Sunday, August 21, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Chassis Restoration #5

12 days since my last post. Sorry about that. I think I've gotten two days in the garage since then, with some progress, so here we go.

After several failed attempts using my Harbor Freight spring compressor (they don't list the kind that I have anymore), I broke down and bought the necessary parts and tools I needed to build my own. I found a few posts on my favorite forum about the topic and they all used essentially the same method using a similarly designed tool. As I don't like to reinvent the wheel, I copied it and built my own!

The complete tool. The vertical portion of the bottom angle iron is in the vise.

For the materials I bought a 3-foot length of 1/8" angle iron, two 2-foot lengths of 1/2" threaded rod, four bolts, two lockwashers and four flatwashers to fit the rods. All of this cost me about $22.

I used the spring cap as a guide to eyeball the holes for two of the three small studs that come out the top of it and the large center hole that takes the rubber bushings for the tops of the shocks, or dampers, as Triumph called them.

Eyeballing doesn't always work as you can tell by the X's of my mistakes. Worked good enough, though.

To cut the holes I used Harbor Freight step drill bits. Though they cost me about as much as the materials ($20) but they did the job and I'm sure I'll use them again. The one bit, at its largest size of 1 3/8", was just big enough to take the center "cup" in the top of the spring cap. I also cut two small pieces of angle iron to act as the bottom attachment point of the damper to the tool. They received step drill holes for the bolt.

Holes all cut and ground clean. Note that the top for the spring cap (right) only has two of three small studs through the angle iron.


Close up of how the spring caps mates with the top angle iron.

Once all the cutting and grinding was done, I welded the two pieces of angle iron to the bottom support to attach the bottom of the damper to the tool. As you can see in the picture below, I did this with the damper in place and very light compression on the spring. I wanted to be sure that the fit up would be correct and this was the best way I could come up with. It worked out fine.

Dry fitted and ready to weld the bottom supports.

Wish my frame outrigger repairs came out looking this good. Much easier on thicker metal.

Once that was done, I tightened down the bolts on the bottom for the threaded rods and the damper and alternately tightened down the top bolts to compress the spring. It was much, much easier and steadier doing this than using the HF spring compressors, and I'm sure much safer.


At full compression necessary to attach the damper nut and lock nut.

Damper attached. The rubber bushing compressed A LOT. It was almost an inch thick prior to this. This will relax a bit upon installation.

All in all, I was very happy with how it went and would recommend taking a similar path for anyone else. I'm sure there are other ways to attach the bottom mounting point without having to weld it in.

After that, and though I'm not done with blasting everything that needs it, I decided to move on to some assembly. I cleared off an area of the workbench and put down a moving pad for a clean, soft work surface.

The "clean" area.

I chose to do the rear suspension first and I'm glad I did as I don't like how it turned out and will try again. The big problem was with the trunnion. The new bushing kits don't seem to be made all that well and are not sized correctly. It's close, but not close enough to not have problems. Doing some research, it appears as if all of the major suppliers use the same kit.

I didn't take any pictures except the final assembly, for some reason, but suffice it to say that, once the kit was installed and the rear vertical link installed and torqued, it was nearly impossible for me to rotate the vertical link, which wouldn't work real well on the road. I chose to take everything back apart, destroying the nylon bushings as I did so. I'll order a new kit from Rimmer Bros. and see how that one works. I ended that day at this point.

The one picture I did take. Lot's of tightness in there.

Today, I continued assembly and started with fitting the new u-joints. It was a fairly easy job. Once I had a roller bearing come out on me, but I found it, greased it up and put it back in place. This was a much less brute-force job than taking them out.

I fought with myself on which u-joints to purchase. There are "Hardy-Spicer" ones that are supposed to be great quality and cost a bit more (about $25 versus $13). However, since I was placing an order with Rimmer Bros., and they don't carry them, I went with what they had, which are made in Taiwan. I purchased the grease-able ones because I didn't see a reason not to.

