Guide to Building a Hot Rod Chassis, cont.

Front spreader bar.

     With the basics of the X-member completed, various other frame parts are installed. A plate with laser-cut holes is welded on to serve as a mount for a master cylinder; two plates can be used if you're running a hydraulic clutch. The pedal box is added at this time and can be used for either one or two pedals to accommodate stick cars. On the rear legs of the X-member plates are welded in that will mount the front ends of the four-link suspension for the rear end.

     The only other important parts still to be added to the frame are the drive train mounts and steering box mount. The transmission mount is a large flat plate that bolts atop the lower front legs of the X-member, its postion determined by the type of transmission being used. In the case of the Road Tour roadster, we are using a Chevrolet LS-1 V-8 with an electric water pump. Built by the engine guys at Gen III, the engine now has hot rod style induction and a lot of other cool components, but it's a little longer than your average small-block Chevy V-8. Therefore, HR&CS used their standard SBC mounts, attaching them to the chassis about 2-1/4 inches further back on the rails than they normally would. Given that the Deuce Steel frame is riding lower than your average '32, both the engine and transmission mounts are set up to raise the engine and transmission higher in the frame for more ground clearance.

Access points in frame.

     One of the final steps performed while the frame is still in the fixture is to weld the outside seams of the three-piece front rail sections. These sections are fully welded on the inside, so the outside welds are mainly to clean up the seams. Charlie uses his TIG torch on all outside welds because only minor sanding is required to smooth them off for painting.

     At this point the frame is mostly done. Pilot holes are drilled where the front suspension's wishbones will be pivoting, and the frame is removed from the fixture so it can be turned upside down for finish welding in all the areas that were difficult to reach before. Two small boxing plates are welded in on the inside-bottom of the front cross-member, the front Panhard bracket is welded to the left rail, tubes are welded in for the wishbone bolts, and threaded bungs for the front shock/headlight mount bolts are also welded in. Other than the paint prep that will come later, our Road Tour frame is ready for a set of suspenders.

SSBC master cylinder mount.

     Our '32 has a mix of modern and traditional components. On the up-to-date side of the overall ledger, we have the high-tech powertrain with its two computers, and in the respect-for-the-past vein we have a low-ridin' highboy roadster with a steel body. The SRM Deuce also features very traditional transverse-leaf front suspension a la an early Ford, and a nine-inch Ford rear end with coilover shocks. All of this is accomplished with straightforward, proven components that HR&CS has used many times before with results.

Pete & Jakes I-beam axle.

     The front suspension on this project uses components from Pete & Jake's Hot Rod Parts, one of the oldest companies in the street rod suspension business. Now, even though the use of the Deuce Steel frame gets our roadster down in the weeds up front, we're still using a four-inch dropped axle, although it's a new forged aluminum version. Our aluminum Super Bell axles from Pete & Jake's Hot Rod Parts is polished and has traditional "Lightening" holes, but the Alum-I-Beam axle, as Pete & Jake's calls it, is lighter more because of its forged aluminum aerospace material than because of the holes, which are there for the "cool factor."

     The axle is connected to the chassis by the transverse front spring and two hairpin-style radius rods. The ones we're using are the Viper hairpins that combine the nostalgic look of old Sprint Car suspension with modern materials like seamless DOM tubing and the 4130 chrome-moly clevis used on the good-looking chromed batwings.

Vega steering box.

     Our Pete & Jake's front spring is chromed and utilizes rounded ends to the spring leaves, another traditional treatment. Each leaf also has a dimple at each end that holds a Teflon button, making the leaf spring work almost without friction for a smooth ride. Complementing the spring action are the Pete & Jakes chromed rod shocks that are short enough to work on a dropped axle car, yet long enough to do the job of dampening the roads-and they're in keeping with the overall "you'll need sunglasses" look of our front suspension. The spring and the hairpins provide a three-point location system for the axle, but we're also using the extra locating action of a Panhard rod. Mounted at the frame on one side and at the axle on the other, this rod gives positive axle location, and it's behind the Alum-I-Beam axle to keep the front view unspoiled.

Flaming River u-joints and steering shaft.

     Our heavy-duty 9-inch Ford rearend from the Currie Enterprises was chosen to handle all the torque of our LS1 and look good while doing it. Only the pumpkin is a Ford part (ours uses a 3.70 gears), with the rest being a combination of new steel axle tubes with Currie's polished-aluminum street rod center housing and a polished-aluminum pinion support. Since we are going to be the wranglers of some serious power, we have the benefit of Currie's choice of a TSD limited-slip differential, big pinion bearing, and 31-spline performance axles.

     Betwixt that rear end on steroids and our equally beefy frame are the rear suspension pieces. The rear suspension is sort of modern-traditional, since this arrangement of bars and coilover shock absorbers has been used in street rods for the past 20 years or more, but doesn't have roots going way back like the front suspension. Today we want smooth, reliable, and even better, adjustable rear suspension. Our ragtop has this and more with Pete & Jakes four-bar and coilover suspension package.

