Colossus - the 1970 Concours frame replacement project

Discussion in 'Station Wagon Projects' started by chevygod, May 17, 2011.

  1. chevygod

    chevygod Well-Known Member

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    Hey all,
    I have been posting this at the Chevelle sight, but someof what I go through on this will apply to other GM midsize wagons, so I will share here as well if it is OK.

    I was bored, and I had already rotated the fan belts and lubed the muffler bearings on the Wagon this month, so I decided to take the dang thing apart.
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    I had been gathering info on frame swaps and all that, and I am tired of tripping over a new frame and all kinds of bits and bobs out back, so I am going to finally replace the frame on my 70 Concours Wagon. Finding a broken frame after buying it was embarrassing and a let down, but overall I am still happy with the car, just being forced into a project now that I wanted to do later. See, I wanted to install an Elco frame under it to increase the chassis stiffness (boxed frame) so this is something I had considered for the future. Well, I guess it happens now.

    This is the first auto project my son has helped on (you fix it, you can drive it) so Joey really helped quite a bit. My littlest one, Christine, was there for some of it supervising to make sure Big Bro and Dada weren’t being slackers…
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    couple of things I learned…

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    A wagon body without front clip balances just in front of the rear wheel wells… lotsa butt weight out back. Lifting the car with 2 jacks on the sides...

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    2 huge stands at the rear (just in case)...

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    and the hoist at the firewall still required 2 tire/rim assemblies AND 2 bare rims on the cowl to over balance the body to the front!

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    Supporting an El Camino on 4x4’s is ok. Even with all of the extra metal in the bed it is a whole bunch lighter than a wagon. A splintered 4x4 and a puckered sphincter proved this. The support above is one I got that was used to ship a CNC machine from Taiwan to my Job. Well able to support the rear half of the body.

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    Sorry out of sequence, anyways, because of that balance issue I mentioned earlier, a 4x4 and stands worked just fine at the firewall.

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    I shoulda taken the driveshaft out, and the rear springs out. Had to get the body really high to get it to clear the kick up, and the drive shaft was in the way of a center supporting jack. Even rolling it on the drums (more on that later) didn't get me the space I needed.

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    Part way out from where it has been for a long time. Rolling a car on the drums is OK, but really back off the shoes so they don’t drag. The chassis rolls fine with tires, but sucked on the drums.

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    First time in the open air ever. Gonna try to get the body onto a cart I have for it so it is not so high up and can be moved around if I need to move it. Can't more it now worth a da%n.

    Other things I have learned:

    Don’t ever, ever buy a car that is not from Southern California or the Desert regions. The bolts on this one so far have come out with little issue, including the dreaded body mounting bolts. Not like on East Coast cars I see people working on here. I also own a 71 Vette. The Vette is an East Coast car…

    I really like working on cars, but I really hate working on cars. Having my son and daughter, and my Wifey, along and supporting on this project makes it a lot more bearable. (really they just wanna go to the beach in the car!)

    If people are interested, I will post more as we get more done. Motor/trans come out next, then chassis tear-down, then lotsa parts cleaning and figuring out what I need to replace or upgrade. I want to do a lot of trick stuff, but also want to get this thing running sometime before it is unrealistically hot here in the IE.

    Best regards,
    Tom
     
  2. HandyAndy

    HandyAndy Well-Known Member

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    Wow heckuva job there! I can appreciate this line the most:
     
  3. 1tireman

    1tireman Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the pics. Keep posting and updating,I for one will enjoy and sure I'm not alone!
     
  4. the Rev

    the Rev senior junior Charter Member

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    noooo kiddin....:cheers:


    thanx for the update....keep us in the loop;)
     
  5. Krash Kadillak

    Krash Kadillak Well-Known Member

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    Nice write-up, Tom.
    Boy you better get movin' on that project. Not too much time left before you're reduced to working at night under the lights.....
     
  6. Ringer

    Ringer New Member

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    Ya, good project, keep the pics rollin.
     
  7. chevygod

    chevygod Well-Known Member

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    Hi Krash, no worries about the warmer weather, doesn't bother me at all. See, I can work in the day and the night then!