The u-joint, showing the grease fitting. And the fact that it's made in Taiwan.

The thing about the grease-able ones is that the grease fitting cannot remain installed as it prevents full range of motion of the u-joint. Rimmer's sells plugs to go in place of the fitting. I ordered these, but they don't fit. I think the u-joint fittings are metric thread (made in Taiwan) but the plugs are standard. At least I wasn't foolish enough to try and force it. I've emailed Rimmer's and will see what they say.

The u-joint caps. I added more grease to the insides to keep those pesky roller bearings in place.

I started with putting the u-joint in the axle shaft the first time around, starting with the driveshaft flange for the other side. There didn't seem to be an advantage to either. I put the caps in place and tapped them in with a mallet to get them started. I then swapped back and forth to get the caps seated into their holes and the u-joint. I used a socket of a similar diameter to the cap to drive it home to allow installation of the circlip. Doing this on one side tends to displace the other, so you have to drive one home, put the clip in and then do the other side.


Caps installed and ready to be hammered in.

Fully seated. I greased the inside of the cap holes on the axle shaft to provide some lubrication.

Circlip installed. The cap came flush up against it when I installed the other side.

One lesson learned was that, for my grease gun, the u-joint has to be installed with the grease fitting pointing towards the axle shaft vice towards the inner flange. There was not enough room to engage the grease gun nozzle with the fitting. So, I flipped it over.

Picture of the first one, upside down from preferred due to the grease fitting not taking the grease gun.

After the flip. Rotating the u-joint from where it is shown here provides just enough room for my grease gun to fit.

Once that was done I moved on to assembling some of the front suspension. I took my time, followed the workshop manual and it went relatively smoothly. Before I forget, every bolt that went through a bushing got Permatix Anti-Seize put on it to prevent rusting the bolt to the metal bushing sleeve.

The anti-seize. A silver, thick paint-like substance.

Lower wishbones ready to take some parts. That black moving pad isn't too great for pictures, is it?

One of the front vertical links with the new grease fitting installed.

There are differences between the left and right sides, of course, so I had to keep stuff straight. It was obvious, however, but just be aware. The vertical links are conveniently labeled LH and RH. Once I got them sorted, I put on the steering arms and the dust shields (I had to take these back off because I wasn't following the workshop manual close enough).

Showing the outer side. 

A little blurry. This shows the inner side.

I then moved on to fitting the front trunnions. Since the ones that came off were Stanpart, probably original and didn't have any damage or obvious wear, I re-used them. I did get a pair made in Taiwan as part of my rebuild kit from The Roadster Factory and I will hold on to them, of course, for ready spares.

The front trunnions are handed. For the Stanpart versions, the RH trunnion is constructed just a bit different for ease of identification.

The bottom of the RH trunnion is a smaller diameter than the LH one. It's more obvious in your hand than on your monitor.

I put the trunnion bushings in as the workshop manual directed.

From left, the bushing, rubber dust seal and metal washer. 

How it fits up.

The trunnions screw onto the vertical link, with each side being threaded opposite. The trunnions are screwed all the way in, then loosened, as the workshop manual states, to the "first working position i.e., so that it does not bottom when the road wheel is turned to full front or back lock". For me, this was about two turn from fully screwed in.

Then I attached the vertical links to the lower wishbones and torqued them down appropriately. The bushing installation went fine and after they were torqued, the vertical links were snug as I would expect for new parts, not overly tight as I found with the rear vertical links.

The LH side attached to the lower wishbone.

Another angle, this time for the RH side.

Continuing in the workshop manual I installed the upper ball joint onto the upper wishbone, which is comprised of two pieces.

Assembled and torqued.

Next, I attached the upper ball joints into the vertical links. I couldn't figure out a quick way to retain the tapered rod of the ball joint to prevent it from turning as I tightened the nyloc nut, so I left it.

