Geoff took the project to heart, and though he knew little about auto repair, he was willing to invest his hard-earned dollars if I would help him with it. All new front suspension was purchased, as well as all new brake hardware. We figured we'd better make the thing handle and stop before turning our attention to the engine and body. A few days of our Spring Brake were spent installing the new parts - sort of. After putting one side of the front suspension on, we tried to take the other side off only to discover that one of the bolts which hold the lower control arm to the crossmember was spinning. We tried a number of methods to get it out but to no avail. We were able to get the other bolt out, and that was when we noticed the cracks1 in the crossmember. This was a bummer, but we figured we'd just have to replace the crossmember. We spent a bunch more time getting it out. When we did, we found a crack where the big bolt goes through the shock tower to secure the top of the crossmember2.
When we removed the crossmember, one of the 4 studs which stick out of the frame rail to hold the crossmember up fell out with it. Closer inspection revealed some nasty rust and cracking of the metal.
This was a huge downer. We had been working on the car for 4 days straight at this point. I felt horrible for having sold Geoff the car but it looked like it was beyond repair. We pretty much stripped everything off the car and went home to scan the classifieds for another car.
After mulling the problem over in my mind for a few days, and calming down a bit, I came to the conclusion that I could fix it. The problem was pretty localized to that one section of frame rail, and after reading Speedracer's article on shock tower replacement, I had to try. Plus, it was a good excuse to finally buy a wire-feed welder!
We assessed the damaged area and took measurements of where the studs should be located. I scribed marks in the side of the frame rail so I could position the replacement piece properly. Then I set to work fabricating the replacement piece from some steel plate.
After this was complete, Geoff set to work cutting out the old metal.
While opening up the frame rail, he discovered that there were some triangular supports tacked in place inside the frame rail. They appear to help transfer some of the forces exerted by the crossmember on the bottom of the frame rail to the side of the frame rail, and add rigidity to the box section of the frame rail. He was careful to leave these intact when he cut out the hole for the new plate. Reliefs were also cut in the side of the frame rail so we could weld those triangular supports to the top of our new plate.
...Meanwhile, back in the Bat Cave...
If I we were going to go through all this trouble we don't sure as hell didn't want to do it again! While Geoff was hacking away at his car, I decided to reinforce the crossmember. Since the old one cracked where the lower control arm attaches, I boxed that section in with some steel plate.
With the crossmember reinforced, it was time to install the replacement plate. We used the crossmember to hold the plate in place, as well as to make sure it was properly aligned, while I tack-welded it in position.
Then I proceeded to complete the welds and fill in the relief holes with some small squares of plate.
We test-fitted the crossmember and Geoff used his trusty grinder to clean up my welds and make the crossmember fit properly. All in all, it looks like a sturdy repair. It's definitely stronger than before! Now we just need to get the car back together...hopefully in time for Oregon99!
Back to Part I - The Resurrection
This page created: May 11, 1999