The 1st series of photos illustrates the problem. The way the chassis is set up combined with two inch dropped spindles, when the airbags are deflated, the front cross member would be flat on the ground, IF, the grill chin pan didn’t touch 1st. The original owner of the chassis set it up to lay frame and it does! At ride height, defined as when the lower control arms are parallel with the ground there is about 3″ clearance between the cross member and the ground, and 2 3/4″ from the chin panel to ground. With the suspension fully extended, I can pick up another 1″ of clearance, but the bags would be full of air and the car would ride for crap, as do most of the ones that are set up to look cool when parked. I plan to drive this car and not make it a trailer queen so I have to buy a set of stock height front spindles.
The next thing that needed check was front fender clearance. 1st I had to mount the inner fender panels to the chassis so that I would have something to bolt the fenders to. Unfortunately one of the neat features of the stock frame is that it has a mounting point for the brace that supports the inner fender panels, with the front steer TCI Chassis that mounting point is gone, so I made up a couple of braces that bolt between the frame and where the stock mount would be on the inner fenders.
Before the I can mount the inner fender panels, I need to clearance them so that the upper control arms have some room to move. Once I had them bolted into place I noticed that the alternator was pushing the driver side panel out. A bit of mallet and sandbag work took care of the interference. Unfortunately I had a much bigger problem with the A/C Compressor which is mounted low on the passenger side of the engine. Unfortunately I would have to remove a fairly major amount of the front cross member to get the clearance that I needed to mount it. I did some checking around and found that Holley made a bracket that could mount the smaller GM compressor on the top right side, however unlike the alternator which is mounted fairly low, this bracket puts the compressor above the top of the fender and about 1/2″ into to it. Several aftermarket shop make front drive set ups that would solve the problems but even the cheap ones were close to $2000. After all was said and done I decided that I really didn’t need A/C in a convertible anyway.
I finally got the fenders on and as I expected at ride height with the dropped spindles I would have to limit the turning radius to keep the tires from rubbing on the fender lip. With the suspension all the way up there was no issues, again reinforcing my decision to buy new stock height spindles.
Things are Tight in Places!
While all this was going on, we had a conference with Michelle’s surgeon on her last round of reconstructive surgery. His quote was well under what we had been budgeting so all of a sudden I had some unplanned money to spend on the project in 2015! My shopping list was:
- A Lokar Floor Shifter like my 1939 has, I know it is not correct since all ’40s had column shifters, but I love the way the one in Old Blue works! As the English say, the lever falls easily to hand…
- A air supply and height control system for the airbags. My friends are strongly divided on the subject of air suspensions systems. They either love them or hate them. I found that the ones that hate them had experience with the older style manual systems. The ones that love them have the newer ones with height sensor and computer control… so I decided to buy an AccurAir dual compressor system with a 5 gal tank. I also ordered their mounts which attach everything to the air tank making the whole thing easy to mount and remove for service.
- The chassis came with a gas tank, however it was for a 1935-36 Ford, which had the fill pipe coming out through the rear tail light mounting stalk… plus it was somewhat rusty…. so Tank’s Inc makes a polyethylene 17 gal tank – 3 more gal than the stock tank, and is setup with an intank fuel pump matched to the LS3 fuel injections system. I also purchased the fuel gauge sender and a fuel line kit that comes with the Corvette filter and return line setup along with enough high pressure fuel line hose to complete the hook up.
- I had some initial thoughts of using the stock 1940 Ford steering column, but then I drove my 1939 with a tilt GM column which changed my mind. Michelle drives all of our cars and for her to be able to drive it she needs an adjustable column or I have to adapt to being very cramped. Summit racing had a very nice black powdercoated tilt column without shifter or key on sale so I went for it!
I Went Shopping Again!
Now a bit of a rant!
In addition to needing a pair of stock height spindles, I also found that over the years that the chassis has been sitting around several other bits and pieces had gone missing. The rear shocks had the rubber bushings in them, but the steel bushings had gone missing. Also missing was one of the lower shock spacers, and the front suspension limit stops. So I decided to try and contact TCI (Total Cost Involved) who originally made the chassis to see if I could buy the missing pieces from them. TCI makes a quality chassis and suspension components but their customer service and support after the sale sucks big time.
Over a four week period, I tried calling, emailing and faxing trying to get answers to a few simple questions and to order the needed pieces. I finally got to talk to the “technical support” guy and he answered my questions and gave me a list of part numbers to order. I asked if he could just place the order for me. He said no, that the order has to be placed with the “sales” guy and before I could say anything he transferred to the “sales” guy. Of course the sales guy didn’t pick up the phone which went over to his voice mail. I left a message; actually prior to this call, I had tried the sales number several times with out anyone ever picking up. So I left a call back and after another two days without a call back, I called again, this time the “sales” guy answers the phone! HooRay! I tell him that I had talked with the “technical support” guy and that he gave me the part numbers to order. “Sales” guy tells me that the “technical support” guy could place the order and then without further word he transfers me to the “technical support” guy’s phone. Of course he doesn’t answer the phone and it goes over to voice mail. I looked at my telephone and hung up.
After four weeks of futile effort I finally tossed in the towel. TCI (Total Cost Involved) has to be the hardest company to deal with of any I have ever tried to work with. I would never recommend them to anyone I know. Out of desperation I called Fatman Fabrications and talked with a very nice young man who answered all of my questions. This was the morning of the day that we were driving down to the valley to work the Goodguys Show. The young man told me that his boss was at the show as a vendor if I wanted to talk with him. On friday I talked with the Fatman himself and placed an order for a set of stock spindles. He told if they did not solve the problem then he would make me a custom set that would be higher than stock. The new spindles arrived at my shop the following Thursday. The big plus was that they were 1/2 the cost of what TCI had quoted me!
I took the one shock spacer that I had left up to Bill’s Machine Shop here in Show Low and Ken made me a couple of replacements. The original ones were chrome plated, the new ones will be powder coated. I found a set so Energy Suspension stops that looked to be the right length at O’Reilly’s and picked them up so that I could set up the front height sensors. These had a conical shape which looked like it might work, however they didn’t. From time to time one or the other would slip off the lower control arm which would change the height. After drilling several different sets of mounting holes I finally discovered the problem. I looked in my Summit catalog and found that Energy Suspension also made a set of square stops which would not slip off. They also made a set of polyethylene shock bushings. Finally at the point where I can finalize the height sensor locations!