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Now available in the Store: ’53-’56 F100 Dakota kits

That’s right! Available again, the really correct IFS kit for your Classic Truck is available. The only true truck suspension kit for you classic, rack and pinion, double A-frame rugged and designed to last. The correct track width, you can use readily available and inexpensive wheels and tires, two choices of bolt patterns, including a stock 5 on 5 1/2″ to match your stock or upgraded truck rear axle.

This kit can take your abuse. Designed for heavy loads or just a nice daily driver, this kit works with most engines including heavy diesel up to 1000+ pounds. With the addition of an anti-roll bar and a performance oriented shock absorber, it will carve corners with confidence. Add a pair of dropped spindles and get the stance you want, this kit will meet the demands of most all you need.

 

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Customer’s Rides Page

Have one of our kits installed in your ride? Send in pictures or links to or of your stuff with a short descriptio and I will post it in the new tab under “Photo Library”

Taken by a friend at the HAMB Drags
Taken by a friend at the HAMB Drags
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1953-64 Studebaker frame

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.

Full Frame for 53-64 Studebaker coupes.
Full Frame for 53-64 Studebaker coupes.
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Final edits, going to production for the 65-66 F100 Dakota IFS kits

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.

1030-656 Crossmember assembly B
Complete crossmember kit for 1965-1966 Ford F100 trucks

 

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!

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Headway on the new generation of kits. 65-66 F100

Right Frame rail A
After squaring and leveling the donor frame from Bill Wilson, I set a Datum at the original Axle centerline. Then Taking careful measurements I can construct a representation in Alibre’.
1965 F100 Right Side Rail B
Added the rear half of the frame from previous. Also changed the way the bumpout for the core support works. Not technically correct but works with my software.
1965 F100 Right Side Rail C
Locating all the critical holes needed for current and future projects.
65-66 Frame assembly A
Alibre’ 12 isn’t as sophisticated as it could have been. Doing a mirror of the Right frame rail wasn’t as easy as a command. I had to re-generate each sweep, boss, and cut the opposite way to generate the Left side rail.
65-66 Frame assembly B
Tried an approximation of the stock transmission crossmember. I may go back and re-draw it. Added the rear body mount crossmember and gussets as well as the forward crossmember for supporting the rear springs.
1030 6566 Crossmember B
Very similar to the 61-64 kits, this one requires a taller boxing plate and different locating holes. The longer boxing plates should solve the problem of the long and unsupported front frame section once the stock Twin-I-Beam crossmember has been removed.

1030 6566 Crossmember C1030 6566 Crossmember A

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Shop update: 10/04/2013

Been a busy few weeks, lots of jobs in and out and progress made on the more long term jobs. The good news is, as we clear out these jobs, the new Dakota Kits are eminent!

Just wrapped up a Vintage Air install on Ron Shives’ 1957 Chevy Hardtop. Such a nice car, we removed the AirTique unit installed a decade or more ago that never quite worked properly and installed a new Vintage Air sure-fit unit. In went a Vintage Air Front Runner package and radiator relocation to the 6 cylinder position so that we had room for a Volvo 850 two speed cooling fan. We also upgraded to a Borgeson Delphi 600 power steering box, Flaming River steering column and did some routine maintenance for him. Overall the car turned out fantastic, very nice daily driver now.

Dr Marvelus is going to town on Tony’s 60 Bonneville, pretty rusty car in all the structural areas, so look for updates on that soon.

Larry Ivy’s 34 PU is roller status, cab goes on and the controls are going in soon.

More importantly, Bob’s 32 5W chassis will be going together next week in preparation for the Deuce Day show. We are doing the second build out of our “Bolt – In” center X-member! These will be available in the store very soon.

And the news you are waiting for, the Dakota kits are in process as soon as Bob’s 32 frame comes off. First up will be the 65-66 frames and the 53-56 and 57-60’s immediately after.

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1957 Oldsmobile build

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.

Notice the hood fitment and tire locations.

 

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.

Frame clip installed and ready for the engine and trans.
One of our Winged Early Olds engine mounts in place as well as the new shock mounts.

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.

