The suspension systems of Chrysler vehicles, including those of 1966– 1970 B-Bodies, were some of the most unique coming out of Detroit during the height of the muscle car era, particularly the independent front suspension. Using a unique torsion bar instead of the more conventional coil spring freed up room in the uni-body chassis vehicles and provided substantial weight savings.
This Tech Tip is From the Full Book, MOPAR B-BODY RESTORATION: 1966-1970. For a comprehensive guide on this entire subject you can visit this link:
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The front torsion bar system, consisted of an upper A-arm, a single lower control arm with a forward-facing strut, hydraulic tube shock, sway bar (if so equipped), and a tempered torsion bar. It was lightweight, accessible in the wheelwell, and easily adjusted thanks to a threaded tension bolt below the lower control arm.
The upper A-arm mounted to perches on the upper frame rail while the lower control arms connected to the front crossmember (or K-member) through a pivot shaft. The entire front suspension (apart from the torsion bars) was assembled on the crossmember cradle prior to being attached to the vehicle during its initial assembly. And likewise, it’s significantly easier to work on your front suspension with the crossmember out of the car.
Upon the vehicle being lowered over the powertrain and engine crossmember on the assembly line, the torsion bars were slid through their rearward perches on the mid-crossmember and fitted into the hexangular reliefs in the lower control arm pivot shafts. Then the upper control arms were attached to the body and eventually aligned.
The rear suspension was a far more common arrangement, with the live axle (be it a Chrysler 81 ⁄4, 83 ⁄4, or Dana 60 housing) attached to a pair of leaf spring packs hanging below the rearward frame rails. The leaf springs were attached to the body through a pair of shackles at the rear and large stamped steel perches in front. The forward frame rail perches differed in B-Bodies only if a vehicle was a convertible or equipped with the 426 Hemi, where a large reinforcement plate was attached over each perch.
In this chapter, we discuss the proper steps to disassemble your 1966–1970 B-Body’s suspension and return these components to stock OEM or similar-appearing status. Of course, many choose to replace original factory equipment with aftermarket components to improve drivability characteristics, and this is also a worthwhile endeavor. We strongly suggest “bolt-in” replacement parts over kits that require cutting, fabricating, or heavy modifications, as these kits often do not bear the desired results.
Aftermarket companies such as Hotchkis Sport Suspension and QA1 offer direct-replacement items that include upper and lower control arms, adjustable shocks, high-quality struts, torsion bars, and sway bars. They also offer leaf springs that have a long track record (quite literally) of significantly improving the road handling of Chrysler A-, B-, and E-Bodies, unlike a few coil over replacement kits that have garnered mixed results.
Even a stock car equipped with a 4-barrel 383 B block can easily break the 100-mph mark, and the last thing you want is a loose and questionable suspension. To someone who has never tackled the complete rebuild of the torsion bar front and leaf spring rear suspension, it can seem like something way above your pay grade. In reality, with some detailed guidelines, a good amount of mechanical experience, the help of a good machine shop, some designated garage time, and a reasonable amount of sweat, you can have a brand-new suspension that looks like it just came off the showroom floor.
Dropping the entire front suspension, which includes the crossmember with the engine and transmission, all together is actually recommended. The rear end assembly comes out significantly easier, and requires the use of two jack stands and a good floor jack. We recommend that you restore and install the rear suspension first. This provides you with a good support so you can elevate the car and slide in the entire front assembly at once.
Rebuilding a Front Suspension
The front suspension can be completely rebuilt without taking the entire front assembly and engine crossmember out of the car, but be prepared for a lot of time on your back or stooping low to the ground.
You can put the front end up on two jack stands and remove all the components. But it is a no-brainer to remove it all as one unit. Chapter 7 covers this removal process for a 383/440 big-block powertrain.
The main obstacle in the removal of the entire front suspension is the torsion bars. To overcome it purchase the specific torsion bar removal tool. You will use it many times.