Finally, I installed the lower mounting brackets that bolt the whole assembly to the frame and stopped for the day.

The extent of my work for the day.

On a slightly separate note, the more I looked at the one front suspension tower that I painted, the more I thought the paint too bright. I found a place online, Automotive Touchup, and ordered Signal Red in a spray can. It wasn't cheap, at $20 a can, but I bought enough to paint the towers and the front of the frame the factory correct way with the factory correct color. I'm sure it would have nagged at me if I did otherwise. I'll update with the results.

I'm going to wait on the email response from Rimmer's to see what they say about the grease fitting plugs and then drop the order for the new rear trunnion bushing kit and several other things. New parts!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Chassis Restoration #4

I'm sitting at my desk Saturday, enjoying a cup of early morning coffee. In about 20 minutes, I'm leaving to run in the 54th Annual John and Jessie Kelley Road Race. Then the phone rings. I recognize the first three numbers as the "work extension". Since I'm filling in for my vacationing boss, my Navy training kicks in and I answer it. Needless to say, an hour later I'm at work taking care of a problem, absolutely NOT running in any road race. Not happy.

But, if there's a silver lining in every story, this one was that I got to the garage earlier than I would have otherwise. There, I continued the monotony of blasting, cleaning, priming and painting of the suspension parts. I'm "gettin' 'er done" as the saying goes, but I burned myself out a bit on Saturday. That, coupled with still being bummed about missing the race, resulted in being at the garage for just a few hours on Sunday.

First, I had mentioned an elongated bolt hole in one of the lower wishbones. I took some close-ups of it and discarded that one in favor of one from the black car.

The hole (on the right). This is where the lower trunnion bolts in.

I also broke out the pressure washer to take care of some of the last most stubborn greasy stuff.


Rear axles, some leaf spring leaves, the "new" wishbone, and the differential front mounting bracket.

Some of the parts to refurbish were the front hubs. I taped over the interiors to prevent marring the races.

Front hubs prior to blasting and paint. These are from the '64, by the way...the wheel studs were in better shape.

Hubs after the final coat of gloss black.

I also added my first splash of color. It was surprising how much this motivated me, but there you go. I blasted, primed and painted one front suspension tower (the other is in the blast cabinet, but not done yet).

After a coat of primer.


Now that, is red! I think it's going to be "brighter" than the Signal red, but we'll see. Close enough, hopefully.

That was it for the painting, but I did want to get some assembly progress done, so I decided to put in the bushing for the rear lower radial arms. Quite some time ago, I ordered a rebuild kit for both the front and rear suspension from The Roadster Factory (TRF). I bought the urethane bushing kits which cost a bit more. The ride is supposed to be stiffer, but the quality better. We'll see, I suppose. These kits are convenient because they come with all of the nuts, bolts, bushings, etc. that you will need. Some of the stuff isn't OEM (like the front trunnions), but overall I'm happy with the quality.

Urethane bushing installed. I didn't use any lubrication as, unlike the rubber, this things are naturally slippery.

Bushing sleeve installed. I will be using anti-seize compound (the grey bottle out of focus on the right) to prevent bolts rusting to this.

The sleeves could be tough to push in, so I used the vice to provide a little assistance, protection the bushing face, of course.

All of the hardware is mixed up in one big bag so individual bolts are not identified. Since I wasn't sure of all of the exact bolt sizes, while also wanting to double-check, I needed to educate myself on how to determine and size hardware correctly. Coincidentally, Moss Motors recently put out a video on how to do this. All of their videos are very good and I highly recommend them especially for some of the more mundane stuff that you may need to learn or a refresher on.

Getting on with it, the first thing I had to do was determine which bolt went where. I got this information from the Triumph Spitfire Parts Manual (you can find this online). For example, looking at the parts manual for the rear suspension, the radius arm bolts are identified as part #14, while its flat washer and nyloc nut are part #15 and #16, respectively.

