We have been working on a complete replacement frame for the Studebaker coupe. We had built a complete frame for a customer a few years back where we integrated one of our Studebaker clips and an early C4 Corvette rear suspension. We also learned what does and doesn’t work to make a frame that fits the stock body without modification. Well, very few and simple modifications anyway. Those tiny foot-well boxes behind the front seat have got to go. What we are delivering is a frame with significant improvements in strength. And almost all the stock body mounts are located in stock locations and stock body rubbers are used. No need to alter your front fenders, stock components fit.
Straighter frame rails and more clearance for exhaust systems. We keep the entire frame profile slim for good ground clearance as well as give you room for future modifications. We made the rear kickup quite a bit different by utilizing more space under the stock floor. This gives us better places to attach the triangulated four bars and still not have to modify the floor. This rear kick up is also slightly narrower so that if you decide to do a mini-tub on the rear you have frame clearance to run up to a 275 wide rear tire on a 9″ wheel.
Here is the final drawings of the kits for the 1965-1966 F100’s. I am in process of making a few stamping dies and cutting new parts.
Bill Wilson is the lucky guy that gets the first official installation. He brought us the donor frame we have been prototyping with. Last Saturday he dropped off his actual truck frame for installation of the new kit.
Kits are $750 and will come with boxing plates, crossmember and spring towers as well as upper control arm mounting hardware and shims. You will need a donor front end from a 1987-1996 Dodge Dakota 2wd with 4 or 6 cylinder springs. The V8 Dakota springs are best for applications where you want to keep the ride height tall or are running an engine in excess of 750 lbs.
Click the SHOP button at the top of the page, you can order one today!
Latest out of the shop is Ray Castor’s 1957 Oldsmobile. Ray brought us this car last year just before we got really deep into the 51 Chevy PU For Metro AA. It initially came in for some front suspension work. As we are to understand this car was purchased from Desert Valley Auto, same guys with the TV Show. It had already been sand blasted, painted and subframed with an early 80’s GM full-size clip. Most likely an Oldsmobile because ray told us it had an Olds 455 in it. He found a 1958 Olds 371 J2 engine and trans, had it rebuilt and installed by yet another shop. The problem came when he went to put his tires on it, they didn’t fit under the fenderwell very well at all. The tires actually stuck outside the fenders by a half inch or so and the front crossmember was less than 2″ off the ground.
So the first thing to determine was what condition the car was in and what we could do to fix the botched front clip installation. On tear down things became very evident that the persons installing the clip made more than a few mistakes besides choosing the wrong clip for the car.
The entire clip besides being mounted very low on the chassis, was off center a bit and the right side spindle was a full inch behind where it should be as well as being a few degrees off, lower on the Left side. You can see just how high the engine was placed in the chassis. So high in fact that the installer trimmed the upper webbing out of the center X member for transmission clearance. The wobbly engine mounts were pretty comical too. It was about at this point we realized just how hard of a hit this car had taken at some point. There was evidence of a fairly severe diagonal in the whole car.
Next move was to get it on the chassis table and square it up, then start the decision making on what to repair this car with. Of all the choices available, one stood out as something new for me to try. The late 70’s to mid 80’s Jaguar XJ sedan. My friend Scott Zekanis did a similar installation on his 1957 Buick sedan a few years back and has had good success with it. I did my research and found that the Oldsmobile is less than 100 pounds heavier than the Jaguar and had very similar weight distribution. Plus the track width was in the range we were looking for. The stock Olds front had to be close to 59″ wide. The rear axle was right on the money at 59″ so it stands to reason at this point in automotive history that the track widths matched, that and a bit of careful tape measuring and internet sleuthing.
A few phone calls and internet searches, I had myself a line on a 1985 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas. Nice enough car and the price was more than good. Time to strip both cars down, Ray made the decision to use both the front and rear suspensions from the Jaguar (good choice!) as the rear axle in this car was also an unknown. It was stock but if the car was wrecked pretty bad, there might be issues with bent axles or what not. Besides, it just made perfect sense to do a fully independent suspension. Brian and Dr Marvelus AirArced the front clip off after locking the car to the table and Brian and I also disassembled the front and rear subframes from the Jag.
Pressure washed clean and time to start figuring out how to make this all work. This was more work that any of us figured. Still not sure if dropping the engine out the bottom was a good choice or not. Regardless, it came apart and the suspension was pretty decent.
Old clip off, Jaguar front mocked into place, I made my measurements and drew up new frame rails in my 3D software. Made the decision to use as much of the stock Jaguar suspension components as possible. This meant also rubber mounting the front and rear suspensions to give the old Olds the best ride quality possible.