The torsion bars were originally dipped in paint and have drip marks left by the thick paint. They also have identification marks made with light brown paint. The right bar has one stripe about 61 ⁄2 inches from the front of the bar. The left bar has two stripes, one about 71 ⁄2 inches and the other about 10 inches from the front of the bar.
Another tool to purchase (or rent) is a tie-rod puller. Many people use a fork when they replace the ball joint boots; however, anytime you need to separate the new suspension you cannot use the fork without tearing a boot or marring the new parts.
After complete disassembly, cleaning, and blasting, you have two options for replacement bushings: original rubber or polyurethane. You also have a choice in the type of replacement parts you use. Companies sell complete kits to rebuild your front suspension but they do not have the same appearance as the original MOOG parts. For a correct restoration use rubber and original MOOG replacement parts.
After building the front suspension and assembling it on a rolling frame, the entire engine assembly can be mounted in place followed by the transmission. Then the car can be lifted and the entire assembly can be moved into place and attached without any damage to the freshly painted car.
The mechanical restoration of your front and rear suspension is crucial to a fully functional car that can be driven and enjoyed. Just as important are the cosmetics of the components. They contribute to a restoration that can compete at high-level car shows.
Ideally, the car you start with has all of its original parts and markings so that as you remove the dirt and grime you can document each original part on your car. Beware, however, that this is seldom the case except for a few high-dollar, low-mileage survivor cars.
By researching other cars of your same model and year at high-level car shows you can find out what is accepted as “original.” This chapter includes some basic guidelines for assessing the correct appearance of the many parts of the suspension. However, the only way to be certain something is correct for your car is to find it that way.
Remove the entire front suspension as one unit. Coat every bolt, nut, and moveable joint liberally with your favorite penetrating spray and allow it to do its work for several hours. Take inventory of any missing, damaged, and worn part that must be replaced and add them to your “parts needed” list. Document with pictures every castle nut, tie-rod end, and original part for later reference. Look for any factory inspection marks so that they can be documented and reproduced later.
If you find a rusted retaining pin in the end of the lower strut rod end, carefully remove it without breaking it off. Soak it in penetrating oil and push out with a punch and hammer. If it breaks you must drill it out so a new one can be installed. This is a fine detail that many people miss. You can see the clear cad finish on the washer.
Three castle nuts with cotter pins are used in all of the steering ends. You can see the way the pin was bent by the factory and the style of the original boots.
These are the original end link, sway bar, and tab locations for a 1970 B-Body. Earlier lower control arms have the tab mounted farther out on the control arm and use a different style sway bar. Note the bolt inserted from the bottom up.
All the nuts and bolts are black phosphate. You can have them plated or do it yourself. Either clean them with a wire wheel on a bench grinder or blast them until they are completely clean.
You can finish the bolts and nuts yourself and save a ton of money. Follow the directions on the solution bottle to create the original finish. Then coat them with clear to seal the black finish.
Clean, refinish, replate, and replace all of the components of the entire front suspension. Label them for installation.
Restore tie-rod ends, tie-rods, and steering links in natural metal finish. Seymour’s stainless steel paint is a great match. Tie-rod ends are Moog parts and are clear coated. These bolts and nuts on the tie-rod are incorrect. They are black phosphate, not natural metal.
Finish the lower ball joint, spindle, and attaching hardware. Protect the surface where the wheel bearings meet the spindle when painting.
These are the upper control arm bushings after removal with a cold chisel and a cut-off wheel. They must always be replaced.
This is how the upper control arm bushing looks after being pressed in at the machine shop. Notice that on this car the upper arm is painted black. Original arms were natural metal and NOS arms (shown) were finished in semi-gloss black.
On late-1970 cars an additional sleeve can be found on the bushing. Earlier cars did not have this extra sleeve. With or without the sleeve the same bushing is pressed in the arm.
