Getting My Hands Dirty

My car was in the shop being worked on, but I was not doing much more than ordering parts, cleaning , and painting some of the old interior parts.  I had also recovered some of the seat cushions so I wasn’t completely idle.  But I wasn’t particularly involved with the mechanical work being done.  That was about to change as I had the opportunity to spend a day at the shop my car was at and help with some of the work being done.

I made the drive out to the shop which took about an hour and a half.  Once I arrived we got right to work.  First Val showed me a fixture he had welded together that mounted in a floor jack and was designed to hold the rear differential securely so it wouldn’t roll around while being lowered out of the car.  It was a pretty clever idea and we would have the opportunity to test it out that day, as the first job was removing the rear end. After admiring the fixture we got to work removing the rear end.  Or more accurately, Val got to work removing the rear end and I got to work observing and helping whenever he needed an extra set of hands.  That wasn’t very often as he is used to working by himself.

The first order of business was to remove the rear differential housing.  Val made quick work of disconnecting the brake hoses and the parking brake cables.  Next up was the U-bolts that hold the differential housing to the rear leaf springs.  These were a mismatched set of too long and short parts that will probably end up being replaced.  An air powered impact gun got these off without too much drama.  The rear shackles were next on the list.  They were fairly rusted and did resist being removed.  The exhaust system was in the way, but since it is scheduled to be replaced The tail pipes were sacrificed to make some additional room around the rear shackles.  With quite a bit of persuasion the rear shackles came off.  We were then able to remove the differential housing from the car.  It was pretty well caked up with 45 years of leaking fluid, mud, dirt, and road salt.

Next Val showed me how to remove the differential from the housing.  The first step was to drain as much fluid out of the housing the we could by removing the filler plug and turning the housing so that the filler was pointing down into a drain pan.  Now he could proceed with removing the differential.  This involved disconnecting the brake lines from the wheel cylinders.  Then he unbolted the rear axle retainers and used a slide hammer to remove the rear axles on each side.  After removing the nuts and copper washers that hold the differential to the housing he was able to remove the differential from the housing.

Here was the part where I had the opportunity to get my hands dirty.  Somebody needed to scrape away the 45 years of caked on dirt, and that person was going to be me.  After about 30 minutes with a putty knife and a small scraper I had chiseled away the majority of the caked on gunk and you could actually see the differential again.In the mean time, Val had been working on unbolting the front leaf spring bushing so that we could remove the rear leaf springs.  I had a new set of springs that we wanted to install when the new differential went in.

Unfortunately the front bushing were firmly rusted into place.  The first bolt had snapped cleanly off.  A sledge hammer and punch couldn’t dislodge the bolt.  Val turned to an air chisel which also failed to make the bolts come out of the bushing.  Finally Val resorted to the Sawzall to cut the bolt out of the bushing.  After some maneuvering and a few choice words the leaf spring came free.  One spring down, one to go.

The second spring started out being a bit more cooperative, which ended up making it more difficult to remove.  The nut on the spring eye bolt came off without snapping the bolt.  Unfortunately the second spring bolt was as rusted just as firmly into place as the first.  This meant that Val had to use the Sawzall to cut both ends of the bolt off.  That meant that this side required twice as much cutting as the first one.  But in the end the spring did come out.  That marked the end of the rear differential and spring removal job.

It was too late in the day to tackle the transmission which was next on the agenda.  Instead, Val offered to show me how to install the outer door handles and locks. The previous shop that had worked on the car had installed a set of metal rods that extended up out of the door handle holes so that the door could be operated without the door handles and locks in place.  These rods always snagged on my clothing and cut into your hands when opening the door.  I had a bag of parts with the original handle and lock parts.  It was easy to identify which side of the car the door handles fit on.  The door locks were trickier because there was nothing on them to identify which side they fit on.  We took an educated guess which ended up being wrong.  Val demonstrated on the driver’s side door by installing the door handle and lock.  After a bit of adjustment everything appeared to be working and it was my turn to do the passenger side door.

I got the door  handle installed and with a bit of adjustment it was working fine.  Now it was time to move onto the door lock.  I dropped it into place and connected it, but the rods inside the door seemed to be interfering with the door handle rods.  Turning the key to lock and unlock the door resulted in a limited range of motion where the key would only turn one quarter turn.  After some head scratching and experimentation we determined that the door locks were installed on the wrong side of the car.  After we switched the lock mechanisms to the opposite sides the passenger door worked fine and the driver’s side door required some tweaking of the rod inside the door to get a fuller range of motion.  In the end both doors were working fine.

After that work was done for the day.  Val showed me some rusty spots on the car that he planned to tackle.  There was nothing major and were areas where most Mustangs of that vintage have issues with rust.  He also showed me that he had a new power brake booster to install.  One recommendation he made was to install sub-frame connectors to try and regain some of the chassis stiffness that had been lost over time with all the patching that was done to the floor pans.  I agreed and he will order and install a set of the connectors.  After that I made the long drive home.  That was enough dirty hands for one day.