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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!


  1. Looking good! "greasemonkeygarage watson" on YT just did a video on how to install UJs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcBgq4UGXjM You seem to have figured it all out yourself, and/oor the manual is sufficiently detailed

    1. A bit of both, David. Once you see how it works, it's pretty straight-forward. Thanks!