Installing the front coil over shocks in the 1929 Ford Hot Rod
The C4 Corvette suspension that I removed form the 1986 Corvette Indy Pace car convertible has found a new home in the 1929 Ford Model A hot rod. Everything is just about complete on the hot rod chassis. My first attempt at designing and developing an upper shock mount for the coil over shocks just did not impress me. I felt the design was too bulky and awkward looking. Simply said, it was not a clean design. I am the sort of person that if I am not pleased with something, especially something I built, I need to fix it or I will always regret it if I don’t. With those thoughts in my mind, I decided to cut the upper coil over shock mounts from the chassis. Of course, this was no easy task. When I put something together, I tend to do it well. With the heavy welds around the entire shock mount, I was grinding for some time. After a few hours, I manage to remove the upper coil over shock mounts and nicely clean up the chassis. Now I was ready for a second attempt at this.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front coil over shock mount - view 1 - this was my first version of the upper coil over shock mount. A shock from the rear suspension of a Jaguar XJ-12 was used. It was the correct length and also seems to have the correct spring rate.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front coil over shock mount - view 2 - The upper mount just did not have the right look for me so it was removed.
1929 Ford Hot Rod - Jaguar coil over shock - This shock has about 13.5 inch distance between mounting hole centers and is a perfect size to use on the front suspension of my hot rod.
Originally I had a Jaguar independent rear end that came with four coil over shocks. I sold the rear end and kept the coil over shocks. This was part of the package that came with the 1931 Ford Model A 5 window coupe I previously purchased and sold. I found that these shocks had a perfect distance between the mounting holes and seemed to have the correct spring rate for the front of my 1929 Ford Model A hot rod. My intention is to use these coil over shocks temporally till I generated more funds for some nice chrome or aluminum coil over shocks.
1929 Ford Hot Rod - front lower coil over shock mount - version 1 - this is one possible mount that I am thinking of using, but still not sure.
1929 Ford Hot Rod - front lower coil over shock mount - version 2 - this another mount up for consideration and is the same as the lower mount I used on the rear shocks of my hot rod. I am leaning towards this style, but made out of stainless steel instead. Eventually, I intend to polish all of the aluminum suspension parts, have chrome coil over shocks, so this style of mount using stainless steel makes a bit of sense.
The lower shock mount is basic. I used a triangle pattern for the base of the shock mount. A couple of half moon shaped brackets were welded to the base of the lower shock mount. All of these pieces where fabricated from 0.25 inch steel plate and cut out on my metal cutting band saw. To make sure for a perfect fit, I bolted the half moon brackets to the shock, and then positioned the shock with brackets onto the lower shock mount base. This was then tack welded in place. Once I was happy with the position and fit of the shock, the half moon brackets were permanently welded in place. This assembly fits perfectly into the lower control arm from the C4 Corvette. Another consideration for the lower shock mount is to fabricate one from 2 inch stainless stain square tubing and using small spacers inside to make up the difference between the width of the shock mount and the opening of the bracket. I am leaning more towards this style considering that I will eventually polish all of the aluminum suspension parts and use chrome coil over shocks.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front coil over shock mount - view 3 - I discovered that if I angled the shock in more towards the frame and directly under the upper control arm that my spring rate was not effected by much.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front coil over shock mount - view 4 - A set of new upper shock mounts were made from 0.25 inch plate steel. A always a template was created just in case I ever wanted to make more of these brackets.