One of the things that was going to make this a difficult build was the owners insisting on keeping the Factory AC and heaters in place. If you will notice the large black box where we would normally hang a power booster from, that is the AC Evaporator case. This didn’t cause us problems for the frame and engine placement.
Front end finished to a stopping point, we turned our attention to the rear suspension. It really surprised us how well the whole Jaguar IRS fit while still in it’s cage. I determined that to rubber mount the stock Jaguar rear cage, a section of frame rail would need to be replaced and a bit of the trunk floor coped in for the new bit of frame rail.
The stock Jaguar trailing arms are critical if you intend on rubber mounting the cage like we did here. If you leave them out you will get some serious tire shake or worse. We also installed this rear axle with 3º of pinion up which goes against all the internet experts out there. I am not willing to just follow trends, so actual investigation went into doing this. The three degrees up not only allowed for a better driveline angle for our universal joints, it also gave us a tiny bit of anti-squat! Yeah, traction is cool!
The wrap up was fairly boring stuff, rush to finish meant the camera phone was in my office out of harms way for the most part. We had a custom made radiator done, rebuilt the core support, ran brake lines, installed a hydroboost system with the stock Jaguar master cylinder under the floor, built an exhaust system that snaked it’s way through everything and made engine brackets to hold the air compressor and alternator properly. Didn’t get any final pictures before it left, but if you attend the Goodguys shows, you are likely to run into this car.
The little bit I got to drive the car was pretty darned cool. Very smooth, very controlled. I think once Ray gets the engine and transmission sorted out, he is going to have one hell of a daily driver on his hands. You can say I am a believer in the Jag conversions. Not an easy job compared to other popular choices out there, but for an ambitious home installer or a customer that wants pretty much the best of comfort and good handling this is a solid choice.
Richard D brought his frame in for us to straighten last weekend. He also asked us to install the crossmember kit (006) and hang all the components. With the parts he brought were a brand new pair of dropped spindles from Bell Tech. It looks as if they did a nice redesign of the old spindle. It wasn’t apparent at first whether they fixed the steering arm location issue or not.
Installation confirmed they have not, if anything has changed it is for the worse.
The steering arm has been raised over an inch over stock and shortened. It also appears they have moved the arm location outboard more but have also changed the angle of the tie rod end boss. The machine work is not up to correct tolerance either. All three tapers are bored too deep into the bosses, note how much thread is exposed on the Bell Tech spindle tie rod end vs the stock spindle. This also raises the tie rod up farther causing more interference with the anti-roll bar and increases bumpsteer.
As started by yet another shop in town and resultant failure to build a sound foundation, this 1951 Chevrolet 1ton was altered, shortened and modified into a mess of a chassis. Way past budget and nearly two years after it was commissioned the truck ended up on my doorstep. What showed up was powdercoated in a grey and black hammered finish. The weld porosity was clearly visible through the coating, the rails were not straight and every hole to attach the body, bed and running boards was welded up and boxed to prohibit future attachment.
Not only was the frame not square or true, the front end was un-alignable, no mounts for the coil overs on the lower control arms, the rack was offset to the passenger side over an inch. It took 5/8″ shim to get the left side to align and no shims in the right I still got over 1/2º positive Camber and only 1º positive Caster. Because of the offset of the rack and it’s misplacement, the front end had a pretty severe bumpsteer on the left side and a proper connection between the rack and the spindle on the right was not possible without inches of toe out.
The rear suspension was so poorly installed that the bars could not be installed without forcing things into place and the coil overs were in a serious bind if the rear was adjusted for proper pinion angle. The panhard rod was also too long and so far out of alignment that it couldn’t even be forced into place. Even the rear axle housing was warped so bad that the axles didn’t fit properly and would have caused some premature wear issues.
The center tubular crossmember was insufficiently installed and triangulated. It provided no resistance for vertical support of itself nor for twist or beam resistance. Not even the forethought to support the transmission, it just took up space and added weight.
The decision was made to pretty much scrap the whole frame. We sent the frame over to our powdercoater to have them bake the coating off and sand blast back down to good metal. I don’t know if anyone has ever done it, but welding on anything with powdercoating is nasty stuff. What we got back shocked us even more, there were sections of boxing plate and front suspension crossmember that were not welded at all, others so poorly welded they were doomed to fail. No choice but to cut it apart.
Once down to bare rails Dr Marvelus and I commenced building some fixturing to hold the rails in place. This is where we spent far too much time on this build but we have some solid frame building gear to build the next one of these frames that come through the door. This also helped us get the frame rails straight and true, I believe the Dr spend nearly a week stripping and straightening to get to this point.
