As we bid farewell to the 1961 Fleetwood Series 75 that recently acquired new pearl coat white paint, a light mechanical restoration as well as some interior work, we thought it might be worthwhile to feature not only the car but provide you with some history of Fleetwood and what its name meant to Cadillac. The blog continues but first enjoy some before and after pics of what turned out to be an absolutely beautiful vehicle with a perfect pearled white finish.
Most of us are familiar with the Fleetwood series Limousines from Cadillac and the Fleetwood Brougham but do we really know the history. Lawrence Fisher, of “Fisher Body” has everything to do with Fleetwood. Like Fisher Body, Fleetwood was a carriage manufacturer, they built high end carriages designed to transport the affluent and were recognized as leaders in their field long before the automobile, or horseless carriage, came around.
The Fleetwood Body Company we are familiar with was founded by Harry Ulrich in the nineteenth century in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. While Harry may have founded and organized the name in the United States, Fleetwood has its true heritage in Europe. Henry Fleetwood of Lancaster England actually started the lineage of carriages that became so popular in England and well renowned during the 17th and 18th centuries. With their illustrious history of building high end carriages the Fleetwood Body Company applied their art to automobiles and developed that same reputation for elegance and sophistication as they had for their carriages. Destined to be part of Cadillac, Fleetwood was bought by Fisher Body in 1925, four years before General Motors bought all the remaining stock in Fisher Body.
The marriage between Cadillac and Fleetwood Body Company all started with the acquisition of Fischer Bodies by General Motors. In 1916 Lawrence Fisher joined his brothers, who had found Fisher Body in 1908, and was instrumental in bringing the Fisher Body name under the GM umbrella in 1919. Having established himself within General Motors, then President of GM, Alfred Sloan, appointed Lawrence to Cadillac General manager in 1925. Larry, as he was known, immediately started to work adding custom bodies which would be exclusive to Cadillac. Seeing the opportunity available, Fisher Body was able to purchase The Fleetwood Body Company, which General Motors eventually acquired when they bought the remaining shares of Fisher Body four years later in 1929. Fleetwood bodies were an option on all Cadillac vehicles from 1927 through 1934.
By 1938 Cadillac had made the Fleetwood name more exclusive and only offered Fleetwood bodies on Cadillac Series 75 or 90, even the inaugural year of the Cadillac Sixty Special could not be obtained with a Fleetwood body. Fisher supplied the first body for the Sixty Special in 1938, designed with the assistance of Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell it was still manufactured in the Fleetwood plant but still retained the Fisher name. Fleetwood had become a very exclusive market.
In 1947 the name Fleetwood first appeared, as a badge, on the deck lid of the Cadillac Sixty Special.
It showed up again in 1952 on the rear of the Series 75.
When The Series 70 Eldorado Brougham was released in 1957 it joined only two other models worthy of the Fleetwood distinction, the Sixty Special and the Series 75, no badges indicating that the vehicles were a Fleetwood body were placed on the vehicles.
The 1957 Brougham was the first Brougham to be paired with a Fleetwood body in twenty years. Fleetwood remained a stealth brand with no discs or moldings or crests celebrating the Fleetwood Body Company that had developed such a reputation with 300 years worth of high quality luxury coach building. That was the case until 1959 when production for the Brougham was moved from the Fleetwood plant in Detroit to Turin, Italy at Pininafarina. Although production was relocated Fleetwood was still handling the design and final details, because of this the Brougham received Fleetwood discs and moldings on the door sills.
Brougham production ceased in 1961 and in 1963 the Biarritz became the latest Cadillac to receive a Fleetwood body.
Biarritz also marked the return of a convertible for Fleetwood designers since the demise of the Series 90 in 1941.
For nearly ten years Fleetwood would enjoy the exclusive status they had acquired with names such as Eldorado, Sixty Special and Series 75 being designated as sub-series vehicles of the Fleetwood line. Further integration in the 70’s brought the introduction of the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and the Fleetwood Limousine that would replace the Sixty Special and the 75 series before Fleetwood became a completely separate series of vehicles in 1985.
While the new front wheel drive C-body was being rolled out by General Motors in 1985 with a chassis that carried de Ville, the Electra for Buick and the Ninety-Eight for Oldsmobile, the Fleetwood remained a rear wheel drive vehicle and was known simply as the Fleetwood Brougham for ’85 and ’86.
Few other differences, aside from trim, can be found between the Fleetwood and the de Ville of this period. At the time de Ville was available with an optional d’Elegance package that quickly was turned into the Fleetwood package then morphed again into Fleetwood d’Elegance in 1987
without a coupe until 1989.
The Sixty Special returned in 1987 and used a stretched version of the C-body and the Series 75, brought together again with Cadillac in 1985, used a slightly longer 134 inch wheel base versus the Sixty Specials 116” wheelbase.
Cadillac had begun to lose footing with their fans though and began to see reviews that were less than impressive when compared to the German manufacturers that were becoming very successful in their marketing efforts in the United States. Complaints of being under powered, the ride being harsh and poor handling prompted even more action from Cadillac and engine power increased steadily into the 90’s. After several years without a rear wheel drive coupe Fleetwood left the front wheel drive line up again in 1993 as the replacement for the ’92 model Brougham, this would also be the last year that the Sixty Special.
For its last year Cadillac equipped this series better than any other vehicle in their line up. Just as in models before, the Sixty Special was to be of the highest in luxury and driver comfort and convenience, for this reason there were options on this Sixty Special that were not available on any other vehicle in this class for Cadillac. Memory seating and an easy entry/exit system that moved the seat rearward when pushing the exit button when leaving the vehicle, and of course fender skirts that provided a more formal appearance than the deVille was capable of with full open wheel houses.
The end was upon the Fleetwood name but as a swan song was switched back to a rearwheel drive vehicle in 1993 using a slightly modified version of the D-body in which it had used with the Brougham a few years earlier.
