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11-09-2004 11:05 AM TOW-Rod - frame construction
Shot one gives a better look at the frame pieces ready to be welded and the welding holes for the gusset.

Shots two and three show the tack welds completed and ground down. I grind the tack welds as I go to 1) insure that I am getting good penetration and 2) to prevent the height of the weld from causing any distortion when I flip the frame over and clamp it to the table to tack the other side. If you have any high welds sticking up you are bound to pull the frame pieces apart when you clamp it down. Think of it like putting a bunch of pebbles directly under the joint you are trying to hold together. Doesn't do much for getting proper alignment.

Shot three shows all the tack welds completed and ground down.

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  [Entry #25]

11-09-2004 10:49 AM TOW-Rod - Frame construction
The first two pics show the gussets with "Tab A" being welded to the inside of the frame tube. Due to the limited space in the tube I welded this tab with my Lincoln 225 stick - using a new stick for each tab so that I could reach far enough back into the tube. My mig was just too big to fit. Getting the first tab welded with the stick is no problem but when you flop the tube over and do the second side your working space gets very limited due to the first gusset being in the way. That is why the tabs are cut about 1" narrower than the inside dimension of the tube. This gives you about 1/2" on each side to weld to and provides the space to move your rod into the proper position.

The third pic shows two pieces of the Z being assembled to check for proper fit and alignment and then to weld. The angle of the two pieces is set by using an angle guide NOT by forcing together the butt ends of the pieces (I use a couple of different type guides which can be seen laying on the work table). No matter how precise your cut, there will often be a slight error in the angle. So the pieces must be assembled using a good angle guide and by constantly checking your measurements to insure that everything is square.

Once everything is properly aligned the pieces are clamped to the table in as many spots as possible. Once clamped, you must again check for proper alignment with your square and angle guide. This gets a little tricky with the clamps being in the way. I will tack weld the two pieces about an inch along the top and then as close to the table as I can get on the outside tip and the inside angle. I will also tack one of the "holes". This will give me enough strength at the proper points so the rail can be turned over to tack the other side.

You can also see in this picture that the short piece of the Z has been pre drilled with the holes directly over "Tab B" of the gussets. The gusset will be welded to the frame rail through these holes. Note also that the first frame rail is being assemble one piece and one angle at a time rather than laying out the entire rail and attempting to hold it in place. As you will see later, the second rail is assembled in a different way.

Speaking of square, note that I am using what I call my "flat table" to do most of my welding. This is a 1 1/2 solid oak table top that I rescued many many years ago from the board room of a corporation which was moving out of the building I worked in. It has been invaluable for all kinds of projects over the years whenever I wanted to construct something nice and straight. I don't keep it set up in my shop because it is almost 4' x 8' and takes up an enormous amount of space, but it is fairly easy to set up whenever I need it. You'll need something similar (or better) to lay up any frame for welding.

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  [Entry #24]

11-09-2004 09:54 AM TOW-Rod - Frame design and construction
I spent about a week with graph paper and a pencil drawing up frame designs and trying to figure out how all the pieces might go together. This is essential to any scratch built rod and when you do it you will quickly recognize a flood of potential errors in your prior thinking. You need to draw detailed front views as well as side views and rear views with all the components in place (axles, springs, shocks, radius rods, wheels (turned in every possible direction), steering components, and other odds and ends. By doing these drawings and seeing things in perspective, I discovered dozens of ways that I COULDN'T put the parts together. There is a lot going on in the front of a Twin I-Beam design. Hopefully I accounted for most of it.

Based on a lot of web research (including much at HR.Com) I decided to use 2x3, 1/8" wall, cold rolled, rectangular tubing for the basic frame rails and cross members.

I then finalized my frame design. I decided to use the stock 32 ford wheelbase of 106". The width of the frame was more difficult to decide. I had to account for placement of the I-Beam brackets, potential interference of the radius rods with wheel turning radius, placement of front springs, position of the steering box and steering components, engine mounting, radiator mounting, AND try to keep it somewhere in the ballpark of a stock 32' ford. I finally determined the optimal width at 32" measured outside to outside the frame rails. The frame, unlike a stock 32, is also a uniform width from front to back. This is done primarily for ease of building.

