The Studeblogger

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Front End Rebuild, Pt. 8: Spriings, A-Arms, Finished!

I can't tell you how glad I am to have this project done! Yesterday at 7PM, just as daylight was running out, we pulled the jackstands and chocks and dropped the Lark back onto her own 4 skins. Whew! Just one day ahead of the Code Enforcement deadline.

In my last post, I said I was going to try to get the coil spring on the next day. Well, it took a week to try. On Saturday, I rented a spring compressor from Kragen and set to work.

Unfortunately, the threads were stripped. I took it back, but then had to hunt down another; fortunately, there was another store two miles away. I tried four times to compress the spring enough to get the A-arms together far enough to coerce the kingpin into the steering knuckle support, but no go - there simply wasn't enough weight in the car (the engine is still out). At that point, dirty and tired with nothing to show for it, I gave up for the day.

After a few posts to the SDC Forum and emails to tech guru Bob Palma, it was clear I needed to add pounds to the front of the Lark. I also needed to change my assembly sequence: instead of trying to connect the A-arms at the kingpin, I needed to follow the Studebaker Service Manual's instructions and assemble the entire steering knuckle, then bolt the upper A-arm to the frame while jacking the spring from below.

I went to Home Depot and bought 12 bags of landscape rock and threw them onto the front crossmember - good for about 200 lbs. Then, with the 9/11 deadline just two days away, I invited my brother-in-law Dave and buddy John over to help me get the thing back together.

It worked! With Dave adding another 160 lbs. of ballast and his wife Kitty spotting for daylight under the jackstands, I got the upper A-arm into place and bolted on.

Let me tell you, after the frustration and disappointment of the previous day, I felt like a rock had been lifted off of me! With the driver's side assembled and torqued down, we broke for lunch.

Mmmmm... Tri-tip sandwiches, hot cheese potatoes and plenty of cold Dr. Pepper. Finest kind :)

After lunch, we went back on and got the passenger's side together with a minimum of fuss. Dave had a church board meeting to get to, but John stuck around and we got the tie rods in place before calling it a day. (We could easily have gotten the wheels back on as it was only 4PM, but I had managed to misplace the inner wheel bearing grease catchers that bolt to the inside of the brake backing plates. And I hadn't yet gotten fresh bolts for the backing plates.)

My deadline was Tuesday (today), so I knew that Monday had to be the day she got buttoned up. So, after I dropped Reed at school Monday morning, I swung by DeNault's True Value (the last honest hardware store in Oceanside - thank God they're still here) and picked up Grade 8 bolts, nuts and washers in the proper size.

Side note: I learned, during this project, that you should never use anything less than Grade 8 split-ring lockwashers if you're torquing their associated fasteners to more than 20 foot-pounds. Those Grade 2 things in the bin simply tear themselves apart.

After work, I started bolting on the backing plates and packing the wheel bearings. Studebaker hubs go together very easily: put in the bearings, install the oil seal, shove 'em on the spindle. Slide on the keyed flat washer and then spin the wheel while you lightly tighten the big slotted wheel nut with a wrench. Back off the nut 1/4 turn, spin the wheel again and tighten the nut by hand. Then back off to the first slot and install the cotter pin and dust cap. Done!

All that remained was to bolt on the wheels themselves, which, with daylight waning, was done in short order. My wife, Terry, watched as I pulled the stands and chocks from the rear wheels, and lowered the jack. Light as you please, she slid down and was sitting on her own for the first time since May. Boy, that felt good! All that's left for the front end is to install the shocks and sway bar.

Now, with all four wheels on, we can finally drop the engine and trans back in. Woot!

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