In 1970 a lower control arm with a lower bushing replaced a pivot pen pressed in by the machine shop. Notice the gold Cosmoline finish up to the knuckle. Originally these arms were dipped in the waxy protective coating. You can paint this arm to appear as original without the waxy residue that remains when treated with Cosmoline.
Completely strip and paint the K-member. Then add all the components to complete the front suspension. You can powdercoat it or paint it with enamel. Just be sure to use semi-gloss to create the original finish.
Install the lower strut rod and tighten the front nut. Notice the new rubber bushing, washer, and correct finish on each. I recommend original rubber rather than the harder and more prone to squeak polyurethane.
The self-locking nut is correct, as is the bushing and washer; missing is a retainer pin. Wait to install these until after everything is under load and tested just in case it must come apart. You do not want to install the pin twice or risk having to drill out a broken pin when it’s in the car. Just do not forget to install it afterward.
Slide on the complete, restored lower control arm assembly making sure to insert the strut rod and the lower control arm pivot at the same time. Attach the hardware but do not over-tighten or torque at this time. Make all the adjustments and torque to spec after the car is on the ground.
Hang the completed brake, ball joint, and spindle units on to the lower control arm and torque all bolts to spec.
These original appearing finishes stand up to use after the restoration is complete. Notice the castle nuts and cotter pin. It’s important to note that the lower ball–to-spindle nut should not be a tri-castle nut. The upper ball joint–to-spindle should have the tri-castle nut and the lower multi-castle nut.
Make sure that the shoulder is correctly against the K-member and that the pivot has been correctly pressed far enough into the lower control arm. If it isn’t, you will have problems when installing the torsion bars.
Be sure to install the dust boot cover onto the torsion bar so that when the bar is inserted into the crossmember of the frame, the boot is toward the front of the car and seals out any dirt or water. It is very difficult to move the boot over the front knuckle of the bar. Use a liberal amount of grease and a major amount of effort.
You can identify the right and left torsion bars by the casting found on the end of the bar. They are painted very heavy semi-gloss black so that the excess paint causes drip marks along the bar. You can find inspection marks on the bar about 6 inches from the front of the bar. The right bar has one stripe and the left bar has two. The marks are different colors depending on your model of car but most of the time they are light brown. Do not attach the torsion bars until the K-member is installed in the car.
This lower control arm in a 1970 B-Body has the real Cosmoline on the arm. After it dries it can be shot with matte clear to make sure it is not sticky and does not easily rub off.
Many inspection marks can be found on these cars’ front suspensions. This is a 1970 B-Body.
After you have restored the entire front suspension assembly, the engine and transmission can also be attached. Then you can install the entire unit from the bottom, just as the factory did, minus all the great assembly line machinery. When in place, install the torsion bars, adjust the height, torque all bolts to specification, and don’t forget the retaining clips.
Upper Control Arms
The removal and replacement of the upper control arm bushings can be a challenge. We recommend taking the unit and the new bushings to a machine shop and having them press the old ones out and then press the new ones in.
If you do take them to the shop you might as well have them also remove and replace the upper ball joint. You can buy a kit that includes tools to remove the bushings and a special socket to remove and install the ball joint if you plan to perform this process more times in the future.
An extra sleeve is on the backside of some OEM bushings. This is not present on most pre-1970 control arms.
Removal of the ball joint requires a special socket; again, unless you plan on restoring several cars, just have the machine shop remove and install the new ball joint. One unique detail is the use of tri-castle nuts on the front suspension. The tri-castle nut goes on the upper ball joint and the six-count castle nut goes on the lower.
Prior to installing your new bushings, take the time to have them media blasted. It makes your final result all the more satisfying.
The finish of the upper control arm is natural on most applications with some painted semi-gloss black. Most NOS or replacement upper control arms come painted black. The finish you choose is entirely up to you.
