Thursday, September 29, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Chassis Restoration #8 / Repair #6

Sometimes you have, what we referred to in the Navy as, a "brain-fart". I'm sure we didn't coin the phrase, but it was often used. Well, I must admit that I had a big one. I got that rear differential all nice and pretty, refreshed and wonderful and it was great! So proud of it, I was, that I posted the result on my favorite forum. A quick reply from one of the regulars "Looks great! Did you put a drain plug in it while it was apart?" My heart sank. Of course not! But, I was smart enough to order a drain plug for just that purpose, but got too far ahead of myself and forgot. So, the stupid tax will be paid. It will come back apart and taken to a machine shop for the work (I don't trust myself to do it). I'll renew the gasket and re-do the paint, as required, of course. Just glad I didn't put oil in it!

Pretty, isn't it? I'll try again, I guess.

I also was able to get the locknuts off the studs that bolt into the top of the differential that hold the leaf spring down. Heat and PB blaster worked on most but for some I had to cut the bolt. I'll be replacing all of the studs, though, because upon further inspection they looked pretty well beaten up where they were exposed to the elements. Besides, at about $3 each, it's worth the proper thread engagement.

Whoops. What I get for using the cutoff wheel.

I was able to spin this one off. If you look closely, you can see the degradation to the threads above the bolt as opposed to below it.

Other than that and my trunnion troubles, things have been moving along. I thought I was wrapping up cleaning up the frame until I found some more cancer as I mentioned in my previous post. I took the advice of the guys on the forum and investigated, of course.

Based their sage advice, there was going to be metal replacement regardless of the extent of damage. My initial thought was that I may be able to just do some weld buildup and fill the pin holes that I found. What I learned, however, is that the pin holes don't develop from the side you see them on. The pin holes develop as extensive corrosion on the other side of the metal that finally manifests itself as pin holes on the visible side. Such was the case with this portion of the frame.

Best overall picture of the damage. The frame is flipped over here so this is the bottom of the passenger's side.

After removing some metal that was obviously damaged and also providing an inspection window, I found some rather extensive damage.

The first cut. If you look at the far right corner, you'll see some black "stuff" that fills the corner. That was a grease-grime-paste-? like something. Yuck!


Looking down the abyss. Not good.

I sprayed some Purple Power Citrus Cleaner in there and cleaned up as best I could and re-assessed. And, of course, found more damage.


This is the inside of the frame, mostly opposite the cut above. You can see the light shining through. I had not located these holes prior to this, but the interior corrosion was obvious.

I cut that out, too.

Top view of the extent of the cuts. Remember, again, the frame is upside down here.

View of cuts from the outboard portion of the frame.

View of the cut from the inboard portion of the frame.

If you look closely, in the above picture, there is one very small pin hole that I did not cut out. It's just to the left of the left vertical cut, just less than mid-way up between my Sharpie line and the cut itself  (a black dot surrounded by a grey-colored area). The internal damage extends just to this hole. But, with the perpendicular metal part that sticks out (this is where the steering rack bolts up) being attached at this point, I decided not to cut that far. My plan right now is to just preserve the inside really good (POR-15) and fill the pin hole incidentally welding the replacement metal in. Hopefully this works. My concern is that I will blow through the thinner, corroded metal too much and get stuck. We'll see, I guess.

As for the replacement metal, I fortunately still have the mostly-intact frame from the black car in the back yard for just this sort of issue. So, I took my trusty sawzall out there and hacked a very large portion of it up before I left to accomplish the work I've already explained.

A quick shot of the portion that I cut out. I cut more than this, but this was before I went at it.

Once I had bounded the problem on Dot's frame, it was over to the black car's frame to hack away at it. I over-cut, of course, to make sure I have enough extra material to grind/cut away for fitment. The only area of concern was cutting close to the suspension mounts and the interior reinforcements that the frame has for them. Some creative cutting with the cutoff wheel and sawzall, however, and I was good. I wanted to preserve the interior reinforcements just in case.

