And So it Begins – Body Work

   Posted by: kdavis

It’s been a while since I last did an update. I spent 2 summers driving the car in gelcoat, and I’m so glad that I did. My list of updates/changes/additions got so long, I filled my whole “to do” whiteboard in the shop. Lots of these things require the body to come off, so I would be pissed if I was sitting in nice paint and still wanted to do these things.

So, I’m just starting body work. I’ve got about 2 hours into it so far, which ain’t much, and have a BUNCH of hours to go. Basically, all I’ve accomplished is getting a start on fitting the doors. The MK3.1 and earlier cars were notourious for requiring a lot of work on the body, and the driver’s door seems to be one of the worst parts of it, mainly the fit. It requires some trimming, shimming, and body filler to get everything to line up right.

Mine is no exception. The passenger side is pretty good, some minor filler will be needed where the body meets the door on the bulkhead side, and also at the winshield, but not a bad fit. The driver’s door is all out of whack, if it fits on the bottom, the front and back sides need a lot of filler to get them where they need to be. Thanks to the guys over at the forums, I learned a lot and now need to get out the washers and shim up the body itself to try to bring the bottom out, which will allow the top to also come out and line up. Time to get creative. The biggest challenge I see is that I want to do hidden body mounts, so making all of that work will require a lot of head scratching and staring at the car (my family loves to make fun of me when I do that.)

So, next steps: remove the temporary aluminum pieces in the cockpit (just taped in right now with aluminum tape,) so that I have access to the body mounts. Take off the side pipes for clearance, then work on shimming the body. Once that’s done, I’ll get the filler done on the doors and get them done since they need to be done on the car. Then, I need to get the trunk and hood lined up and trimmed out, which also needs to be done on the car. After that, the body can come off, which will require a crap load of disassembling to get it ready, including all of the lights, the roll bars, trunk mounts, etc.

Some of the plans for the body that require a bit more work:

1) Hidden body mounts all the way around.
2) Quick jack delete.
3) Hood pins on the windshield side instead of the normal lock assembly (in combo with the hinges.)
4) Hood vents, and bolt-on hood scoop.
5) Rolled cockpit edges.

That should keep me busy. The hood itself should prove to be a complete pain in the butt, thanks to the hood vents. I think they just look cool, and they will actually be cooler by venting out some of the heat.

So far, still planning the black and silver colors. I have paint for either that or red and white, but after seeing a couple of cars that look just like what I have envisioned, it was a little less appealing to me. Plus, black just looks meaner, which is all good.

Some pics of the doors as they sit now:

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This is the “model” car I’ve got in my head as I work. This is actually a backdraft, but same idea (other than I like FFR’s better.)

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These are the hood louvers/vents I’m using. They are from a ’68 Mustang. I got them at Meier Racing, and I think they were about $150. They are a nice molded fiberglass, and should mold in pretty well.

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On the Road

   Posted by: kdavis

After a long build and tedious registration process, and still a lot more work to do with the interior and body work to come, I’m finally able to drive the car. What an awesome experience! I can’t wait to spend some time driving around Montana in the mountains with it!

The blog will probably go stale for a little while as I spend the summer doing yard work and driving the car instead of working on it, but I will be getting the alignment settled in and also plan to get it on the dyno for some fine tuning, so I’ll post back on that.

Pics:

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Registering Kit Car in Montana

   Posted by: kdavis

So, after 8 weeks of waiting, and about 100 emails and phone calls, I finally have my registration in place, and I’m waiting on the arrival of my plates. The local county office rep of the DOJ (dmv) was completely wrong in telling me that I had to send my paperwork to the state directly, which cost me 2 months of drive time.

If you happen to get the same information from your local office, you will need to be your own advocate and insist that you know what you’re talking about, ask to see a supervisor and explain it again. Be careful in saying “custom vehicle,” that is apparently where I went wrong. It is a “vehicle assembled from kit” and you are designating is as a custom vehicle for the purpose of getting a single plate exemption. That should help.

I thought I’d post some information here on the blog to help future builders in Montana for registering a kit car like this, or others.

Step 1

Go to the DOJ website and download the following forms: MV20 (VIN Inspection Form); MV1 (Application for Title); and MV121 (Fact Sheet).

Step 2

Call your local law enforcement office and request that an officer come by to do a Stage 1 Inspection (they will come to your house or where the car is. I live outside of city limits, so in my case, it was the local Sheriff’s office. The dispatcher, nor the officer actually knew what he was supposed to do, so I explained it to him. Basically, they need to look at the certificate of origin, and verify that the serial/chassis number matches what’s on the car. They fill out the form MV20 and sign it verifying that they match. According to the DMV, a stage 2 inspection isn’t necessary because you’re not trying to re-title a salvaged car, so only the stage 1 is needed. I made it clear that only a portion of the rear end, the motor and transmission were used from the donor (and not even complete), so you’re really just building a car from parts, not retitling the original donor. Obviously, if no donor is used, then this doesn’t apply.

Step 3

Complete your MV121. I chose Custom Vehicle vs. Kit Vehicle so that I can run without the front plate. It probably qualifies for either. I’m also not going to use this as my daily driver (weather in Montana wouldn’t permit anyway), so the non-general transportation thing does apply. The local office had some computer issues getting the single plate thing to go through, so I will have to make one more trip down there to sort that out, or I’ll end up just putting that paperwork in the car in case I get stopped. MT law requires 2 plates, and it’s a $200 fine, but it doesn’t seem to be a big issue.

Take ALL of your paperwork (including the MCO/COO, donor title, etc.) and go to your local Vehicle Registration Office, and they can issue the title and plates. In Montana, they will title it as a 1965 Shelby Cobra, even though it’s a replica, which only really means that in this state, since it’s titled as more than 11 years old, you are able to get a permanent registration completed (you pay 3.5 years worth of tag fees and it’s tagged for life). I also got a personalized plate for mine, which may or may not be part of the process for you. The personal plate fees are also done permanently in the same way as the normal plate. This means that once you have your plates and title, you don’t ever have to go through this process again with this car.