Lower Control Arms
The lower control arm is vital to the operation of the front suspension. The pivot shaft and the bushing are directly attached to the torsion bar, so every movement of the car actually goes through this shaft and bushing. It can appear daunting to remove the shaft and bushing, restore both parts, and then install them. But the process is not that difficult.
The first step is to press out the shaft from the lower control arm, leaving the rubber bushing in the arm. The rubber bushing can then be pried out. A novice may think it is time to put in the new bushing, but a closer look reveals that a metal sleeve is still in the control arm and another one is still on the pivot shaft.
If you are using polyurethane bushings, all you have to do is lubricate the bushing with the supplied lube (a must if you do not want squeaks) and push the shaft into the bushing. If you use the original rubber bushing, you must remove the sleeves.
Removing these two sleeves is by far the most difficult part of the front suspension build. You must use a cold chisel and a hammer to split the sleeve, cave it inward, and separate it from the control arm. Use care not to damage the arm. To remove the sleeve from the shaft, notch it lengthwise on all four sides and slip it off. Blast all of the parts except the pivot shaft.
To begin the rebuild process, press the shaft into the new bushing. Then press the bushing and shaft assembly into the arm. That’s all there is to it.
Originally the lower control arm was dipped in Cosmoline up to the knuckle. This was a brownish-gold waxy preservative that kept the arm from rusting. The excess Cosmoline sometimes ran down the arm because it was hung from the knuckle. Some people like to find a spray paint that resembles this look and simply paint the arm.
If you want to truly re-create the finish, treat the bare-metal arm with Rust Preventative Magic or paint with Seymour’s Stainless Steel paint. While the arm hangs from the knuckle, spray on a heavy coat of Eastwood’s Heavy Duty Anti Rust. Let it dry for several days and then spray with a matte-finish clear to seal the Cosmoline.
When complete, install the bumpstop, the torsion bar adjuster bolt, and the threaded metal block, which is designed to stay in place in the arm when it is under tension. Both the block and bolt are left in natural finish.
Now, take special note that all lower control arms for the 1966– 1970 B-Body line of cars are the same, except for a welded sway bar mount tab. That tab is located near the ball joint stud hole on 1966–1969 B-Body cars. The tab is near the center of the arm on 1970 B-Body cars.
Other than the sway bar mount positions, all the control arms interchange. The reason for the different location of the tab is that in 1970 the sway bar configuration changed.
The basic function and design of the brake system did not change much over the years, but the appearance changed substantially among models and through the years 1966–1970. Your specific factory service manual is a must and it shows detailed diagrams of your original equipment.
Manual Drum Brakes
Most 1966–1970 Plymouth and Dodge B-Bodies left the factory with manual drum brakes. That in itself could be one of the main reasons for the rarity of these cars. They were really fast, but often if you had to shut ’er down in a hurry the ditch was a quick option when the drums just couldn’t stop the beast.
Under hard braking these drum brakes heat up rather quickly and experienced major brake fade. Brakes that didn’t fade could lock up. On gravel, or on a wet, or even worse, icy road, locked-up brakes quickly caused many hard impacts. However, if they are in good working order, and you leave a little more room than you leave with your modern anti-lock power disc brakes, they will perform well.
One of the first things you learn growing up working on cars is how to do a drum brake job. Manual drum brakes are very simple and their repair is basic and relatively inexpensive. But if your car has been sitting a very long time in an uncovered state it is going to take more than 30 minutes and a set of new brake shoes to get your brakes in perfect operating condition and show-quality appearance. Be sure to examine your front and rear brakes to see if they are original in appearance and what needs to be replaced or rebuilt.
Because these parts are so important to you and your car’s safety, the entire brake system should be replaced or rebuilt. That includes the master cylinder, brake lines and hoses, distribution block, wheel cylinders, bearings, brake drums, and shoes. If you plan to show the car, new brake lines are a must.