With the lower shock mount placed onto the lower control arm, I started to examine various mounting options for the upper shock mount. Very quickly I realized that I could create a much smaller mount just under the mounting bar of the upper control arm from the C4 Corvette. The only concern I had was that the angle of the shock was increasing slightly. The correction factor when mounting shocks on a 15 degree angle is 0.93 and for a 20 degree mounting angle is 0.88. This is approximately the change I wanted to introduce to the suspension. So to check things out, I was able to set the upper shock mount temporarily. I added a few sand bags as extra weight or ballast to compensate for parts still not on the chassis. Then I positioned my 250 pounds onto the chassis. I took a resting position measurement and another one when I started to bounce up and down on the chassis. This activity resulted in only a 1 inch movement in the suspension at the best of times. This seems reasonable to me so I then decided to create a second version of the upper shock mount. Once again to ensure a perfect fit, I bolted the newly fabricated upper shock mounts to the shocks. The complete coil over shock assembly was then fitted to the chassis. With everything in place, the upper shock mounts were tack welded to the chassis. Making sure that this was what I wanted this time and that the mounting positions were correct, I removed the upper control arm and shock for the final welding process of the upper mount.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front coil over shock mount - view 5 - The new brackets were bolted to the upper mount of the coil over shock. With everything in place, the new mounts were tack welded to the frame.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front coil over shock mount - view 6 - Everything looked as it should, my spring rate was not reduced my much with the increased angle of the coil over shock.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front coil over shock mount - view 7 - This new upper mount looks much better then my original version.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front coil over shock mount - view 8 - This is the finished and primed result of my efforts. I think this doesn't look too bad.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front coil over shock mount - view 9 - The front suspension is painted for now and mounted back onto the frame. Later on I intend to purchase a nice set of polished coil over shocks to replace the 1 inch square tube.
Standing back and looking at the new version of the upper shock mount, I felt the entire process was well worth the time and effort. In my mind the design was much cleaner looking. This outcome is in line with my over all goal with this project. It is to build a good looking, safe, and, have great handling characteristics hot rod with a minimum of expense. So far, I am right on track.
This past week has been interesting here at home. I have been working on the last few finishing touches in a small apartment we rent that is in our old Victorian house we live in. The house was built in 1868 and is an interesting old home. Nothing is simple here. For example the last tenant in the apartment destroyed the bathroom sink taps. Only a few years old, but one handle was broken off. I’m not sure how this would happen, but it does!! I purchased new ones and replaced them. That was easy. As I was lying on the floor, I leaned against the toilet cold water line. Well, if that didn’t start leaking. Off to the hardware store to pick up a replacement. I returned and replaced it. I gave the toilet a flush and noticed that the water would not shut off inside the toilet tank. With a quick look inside the toilet tank, I noticed that the float was cracked. Off to the hardware store again to pick up a new float. I decided to clean the bath tub out and noticed that the drain was plugged. With no drain cleaner at home a third trip to the hardware store was required. The drain cleaner solved the plugged drain problem. The point I am making is that a simple 15 minute task to replace a set of vanity taps in the bathroom turned out to be an afternoon of driving back and forth to the hardware store. These are just a few minor distractions that get in the way of building a hot rod. This is why you need to stay focused and determined when building a hot rod.
Let’s install the sway bar.
Now to the placement of the sway bar I removed from the 1986 Corvette Indy Pace car onto my 1929 Ford Hot Rod. The design considerations for a IFS hot rod using the C4 Corvette suspension continues.
Originally, the front sway or stabilizer bar from the C4 Corvette was positioned towards the front of the Corvette. Trying to keep the design of my suspension for the 1929 Ford hot rod true to the design of the 1986 Corvette, I attempted to do the same. The problem I ran into was my chassis is much shorter on the front of the Model A Ford then the Corvette is. Having the front sway bar mounts bolted to the front of the Model A frame horns would not look so good. Now I needed to try a few other options. I could have easily found an aftermarket sway or stabilizer bar for the front the 1929 Ford roadster. But, that was out of the question. One of my original goals in this design was to incorporate as much of the C4 Corvette suspension removed from the wrecked Corvette in the hot rod I am building. I want this hot rod to handle like a Corvette! We will wait and see on that thought.
1929 Ford Hot Rod C4 Corvette front sway bar installation view 1 - After a considerable amount of time determining the exact location of the front sway bar I now needed to make a few more brackets. I cut a piece of 2 inch square tubing along its length, and drilled the holes for the sway bar mounts. This bracket will be sealed and have no access for nuts, so I weld a couple of 0.5 inch nuts to a couple of 0.125 inch steel plate. This will provide additional strength. Both the nuts and plate combination were tack welded to the "U" channel. This will make for a nice and clean mount.
1929 Ford Hot Rod C4 Corvette front sway bar installation view 2 - With the 1986 Corvette sway bar in place, I bolted the sway bar to the newly fabricated mount and tack weld it to the chassis. Using this method I ensures a perfect fit and placement.
