January 2015 – New Front Suspension

Hallo Everyone, it is 2015 and I’m still very frustrated, why you ask, well more than 8 months without being able to compete. Thanks to Tiaan for taking me for a spin in his MK1 Rally Golf, what an eye opener and at least I have more memories to keep me going until Datto is back in action, if you want to refresh your memory, have a look at our terrible luck here: 2014 WBMK Ceres Rally , maybe it is harsh to say terrible luck, seeing that I do not want to get on the wrong side of lady luck before a new season, let’s rather look at it as a lesson in patience and a learning curve that just started. Seeing that we are learning, a lot happened while we were offline, early development started on a control panel for non-essentials, heavy parts were designed and in the final stages of production, relocated to a new house, etc etc. While we are busy reflecting on 2014, 2015 can only be better, let me show you the last of 2014 and the current 2015.

A few things had to change in the car, the first of these items being the whole steering column/steering wheel setup, buttons on steering wheel had to be re-thinked, fuel filler neck had be clear to help the service crew, integrate intercom audio with one of the cameras to prove that I do not really swear when driving but actually squeak when I scare myself shitless and finally improve camera picture with the use of UV Filters (Yes I know when using spot mode, focus the spot on the front windscreen and not the dash). New tool holders were also build and I must admit, these are serving quite helpful not only in the garage around the car but anywhere we need to carry n bunch of tools.

First things first, strip the front right corner to have a good look at the damage, it seems that we got away with only minor damage that can all be fixed, especially the calliper. While all of this was going on it was decided to design and build a WRC type setup used on the MKII Ford Escorts of the 80s, but more of this later.

After spending a few days rethinking a few things around the steering wheel it was decided to build a switch/button panel for the DASH display controls, this would free space on the steering wheel for the future wiper controls. This panel will now reside where the rear-view mirror used to be, it would communicate with a Arduino micro-controller controlling all cameras, wipers and providing vital status feedback via the lights, all being in touching distance but also out of view. Luckily I’m a big Le Mans fan and it provided almost 24 hours to build the wiring harnesses. Connectors can be bought here: http://www.chargeconverter.com/store/sandisk?product_id=150
The Arduino will be used to power and communicate with the cameras, while the Peltor FMT 120 Intercom audio will be send to one of the cameras via the above connector and seeing that I’m a Radio HAM I just need to install a 2way radio in the car to communicate with the service team. In the diagram provided, you will see how to communicate between helmet via the intercom and radio. This would also enable us to use a cell phone via the intercom and use normal earphone/mic that comes with cell phones these days for open sections.

Another item that took some time designing was wheel dolly’s, these are used extensively in the States to easily move vehicles around. You basically get two types the expensive ones comes with jacks to lift the wheel from the ground and the ones that you need to jack the vehicle up and place the dolly below the wheel. My design uses the latter seeing that I had two major requirements, one, the top had to be without any extrusions like bolts etc. as I want to use them to cmove heavy items around like engines etc., the other one was to hold my centre stands, this way I have the best of both worlds, a car on centre stands without wheels and moveable, brilliant hey. What you see here is just a mock-up dolly, the final items will be made from 8mm thick aluminium to make them as versatile as possible.

Steering, while it looked very need, it was as in practical as can be. Whenever I had to work around it, it turned into a swearing contest, 30 things to remove to get to the price, then there was the little issue of the hub coming lose. Before you all jump on my head I know it was causes by incompetence by not securing every bolt, that being said it was decided to eliminate the complexity around the whole setup and remove the wiper/lights stalks and replace them by switches on the dash as they are not needed when fastened in the harnesses. Next remove all the bulky components like the quick release, spacer and flange adaptor, then mount a steering quickner, use only components with splines, build an extended shaft incorporating these items in order to not use a spacer.
The quickner is a brilliant piece of kit, almost as if they thought of rallying when designing it as it uses planetary gears to make it more robust, the thing is actually filled with Redline Shockproof oil, you just got to love the Yanks. You will notice a bearing on the steering shaft, this is in fact a flange bearing normally used to support a steering shaft going thru a firewall, I’ll be using it to support the steering wheel in order to remove all stresses from the quickner bearings and the display will be mounted to the bracket holding the bearing. All this have a few advantages, seeing that the bearing can be mounted at an angle it would help with alignment, all bolts on the new steering components will be M8, making life a lot easier. If any road side work needs to be done, everything will be accessible with only one spanner and one Allen key.

