Flash

Flash's 1965 Ford Thames

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Because the front beam runs at an angle where it needs to be fixed to the chassis mounting plates, only the outer edge is currently making contact, so the next step is to cut little infills out of some steel to fill this gap and I can then tack everything together. (the mounting hole shown in the pic is the one that I have had to sacrifice).

Thanks for reading.

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So first off a big shout out to @cletus for suggesting that I check my caster settings before welding the new front beam in position ... thanks Clint !

Armed with this info I found a really good youtube clip that shows an easy way to do a rough check on camber and castor settings using a simple angle measuring tool.

I started off by dropping the van back onto its wheels. The L300 beam lowers the front by around 35 mills without making any other changes, so gives the van a nice raked look with the standard rear end still in place as shown in the pic below. Note the plastic packets sitting under the front wheels. That was a tip from the youtube clip that suggests putting a layer of old engine oil between two plastic bags that makes it really easy to turn the steering to take the measurements. This really helped me as I don't have the steering connected yet. 

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Next up I made this "rough and ready" measuring tool using a piece of square tubing that I cut to the right length so that it sits nicely on the lips of the Dragways. My "cheap and cheerful" angle measurer is magnetic so attaches itself nicely to the square tube. I also taped on a short spirit level to the side which allowed me to make sure that my vertical positioning was spot on.

I really should invest in a decent camera, so apologies if this hurts your eyes.

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So just to re-iterate. the suspension beam is resting up against the new chassis mounting plates and is strapped and chocked in it's proposed final position with the full body weight resting on it (including the mock up 4Y engine and gearbox so the van is pretty much at its new curb weight). I haven't yet fabricated the mounts for the rear facing strut braces that attach to the lower suspension arms, so I have no way to dial in any caster as yet.

I forgot to mention that I set my camber yesterday, but did this on the axle stands at full suspension droop which wasn't that clever. The LHS camber was way negative with some non factory spacers fitted - can't understand why this was done. I ended up pulling out the non factory spacers as well as one of the factory spacers and it visibly looked much better.

Anyway, here are my initial findings based on today's measurements :

RHS camber : 89.90 degrees

RHS caster : 1.85 degrees

LHS camber : 89.40 degrees

LHS caster : - 0.35 degrees

@cletus suggested I should be aiming for a figure around +3.0 degrees.

I'm hoping I will be able to dial in the correct caster once I have the strut braces mounted.

Does this sound achievable or should I be worried ?

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Forgot to add a pic of the spacers I removed from the LHS upper arm to resolve my negative camber issue.

Thanks for reading.

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Whilst I was taking my camber and caster measurements I noticed that the top of the driver's side tyre is sitting about 15 mm closer to the top of the wheel arch than the passenger side. Crawled around underneath with a measuring tape and tracked it back to a difference in height between the two coil springs. Looks like the driver's side has sagged over the years, so previous owner must have been a bit chunky. Climbed on the computer to see what replacement coils are available. King Springs can do original height L300 coils, but they are "made to order". A bit of investigation revealed that Holden Torana or Holden HR springs are an alternative. A HR ute has a kerb weight of 1178 kg compared to the Thames at 1089 kg. The HR ute has a lower payload than the Thames, but I'm not planning on ever using the Thames to carry loads, so I figured they would be a good option. Added bonus is that I can get a set of 30 mm lower than stock Holden HR King Springs straight off the shelf for half the price of the standard height L300 coils that I would have to wait two weeks for. Extra bonus is the additional 30 mm of low.

So out came the front suspension again and I've started stripping it down for the new springs. Flipped the beam to pull the shocks and it looks like one of the lower ball joints is pretty new. Shocks also look to be fairly recent replacements. 

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So whilst I'm waiting for the new King Springs to arrive, I thought I'd start puzzling out my column shifter. Just to recap I'm planning to run the original Thames steering column with a modified column shift for the Toyota 5 speed gearbox.

Last time I looked at this I had narrowed my choice down to the column shift out of the Starwagon. Compared to the Toyota HiAce column shift it looks to be the simpler mechanism and with the gate shift already being cable based this means I've only got one rod shift to deal with. My ultimate goal is to convert the rod shift also to cable.

Took a closer look at the way that the cable shift works and the first thing that I noticed is that the cable sits directly across the bottom of the Starwagon steering box. In standard format this will clash with the Thames column, as shown here :

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It's easy enough to offset the cable from the centre by reversing the mounting bracket and swapping the cable holder over to the opposite side. I'll be fabricating a U shaped mounting plate to take the place of the bottom of the steering box so will drill the holes for the mounting bracket to suit, with plenty of clearance for the Thames steering column.

So with that figured out I proceeded to separate the column shift from the Starwagon steering box. Had to cut the top bracket off the column outer, but everything else was just bolt off. 