The Fleetwood was the longest production car made, at 225 inches, until production ceased on December 13th, 1996. Despite using Corvette LT1 derived engines in 1994 and the use of Fleetwood Commercial chassis on funeral coaches and limousines the Seville and the de Ville sold strong and the Fleetwood was officially retired form production to make room for more Suburban and Tahoe offerings from GM.
As we celebrate Fleetwood and recognize its demise it seems only fitting to carry away the name in the commercial vehicles it produced, namely ambulances and hearses.
Of course we can’t forget one of the most famous converted ambulances from Ghost Busters.
It had been a good run, Fleetwood had prepared its own standard in which it would be carried to its final resting place.
The Brush “Runabout”
Alanson Brush and his “Brush Runabout” are credited with the first mass produced vehicle with a shock absorber. You may see little importance to this small hydraulic miracle, many car owners still don’t understand what importance a shock absorber has in controlling their ride, improving overall handling and improving brake effectiveness. You see, springs have been around for ages, leaf springs can be traced to the Egyptians and Siege machines used in Europe. Coil springs have also been widely used and, along with leaf springs, heavily used with auto manufacturers, namely Daimler-Benz used coil springs on many of their earliest vehicles. These systems may seem archaic now,(the “Runabout” used Hickory wood for its front axle), but provided the comfort clients of the turn of the twentieth century wanted. I am most happy that of all the suspension systems that may have carried over from the carriage manufacturers of the day the leather strap used on many personal and livery units were not deemed effective.
Early suspension, transverse mounted leaf spring
With great thought to price as well as ride comfort most manufacturers used leaf type springs for their suspension. With the release of the Model T in 1908 the world saw one of the first innovations of automobile suspensions from Ford. To save weight and maintain the ride he expected, Ford used only one spring per axle and mounted them transversely. This design became very popular with many manufacturers although it was sometime later before shock absorbers would become important. With the “Runabout” Alanson Brush incorporated the shock absorber with the coil spring, much like a suspension that another man named McPherson is associated with. Alanson had worked with Oldsmobile and Cadillac before leaving to form his own car company in 1904, during this time he tried several different designs of his own and not until his brother wrecked his recently completed “Alanson Crestmobile” did he realize how important the shock absorber was to improved handling for the driver. While Brush motors enjoyed some relative success Alanson’s financial backer had other interests, absorbed by the U.S. Motor company in 1910 the “Runabout” disappeared in 1912 with the collapse of the company.
What sets the Brush automobile apart is the use of a hydraulic shock with a coil spring front suspension. There had been other types of shock absorbers, in 1897 A. Gimming used a rubber block just like what we see on many cars now, although the importance of this type of mount now is not the same as it was when introduced. Shocks are all about controlling the suspension and its rebound. A spring absorbs energy and releases energy, when going over a bump the spring absorbs the energy and then releases it by pushing back with equal or greater force. Obviously without some sort of damper this cycle will continue and the vehicle will continue to bounce after hitting a bump, a shock absorber does exactly that, absorbs some of the energy from the spring and controls the release of the energy as well.
Straight/solid Axle front suspensi0n
There are two primary types of front suspension and several variants of each. The most widely used on early vehicles was a straight axle, typically supported by leaf springs, either one or two, to support the vehicle, cargo and passenger weight. These were very simple, straight forward suspensions that were rugged but really provided little ride control, even if the customers weren’t aware of it at the time.
King Pins of the automotive world
Straight axles use a king pin or a ball joint to attach the spindle and u-bolts to attach the springs, springs were mounted in much the same fashion as today’s leaf spring vehicles, with pivots or slides that allow the spring to work as the overall length of the spring changes while the vehicle travels. Leaf springs are popular even today due to their load carrying ability and the simplicity in which they work. This type of suspension is still used today, particularly on heavy vehicles, you can find solid axle front suspensions on nearly every over the road truck. This is also still a very popular set up for hot rods, using axles set up with a “drop” helps a builder lower his ride with little effort and with the use of either a mono leaf or coil springs and shocks can achieve a decent ride, if spring rate is chosen correctly. Another type of spring used in conjunction with a straight axle is a torsion bar, torsion bars absorb the energy through a long rod attached to the axle and the frame, this set up is designed so that the twist in the rod supports the vehicle and the rod then twists during operation to absorb the energy. The biggest difficulty encountered with straight axle suspensions isn’t poor ride quality but actually poor handling. When driving over rough surfaces or imperfections in the road (pot holes), the suspension has a tendency to skip as one side reacting to the roughness begins to create a loss of control on the opposite side of the vehicle. Not being able to isolate the action of one front wheel lead to the adaptation of independent front suspensions.
Independent Front suspension
More complex with more moving components independent suspensions greatly improved the handling experienced by those driving a solid axle car. The most common independent front suspension is one using upper and lower control arms to attach the spindle to the car and a coil spring and shock placed between or above the control arms. While many use coil springs there are numerous variants of the design, short arm/long arm systems have unequal length arms that keep the tire perpendicular to the road even over the harshest of bumps.
Torsion bar suspension
Torsion bar style suspensions are also used by many manufacturers with the control arm type suspensions.
McPherson Strut suspension
McPherson style front suspensions use a shock absorber and coil spring combination that attaches to the spindle in place of the upper control arm. This system was revolutionary in helping the designers to engineer lower hood lines and add more room for front wheel drive transaxles without sacrificing ride and handling.
Sway bar, Anti-roll bar
While the springs (leaf, coil or torsion bar) support the vehicle and the shock absorbers control the energy stored and released by the springs, sway bars, or anti-roll bars control the vehicle. Using either a solid bar or a tube, the sway bar is attached to the frame and pivots inside of busings while the ends of the bar are attached, with links, to the lower control arm. Going back to our high school geometry we see how the pressure of the vehicle will cause the sway bar to apply equal force, like a torsion bar, to the opposite side of the vehicle. When getting onto and exit ramp and turning right the body will want to lean left. As the body begins to apply it’s weight the sway bar, or anti-roll bar, transfers the energy and raises the right side of the vehicle to maintain control. Different diameter bars are used based on the application, a heavier, thicker bar will be found on a track vehicle where handling is going to be tantamount to winning the race and passenger cars will have a slightly smaller bar to improve handling without sacrificing ride and drive quality.