They issued a temp tag for me, so I can drive it like any other car. The cost for registration and plates was about $200.

Current Copies of the Forms:

MV20

Title Manual

MV1

MV121

Body On, Final Wiring, Mini Graduation

   Posted by: kdavis

Man, it’s been a busy few weeks since my last blog entry. I’ve been so busy building and having fun, I didn’t stop to do an update. I also took a trip to Oklahoma to run in the Memorial Marathon, so that was a non-build weekend.

New Horns:

After my wife said something like “that horn would be perfect for my car,” I wasted no time going to amazon and picking out some new horns for the roadster. The other one was very cheap, but was way too european for me, and wimpy. I ended up with some PIAA dual-tone horns. They were pretty inexpensive, easy to mount, and I like the two different tones. You can pick up a set here:

PIAA 85110 115db 400HZ + 500HZ Sports Horn

Here’s a very brief video of the horn sound:



Body On:

Thanks to one of my side kicks, my 12 year old daughter Kenzie, the lift, some ceiling hooks and ropes, we were able to get the body on without much trouble. I was glad that I hadn’t done any paint or body work, as I can see how easy it would be to do some damage. I’ve already said this, but I won’t be doing any paint and body work this summer, I’ll be digging deep into that over the long Winter instead.

For now, I did a quick bit of black primer over the seams, and since I didn’t grind down into the seams at all, it should have no affect at all long term, it’ll just sand/grind out when I do the final prep on the body. I am also electing to not install the remaining aluminum under-body trim pieces for now.

We also managed to get the brakes re-bled, which made for a much needed improvement in braking…amazing what real hydraulic pressure will do!

Pics:

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Final Wiring:

Prior to putting the body on, I mounted all of the headlights, running lights, and brake lights. Once the body was on, I was able to get the final bit of wiring completed and get all of those systems wired and mounted in place. I did have an issue with one of the brake light sets, the bulb fitting has a bit of a short, and won’t seat correctly, which is causing one of the bulb filaments to not work. I emailed FFR, and they are generously sending me a new one, so that will have to be rewired when it arrives. I also wired up the license plate lights, but I decided to tie wrap my door switches for now until final fitting later.

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Roll Bars:

Installing the roll bars is a bit of a challenge, especially since I have 2 of them. I found that leaving the passenger side mount slightly loose (I had to loosen it) helps to get the proper rear leg alignment. The most challenging part of the roll bars was actually drilling the hole (s) for the rear leg on the passenger side. My body came pre-drilled, which some people complain about, but even with a little clean up, it’s way better than measuring and cutting all of those yourself. The way I did my rear leg was to mount the hoop in it’s final position, then use a 2″ OD pipe I had (part of a hitch bike rack actually) to attach it to the hoop, then run it down and mark the entry location. This worked pretty well, and just left a little clean up and some adjustment in the rear leg mount itself to get a perfect fit. I have Mike Everson’s roll bar grommets which are large and make for a very forgiving setup to cover the over drilling.

I’m really glad I decided to go with the FFR stainless bars that I got on sale, they make a big difference in the look of the car. One trick I found for mounting the bars is to use ratcheting nylon straps (protect the chrome with cardboard) to cinch in the 2 legs of the hoop. Both of mine were pushing “out” and were really hard to get over the mounting brackets. I found that I could pull them together with the straps, and along with a little 3in1 oil, they went on with relative ease.

Hood and Trunk Mounting, Hinges:

The parts need some work to get to fit correctly, but I was pleasantly surprised with my hood, it fits pretty well right out of the “box.” The trunk lid fits like crap, but I think this is pretty common. For the short term, they’ll both work well enough, even though the trunk lid isn’t exactly pretty in it’s current state.

I am using Breeze’s hidden trunk mounts, and after discovering and correcting that we mounted the arms on top of the 3/4″ trunk support instead of on the horizontal face (ie: we mismounted them by 90 degrees), they went in pretty easily. For now, I actually just drilled and riveted the lid side mounts, which doesn’t look very pretty, but it’ll do for now. I’m going to be wiring in a linear actuator back there, and I still have a bit of fitting, so I wasn’t in a hurry to break out the HSRF yet. The mounts are sweet though, and will make for a cleaner more “oem” look to the car than the usual outer brackets. I was wishing that I hadn’t been in such a hurry to sell my brackets a while ago, that would have been a way faster short term solution.

The hood hinges are a pain, mainly because they come in about 1000 parts, and it’s very easy to put everything in the wrong configuration. The hinges themselves are a bit of a modern marvel the way they are a down and in or up and out movement. I didn’t have any instructions with mine, so I turned to the ffcars.com forum once again for help, and found some great pictures showing how they go together. Even so, I had to assemble mine like 4 times before I got it right, including taking them apart after I had them right in the first place. Lots of guys talked about switching out the button head screws with carriage bolts, but I didn’t find this necessary. It was a bit of a pain getting those in with the body on (I would put that part of the hinges in before the body and F panels if I had it to do over again,) but they work so far.

Here’s the thread with the info, and I’ll add the pics below (not my pics) in case they get deleted at some point. Forum Thread

Pics:

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You can see in this pic, that the bolts are in “up and down” instead of through the front/back configuration. I fixed this after the body was on, but it required me to cut the bolts to do it. Oops.