Obviously a nesting area. And recent, too, given the green acorn! Chipmunks, probably. Little bastards are all over my backyard!

I started fitment, grinding and cutting to fit up the replacement part. What I didn't have, however, was cardboard to make a template. When I started to get to the point where I was afraid I may cut away too much without making a template, I stopped for the evening. I put the donor piece in some vinegar to soak until Friday just to get the paint and surface rust off.

Side view of donor piece. Bottom is the outboard side.

Top view, with anti-roll bar mount cut off. 

All in all, not bad for about 3 hours of work, I guess. This weekend is committed to family events, so it will be another several days until I have a chance for more work. I want to get over there tomorrow (Friday) to get the replacement metal out of the vinegar. I'll neutralize it with water/baking soda then blow it dry in preparation for more fitment adjustments.

If you remember, I'm on a timeline with the rented garage. Therefore, I'd really like to have the frame done by the end of October. Since all of the other suspension bits are already ready to bolt up, it will be a quick re-assembly. Then, on to the engine through the end of November (given no surprises, of course) and then body work in all it's pain and glory over the winter. If I can be ready for paint (or at least landing it back on the frame) by April, I'm going to be happy!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Chassis Restoration #7

Trying to get caught up here, folks. I fought and fought with the rear trunnions, and to a lesser extent the upper ball joints, as chronicled in my last post. So, this is more of a wrap-up post with odd and ends that I accomplished before, during and after that whole ordeal.

I fixed the other rear vertical link that had a missing spacer on it that I mention in this post. I originally tried to use a bolt and nut to secure the spacer for welding, but after the first quick tack weld, I figured out that I couldn't verify that it was centered (it wasn't). I resorted to using a pair of vice grips instead so I could ensure the holes aligned.

Bolted down...but is it centered? Who knows? It wasn't.

I centered the spacer up with my hand, then clamped it down.

Spot welds done. Not factory, but functional.

Spot welds ground down, cleaned up and painted. Good enough!

That was a quick and painless fix. I also worked on wrapping up the differential refresh. The only new parts for it were the seals (axle and pinion), lock washers for the case bolts and axle bearing circlips.

"Female" end cleaned up and ready for assembly.

Male end the same.

I primed and painted the whole thing as well. It's still sitting as I type this and I'll go back, clean the paint off of the bolts that I used to keep it in one piece, then put the gasket on and seal it all up.

After two or three coats of primer and two coats of black. Hopefully still in this position as I type.

I was lucky enough to acquire a vented oil fill cap for the motor from EBay.

It wasn't cheap...about $30 with shipping, but it's mine! Damn purist!

If you remember, I have an early (FC399X-ish) motor, which puts it at an early Mk1. The PO swapped out the gearbox and the engine for this early combination at some point and for some reason, but put back in the Mk2 intake and exhaust manifolds. Significant design differences between the two motors with respect to the manifolds made it so that the motor, as I bought the car, did not have the heater connected, the correct water pump manifold, or the correct crankcase ventilation. I've been slowly, but surely, converting the motor over to the Mk2 components as best I can. I got the Mk2 aluminium fan from a regular on the Buy, Sell, Trade section of my favorite forum.

This aluminum fan is light enough not to require balancing, unlike the original Mk1 fans. Prettier, too.

The Mk1 fan. The adjustable part at the top is the balancing weight. Much heavier.

After those odds and ends, and after I finished up the trunnion business, I moved to prepping the frame for POR-15. I've mentioned this stuff before. I haven't used any of it yet, but I now have enough to do the entire frame. Of all the research I've done, this will be the best solution to provide immediate rust correction and future rust prevention.

However, as with most paint jobs, surface preparation is the most important. So, I started surface preparation by removing loose paint and grease and what-not from the frame. I was able to remove the one radio tower bolt that had been broken at some point by applying a lot of heat from a propane torch. I couldn't find a picture of "before" I took the broken bolt out, but took one after.

The bolt was stuck in the right (or rear) threaded hole. The two curved grooves are from the vice-grips that I used to turn the bolt out.

