Ever watch those corny, scripted, car-build shows where the guys in the shop get all dramatic like teenage girls because they are having trouble trying to meet some deadline? While I am not the type of guy to act out all of these issues when it comes to beating the clock, I will say that just recently I ran up against a real problem.
I had committed myself and the 1955 Ford Fairlane to show up at a large drag race called Fast Fords in mid-June of 2021. Dragway 42, the track where the race was held, was a good 3 hours away from me. So, among other items to line up such as hotel reservations, travel arrangements (even my dad was flying in to Cincinnati's airport from North Carolina to attend with me), and all the rest, I decided to give the car the once over. Just a few days before I was to leave for the race track, I began putting some final touches on the 55 Ford. Thankfully I had put on the list the task of painting the tailpipes with black high heat paint - just a minor detail that I had never got around to doing over the last couple of years.
In the process of painting the tailpipe on the passenger side I noticed that the exhaust hanger at the rear of the passenger side muffler (glasspack) had a serious issue. One of the straps was completely torn in two leaving only one strap to support the weight of the pipe in the middle of the car. (1955 and 56 Ford sedans only had two hangers for support from the front to the rear of the car. In addition to the down pipe bolted to the exhaust manifold, the rear of the muffler had a two-strap bracket secured to the frame, and then the tailpipe also included a small hanger just under the rear most part of the car's frame.) This picture shows the problem well:
From what I could remember, this exhaust hanger was original to the car when I took possession of it many years ago. I had already replaced the driver's side a few years back, but now the passenger side was in immediate need of attention.
What could I do? I only had a few options... I could run the car as is and just hope the remaining strap did not give way. I could order another hanger from a restoration company and pay the exorbitant amount of money to have it overnighted, or I could come up with some way to make my own temporary hanger. Obviously, I chose option C in all of this and decided to tackle it myself with a little DIY. You can watch the video at the end of the post for the full length version, but let me show you what I used.
That's right - rubber stock and contact cement! Ford's original version of the muffler hanger most probably was a fiber-mesh that had some asbestos in it. Replacement parts seem to include two very thick rubber straps that hang from the bracket to the pipe. (To eliminate vibrations since the engine does move a little when torqued and to support the weight of the muffler/pipes themselves) I did not have any rubber thick enough to match the straps of the hanger on the driver's side but I did remember that I had some pieces of a brand new gas grill mat. This is the grill mat you can buy at most home improvement stores - it is a rubbery material, impervious to moisture and high heat, and it is resistant to oil/grease. Perfect! However, the material was a bit thin so I ended up cutting strips of the mat to size and bonding them with contact cement. Since many 50s and 60s vehicles had parts that would seem heavy duty to us today I had no problem removing the old fiber/asbestos straps from the original hanger, grinding out the rivets, and then bolting my new straps to the bracket. This worked like a charm, and except for the length of the hardware it would be hard to notice. Since this was only a temporary fix for the drag race weekend I had no problem installing these and running as is.
The straps held well and did their job. We had full support, no vibrations, and the car made three runs down the 1/4 mile at full throttle with no problems whatsoever. I am just glad I caught this before I left for the weekend - how embarrassing that would have been to have a muffler or exhaust pipe give way!
Video of Emergency Exhaust Hanger Repair to the 1955 Ford Fairlane
The Hot Rod Reverend
aka Daniel Jessup