Vehicle suspensions are in constant movement, unless, of course, you’re stopped. Control arms pivot up and down, springs compress and expand, shocks are moving and all of this has to happen in such a way as to provide a better ride, better traction and better handling. Each of these components have to be mounted so they can move freely and still create some isolation between what the suspension is doing and the consumer driving the vehicle. In order to dampen the activity bushings are used in nearly every pivot point of the suspension. The most popular type of bushings are the standard rubber bushings they have used for years which provide for a great ride and a great deal of insulation from the roughness the vehicle may be traversing through at the time. While there are other types, another popular material for bushings is polyurethane. Polyurethane bushings are not as soft as a rubber bushing so more road feel will be transmitted through to the driver, however, being of a more dense material the polyurethane bushings provide for a better handling vehicle and control the changes a vehicle is thrust into easier. Polyurethane bushings, as well as other bushings made of material other than rubber, will typically be found in cars geared more towards performance.
Among all the various components found on a suspension one of the most critical is the common ball joint. Ball joints provide the connection between the vehicle and the tire/wheel. The wheel mounts on a spindle and the spindle is attached to the control arms with this part. For such a small component, built with a ball and socket design, it takes the absolute blunt force of the vehicle. When choosing replacement parts choose a quality piece that is serviceable with grease fittings. The ball joint allows the suspension to pivot up and down while maintaining proper tire angle and also allows the front wheel to turn left or right. This, again, is a very crucial piece of a vehicles front suspension and needs to be inspected, along with the rest of the suspension, for wear or damage regularly, a worn ball joint will lead to, eventually, the spindle coming loose from the control arm creating a loss of control.
As with Ball joints, always choose the best product to meet your needs. Determine how you plan to drive your vehicle and what you plan to use it for and then purchase quality parts, not necessarily the most expensive, but the highest quality. Most of these components are not difficult to service and replace but it isn’t easy work either, don’t waste your time and your money on a product that doesn’t have a good service life. As what some consider hobbyists we may enjoy working on our cars and trucks but mostly it is for improvement, not to re-do work that has already been done.
This is just a basic outline, we are often stuck with whatever suspension system our vehicle has but there are always ways to improve handling, ride and even vehicle stance. Coil springs can be cut to adjust ride height and custom made springs are available so that you don’t have to cut. Leaf springs can be mounted above or under the axle typically to change ride height and leafs can be added or removed based on what you expect from your suspension. Leaf springs can also be re-arched or built custom, based on your preference. Torsion bar type suspensions are the easiest to adjust ride height but, like other types of suspensions, the vehicle requires an alignment to ensure proper handling and to control tire wear. The most important thing to consider is the quality of the components you use. Research what you want to do, research the parts and search related forums online to discover the pitfalls of what you have planned. I also recommend that you keep in mind that anytime you make changes to ride height you also change the geometry of the vehicle and by changing this you are changing how weight is distributed and will affect handling and braking performance, possibly with adverse results. The result you want is a safe vehicle that handles well, rides nice and maybe, with changes in ride height, has a more aggressive stance.
For more information and explore all your options check out our partner Heidts Hot Rod and Muscle Car parts
Another source for quality parts, stock or performance is Jegs
So, you thought Congress could not agree on anything. I get it, no matter what side of the isle you are on it seems Congress has difficulty performing, not this time though. The Senate recently passed S.Res.493 – A resolution designating July 11, 2014, as “Collector Car Appreciation Day” and recognizing that the collection and restoration of historic and classic cars is an important part of preserving the technological achievements and cultural heritage of the United States. Now, how they plan to reward you faithful enthusiasts for maintaining and preserving our automotive history is still unknown. I can guess that reduced taxes will not be part of a package to reward you for you efforts. What we can do is take advantage of this and move forward knowing we have preserved history. We all know what we do and why we like cars, some are more involved in preservation while many of us just want a more unique, personalized ride.
As we drive through the streets of nearly every city I find disappointment when I see buildings that were so rich in architecture being leveled for the next store, office building or parking lot. While some of these decisions for new buildings are based on brand imaging often times the owner or the contractor just deem the buildings too expensive to refurbish or renovate. Each time another building comes down it is another reminder of our loss of history. It is the same with cars and trucks as well as things such as farm implements.
You, the collector, the enthusiast, the gear head, or whatever distinction you prefer, provide a window into the past, not only of the automobile you drive but also of the culture of the time. The design, the dimensions, interiors and the accessories all speak about the era in which the vehicle was made. While the general public takes things like disc brakes and power steering for granted, many of the cars we, the car buffs, drive and enjoy were lacking that technology. What you have done is show that with small modifications a classic car can be modified to provide as good, if not better, handling and braking than modern vehicles, and look better doing it.
When we drive our classic cars we enjoy the attention received but what the casual observer does not recognize is that our classic cars are as well appointed as any new car you can buy. We install the heated seats, the sound systems, power window and lock mechanisms. We have every modern convenience at our finger tip, and we chose what we wanted, without having to choose thousands of dollars of things we didn’t want. As individuals, the car enthusiast extends his personality through his vehicle and takes pride in his or her automobile of choice, what works for one doesn’t have to be the mold for another. That Camaro or Mustang may be cool with a big engine swelling the engine bay but, as a lover of cars, we will still find inside of us a great deal of respect to that factory spec. restored Vega, it is about preservation after all.
As an enthusiast you are responsible for saving numerous vehicles from a scrap yard death, through your efforts, hard work and sweat we are able to enjoy vehicles that would otherwise not exist in society today and Precision Restorations wants to thank you for your efforts, keep up the good work.
