If you’re unconcerned with boring detail, scroll down to the bottom of this post and look at the pictures.
It went unposted, but this spring I was able to mount the upper and lower control arms for the front suspension, but not the shocks, spindles, or anything outboard of them. That’s how the car sat during the summer.
Since my last post I’ve made decent forward progress. Over the summer, I received most of my backordered parts. This made things a lot easier. I understand that the list of backordered items is smaller when you receive a new kit these days. The 33 Hot Rod kit is about a year old now. My car is chassis number 44 (the first few were prototypes).
It took me a few hours to get reacquainted with the garage, my tools, and how I stored all the parts. The first thing I did was unpack all the parts which had arrived over the summer and put them on the shelf.
I’d now like to confess to a very stupid mistake that I made early-on in the name of “organization.” When I first received the kit, I unpacked every box, checked its contents against the packing list, labeled and bagged each part and placed it on the shelf. That sounds smart until I realized that the manual said things like “attach the steering rack with the supplied hardware.” That’d be great if I hadn’t separated the “supplied hardware” from the steering rack itself and the “supplied hardware” wasn’t sitting in a bag on the shelf with a part number on it. Back to the packing list, find the description of the hardware, lookup its part numbers, pull it off the shelf. I’ll go on the record and say that this system will add 10% to the length of my project.
After unpacking the new parts, I thought I’d ease myself back into the process by assembling the shocks. I read how to do it in the assembly manual and it looked very easy. I was a little bit over-focused and when it said to put the snap ring on, I began looking in all my parts bags for the snap ring. Then I began thinking “oh great! I don’t have the snap ring!” After another search through the bags, I realized that the snap ring was already on the shock and it needed to be removed and reinstalled in the assembly process. The omission of the sentence “remove the snap ring from the shock and set it aside” in the manual highlights a need for people like me. The first shock took me an hour to assemble. The other three took less than 10 minutes combined.
Happy that I finally had the shocks assembled, I finally began installing the fronts. Factory Five provides spacers for each side of the shock mounts. Maybe it’s the added thickness of the powder coating, maybe some warping from final welding. Maybe both, but my spacers were too thick. I’ve read about other guys just cramming them in or using a breaker bar to spread the opening and then cramming them in; both sounded like poor options to me. I want everything to fit just right, so I spent quite a while with my bench grinder, grinding each spacer evenly (to keep the shock centered in the mount) until everything fit perfectly.
I set my sights on attaching the spindles next. I tightened the castle nuts as best I could but wasn’t able to achieve the proper torque specification of 125 ft-lbs. without a new set of crowfoot wrenches to fit on the end of my torque wrench. I ordered a set from sears.com and turned my attention to assembling the pedals.
After 15 minutes of searching my efficient inventory system for the illusive “self seating stud” I attempted to attach the pedal box to the chassis. After much chagrin and close reading and rereading of the instructions, I stumbled upon the proper procedure of how to get the nut to tighten on that stud without it turning! The procedure is: Let the pedals weight hang on the stud (in fact you can even add some weight if necessary with your hand) and simultaneously tighten the nut. The weight of the pedals will allow the stud to “seat” and not turn as your turn the nut.
I thought I had the pedals whipped into shape until I began playing the let’s-try-to-swap-out-the-shaft-in-the-clutch-pedal game. Replacing the shaft is necessary in order to accomodate the clutch quadrant specific to this car. The assembly manual didn’t mention replacing the brass washers that are on each side of the clutch pedal but I have no doubt that Wilwood (the maker of the unmodified pedal box) put them there for a reason. I imagine Factory Five left out mention of those washers to prevent uncontrolled profanity-laced outbursts and fits of rage. Maybe it was just an oversight.
It’s funny how things sometimes have a ripple effect. After installing the new shaft and the clutch quadrant on the end of it (retaining the stock brass washers), I had to grind down the sleeve which fixed the clutch quadrant to the clutch pedal because of the added thickness of the thin washers. I took me about 30 minutes to meticulously grind down the sleeve and re-chamfer then end of it by using a hand file. It fit beautifully, and I was pleased…for all of a minute.
That stupid self seating stud was too long! It was preventing the sleeve for the clutch quadrant from passing over it. Using a zip tie to hold the clutch pedal and quadrant sleeve out of the way, I used a very small ball grinder on the end of my Dremel to precisely shorten the length of the stud. I left about 1/16″ clearance.
Following that debacle I set myself up for a layup. I took the master cylinders out of their boxes, threaded them into the adjusters on the brake pedal and attached them to the pedal box without incident.
My crowfoot wrenches soon arrived from Sears and my 11-year-old son John and I focused on applying the proper torque to the castle nuts so the spindles stay on the car. Applying 125 ft-lbs. of torque with a 24-inch long torque wrench is not very easy but we were successful. Cotter pins prevent a catastrophic accident in the event that those nuts somehow loosen.
A 36mm socket is required to attach the hubs. Before the hubs can be tightened, they have to be slid onto the spindles. I lucked out and the driver’s side hub just slid right on with no interference. The passenger side required some gentle heating with a propane plumbers torch (the very same one I use for crème brûlée!) before it slid on nicely. I’m still waiting for my friend John to stop by to hold down the rear of the car while I torque the passenger side hub nut to 235 ft-lbs!
FFCobra.com is a great resource; without which I wouldn’t be capable of building this car (as the manual assumes you already know that the snap ring is attached to the shock). Many experienced builders and mechanics regularly participate in the discussions there. Having read the threads and seen photos of the other current 33 Hot Rod builds, I knew in advance that the collar around the shaft on the steering rack would need to be ground down in order to create enough clearance for the rack to be installed. I finally had an incentive to install the proper fittings and get my shop air compressor up and running. I spent some time at Home Depot getting parts for that. I’m glad I did because my pneumatic cut-off wheel made very short work of the tabs on the collar. Afterwards, I dressed the cut using my Dremel; making it look nice.
The steering rack is ready for mounting but I wanted to have the tie rod ends ready to mount to the steering arms when I mount the rack. I seriously considered having them powder coated but decided not to when I noticed what looks to be some sort of urethane surface inside the ball joint on the ends (the powder coating process bakes the parts at 400 degrees fahrenheit and I was concerned about the urethane being damaged). I decided on using paint from a rattle can. The way I see it is in a worse case scenario, I can always ditch the paint and have someone better than me do it right. Using an angle grinder, I prepped the very rough metal on tie rod ends for paint. I was surprised at the level of smoothness I was able to achieve. They’re currently in primer in my custom Factory Five paint booth (see photo). If you never hear anything about them again…it never happened.