a pain
It is a car again. The garage floor was TRASHED but I forgot to take a picture. Hopefully I can get an alignment this week and the car is done.


Front Suspension Assembly — 2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Front suspension rattle fixed | 1941 Studebaker Champion

  2. Thanks for taking the time and photos. Restoring my 1940 Champ. is a new venture for me. I’m convinced this front end was designed by a German. All the Fords I’ve done are super simple.

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