I took a wire wheel to the top and outer sides of the frame. I need to flip it over and do the bottom and also work on the insides. There are a lot of tight spots that will prove difficult and require by-hand attention.

As with most frames I've seen, mine did not escape damage due to impingement. Specifically, it appears as if the passenger's side anti-sway bar mounting bracket was dented in at some point. This resulted in a crease in the frame and resulting pin-holes.

Pin-holes and clear damage to frame. Side view.

Same side, but taken from more of a bottom view. Blurry..sorry. Not a whole lot of bracket damage here, though.

This seems odd to me as there is no other evidence of damage, but who knows. I've asked on my favorite forum for some advice.

Tomorrow I am going to the local Jaguar club car show, British Wheels on the Green, in Madison, CT. This was the first British car show that I attended shortly after I acquired Dot and will be my third time there. My oldest is going with me and I hope to meet the wife and my youngest there (soccer game in a nearby town) to make it a family event. While the Triumphs are few, the E-type Jags are prevalent and are a sight to behold! Garage on Sunday if all goes to plan. Cheers!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Chassis Restoration Addendum - The Trouble with Trunnions

After several garage trips battling what I would consider sub-standard parts, I finally got the rear trunnions re-bushed and torqued down along with the front upper ball joints. Now, these wouldn't seem like terribly difficult jobs, but...Come with me, friend, on a little adventure.

First, as a lead in, I purchased a total of three kits, one of which was ultimately successful. The original kits were from The Roadster Factory, part no. BK9/U. The next kits were from SpitBits, part no. QSK151. The final, and working, kits were from Moss Motors, part no. 674-935.

2 of the 3 kits I ordered. R to L: What came off the trunnion originally, the SpitBits kit and the TRF kit.

The 3rd (and final) kit from Moss.

The trunnion kits are all very similar with some notable differences. First, they all stack up the same.

Trunnion stack up, with all parts outlined in the "A" boxes.

I assembled them by first covering everything in a liberal amount of bearing grease both to provide stickiness to keep everything together and lubrication. I then stacked the kit up as shown. One trick here is that the rubber o-rings, in all kits, go around the plastic bushing to provide a dust seal.

Example of o-ring placement. This is the SpitBit's kit.

One notable difference between the SpitBit's kit is that the inner washer, that mates with the trunnion face itself, is flat. The other kits, and the old one I pulled out of the trunnion have a cupped washer on the inside. In my opinion, the cupped washer is the better design because it will tend to retain the o-ring.

Measuring the thickness of the inner washer. You can clearly see the lip, however.

Now that you hopefully understand the design differences, I'll go back to the beginning. The TRF kit was first. Unfortunately, when I attempted to install it, I ran into serious fitment problems. First, the plastic bushings were very tight going into the trunnion, even after using quite a bit of grease.

The TRF bushing. You can see the extra little plastic burr on the right. Read on...

Then, the steel bolt sleeve required a mallet to push all the way through, even taking a small sliver of plastic bushing with it. Ultimately, the stack-up of the kit resulted in it sticking out from the trunnion too far on either side, making installation of the vertical link very difficult.

About 53mm. That's too wide.

The space for the vertical link was about 51.5mm. ~2mm may not seem a lot, but when you are dealing with 1/8" or so steel, it is.

Space between vertical link where trunnion fits.

When the vertical link was torqued down, it took a lot of effort (too much, in my opinion) to rotate the vertical link about the trunnion as it would need to do for wheel travel over the road. So, I took it apart.

Using a 2x4 as a spreader to allow the vertical link to fit over the trunnion.

Since SpitBits has always been (and will continue to be, I must stress) good to me, I went to Nigel for the next round of kits. Similar situation here with the kit running just shy of 54mm. Again, too wide, but I tried anyway.

The SpitBits kit fitted, with the resulting measurements.

I had to use the 2x4 spreader to get the vertical link to fit over the trunnion. Once I started to tighten it down, almost immediately the rubber o-ring started to extrude. By about 20 ft-lbs of torque, it was well on it's way out. Busted again.