Windshield:

If you read any posts at all on the forum, this step will likely scare the heck out of you, and convince you to go ahead and call FFR and order a new windshield. The glass on these cars wasn’t really designed for them, and that, along with a bunch of other issues have caused an alarmingly large number of them to crack in short order. I managed to find an old build school video that showed some key issues to avoid, however, the most important of which I found to be: 1) use a shorty screw driver to prevent over-manning the screws, and 2) do a test fit on each screw and grind them down so they aren’t too long. Thanks to those tips, I managed to at least get the frame assembled without breaking the glass, and as far as I can tell, none of the screws are touching the glass. I took the mk3build site advice and set my windshield at 53 degrees in case I go with a soft top later. The only other issue I ran into, other than just not having much room to get the bolt in, was that my driver’s side foot box interfered with getting that bracket in place. I had to “massage” it out of the way for now, and I’ll fix it better once the body is back off.

Video:

Mini Graduation:

After the windshield install, I proceeded to put in the mirrors, trim plates, hood latches, trunk latches, etc., and it was ready to roll. I took some runs up and down the road a bit, which was simply awesome fun, and the next day called the local sherriff’s department for my Certificate of Origin inspection. In Montana, the process is very confusing, but actually simple to accomplish. Funnily enough, the deputy didn’t really know what he was supposed to do, but he verified my COO number matched the chassis number, and since he didn’t have any forms, he just wrote a note on the back of my application for title. I have yet to make the trip down to the DMV (will do tomorrow at the time of this writing), so we’ll see how that all turns out.

I’m still considering this a little mini graduation, though. Once it’s registered and tagged, I’ll head over to the dyno and get it all dialed in, and I also need to do a bit more work on the ride height and alignment. It’s riding/driving very well with it’s currently eye-balled alignment, and I really am glad I decided to go with the manual 15:1 steering box, it works great.

So, more updates on the registration soon…

Pics:

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Seat Heaters, Suspension, a Big Ride

   Posted by: kdavis

It’s now been just about 2 years exactly (as of 4/18) since Aaron and I made the long trip to WI and back to get the roadster kit, and this last weekend saw another huge milestone in the life of the project…the first official Go-Kart ride, complete with rides for the whole family. Leading up to that, I had a few more minor things to get finished up, and also worked during the week on some items.

Seat Heaters:

Living in the mountains of Montana, not only are our roadster-driving seasons short, but the days can be pretty cold, especially once the sun falls below mid-sky. For that reason, I need all of the heating I can get in the car. Along with the summit heater I’ve already installed, I added a nice set of seat heaters in the car, which came from www.warmseats.com, and are very nice, complete with OEM style 2-level heating, pre-wiring, etc. Installing them did require partial disassembly of both seats, which wasn’t too bad overall, but the seat backs are a bit of a challenge to get the heating elements pushed up into the back of the seat and taped in with the supplied double sided tape.

I basically followed the instructions provided with the kit, and on the website, but there was one hugely helpful tool that the kit left out…an 11 year old girl. ;-> With skinny arms, and a willingness to help, she was able to actually reach up into the seat back and position the seat heater properly. As you can see in the pictures, I also used a ruler as a “push rod” to adjust it, which can be done, but if you can find someone who’s arms fit, all the better.

Pics:

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Seat Installation:

The installation of the seats is one of those “make it up as you go” kind of steps in the build. In my case, that was definitely true, and it was actually a “make it up, then change it, then change it again” kind of step, at least the first go around.

Almost everyone recommends that the seats are installed such that the front of the seat angles back so that they are a little more comfortable. It seems the sweet spot is about 1.5″ of lift on the front of the seat, with the back sitting on the floor. Since I needed to fabricate some sort of mount, I looked around the shop and found some 1.5″ angle steel that I had. Each side actually measures just a little bit over 1.25″, which means that it’s perfect, and strong enough to be a permanent installation. This part went quite well. I cut 2 pieces of the steel, about 10″ each, and clamped and drilled holes for bolts through the 3/4″ support bar on the bottom of the seat (the 2nd one in since the 1st one is covered with the seat cover.) I used some bolts to bolt them on. The flat part of the bracket goes onto the seat so that the other side makes a sort of “pedestal” for the front of the seat. Very sturdy and strong.

My first attempt at the seat install was on the driver’s side, and I had decided to use some large rivnuts on 3 of the holes, and a through bolt where the plate runs across the bottom of the foot box. This didn’t really go well. I ended up over drilling the holes so the rivnuts wouldn’t work correctly. I attempted to “work around” the problem, but in the end, decided to cover the 3 rivnut holes, and go with another solution. Since I was going into the 4″ tube in 2 places and the rear 2″ tube in another, I decided that the best approach was to drill and tap those holes. For me, this was the best solution, and worked perfectly. I could probably lift the whole car from one of the seats. Once I figured out the driver’s side, the passenger side was pretty straight forward, and I realized a simple rule for this project: “upon finishing any task in the build, the pile of tools that were required to complete it is in direct relation to how difficult the task was, and if one or more hammers are in that pile, it didn’t go well.”

Pics:

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Pinion Angle, Alignment, Etc.:

The last step with the suspension before the Go-Kart ride was to get the suspension marginally dialed in. I’ll need to do a complete alignment on the car once the body is on and it’s fully weighted (windshield, lights, etc.), but I still needed to get the 3-link setup, pinion angle set, front end alignment and sway bar basically set, and all of the components greased up. The pinion angle setup is a bit of a challenge at first, but once I understood the concept, it was pretty easy. I actually used my ipod touch and a 4-wheeling app that measures angles to get the pinion set to about 3 degrees at the ride height. This should allow for good travel on the drive shaft. I discovered a way to use my lift and a couple of saw horses to simulate “ride height” so it made it a little easier than trying to squeeze under the car to adjust the upper link. At the same time, I also set the left/right bias of the 3-link so it was centered and locked in the nuts on the 3 link. The rear ride height is set to about 4.5″ right now, which will settle a bit.

On the front end, I managed to get a very basic alignment completed, and the spring collars adjusted so that the initial ride height is set to about 4″. Just like the rear, this will change once some weight is added.

Pics:

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A Big Ride!