Left me with this:

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Mocked up the Starwagon shift to the Thames column and it's way too short.

 

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I'd need to extend the lower part of the Starwagon shifter and would also need to turn up a different bush to mate the top of the shifter to the Thames column. I'd also have to make a plan for the lower mount. Easy enough to do, but I figured whilst I was at it I'd take another look at the Thames shifter as it is the correct length, the upper bush matches and the lower mount rotates in the original cutout at the bottom of the Thames column. Added bonus would be that the Thames shifter would look stock standard from inside the cab.

So with that I grabbed the Thames shifter for a closer inspection. The three selector rods on the Thames make it look pretty complex, but two of the selectors just slip off the shaft and the third has a loose through pin so were a piece of piss to remove.

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All I'd need to do now is fix the lower piece of the Starwagon shifter to the bottom of the Thames selector rod. and I'm good to go

Took to the bottom of the Starwagon selector rod with a cut off wheel and I'm left with this.

The steel bobbin is the part that moves the cable that selects the gate, so I need to retain that as well as the arm.

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Following my goal of trying to keep my modifications totally reversible, the plan is to replace the existing central tube with a larger diameter piece that will slip over the Thames shift rod and I'll then fix it in place with the original through pin. 

Once that is done I'll mock up the bracket that will mount the steering column to the chassis leg where the original integrated Thames steering box used to be fixed in place and that will take me one step closer.

Thanks for reading.

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This week I've been slowly working away on the MK1 version of my gear selector, but more about that later.

Getting back to my L300 front suspension the new King Springs arrived earlier in the week, but I had also ordered a new set of Holden HR spring insulators from Rare Spares which only arrived yesterday, so this morning I cracked into fitting them.

Pics of the new bling:

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Finally got my new front beam mounting brackets glued together. Neglected to take a pic of them together before I mounted the first one, so the one in the pic below looks a bit lonely, but you get the idea.

Now that I am running the shorter coils up front I need to double check that the front wheels are nicely centred in the arches before attaching the beam to the mounting brackets.

Thanks for reading. 

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On the vehicle front I had a few other things to contend with over the past 10 days. Mrs Flash's Moke got a bad case of the flu and I ended up splurging on a brand new dizzy for that. Battled to get the timing set only to discover that whoever assembled the reco'ed engine for the previous owned fitted the distributor drive shaft one tooth out. Got that sorted but wasted a heap of time battling that one.

Also looks like the BCM on our modern has gone tits up, so I'll probably need to hand over a kidney to Holden to get that sorted. In the mean time I'm just bridging the starter motor relay to keep it on the road.

Anyway, in between the fun and games I have managed to spend a day or two on the Thames. Hit a bit of a stumbling block there too.

Got the front end with the lower springs in position and bearing weight. Everything looked good until I tried to close the front doors. Instant fail.

 

 

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There ain't no way I can roll that lip.

Although the 6J Dragways aren't the permanent wheels I will be running, they certainly represent the width and offset of my final choice although the Dragways are 14 inch and I plan to go to a 15 inch American Racing Torque Thurst 2. I'm also not a fan of the look where the wheels and tyres are way narrow in the arches and much prefer the look of a filled arch, 

I could go a lower profile tyre up front but I can't go too low.

I could go for a rim with less offset, but the "off the shelf" old style mags in either 14 or 15 inch diameter pretty much have similar offsets. I do like something with a dish and the Thames would look odd with a more modern rim. 

I could go for widened steelies with bespoke offset and whilst I like that look I wouldn't want to be limited to just the single choice.

Custom made alloy wheels would cost moonbeams and are out of my budget range.

I could run negative camber up front but that will just chew tyres so not really an option.

So whilst I am giving this more thought I figured I would take a closer look at what I am going to do for the back axle.

The standard Thames setup was the rear axle sitting underneath the leaf springs like so:

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My initial plan was to fit a Toyota G series diff out of the donor HiAce on top of the leaf springs, thus allowing me to dial in some low.

So I pulled the Thames rear axle out to get a closer look at the rest of the setup.

Thames out.

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Taking a quick few measurements I quickly realised that there is no way I can achieve this without altering the radius of the leaf springs.

In the pic below at full droop you can see that there would be insufficient travel if I was to fit the Toyota axle between the leafs and the chassis.

To prove this I quickly clamped the new axle in place, threw on some wheels and put her under weight. The new axle was resting firmly on the bump stops.

So another fail.

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Okay, so back to the drawing board.

I could go for a custom 4 link rear setup with coil overs, but again outside of my limited budget.

I could get the springs re-radiused but the closest place to get that done is a 5 hour drive from home.

So more thought required all round.

Stay tuned.

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