1929 Ford Hot Rod C4 Corvette front sway bar installation view 3 - Now I needed to fabricate the sway bar link mount for the lower control arms. Using coil over shocks force the position of the sway bar back a bit so I could not used the original sway bar mounting links.
I found quickly that positioning the sway bar to the rear of the car would work. I used wooden blocks to keep the sway bar in place and to have a visual display of what this might look like. Not wanting to be too hasty, I decided to proceed cautiously and take my time with this. Over the next week, after work, and whatever else that needing doing around the house, I would go out to the shop and look at the sway bar placement. Several ideas start to form. The problem I was having was coming up with the sway bar link attachment to the lower control arm. Heating and bending the sway bar is not a good idea. If I could, the link attachment to the control arms would be a snap.
1929 Ford Hot Rod C4 Corvette front sway bar installation view 4 - The sway bar links have be made and installed. The link from the sway bar to the mount is made of 3/16 inch steel plate. The lower control arm had a couple of existing mounting holes for the sway bar mount so this made the attachment of the mount easy.
1929 Ford Hot Rod C4 Corvette front sway bar installation view 5 - Everything in now roughed in and doesn't look to bad. I am still not totally please with this and still may make a few alterations to the front sway bar links and mounts later on.
Sway or stabilizer bars are tempered and hardened. Heating them up with a torch and bending it is very tricky. It can be done, but not properly in the home shop. I have even watched a number of TV shows with very famous car builders modify sway bars. They would heat them up, bend them, and Bob’s your uncle. I would think they of all people would know better.
1929 Ford Hot Rod C4 Corvette front sway bar installation view 6 - This is a close up view of the sway bar link and mount on the lower control arm. Of course the sway bar bushing will need to be replaced. That can wait till the final assembly of the car. The only part of the original front sway bar link assembly I used using the lower insulator bracket. The left over link parts were all sold on eBay.
1929 Ford Hot Rod C4 Corvette front sway bar installation view 7 - I cut up a few more pieces of the 2 inch square tubing and make 4 right angle pieces that would close off the front sway bar mounts on the chassis. Everything was welded in place ground clean, filled, and primed for a good clean and polished look. The chassis should be a work of art! It is a statement to everyone on the type of builder you are. Remember these little finishing touches take time and not a lot of money to do.
Using coil over shock in the front complicated everything. If I did not use coil over shocks, I could have used everything as is was removed from the C4 Corvette with the exception of mounting the sway bar to the rear of the car. I needed to move the sway bar position slightly back on the lower control arms. I then noticed that there were a few mounting holes to the rear of the lower control arms. Not wanting to change too much or alter the control arms, I thought it would be best to use what was there already. With everything taking shape, I decided to make a new lower control arm bracket for the sway bar link mount. This bracket would be attached and mounted to a location on the lower control so I could use the existing mounting holes. After a few plexi-glass templates and sample mounting attempts, I came up with the final design of the lower control arm link mounting bracket.
Everything was tack welded into place, wheels put back on the car and the jacks, blocks, were all removed. With the roadster on its own weight, everything looked okay. The final welding was completed. All of the welds were ground clean and eventually I filled and prime the chassis for a very finished look.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front suspension completed using C4 Corvette suspension components view 1 - The suspension is completed now. I think this looks pretty good. Two of my main goals have been achieved. The first one was to incorporate as much of the 1986 Corvette Indy Pace car convertible suspension as possible in the hot rod chassis. The second goal was to do this as cheaply as possible. Every single part that I did not use from the wrecked Corvette donour car was sold.
1929 Ford Hot Rod front suspension completed using C4 Corvette suspension components view 2 - Now I just need to add the brakes, replace the rubber boots on the steering rack, and install the coil over shocks. This sounds simple, but the devil is in the details, and it's those things that take up hours and hours of time.
The neat thing about this project is that every single part that I did not need for the hot rod project was sold. I mean everything. Up to now, the project still has no out of pocket expense. Not bad for what is turning out to be an above average hot rod.
Don’t forget to keep coming back for more information on the build process of the 1929 Ford Hot Rod, more stories, information on swap meets, and summer cruises / car shows.
I am currently working on AutoCAD drawings of the 1929 Ford Hot Rod chassis using the C4 Corvette suspension components. They should be available to purchase sometime this June or July. By the end of the summer I will also have a DVD video showing how the this unique custom chassis was built.