Ford Falcon Chassis Stiffening 2.0, or Rusted Floor Kung Fu

After trying to commute in a Corvette (see Falcon that ate it), a pickup truck (tool, not car), and a BMW 528i, I found that leather seats and bouncing my ass off were not things that I wanted to have for extended periods of time.  This brought me to obsessing over an old Ford Ranchero for some time, the 1960-65 sort that is, because, well, there’s no accounting for taste.  Much like the Falcon, which took me, on some level, several years to stumble across, the Ranchero I recently acquired was probably at least 1.5 years in the searching and pondering.  It’s a shit brown 1963; it came with a 302 and C4, which were nearly the only parts on the car worth keeping.

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Being overly enthusiastic, and shopping in the rain, like a dumbass, I didn’t really look at the thing too hard.  The front, rear, and sides looked okay, and it ran really good, and it had all the basic v8 parts, like an 8-inch (not 9, like the ad said) rear and 5-lug drums.  For rain in CA, that was okay.  It was relatively cheap, too, given the reality that we’re in the age of the $20,000.00 Falcon.

I drove it home, and that was about it.  It was a deathtrap, and upon further inspection, I came to realize that the suspension was shot; one of the rear leaf hangers was broken, and the coils were not located in front.  It all had to go away.  I put in some stock Mustang parts in front, with a wedge kit, cut 600-pound coils, and Koni classics; I had to make some coil spring locators out of some Speedway Motors parts and some old F250 3.5-inch exhaust tubing.  I put some Speedway slider boxes in the rear, and did away with the shackle fiasco completely.  Then I threw away the hideous bench seat, and got a look under the carpet.

Bondo, rust, more rust, roofing tar, more rust, riveted and screwed-on, galvanized sheetmetal pieces, more Bondo, and more rust awaited my sad eyes; wait, I forgot to mention the randomly scattered bits of fiberglass that were embedded in some of the Bondo.  It all had to go away.  Out came the (Milwaukee) Sawzall and the DeWalt angle grinder.  (On a side note, or perhaps as a preview to another blog post, I’ve found that age has given way to fewer and fewer Harbor Freight power tools; they’re usually good value, but breaking shit sucks.)

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Eventually, the only parts of the floor that made it were the seat pans and the bit of tunnel between them.  Once this was done, I knew that just sheetmetal could not go back.  This thing hadn’t even come with front torque boxes from Ford, so it was an opportunity to take a theoretically better approach to subframe (if you could call that crap subframes) connectors and lateral support.

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Initial support would come from .095 wall 2×2 tubing run/welded (not continuously, but in 1.5-inch beads alternately spaced, top  and bottom) the length of the rockers–it was also butted to the remainder (cut out most) of the rear torque boxes, just ahead of the front leaf spring mounts.  Just above that, crossing just behind the door sill would be more 2×2, humped up in the middle for drive shaft clearance.  You can’t really see it much in the pictures, but under where I stopped cutting out the partly rusted, corrugated rear bulkhead, I welded in a piece of .120-wall 1×1, which would be far easier to attach sheetmetal to.  Once sheetmetal was applied, all of these tubes would become boxed, providing considerably more structure than any stupid point-to-point subframe connectors could ever dream of being.  More would be added as I went.

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I added some .120-wall 2×3 at the front of the rocker tubes, and cut and welded the sections into the original “frame rails.”  I then, based on my new transmission choice, moved the original upper crossmember back about 3.5 inches, then added some lateral 2×2 into that to add a bit more heavy-duty.  Note the additional 1×1 I welded into the back of the seat pans/tunnel; it’s .120-wall, and it butts directly into the rocker tubes.  Then I started experimenting with my ghetto sheetmetal brake . . .

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I threw in a couple more tubes, in practice for putting a floor in the stupid Falcon at some point.

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Admittedly, some of my tunnel looks pretty heinous–this is partly due to the fact that the radius decreases way more and way more suddenly from where it used to with the old crossmember location, and partly due to the fact that I don’t know shit about working with sheetmetal.  I’m okay with it, because paint, seam sealer, sound deadener, and carpet, beotch.

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It should be pretty sturdy, and actually resist twisting a bit without a roll cage in place.  Unfortunately, during one of the multiple times I’ve had to install the new engine (free, because I sold the one it came with for the same amount), I’ve had to cut out part of my new floor–there was also some shock tower carnage, but I may address that in another post.