The first official go-kart ride is one of the major milestones in the build, and the whole family got to participate in it this weekend. After buttoning up any loose wires, and doing a pretty thorough check of everything, I got the video camera and the wife out, and fired it up. I decided to take the first ride on my own in case something went very wrong, but thankfully, nothing did, so I was able to take her and the 2 tween girls all for a ride each, which was great fun. I did learn, as you can see in the video by my slowness, that without a body on it, these tires make quick work of picking up small pebbles out of my driveway, which gave me a nice little pebble shower. After the first run, I gave up on the driveway and used the lawn. I have plenty of room to make my own entrance/exit in the field, so this won’t be much of an issue in the future, I’ll just have to stay off the gravel driveway.

Overall, the drive went very well, and I was able to “give it the full beans” as James May would say a couple of times, and man, it’s fast, even with a conservative engine and tranny build. I did have a couple of minor issues, one, I need to re-bleed the brakes, they were a little soft, and 2, still need to dial in the carb and timing, when I came off the throttle after giving it a little extra, it bogged a bit. Not unexpected, and pretty easy to deal with. I also found that although the t-stat on my electric fan is working, the fan itself wasn’t coming on. Should also be a pretty easy fix.

The last issue I found was I had installed an entirely too wimpy of horn. I found a pretty good deal on one on ebay, but the euro/supercar type tone was just too girly. I found a new one for $50 that is a dual tone, 400/500hz, which will be much better. I got the new one on amazon. Here’s a link if you’re interested: PIAA 85110 115db 400HZ + 500HZ Sports Horn.

On a very positive note, both the seat heaters and the summit heater I installed worked great, and should make a big difference in the comfort of the car on those cooler mornings and evenings here in MT.

Video of the Go-Kart Ride:

So, the next steps are to fix the fan issue, put the body on, windshield, and lights in, and I’ll be able to get the car registered. It’s an exciting time in the build!

Tunnel Cover, Brakes, Seat Belts

   Posted by: kdavis

I had a particularly busy weekend this weekend with family and work obligations, so as far as the car went, I didn’t get that much done. However, I did actually get a couple things finished up, so that was good.

Seat Belts:

I managed to get the is not a huge deal, but it did need to be done before I do the final installation on the seats. One thing I did that might help keep the belts looking nicer until I get things finished is that I taped over anything white, all of the sewn labels, with blue tape. That way my grimy hands won’t get them all stained.

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Transmission Tunnel Cover:

Last week, I was able to get the vinyl all glued onto the main part of the transmission tunnel cover so this week was pretty fast. All I had to do was glue and wrap the sides of the vinyl. Unfortunately, I actually realized that this was not so good. A stupid mistake that I made was not predrilling the transmission tunnel cover before I glued the vinyl. What that means is that instead of a pretty easy “just stick to screw through the vinyl and through the cover on the side,” now becomes a more dangerous job. For the vinyl, that is. I now have to also drill through the vinyl. I did pick up some self tapping black anodized screws, which should simplify the job.

I’ll just need to mark the screw locations, and use the screws without pre-drilling. I’m hoping that it all goes through the vinyl well and cleanly. The screws will make it little bit easier should I ever have to remove the tunnel to get into the transmission. I also was able to get things mounted in the cover like my start switch, the heater switch, and the switches for the heated seats. All that I have left to do on that is to get the LED mounted for my alarm, add the shift boot, and get it all hard mounted.

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Brakes:

Last week, I repainted my brake calipers red. Originally, the brake calipers were a Chevy orange to match the orange paint scheme I was going to go with, but now that I’ve switched over to a black paint scheme, I want a kind do the super car peekaboo red look.

I got those all finished up this week made sure that the bleeding screws were appropriately placed in the upright position (a little trick I picked on the forum,) and I got those things all remounted, the wheels back on, and the brakes all re-bled. I originally had some leaks, but thanks to new crush washers, so far so good. One note on bleeding those brakes using one of those one-man brake breed bleeder set ups: at least in my case. I didn’t realize on the one side was the fitting popped out and squirted brake fluid all over the shop. So, just word of warning with that there is quite a bit about pressure on those so if you use one of those just just can’t be aware of that, and watch the pushing force you use.

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The SAI Kit really made a big difference in the front end alignment. I was able to notice right away, in terms of the angles, so this next week I’ll be able to get the rear end aligned, the pinion angle set, and all of that cleaned up. I also will do the initial front end alignment on it so that I can get things all buttoned up and ready to go to the DMV.

This week, I’m going to be getting the seat heaters installed into the seats so that I’ll be ready to get those drilled out and mounted to the frame. Then, the only thing left from there is to get the body put on, get the lights in, and go to get it registered.

SAI Kit Install, Parking Brake, Calipers

   Posted by: kdavis

Had a good day in the shop today, and managed to get some decent amount of work completed. A majority of the day was spent on the SAI kit install, but since I want to include a full install guideline with pics, I’ll post that information later in the blog entry. I also spent some time customizing my parking brake installation, repainting my brake calipers, and also putting the vinyl on the transmission tunnel cover.

Parking Brake:

The parking brake setup from the standard kit leaves a lot to be desired overall, but it gets the job done, and I decided, at least for now, to just use the standard setup, more or less. The 2 basic issues with the parking brake are that you can’t really actuate it from the driver’s seat when you’re fully buckled in (I haven’t verified this yet), and the way that the cables run from the rear brakes to the lever is a little wacky (it runs under the 4″ tube). I also had an issue with the T handle on the cable assembly hitting the mounting bracket, and a bit of an issue with the main spring itself.

The T handle issue was pretty straight forward. Due to the way the cables run, the “approach angle” of the cables caused the T handle to make contact with the bracket and the lower bolt, which would, in most cases, actually prevent the handle from actuating the parking brake. I addressed the issue by simply making a small bracket that I attached to the lower mounting bolt on the parking brake bracket so that it forces the cable to be offset by about an inch and a half, effectively holding the T handle away from the bracket and bolts. Although I haven’t fully tested it, this seems to be a viable solution, and since I had already made the bracket for another purpose that I didn’t use, it didn’t take much time at all to adjust it for this purpose.

