Ford Falcon Chassis Stiffening

Really, I wanted to learn how to weld, and I’m still learning, but since I hadn’t had an old car in many years, I used the aforementioned desire as an excuse to get an old car again.  I also got a welder, and eventually a shitload of tubing, square, rectangular, and round.  The car is a 1963.5 Ford Falcon hardtop; yes, they only made this body style for six months, and in my opinion, it’s far cooler than any of the Mustangs (I had six of them in another lifetime, so I know).  To date, the car has received an early-1990s 5.0 roller 302 (carbureted, with points) and five-speed transmission (last X-Mas), along with a Mustang Steve clutch cable/pedal setup (awesome!).

As further reasoning for my chassis stiffening, I’ve always preferred that my cars handle.  Drag racing is about as dynamic a sport as yelling profanities at cops while speeding through stop signs in a burning car.  The result is usually just too predictable, limited, and over too soon.  So, I like cars that turn well, and I live in an area with lots of great opportunity for making the best use of this functionality.  To make this happen, one needs a stiff chassis in order to make the chosen suspension components function effectively.  In the past, I applied stiff front and rear sway bars to a Mustang, which resulted in funny things like popped window gaskets and broken windshields, along with the telltale C-pillar filler cracks.

To date, I’ve replaced all of the original suspension bits with improved stock-configuration Mustang/Falcon stuff.  I’ve got stiff gas shocks in front (KYB Gas, not GR2), with soft pseudo gas shocks in back (AutoZone specials–you do not want stiffies in back, as you’ll find the back of your car somewhere painful).  I have 5-leaf rear springs, with a mid-eye mod and 1-inch blocks.  I’ve got lowered 1965 Mustang springs, with maybe 1.5 coils cut off.  I did the Arning drop on the upper control arms; all the control arms and crap are new repro Mustang crap.  There’s also a 1 and 1/8 inch sway bar, with poly bushings; the strut rods also have poly bushings, contrary to all the stupid advice that says this is bad.  The steering linkage includes a 1965 Falcon center link, with 1963 Falcon ends (larger and beefier), and 1965 Mustang inners; the box is 1963 V8 power, with no lousy power stuff, as the linkage is all manual; there is no slop.  It’s a light car, girly man!

So anyway, cornering forces tend to twist vehicles at the weak link, which is usually the middle of the sandwich (read:  floor pan sheet metal/roof) on a unibody car.  That said, I proceeded with 2x2x120 through-the floor subframe connectors, which overlap the subframes about a foot on each end.  They tie into the front torque boxes, and run parallel to the rear frame rails; rails and sfcs are welded together, and plated (1/8) on each bottom joint.  Each end of each connector is capped.

I then decided that more would be fun, so I made outriggers between the sfcs and the rockers, which are the heaviest/most rigid members of the central frame.  The outriggers are 2x3x120 (capped on rocker ends); I’ve placed them near the bottom of the A pillar, and near the bottom of each B pillar.  These have provided some nice jacking points as a side benefit.  To cap this crap, I made a horizontal link/brace of more 2x3x120 across the rear outriggers/sfcs, by cutting, pie-cutting, and welding for a nifty (amateur) bend over the trans tunnel.  I’m new at this.

Since I like the look of scaffolding, my final stab at chassis stiffening culminated in a six-point roll bar of mild steel (a Jeg’s special–I do not intend to learn tube bending).  Notice that the front four points are welded to the outriggers, rather than stupid plates on top of weak-ass sheetmetal.  This was a not-so-fun exercise in learning to wield an angle grinder like a streetfighter (with a rusty ice pick) for the fish-mouthing, cutting, and farmer-welder spatter.  All was done with an Eastwood Mig 135, strictly flux-core.  As final points, so far, I’ve also added a Monte Carlo bar; the belly bar was added before I dumped the motor and transmission in.

It’s a learning project.

At present, I’ve got clean-up and painting to do, which I hate.  I’ve also got some cool high-back Summit Racing seats to put in, along with an aluminum bulkhead for the trunk opening (still have to cut it).  At some point, I may take pictures of the nifty horizontal 1×1 steel tube mounting brackets I made to install them (seven bucks well spent).  Carpet installation will include my introduction to the heat gun…

Did I mention that proper restoration bores me?

3 Comments

Filed under Jibber Jabber

3 responses to “Ford Falcon Chassis Stiffening

  1. Matthew Quiroz

    Nice read. I have a ’65 4 door wagon I will be tweaking in the coming months….hopefully not years. I like the notched floor for your sub frame connectors. Looks good. Are you planning any mods to the rear end…4 link…8″..9″ etc? I’ll be relearning to weld again too as I haven’t done that in more years than I care to remember. Good luck with the rest of your build.
    “Q”

  2. gashp

    Thanks for the comments! The car has the factory eight inch rear still, and it works well, without leaking at the moment. I’ve had good luck with these in the past, and they’re lighter than the nines, but just as good casing-wise. I’ve got some nice Indian five-leaf springs with poly pads and a mid-eye option, which have set the car just where I want it, with one-inch blocks. As for a four or three link, I’d get the same effect by adding a simple panhard bar for sixty bucks, which I may do down the road. The link-type rears out there are really nothing new, and most are chronically overrated. It is all a matter of personal choice, however… At this point, I really need a break from the welding practice, although it’s been a great learning experience that I’d looked forward to for years. I have seen some great Falcon wagon builds on the Web… Cheers.

    • gashp

      Keeping the car simple is something I’ve both struggled with as a concept and enjoyed in present tense. Before I got the Falcon, I came up with as many excuses as I could to get another old car–it had been nearly a decade. For most of my 20s, before I met my wife, I’d refused to drive anything made after 1968. Anyway, one of the ideas I’d come up with before getting the Falcon was making my own fuel injection. Now, I’m thinking that’s not such a cool idea. I like the fact that my entire fuel system is a carburetor (Holley 600), a pump (mechanical), and a tank. For the efficiency argument, I offer a 1968 Cougar I had (traded for a 1968 Mustang I totaled on a freeway guardrail): It had a 351 Cleveland with an Edelbrock 600. I averaged 27 miles per gallon on a 200 mile freeway trip. The thing was a rust bucket, and it burned oil, but it was reliable as hell, very smooth, and again, surprisingly efficient. It was simple, and so is my Falcon. That’s not to say I could stand the 2-speed auto it came with…

      As for technology, and if you’re capable, I highly recommend the T5 conversion. I did it on a 1967 Mustang years ago, and it was a sure thing for this Falcon (used a C4 conversion bracket, with some cutting, drilling, and grinding). If nothing else, the manual is tons lighter than the automatic; don’t get me started on crappy C4s . . . the T5 has worked out better on the Falcon, or so it seems in my whopping 100 miles or so of driving it…

      Feel free to post pics, especially those that display destruction/teardown–I seem to have plenty of room at this point in the blog.

      Cheers.

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