O-ring extrusion. That's not going to work.

My next domestic resort was Moss. Now, I've only placed one other order from Moss, and that was for those caliper o-rings that I mentioned in my last post. While they obviously fit the bill for some stuff, I find that their part prices are generally higher than most so I've always gone the cheaper route. In this case, however, they were the cheapest of the bunch with their trunnion kits only $4.99 each, as compared to $7.99 each for SpitBits and about $20 for a pair from TRF.

Immediately upon receipt I thought I may be lucky. First, the bag said "Made in UK" on it.

Made in U.K. A good sign? Hope so!

Second, I could also tell that the washers, especially the inner one, were visibly thinner that the other kits. The plastic bushings seemed close, but maybe a bit thinner, too. I commenced installing this kit in the same method as all of the others.

Inner washers, plastic bushings and steel bolt sleeve installed.

Rubber o-ring around outside of plastic bushing.

Outer dust caps installed.

Proof is in the pudding. Just over 52mm; about 1.5mm less than the others and less than 1mm larger than the vertical link spacing.

Vertical link partially installed. This did not require the 2x4 spacer, just the rubber mallet for positioning.

I was very happy, needless to say, with these results. I bolted it down to the spec of about 40 ft-lbs and got good movement on the vertical link. I would call the movement as I expect. Tight, but not overly so and indicative of new parts.

Finally, with the battle finally won, I moved on to trying new front upper ball joints. The original set was from TRF, part no. 104552. These ball joints are specifically manufactured for TRF and also have grease fittings. However, I couldn't get the things to seat inside the front vertical link to save my life. I tried hammering with a 3lb sledge and wood, an impact wrench...nothing. The threaded rod would always turn and the taper would never gtab into the vertical link.

So, I ordered Lucas ones from SpitBits, part no. GSJ155. These worked like a champ and torqued right up to the spec with no rotation of the tapered rod. Really, these were very anti-climatic as I expected to have to do some beating on them, but I only tightened them down.

And done.

Let me say that between the rear trunnions and the upper ball joints, I was a defeated man. I wasn't sure that it was the parts and not me. Very frustrating to go to your rented garage that cost you a lot of money for one of the two days out of the week that you have arranged with the family to go to it and accomplish nothing, fighting the whole time to get the car back together and getting no where.

On the flip side, however, I felt vindicated after all was said and done that it was not me and it was the parts and I was going to get through this restoration with a quality job done on the other side. Only time will tell, I guess.

Hopefully if you've read this you aren't nodding your head saying to yourself that you feel my pain because you've gone through it. Hopefully you can learn these lessons from me instead of through your own trials.

Also, in the interest of transparency, I did contact Nigel at SpitBits. He attempted to recreate my issues and was not able to do so. I'm sure his years of experience helped, but there you go. He did also provide a credit to my account, which I'm sure I will use quickly. For the record, most of my orders have been with SpitBits and it will continue to be that way. Cheers!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Triumph Spitfire Chassis Restoration #6 - Amended


I only got two days at the garage since my last post, though, so the work was not all that great. Lots of ends and ends, however, so I'll get to it. Also, some of the pictures are a bit on the blurry side. Not sure if it's the lighting or what, but I'll work on that in the future.

Tying up loose ends from the last post, I received my two cans of Signal Red from Automotive Touchup, but did not try them out yet.

I got a pretty quick response from Rimmer's regarding the plugs for their grease-able u-joints. I was correct about the u-joint being metric while the plugs were standard. They have since deleted the association on their website that lists the plugs as fitting the u-joints. I was able to source a few plugs from my local True Value and they work just fine.

I ended up placing my part order with SpitBits, instead of Rimmer's, since it's been a while since I threw Nigel some of my money. I wasn't in a hurry for anything this time around, and the exchange rate didn't really give me that much of an advantage with the international shipping, so I went with him. I got two new rear trunnion kits, since he does NOT carry the Powertune brand that I had problems with and a new brake line kit that I forgot to get from Rimmer's with my last big order. There were a few more odds and ends, of course, but those were the major things.