Another issue I wanted to take care of was how closely the parking brake handle sits against the transmission tunnel. This was made worse by the fact that I elected to replace the existing mustang black handle with one from Mike Everson, which is polished aluminum for a nicer look. It’s a larger diameter, and also round instead of flat on that side, so as it was, it was pretty much hitting the tunnel, even before I add insulation and carpet. The fix here was equally as easy, just requiring that I enlarged/elongated the mounting holes in the parking brake bracket so I could just slide the whole assembly over away from the tunnel. Doing so did cause the assembly itself (the ratcheting wheel) to hit the bracket, so I had to also take my sawzall and notch the bracket for clearance. Moving the assembly over also improved the alignment of the parking brake cables.

There seem to be several ways to address the spring tension in the stock mustang parking brake, from cutting the spring completely, to some others. I discovered that the stock setup on mine at least (1990) was so tight that it was sort of binding. Rather than cut the spring, I decided that I could just change how much “preload” was placed on the spring and the T handle. I did this by pulling the spring tight and locking it in place with a nail, then completely removing the cable assembly, releasing some of the tension, and reattaching the cable again, effectively making it “one rotation less” of preload. It lengthened the cable by 3-4″.

Pics:

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Calipers:

When I originally painted the brake calipers, I was all about the orange car, so the calipers were painted Chevy engine orange, which has a little bit of red tint to it. Now that I’m going with a black color instead, a peek-a-boo red (ala super car) is a way better color. Since I had to remove the front calipers anyway as part of the SAI kit install, I figured I would also remove the rears and repaint them all. They turned out pretty nice, actually.

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SAI Kit Install:

Most of my day was spent doing the SAI Kit install from Whitby’s. The purpose of the SAI kit is to correct an inherent flaw in the Steering Axis of Inclination in the front suspension of the car, which causes the steering and overall handling to be less than it can be. The kit from Whitby’s changes the overall setup of the upper control arm, and effectively changes the angles in the independent front suspension.

The kit comes with a copy of a ffcars.com forum post that’s a fairly long and detailed post, but it lacks pictures and also is a little difficult to follow. I’m going to simply take that post and insert some pics and add my own notes and emphasis (found in parentheses.) The original post can be found here.


Thanks for purchasing the FFR Front Suspension Optimization Kit commonly referred to the SAI Kit. The kit optimizes the front suspension geometry for better performance and steering feel on both track and street. It does this by bringing specific geometries inline with know standards.

• Lowers the SAI(Steering Axis Inclination) from 18+ degrees, to approximately 9 degrees. This will reduce camber loss during turn-in increasing front-end grip and reducing the need for negative static camber. In addition, it will have a positive effect on steering feel.

• Lowers the Roll Center from approx 5” to approximately 3.5” to better match the 3 Link and IRS rear suspension options. This will increase front end grip and reduce jacking.

• Brings Caster Trail inline with standard one piece SLA spindles increasing steering linearity and reduce steering twitchiness at freeway speeds.

Installation instructions.

1) Place vehicle on jack stands securely, do not attempt this installation on a jack or a poorly supported vehicle. Some of the installation requires high torque values and could cause the vehicle to fall. (I can attest to the high torque needed, at least 1 at 150ftlbs. I actually put my car on the lift, which makes the install that much easier.)

2 Remove new parts from packaging and verify the parts are correct. The most important are the two upper control arm relocation mounts (UCARM) and the SIA adapters. The parts are different side to side and should be mirror images of each other. In short 2 each brackets and SIA adaptors, 2 short and 2 long 5/8ths bolt, 2 5/8ths lock nuts, 4 each ½ inch short and long bolts, 4 lock nuts. Assorted washers. (The brackets and UCARMS are marked L and R).

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3 Remove the front wheels and store under the vehicle.

4 Remove the cotter pins from the upper ball joint and remove the nut. A 7/8ths thin wall socket should be the right size. (I actually removed the nut and cotter pin, but then put the nut partially back on for step 5.)

5 While prying up on the upper control arm with a pry bar hit the old IFS bracket several times with a hammer. This should save the boot and separate the ball joint from the IFS bracket. Do not hit the stud on the ball joint; all that will do is damage the ball joint stud. If the parts will not separate use a ball joint separator and as a last resort use a pickle fork (this will ruin the boot). (This prying method was a complete failure for me, I could not get the parts separated. I also didn’t want to risk damaging the boot itself. Contrary to what the instructions warn, I actually DID hit the stud on the ball joint. However, I did so by using the nut on the end of it to keep from damaging the threads, and rather than hitting it directly with a hammer, I used the “jacking pole” from my engine hoist (a floor jack pole would also work) to hit the nut. A few good whacks with a hammer, and the stud/ball joint came right out.)

6 Tie a rag around the ball joint to keep the boot on the ball joint and to keep the grease off of everything else. (This wasn’t necessary for me since I had yet to grease the ball joints.)

7 Take care to not stretch/ruin the brake hoses. If the spindle is falling away from the car and putting stress on the hose remove the caliper and hang it with a zip tie, bungee cord or wire. (This wasn’t an issue for me since I had taken the brakes completely off of the car.)

8 Remove the two bolts holding the upper control arm to the frame. ¾ inch wrench and socket will remove them. These will be tight and will take a little force to undo.