To give a brief update, the 1971 Ford Torino GT convertible that we showed you in November when we cut the top off of the donor car is starting to go back together. We ran tests on the new, stock rebuilt engine and the numbers were impressive. Watch here
Touted as the largest classic car show in the world it is now entering its 37th year and for the last thirty years it has been hosted by the community of Västerås/Sweden. What is even more amazing is that this show is an American Car show! Maybe we here in the United States take our history as a car culture for granted. Held July 3 – 5, 2014, this show in Västerås is reported to attract over 20,000 vehicles from the fully restored to street rods and customs. Cruisers, Corvettes, Mustangs and Camaros abound in the air strip where the meet is held. It is said that the event maintains a carnival atmosphere and the venue accommodates the huge crowds without too much overcrowding. Last years event was attended by people from over 40 different countries. While most European countries were well represented as well as the United States, Canada, Mexico and Russia were also represented. Even groups from Israel, Turkey and Morocco were in Sweden to enjoy this event.
So… anyone following us here in the states, if you would like to enjoy the largest American Car show in the world, you still have enough time to book the flight. For our followers overseas, I hope you are all able to attend, we look forward to any updates and photos that anyone going may share with us.
Meanwhile, enjoy some pics from previous year shows and check out all the details here. http://bigmeet.com.s161614.gridserver.com/eng/
Evolution of a Restoration Pt.4
In the third part to this series we discussed some of the metal work involved with replacing floor pans and sheet metal. What comes next? We need to prep the bare metal, if you choose to use replacement panels I would recommend that they be cleaned entirely of the coating they were shipped with. What we recommend, and do, is coat the vehicle with an “etching” primer.
Self – etching primer is used to seal bare metals and used as a rust inhibitor. Made up of a base consisting of acid, often phosphoric, and zinc it is designed to impregnate the surface molecules of the metal. While this treatment does not reverse the effects of rust it does have the ability to neutralize it and prevent further deterioration.
After coating the metal surfaces of the floor and the quarters we will grind down the welds on the quarter panel. While we have all seen panels overlapped and held on by nothing more than tack welds you will be disappointed in a few years when those repairs come back to haunt you. There are times when you will have to overlap metal panels, that is how much of a car is designed but not for quarter panels and most sheet metal rust repair panels. Once you have inspected the panel to ensure there is no damage that will affect the installation set the replacement panel into place over the old metal and position it to where it should go for the best fit, make a few alignment marks. Using sheet metal vice-grips clamp the replacement quarter panel into place around the wheel well, over the original sheet metal. Using you alignment marks position and secure the panel. Don’t think that everything looks better two feet away, step back and look at the positioning of the panel, how the character lines match up, how the leading and trailing panels fore and aft of the wheel look, this is one of the last opportunities you will have to make adjustments and it has to be right. If the lower half of the quarters are rotted away, measure curb height to make sure you have it placed correctly. There are many resources on the internet that can provide you that information on most cars, most importantly make sure it is right. Once you feel it is aligned correctly outline the panel with a scribe or a fine tipped marker. Step back and look it over again before removing the replacement panel, if all looks good remove the panel. You should now have a perfect outline of your replacement panel on your old sheet metal, cut it out. There are a few very effective ways to cut this out. A high speed cutting tool is simple to use but takes time and can become hard to control, electric or air powered shears work very well and then there is plasma.
First, doing any kind of work with a Plasma cutter requires proper eye protection. As with most repairs eye protection is required but when using Plasma cutters, TIG welders, MIG welders or when doing any type of welding you must protect your eye with the proper shields and goggles as necessary.
Plasma Cutters use an inert gas, (a gas that does not experience chemical reactions, such as oxidation, when used in certain applications) like Argon, as a shielding gas which is rapidly fed through the nozzle where an electric arc is created. This arc heats the gas and the metal to a sufficient temperature where the gas essentially passes through the metal and creates very clean precise cuts.
After the panel has been cut out align your replacement panel within the opening, we recommend, and use, a TIG welder to weld the panel onto the car. Start off with a few small tack welds to hold the panel in place and then join the body with the new panel by completing a full weld around the circumference of the panel.
After the panel has been welded completely, with clean welds that have very few pin holes, apply a coat of etching primer. After the etching primer is dry grind the welds down flat, when done your quarter should look like one piece of metal again.
There are different types of panels, patch panels and replacement panels are not the same. There are both types of quarter panels available, a replacement panel will require removal of more of the stock sheet metal and require more precise alignment as replacement of these panels will affect door alignment. Be sure you know what you are doing before welding these panels on so that you don’t find yourself in a bind later when doing panel alignment.
There will still be filler required, not to fill any waves or dents but a glaze coating of filler will be use to fill any imperfections in the weld and make the merge with the body complete. Very aggressive sand paper of a 36 or 40 grit will be used during the initial sanding and the final sand will be done with a 80 or 100 grit paper. Depending on the shape of the panel you may have to hand sand portions where you filled but any areas that would allow you to use a block to sand, do. Block sanding provides a straighter repair than your flexible, soft hand. Continue to sand until the surface is straight and smooth with no distinct edge to the filler. When satisfied that your repair is straight and will be invisible to the naked eye once painted apply a sanding primer.
As we continue through the project each panel is going to be coated with etching primer after all the paint, or coatings, are removed and before any additional metal work or repair is completed.
Next time we will discuss sanding primers, block sanding, sealer and paint.
Thanks to our clients and the highly skilled craftsmen employed at Precision Restoration we have continued to grow in our market and are now looking to expand. Precision Restoration is seeking a qualified individual that is highly skilled in metal fabrication and body work to join our team. If you are a person with an appreciation for details, know your craft and can execute your skills we are interested in talking to you. All the information to contact us is here.
