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LeMons Ranchero Update: Get Your Rear End in Order

1962 Ranchero project car

Long ago, I emphasized the importance of finding a “runner” for a first project car. If it can’t  move and function like a car should, it’s impossible to know what other systems need work without taking things apart. Case in point: Everything but the shafts and housing of our rear end was junk.

Thankfully, Ford 8″ axles (and their 9″ older brothers) are completely modular: the differential drops out and the bearings, seals and brake hardware are all easily swapped. The ability to swap a diff without rebuilding the whole thing saves countless hours and dollars.

kid working on project carford 8 inch axle seal

The rough how to: unbolt the axle backing plates (so easy a four-year-old can do it!), use a slide hammer to yank the bearings free from the housing, unbolt the diff and drop it out. React in horror at the water-oil-mud-sludge coming out to the axle housing and the rust it’s inflicted upon the ring and pinion gears. To complete the picture, note that the brake cylinders are filled with crusty powder and frozen in place.

ford 8 inch brake cylinderford 8 inch brake cylinder

Given that the gears in this diff were junk, I had to repeat all of the above on the first Ranchero to swipe its differential for this car. I actually swapped this junk diff into the old car, just to give the shafts something to ride on and seal up with.

ford 8 inch differential ring and pinionford 8 inch differential center section

Lucky for me, I accidentally ordered an extra set of brake hardware for the first Ranchero, so it was just a matter of swapping everything in. If you’re doing drum brakes, you need a drum brake tool. Theoretically you could get it done with pliers and screwdrivers, but seriously, just get the tool. Similarly, don’t attempt to connect or disconnect brake lines without , lest you downgrade all fittings to vise-grip-only. Of note: even on old American cars, sometimes replacement parts come with metric bleeder nuts, so make sure you have both SAE and Metric wrenches.

While in there, I took the opportunity to remove the old fuel tank. It’s not rusted through or leaking as far as we can tell, but the other tank and fueling neck setup are a known quantity (precision engineered in a mad overnight scramble in our first race), so we’ll be sticking with them. Yes, a fuel cell would be safer and preferable, but that’s $1500-2000 that’s simply not in the cards this time around.

Next up: Roll Cage!.

  • I’ll ask the question that shouldn’t be asked: Do you have a race in mind for its debut? In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t manage to get my 96 to either of its first two races.

    I agree about the desirabilty of a drum brake tool, although I prefer the pliers type. For that style, if (when) the curved tip breaks, just get another one instead of struggling with the almost adequate broken end for the next several years. Trust me.

    • Alff

      Pliers style gives better leverage to stretch springs.

    • jeepjeff

      The goal is Sears Pointless at the end of March. I think we’ll make it. I’m not going to spoiler Tim’s posts, though. πŸ™‚

  • 0A5599

    Wouldn’t it have been faster/easier to swap axle assemblies with the wrecked Ranchero?

    • The axle under the other one is about 3″ wider than it should be (think it’s from a Mustang or Fairlane or something), which necessitated hours of hammering and cutting to get the tires to fit without rubbing. This one’s the proper width, so it was pretty attractive.

  • dukeisduke

    Ah yes, pulling bearings with a slide hammer. In my experience, usually the inner race disintegrates first, the rollers are picked out/fall out everywhere, and then you readjust the jaws and slam, slam, slam, until the frozen-in-place outer race finally (hopefully?) pops out. Or you cut it with a several cutoff wheels (one false move and they shatter) in your Dremel, then use a hammer and cold chisel to destroy the outer race and pull it out. It’s always fun.

    • Similarly, for my ’37 Plymouth I once had to remove the brass pilot bushing from the flywheel by cutting through it with an unsupported hacksaw blade after all other methods had failed. I probably had a good eighth of an inch of travel for the blade, so the process only took a small whole-number multiple of far too much time.

      • HuntRhymesWith
      • Did that job on the Uberbird. Was a combination of tiny blades and Dremel wheels hacking at it until it cracked and could be removed. Probably 4 hours and $25 in supplies for that damn thing.

        • Alff

          I’ve come to accept that there’s no shame in taking things like this to the machinist.

          • In the case of the Plymouth the engine was still in the car. The floorboards were designed to unbolt which means the “easy” way to replace the clutch is to lift the relatively small three-speed transmission and bell housing up and out through the interior while leaving the relatively large and heavy L-head six and its awkward flywheel in place.

            In theory.

            • Alff

              Practice often trumps theory – as recently as yesterday for me. In theory, one can remove the steel hub from the aluminum knuckle of a Dodge Ram simply by disconnecting top ball joint, removing retaining bolts and employing a three jaw puller. After 15 years on the road, the dissimilar metals have formed an unholy alliance. It may not be quicker but it is a lot less stressful to take the knuckle off and let someone else bother with it. Twenty five bucks well spent. If only I’d taken that advice before struggling with slide- and air hammer for an hour.

          • Vairship

            …in which case it takes 4 minutes and $425. Either way, it’s a mess πŸ˜‰