Part 14, identified in red, is the bolt in question that I needed to figure out the specifications of.

That number is then cross-referenced, still in the Parts Manual to the parts listings for that particular drawing, which yielded specific Triumph part numbers.

For the bolt, S14 provides a Triumph part number of HB0918.

Now that I had the Triumph part number of HB0918, the next manual to go to is the Standard Triumph Hardware Catalog (again, available online). There's all sorts of nuts, bolts, washers, cotter pins, etc. in this manual. Each type of hardware (e.g., bolt, lock washer, nut) has it's own section.

For the bolt in question, finding part number HB0918 provided the information of:

Bolt sizes from the hardware manual

Some of the print in this manual is hard to read. However, for the bolts at least, the lengths seem to run consecutively in 1/8" increments, so it was just a matter of figuring that out. Ultimately, the book says that this bolt is a 3/8" diameter, 2 1/4" in length.

The trick is measuring the bolt properly and the Hardware Manual provides a convenient picture on how the measurements are performed:

Note the length does NOT include the bolt head itself.

Armed with what the bolt dimensions needed to be, I dug through the bag and found the correct match. For the measurements, I used my Harbor Freight 6 in. Digital Caliper that I picked up, with a coupon, for about $10. Not incredibly accurate, I'm sure, but definitely worth the $10.

Measuring the length. 2.25" is what I'm looking for, so a difference of 0.009" is good enough.

And 3/8" diameter. Right on for this. Nice that the caliper has the ability to read in fractions.

Now I know I have the correct bolts for the correct application. But, since I don't have the rear axle assemblies ready to go, I couldn't bolt the radius arms to the rear vertical link because, if you'll notice on the drawing plate, bolt 20 sits on the inside of the radius mounting bolt and has to go in first. Bolt 20 is what secures the rear vertical link to the rear hub via the rear inner hub.

That was about it for Sunday. There were things I wanted to do around the house and frankly, by this time, I was rather burned out again even though it was only about 1pm having got over to the garage around 8am.

I went back at in on Monday though and, speaking of the rear axle assemblies, I finally got them both blasted. I ended up with one assembly primed and painted and the other just primed since I didn't stay long enough to wait out the required curing times between coats on the second one.

Freshly blasted on left, not so much on right. The one of the right is post-pressure washer.

The hub that's fully painted. I put a foam ear plug in the grease fitting hole to prevent paint getting in there.

I also got the rear drums blasted and painted. Out of the four that I had (two on Dot and two on the black car, I chose the best two and blasted and painted those.

The right one has more pronounced rust pitting on the outside, but it clean on the inside.

Also some time ago I purchased new front rotors, also from TRF. The originals were not in good shape at all with heavy pitting on the rotor faces. Since I couldn't find anyone to turn them, new ones it was.

Pretty obvious which is which, I think.

That was about it for Monday. Like I mentioned, the blasting and painting process is tedious and time consuming. Though I got into a rhythm, waiting between coats for the paint to dry takes between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on primer or top coat.

I did have time to do one bit of assembly, though. I cleaned up the bolts that attach the brake disc to the hub with a wire brush.

Mostly like new!

I looked up the torque spec for these bolts in the workshop manual...



...and applied the proper 32-35 ft-lbs of torque. I tightened them in a star pattern, much like putting on a tire. I also went back over them at least twice to make sure I didn't get any movement as they were tightened down.

Always feels good when stuff starts going back together!

That concludes the 2+ weeks of time without the family. They got back today so I will be back to one day a week and one day on the weekend. However, I think I made up so much time over the last two weeks that I can now start putting stuff back together. Major chassis items awaiting refurbishment are four leaf spring leaves and the other front suspension tower. I also need to rebuild the differential. I'm going to put a drain plug in the case, I think, so there will be some time making sure I'm going to get that right but, otherwise, the hill is starting to level off a bit for the chassis.