If you have had time to review our blog on front suspension you will recognize some of the same components in this post. The rear suspension historically has been similar to a straight axle suspension using either leaf springs or coil springs. Independent and coil spring rear suspensions are much more prevalent now than in the early days of motoring. In fact it wasn’t until the late thirties that coil springs were even used on rear suspensions, Buick has that distinction, you can read more about a 1938 Buick we just completed by clicking here. Prior to that rear suspensions equipped with coil springs were mainly found at the track, where, even then, research was done prior to production. Just like front suspensions we have many choices now when building our dream cars. Independent, leaf spring, coil spring and 4 link style to name a few.
For the purposes of this blog we will concentrate only on rear wheel drive vehicles, while there are some unique aspects of the rear suspension on front wheel drive vehicles, most classic and collectible cars tend to be rear wheel drive. What is so different about the rear suspension? The rear suspension is tasked with the duty of controlling the torque fed to the rear wheels, it also has to work with the vehicle for control and handling as well as ride. Installing the “right” rear suspension may be your ticket to better handling but which one is right for you and your vehicle. While we may be limited, at times, to which rear suspension we use there are several different companies that provide quality bolt on kits, or kits with very little modification needed, in different configurations for many popular models that the enthusiast may want to check into before getting the cutting torch out. For the purist, changing suspension systems in such a way is not a desirable option but when you have an incomplete car, or something that you don’t feel you want to restore to factory original, changing the style of the rear suspension of your classic or muscle car may be just the ticket to make it do what you want it to do.
As stated above, a rear suspension is not all that different from a front suspension except for its role in controlling the torque fed to the rear wheels. The two come together while driving, both the front and the rear suspension work to provide positive handling and a comfortable ride. The choices may be unlimited it seems but ride and handling are two things that need to be considered when beginning this project. A stiff suspension may provide excellent handling but as a daily driver the rough ride may take its toll on you, a happy medium can be easily reached but you need to know a few things, such as vehicle weight and how that weight is dispersed. For these very reasons I highly recommend you review your options and look at the kits being produced by companies such as our partner, Heidts Hot Rod and Muscle Car parts. Another area where there is a little more freedom for modification is adjusting the vehicles wheel base. Not a popular modification, relocating spring shackles on a leaf spring suspension, or moving the pin location for the axle housing can greatly affect vehicle performance. Shortening, or lengthening, the wheel base will make for a quicker handling or smoother riding vehicle but, more importantly, it will change the weight distribution of the vehicle and also changes the way the weight is transferred on acceleration. Making this change, easier on some cars than others, can greatly improve traction on a hard launch, or provide tighter handling. As with anything do not make drastic changes like this without properly researching different packages and looking at several options before deciding on one that will meet your needs and expectations. Years ago Chrysler offered a complete chassis manual through, then, Direct Connection, now known as Mopar Performance.
This manual, along with the one they offered for their engine line up was a bible for all things Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth when it came to performance and the engineering involved. Dealing directly with the geometry that someone has already taken the time to do for you is considerably easier and will provide for a more positive experience.
Changing wheel base or the type of rear suspension, leaf spring to four link for example, will dramatically change handling and weight transfer. If you plan on your classic or muscle car to be a door slammer and looking at how to put that power down the driveline and control it, you need to consider what the right type of suspension is right for you. Equally, if looking for a road racer that can straighten out the curves ahead there are options to consider as well. To maintain a quality ride and still retain traction leaf spring style suspensions are a great option and, with fewer moving parts and fewer bushings, they are easier to maintain. Solid, live axles also provide more durability than and independent differential as the axle shaft is splined directly into the ring gear versus having constant velocity or universal joints to allow the axle to travel independent of the third member, or differential. For an owner that likes to feel the way a vehicle handles on a tight winding road then going as far as an independent rear differential style suspension may be the right choice for you. Four link systems are also very effective in controlling classic and muscle cars with live, solid axles on those curvy driving roads.
A leaf spring suspension is very much like what we briefly discussed in the post prior to this dealing with front suspensions.
While many older cars used a transverse mounted rear leaf spring most modern cars using a leaf spring type, or Hotchkiss, suspension use leafs at each side. Here is why this set up is so well suited for straight line full bodied drag cars, or door slammers. Leaf springs are comprised of multiple layers of springs, this provides the opportunity for the owner to fine tune his ride based on what his intentions are. Adding or removing springs changes the overall dynamics of the weight shift on hard acceleration. Too stiff and the weight transfer will not be effective, too soft and handling will be affected. Obviously the ability for you classic car to handle you and your luggage can be affected with the addition, or subtraction, of leaf springs. This goes back, again, to thinking about what you intend to use your car for. Leaf springs do have some disadvantages, wheel hop being the most predominant. Others complain that road racing is not very conducive to leaf springs, this concern is as much the fault of the solid axle as it the springs but that is only my opinion. The thing we need to remember is that the shock absorbers not only control ride but also help maintain contact with the road, leveling out the rebound of leaf springs is different than controlling rebound on coil springs. Research your options and you can build a very nice leaf spring suspension that will provide a very nice ride and good handling with very little expense.
Coil spring type suspensions come in several different configurations, four link, link coil and swing arm (or ladder bar) to name a few. Most coil spring suspensions will use one of these styles but others, independent type suspensions in particular, may use control arms and be set up similar to what a front suspension would be. Independent suspensions use a fixed differential and drive axles similar to front wheel drive vehicles. Coil spring suspensions are easily tuned and using a coil over shock style, as found on many custom built chassis’, make ride, handling and weight transfer nearly infinite in adjustment. The same premise used for leaf spring suspensions comes in to play here, by choosing springs with a lighter, or heavier spring weight the owner has options to meet his handling, ride and traction needs. Independent or coil spring suspensions can be adapted to vehicles that were previously leaf spring style suspensions but we would strongly recommend using a kit, similar to those offered, again, by Heidts Hot Rod and Muscle Car parts.
Coil springs provide for a very smooth ride and incorporating an independent rear differential greatly enhances not only the ride but also handling. Independent differentials allow the wheels to travel “independent” from each other ensuring that the tires remain in contact with the road surface. The major drawback of coil spring, and especially coil spring suspensions with independent differentials, is price. With more moving parts maintenance needs are also increased over leaf spring style suspensions.
