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By Rob Brereton

Cussy Club Grey Mottle Bck Grnd02



Well it all started with a “klunk-klunk” in the front end when I went through roundabouts. Nine months later the car was back on the road and driving very well, “no klunks”. Follow me as I describe how I “restored” the front suspension of my 56 Customline.

On the return from a run back in January 09 I called into Wayne’s place to put the car up on his jack to see if we could find out where the “klunk” was coming from. Left front seemed OK, except for the wheel bearing needing nipping up a bit. Right front bearing was OK, then that’s when we found the “klunk-klunk”. The steering arm was loose where it bolted onto the wheel/brake backing plate, and each time the steering went from lock to lock the arm moved up and down causing the “klunk-klunk”.

We also discovered that the control arm bushes were also completely shot and were not really doing anything at all. The front sway bar bushes were also completely shot and everything was just rattling around. So home went the Cussy to contemplate its future, with serious repairs being the main thought.

After a short while I decided that I would tackle the job myself, this is something that I had never contemplated doing before. Eventually I got the Cussy jacked up and safely supported in my workshop and proceeded to dismantle the front end, as I had by now decided that the best way was to really “restore” the front end, not just repair it. I even went out and bought myself a very decent trolley jack to make life easier. Somehow I had always managed without one.

56 Front Susp 103 56 Front Susp 2

In dismantling I found that a previous repair to the right front had resulted in a shock absorber washer being placed under the nut that held the steering arm onto the plate etc. This washer, which should not have been there, usually has a raised centre portion, and had flattened out over many years of use causing there to be looseness along the bolt and hence the “klunk-klunk”, although the nut and split pin had not moved, as it was still where it had been tightened to.

Anyway I proceeded to remove bits and pieces, clean them all back to bare metal, priming them up and finishing with three coats of Gloss Black paint. But that job was not as easy as it sounds, as I spent many hours scratching and scraping 50 plus years of dirt and grease from places I didn’t even know about. All the right front side wheel bits and suspension were completely removed and given this treatment, then the left hand side got the same. That way it was much easier to keep track of all the bits and where they should go back to.

I also found a small crack, on both sides, in the lower control arm, through the drain hole where the coil spring sits in. These were welded up and stress relieved and new drain holes drilled just next to the original position. The next thing I knew was the ball joints were not in real good shape, nor were the shock absorbers. I also found that the rubber bump stops practically did not exist at all. This job was starting to become more necessary than I had ever imagined, but aside from the “klunk-klunk” the car still drove very well and the tyres were not worn at all.

56 Front Susp 3 56 Front Susp 4

Most parts were removed fairly easily although the ball joints were a bit stubborn. What caused the most problem were the front lower control arm bolts. They had rusted between the front chassis rail and would not move. Loads of WD40 were sprayed on over a period of time, which helped with their removal, but the biggest help was a rattle gun borrowed from Phil. Forward and reveres over short periods with belts from a big hammer eventually loosened the bolts and they were removed.

Buy this time winter had arrived and crawling around under a car was not my first option and a few health issues found me staying inside and keeping warm. November had arrived and the weather was warming up and so was my enthusiasm, and then there was the 7th December deadline, as I wanted the Cussy ready for the Club’s Xmas Party.

Now that all the necessary parts had been removed and cleaned up I was ready to take stock of all the parts needed for the rebuilding of the front end. The Rubber Connection is where I purchased all my parts although I probably could have saved a few dollars if I had searched around a bit, but I just wanted to get all the bits from the one place. The most disheartening part of all was finding that every part I bought was branded with the Dennis Carpenter logo and that all parts were “MADE IN CHINA”. I now have a half Chinese built Cussy. The fit of some of the bits left a bit to be desired but what can you do when they are all you can get.

So the painting process on all these new bits started which was very laborious when you have hundreds of bits to paint, but in time all was done. Now I had to remember where all the bits went back, and as a Plumber all this work was new to me, but again with the help of a couple of workshop manuals everything eventually fell into place. Pressing the Control arm bushes in was a combined effort with the help of Phil’s press and a few handy hints from Wayne. You know having the right equipment really helps as well. There was a little fiddling with the bushes to get them in exactly the right place but eventually I was happy with the fit.

During all this process I also replaced the front engine mount support rubbers which looked like swollen cracked lumps of old licorice when they were removed. The bolt that held these in place had also worn half way through as a result of rubbing on the edge of the bracket hole. Anyway that was welded up and rounded off and looked like new when it was bolted back in, and the whole shebang looked good.

56 Front Susp 5 56 Front Susp 6

At this time I also decided to replace the old canister type oil filter, although mine was fully chromed, and replace it with the newer spin on type. All went fine removing the bolt with a little dribble of oil as it parted the block, and into the tray it went to drain. Now I had to remove the centre reducing bush/adaptor to remove the old separator plate. You know that is a 32mm diam nut, and luckily I had a socket to fit it. But easier said than done, no way was that thing going to move and there is not a very big landing for the socket to rest upon. Hummm, how was I going to get that sucker to move, and in such an awkward spot to get at as well. Bing, bing, bing, and lights flashed, “USE THE FORCE STUPID”, so I reached once again for the rattle gun. Well with a socket, a short extension, a universal joint, and another short extension attached to the rattle gun and a lot of effort keeping the socket aligned it finally submitted, “THE FORCE HAD WON”.