9 The control arm is now loose and can be left resting on the lower control arm or shock/spring.

10 The upper control arm relocation mounts (UCARM) are different. There are two even holes and two offset holes. The offset holes go outboard and the even holes go onto (from above) the old upper control arm mounts. The offset hole lowers the front of the upper control compared to the factory location. The outboard rear holes are very close to the frame. Mock up the mounts with the bolts. Short bolts in from the top and long from inboard to outboard. Mark the frame so it can be notched to clear the bolt. An alternative is to remove a small (very small) edge of the rear mounting bolt so it will clear the frame.
(It’s possible they have update the design since this was written, but the TOP of the bracket was already notched to it cleared the welds on the frame. I actually followed a little different procedure here:
a) Once the UCARM is unbolted, I found it best to attach the new kit bracket to it (using the longer bolts in the kit) before attaching the whole thing to the frame.
b) On my car, the “rear” side of the bracket, caused the bolt to make contact with the mounting frame of the car. To solve this, I used a grinder to cut out about a 1/8″ x 1″ section of the frame so the bolt would clear and the upper holes of the bracket would line up.
c) After shooting a little rustoleum spray paint where I cut the frame, I used the shorter bolts to attach the upper bolts and nuts for the bracket

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11 All of the bolts need to be installed in the UCARM including the control arm or it will not clear the shock/spring. Start with the outer bolts and mount the control arm to the UCARM and then the UCARM to the frame. (The third hand you keep in the toolbox will come in handy for this step.) Again, the shorter bolts go in from the top and the longer control arm bolts go from the inside of the car outboard to hold the control arm. Washers can be used as needed. Remember the front hole of the UCAM should be the lower of the two holes in relation to each other. Note: The front of the control arm is still higher than the rear. (See above for different steps here that I followed.)

12 In order to get the maximum range of motion, it may be best to flip your upper control arm over so that the angle of the ball joint mount is reversed top to bottom changing the angel of the ball joint. Note: If you swap your control arms right to left in addition to flipping them, your alignment will be closer to your final setting. It’s best to check it your range of motion before tightening everything up. Do this by marking your spring location and then loosening your spring perch. Jack the suspension up so that the lower control arm is approx level. Turn the steering from lock to lock and check for any ball joint binding or other clearance issues. One place to watch for is the brake to upper control arm ball joint area. Repeat this by measuring the center of the hub and then jacking the suspension up approx 2.5 to 3” Do the same, but at 2” of droop. If all is good you can proceed. If there are clearance issues, this will be the time to address them. Some may need to clearance a bit off the upper control arm ball joint mount. There is a rib of material that goes around the ball joint mount that may require clearancing depending on your brake setup. You will be asked to check this one more time at the end of the installation.

13 Remove the two factory bolts from the IFS bracket from FFR. These are the factory Ford spindle mount bolts and will not be reused. (I found it easier to do this up near step 8 and 9)

14 The new IFS bracket goes onto the rear of the spindle. The ball joint hole is to the rear of the spindle also. The dog leg, or elbow on the IFS bracket needs to point to the inside of the car. Refer to the pictures to make sure you have the correct IFS bracket on each side of the car. Temporarily install the new IFS bracket by using the new 5/8s bolts to mount the IFS bracket. Put the shorter upper bolt in finger tight and just slide the longer lower bolt in far enough to hold it in place, do not install the nut yet. Note: make sure your upper brake bracket bolt is installed before installing the new IFS bracket. (I missed this in the list and had to disassemble it. The “dogleg” statement here confused me. The brackets are marked L and R, so you can’t mess up the sides. The proper way to install it though is to have the L shape so that it “points” to the tire.)

15 Remove the rag and reinstall the upper control arm back into the new IFS bracket. Make sure to put the cotter pin hole where it can be reached. Tap (smack pretty hard) the control arm with a dead blow hammer to ‘set’ the ball joint into the new IFS bracket. Slide the lower IFS bolt out far enough to allow access to the ball joint stud. Install the castle nut and torque to the recommended torque of 60 ft-lb’s. Install the cotter pin after the torque spec is met.

16 Now install the IFS bolts for the final time. The upper should be thread locked in place. The lower should use the locking nut. Both should be torqued to approx 150 ft-lb’s. (I also had to “jack” the lower control arm so that I could get everything aligned with the bolts, this may or may not be necessary for you, I only did it on one side.)

17 Tighten all the upper control arm bolts to the UCAM and the UCAM to the frame. The torque on these bolts is 50 ft-lb’s.

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18 The following is very important please read and understand the importance of these steps. Mark the current spring collar location and loosen the spring perch as far as possible. Using a floor jack with care not to break the grease fitting off, move the suspension through its travel while looking for interference and checking ball joint angle. If the angle is a problem (not likely) the cup can be reversed. The cup is welded on one side and bolted on the other. Now is also the time to turn the steering wheel through its full arc. Do this at both the compression and droop positions of the spindle. Depending on which brakes and/or spindles are on the car there may be interference with the bleeder screw. This is especially noticeable on the driver side with the ball joint cup mounting bolt. Remember the cup is welded on one side and bolted on the other. The interference will be at the bolt. Finding the interference now is better than breaking the bleeder and having no brakes!!!! Other cups are available without the angle so the bolts can both be on the front.

19 The alignment on the car has changed dramatically. Check the toe in and take the car to the alignment shop ASAP. The new SIA brackets allow for better caster and camber curves so we recommend the same 1 degree of camber for street cars and closer to 2.5 degrees for auto cross cars running radial tires. Caster should be between 3.5 and 4 degrees and up to 5 degrees caster is fine with power steering. (I have not yet finished 18 and 19 steps.)


Once my calipers dry, I can reassemble the front end and get the car aligned, and check the items in steps 18 and 19. Once the car is aligned, only a few small steps remain before I can get it registered and out ready to enjoy the nice weather when it comes.

More Aluminum, Audio, Body

   Posted by: kdavis

After a much needed 2 week vacation in Orlando, it was great to get back to the shop for a few hours this weekend and work on the car. With each session out in the shop, it’s becoming apparent that the day the body goes on is getting closer and closer.

Overall, not a tremendous amount of progress to be made, however, I did reach another milestone, the day the body came back off of the ceiling where it’s resided for more than a year.