Coil spring suspensions typically use control arms but not in the same sense as a control arm on the front suspension. Some will call these radius arms or lateral arms and will have two that attach the lower portion of the axle housing and then two other rods attached to the upper portion. The purpose of these rods, or control arms, is to maintain pinion angle on the differential. A swing arm style is similar to many motorcycles with one pivot point and the spring sandwiched between the body and the axle. A four link or coil and link suspension maintains consist pinion angle when driving over rough surfaces and with more attaching points the differential is considerably more solid than a swing arm. Independent rear differentials have the “pumpkin” mounted solid making it part of the sprung weight, this becomes an advantage as the weight working with the springs is greatly reduced and focus can be made on handling.
Sway bars serve the same purpose on the rear as they do on the front. Often the rear may be of a different diameter, based on the weight of the vehicle and the distribution of that weight. Increasing the diameter of the sway bar will provide great control of body sway through those turns whether at the track or just getting on and off the highway on those long sweeping clover leafs. As we are all aware, most classic and muscle cars are larger and quite hefty, controlling this weight is what the suspension is designed to do and a quality sway bar, front and rear, should be a part of any suspension.
If you choose to use a solid axle differential another piece that you might find nice is a panhard rod/bar. Used frequently in ladder bar style suspensions, this bar is mounted transversely and attaches to the frame and the axle, this same component greatly improves the handling of a solid axle front suspension as well. This rod controls the lateral, side to side, movement of the axle, improving performance on turns, or in the case of front solid axle suspensions, wheel lift.
Ultimately it all boils down to you and what decisions you make and how those decisions coincide with your wishes. Ability also comes into the equation we are trying to solve. If your shop is properly equipped and you are skilled as a welder, great, but much of the work required when doing these suspension modifications will require good quality welds. Before welding these components in you really need to spend the time mocking up the components in place to ensure proper alignment and positioning, not only on the frame but also correct pinion angle. Just like cutting a board, measure twice, cut once, make sure everything is where it should be before you begin to tack it into place. Some kits are very user friendly and are bolt on. This certainly provides a great deal more flexibility when setting it up but when you have everything set I would still recommend welding the system into place, bolts loosen and unless you are going to check the torque regularly you are going to have problems.
Price has been mentioned a few times, obviously the more elaborate you go the more expense you will incur. Doing a pro-street set up will require a large amount of modifications, converting a mono-leaf to a parallel leaf spring style, not so much. If you question anything about your ability to do it yourself, hire a professional. These are not the type of modifications that you want to take chances on.
Look forward to upcoming posts on steering, driveline, fuel and ignition systems before the evolution series continues.
Chevrolet Performance is hosting the Car Craft Magazine Summer Nationals in St. Paul, Mn. this weekend. Click here for all the details.
If you happen to be near Lake Bluff, Il. then stop in Knauz Autopark Friday night, the 18th, for their annual cruise. Who knows, you might get to meet Elvis. He is scheduled to perform. Click here for details. T.C.B.
Also this weekend is the 18th annual Gathering of the Eagles Car show at the Air show in Willoughby, Oh.. Partnered with the air show presented by the United States Aviation Museum, this should be a really terrific event, even if Elvis won’t be there. Click here to go to the Aviation Museum for all the details.
This Friday and Saturday Gonzales, La. is having their annual Swamp Pop Music Festival and Saturday, among all the activities is a massive car show. If you are in the area click here to get all the details. Look over the rest of the event to see all the live entertainment, looks like a good time on the Bayou.
If you are in the mood to take a drive during this fine weekend of temperatures in the low eighties there are some great shows at some great destinations just for you.
Sunday July 20th Owensville Threshers Association will have a car show. Held in Rosebud, Mo. This will be the 52nd such event and coincides with their threshing show held this weekend. Beyond the cars that will be there this is a great opportunity to see large antique steam operated farm equipment both on display and providing demonstrations throughout the weekend.
Saturday July 19th Affton Father’s Club car show is being held at Affton High School, 8309 Mackenzie Road. This looks to be a great event with drawings and attendance prizes every hour.
Saturday July 19th Grease Gears and Grooves Bike & Car Show 10am till 6pm. Held at Sunset Ford’s old lot at Gravois and Lindbergh in SUNSET HILLS, MO. This is a great event with live entertainment and all proceeds go to benefit Children’s Miracle Network and Bikers Against Child Abuse.
If you have a local event that you would like for us to send out to our followers please submit to email@example.com
Thanks, have a great weekend.
Evolution of a Restoration pt.5
We have now replaced our plans and sealed and prepared it for paint as we briefly outlined in pt.4. We have reviewed installation of complete as well as rust repair panels and they are now installed, worked and in prime. The next step would be to begin an in depth look at the rest of the body, were there any small imperfections that had not been repaired yet, are there wrinkles or waves in the panels that have went unnoticed? We prefer to work on whatever panels we can, off of the body. This provides an opportunity to inspect each component as we progress in preparing the body and its components for paint.
For this discussion we will use a door as an example. The door should have already been de-trimmed and the glass removed. We really only want a stripped down door at this point while we inspect for any rust that we may have missed during the initial inspection. Closely inspect the lower portions of the door, both the inside surfaces as well as the outside panel. Use a light to allow better visibility inside the door and look for flaking or dust. What you find needs to be removed and the door cleaned of any rust residue. The door, as well as the other panels removed, fenders, trunk lid and hood, all need to be stripped of their finish as well. Any old repair work needs to be ground out so that what you have before you is a clean, ready to prep door. Use an Etching primer to seal the door, inside and out, to ensure the metal is treated correctly to reduce the occurrence of any future corrosion issues. Looking at the door you may not notice any imperfections that need attention, that’s good, but we need to apply a coat of high build primer on the surface and block the surfaces to eliminate any of the waves often found in the surface. This step needs to be repeated multiple times and with varying grits of sand paper. While some of the sanding of the surfaces to prepare for a smooth finish may be completed by hand the large areas of the panel not impeded by character lines and tight curves should be done with a sanding block.