The new separator plate and rubber gasket were placed in position and the new adaptor was then screwed in and tightened to the recommended torque. A smear of oil on the new filter seal and that was screwed on with ease. I should have done this years ago.

56 Front Susp 7 56 Front Susp 8

OK enough of the side lines, time to get back to the serious stuff.

Before assembling all my newly painted bits I had to clean and paint the front guard wells, chassis rails, engine block etc, etc, and most importantly to polish the sump. You know when I originally rebuilt this motor (in 1971) I chrome plated everything within reason that I could possibly remove from the motor, so I ended up with a Chrome Plated Sump and Flywheel cover, plus lots of other bits. Really looks great when you are getting run over by a Cussy, and the blood wipes off the chrome real easy.

Now that all that was done it was time to start and re-assemble everything. First though I made sure that all nuts would screw down on their respective bolts and a little WD40 helped here. I really started to feel some satisfaction as the bits slowly found their spots and the nuts were tightened down.

First up I installed the upper control arms and bolts with the original spacers, leaving the end tension nuts loose. The lower control arms were fitted next with the pivot bolts getting a good coating of Copper Kote grease before they were slid into place. A slight tap with the handle of the hammer settled them into place with much amazement from me, as I thought that this job was going to be real difficult as the bushes did not look like they were going to line up at all. Anyway the nuts were semi-tightened and everything moved very well.

The new ball joints got a good regrease before installation, but I used the original castle nuts as the new ones were too short and the split pins missed the slots completely. I also had to file out the bolt holes that attached the bj’s to the control arms as they did not line up too well and the bolts would not slip through. Bloody Chinese crap. New rubber bump stops were also fitted top and bottom.

Next the wheel spindle was attached to the upper ball joint and the nut just nipped up. The original coil spring was then refitted with a new insulator and the lower arm was jacked up to compress the spring and get the bottom ball joint located and nipped up. It was all starting to look good. All the bolts were then tightened to their required torque. You know 100 ft/lbs takes a lot of effort on the ball joint nut. The backing plate and brake parts were then assembled. I put in new bearing seals before fitting the wheel hub, with lots of new grease but I reused the old bearings as they were still good. The tie rod arms were then refitted and all joints got a thorough greasing as well as other bits for the clutch.

56 Front Susp 9 56 Front Susp 10

New shockers were fitted as the old ones, original Ford but they had been renovated once before, I did not think were doing their job successfully. Monroe GT Gas Reflex Technology 15-0162 double action shockers were fitted to both sides. The top studs and nuts went easily as did the bottoms into the cross bracket, but bolting the bracket to the lower arm was a job that took some time. When removing the bracket bolts some of the thread was removed from the arm bolt holes, due to rusty clogged bolt threads, so when putting new bolts in they just decided they would go round and round and not tighten. OK, out with the thread taps to tap slightly bigger threads and to get new bolts, now tapping these threads upside down was not easy but eventually they were done. One should remember to check this when the arms are out of the vehicle and easily got at. Eventually the shockers were refitted and the brackets securely bolted in place.

Apart from fitting the wheel the right hand side was done, now to repeat all this on the left hand side which all fitted well, as I had practised on the other side. Once I had the load on the suspension, after jacking up the lower arm so all the weight was on the springs, I proceeded to tighten the suspension arm nuts on both sides to their required torque, I then proceeded to check the brake adjustment.

Next job was to refit the sway bar and connections, which had got a nice fresh coat of red paint. That was not as easy as it sounds as I think I should have had it fitted before refitting the lower arms, anyway I eventually got it in. Pushing the new rubber bushes over the ends was made easier with a light lubricant and they were eventually wriggled into their correct positions. The rubber bush saddle bolt holes gave me the same dramas as the shocker brackets, but again after re-tapping it all bolted up. The connecting bolts and rubbers were then fitted, but again they did not fit correctly as all you can buy is a generic/universal one size fits all. So after some modifications to the rubbers it all eventually fitted correctly.

The last job was to fit the engine splash trays, now there was another challenging job as the bolt holes had the same stripped out threads but after much cursing and fiddling and some new bolts and threads it was all done.

56 Front Susp 11 56 Front Susp 12

Well I suppose that just about finishes all the “restoration/repairs” to the front end of my Cussy so it is now time to remove all the stands and chocks and get the beast back on the ground. That all went smoothly so it was then time to roughly check the front alignment. It was not all that far out so a couple of turns on the tie rods got it in a driveable position. I also made up some spare alignment spacers before heading off the get it professionally aligned. The bloke I use said that these old cars are really great to work on and with a little bit of help from me we had it Thrust Aligned in no time and it really wasn’t all that far out.

The first real outing and test was to the Clubs Xmas Party at Woodstock in 2009. I was very pleased with my efforts as the Cussy drove very well and the alignment seemed to be doing it job correctly and the shockers took out a lot of the bouncing from the front end which made our ride more comfortable and it has continued to perform very well ever since with “no klunks”.

Although this “restoration” took me nine months to complete, it was well worth the effort. I took my time and consulted my manuals and I gratefully thank those who gave me help and advice. 

Rob Brereton and his 1956 Customline.

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