I gotta tell ya, I am really getting tired of body & paint work. Seems to never be an end to it! So I decided that it was time to twist a few wrenches and rebuild/reinstall the rear axle.
Earlier this spring I taken the 9″ third member down to Phoenix to have it rebuilt and to change the gear set from 2.50:1 to 3.50:1 so that the wagon would have a bit of get up and go in 1st gear. I had also hauled the steering column down to the valley to have it rebuilt as well, unfortunately the shop rebuilding the GM columns went out of business. The good news was that my good friend Paul had done some work for another friend of ours and was given an almost new chrome Ididit steering column that was the right length for the wagon and was configured exactly like I wanted! The really neat thing was that the shift lever, unlike the original GM column could be repositioned which would cleanly solve the shift pattern issue I had with the Dodge 545RFE tranny. Paul had given the column to Steve, another good friend, to use in the truck he was building for his wife, who is now his exwife and the truck project was sold, but he still had the column, so he gave it to me. Kinda sounds like Days of Our Lives eh?
Removing Rear Axle Housing and Springs
Anyway I ordered all of the parts that I needed to rebuild the front and rear suspensions on the wagon. I did a lot of price comparisons on all the parts and found that by far and away, Rock Auto had the absolute best prices for stock repair parts.
Once I removed the rear axle housing, I cleaned it and the leaf springs up and painted everything. I put the springs back together with teflon pads to reduce the spring squeaks. Rock Auto came through with the spring shackle bushings and axle bearings. The only real issue that I encountered was finding a set of spring eye bushings for the front of the spings. Old Parts.com wanted $54 for a set of stock Dodge bushings – can you say no way in hell? So I started searching for polyurethane replacements. As usual in this day and age of computers, the only way I could order a bushing set was by make year model. While I was standing there staring at the springs, it occured to me that they looked like every set of springs that I ever saw under a 70-80’s Chevy/GMC truck. I did a bit of reseach and found the bushing dimensions for a ’76 GMC and lo and behold they were exactly the right size! I ordered a set from Energy Suspension in the valley for $14 with free shipping!
Fitting the Rear Sway Bar
I also ordered from Summit Racing a new front sway bar – 1 1/4″ dia to replace the stock 7/8″ Olds unit and an add on 7/8″ sway bar kit for a 1967 Mercury Cougar rear axle. I had in stock a set of aftermarket spring plates that had both the shock mounts and sway bar mounts in them. The shock mounts were in the wrong place so I just cut them off with the plasma cutter and placed them under the stock spring plates which held the correct shock mounts. I had to bend the sway bar out some so that it would fit the wider mounting holes. Once I get the car put back together where it sits at its correct ride height, I will locate the upper sway bar mounts and make up a new set of links using running thread to tie everything together.
Reinstalling the Rear Axle
When I put the housing back in, I also installed the disk brake calipher mounts that I picked up several years ago. The rear disk brakes are a set of 11″ GM metrics that have rotors drilled for both GM and Ford bolt patterns. I will mount the rotors and caliphers when I get around to ordering the new wheels and tires. I am thinking that clearance with my existing roller wheels will be marginal on the rear caliphers and wont work at all with the 13″ set that is going on the front.
While I was in a shopping mood I bought all the bits and pieces to rebuild the front suspension as well. Once I call the body and paint work done, the front suspension rebuild comes next followed by putting the engine and transmission back in … hopefully for the last time!