This car is getting a Ford Exploder 5.0 and a 4r70 automatic.  I’m trying to change as little as possible . . .

Oh, and I’ve not addressed the frontal bed area yet (aside from cutting out rusted crap), but Ford should have taken a community beating for the most moronic, water-trapping idiocy ever for that pit.

 

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The Value of Fishing Skills for the Average 20 year-old

In the past, if you gave a man a fish, he’d eat for a day.  If you taught him how to fish, and maybe gave him a pole, he could theoretically feed himself for a lifetime.

Modernly, if a man sees you with some fish, he simply expects you to give him one.  If you give him one, he’ll then probably bitch at you for not cooking it for him and making it taste like it was made by Gorton’s.

If you give the modern “man” a pole to learn how to fish, he’ll either take it and try to use it as a tool of intimidation, so as to extract money from someone, or he’ll try to sell it on eBay or Craigslist, so as to go eat at McDonald’s.

It should come as no surprise that the manual transmission is now seen as the greatest automotive theft deterrent available.

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Pro-Touring Hotrod Myths

I thought I’d bitch about auto parts I’ve wasted thousands of dollars on over the years, so here’s a list:

  1.  Tubular control arms, especially if they don’t have heim jointed ends, do nothing for the handling of your car; in some cases, they actually add unsprung weight, which results in a decrease in suspension performance.
  2.  Heim joints are great, for about 100 miles.  If, like me, you live on a gravel road, they will not last for shit.  Dust is like termites for heim joints.  They are pointless for daily usage, but great for freeing up suspension travel that may stick with rubber or polyurethane bushings (which is what good grease is for).  I won’t mention the horrific NVH qualities . . .
  3.  Headers:  Are you serious?  How many times are you going to slit your wrist before you realize that the knife should be carried in your boot (because of course you wear boots), not your sleeve.  You will never notice a 10 horsepower gain at 6000 rpms, but you will notice the loss of ground clearance, burned spark plug wires, and neverending exhaust leaks (and lost bolts).  There can be a nice weight savings, however, and there is fit, too:  My LS has headers, because the heavy-ass truck headers pointed in weird directions.  I did not really want headers . . .
  4.  Carburetors are now officially pointless.  Why do you think Holley now has the most popular aftermarket fuel injection (this might not be accurate, but they pretend that this is the case, especially with NASCAR on board) controller on the market?  Between the cost of a new carb, a manifold, gaskets, and fuel pump, you can have a factory fuel injection running with a custom harness and a reprogrammed computer, with money left over for far more than a Walbro pump.  This will get you far better mileage, comparable power, and way better drivability in many cases (like autocross, where you might have to turn or stop quickly, without stalling).  To quote somebody in Car Craft from about 20 years ago, a carburetor is a “barely controlled fuel leak.”  Suck it, carbonator!
  5.  Turbos are awesome.  I hope to spend money on one some day.
  6.  Coilovers are adjustable, but you are not building a full-time race car; as a result, you do not want to adjust that shit after the first drive.  Find what works, not what is perpetually adjustable (does not apply to shocks, just the package).  My point here relates to idiots who put coilovers on Corvettes, which adds weight, puts huge amounts of force in places where it shouldn’t be, and fights GM engineering ideas that are better than yours.  The guy selling coilovers wants your money, not your success.  Adding heavier shit (even though aluminum body shocks are quite light), especially unsprung weight, is always an idea that can be killed.
  7.  Splined sway bars:  Why do you need this?  Oh, yeah, because you want to suffer and spend way more money for something that is the worst kind of overkill.  Yeah, that.
  8.  The magazine did not write about that part/car because it’s good or because it works or because the writers are genuinely curious.  Magazines are for selling shit.  Remember this.
  9.  Take a minute and find the sense in not learning to weld while you can buy very good Corvette factory suspensions for far less money than you might pay for bolt-on shite that does nothing for the real problem in your old American/Japanese/Swedish car:  bad factory geometry.  It only took me about a decade and a half to figure this out.
  10.  This will make your car faster.  Keep in mind the fact that you suck at driving.  The case might be that no matter how much expensive shit you bolt or weld to your car, you’ll still be slow.  It’s because like most people, you’re a terrible driver.  That’s okay, because a C is okay.  It’s average.  You fit in.

