Today was a big day: the first Sunday of spring, with temps in the low 40s (almost balmy!), and two good friends willing to travel a distance to come to my garage and help with the front suspension work.
Mike G. and Larry M., veteran car guys with collector cars of their own, gave up a good chunk of their Sunday to help me turn wrenches. No progress had been made on the Alfa in over two weeks, and the unofficial start of the 2015 driving season is four weeks away. Time to kick it into high gear.
The first order of business was to install the coil spring on the left side of the front suspension. As you may have read in Part 1 of this project, the left side was rebuilt first. Except for the spring and shock, it is complete. Following along with a forum entry on the Alfa BB, I had purchased some threaded rod and nuts. The concept was to connect the lower control arm and spring seat via the rods, and with spring in place, slowly and alternately tighten the nuts, thereby compressing the spring. Once the spring seat met up with the control arm, the rods could be removed one at a time, and the factory bolts could be installed. It took some time, but it worked like a charm.
With that under our belts, we moved to the right side and reversed the process. The factory spring seat bolts were removed one at a time, the threaded rod was installed and tightened with nuts, then the nuts were alternately loosened, lowering the spring seat until there was no tension on the spring. This seemed to go twice as fast as the spring install. And to be efficient, while Mike and I (mostly Mike) worked on the spring, Larry tackled removal of the steering tie rod ends and drag link, as I had just purchased six new tie rod ends to install.
A word here about our sponsor. I have almost exclusively been purchasing my spare parts from a UK vendor, Classic Alfa. Their website is user-friendly, their prices are fair, their parts quality is very good, and their shipping speed is unbelievable. Most recent case in point: this past Wednesday night, at about 9pm EDT, I ordered the tie rod ends and wheel bearing kits from them online. Thursday morning, I received a confirmation email that my shipment was on its way to Heathrow Airport. Friday afternoon at 5:30pm, DHL had the package at my front door. That is less than 48 hours, from across the big pond! With service like that, they will continue to get my business.
Back to our front end. As Mike began removal of the first spring pan bolt, he said “Uh oh, Richard, we forgot to install the spacers on the other side”. I said “what spacers?” Mike then showed me that all 4 spring pan bolts had thick spacer washers between the pan and control arm. At first I thought I had made a mistake, but a check of my hardware bags showed that no spacers came off the left side. Mike and Larry almost didn’t believe me, and this is where photos are invaluable. A glance at the pictures I took late in 2014 confirmed that the left side did not use spacers while the right side did. Who can figure out those Italians?
With the spring and spring seat out, we had only the upper and lower control arms, spindle, and caster arm in place. The approach would be to unbolt these from the unibody and remove them as one assembly. Two bolts at the lower arm (impact gun), one at the upper (with tricky access from inside the engine compartment), and two at the caster arm-to-body, and we gave birth to all the remaining pieces.
Mike and Larry needed to move on, and after profusely thanking them, I continued a bit on my own. The 3-piece lower control arm was separated, and the arms with bushings as well as the caster arm were left soaking in penetrating fluid, so that the next steps in the disassembly could be accomplished. From here, it enters the phase I call “grunt work”: simple, almost mindless tasks that need to be done, and can be tackled an hour at a time after work during the week. Bushings need to be pressed out, threaded connections broken, then all components will be washed, prepped, and painted. Once that is done, it’s on to reassembly.
All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.