You will also notice I opted for a Joes Racing quick release, these have a good reputation in the States and is a very small item compared to the old one. The one little trick I stole while watching some ERC rallying was the use of slots on the adaptor between steering wheel and quick release, this enables the team to quickly align the steering wheels, in the case I forgot to tighten the bolts I can just do it while driving to a stage as everything is accessible while sitting.

Then we have the little front suspension issue, how could I forgot this little pain in my arse, maybe I’m still in denial, but let me share with you a few little things before I show you why we designed our own. You can buy a complete kit for the MKII Escorts at a mere 2100 pounds here Escort-mk1-mk2-rix-engineering-special-wrc-type-front-suspension-hub-assembly once you convert that little amount to South African Rand you quickly realise why we opted to design and build our own, R 36.5k without freight and customs, not something I would add to my cart and  checkout in the near future. Again if you go this route and not use it in a MKII you have to rework a lot of the little items to make it work on another car, thus the designing started, a big thanks to my brother as he is the AutoCAD wizard and did the design with a little input from my side.
One of the biggest advantages to this design is the modular approach, as you have a lot of small universal items that can be used left or right, making spares a lot easier. If you break/bend something you just replace the affected items and off you go again. No need to import crap expensive items from our friends with the Pound currency, by the way Zuma you are killing me, stop marrying kids and put together plans to strengthen our Rand it is currently almost as weak as your presidency. Enough of our Rand ruining president, back to parts.
After we recovered the car on the Ceres rally we returned to the service area, this is where an older gentleman approached me and asked me if I have considered the spacers to be the culprit why the stub axle broke and immediately after he said it, I knew he was on the money with the suggestion. Thanks.

During the design phase the first items that were selected was the bearings, seeing that the stub broke on the face the inner bearing located, we wanted to enlarge this, but it came at a price, if we chose the bearing s we wanted we needed new hubs as the old ones just did not have enough meat to house them, taking slightly larger ones we could have used the same hubs, but would then miss out on all the nice features new ones could offer like, direct fitment of the brake rotor, incorporated spigot for the heavy rims etc. Guess what, we opted for the biggest bearings we could source locally and fit in a reasonable size hub. As an example, the new bearings inner diameter went from 28mm to 40mm. Look at the picture, from left to right: Standard Escort Bearings, Uprated Imported Strut Bearings, New Suspension.

Spindles / Stub Axles
On this, what is the correct name, Spindles as it is a complete separate item or Stub axles?
First off all, the old stubs were machined from cast steel, we decided that it was time to spend the money and learn to work with the good stuff EN24 or better known as 4340, being much more expensive than normal shafting but still actually relative affordable for the man on the street. Using 4340 also enabled us to have it tempered and hardened (44 Rockwell to be specific), hopefully they will bend around any obstacle rather than break.
It was the first time in my life I worked with such big pieces of metal and took me a few tries and moments of depression to get a decent finish. The toughest part was getting thru the outer course of the metal, only then the real machining could start. These things took like a million years to make, well at least the roughing up to 2mm from size, once the basic shape was done it went to Cape Steel & Heat Treatment for stress relieving, came back and machining was done to 0.2mm from finish, but this time the threads were also cut. Again Kobus at Cape Steel & Heat Treatment was used to temper and heat treat the spindles, once they came back the final 0.2mm were removed and the bearing faces cut, probably the most stressful time of my life, how I did not start to smoke again, I still do not know. I’m very happy with the finish product and all work entirely my own. Will I do it again, NO, more about this later.
Words of advice, 4340 is quite dangerous in the lathe, the cuttings is very strong and flexible, I did all work with gloves to prevent cuts, still I suffered a few. During this whole ordeal I learned another valuable lesson, never trust a digital vernier, as I lost a R400 piece of material due to the vernier losing 5mm.