This was a 1Ton frame, so the shape is slightly different and the arch over the rear axle was much lower and didn’t allow for sufficient axle travel at the ride height we wanted. After a mockup of the body, bed, fenders and running boards we determined how much more arch over the axle we could use. We documented the important stuff and I drew up some new frame parts, cut and the good Dr MIG stitched them together and finished them to a stamped clean finish before grafting the new arches into the frame. Meanwhile I went about the front end, the stock front horns of the frame rails were absolute trash. Bent, welded and twisted out of working condition I decided to build new rails, but make them parallel from the firewall forward. I did similar on other trucks like the one we did for the Dynacorn Corporation, it gives you quite a bit more room for engine mounts and accessories as well as steering and so on.
I’m trying something a bit different with my boxing plates these days. Instead of the traditional plate or stepped-in boxing plates, these are C-shaped and thicken the frame rails to 3″ wide. The thicker frame rail will be much stronger and because of the lap joint, bowing after welding should be kept to a minimum, stronger weld and almost no finish grinding is necessary.
Next up was getting the front suspension in place and the center tubular crossmember. The front end is late C4 Corvette, fully polished and has Global West Del-A-lum bushings installed otherwise stock. The rack is FOX platform stuff and I had to render everything in my software to determine the geometry. The goal wasn’t ultimate handling but a good compromise between good handling and ride comfort. I think I found a good mix that keeps the roll center near ground level, has reasonable camber change and of course near zero bumpsteer. I could not dial it all out because of the FOX tie rod ends. Then I could go about designing the crossmember to hold it all in place.
The tube center X-member and integrated transmission mount got bent up, coped and TIG welded together. Note the lower two tubes of the X-member are parallel. This makes transmission swaps possible without having to fabricate new mounts. The trans mount itself has an offset to it so that a slight tap and twist counter clockwise lets it drop right out of the structure. If it didn’t, it would be very difficult to remove it.
The rear is a triangulated four link, designed to be close to the 100% anti squat and adjustable somewhat for pinion angle and centering. Nothing too special, just repurposed TCI parallel four links in stainless. We used the lower bars as is but shortened the upper bars to 17″. I fabricated a new crossmember to transition the frame rails at the front attachment point of the four bars. additional crossmembering for the four link to attach and to stiffen the frame rails.
The old narrowed housing was out of alignment and was in sad condition that we were asked to retube it. The rear axle housing was completely TIG welded and I made custom brackets to hold the lower bars and coil overs. Dr Marvelus made the upper bar tabs. The last bits were fabricating motor mounts, upper control arm mounts and coil over mounts then we went in in a flurry of activity. Then two intense days of TIG welding to finalize everything as it came out of the frame fixutring and became a roller.
If you would like to see all the details I took photos of, click here
The rolling chassis complete, we are moving forward with the build. Right now we are adding exhaust, fuel tank and fitting the cab to the frame. Stay tuned for more updates!
I have a 1953-56 F100 frame disassembled Bill W donated a 1965-66 frame, both ready for drawing up the kits and over the next few weeks I will be spending my after hours getting them ready for market.
Chris Shelton came by a few weeks back and did an installation article showing me install a kit on a 1964 frame clip donated by Dave G (Garbz) and it should hit Classic Trucks magazine in the next few months. So keep an eye out for it!
It’s official folks, we are back building the Dakota kits. The 61-64 F100 kits are shipping and we are hard at it to bring out the rest of the model years within months.
I have put a ton of hours tweaking the design to make this one of the easiest kits you have ever installed. While it looks similar to the last version of the kit, this one is 100% new. Made from 10 gauge Cold Rolled steel, 3/16 HRPO it uses high quality materials for the structural elements similar in grade to what your original frame is made from where others are using inferior grades of steel and having to make up the loss with thicker plate and tube.
I did a complete redesign of the upper control arm pocket which should make the installation much easier and more adaptable to things like air springs. I am going to be working on a coil over version of this in the coming months that won’t require cutting the frame section away. This means an innovative and cost effective control arm set! In the mean time I heard your desires to ditch the slotted upper control arm adjusters in favor of GM like shims. The hardware and a fistful of shims is included in the kit.
I am still working on the lower control arm bumpstop update, those of you who jumped in early will get the update from a dude in a brown truck in the next week or so!
Still quite a few guys think this kit is expensive, yes it isn’t cheap. Good things are rarely cheap. But stay tuned for updates. As the popularity of the kits increase I will be adding features like the aforementioned tubular control arms, air springs, anti-roll bar kits and such. I am also going to be working on production. Stamping and forming dies will speed up production and I will be passing the savings on to you guys.
Need one now? Click the button, fill out the forms and we will ship one to you right away!
Here we are folks, #2 is installed and this is #3 and the first one to ship.
Installation is much easier than before and the frame stiffness is unmatched. I have been test fitting parts and making small corrections so that you get a high quality part you won’t have to fight to install and will enjoy for years to come.