Do yourself a favor and pick  up  a copy of Hot Rod magazine from the 1950s or ’60s.  People made shit work.

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Lumberjack Motherfucker

There was inspiration in the air when I grabbed my semi-new Fiskars splitting axe earlier this afternoon.  In your hand, the thing’s like lightweight dynamite, or maybe a Glock .40 after you’re used to two-handing an S&W .44 mag for years on the range (whatever yours may be).  It’s all murdered out, just like the early Glocks, and it’s full of plastic, so you know it’s modern.  On that note, the Harbor Freight maul I’ve been sweating the last couple of years also has a plastic handle; it’s anything but light, but has been perfectly serviceable (I even bought a new one as a back-up:  H-F Maul.).  The banana yellow-handled maul was designed to give you some kind of sasquatch-level tennis elbow, at best . . .

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I’m not really sure how I came across this thing a few weeks back–I suppose I was just wasting time on the internet, and there it was.  I had to see it, feel it, swing it around in an aisle at Lowe’s . . .  I proceeded to read reams of hyped posts of confirmation (in the thousands) on Amazon, then found that people actually post shitloads of wood-chopping related videos on YouTube, some of which are both weird and surprisingly entertaining.

So once I managed to check one of these things out, I went to Lowe’s, where they had one for about $55.00.  I almost ordered one off Amazon, but with tools, much like with shoes, you really should put your hands on the thing before you pull the trigger, no metaphors intended.  Upon physical examination, I found that the axe was made in Finland; plastic or not, I tend to trust anything that is made or even designed in Scandinavia.  That place is teaming with crazy engineers, and their education system makes that of the U.S. look like perpetual pre-school.  So there was cred right there on the handle . . .

Compared to the maul, this thing is super-light.  When you pick the axe up (yes, I’m using the fucking “e”), especially once you’ve spent some quality time swinging an 8-10 pound maul, the axe feels like a tennis racket (racquet?).  What’s more important is this:  Everybody who’s bought one of these things says it splits as good or better than a maul.  That’s like being able to shoot .50 caliber bullets with an AR-15 (shoots .22 derivatives–light weight).  This is fucking efficiency through engineering, one point of which is a super-sharp blade (with which one should very carefully avoid hitting dirt, rocks, and shins).

This thing is worth it.  I will say no more, as unlike the people who post on Amazon.com, I do not chop two cords of wood per day (or year, for that matter).  If I did, I’m pretty sure I’d hate my life with great passion.

Spending money on a good tool is like a revelation, every single time.

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Welding School: YouTube

I’m pretty sure that if we had the internet when I was a teenager, I never would have spent eight years (not including the law school experiment) in college.  You get cool shit like the following for free, and it’s priceless:  .

 

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Tubes

For anyone wondering about the next terrible thing that will happen to my non-Ford Falcon, see the pictures that follow.  The frame work is just about done-ish.  The hardest part of the new front firewall is done (sheetmetal hard to decipher in pics, but peeking out under where dash used to be, attaching to 1.5″ square tube at bottom).  The dash is out for now, but I may weld it back in.  The transmission is mounted, but until I’m done welding on the chassis (or finally put the Pontiac G8 pan on), it’s staying on blocks.  The crappy old cage is out, and a new main hoop is in.  I’m presently on the fence as to whether I’ll do a six-point (or some derivation of what comes in a Euro-spec Porshce GT3) or a full cage again.  I’ve got piles of tubing in the garage now . . .

Edit:  For clarity’s sake, the tubes (except for the square tube under the dash) you see in the frame are 2×3, 1×2, and 1×1, all .120 wall.  The pictures (and shitty camera) tend to make things look weird.

The pics basically show the current layout of the central frame, along with what I’m calling my structural tunnel, which will eventually connect to the firewall frame, which is in process (only three tubes so far), and to the Corvette’s former (structural) rear firewall, which is like 14 or 16-gauge sheet with lots of bead rolling.  Note that the rear upright section of the tunnel also provides the mounting point for the abbreviated differential forward-mount, the old longer version of which used to attach to the 4l60 that was in the Corvette.  A final pic shows the orientation of the LS 5.3 in relation to the front axle centerline/control arms.  The old Ford orientation had the engine way closer to the front (so lame) . . .

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Going to Work

It’s a cool video.  Think of it as what it should be like when you go to work:  .

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