    OK, so everyone doesn’t think this has become another piece of yard art in my yard (I already have several pieces, thank you), a small update…

    Tore the frame down and found some interesting stuff…

    Except for the front and rear shocks, front upper ball joints, and one front upper arm, the front and rear suspension is all original and has never been apart. All of the brake lines and fuel lines look very good, to bad I can’t use them on the Elco frame!
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    Still has the isolators on the tops of the rear springs. Sorry, I can’t rotate this pic on the comp I am on now, maybe later
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    Question about the rear brake line, I need the Elco line for the Elco frame, but it has this valve thingy on it. Will this valve cause me any grief with the wagon master cylinder or prop valve? The wagon line without valve is on the frame and the Elco line is above it over the cross member by the bushing. I don't remeber this valve on my 70 Elco when I tore it all down to the frame, sooo... Anyone who put an Elco frame under their wagon and dealt with this, please chime in.
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    No pics of the front suspension being torn down, but it showed the same age on all of the components and lack of disassembly, so I feel good about it being original. This means my big block equipped car which sat high in the front still had the small block springs in it (pretty sure they were original as one still had the tag on it). So I am hoping this was because the frame was tweaked, and the car will level out when I put the new frame under it.

    More in a bit, mebbe today.

    Best,
    Tom
     
  8. chevygod

    chevygod Well-Known Member

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    Another update, I’ll still need to edit the pics as I still can’t rotate them on this ‘puter… grrrr.

    Mostly posts of a whole bunch of cleaned parts. Aren't pressure washers and pans of solvent wonderful? If you wanna see really clean parts, go check the restoration of the big block 4-door in the Resto section. Nothing that clean here!

    The front spindles, p/s system and the tie rods lurking in the back. I will probably replace the tie rods now if I can afford it, after reassembly if I can’t.
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    Front arms and springs, and rear upper arms and stiffeners. Yes, the car came factory with stiffeners.
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    Dug thru all the parts I have accumulated over the years and found a decent 2.73 10-bolt that will replace the leaky 2.56. Eventually I will put in a 12-bolt, but that is currently under my 402 70 Monte , which is awaiting the return of it’s original 3.30 diff.
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    The 454 that came with the car. Supposedly a truck motor, but I have not been able to locate any stamping to positively ID it as such. Looks to still have broach marks on the deck, so ID hasn't been milled off of there. Ran OK, but had header leak issues and startup/idle woes. Has a GMPP square bore mani and a Holley, I’m gonna go back to a mid-rise cast iron mani and a Q-jet. Also, now that it has a seal on the drain plug (I thought it stripped, and ignored it as the car was going to come apart anyway… checked it on the crane and guess what…?) it doesn’t leak oil. Aren’t previous owners amazing?
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    Gonna try to get some stuff done this weekend. Have had lotsa family stuff going on with my parents, so this has back-burnered for a while. Updates when they happen.

    Best,
    Tom
     
  9. jmt455

    jmt455 Well-Known Member

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    Great thread!
    What was wrong with the frame that you pulled out?
    Broken or twisted or ???
    Keep those updates coming.
     
  10. chevygod

    chevygod Well-Known Member

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    Frame was broken and twisted and... really sad cuz it has NO rust in it anywhere. May be good for someone repairing a 68-72 A-body wagon frame...

    When I bought the car I verified the solid body and complete suspension, but I did not notice that the frame was bent and cracked at the firewall, which made the front end flex across the windshield and generally caused huge alignment issues with everything in the front end (sheetmetal, fan and shroud, headers hitting the engine crossmember, etc).

    I looked into the cost of having the frame straightened and repaired, and after I removed the front sheetmetal, motor and trans, and the delivered the car to the shops that were willing to quote, I was looking at $1000-1500 to have my damaged frame fixed as best as they could.

    I will be well under $1500 and will have a stiffer El Camino frame, new body bushings, new bushing/ball joints in the front, new exhaust, upgraded front fenders and other while-I'm-at-it stuff. And I wanted to put an Elco frame under the car at a later date anyway, so I am upgrading it now. Just have had a lot of other more important family projects come up that have pushed the wagon aside.