The actual components inside the brake drum are unique in color and appearance. As you disassemble your originals you will probably find that they have been replaced. You can refer to pictures that show how these components were finished and what colors were used from the factory. As always, different models, years, and factories used different part suppliers, so restore yours the way you find them or use a documented example of your car’s specific application. On all drum brake cars with road or Rallye wheels, the outside edge was painted red with a brush, no matter the color of the car. Cars with steel wheels did not receive this paint.
Master Cylinder, Engine Compartment Lines and Distribution Block
The master cylinder is cast in appearance and carries part numbers and date codes. Make sure you have the correct master cylinder for your year and model of car. Early master cylinders can be a single-reservoir style; all later ones had dual reservoirs. When you have the master out of the car the pedal actuator rod may seem as if it will not come out. But it will and is just held in the cylinder with an O-ring.
One of the fastest ways to remove a stubborn rod is to put the master cylinder in a bench vise and run a steel rod through the hole in the end of the brake rod. Angle the bottom of the steel rod against the bench and use a hand sledge to hit the top of the steel rod away from the cylinder. It pops right out. You can buy a rebuild kit at most parts stores. Remove all the internal cup seals, plungers, and springs, making sure to pay attention to the order and orientation of the parts as they come out.
Check the bore for pitting and ridges. If the master is original you want to save it even if you have to send it away for sleeving. If the bore is in good shape, use a hone to smooth the bore so you have a surface that seals when you reassemble the unit.
The wheel cylinders also should be rebuilt or replaced. The process is the same with these individual units. The bleeder valve is usually stuck or rusted and is replaced with a new one. Save your originals if you can, but it is not the end of the world if you have to replace them because they are not visible. Their correct function is much more important than their appearance. They are also cast with black phosphate bolts holding them in place. A white foam gasket seals the unit to the backing plate.
The distribution block is usually usable and can be brought back to original appearance with a wire wheel because it is brass. It, too, is date coded and attached with a black phosphate bolt. Differences in this block depend on whether you have manual drums, power-assisted drums, or front disc brakes. They cannot be interchanged among brake systems.
Again, replace all brake lines. If you are going for a totally correct appearance know that the originals are not stainless. They can flash rust, so unless you are going to show in a high-level Original Equipment class the stainless replacements look good, keep a nice appearance, and last much longer. There is one drawback to using stainless: Because the tube is made out of much harder metal they can have problems with sealing.
Power Drum Brakes
Everything that needs to be done to a manual brake car’s system must also be done to a power brake car with the addition of a power booster. These boosters can be model and year specific so make sure you have the correct one for your car. The master cylinder is also different and so is the distribution block. Most power brake booster and master cylinders are painted black and completely assembled. If you have a Hemi car you must have a Hemi assembly for it to fit.
Front Disc and Rear Drum Brakes
If your car was ordered with front disc brakes they are noted on your broadcast sheet. This option can also be coded on your fender tag. You need a different master cylinder and distribution block. These front disc brake units in complete original condition are hard to find and expensive to rebuild. The rotors and calipers are not reproduced in correct appearance. So if you have the originals be sure to save them. Turning of the rotors is a must and hopefully you have enough metal left to use your originals.
Drum Brake Rebuild
This is the heavy-duty 11-inch rear drum. If your drum does not have the extra-reinforced fins you probably have the smaller lowperformance brakes. To upgrade to the 11-inch brakes requires replacement not only of the drum but of the entire brake assembly, including the backing plate. It is worth the effort and expense to upgrade.
Be sure that your rear drums have a minimum amount of metal so you can turn them before spending the time it takes to blast and paint them. Do not blast the drum surface where the brake shoes contact the drum. The best way to restore them is to use a micrometer to measure the drum and confirm that it can be turned. Then blast, have them turned, and paint with a darker cast metal paint.
If your car has any wheel except a solid steel wheel, it received a brushed-on coating of Ralleye Red paint. It was applied without any care given to how much paint was used and how messy the results were.
