Intro: Hot Rod Fabricating-suspension and Mountings
This is my project car, it's a Nash Metropolitan, but it won't stay stock, I plan on using a Ford Focus engine in it. But wait! you say, the Ford Focus is a front wheel drive and the Nash is a RWD. Yes it is but the Focus engine is a direct descendant of the Pinto. Hence I'll use a rwd pinto transmission. the point of this Instructable is to show how i built the frame and front end for the Nash (the original suspension was too narrow to fit the Zetec Motor). Let's dive right in!
Step 1: The Beginning
This is how the original frontend looked. see how narrow the engine bay is? I called up Fatman Fabrications and ordered a mustang 11 kit that was narrowed by 11 inches to replace this with but I'll need to construct a frame because the Nash is a Unibody.
Step 2: Record the Stock Ride Height
First, measure and record the height to some fixed repeatable point on the body, i chose the fender lip and recorded a height of 18 and one half inches. also measure the height to the center of the spindle, i got 11 and one half inches. this is different than the radius of the tire as it takes into account the squish of the loaded tire.
Step 3: Marking the Axle Centerline
Now set the body up on jacks (as high as you can) so you can work comfortably underneath it. Level the car front to back on the stands and remove the fenders. point the wheels straight ahead and then remove the wheels. now, using a plumb bob, mark the floor where the center of the spindles are so you have two dots on the floor. measure back from those line to some repeatable point on the body, I used the factory jack points. If the wheels are straight ahead the measurements should match side to side. Mine didn't match so I had to adjust the wheels and remark the floor until it did. this is to establish the axle centerline. next mark the center of the radiator core support with the plumb bob and also write the height to the support down, I wrote it directly on the floor as well.
Step 4: Connect the Dots
It is critically important that you do not move the vehicle from this point on. recheck all your dots and get out a framing square. connect the axle dots to create a line, then use the square to connect to the center dot in front of the radiator, you should have a "T" shape now on the floor.
Step 5: Cut and Set
Cut away the stock suspension next, this step need not be neat, just hack it out with a sabre saw, then set up your new mustang two front end crossmember on a jack and jack it into position using the plumb bob and tape measure to get it centered on the lines fore and aft plus side to side and at the right height, I chose to drop the car by an inch so I had to lift the frontend to 19.5 inches YOU MUST REMEMBER TO ADD TO THESE MEASUREMENTS THE HEIGHT THAT YOU JACKED THE CAR UP. My jacks had lifted the car up by seven inches so once i added the 19.5 to the 7 my spindle sat at 26.5 inches. this pic is without the crossmember in place looking into the drivers side, note too that the trans tunnel is missing.
Step 6: Cutting Fat and Making Frame
Here is where the actual building starts. i crawled underneath and marked the sheetmetal frame equal distances on both sides of the car. i determined that i could start about 2 feet back from the firewall, come forward with the frame into the engine and then i would need a "Z" shape to get the frame rise up to meet the crossmember.
here is a pic of the frame section i built. it has the "z" shape easily visable. I also want you to see that where it meets the original frame work it slips over and sockets into the old stuff both at the rear and at the start of the angled piece where the outer frame supports slip over the new work. since my math skills are lacking i just kept grinding the pieces until the angles were correct. this was a pain as the angled piece in the pic is a compound angle. it rises up and inward to meet the crossmember see the next step and compare to this one.
Step 8: Frame Building
using the plumb bob and a level I kept recutting the angled 3/16 wall 2x3 square tube until i got the crossmember mount piece exactly 8 1/2 inches from the centerline of the car and parallel. the trick to this is not to cut the entire angle into one piece. this is because the angle cut piece would not meet the straight cut piece nicely. instead, cut HALF of each angle into BOTH pieces eg; a 15 degree angle need both pieces cut to 7 degrees and ground to final fitment. at the same time you need to keep checking the frame height so that when the crossmember meets up the spindle will mount at your desired height. the white mark on my work is where the plumb bob says the axle center is.
Step 9: Closeup of the Angles
here is where the angled piece meets the original frame coming in from the side. i tacked the pieces together to take the pic. this is how i made the cuts to get these pieces together- starting with the raw square ends like in this photo, i put them into position and measured the gap, in this case 1/4 inch. then i marked 1/8 inch in on both pieces and chopped the excess off. this is great if you just need a cut in one plane. if it is a compound angle then things get hairy because you have to use a compound miter saw and set both angles at once. i managed to do this by trial and error.
Step 10: The Final Fitment of the Crossmember
Here is the final frame built and tacked together with the crossmember jacked into place. measure everything 12 times from sunday! i even checked my measurements on the ground against the body to be sure the body had not shifted. then i jacked up the crossmember, checked the height and centering and side to side plus front to back leveling, then welded it in. in the pic is a big rusty square tube i am using to square up the upper arm mounts before welding. it is not part of the frame.