My calipers were in pretty sad cosmetic shape with quite a bit of rust that I could not adequately get at without splitting them apart. So, I made the mistake of breaking them apart. Turns out they are not really supposed to be split after they are manufactured. Of course, asking about it on my favorite forum ran the gamut of "you'll need to buy new ones now" to "we used to do it all the time". Thankfully, the rubber seals that seal the two halves are still available (easiest place I found to order them was from Moss, with an un-illustrated part number of 583-820).

I did find an old twist-tie in the bleed screw hole of one that some PO put there at some point, so I guess it was good that I split it, at least for this one.

The twist-tie I found in the bleed screw hole.

The two halves. The black ring on the left-side half is the seal that's to be replaced.

Another mystery surrounding this is there is no available torque spec on the two bolts that hold the caliper halves together. It took a 3/8" breaker bar and a vise to break them out, so I'd say that's pretty darn tight. Also, one bolt's threads got a bit galled when removing one, so I took care of that.

Unbeknownst to me before this, there is something called a thread restorer tap and die set. Unlike a "normal" tap a die set, this set isn't designed to actually cut threads, but dress them up. Thinking this would be the perfect way to repair this bolt and I'm sure many more as the restoration continues, I ordered a coarse and fine thread set from Amazon. It worked, so I can only say I recommend it if you find yourself in a similar situation. I took some pictures of this, but they turned out pretty badly. Suffice it to say that the bolt would not thread into the caliper before I "restored" them, and screwed in like butter after.

Next, I took the calipers to my 6" bench grinder with a brass wire wheel. It was hard to get in all of the areas, but it worked out pretty well. I chose brass because I didn't want to remove any metal and I intend to use it for bolts and nuts and the like as well.

Caliper halves after a long soak in Purple Power, but before the brass wheel treatment.

After the brass wheel treatment. Oooooo, ahhhhhh.

After cleaning them up, I shot them with three coats of Clear VHT Caliper paint. I didn't want them to have a color, so I decided on clear to prevent the rust problems that I just got done correcting. I taped off the mating joints between the two halves and the piston cylinders.

Once the painting was done, I put in the new rubber seal for the half that used it.

The recess for the rubber seal (left). The other hole is where one of the two bolts holding the halves together goes.

The seal installed. Not much to it. It's thick for it's size and squared-off, vice round like a regular o-ring.

I also put in the rebuild kit including the internal and external piston rubber seals. It was much easier, with the caliper in half, to get the external seals done properly. I did these for the first time a long time ago and they kicked my butt.

Internal piston seal. Obviously, I was unable to get ALL of the rust off. A bit of damage to the lip, too.

External rubber seal, on the caliper lip. The piston also has a groove that accepts the other end of the rubber seal.

Sorry it's blurry, but this shows the piston and rubber seal mating.
Once the seals were in, I bolted the two halves together, but was running out of time and didn't tighten them down.

Mostly finished. The other bleed screw is there as a foreign material exclusion.

Another thing I got done was the rear spring refurbishment. I blasted, primed and painted the smaller leaves that would fit in the blasting cabinet and took a wire wheel to the two largest. New spring thrust buttons were used. There is discussion on the "original" style rubber buttons that compress and squish when they are loaded and others that are made of teflon (or nylon, maybe). Because I couldn't source these conveniently and I frankly didn't think it would really matter all that much, I stuck with the rubber buttons.

Top and side view of the spring button. About the size of a nickel, I used a dab of grease to hold them in place during leave assembly.

I also cleaned up the small bolts/nuts that hold everything together. Finally, new bushings rounded out the job.

Before (right) and after taking the brass wheel to the small bolts of the spring assembly.

I used a c-clamp to hold everything together while tightening down that center nut. The top is rounded, so pliers were required to get it tight.


Pressing in the bushings. Anti-seize for all my friends! The bulge you see towards the end of the leaf is the recess (on the other side) for one of the thrust buttons.