Here is what you can find when you open up the brake drum. Most of the natural metal is rusty and you can have paint that never came originally on the car. Correct finishes include orange upper springs.
The internal components of this unit are in really good shape and can be blasted and refinished correctly. Even though a lot of pad is left on these shoes they must be replaced with new pads.
Wheel cylinder, cross piece, spring, and wheel studs are all in good restorable condition.
Axles were pulled when the rear end was rebuilt. They were painted with Seymour’s Stainless Steel paint. The backing plate was painted semi-gloss black. All of the components were replaced with new except the brake adjuster with the star wheel.
The spring in the adjuster cable and the lower brake shoe spring are green, and the brake shoe hold-down spring, rod, and caps are clear zinc or cadmium plated. Note the correct, original larger teeth on the adjuster.
The adjusters are unique to each side of the car. Make sure you have the right one by testing the direction they move when the adjuster cable is engaged. Notice that the adjuster has small teeth; because the original one was not usable it had to be replaced with a new one.
The wheel cylinder had to be replaced because the original had too many rust pits in its bore. Notice the lack of original part numbers on the cylinder. Orange springs and all-new hardware complete the assembly.
The emergency brake retainer was red on this lowmile 1970 Road Runner, so it was painted the same way it was found. When removing the cable be careful not to damage the retainer. The teeth must be compressed so that the cable can be removed from the backing plate.
Disc Brake Rebuild
This is an untouched original front disc brake assembly from a 1970 Plymouth. It has been steam pressure washed and care was taken to not remove the original orange, blue, and yellow inspection marks. Don’t let the new nut and bolt that is from the stand fool you.
This galvanized dust shield and original brake hose have been painted black. Note how the factory bent the cotter pins and used a blue inspection mark on the driver-side assembly.
The factory used a yellow inspection mark on the passenger-side assembly. Notice the three castle nuts on the tie-rod end and that the original cotter pin has been replaced. You can tell because it is way too long and not bent the way the originals were.
This close-up shows additional inspection marks. It also documents the clips on the caliper bolts that are almost always missing. The lower ball joint is held on by six castle nuts while the upper is held on by three castle nuts.
These disc brake assemblies are from a Dodge B-Body. They are identical to those on Plymouth B-Bodies.
The back side of the assembly seems to be beyond saving. It isn’t, and because it has all original parts, you should try to save it.
Someone has done some previous incorrect work on this unit. At least it is clean and complete. The bearings and seals must be replaced. Always inspect the spindle and make sure it is smooth and in usable condition.
Before spending any time on the original rotor measure it to be sure it has enough metal to be turned. Also do not overlook the condition of the wheel studs.
This pair of disc brake assemblies has one good dust shield and one that is completely unusable. New ones are available but are not the original finish. That is not a problem because they were painted black from the factory.
After carefully blasting the rotor without blasting the surface where the pads contact the rotor you can paint it with a dark cast color. Then have the rotor turned. Next using fine Emory cloth sand them with a circular motion. This makes a really good surface for seating the pads during the early miles of operation.
Even though the center of this hub has a slight chip in the surface the original rotor is worth using. Replacements are not identical to the original but can be used if yours are too far gone to save.
A brake rotor includes the notch, two-piece wheel stud plate, and balancing weights. By painting this rotor before it was turned it is ready to reassemble.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of an original caliper bolt (upper) and a replacement caliper bolt (lower). They differ in size and design of the head of the bolt. The original has been replated. You also can paint them with chrome paint, but the finish does not last as well as plating does.
All these pieces have been blasted and turned, and a new lower ball joint replaces the worn-out original. Moog parts are as close as you can get to original unless you find NOS examples.
The original spindles were in good enough condition to save. Do not blast or paint the surface of the spindle where the bearings and rotor ride. Original part numbers are on the spindle and the date codes are on both the spindle and the caliper-mounting bracket.