Step 11: Building the Upper Mounts
these upper mounts for the a arms must be mounted square to the axle in every plane and at a specified distance apart. the crossmember kit said 17 1/2 inches so i tacked them to a scrap piece at that distance and the tapped on them until they were parallel and square. mark the center of each one and set into place, voila! perfect fit the first time. this was the only part of the entire build that was easy to do. see in the second pic how the lines all square up nicely.
Step 12: Mocked Up Front End
now i've got the entire front end in place with some fake shocks made from conduit with holes at 12 inch centers to simulate ride height. then i put the sheetmetal back on and checked the look of the tire and clearance note that i have not finished the frame in these photo's , i still need to extend forward and outward from the crossmember to support the radiator crossmember just barely visible on the right of the pic, but that is for another day.
Step 13: Front Radiator Support
here is the new section i made for the radiator support all made up and welded in. i cut the angles with the chop saw at 44degrees NOT 45. this was so i'd have a little play in the joint to work with until it was square. then i just made the connecting pieces and welded away. it is very important to check your work at this point. mock up the front sheetmetal and the wheels to check for interference because the next step is final welding.
Step 14: Final Welding and Grinding
here i have pulled out the tacked together frame and fully welded it. i wanted a pretty smooth finish so i decided to grind down the welds. this is where i discovered a thing called a "flap disk" it was 36 grit and removed lots of metal really quickly, faster than a grinding wheel even. the third pic is the raw weld and the last is the final product. yes i did all the welding myself with a 220 stick welder and a Harbor Freight angle grinder.
Step 15: Re-install the Frame for the Last Time.
the frame is slid back into place and checked for position one last time before welding it fully in place. I welded the notched bit from step 7 and the area where the original side sheetmetal came up to meet my new stuff from step 7. the next part i have to tackle is how to build some upper frame supports that will brace the frame against the top of the firewall and connect to the front of the frame on either side of the radiator. this will keep the frame from bending upward under stress, it will just transfer the stress to the firewall just like a Nova subframe kit you might see in the Chris Alston chassisworks catalog but custom built for this product. i'll update with pics of the rest and more steps later.
Step 16: The Long Awaited Updates Are Here
O.K.- here is the thing, I have been building like mad and not really documenting it so i will have to do more explaining and less pictorials. this is a shot of the completed upper frame supports i was talking about last time. the were made by ME! how i did it was like this, i bought some plastic conduit from the House Depot place and got out my heat gun. i then heated up the plastic and bent it into a shape that fit the contours of the original sheetmetal, this allowed me to get the perfect angles both for the bends and the cuts at both ends where they meet the subframe i built in step 15. i took the plastic down to the metal shop and the nice guys there bent the steel tube into the correct shape for the cost of the tube and a six pack of Fat Tire. i welded the pieces in and made little end plates for the firewall side.
Step 17: Motor Mounts and Engine Tilt
here is the motor mount in position and welded. what I did was install the engine in the right spot with a cherry picker. this involved mocking up the steering rack and radiator and leveling the engine side to side plus having it centered in the bay.
note that the engine is NOT level front to back! the transmission is partially splash oiled and must be installed with a few degrees of tilt to accomplish this. the rearend must be installed with the same number of degrees tilt in the opposite direction to achieve driveshaft nirvana. use a simple angle finder available at hardware stores for this. it will have a needle and a magnet, stick the magnet onto the bottom of the trans pan and the needle reads it's tilt in degrees. ten bucks max.
I'll talk about the pattern making next
Step 18: Pattern Making the Krylon Way!
so I had to make some motor mount plates that fit the side of the engine and matched the rubber mounts I bought, I think they were originally for a Chevy transmission. What I did was cut a piece of cardboard about the right size and grabbed a can of Krylon, silver I think. Next I sprayed the side of the engine where the mount would go and pressed the paper into the wet paint. also note the oil pan, you CAN weld waterproof with a MIG, it's just hard.
Step 19: Other Side Mount Finished and Installed
Trimming the cardboard down around the edges and punching through the silver circles gave me a pattern that I then used to cut a steel plate and simple bracket like this and the one in the last step. the mount is shown hanging off the bracket.
The plates that the mounts sit on (that are welded to the frame i made) were done exactly the same way as the motor side plates and the location for them was determined with the engine installed and leveled as in step 17
Step 20: Frame Side Plates Are in Place!
the engine is not in this pic but I could not get the shot any other way.. imagine the engine swinging off a cherry picker and me marking the motor mount position with a pen from underneath. NEVER do that! I actually did it from the top after a moment on my back staring up at the engine.
