1968 Pontiac Firebird Front Suspension Rebuild

because I was stripping the front subframe and rebuilding it, of course the front suspension needed to be done
as well right? Because the car had no engine in it when I purchased it I knew removing the springs would be a
bit of fun. I had read about various methods of safely compressing the front springs without the weight of the
engine. A friend told me about the threaded rod method that he had used. After measuring the diameter I
purchased a 3 foot length of grade 8 5/8" NC redi rod some grade 8 nuts and grade 8 washers of diameters
from 5/8 to1-1/2". Grade 8 I thought would provide a little more strength for safety. I also used a safety chain.

Here is the front subframe before:

I purchased a pretty reasonable front-end service kit a while back from Princess Auto. It includes
several very useful tools, almost all of which I have used a some time or another already. 3 of
them on this job. Above is the pitman arm puller that made what is likely a pretty tricky job effortless.
The tie rod tool on the right above also works great although they do pop free with a pretty good
bang every time. But it works. I always hear about using the pickle fork method and pounding
away but this seemed pretty easy with the proper tool.

remove the shock absorber first to open up the holes you need to put the rod through. One nut on
top and 2 bolts/nuts on the bottom and they slide right out. Mine were both in bad shape and will
be replaced. put on a safety chain around the spring and back of the control arm. Yeah, I know
it is a 5/8 grade 8 rod with tensile strength in the thousands put I have heard stories of springs
landing on neighbour's roofs when they pop loose so I used the chain just in case. I used the 4
washers on the bottom to go from 5/8 to fully cover the larger shock hole on the bottom. fender
style washers that go from small dia inner to large dia outer were way to flimsy for this job.
double nutted the bottom. safety-safety right? can you guess what I do/did for a living?

above is the single washer that was all that was needed for the top and view of the safety chain.

then snug up the top nut enough to take the pressure off the ball joints.

remove the upper and lower ball joint cotter pins and loosen the nuts just a couple of turns. DO NOT
take off the nuts all the way at this time. then loosen the top nut on your spring compressor a few
turns as well so there is a bit of slack in it to allow the ball joints to pop free down to the ball joint nuts.

again, another handy dandy tool from my cheapo offshore front end service kit for popping the
ball joints. pop the top one and the bottom one then you will have to tighten up your top spring
compressor nut again some to take the pressure off the ball joint nuts so they may be totally
removed. Now all the spring pressure is being contained by the spring compressor. I was a
little "careful" at this point until you think about the pressure used to be controlled by the little
ball joint nuts which are a lot smaller than the compressor tool nuts.

relax your spring compressor top nut until the ball joints are clear enough to remove the spindle.
these babies are pretty heavy so make sure you are ready for the drop. and you should have
already removed the flexible brake line from its retainer bracket on the frame.

relax the nut(s) down all the way until you can get the spring loose. remove your spring compressor
tool out the top hole. even with the control arm down all the way as far as it would go, I still had to
kind of pop the spring out of its bottom pocket, so keep your safety chain on all the way until the
spring is out of the bottom pocket.

then i removed the upper and lower control arms. I was careful to separately bag and label where
the alignment shims were on the top control arms. will need aligning when all done especially with
new springs but I thought it would not hurt to replace them where they were. You will note I
reused the bottom ball joints. they are pressed in and looked like they had been recently replaced,
and were good moog ball joints so I chose to re-use them. The picture above is them after I
sandblasted them.

then coated them with the silver Chassis Saver (primer coat)

then a coat of the Antique Satin Chassis Saver, followed by two coats of semi gloss tremclad for uv protection.

I put in new Hotchkiss 2" drop Sport springs. here is a new one beside the old spring (which also
looked not too old as it still had it's tag on it. New Hotchkiss spring was much larger metal diameter
and quite a bit shorter. It was actually a lot easier to install in the pockets to re-assemble the front
control arms. Using the exact same spring compressors and reversing the steps I re-installed
the front end parts.

I put on a 4 wheel disc brake kit (covered in separate page and the nice grey stabilizer bar you
see is the original one refinished. someday I will get a heavier one but for now it is not in the
budget. Hotchkiss springs came with new upper control arm rubber bumper. That is the new
bolt/nut you see on the upper control arm.

Front Shocks I bought at a swap meet. Carrera was a USA shock
company purchased by QA1 as I found on the net. they are adjustable (3 settings)

I certainly had no intentions to put in chrome plated shocks but the deal that
came along at the Lethbridge Swap meet was to good to pass up.

 

 

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