The first step in reassembly is the dust shield. It has been painted semi-gloss black and the attaching bolts are black phosphate.
After having the original calipers rebuilt, the bolts should be replated. Next, clean and reinstall the rubber bushings that the caliper bolts go through. Also buy new brake pads. After that, the unit is ready for assembly.
Missing from this nearly complete assembly are the cotter pins and caliper bolt clips. The calipers were rebuilt. The paint is different from the paint on the other parts. The owner liked the contrast so they were not repainted. Originally they were not painted but in reality it is nearly impossible to keep the natural metal from flash rusting. So unless you are going to compete in a high-level Original Equipment class, just paint them. When you do, be sure to fog the last coat. That reduces the shine and makes it almost impossible to tell if the part is painted or not.
Here is a close-up of the anti-rattle spring. These almost never remain on the assembly and are not reproduced. If yours are missing be prepared to search long and hard to find them.
Always use new parts if they are close to the appearance of the originals. These reproduction splash shields are not galvanized like the originals, but they are painted black and will look original when mounted on the car.
Rubber Hoses and Brake Lines
All rubber hoses must be replaced. These are available new from any local parts store but do not have the finish or markings of originals. They are reproduced with a close appearance to the originals.
You can purchase a complete set of new brake lines from sources such as Fine Lines or The Right Stuff. They come packaged in a large box with a slight bend in the middle for shipping. This bend can easily be straightened for installation. They fit very well and are a must if you plan on showing your car.
A combination distribution block and axle vent is threaded into the rear axle. It is also brass and has a spring-loaded cap that vents the axle. Most of the time these are reusable.
Emergency Brake Cables
The routing of the emergency brake cables can be very different depending on the year and model of your vehicle, but a single cable always attaches to the emergency brake assembly. It has a grommet seal where it comes out of the interior to the underside of the car. On most B-Bodies this cable goes through the frame and a special clip holds the cable in place and does not allow it to move forward or backward during operation. This clip is hard to see, but it is there.
A guide attached/welded to the floorpan directs the cable to the inside of the rear frame rail. There the single cable goes into a double clip where the right and left emergency cables attach and then goes back to the brake assemblies. A threaded rod with a lock nut allows you to adjust the emergency brake so it properly engages. Two additional U-clips hold the right and left cable to the frame bracket.
These cables must be functional, and they are natural metal in appearance (uncoated). The rear two brake cables slide in a heavy-duty spiral reinforced case. These can be blasted and painted with Seymour’s Stainless Steel paint for a correct appearance. Reproduced versions also have a great original appearance.
Unless your springs have very low mileage you should disassemble them, blast them, and replace all the inner zinc liners, the plastic spacer wear pads, and the front bushing. Also blast and then paint the front spring hangers (we use Seymour’s Stainless Steel paint). Inspect the area on the front of the spring assembly that is protected by the spring hangers. You will know if your particular springs were natural or painted black by looking under the hangers. The factory used two swatches of color to identify which spring went on what car and on which side.
Taking several pictures to document what you find helps you restore your car to its factory-original condition.
If your springs are natural you can use Rust Preventive Magic and they never have to be painted. You can also paint them with Seymour’s Stainless Steel paint. If they are black they can be painted before assembly. Some say they were dipped fully assembled but that hasn’t been confirmed. Pictures of original cars do not show any paint on the exposed liners and we haven’t found any heavy areas of paint that would indicate they were dipped and hung. The paint is black flattened at about 20 percent. Some say they were brush painted black after assembly.
After you disassemble the spring assemblies, blast all the leaves separately, and remove the large front rubber bushing. You can drill out the rubber in several places and then press out the bushing. After refinishing or painting the springs install a spring rebuild kit. Inexpensive kits contain liners made out of galvanized tin and clamps that are not very thick. We recommend that you purchase a kit from Frank Badalson. His kit includes zinc liners and heavy clamps. Lubricate the front eye bushing and press it in.
