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Old 05-08-2009, 08:11 PM
Kerry Pinkerton's Avatar
Kerry Pinkerton Kerry Pinkerton is offline
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Near Huntsville, Alabama. Just south of the Tennessee line off I65
Posts: 7,844
Default The Art Deco Imperial Project - Part 13

If I ever write a book about this build it will be "How NOT to build an Art Deco roadster...but still get it done".

Well, times change and so do plans. When I first started this project, it was going to be low buck with as much of the Dakota used as possible. Including the front and rear suspension. Problems mounting the leaf springs in a short deck car and the available of a Jag rear let me go with the Jag end and the Dakota front end. Then reality set in and I discovered that rebuilding a Jag rear is pretty pricy. The 2.54 ration was too low and given it was a total unknown quantity made me unhappy about keeping it. And the Dakota front takes very expensive and custom made springs. In addition it turned out to be totally worn out. Just didn't make sense to put a complete rebuild in a truck suspension.

Gator picked me up a 96 Corvette C4 rear and brought it to MM07. I liked the way it looked enough that I called the same folks (C&S Corvettes out of Florida) and had them bring an earlier C4 front end to the Moultrie Swap Meet in November. The earlier C4 has 2" narrower track than the later and I wanted a wider track in the rear. Bennett Chapman picked it up for me the week before Thanksgiving.

A few weeks ago Bob Baisden (who was having grinding dust withdrawal), and I met at Bennett Chapman's well equipped to install the C4 suspensions. We thought the rear would be the easiest so we started there. I had previously braced and removed the old Jag suspension.

The wheel bolts were a little too long for the pattern adapters so Bob took about 1/8' off all of them with a cutoff wheel.

This is what we started with.

Bennett has a 5x10' steel top table that we leveled and set the frame on it. The front was supported on steel saw horses at the correct ride height and clamped down securely.

We then went through about 5 hours of measuring, moving, leveling, measuring, moving, leveling, squaring, etc.

Finally everything was in position, a new brace was in place at the rear of the frame, and I cut out the old Jag rear cross member.

The C4 rear is supported by a 40' wide 'BATWING' that needed mounts. After making the 19'th check of the measurements, Bennett drew up some brackets in Autocad, transferred the drawings to 1/4" steel and nibbled close to the scribed lines with his ironworker.

Bennett then cut to the scribed line on the bandsaw while Bob ensured quality control.

We clamped each side together and ground them at the same time on a belt sander to ensure they were identical. Bennett then punched a 1/2" hole for the bolt to go through the Batwing.

And here it is installed. I'll plate the top and bottom back at my shop. The rear tie rod unit that sets the toe in was missing and C&S shipped it right out as well as a replacement dog bone because one was bent slightly. They are good folks and I recommend them highly. Their deal is that if ANYTHING is wrong, they'll make it right and pay the shipping. They even sent me a Ebrake cable because one was cut off.

The pinion angle is set by a bracket that hangs from a new rear cross member. We made a mount for the chunk with a urethane bushing. The cross member will also be the upper shock mount.

This 'easy' one took about 16 hours!

Surprisingly, the front was a snap. Bob had previously removed all the 'extra' stuff. The front of the frame was braced so it wouldn't move before the old suspension was removed.

Once ride height and camber was set we welded the front cross member to the brackets and the brackets to the table so nothing would move. The C4 cross member is really a nice clean unit and the frame rails fit it nearly perfectly.

We wanted to shorten the wheelbase so we cut the frame back and measured AGAIN. The original frame points were still visible on the frame and we were able to use them to index and square everything. Once I realized how handy they were, I drilled small holes where the prick punch marks were.

We then extended the frame rails and welded things up.

It came out very clean. The frame rails will probably be cut off a little later on. The front sway bar will mount to the frame rails also.

We then picked up the whole frame using Bennett's bridge crane...

and flipped it over so we could weld up the bottom.

While it was upside down, I cleaned up some of the original welds while Bennett finished welding up the front.

Still will need to fabricate upper shock mounts. but I'll need the shock specs first.

The front end took only about 6 hours start to finish. So much for my estimates.

The wheelbase shrunk 6" overall, 9" less in the front and 3" more in the rear. New wheelbase is 114"

Thanks again to Bennett and Bob for their hard work and inspiration. We had a ball and Bob has his grinding dust fix for a few more months...
Kerry Pinkerton
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