1955 Ford Part 3: Sandblasting, Front End Assessment
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
(Note: You are reading the progress from a project that began in August of 2014. This post was originally dated from October of 2014.)
Sandblasting, Front End Assessment
This past weekend I did some more blasting after I got my issues with the sandblaster sorted out. Once I changed over to a finer grit (I use that Black Diamond black sand from Tractor Supply Company) we got to cooking with gas. No worries and it went well. I am pretty sure the frame and front end will clean up pretty easily. I did make the mistake that weekend of not priming right away so after a few days flash rust had set in. A little bit of Naval Jelly and the rust dissolved right away. I removed the steering gear and column this morning - the three bolts that hold the gear to the frame were in excellent shape. I have seen pretty rough examples because moisture has a tendency to get trapped up inside there. After that I did some more blasting and prepped for "direct to metal" primer/surfacer. I have used the primer before on some stand alone parts but never on a panel... It sprays very well out of the gun and I like the coverage. The company is called "Tamco" and is based in the Richmond, Virginia area. The white paint for the tutone color is a 66-69 Ford Wimbledon White Mustang SS Urethane from Eastwood (made by Kirker). We will see how that shoots out of the gun. I plan to paint the hood hinges first and see how that goes. I might get the 56 steering column out, clean that up, and then paint that with the WW topcoat also.
The next day I spent a few hours again with the trusty sandblaster and the front end. I was surprised at how well my air compressor held up. I didn't blast continuously and would try to let the air compressor "catch up" from time to time, but I was happy with how it did and happy with the results. I also blasted a bellhousing - the pressure pot made QUICK work of that piece and the engine paint turned out nice. I only have about 5 to 6 hours on the pressure pot sandblaster I got from Tractor Supply a while back but I am not impressed with how quickly the "stopper"? is wearing out on the deadman's valve. The sand has worn away the tip on the closer (not just the ceramic tip - that is another story) but the top piece that slides over the tip - that piece is so wore out that the blaster now will leak air when the spring loaded lever is completely closed. I guess it is cheaply made. I am going to look at TP tools for replacement parts though. I have one of their Blast Cabinets and have used glass beads for 10 years now. I reckon I have spent countless hours using that gun and have only had to replace the nozzle about 3 times. I know sand is more abrasive, but come on... 6 hours????
Next up - disassemble the front end so that I can paint the frame and separately blast the pieces in the cabinet. I have new rubber for up front and I have new Aerostar coils as well. I did locate a split sheet metal surround for the steering column and shifter column, and I have started preparing the 56 column and other shifter parts for painting. I also have those hood hinges about ready for topcoat.
The next day I continued work on the front end of the frame... it is completely bare save a couple brake lines. I did not have a coil spring compressor but I opted to leave the shocks INSTALLED until after I had disconnected the ball joints. This left some tension on the shocks but since I used my jack underneath the lower A arm to offset the pressure and the upper shock bolts were removed first. After that the jack was released and the coil just slid right out. I will disconnect the shocks from the lower A arms once I have them on the bench to remove the bushings.
Speaking of bushings, some of them were so old and worn out they literally fell off in my hands once the bolts were removed. The only difficult item to remove was the large shoulder bolt holding the front of the lower A arm to the cross member. It was rusted pretty well and once I had it removed I noticed it was pitted badly. I think I have a good used one somewhere. The reason for the rust? Years ago a previous owner had made a repair to the cross member by welding in good metal that seems to be thicker than stock. Unfortunately no weep holes were never drilled in the bottom so all these years the moisture had collected in the cross member with no place to go. The cross member is very stout and I beat on it with a hammer all night long, but I think I am going to have a welder friend of mine look at it and shore it up in a couple of places. I made a note to myself to drill a few holes when he is done. I also started disassembly/cleaning of a 1956 Ford steering column and gear I had purchased a few months back. I like the 56 wheel better, and from what I understand the 56 steering gear had a 3 tooth sector over the 55's two. When I took off both of the covers of the gear housing last night, the gears themselves looked pretty good, I think I saw only 2 or 3 pits as I rotated the gears on the shaft and knuckle.
Hey, check this out! If you look at the photo of the bag of rust on the scale, you will see the readout - 2 lbs and 11 oz of rust and scale !!! The irony in all this is that the metal from the repairs 20 years ago is as stout as it can be and I can take a hammer to it all day long. The cross member itself is still very strong but I am glad I opened this up. I plan to sandblast the inside and get where I can. After that I will treat the rust and then paint. My welding buddy will come over and put good metal plate to cover the front from top to bottom and from the thick reinforcement of the shoulder bolts from side to side. The other side is not quite as bad but I will have him weld there too.
I did try to remove the bushings from the lower A arms, but not having a shop press, I spent 30 minutes with a ball joint press, a hammer, and gorilla type force. I got one of the bushings to move about 1/4" -- that's it. Hopefully I can discover some tricks to removing these bushings or I am going to have to take them to a shop to have them all pressed out...
The next night I decided to push out the inner bushing/sleeve by heating up the rubber (some of it was so worn it had just about disintegrated!) and just yanking it with a pair of pliers. After that I cut a deep groove in the ID of the metal bushing to get me started and then just simply tapped them out. One of them I obviously separated. It was not too difficult to say the least and now I can go ahead and blast those arms and then paint them up pretty. I barely nicked the edge of the ID on the arms, but I don't think it is going to be any big deal. Looks like those were the original bushings on the car.
A few days later I felt pretty stupid... I looked again at the box and shaft/worm assembly tonight when I got home late and followed a friend's advice. Gripping the shaft, a simple tap, tap, tap on the box with a hammer of negligible weight and size and the crazy thing just slipped right free. Here are a couple of photos:
My welding buddy talked to me the other day and he said he wants to get on the project so that motivated me to get out the sandblaster again and go to town on the metal in question. I only need a few plates welded in and we are good to go. Could I get another cross member from a repro shop? Yes. Would I feel confident in getting the geometry right? No. I am sure there is a good way to do that with the measurements and all, but I figure if my buddy is telling me that it won't take much to "shore it up" why bother - he's the metal man, not me. The front is pretty simply - one long piece and we are good to go. The rear will need 4 pieces as the lower metal is very solid and does not need to be replaced but the wall itself needs attention.
My friend Mike came over, looked at the cross member, tapped around a bit, and told me he didn't think it needed to be replaced - let's weld her up! It didn't take him 20 minutes with my MIG 135 from Eastwood and Mike had it finished. We used 1/4" ad 1/8" plate cut to fit. He had good penetration throughout and I have already starting doing a little judicious grinding in a few areas to clean things up a bit. This thing is pretty strong and definitely stronger than stock. I have some Inner Frame Coating on the way from Eastwood, and will hopefully finish cleaning up the frame for paint soon.
I also did some work on those front end parts as you can see below... blasted with glass beads and painted with semi-gloss black Rustoleum. The center link was in very good shape and disassembled easily. It should be a breeze to put it back together. The other parts in the box are just the start to the rebuild of the front end of course - gotta get this thing back on rollin' wheels before I put the 292 and 3 speed overdrive in the car. The steering gear is ready for a new sector seal, worm and shaft, shims, etc. I soaked it in solvent in a parts washer for quite some time and then cleaned it thoroughly. I took a wire wheel to the exterior and painted it in semi-gloss Rustoleum as well. All of the parts I need for the rebuild are on their way and hopefully I can have that thing buttoned up by next weekend. Can't wait to feel that steering tighten up. The original was as loose as a goose!
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