Audio:

I did receive the new subwoofer and was able to get the custom box built and covered. I covered the bottom with carpet to keep it in place better, and used some vinyl to cover the rest. I’m pleased with how it turned out. I also built the box so that the amps are mounted on each side, and my power inverter is mounted on one side as well. The inverter is small, and also includes a 5v USB port directly on it, so that I can power the Ipod Dock right from the trunk. I’m a little concerned that my small battery will be inadequate for any real use of the inverter while the car isn’t running, plus the amps (although they are small), but only time will tell on that.

Pics:

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Aluminum and Parking Brake:

Most of the remaining aluminum has to wait until the body has been mounted for a proper fit, but I was able to get the last of the rear trunk panels in place, drilled and riveted on. I also finished up the cockpit, some of which is riveted in, and some is just temporarily attached using screws. Final placement will be completed after the body is mounted.

I need to get the vinyl on the tranny cover top, and mounted, which can be done after the body is on.

I learned a valuable build lesson also, which is that you really want to get the parking brake in place and secured prior to transmission installation, it will just allow for more room. I’m having some spacing issues with the parking brake cables, and still need to work through some changes in the parking brake handle itself to get it finished up. I’ll be working on that soon now that the car is back on the lift again.

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Body off the Ceiling:

Another build milestone came and went this weekend, as the body came back off of the ceiling, from where it’s called home for the last year or more. This involved a little creativity, as did getting it up there in the first place, especially by myself, but it didn’t fall, crack, break, or fall on top of me and kill me, so I would call that a success.

The plan is to drive the car this summer in gelcoat, so very little body work is to be done. All I need to do is bump the seams a little to soften them up a bit (they are sharp), and I also need to research a little on the gelcoat seams themselves to make sure the work the previous owner did on it (he ground down through the gelcoat) won’t create any issues long term if I don’t cover them up. All in all though, I won’t be doing much work to the body before setting it in place.

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The next steps in the build are to get the SAI kit installed, front sway bar adjusted, right height set, and brakes bled again, plus repaint the calipers (they are an orange instead of red.) Getting closer each weekend, and the excitement is building!

Measure, Cut, Drill, Rivet…Repeat

   Posted by: kdavis

The installation of the cockpit and trunk aluminum panels is a bit of a mundane process thanks to drilling 100′s of 1/8″ holes in the panels and chassis, but thanks to some needed fabrication and design, it was a little less so this weekend.

Trunk:

I spent the weekend working through installing most of the trunk panels, including a substantial amount of work fabricating the aluminum panels and fillers for my dropped trunk mod, as well as cutting and attaching access panels to make it easier to get to the fuel level sender, fuel pickup, and passenger side rear body mount (which I’ll need since I’m doing hidden body mounts and quick jack delete.)

The dropped trunk mod required that I cut the original trunk panel, drop the cut out piece down 4″ and then fill the sides in with new pieces. The mod will add a bit of extra trunk space out of the wasted space above the fuel tank. The extra space is needed since I’m doing the rear bulkhead shelf and throwing in a subwoofer.

I managed to get the drop box all built, and most of the trunk drilled, sealed, and riveted. I still need to fabricate the new cockpit “wall” that will sit about 10″ behind the bulkhead shelf I cut in the rear wall.

Pics:

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Tranny Tunnel Cover:

I had a bit of an issue with my transmission tunnel cover, thanks to a bit of poor planning, and failure to pay attention to the filler panels in my box of aluminum. I failed to realize that the oval hole in the cover allows for different mounting locations for the transmission and shifter, and that there is a filler panel that goes in to allow for the shifter boot mounting.

Unfortunately, I failed to realize this until AFTER I had applied, glued, cut, and smoothed the vinyl on the cover, which is a bit hard to undo. So, a little rework to be done, which is always a pain, but allows for some good practice. In the meantime, I was able to fabricate a top filler setup so that the vinyl will have a nice smooth surface to adhere to.

I experimented with the best way to mount both the main filler, as well as the top pieces, and realized the even smooth rivets will show through. My best option was to simply use an adequate amount of aluminum tape to attach both of them. This is the same process I used on the dash, and it turned out great under the same vinyl, so I’m confident that the tunnel cover will be the same case.

Tip – I needed to smooth out all of the seams and wrinkles in the aluminum tape. I had a lighter in my pocket from doing my electrical (I don’t smoke,) which I found worked great for this job.

Pics:

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Audio:

I ended up changing my plans on my subwoofers. Originally, I had purchased some inexpensive subs from Parts Express, but unfortunately, I didn’t read the enclosure requirements closely enough. I realized later that each one required a pretty large enclosure, close to 2 cubic feet. The total volume of the area where I wanted to put the sub box is about that same amount, which left me with a very large box, a somewhat inadequate sub, and minimal trunk room.

The solution was to find a sub that performed adequately on it’s own (without having 2 subs), and also required a pretty small enclosure. The answer is the Boss Audio D10F 10″ Subwoofer, (see below). At under $40, and with good ratings, it should do what I need it to do. the best news is that it only requires a 0.5 cubic foot box.

The box I built is out of 3/4″ wood, and measures 8″ x 17.5″ x 11″, which after factoring the box thickness, provides the 0.5 cubic foot internal volume. I added a separate speaker hookup panel as well, and sealed it all up with silicone. Once I wrap it in vinyl and mount it, it should fit nicely, and look good too. It will also make for a perfect mounting location for both amplifiers (one on each side), so it all stays nice and compact, and it is easily removed as needed. I’ll hard mount the box to the trunk/chassis frame so that the low end transfers well.

The sub arrived today (quick from amazon), but I haven’t had a chance to test it out yet.

Pics:

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Wiring, Dash Install, Aluminum

   Posted by: kdavis

Despite spending a lot of time over the last couple of weekends working on vehicles distinctly NOT the roadster, looking back, I did actually get a fair amount accomplished. I had to spend time doing brakes and some other items on the hot wife’s Beetle, and spend most of Saturday last weekend working on the Suburban (new K&N, exhaust manifold gaskets, plugs, wires, tire rotation).

