Friday, November 5, 2010

torsion bars, tools and the trunk lid

It seemed logical to re-install the trunk lid next, the rational being that it would be much easier to figure out the alignment if I could access the lid from underneath - in other words before I put the rear axle and suspension back on the car. Of course it also helps that the gas tank is absent from that area too. It would also be easier to install the lid, I presumed, while the car was still raised up on stands. I've never had a go at aligning body panels or doors before but I've read many times that it can be a tough and tedious process - so I was well up for anything that would make it easier.

I started by bolting the trunk hinges back in - since I never got round to having these pieces media blasted, lining up the bolts and washers with the marks on the hinges was really easy. Ford originally painted these cars with the hinges in place, so the area of the hinge covered by the washer was bare metal.

With both hinges secured, the next item is the pair of torsion bars that provide the spring for the trunk lid to open. My trunk lid always flew up like a Bat Out Of Hell whenever I popped the latch, and the torsion bars were already set to minimum adjustment, so long term I may do something different in this area. For now though, torsion bars it is...but, hey, steady on...this is a tough job. I think it took me about two seconds to realize I couldn't possibly perform the installation with my bare hands...not a chance! In the days gone by when I've been faced with this kind of problem I usually scratch around the garage and find a tool that "might help" and then carry on. However, this approach has led me to damage stuff I've been working on, break tools and even injure myself on enough occasions that I finally abandonerd it. These days I figure out exactly what tool I need, and then acquire it before making a balls up.

My first port of call when looking for help is usually the Vintage Mustang Forum. I've always found helpful advice there, even if you often have to weed out some rather odd suggestions on the way. What I found this time was a gazillion stories about how tough it can be to reinsert (or adjust) trunk lid torsion bars...and several warnings about the potential for loosing fingers...or worse. Strangely I don't remember anything much happening when I removed the bars, which I did by unbolting the hinges and letting them "drop" out. Anyway, I considered putting the trunk lid back on the car without the torsion bars - why not, it all has to come off again later anyway...but I didn't get this far with my project by taking the easy option, so I plumped instead for some more research.

The Ford 1968 Shop Manual describes a special tool, part # T64K-44890-B for this task on page 17-91, and gives a rather vague picture. A bit more searching led me to the schematic below, which I also found on either VMF or one of the Cougar forums. A reproduction of this tool is available on Ebay or here from West Coast Classic Cougar for about fifteen dollars.

Click the picture for a much larger (readable) version
I considered buying the WCCC tool, but I was really too impatient to wait around for delivery, so I decided to have a go a making the tool myself. I didn't have any flat bar lying around, so I started off with a piece of one inch angle that came from an old bed frame. The key to this tool is getting the distance between the hole and the slot spot on. I made it about an eighth of an inch oversize the first time (I misread the diagram and was working from hole centers!), but it is much easier to elongate the slot and trim an eighth off the end of the tool than it would be the other way round. I also found that the 1/4 inch hole shown in the diagram was too small for my torsion bars, so I drilled it out to 5/16ths. The final step was to chop out a V shape in the extraneous side of the angle with my new four inch cutting wheel, and bend it in the vise (note: the reason for the bend is that the tool has to be short in order to fit in the space available, yet strong enough to provide sufficient leverage).

Even with my new tool however, it was hardly plain sailing from this point on. I had a number of fruitless attempts to get the first bar installed while the bar either popped out of the tool (bad!) or out of the hinge at the other side (also bad). I was being careful, so I never came close to losing a finger, but the noise the torsion bar made when it smacked against the inside of the trunk was incredible. I even managed to generate a spark on one occasion. Eventually I secured the upper end of the first bar at the driver side by wrapping some 14 gauge copper wire around the bar and the hinge and then tying the hinge in the "fully up" position with some #4 nylon cord. I then used my new tool to twist the other end of the bar sufficiently to clip it into position at the passenger side. Phew! I should have taken more pictures of this, but I was a nervous wreck by the time I was done. I repeated the process for the second spring, securing it at the passenger side and rotating the other end as before and I got it in the slot first time. (note: essentially the tool is being used to twist a 1/4 inch diameter steel rod, and that takes a significant amount of force...of course the usual disclaimer applies to everything on this site, but seriously, don't try this at home kids..unless you really do know what you're doing).