Pete & Jakes chromed front shocks.

     In case there are some readers new to all these chassis terms we've been tossing around, coilover shocks combine springs and shock absorbers into one unit for efficiency in action and under car space-saving. The coil spring mounts on the shock body with an adjustable collar at the bottom. Our Pete & Jakes Viper alloy shocks have adjustable rebound valving for ride control, and the chromed coil springs can be adjusted up or down to change the ride height. The coilover shock mounting brackets on the rear axle double as the rear mounts for the four-bar axle locators. Between the coilovers (fine adjustment of height) and the three-position lower shock mount brackets (bigger adjustments), there's more than enough adjustability for ride height at the rear of our red-hot roadster. The top ends of the coilovers mount to the rear crossmember tube.

SSBC Force 10 Elite brakes.

     Four-bars mounted to both the rear axle and the frame (front-to-rear) handle the acceleration/braking torques of the rear axle, and since they are of equal length and parallel to each other, the pinion angle doesn't change when the rear end goes up and then down in relation to the frame. The Pete & Jakes four-bars have polyurethane bushings at the front and polyurethane-bushed adjusters at the rear. Changing the adjustment of the two lower bars compared to the upper bars is what establishes the correct pinion angle at the rear axle (more about this later) so that the driveshaft and U-joints can operate smoothly for many years.

SSBC rear disc brake kit.

     This covers corralling the movements of the rear axle in every direction except side-to-side vis-à-vis the frame. This last bit of control is provided by a Panhard bar, similar in effect to what was used on the back of our fron axle. One end of the Panhard rod is mounted to the side of the frame, and the other to a bracket mounted to the Currie pinion support on the differential.

     Except in space, everything that goes down the road also has to stop sometime, and we have some brakes that are totally up to that task, completing the chassis story of our 2004 Road Tour car. Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation (SSBC) supplied the whoa power for our '33 Road Tour roadster last year, and we have much the same setup on this year's car.

Currie 31-spline axle.

     There's nothing nostalgic about the brake system we're using, everything is state-of-the-art here with disc brakes riding behind all four of our Wheel Vintiques wheels. Up front, 11-inch diameter vented rotors are bolted (and safety-wired) to aluminum hubs. The SSBC rotors are vented for cooler performance, and feature anti-rust plating called Xtra-Life so the areas of the rotor not in contact with the pads will maintain a clean look.

     The brakes are an easy installation on our spindles. The caliper mounts on disc brake setups using OEM calipers are often ugly affairs, but this Deuce is sporting SSBC's Force 10 Elite series calipers that are billet aluminum and designed to work with their caliper mounting bracket, which is a full-circle aluminum disc bolted to the spindle. Thus, the mounting discs act as dust shields and really smooth out the view of our front end. Mike Jonas and his engineers really had their thinking caps on when they started with a clean sheet of paper to design the Elite calipers. The calipers are symmetrically machined, and feature a center inlet position for the fluid fitting, making the calipers work for either left- or right-side use.

SSBC Force 10 brake caliper.

     You know how annoying it can be to have big disc brakes with pads that rattle around and click? It's even more annoying when you're trying to cruise slow-and-smooth through an admiring crowd in a fenderless car where the brakes and suspension are out in the breeze. The SSBC boys addressed these concerns by using bolts rather than long cotter pins to retain their brake pads, and they even install anti-rattle clips for good measure. Additionally, there are bleeder screws at each end of the caliper, so no matter which way you mount the calipers in an application, the bleeder screw can be at the top where it needs to be. The bleeder screws are also recessed into the calipers for a smoother look.

     The rear calipers on the STREET RODDER roadster are another pair of Elite billet models, each with four stainless steel pistons. What's of interest at the back of our car is that a nine-inch Ford rear end like ours normally has drum brakes. Actually, the Ford drum brakes are fairly good sized and would work fine, but when you sit down with STREET RODDER people and a pro builder like Randy Clark to pencil out a new roadster, you go deep in the end zone for every choice! Thus, we've got discs in back.

Currie rear end and Pete & Jakes four-bars.

     With the axles pulled out a few inches, the two SSBC interlocking caliper mounting plates can be slipped in behind the axle flange and bolted down to the axle housing end-SSBC plate becomes the new axle seal retainer. When the axle is pushed back in, the original Ford seal retainer bolts in to sandwich the SSBC plate. The Stainless Steel Brakes rear brake system uses two calipers per wheel: a conventional hydraulic Elite caliper and a smaller billet cable-operated parking brake caliper. Each attaches to the axle with its own caliper bracket. The calipers can be bolted on and plumbed at this point. We chose to mount the big calipers at the rear and the parking brakes at the front so our Lokar E-brake cables could be routed with ease. Next, we'll be looking at our powertrain, chassis plumbing, and other details. SR


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Hot Rods & Custom Stuff - builds, restores, paints, services and sells parts for classic autos, cars, trucks and street rods.