Dash Install and Holy Crap Bar:

With the rest of the dash wiring installed and tested, I went ahead and finished up getting the dash installed so that I could get the heater ducts finished up. Since the dash won’t actually be finished in terms of install until the body is on, this isn’t a final step, but will allow for gokarting when the time comes.

As you can see in the pics, I also finished up my Holy Crap bar. There are lots of names for this, but it’s for the passenger to hold onto, and it’s appropriately named “holy crap bar.” Since it can see a good bit of stress, it was important for me to get it very secure, yet be able to adjust it’s position for final dash and body fitting. I fabricated a mounting system to allow for that, then drilled the holes in the dash for it. The dash position is static, but the part that mounts to the secure assembly is adjustable up and down (not a lot of side to side movement anyway with the steering column in place.)

Some of this was already detailed in an earlier post, but here are some more pics. It’s attached to the 3/4″ dash hoop, and is pretty stout. I ended up having a bit more of a gap between the dash and the frame, though, so I added a couple of 1/4″ nylon spacers to make up for that so I didn’t bend the aluminum dash.

Pics:

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Alarm LED:

I was able to get my alarm red led installed a couple of weekends ago, and so I thought I’d give the how-to on that as well. I wired it up, but since it’s going into the tranny tunnel cover now (just in front of the keys), I won’t do final install until that’s ready to go in. It did work very well though.

For those that might want to do a similar thing, here’s what I did.

Found the blinking LED here: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=170477135292&ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT

I used an extra housing I had from my del city order, but you can also buy them from del city or from parts express.

You don’t really have to, but I used a relay for this, just so I could make it easy to switch between the key ON and key OFF status.

Here’s how I wired it, using a standard 12v relay and socket (parts express too). I’m just going to give the wire colors, but you can look up the relay positions if you want.

Red – Battery – always hot
Blue – + side (red wire) of the LED
White – Ground
Black – Keyed 12v (ignition source)
Yellow – Not used

Obviously, the black wire (-) of the led is to ground.

That way, the light blinks when the key is off, but goes out when you start the motor or if the key is on.

I had read that there was some concern about the battery drain from the LED, but the draw on this one is 20mA. I left it running for a couple hours, and no drain at all was perceivable on my meter from the battery. I’m sure if you didn’t start it for months, it would have some draw, but in that case, you should have a battery tender on it anyway.

Interior Aluminum:

After a really cool mini-event of actually driving the car out of the shop, and then backing into the other bay, it was time to continue work on the interior aluminum. This is one of the last big steps in getting to go-kart status.

I was able to get the driver’s floor, passenger’s floor, and the bulkhead pieces all drilled, siliconed, and riveted in. Thank GOD for Mike’s air riveter…I can’t imagine trying to do all of those rivets by hand. I was glad that I ended up buying the double-ended 1/8″ drill bits from harbor freight, but wish they were a little longer. Every time I use my drill, I am reminded that I will NEVER buy another chuckless drill, they are worthless for small bits, and end up having to retighten the chuck all the time.

I was also able to get the rear bulkhead access hole cut out, which will allow a little pocket for “stuff” behind the seats, but also will serve as a location for some small speakers in the corners that will fire across from side to side to get some sound. I just drilled a few holes, then cleco’d the panel in place, marked there the frame pieces sat, and cut the hole. I added a 1/2″ to the measurement on the lower cut, which turned out great since the bolt heads on the 3-link retrofit kit make the trunk floor there sit up to almost that level. It was a pretty good fit. I’ll add a “wall” that will sit 10-12″ behind the opening.

One note worth mentioning. When I placed the bulkhead piece in place, I noticed that the holes for the seat belt routing didn’t line up right. I took a closer look and realized the cross bar was actually not even or straight across, so it stuck up about 1/4″ on the passenger side. I ended up “massaging” it with a dead blow rubberized hammer, and it fits great now.

I’m really enjoying the aluminum fabrication stuff, and just thinking through the problem solving aspect of the build. One issue I was having is the location where I want to mount the 10″ subwoofers. I want to use the rear cross as part of the mounting system, which meant that the floor was about 3/4″ too high. Relatively easily solution, I just need to make some “boxes” that will sit into the floor so that the subs will be able to be “submerged” slightly in the floor. After checking clearance on the 3-link banana bracket, I decided 2″ depth was a good size. I also checked and marked for floor supports to see how much room I had from front to back (bulkhead to trunk). I ended up with a box size of 5″ x 13.5″. I was able to get the first one marked and cut, but have not bent it yet. I misfigured the first time, but luckily I remembered to fix it before I cut. I had allowed for the 1″ lips for the bends on top, but forgot to allow for 2″ of drop. I believe I ended up with an 11×19.5 piece.

I wish I had gone with a bigger metal bending brake, this piece is about 1/4″ too big to fit, so I’ll have to bend it using some other methods.

Pics:

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Wishy Washy:

My buddy Mike says I’m wishy-washy on color, and he’s probably right, evidenced by all the posts on this blog about color choice. I have now, however, made some actual commitment-based steps on color. I ordered some paint to do some test shooting. I have “decided” that I really like the black cars with silver stripes. I’ve always loved black, and this was actually the very first color choice, even before the Orange was a factor. I like how it looks like it actually wants to eat children. ;-> This is a backdraft car that I’m using as my sort of template. I’m going to take the hood off the Mustang donor and prep and tape it for stripes and color like I would the real car. I ordered some black and metallic silver paint and the necessary supplies.

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Along those same lines, I’m planning on getting the body down off the ceiling in the next couple of weeks so I can get started on the body work. Some of the steps require some cure time, so doing it a little at a time along with other parts of the build should prove an efficient use of time.

Until next time…