Lay out the springs in the proper order for reassembly. Get several C-clamps or welding clamps and a long shaft that fits the center bolt hole. Put duct tape on any surface that will touch the finished springs. You do not want to mar the newly finished surface. Lay out protective cloth where the springs touch your workbench.
Press in the wear pads until they snap in place and then assemble the leaves and liners. Make sure the leaves have an extra hole in the front and one in back. The clamps have a tang that goes into this hole.
When everything is laid out with the wear pads and zinc liners in place, run the shaft through so that all parts are lined up. Tighten the C-clamp and compress the entire assembly. Put the original black phosphate finished bolt/pin in place with the nut toward the bottom. The pinhead goes in the spring/shock mount. Wrap the nut and bolt with tape and tighten so as not to mar the finish.
When both assemblies are completed install the clamps. By using at least two C-clamps to hold the new “spring clamps” in place you can bend and secure the clamps with crisp corners and minimal dents in the surface of the clamps.
When you finish the assembly of these springs, if they are painted black, mask them off and paint them. You can do the same if they are painted stainless. Then you can set them aside until you are ready to bolt them onto the rear axle and install everything as one unit into the car.
The steering box and linkage for all B-Bodies, no matter the year, is basically the same. Yes, there are differences and of course different date codes, but the design is basically the same. Removal and reassembly is not difficult. The steering column and dash can be removed and reassembled without a lot of trouble either.
Steering Box and Linkage
The steering boxes attach to the K-member. The steering column attaches to the steering box and is secured with a drive-through pin. The idler arm also attaches to the K-frame and the steering linkage, the inner tie-rod attaches to the center link, and the outer tie-rod attaches to the lower ball joint arm of the front brake and wheel assembly.
Your car has either power steering or manual steering. The appearance of these two steering boxes is different and so are the parts to rebuild them. If you have a manual steering box it is natural in appearance. The steering column is longer than the one that is used with the power steering unit. Usually the internal gears of the manual steering box are worn and the steering has a lot of play. Some of the play can be lessened, but you should have the unit completely rebuilt. Good shops can perform this rebuild; some are listed in the Source Guide at the back of this book.
If you have a power steering unit it is painted black and the steering column is shorter than the manual unit. It also requires the additional power steering pump and hoses to make this unit work. You should have this unit completely rebuilt by a good shop. When you have it rebuilt you can choose different levels of final performance.
The original power steering feel from the factory is slow and kind of soft in response. You can upgrade the feel and response to a quicker and tighter response. You can rebuild the power steering pump from a kit found at most local parts stores; NAPA carries great replacement parts. Two pump styles were used on these cars: Federal or Saginaw. The parts are different on each unit and their appearance makes these units easy to tell apart.
All of the steering linkage is natural in appearance. This can be achieved by blasting the parts; then either refinish with Rust Preventative Magic or paint with Seymour’s Stainless Steel paint. All the castle nuts are three-prong versions from the factory except where the lower ball joint attaches to the wheel assembly.
Upon reassembly of the steering linkage you can get the alignment somewhere in the ballpark so that you can get it to a good shop where you should have the car completely aligned before driving.
Steering Column and Dash
Removal of the steering column is surprisingly easy. Remove the four bolts connecting the steering column flange to the firewall. Next, remove the pin from the rag joint connecting the column to the steering box. Finally, remove the four nuts connecting the column to the dash.
When removing the dash it works well if you have about a 3-foot piece of heavy wire to support the dash after you remove the five dash bolts. Loosen the two lower bolts but do not remove them. The dash pivots on the two lower bolts and you can tie the wire to the dash frame and body, so you can access all of the dash wire connections and heater control cables.
When you reinstall the dash use the same support wire you used on disassembly so you can access and hook up all the wires and cables before sliding it in place and re-bolting it.
Written by Mike Wilkins & Mike Wilkins and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks
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