Here's the big picture. Was it worth all the trouble, given that this all has to come out again later for a refurb? Well, I think so. It's all valuable experience, and, although I managed to make a couple of light scratches on the inside of the trunk, I did it all without doing any real damage to the car or myself, which is of course a good thing.

Next up was the trunk latch and lock barrel. I cleaned and oiled up these parts when I originally removed them, so they were in great shape and went straight back in with no fuss. I put the bolts in pretty loosely to start with.

The trunk lid has not yet had the attention it deserves, so there were some rather obvious bare patches in the rust to tell me where to insert the clip nuts.

It was not easy to hold the lid and bolt it to the hinges on my own. I used a few rolled up dust sheets to provide a kind of pad on which I could lean the lid while I got the first bolts in and then I had my first try at closing the lid...and it was nowhere near. Not even close. It would only close to within about six inches from the back of the car before the rear edge caught on something.

This led to a lot of back-and-forth with the wrench and the lid until I got it to at least close correctly...but now it was too high at the more back and forth...and so on...and eventually I got it to close, but now the lid was skewed so the gap at the left rear was massive and it was virtually touching the quarter panel at the diagonally opposite corner. I started to wonder why I ever took the hinges off. It was at this point that I gently slackened off all four hinge bolts, maneuvered the lid into prime position from the outside, and tied it closed with some nylon cord. Then I wedged some paint stir sticks in the side gaps, climbed into the trunk from underneath, and tightened down the hinge bolts.

The driver side front corner is still a little bit high, but it is certainly good enough for now...a blind man would be happy to see it! Finally I reinstalled the latch striker, and, also from inside the trunk, aligned it with the latch and tightened up all the bolts. Now, on with the suspension and rear axle...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

getting back rollin'

After completing the work on the trunk, the obvious next step would be to deal with the surface rust inside the C-pillars and around the inner edge of the roof, before (probably) moving on to the dash and so on. The thing is though, apart from being the kind of person who never likes to do the obvious, I actually have a more pressing need to get the car out of the middle of the garage so that I can make some space to work on a couple of other more urgent projects...and that means getting it rolling again.

I never got around to pulling the motor and transmission out of the car, mainly because of the space issue, although I did remove absolutely everything I could from the crank case and engine compartment (note regarding photo below: yes, it's a six banger, and not even the original one at that; the motor is actually from a 78 Fairlane). The whole front end is still in place too, which means I'm just a rear suspension, rear axle and steering column away from being able to roll the car in and out of the garage at will. I'll probably put the trunk lid and gas tank back in the car as well because between them they take up a heck of a lot of real estate.

Well, where to start? If you've been reading this blog since the beginning (and if not, come back when you've caught up!), you'll already know that I am absolutely meticulous about cleaning every part I take off the car, and then sealing it in a labeled baggie. I also have a list of all the removed parts and where I stored them (box, coffee can, in the basement etc, etc). This made it very easy to print out a list of steering column parts, and then collect them together - almost everything was in the garage in various boxes, except the steering wheel which I stashed in the basement ages ago. I thought I'd start with the steering column, as I was expecting it to be straightforward...and that was my first mistake...

I started by bolting in the column and pedal support housing. I'll be getting this media blasted before it goes back the next time.

Then I reassembled the column and put it in for a test fit. It seemed OK... I bolted the column to the support housing (four more bolts)...

...and fitted the old rubber seal and the right side of the retaining bracket to the firewall. At this point the column was still rather loose, so I started to wonder what I had done wrong/forgotten to do?

Maybe you can tell from the photo below? The inner and outer sleeves were loose, because...

...because I forgot to put the plastic insert into the end of the outer column sleeve. This is what it looks like after re-insertion. I actually figured out that this was the problem by going through my pile of steering column parts and then looking again at the pictures from the tear down.

This is what the column looks like when correctly assembled - obviously I had to take it back out of the car before I could put it together this way. (Note: you can do this without the hedge trimmers!)

It seemed like a good time to bolt on the lower flange, because this part also holds the two sleeves together.

Test fit again, and then bolt the column back in...