 

Trunk floor coped and frame sections ready to install 
Frame rail sections installed and the rear axle assembled for mock up of the trailing arm mounts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

almost done
Dr Marvelus working on the throttle linkage
Engine and brackets installed

 

Fired up and running, next stop is getting it tuned up! Noice the wheel placement now as well as the slightly lower ride height!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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The Metro Truck project wrap up

We left off the last post with a completed rolling chassis, HERE and it all happened since then. The guys at Metro Auto Auctions asked us to step on the gas and finish this truck for the Barrett Jackson Auction. I have to admit that we did not make the deadline, we missed it by three weeks. Consider this, Dr Marvelus and I took this from a rolling chassis in early July to a completed, painted and upholstered truck at the first of February. Quite a lot of work for the two of us! We did have help though, Doug Stinson of All American Upholstery did the leather work inside the cab and Nessie’s Autocenter did the pink-metal and paint.

So here is what happened in the meantime.

The cab was blocked into place and the floor repairs were assessed. The previous shop did some pretty poor patchwork and did not provide the new body mount holes. All four corners of the cab were either in need of repair or were done improperly leaving rusty substructure in place. Once positioned and attached to the frame, Dr Marvelus mounted up the doors to see how out of square the body was and did the required pushing and pulling to get the new Dynacorn doors to fit somewhat properly. Both the body and the doors were in pretty poor shape but the good Dr kept at it until things lined up correctly. At that point the guys at Metro wanted a custom firewall with a polished aluminum panel. It was my idea to make that panel open up so you have access to the brake system hidden behind and the electrical panel. While I was dropping off Anthony’s 32 3W at the Lone Star Round Up last year, the guys in the booth next to us had a ’55 Chevy dash in pretty good condition. Since the Metro Guys already had the dash and bezel from Dakota Digital for a stock ’55 Chevy it just made sense that we use the entire dash. To make it fit, I cut four inches from the center of the dash and the good Dr cut off the remainder of ’55 that we didn’t need and added new material to the leading edge of the dash to match up to the ’51 Chevy truck windshield.

Firewall structural supports, Dash rail and brake components
Dr Marvelus working on the ’55 dash installation
Kugel Brake system re-engineered for better ergonomics and more compact

 

Door fitment, patch panels
Fabricated windshield trim and dash extensions on the doors

 

Cab fabrication under control we updated the engine compartment to showcase the engine a bit better than the stock fenderwells could. We started with a Direct Sheetmetal kit and to be honest, we would have been better starting without. Dr Marvelus had to do quite a bit of modification to get the panels to fit the radiator support and with the firewall pushed back, the back edges of the inner fenders didn’t reach far enough.

Fitting the Direct Sheet Metal inner fenders

 

Things got pretty hurried and I didn’t shoot too many pictures as we went, but most of it was fairly routine work. At one point we made the decision that the previous shop’s work welding up the seam in the middle of the stock hood pretty much ruined it. Instead of cutting out the recessed joint and flanges, they MIG welded the entire seam and started filling the 1/16″ deep channel for the stock trim with weld. This really distorted the hood and was going to require more work than we or the customers really wanted to get involved with. Metro bought a Dynacorn replacement hood, we regret doing so now. It took more work to get it to fit than the stock hood would have been to repair. I do not recommend anyone purchase one of these hoods unless you are very desperate for one. The hood was short and curled under at the front which required Dr Marvelus to cut the structure out and flatten out the nose more than 1 1/2″. The next problem was the location and shape of the hood hinges and bracing. It had to be cut apart and reshaped. And after two solid weeks of work the hood is taller on the driver side and longer on the passenger side forcing us to move the entire front clip over to the left side of the truck to get the hood gap at the cowl to even be close.

After 80+ hours of work to get the hood to fit this good.

 

The bed, rear fenders, running boards et-al required countless hours of cutting and shaping to get close, it honestly was all a blur to push the sheet metal work fast enough to get out for paint. The guys at Metro AA wanted to accelerate an already hurried pace, the front clip and body went to paint before we even started the bed work. We proposed some changes along the way but they didn’t want to spend the time so style wise, what the other shop had already started was our job to finish and push to paint. As the last piece of sheet metal left our shop it was Thanksgiving time.

With the sheet metal off, the exhaust system and final chassis details got attended to, steering supports, anti-roll bar, threaded bungs for accessories etc. This is when we blew apart the chassis for chrome, polish and powdercoat.  Russel’s Custom Polishing  did an absolute amazing job and some seriously personal service. I HIGHLY recommend these guys! Kerr West did the chrome on rush job and Desert Powder Coating knocked out the frame, parts and even re-coated the headers. It was nice to get a break and catch up on a few of the other projects that got shelved for this build. But as the parts started trickling back in, we jumped in with both feet on the reassembly. All Stainless Steel brake and fuel lines, body color painted engine, trans and rear axle housing. This chassis looks fantastic.

