The Studeblogger

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Front End Rebuild, Pt. 4: Kitchen-table A-arm bushing installation.

I'm starting to reassemble my front-end parts now, whilst waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the final few bits that are on backorder at SI to arrive (grrrrrrr). One of the most discussed topics on the SDC Forum is front-end rebuilding, and it seems every so often someone posts a question about installing new the bushings that hold the control shafts in place.

The factory shop manual describes a complicated procedure that requires a pneumatic press and several custom installation tools once made by Kent-Moore (presumably unavailable today - I've contacted Kent-Moore via their website, but got no response). Well, most guys I know don't have these tools and have no hope, 50 years later, of finding someone who does. So after a little searching, I found this A-Arm Bushing Service Kit made by Minnesota Pneumatic Products (MPP). I got mine off eBay for about $50. The set consists of a large screw-type c-frame and several adapters for pushing bushings (excuse the rhyme).

What you'll need: The aforementioned service toolkit, a 7/8" socket, your A-arms, control shafts and new bushings. I stripped and refinished my old A-arms after inspecting them for damage, coating them with Rustoleum primer and gloss black. Same with the control shafts after carefully sanding the machined ends to remove the rust scale that had accumulated inside their bushing sleeves. (My suspension apparently was original - it had not been serviced or renewed since it left the factory. Amazing.)

Check out the new bushings. You'll see that they're "stepped." This shoulder prevents them from being pressed completely into the A-arms, since this would bind the control shafts and keep them from turning freely. Start by pushing the small end of the bushing into the A-arm by hand, then put the receiving end of the c-frame around the interior of the arm, and use the small press adapter on the threaded shaft. You'll also find that the service set has a selection of thin rings; choose the one that fits best around the exposed rubber on the outside of the bushing and slip it on; this will make sure that the tool presses on the outer metal sleeve of the bushing instead of pushing on the rubber, and centers the force as well so that the bushing doesn't go in cockeyed.

(Sharp-eyed readers will note that the adapter ring is not installed in the photo above. It took me a bit to realize that I needed to do this, since the tool set comes without instructions.)

Now, using your socket wrench, tighten the c-frame's screw and start the bushing into the A-arm. After a few turns, STOP! At this point, you MUST install the control shaft, since there will not be enough room to fit it in if you wait until the bushing is fully seated. Just insert one of the control shaft's ends into the opposite hole in the A-arm, and then swing the other end in and slide it into the bushing you're installing. DO NOT use any kind of lubricant or anti-seize on the control arm ends! I know it's tempting, but these were meant to operate dry.

Now crank the screw until the shoulder on the bushing is about ready to meet the A-arm. Continue the proceedure on the other side of the A-arm, capturing the control shaft end in the bushing as you press it in.

Look at the control shaft and slide it all the way toward one of the bushings. Do you see shiny machined metal? There shouldn't be more than .015" of end play in the control shaft; if there is, you'll need to press each bushing a little at a time to close the gap between the bushing end and the shaft's shoulder. Make sure that the shaft doesn't bind; you should be able to turn it easily by hand with a bit of resistance.

Voila! You're done. You can install the capscrew and washer combination that torques the control shaft to the outer bushing, but DON'T TIGHTEN IT until the A-arms are installed in the car and the weight of the car is on them; these need to be in "at rest" position before those bolts are tightened. If you tighten them in any other position, the A-arm will put a twist on the rubber and whenever the car is at rest, which wears it out prematurely (and we don't want to have to do this ever again, do we?). Bolt it to the frame and move on to something else!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

One-of-a-kind Studebakers on

Hemmings, who publish arguably the best old-car magazines in the business, have a blog online with lots of cool stuff ( One of my favorite things are the entries where they post selected articles from the old Special Interest Autos (Now Hemmings Classic Car).

A post by Matt Burnette (MBStude on the SDC Forum) alerted me to the presence of these, and there's a treasure trove of interesting old articles, several on unique Studebaker and Packard dream cars and prototypes. The beauty in the photo that heads this post, for instance, is a 1943 styling study for the proposed postware Champion, which was conceived as a rear-engine, air-cooled car! You can see foreshadowing of the 1950-1951 Stude grille "spinner", as well as the greenhouse design that would later grace Land Cruiser models.

There are posts on the fabled Studebaker Graveyard inside the South Bend Proving Grounds, and photos of some of the cars found there. There is a great article on Studebaker 1950's styling mockups. And there's also a great piece on Packard dream cars. Here are the links:



Saturday, July 14, 2007

Front End Rebuild, Pt. 5: Pop! Goes the Bellcrank

Yes, I know it's been slow around here. The front end is taking longer than I had hoped it would, due to the fact that a) I've been busy (read: lazy) and b) Studebaker International has been backordered on the Lower Outer Pin Kits since April, which effectively prevents me from nailing it back up (since my lower outer pins were completely toasted).

Also, my lower inner A-arm shafts (the big ones that mount the A-arm to the frames) were in terrible shape, much worse than I thought. They moved fairly easily when I removed them from the car, but that was only because the bushing rubber was rotted out; the shafts themselves were rusted to the steel bushing sleeves.

So it's been slow going. I've been contenting myself with copious amounts of degreasing, painting and numerous trips to my local DeNault's True Value to replace tired fasteners. Did you know that 3/8" - 20 x 4" Grade 5 bolts cost $1.09 each? Ask me how I know!

Not 10 minutes ago, though, I had a major victory. The last bit of disassembly had been eluding me: separating the steering reach rod from the bellcrank. Studebakers used center-point steering to the last, which is good because unlike GM's idler-arm ball-joint suspension, the Studebaker has equal-length tie rods that pivot from a central bellcrank, acting on outer kinpins and making for much better steering geometry and much tougher suspension overall. (If my '67 Pontiac's front end had been as worn out as this Lark's, I'd have been in a ditch on the first drive.)

Back to the point, I simply couldn't separate the reach rod from the bellcrank. It was bloody well stuck on there! I tried the pickle fork, of course - worthless. So I posted to the Stude newsgroup ( asking for advice, and it wasn't long coming. Dan Peterson advised that I get the "el cheapo" lever-type ball joint separator from JC Whitney (yes, I know... don't start), so I did.

$19.99 and 3 days later, the UPS man brought this little puppy and I eagerly went straight to the Lark and proceeded to pop off a stubborn tie rod that also didn't want to leave the bellcrank. Success! In 2 minutes, the ratty rod was staining my driveway concrete.

So then I proceeded to put it on the reach rod ball joint and tighten it down. A few cranks - nothing. A few more cranks - nothing. Another crank or two and -- I felt something give. Unfortunately, it was the tool; it's cast iron, and one of the ears simply bent off. I cussed (quietly of course!) and packed the tool back into the JC Whitney box for return to wheretheheckever they are, the reach rod quietly mocking me as I did so.

Well, two more weeks went by and another box came with the replacement tool. So this PM, as the sun was sinking over the fence, I decided to give it a go.

At first, it was much like the last time: a few cranks and nothing. A few more cranks - nothing. Another crank or two and -- well, I figured I'd just leave it on the ball joint overnight and see if the continued pressure would loosen it. And just as I was packing away my socket wrench, SPAAANNNNG! the joint let loose. Can I get a WOO HOO!

Public service announcement: Kiddies, if you try this at home, be sure to leave the castle nut on the end of the ball stud's threads so that the pressure exerted by the tool doesn't distort the threads. This also keeps the separated parts from flying apart at speed, putting a hole in your inner fenderwell, or in you.

So thanks to Dan, and also to the unknown Chinese laborer who cast the el cheapo tool that did the job. Patience and perseverance!

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