The major design challenge for the frame, however, is dealing with the position and mounting of the Twin I-beam front suspension. Basically the frame must extend totally underneath or totally over the top of the I-Beam axles. This is because the beam mounts (where they swivel) are staggered. They can't be in a straight line because the axles extend well beyond the center point on the frame and thus overlap each other. Ford therefore designed the mounting points with the front axle mount about 9 inches (measured outside to outside) in front of the rear axle. The axles are then cast with bends in them so that as you get out toward the wheel end of the axles, the king pins and the bolts for the radius rods all line up in a straight line - just as they would with a solid front axle.

After many discarded drawings, I determined that I had to build the frame up and over the I-Beams. I therefore ended up with a frame design which is Z'd at both ends. The rear kick up is obviously needed to clear the rear end and the front kick up is needed to clear the I Beams and their up and down travel as well as provide a solid mounting point for the front I beam, the steering box and the shocks. The actual "rise" or height of the kick ups was determined by simply picking a "road clearance" height for the bottom of the frame rails (I used 7") and then adding in the components I had to clear plus their estimated up and down travel. I had my already complete pickup to use as a guide for these clearances - the major one being about 2 1/2" of axle travel up and down (5" total) at the kingpins. To be on the save side I used the 2 1/2 clearance as my guide at the outside points on the frame (which is 32" wide). This will give me more like 3" of travel in each direction out at the kingpins.

I then went to my local steel supplier and after recovering from the "sticker shock" of current steel prices, shelled out $424 for the raw stock. If a person planned all of their brackets, bracing and other miscellaneous items better than I did, they might be able to cut down that steel cost somewhat. I just bought various lengths of flat stock and tube based on a very rough estimate of what I will need.

Then, using my scale drawings and a couple of good angle marking tools I started cutting frame pieces on my Harbor Freight 4 1/2 band saw.

The first picture below shows the saw in action. Note the "stub catcher" holding up the piece of stock being cut off. In cutting some test pieces I noticed that as the cut neared the end the "stub" would begin to drop downward. And since the stub sat solid on the bed of the table up by the saw blade, that point of contact became like a fulcrum or a hinge, and as the tip of the stub dropped down the end touching the saw blade was forced upward, moving the entire piece of stock matter how hard I tightened the retaining jaws which hold the stock to on the other side of the cutting blade. So this was my solution, to simply prop up the piece being cut off to prevent it from dropping any more than about 1/16".

The second picture shows one of the gussets which will be used at each point of the Z (kick up) in the frame. I call these Tab "A"/Tab "B" gussets and they are cut to roughly mimic the angle of the Z. Notice that they are not rocket science cuts. I cut them freehand with a metal cutting blade in my power saw - so each one is a little different from the next. They are cut from 3/16 flat stock and they will be welded to the INSIDE of the frame tubing.

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  [Entry #23]

11-09-2004 08:48 AM T.O.W - Rod More mock up
Here are two more pics with a few more items mocked up...primarily the seat position. The more more I look at this and the more I foresee the what I'm going to have to do in terms of mounting the IFS, the more I am leaning towards this "short & squatty" radiator position. I do have a concern about headlight positioning with this configuration but I think it will be the lesser of the two evils.

And yes, I did sit in the seat for about an hour and go "Vroom, vroom, vroom.". Hey we ALL do it, even when we are 59 years old.

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  [Entry #22]

11-09-2004 08:39 AM T.O.W. Rod - radiator mock up
These three shots are of the radiator in the "short and squatty" position. As I look at the car in this configuration I envision something of a Track T type nose piece rather than just a simple grill shell. This would also allow me to conceal at least a part of the steering box and steering linkage which is going to be in a very non-traditional position as well as concealing the brackets for the IFS which will probably be somewhat out of the ordinary for a '32 roadster. I'll have to build the shell from scratch anyhow, so the sky's the limit in terms of the shape and configuration.

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  [Entry #21]

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