Block sanding is a term used when using a rigid base for the paper used to sand the finish on a panel. While our hands are firm they are not flat and rigid like a block would be and when our hand is used we will not apply equal force across the sandpaper and will end up with waves and imperfections in the painted surface. There are several different styles and lengths of sanding blocks. Small blocks that are just slightly over 5” long are great on smaller panels or smaller areas of a panel where some of the larger blocks are not effective. Longer blocks, 11” and 16” work very well for larger areas, such as the sides of doors, the large flat areas of the hood and deck lid. Suppliers also manufacture rounded blocks as well to assist in repairs to surfaces that flat blocks will not work.
The first pass on the door with the sanding block should be done with a medium grit paper, 180 grit moving to a 220 grit paper once you feel the panels meet your requirements. This is a relatively aggressive paper and will remove the primer material quickly so you have to look at the panel while you are sanding. Moving the block in a back and forth direction at a 45 degree angle will prevent sanding a groove that will be visible in you paint. In this fashion move back and forth over the surface cleaning the dust build up from the surface frequently as you go.
While “blocking” the surface you may begin to notice areas in the primered surface that are darker and appear not to have been touched by the sand paper. These areas are the high and low areas that you are looking to correct. Through training and experience you will begin to understand when these areas will require more metal work or other attention before continuing. It is not the job of the primer, and the primer will fail, if used to fill anything more than small imperfections in the surface. If there are areas that are low and do not sand out properly then the area needs to be assessed to ensure it is not a high spot rather than a low spot in the surface, then repair as necessary for a straight panel. As you progress the final finish sand should be conducted with a 320 then a 400 grit paper that will remove any of the previous sand scratches from the heavier grit papers. A typical progression for block sanding will be 180-220-320-400. After the final sand on the panel it should appear smooth and without imperfections.
Next comes the test fit of the panels. In a previous blog we talked about the proper way to align panels on a vehicle and I have attached it here to help you with this step.
This step is exactly what it is, a test fit. We need to make sure that the panels are going to align correctly with the body with proper gaps and fit along character lines. We also need to align the doors to open and close correctly and the fenders need to be fit to ensure proper body alignment against the doors. We test fit and align the panels at this time so that we have a larger margin of error than we would with a completely finished car but also to see what work we need to do to correct poorly aligned panels.
This is also true for bumpers, in the pictures above the new quarter panels we installed fit poorly in relation to the lines on the bumper, in this instance we split, welded and metal worked the replacement panel so that we could achieve the fit and finish desired. In the other photos you will note that we did the same thing on the body so that we could get the proper fit for the door opening. Despite all of the work you may have put into installing the quarter or replacing the fender or putting on a new door skin, there may be times where it becomes necessary to do more metal work on the panels and we don’t want to have to address such concerns with a body that is in color. Like the other steps, this one is to make sure that everything is right before painting the surfaces. Paint is expensive and when we reach that stage we want everything to be right, why waste money on materials when you can take the time to make sure that when the paint is sprayed you have done everything in your capacity to make sure the body is prepared correctly.
In the next installment we will discuss suspension, frame and steering.
JUL 11 FRI ~ Randy’s House of BBQ Car & Bike Cruise ~ 6pm till 9pm ~ Dash Plaques 1st 50 Participants ~ Attendance Prizes ~ 50/50 drawing benefiting Partners for Pets -You can even take a new pet home ~ Live Music, Second ~ $12.00 sides of baby back ribs~2nd Friday of the month April-October ~ location: next to ACE hardware at 2469 Northtown Way ~ HIGHLAND, IL
JUL 11 FRI Cruise-Nite Coulterville Dairy Queen ~ May thru Sep ~ hosted by Grand Cote Cruisers Car Club ~5pm till 9pm ~ 50/50 Drawing ~ Employee Choice Award ~ Attendance PrizesDJ 50’s & 60’s Music ~ Price Specials each date plus Attendance Prizes ~ Dairy Queen, ~ COULTERVILLE, IL
JUL 11 FRI ~ Misfit-Toyz Car Club Cruise ~ May thru Oct ~ info: (314) 306-0525Steak ‘N’ Shake, 1300 Lemay Ferry Rd ~ST. LOUIS, MO
JUL 12 SAT EDDIE’S TRAVEL CENTER & HUDDLE HOUSE RESTAURANT CAR CRUISE (Memorial Cruise for Rich Jerashen) ~ hosted by THE PISTON PUSHERS CLASSIC CAR CLUB, INC. ~ 6pm till 9pm ~ Dash Plaques ~ Attendance Prizes ~ 50/50 Drawing ~ D.J. MUSIC by The Piston Pushers ~ info: email ~ location: Exit 23, Rt. 4 off I-64 near MidAmerica Airport, address 9810 Perrin Rd ~ MASCOUTAH, IL
JUL 12 SAT 2nd Annual Culver’s Car Cruise ~ 2nd Saturday each month ~ presented by “The Stang Gang” ~ all makes and years welcome ~ Music by DJ Don ~ Attendance Prizes ~ 50/50 Drawing ~ No burnouts or alcohol, not responsible for accidents, damage to or loss of property ~ info: (314) 845-0964 ~ located at 4140 Rusty Rd.- ST. LOUIS, MO
