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.
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.
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.
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!.