    Updates when stuff happens,
    Tom
     
  11. jmt455

    jmt455 Well-Known Member

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    You definitely made the right decision.
    And that frame would be GOLD for repair/replacement up here in Michigan!

    Glad to see you've got the younger generation involved, too.
    Keep up the great work!
     
  12. chevygod

    chevygod Well-Known Member

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    Finally posting something...

    I have been very busy with other family projects and work, wanna do “fun” stuff but have not had time. And then when stuff gets done, I don’t have time to post. Ah, well… I know I am not alone…

    My son, Joey, has been a huge help. He got all of the control arms and brackets sandblasted and repainted. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pics of the stripped parts, but he did a really good job and they were very purdy before paint.

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    What sideyard is complete without a few spare motors, extra AC parts, and a wagon body up on stands?

    All the painted parts in the background.

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    We also pressed in the bushings where needed. I made some spacers at work using doubled up scrap tubing cut and bent to fit. Worked pretty good and now I have the fixtures for future A-body bushing work.

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    After ball joints are pressed in (and the frame is done…) these are all ready to be installed. Very purdy after paint

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    More in a while...
    Tom
     
  13. chevygod

    chevygod Well-Known Member

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    Another update, but a few weeks later!

    As I have not been able to find all that I need for fuel supply/return lines and the vapor line for a wagon with an Elco frame, I was just going to take what I had (Elco front/mid and wagon rear) and cut/splice it to make a line set. However, I discovered that the wagon, originally a 350 2bbl motor, had a 3/8” line, and the Elco lines I have are 5/16”. I normally wouldn’t worry, small block guy, but I figure there must be a reason Chevy did this on a lowly 2bbl motor. Also, the wagon line was pretty haggard (dented and with ugly ends), which is strange because the rest of the car is pretty decent underneath.

    I also looked into a used line set off of a Vista Cruiser (boxed chassis, too long but I could splice them in the middle), but couldn’t find as set as easily as in the old days when VC's populated the junk yards…

    So I bought some rolls of plain steel tubing from Summit and a tubing straightener from Witels Albert USA (same BQ unit as everyone else sells, but a better price and in stock and shipped immediately) and we started learning how to make formed lines.

    This is a really neat toy, well worth it to save some aggravation straightening coils. It can also be used to restraighten already bent (not kinked!) tubing if you want. If you do this more than once (I will), get one.

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    After a few hours we had a very nice vapor line made, with our only screw-up in the last 10”! Original line next to the new.

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    As you see here, I ended up short. Not because I miscalculated, but because I used the wrong roll in the multibender (3/8 instead of 5/16). This gave the line got a minor kink that couldn’t be worked out, and I broke the line. I may splice it under the prop valve, as I don’t want to buy more and do this one again!

    [​IMG]

    All of the spiral wrapping will be added to the lines before they are installed.

    As with earlier in this project, my son and I learned a few things doing this one line:

    Bulk tubing is cool, but don’t straighten the entire length at once and try to work with it (unless you are working in a hanger).

    Make sure you have the correct roll die chosen in you multibender. I am glad it got jacked at the very last bend.

    No matter how many hands you have holding a line in place as you form it, you will still need to screw in several clips, add some bailing wire in a few places, and it will still fight you like you are trying to kill it.

    Fuel return is next, supply after that. We are moving on this thing again.

    Best,
    Tom
     
  14. Stormin' Norman

    Stormin' Norman Well-Known Member

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    I'll bet you're wife is just waiting for a crack about her closets. My shed looks the same as your garage.:biglaugh:

    Awesome clean up on the bits and pieces. Your son is one lucky dog to have a dad willing to get him involved in the project.

    Nice work!

    I've been a hoarding a bunch of casters for years. Now that I see that line gadget, I might just fab up something. How did you do the swaging at the end of the tubes? (expanded collar)
     
  15. silverfox

    silverfox New Member

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    Man...I had to take a nap after readin' this! You have more energy than a power company on steroids. I can understand your mind conflict regarding working on cars. And.....NOTE: no big fancy garage here! Just do it in the driveway. Helluva job chevgod! And a great pictorial write up so others can learn from your experience.(y)
     

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