JUL 12 SAT Hyway Rockers Super Cruise ~ 6pm till 9pm ~ Dash Plaques ~ Valve Cover Races ~ Attendance Prizes ~ 50/50 Drawing ~ DJ Music ~ Manager & Employee Trophies every show ~ info: 314-691-1308 or email or www.hywayrockers.org ~ location: Burger King in Pevely @ I-55 and Z Highway ~ PEVELY, MO
JUL 12 SAT 37th Annual Mustang Round-Up & All Ford Car Show & Swap Meet ~hosted by Southern Illinois Mustang Club ~ register 8am till Noon, $20 Fee, $15 Display & $5 Swap Meet space ~ Rain or Shine ~ Special Trophies & Awards ~ info: (618) 578-7696 or (618) 259-6790 or email ~ located at Roberts Ford, Homer Adams Parkway – Alby Street ~ ALTON, IL
JUL 12 SAT 1st Annual Mertz Ford Classic Car Show ~ register 9:30am till 11am ~ Entry fee $20 or $15 with can food items to support our local Food Pantry ~ Custom Trophies ~ BBQ by Smoking K’s ~ Net proceeds benefit “Make A Wish” foundation ~ www.mertzford.com ~ held on Mertz Ford lot, 100 E. Washington ~ MILLSTADT, IL
JUL 12 SAT Belleville Car Cruises ~ 6pm till 9pm ~ Free Registration ~ Dash Plaques to all Free Bratwurst to each driver ~ 50/50 Drawing proceeds to Violence Center ~ DJ Music ~ info: (618) 476-3175 ~ Location, 1st, 2nd & 3rd Streets on West Main in Belleville (from square to Firestone) ~ BELLEVILLE, IL
JUL 12 SAT St. Martin Of Tours Church Cruise & Ice Cream Social, celebrating our 75th Anniversary and hoping to enhance their Ice Cream Social with plenty of vehicles that were born back in the day also! ~ Lot opens 6:30pm. No formal registration ~ Three Ladies’ Choice awards to be given throughout the evening ~ 50-50 Drawing Benefits St. Martin Of Tours Catholic Church ~ DJ, PA + radio or iPod ~ info: (636) 285.3673 ~ location: St. Martin Of Tours Church,Telegraph Rd, North of 255 & 1/2mi North of Reavis Barracks at 125 W. Ripa ~ ST. LOUIS, MO
JUL 12 SAT McDonald’s Car Cruise hosted by The Time Machines Unlimited Car Club Car Cruise~ 6pm till 10pm ~ ~info: (618) 792-8901 ~located: McDonald’s, 1150 Vaughn Road (on Rt.111 ~ WOOD RIVER, IL
JUL 12 SAT Read ‘N Roll Car Cruise ~ 10am till 2pm ~ Attendance Prizes for Participants, Music, Balloon Artist, and Face Painting ~ info: (314) 388-2400 ~ location: Baden Branch Library, 8448 Church Road ~ ST. LOUIS, MO
JUL 12 SAT ~ Car Cruise & Drive-In Movie in celebration of National Collector Car Appreciation Day ~ Car Cruise followed by a drive-in style movie at dark. Showing “Driver”. NCCAD Proclamation Award to The Model “A” Restorer’s Club (M.A.R.C.) ~ Free drive in style snacks and drinks for everyone ~ Event is free ~ Lot opens 6pm. Drive-In Style parking for collector cars while spots last ~ All others please bring blankets or chairs ~ Attendance Prizes, Games ~ Music ~ info: (314) 968-8377 or email ~ Clean Cut Creations, Des Peres Ave is off of Rock Hill Road, 1 Block south of Rock Hill Road and Manchester ~ WEBSTER GROVES, MO
JUL 13 SUN SSGT Jordan B. Emrick Memorial Car, Truck, and Bike Show ~ register 8an till Noon ~ Dash Plaques 1st 100 entries ~ 50/50 Drawing ~ Music ~ Great Food, Carnival, Beverages ~ held during the Hoyleton Hofbraufest Weekend ~ info: (618) 314-0778 ~ located: Route 177, 8 Miles Northeast of the Nashville/Carlyle Exit I-64 ~ HOYLETON, IL
JUL 13 SUN World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Festival Cruzin’ In Antiques Car Truck & Bike Show ~ register 10am till 1pm ~ Dash Plaques & Goody Bags 1st 150 Entries ~ Attendance Prizes ~ 50/50 Drawing benefits the Catsup Bottle ~ DJ and Live Music, The Quarter Draw Band ~ info: (618) 975-1372 ~ held at The American Legion Post 365, 1022 Vandalia St ~ COLLINSVILLE, IL
JUL 13 SUN 1932 Custom Go-Cart to be given away at the Collinsville Catsup Bottle Car Show ~ info: email or visit: http://e-clubhouse.org/sites/collinsville_evening/projects.php ~ COLLINSVILLE, IL
JUL 13 SUN 35th Annual Roxana Park Auto ~ co-sponsored by Time Machines Car Club ~ register 8am till Noon ~ Entry $15, Display or For Sale $10 ~ 1st 100 Entries receive Dash Plaque, Giveaways & Free 4×6 photo of Vehicle ~ Vendors Welcome, space for $25 ~ info: (618) 792-8901 or (618) 254-7485 ~ location: Roxana Park ~ ROXANA, IL
Perfect for tailgating or taking that summer picnic, business bar bq, or family reunion to the next level this customer trailer has everything you could ask for. With a massive grille that provides huge amounts of surface area to grille, a large warming tray and a side grille that doubles as a Panini grille there is no worries about feeding everyone.
Turn slightly from the grille and you’re able to draw yourself a fresh brewed cold one from one of the four taps available.
This is a great opportunity to own something that you may not have considered before. While there is considerably more invested in this custom built tailgate trailer, we believe a fair marketable price is $22,500.
This unit has a built in stereo and P/A system, DVD player and a Wii gaming console. A ramp enclosure at the rear, for easy access to a spaciously designed interior with more than enough space to store iced down kegs, coolers, lawn chairs, etc.
This trailer also includes a small, but incredibly powerful portable Honda generator so that you can take the party wherever you need it to go. To top it off, all of this can run up to nine hours on the generator with only one gallon of fuel.
This unique design of a stowaway grill allows for an oversized unit that doesn’t attach to a bumper or front tongue.