Hubs
Seeing that we decided to design and make new hubs I had to go out and buy a 4 jaw chuck to machine the bearing faces as the work piece had to be clocked up once turned around. The good and the bad about this is, I never needed it which is good, but the money could have been used for something else.
While the spindles was in and out at the heat treaters, I bought to large chunks of aluminium and started doing the rough cutting on them, again until 2mm from size, seeing that it was just a rough cut, I still took the time to experiment with finishes and was quite happy with what I achieved. At the beginning of December I took the 2 hubs to TJ Engineering in Worcester as we know him from their staring days, Tiaan the owner was more than willing to spend the time to put together a program to machine the hubs on his CNC lathe. Seeing that I was a little late, his shop closes like all the rest over the festive season and had to wait until mid-January, I’m very pleased with the outcome, now I just need to drill all the holes, tap the threads and press the bearing cups and wheel studs in. Almost forgot, before I can do this I need to make some grease caps. Tiaan also advised me that I do not need to do the rough cutting on the hubs as his program needs to run from the rough sizes to the final product, what a relieve that will be when I start on the spares, I do believe he will also be making the spare spindles. Fuel money to Worcester is nothing compared to the time needed for manual machining.

Odd Suspension Components
While I was waiting for the hubs, I finished the machining on a few bits without names, the first being the pin that will press in from the bottom on the blocks housing the shocks, spindles, calliper, steering arm and lower control arm. These will house the steering arm and be kept in place by the cone shaped disc. The cone will slide over the pin, once fastened to the block it will keep the steering arm in place. The bottom part of the pin will house the lower control arm in the form of a spherical bearing contained in a housing with a circle, in turn the housing will be welded to the lower control arms. What a mouth full, let me read it again before anybody imagine a space ship with the above explanation. All in all, look at the pictures as it worth a thousand words.

Seeing that it is a lot easier getting in tight places with a MIG welding gun than a grinding disc, I opted to just cut the shock tubes off the stub axles rather than swear them out after countless cutting disc. I actually bought 10 cutting discs, 1 grinding disc and two flapper wheels for it. Seeing that I cut them off they were to short and this had to be fixed. At this point 99% of normal sane people would have seen the extra work as a burden, I jumped at the opportunity as I could fix GAZ Shocks f*^kup. They properly gave my shocks to their (just left high school, not mechanical, no pride in his work, the only tool he played with for more than 2 minutes being his third leg (if a lady, well then one of those vibrating ones)) apprentice to tap the threads on the bottom of the tubes securing the shock, as I was never able to remove the shock to add more bump stop rubbers. As you can see, I opted for some sleeves over the original tubes (severely lightened) for the length, a welded disc at the bottom to secure the threaded disc on the shock. Damn, now I’m confused, let me explain.
Assembly 1 on 1:
Insert shock thru tube
Add a set amount of bump stop rubbers
Screw disc on shock and fasten with lock nut
Fasten disc on shock to tube via 3 M6 Allen caps
Bolt to block and try not to break them at the next event.

As you can see from the components that is finished the new front suspension will be completely modular and would be able to work either on the left or right hand side, if I’m successful even the lower control arms would be lefty/righty items, only time will tell. All of this would make replacing an item a breeze, making spares easier, all in all a much better front suspension. The next steps obviously is reworking the rear suspension to use the same shocks and tubes as the front, if you then have 1 spare on a rally you need to break 2 units on any corner before putting the car on the trailer, wouldn’t that be nice.

P.S. thanks to Ruan and his superb planning, he managed to pick the first rally date as his wedding date, meaning I have more time to finish more work.

More PicturesJanuary 2015 – New Front Suspension

Return to Datsun 1200

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *