The DelSol Prerunner....

RDC247

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If you've looked closely enough, you can see that I don’t have a chassis jig or even a nice table to work off of so I’ll be using the architecture of the DelSol itself to insure that I’m square and straight. I’ve done a lot of measuring on the body and its about as square as any other production based vehicle I’ve measured so I’ve designated 4 points on it that lend themselves well to the type of measurements I need to pull. I was an alignment tech in a former life and I feel comfortable with the measurements and the math that goes along with it. The first front end rack I worked used mirrors and light bulbs so I feel confident that I can get the car as square as it needs to be by using the body as a guide.

As I work through this, you’ll learn that I’m better with a computer than I am with a notcher and a bender. I’ve got a decent notcher and a nice enough bender but I’ve used them enough to know that there’s an art to it and at 58 years old, I don’t have the rest of my life to learn how to do it. Therefore, I got on the computer and set out to design a front end that wouldn’t require any bending or notching because if I had to fabricate this thing one stick at a time, it’d probably never get built.

But there’s a more to it than not having the time to perfect yet another skill. Having built bikes and cars for close to 40 years, I regret not being able to easily reproduce some of the things I’ve built in the past. I’ve also worked in automotive manufacturing so using what I’ve learned doing that, I’ve come to the conclusion that the DelSol needs to be manufactured, not fabricated if it's going to be easy to build and easy to duplicate.

The cornerstone of the front end is the bulkhead pictured below. It’s a little overweight and there’s nothing graceful about it but it was easy to build and it's big enough to tie into the firewall in 3 places while being low enough to attach a skid plate too. But beyond that, it dictates the architecture for the entire front end and duplicating it will be as easy as making a phone call.

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The bulkhead has slots cut into it and it simply slides into place over the two 1/4" plates that are bolted to the stock subframe mounts. Beyond that, the bulkhead will be attached to the firewall where I shaved the frame rails and in the middle above the heater core. The rectangular opening in the middle allows access to this area and it will eventually be sealed off with a weld plate.

I may use bonding adhesive and rivets to attach the bulkhead to the firewall and after seeing the big 3 move away from welding and more to adhesives, it should give me all the attachment I need. It will also allow me to separately powder coat the front end and undercoat the firewall before I mate them together for a nice finish without worrying about burning any of it off by welding on it.

The tube inserts were a feeble attempt to shave a pound or two out of it while allowing access to the frame rail area I want to use. However, they were easy to represent on paper which made it easier for the sheetmetal guy to program and they add some level of strength.

 
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RDC247

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If you liked the tubes in the bulkhead, you'll love the a-arms. Again, I used tubular inserts because they were easy to place on the computer which made it easy for the sheetmetal guy to program and cut while offering a good bit of strength. The inserts themselves were cut by my local metal supplier which saved a bunch of time and proved not to be expensive either.

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RDC247

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As I don't have a chassis jig or table to work off of, I'm working off the DelSol itself so before I can go much further, I needed to level the car. That's easier said than done in a building that was built in the 30's...the floor looks like the Pacific Ocean on a windy day so it was proving difficult to get things leveled out with ordinary jackstands.

The car itself has four jacking points from the factory which is the best place to support the body because they were out of the way and they have a lip that can be used to secure the car into a stand. What I learned is that if you cut the adjustment fixture out of the top of a Harbor Freight jackstand, what you have left is a 1.5" x 3 hole". Based on that, I built my own stands out of the Harbor Freight bases and some 1.5"x3" rectangular tubing. I notched the tubing at the top to nest into the jacking points on the DelSol, allowing me to make very minor adjustments to the height of the stand by simply grinding the notch down slightly. This has worked very well as the car is level and secure.
 

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RDC247

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frontend lower.png
frontend lower 2.jpg

Slowly making progress on the front end. I got the a-arms mostly welded up and the fab shopped got my 1/4" bulkhead plates cut out. I was able to get them boxed and if you look closely, you can see a piece of 4" tube running through the rear bulkhead and into the bigger firewall bulkhead I posted up a couple of weeks ago. Don't think I'll have strength issues with any of this but my drag racers buddies are marginalizing me because there isn't any chrome moly, carbon fiber or titanium on my rig.....

Because I don't know how to tig, I went with .120 1.5" DOM for the lower frames rails. I was also cautioned than chrome moly is brittle and I might be better off using tubing that is a little more forgiving.

steerboo.jpg

I also had a chance to make the mounts for my Saturn VUE steering booster. I had orginally planned on using the Tatum 300m rack I blindy stumbled onto at one of our local NASCAR salvage shops but after studying the hydraulic requirements of it, I figured that a standard SACO front load rack and the VUE booster would make an easier setup to deal with and probably give me better steering feel to boot. All of the hydro systems I've been exposed to have zero feel and I find that a little unnerving.

The rear booster mount shown above was laser cut out of 3/16" mild steel and the mounting hole is 2" so that when it's slide over the 1.5" tube, it has enough wiggle room to fall in place right where I needed it. A close look will show a few broken wires coming out of this thing and that was where I screwed up and somehow broke them in transit or whatever. They connect the input pickups to the brain/module of this thing so it looks like I'll be replacing the pickups or trying to splice these fragile looking wires to make this thing play nice....haven't even got this thing built and I'm already breaking it.

steering booster.jpg

I then made another mount to accommodate the long through bolt this unit utilizes. I wish I could have double sheared this and I may still go in that direction but I have to be concerned about getting this thing out when it comes to time service it. Access is a bit limited because of the steering rack mount located just off this picture to the right.

While this booster lived under the dash of the VUE I robbed it from, I was forced to mount it outside as there wasn't enough room to mount it under the dash of the DelSol without relocating the factory fuse box, butchering the factory pedal box or removing the factory HVAC assembly...those weren't easy options for me so outside it went and if the elements get to it, then I guess I'll be replacing boosters from time to time. I'll call that the cost of doing business but from all reports, this seems to be a rather forgiving piece and pretty durable. They do make an aftermarket shaft seal for it and I'll be using one of those in the hopes that I can spare this thing a slow death by moisture and mud.

One of the main reasons I decided to go electric was the realization that if you lose hydraulics to the hydro rack, you lose steering all together...if the VUE booster takes a dump, you lose power assist but at least you can still steer the thing. Then there was the cost and complexity of running hydraulic hoses the entire length of the car and the fire hazards associated with all that and if you've ever messed with LS accessory drives, ditching the PS pump sure simplifies things a good bit too..
 
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partybarge_pilot

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With a wide lower arm like that your approach angle is going to be less than optimal. With something that light you could make it half as wide.
 

RDC247

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The front tires are still about 4" out in front of the arms so I think I'll be fine. And I wish I felt this thing was going to be light but I'm thinking it will be well over 3000lbs.
 

RDC247

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I have a feeling you're going to find a lot on this build that you don't find optimal lol but you bring up some good points that will differentiate an east coast build from a west coast one.

In general, we'll sacrifice some level of speed and handling for durability and convenience because there isn't a very vibrant buggy community around here....break parts at Windrock and you're on your own unless you brought it with you. You can buy a few bearings at auto-zone and we've hoarded our fair share of bus transaxles but we don't have the luxury of running over to McKenzie's to buy parts.

As far as approach angle goes, it'll be determined by a front bumper. The front bumper will, on our builds, in this environment, protrude out beyond the front tires. We do this to keep from breaking front end parts and to also give us a "surface" to ride against if we need to bang our way up and over an obstacle. We're only talking 6 inches or so and I don't think it's holding us back because I don't recall ever having a conversation about how our approach angles suck.

I also built the a-arms the same from side to side because you get sick and tired of carrying left and right hand spares.
 

RDC247

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So I've been giving some though to what partybarge has pointed out and while I don't think it's a sticking point in what we're doing here, I don't plan on just riding this thing around here. I can see how the approach angles would be an issue at speed so before welding this thing off, I've decided to tweak things a bit to help improve a long list of nagging little issues that slowly came about by changing parts, and therefore design, as I went along.

airbags.jpg

One of the challenegs I face is using these fat airbag/shock combos I scored off the classifieds. They weren't crazy expensive and while I know they won't work that great at speed, they should work well enough to get me up and going and ride well in the woods. The challenge comes in with the width of the bag and the fact that I have to push the steering rack forward a couple of inches so the tie-rods can get around these things. In other words, no matter what I do my approach angles may be compromised if I design around these shocks as they're angled back on the Funco they came off of...that, I'm guessing anyway, gives them the tie rod clearance they need without having to push the rack forward.

So I'm working on a new front end setup that will give me more room for the radiator, cooling lines, shocks, master cylinder and the steering booster while shaving weight and improving my approach angles. I also need to make room for a winch which is going to be a requirement here as I'll be the heaviest rig on the trail. We get into trails that are too tight for jeeps and i don't see a SxS or lighter weight buggy doing anything but breaking parts if they try to pull me out of anything. I had hoped I could squeeze all this under the stock DelSol hood but I've come to the conclusion that something is going to have to give so cutting the hood it is.

The good news is that I got a lot right with this first setup and it shouldn't be a huge deal to mix things up a bit now instead of building it all the way through and wishing I'd done it right the first time. Hard to keep going when you know there's room for improvement.
 
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RDC247

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I'm glad you find humor in my inexperience but if it helps me get this thing built properly, I'll be your muse. I don't figure that the airbags would work well at any speed but we've had good luck with them on slow trails.
 
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RDC247

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Lol...creating scrap steel could be a new way of life for me. The road to knowledge is often bumpy and rutted but it always stings a little.
 
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