In my last post, covered the Chrysler style screw in ball joints commonly used on Mustang II front ends. Today I want to talk about the Dakota ball joints and some misconceptions being run around the internet. There are a few generations of Dodge Dakotas now, I concentrate on the first two, being 87-90 and 91-96. Both are pretty much the same, the ball joints are exactly the same.
I have run across a few people trying to conflate the 97 up (3rd Gen) Dakota ball joint issues with the earlier First and Second generation trucks. In the 3rd Generation Dodge made quite a few changes to the Dakota’s front suspension. Almost a complete redesign. About the only thing similar is the lower control arm spacing and bushing size (yes, they will fit our kits) and the upper control arm rear mounting bolt is in the same location. But that’s it. The rack mounting and angles are very different and the upper control arm became symmetrical for cost cutting reasons. The other major changes are in the spindle and ball joints. They bare no resemblance to the 1st and 2nd gen trucks. The ball joints became significantly smaller and the orientation of the lower ball joint changed from tension (pointing up) to compression (pointing down) making dropped spindles pretty much impossible.
Have a look at the line up of ball joints here. From Left to right, the 1997 and up Dakota/Durango ball joint, The K772 Ball joint used in most Mustang II type set ups, The K778 joint used in the 87-96 Dakotas (and many other full size cars and trucks) and then on the Right is the K7025 used on the Dakotas and several other full size cars and trucks. Visual confirmation would show you, this is robust stuff. History can confirm that these larger ball joints were not failure prone. Sure, everything wears out, this is why we recommend using premium quality repair parts when building your car or truck. Not only will you see a longer service life, you will get a better ride quality with parts like the MOOG joints and bushings we suggest.
I suppose shocks would be the next topic, stay tuned!
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.
This solves a few problems for hot rodding your 1961-64 F100. The addition of power brakes can be a bit of a pain due to the lack of space on these trucks.
This unit moves the brake booster to the outside by 3.5″ and also moves the brake pedal pad a bit for a more comfortable ergonomic. Steering column placement can be centered up for a better aesthetic also.
Use Ford Ranger boosters from the early 80’s and possibly some of the larger F series trucks of the same years.
Bolts into existing mounting holes on the firewall and dash board. Welding of the old master cylinder hole is required as is drilling the new holes for the new master/booster location.
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.
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.
Larry V dropped off this 1956 Thunderbird a while back for us to do a power steering upgrade and install a tilt steering column. Very cool little ride he has here, so nice that Rick Amado spotted it in the back room during our open house and had to shoot it for one of the magazines. Lowered with Jamco springs and shocks front and back. Stock running gear and brakes but someone removed the stock hydraulic assisted power steering ram and installed a smaller diameter steering wheel. The smaller wheel made ingress and egress slightly better, but made steering this machine a bit more difficult than it needed to be.
I drew up a couple of ways to put power steering back on this and Larry made the decision to go with Gearhead Cruiser Products and their 605 Power steering conversion and a Flaming River tilt steering column. The PO’s were placed in mid November, hopefully ahead of the holiday rush and before our open house party. There was confusion on the order with Gearhead, somehow I forgot to add the steering gear to the order but Theresa caught the mistake early enough and corrected the issue. I also spoke with Flaming River on the steering column to make sure we got the correct column. When the column arrived just after Christmas, it was for a stock steering gear application. Very nice part but would not work for the situation and not what I had ordered, got an RTA and returned the column for the correct one.
I received the power steering pump and hose kit from Gearhead shortly after receiving the wrong steering column. Decent enough bracket and nice quality hose and fittings.
The correct steering column showed up the just before the new year and the steering gear showed up on January 4th. All the parts here it took Joel just three days to disassemble the original steering system and install the new stuff. Everything went very straightforward and the instructions from Gearhead were very decent. Joel had to create a notch in the fan blades to clear the snout on the power steering pump and the odd way Gearhead attaches the bracket to the engine required a bit of shimming to get the belt to line up. Outside of that there were no other issues of installation. The results are very noticeable, steering effort is very modern and ingress is much more comfortable with the tilt column.
We did have a small leak on the steering box after we got the system bled. A simple tightening of the adjuster stopnut on the sector shaft cured the issue. The little ‘Bird is good to go!
Thank you to Theresa @ Gearhead Cruiser Products for the very professional service. Our customer is sure to be satisfied with the quality of the new power steering.