C4 Corvette front end parts all polished up!
Suspension installed and brake lines going on

 

Ready for the cab

 

The day after Christmas, we got the call the cab was painted. Chassis on the trailer and picked up the cab. Then the rush was, wiring was top priority because there was so much of it. Inside the dash there is an Ididit Keyless Ignition (more on that later) Dakota Digital climate control, Dakota Digital automatic headlight and timed dome light module and the Dakota Digital VHX module and a few relays plus a compass and outside temp module, the Haywire Inc E-series fuse panel and a half dozen more relays, line lock, coil, MSD 6al, wiper motor and a Vintage Air Gen II three vent AC/Heat-Defrost unit all snuggled around the brake booster and cylinder.

The wiring fun begins! How did you spend the week after Christmas?

And here is where the fun started. The quality of the components was less than fantastic. The Keyless Ignition gave us nothing but fits. I recommend everyone not use this. The wire leads were less than generous as advertised and literally fell out of the connectors. The functionality of this unit also leaves a bit to be desired. I see no convenience to using this over a traditional ignition switch. Plus, in an emergency the shut down time seems like an eternity and if for some reason you lose your brake lights through an electrical problem or if you have a brake light switch failure or  if you use a hydraulic brake light switch and happen to lose the brake system, you cannot shut the engine off. There is no failsafe.

 

Yep, bad crimps. The wiring just fell out.
The hours rolled on and the zip ties copped for it in the hundreds as Dr Marvelus and I restrung the entire underdash.

 

Driver side of the under dash wiring

 

Under dash done, Doug had been taking apart out harnesses going down the toe boards and flattening them out.

 

Just as we were wrapping up the wiring the painted parts for the front sheet metal started showing up and we could get out of the cab and let Doug do his thing. But first we had to install the power windows. This is where things really started to fall off the tracks. The Dynacorn doors are decent, but not exact reproductions. An the New Relics power window regulators did not fit as advertised. Dr Marvelus had to cut away the landing ledge inside the door just to be able to install the regulator, then there was no tail mount to keep it from moving around once bolted in to the stock three holes of the original regulator. When the glass went in, the regulators hit themselves and the windows would not go up or down. Many frustrating hours clicked by before deciding to grind and round off everything on the regulators so that if they did hit, they wouldn’t hang up on each other.

Dr putting in the felts for the first or second time, I don’t recall

 

That problem solved, the next one popped up. We built the dash extensions onto the original door window moldings. The truck is a ’51 and have a vent window and frameless glass. The doors and windows we got are for an earlier truck with framed glass. The window channels are 1/4″ thicker than the door moldings were designed for. This caused a major problem that required stepping back a few steps. We made a new template for glass without the frame and used the narrower felts to get the door frames to fit properly and this also gave us extra clearance for the mechanisms, HOORAY!

 

All sorts of things were going together, AC and heater lines, inner fenders and such, the radiator and gear went in and I started fabrication of the aluminum shroud and mount for the Lincoln Mark VIII electric fan.

Fan shroud in the raw
Fan shroud polished and installed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The time was running out on us and we were still missing parts to put on. The week before the dead line my good friend Tom brought in the bed wood but we still didn’t have a bed or front fenders. But we had the dash so that went and got wired up.

Dash installed and working

 

Just a few days before our deadline the bed and front fenders showed up. Doug had the headliner and door panels in and the carpets done. Seat was MIA but it didn’t matter. The deadline came and we had way too much to get done. So we took a solid weekend off for the first time in three or so weeks.  The following Monday the push was back on. I had to make headlight mounts as the one we needed were long gone. Tail gate supports, hood supports, stereo system, glove box and fabricated trims to finish off the dash around the steering column. We were still plagued with weird issues like the fan coming on if you had the driver side door closed but the passenger side open. Broken glass from a stray broken drill bit and a fuel sending unit that didn’t work with the gauge system. It is all sorted out now and I have to say, this is one of the best driving cars/trucks to come out of my shop. It’s a blast to drive, handles incredibly well and is very well manner even on rough pavement.

Here are the final pictures.

From the rear
From the front
Engine compartment
Bed, yes it’s that orange out in the sun. Great depth and color, thanks TOM!
Shot of the interior, nice place to sit. Thanks Doug