The finished product. A comment on my favorite forum was that is was a very tall arc. Guess we'll see when I try to install it.

Next up was replacing the inner axle seals as part of the differential refurbishment. This was a simple job. This is the differential out of the black car and while it didn't have the mass of grease and grime that the Dot's differential did, I figured replacing the seals, and the main pinion seal, was a good idea. The bearings felt good all around so they are not getting replaced.

Here's how the assembly fits together (picture courtesy of Rimmer Bros.)

New seals on left, old on right. New ones seems to be all rubber while the old seems to be a rubber/fabric mesh.

The seal driven in to the oil seal retainer. I used a piece of wood and rubber mallet to ensure it went in evenly.

Bearing puller, working in reverse to "draw" in the bearings. Went on smoothly.

I came up with a novel way to get the circlip re-seated into its groove. This circlip is just a piece of spring steel with no spreading tabs like a "normal" circlip. I didn't want to take a flat head screwdriver to it and either damage it by bending it up too much or scoring the driver shaft. So, instead, I used the closed end of a combination wrench that was just big enough to fit down the shaft, but small enough to not go over the circlip. A quick hit on the wrench with a hammer popped the circlip into place. Sometimes, you have a moment of "I'm all that and a bag of chips" in your work. This was one of those. It's the little things.

Using the closed end of a combination wrench to drive the circlip down into its recess to retain the bearing.

I did order new circlips for this from Rimmer's. Another data point where I got what I consider the wrong part. The new ones were much bigger diameter than the originals. I verified that I ordered the correct part. The old ones were fine, I just figured new ones were cheap insurance. Like the plugs for the u-joints, these are too inexpensive to send back but, like I said, are another data point. I did some quick research and I think the axle shaft diameter may have changed at some point, necessitating larger circlips. SpitBits lists the ones I've got as only good for Mk3 and up. I've emailed Rimmer's and I'll see what they have to say this time.

Original on top, "new" ones on the bottom.

That was about it for the day. We have a hurricane coming to visit on Monday so since the weather will be terrible, I'm going to go to the garage to celebrate the Labor Day holiday. I should be able to get the other brake caliper put together and both fully tightened down. I'll also work on putting the differential back together as well. Until next time...

I got about 5 hours in the garage today. Doesn't seem like I did too much, but I did accomplish a few things. I got the calipers all done and bolted back together. I decided to torque them to 80 ft-lbs, which is where my torque wrench tops out.

I also brought the RH rear vertical link to the garage from my attic to refurbish that to use instead of the one I already cleaned up due to a missing spacer that I didn't notice. Unfortunately, the other one is missing both trunnion spacers (well, they are welded, but are more like washers). I've asked on my favorite forum for recommendations, including the option for a new one (to me) if need be.

Spacer should be on the right like it is on the left.

After stopping that job short, I moved on to getting the bushings out of the rear differential. What a pain. I was able to use my propane torch to burn on the inner bushing and rubber, but the outer collar was one with the differential case. Since it was so thin, I couldn't get anything to smack on it good. Instead, I took my sawzall and cut the collar down to the differential house. I then took a chisel punch and worked at it. Eventually, after enough beatings, they both slowly came out.


The beatings will continue until morale improves...or the bushing comes out. Marred up the differential case a bit, too.

The bushing removed.

Once the bushings were out, I put the case in the blaster and cleaned it up pretty good. I didn't spend a lot of time on it since it's not that visible. I also blasted the front mounting brackets, but didn't get any pics of that. I sprayed them both with one coat of primer. The wind from tropical storm Hermine was really picking up by then and the painting was challenging to say the least since I don't want to do it inside if I can help it. So, only one coat to prevent flash rust on the freshly exposed metal.

Just the back half.
I'm not quite sure how I'm going to attack the other half of the differential. You know, the one with the big gears in it. I definitely do not want to remove all of that stuff because there are tons of measurements and shims and the like that I just don't want to mess with. Probably the easiest would be to clean up the gear half as good as I can (no blasting, of course), but it all back together and a prime and paint it as a whole unit. We'll see.