Step 21: Steering Shafts Try to Shaft Me Back
This is a steering u-joint. there are different opinions on what the maximum operating angle can be, in other words, how far can you bend them before the little tabs bind up and the joint stops working. i decided to go with 30 degrees as it was the lowest quoted angle-38 was the highest. I cut a piece of 3/4 tube in my chop saw to 15 deg, rotated the tube 180deg and welded it back together, voila! 30 degree angle. this helped in the next step
Step 22: Steering Angles
I had hoped to have the steering column project into the engine bay like a normal car, then the shift linkage and stuff would be away from your feet, but this was not to be. my 30 degree angled 3/4 pipe showed me that the shaft would have to intersect the steering column just about exactly at the firewall. so I shortened up by 6 inches the steering column to look like this. the piece of square tube connecting the joints is just a temp. it will be replaced with a solid DD shaft later. a DD shaft is so named because it looks like back to back "D" shapes when in profile. get it? just look through the street rod catalogs. BTW the shaft I bought is DD the entire length. some are only machined at the ends.
Step 23: Hacking a Firewall the Welder Way!
This title ought to get me a few undeserved search returns.
no really, this step is about the reshaping to make to the firewall large enough, so the intake and water plumbing would fit. I had the engine in place for most of the trimming, done with an air nibbler and Sawzall. I also had the engine in during the steering shaft makeup so I was sure the shaft would not end up coming right through the oil pan or block.
I first made cardboard pieces for the firewall back, using the spray paint method at overlapping metal to mark where to trim the cardboard.
then the trans tunnel bit, angled upward and spray paint trimmed until it met the original metal and new metal with only 1/8 overlap. you can just see it as a semi-circle under the white firewall.
lastly, the triangular side pieces were made with 1/4 tabs bent over to right angles so they could be welded in.
laying the cardboard on a spare old truck fender and spraying it with paint gave me a perfect image to trim the metal piece out with. quick and dirty, much better than tracing around it with pen and risking the pattern moving around on you.
wanna see the inside?
Step 24: The Inside! and What's Next Up Poll.
here is the finished firewall from the inside. pretty good eh?
so what have I done?
built the frame with Mustang 11 crossmember
braced the frame back into the firewall
built the motor mounts and trans mounts
built the steering shaft and installed the shortened column
moved and reshaped the firewall for engine clearance
sliced 1 inch out of the oil pan so the hood would shut
had the rear axles shortened to original Nash specs(I didn't do anything but write a check for that-no splining equipment)
Sandblast and paint the bottom of the car
build and install the master cylinder mounts- using an Eagle Talon master-subject of future update
adapt an e-brake
Dash reshaping for ac and gauges
plumb air intake from rear of engine to front
relocate thermostat to engine front-plumb radiator
WIRING-my favorite bit
what would you all like to see in the next installments?
some of this stuff seems boring to me but seems to be fascinating to you all, and vice-versa. and i'd rather not write about what nobody cares about.
Step 25: A Pause for Intermission?
so at this point- a year later to the day, i have sad news.
the Nash project has stalled
i got it dip stripped by a chemical dipping company, had the trans rebuilt and welded up the floor completely during the winter but then disaster struck! I have to move.
My wife is Army, a Veterinarian, and she has been assigned to Puerto Rico to take over for the Vet there who will be going to Haiti to help those folks out (Bacteriological testing). the Nash is on hold until we get back, probably a year or two.
I have to say the chemical dipping was a cool thing, i have never seen a cleaner car body- ever speck of rust and paint was gone-inside and out. I highly recommend it. the dip guys found rust in the rockers but only a little and the left front fender is really rough but all of it is save-able. I also managed to get a fuel injection tank from Tanks Inc- it is 5 inches taller than stock but the same otherwise, i cut a hole in the "trunk" and installed it from the inside using well nuts and clamps from a VW- the fuel injection pump they supply will not work with a Focus ECU and I have to swap in the original Focus pump but otherwise it is very slick. I also found that the SVT header would not fit no matter what I did to it- but a header for a non-SVT Focus fits fine so what the hey?
I have re assembled the fenders and doors since the strip job, plus the engine and rebuilt trans so i can send the car to storage full of boxes of extra parts. please pass this instructable around- there are very few places on the web that actually detail a Mustang 11 or Pinto frontend install, even fewer that are not bolt-in magazine fluff jobs.
In the meantime, i am content to play with the Baja Beetle we are taking with us to Puerto Rico and am on the lookout for an American Austin or Bantam pickup body, either steel or fiberglass to repeat this upgrade experiment but with the GM Ecotec engine or an RX8 setup, maybe a Alltrac Toyota Corolla? Anyone with a line on a body for sale should contact me.
And I leave you with a quote from my recently deceased father:
"Never be afraid to cut / weld/ build/ work on your own car- the worst that can happen is you'll screw up and have to do it again, remember that Thomas Edison invented 900 ways NOT to make a light bulb before he got it right, and claimed he learned something from every failure."
Step 26: The Build Will NOT Continue
I have sold the project to a nice guy in Missouri, you all will see it finished and on the road soon I hope! look for it at the hot rod show near you!