Adding the outer flange and then fitting the two snap rings and the bearing was rather tedious. Eventually I slackened off the bolts at the rag joint so that the shaft could be pulled just a little bit further inside the car, and then forced on the second snap ring. I hate to say it, but another mishap actually led to me unbolting the column a third time before I FINALLY installed it at the fourth attempt.

Bolting on the wheel was easy - it was more trouble finding the steering wheel in the basement! I put the horn ring and spring back on, but I'm not really sure why because I left out the horn/column electrical wiring - there really was no reason to screw around with it since the main wiring harness is nowhere near the car, and neither is the battery! Still, after a couple of hours the car now has steering again, even if it is just as loose as ever!

Monday, November 1, 2010

tarting up the trunk part three

So after weeks and weeks of tedious work with the wire wheel and the sandpaper, and then more time cleaning and preping the surface, it's almost time for primer. I understand why a lot of people rush through the masking off to get to the painting, and hence the end result, but I really enjoy this step and I like to take my time with it. Whoever painted my car last time round certainly rushed the masking - virtually everything I removed from the car was covered with red overspray! There are a heck of a lot of small holes to tape over around the trunk, and then there is the "big hole" through to the interior. I started by making a grid of masking tape with the sticky side facing towards the area I'll be painting:

Then I pressed on a piece of masking paper from the other side. I purposely cut the masking paper a little bit smaller than the opening, and then applied more tape around the edges. My motto is "don't be shy" when it comes to using tape; it's cheap and it's much easier to mask something off properly than it is to remove overspray later.

I did the same with the trunk opening, except this time I used some low-tack painters tape over the exterior of the body - I found out a while back that "full fat" masking tape will take off the exterior paint when it's time to peel it off. This isn't a huge problem as I'll obviously be painting the car eventually, but I'm trying to get into good habits. It's probably also the case that if the exterior paint had been properly applied, masking tape wouldn't make any impact...if, if, if...

I formed a sort of paper dome over the lock housing. Initially I was hoping to be able to paint this area from inside the trunk, but it didn't work out that way (see below).

I don't mind a bit of overspray in the garage (and it's just as well!) but I try to keep as much of it as possible off of the rest of my stuff by hanging up some sheets; it's better than nothing.

Then it was time to mix up the paint. I used PPG DP74LF red oxide epoxy primer mixed 2:1 with PPG DP401LF activator. Some folks will add reducer but I decided not to use it this time. I acquired a new paint gun since I painted the underside of the car a few months ago. My usual rule is if I need a particular tool once, I'll try and borrow it, but if I need it twice, then I'll buy my own. Obviously I knew I would need to have my own paint gun, but in the course of asking around for advice on what to buy, I got the opportunity to test out a very nice gun. I liked it so much, that I bought the same type, but my own gun is not really up to the calibre of the one I borrowed. It seems to spray more of a single jet than a mist cloud, but that can probably be improved upon by buying a better nozzle - something to look into for next time. Overall I was very happy with the gun I bought - it gave great coverage and for someone of my limited experience it was very easy to use. I also made a lot less mess than the last time, but I think that was more to do with me than the gun!

The areas I prevoiusly painted with Zero Rust seemed to come out the same as the rest of the trunk - we'll just have to see how the coating holds up over time. The area below was really hard to paint as I had to hold the gun upside down and contort my arm/hand in order to reach every surface, but I just kept going over and over until it looked the same color everywhere.

I had to tear off the masking paper to get at the lock housing, so I left this bit until last.

It came out reasonable well; coverage is a little bit light in places, but hopefully no-one will notice (unless they read this blog!)

Overall I was very happy with the coverage inside the trunk.

As usual when part of the car has been made all nice, something else starts to look worse than it did...step up the lip around the edge of the trunk opening. In fairness the lip was always awful; I think someone painted the back of the car with the trunk lid closed and didn't bother to mask off the inner lip - it's covered in drips; the lighter color is where the original 1968 paint is showing through.

So now the trunk is done...well it's in primer, which counts as done for this stage of the project. Next I'll be moving on to the interior, the inside of the front parts of the quarter panels, the doors, the under dash area, and I'm also going to cut out the seat platforms and lower them. Right now though, I'm having a couple of days break.