Monday, November 27, 2006


(15? hours since last post, 69 hours total)

We'll call it 15 hours. I don't really know how accurate that is, since I've just been spending an hour here and there for the last week. I finished the cockpit rear aluminum. Drivers side was great. Passenger side didn't want to line up, so I had to trim it, but it is in too.

Then yesterday I tried to put the motor in. Got myself a load leveler from Harbor Freight. ($20) This is a device that lets you change the support point of your hanging load so that it tips, so you can drop the transmission tail down into the transmission tunnel, then flatten it out as you lower the motor.

Attempt #1:
This was the first attempt. At about this point, it became clear that I needed to have the crank on the other end of the load leveler, because it was going to hit the firewall.

Attempt #2:

No good pictures of this one. I tried the same thing but with the crank at the other end. This time, I got the motor down within a couple of inches of the motor mounts, but had to pull it back out because the load leveler hit the firewall crosspiece.

Attempt #3:
I took the upper intake manifold off the motor to get a little more room. I thought that if the load leveler was where the intake normally goes, I'd clear the firewall. It almost worked. It was so close that I could actually put the motor mount bolts onto the motor mount brackets, but I just couldn't drop them into the slots.

Attempt #4:

Went without the load leveler this time, with just a chain on the motor. That made it difficult to get the transmission tail up over the 4" round crosspiece in the transmission tunnel. But it eliminated all the clearance issues at the firewall. I used two jacks, a furniture dolly, a 2x4, and some wooden shims to maneuver the transmission in. The result? Success!

Sunday, November 19, 2006


(7 hours since last post, 54 hours total)

Completed the footboxes today. Actually, the driver's side is not installed, but all the panels are drilled and ready to go in, and that is by far the hard part.

But first, to catch up on photos:
The pedals as they'll look inside the car, more or less. The accelerator is the very nice Russ Thompson version. I discovered that the placement of this pedal is incompatible with the cruise control switches on the Mustang pedal box. Fortunately, I wasn't planning to use the cruise control anyway.

Passenger side footbox, as completed with Clecos. Took almost all of my 50 Clecos to hold it together like this.

Passenger footbox from the inside. Note all the aluminum debris from drilling the panels. This is when it is really good to have a helper.

Here's Emmett cleaning up all the drill debris. He's very enthusiastic about this task. I have to make sure to pick up anything that I don't want to fish out of the vacuum later.

The passenger footbox is complete. Drilled, bonded, and riveted. It's surprisingly solid. When the panels are anchored by a few screws at the corners, they're disturbingly flexible. When they're finished with rivets along each edge, they form a very rigid box.

The Drill Doctor that my Dad got me for Christmas last year has been extremely important. After drilling enough holes, I'll find the bit working very slowly even on the aluminum. A quick trip through the sharpener yields one of two results. Either the bit becomes completely useless, or it becomes fantastically sharp. I haven't figured out what creates the inconsistency, so I just sharpen again if necessary.

I'm taking 5 days off work, plus the Thanksgiving holidays, so I hope to get a lot done on the car. Ideally, I'd like to finish the aluminum and install the motor and transmission.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Aluminum panels

(Roughly 7 hours since last post, 47 hours total)

Some lost time from the last time I posted. This is my best guess. I spent two hours on the car last night.

I've started the aluminum panels that form the interior of the car.

Each piece is to be bonded to the frame with silicone sealant (to prevent rattles) and then riveted. Since most of the panels came mounted on the frame in the first place, I did at least mark the panels where they meet the frame. So for each piece, the procedure is something like this:

1. Compare the piece to the intended location to verify markings and perform a sanity check.
2. Drill panel for rivets. Mostly these are on 2-inch spacing, in straight lines. Drilling the aluminum is quick and easy.
3. Install the panel in place
4. Drill two or three holes in the frame, placing a Cleco in each. Clecos are temporary fasteners that hold like rivets, and they're perfect for this application.
5. Drill the remaining holes in the frame. The frame is steel, and though it isn't really hard steel, it isn't exactly quick to drill.
6. Remove the Clecos and remove the panel.
7. Apply silicone to the frame.
8. Re-install the panel using a few Clecos.
9. Rivet all the holes that don't have a Cleco in them.
10. Remove the Clecos and finish riveting.

So far I've done 5 panels. Two are the large floor panels, which have more rivets than anything else except maybe the trunk floor. The other 3 are small: The transmission tunnel front wall, the driver footbox floor, and the driver footbox front wall. That's a lot of drilling.

Oh, and I also installed the Russ Thompson gas pedal. Without the throttle cable yet, there's not much to it. It looks great.

I have some pictures, but they're not on the computer yet.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


(2 hours this weekend, 40 hours total)

I installed the pedal box (brake and clutch) this past weekend. Went in pretty easily once I got all the parts together The trick was in getting the brake pushrod out of the Mustang brake booster.

I had started this process a long time ago, when I first pulled the booster out. The build manual says something about crushing the plastic part in a vise and then pulling the pushrod out. Fine, but the studs were in the way of crushing it. So I did some cutting and drilling and whatnot and broke off the plastic part pretty good, but the pushrod did not come out. So I set the thing aside until this past weekend.

This time, I read up on the process on The consensus was to just keep breaking plastic with a chisel and a BFH. (That is, a hammer.) So I did that, and got the pushrod out. Then you're supposed to remove the aluminum fitting from the pushrod by heating it with a torch. Sounds like fun. I heated that thing up really good, then pulled on the fitting with some pliers.

Now the thing you need to know at this point is that the aluminum fitting is connected to the pushrod by means of a rubber bushing. You can't just cut the bushing, because it is inside the fitting. By heating it, what you're trying to do is melt the rubber, so the fitting slides right off.

I did more than melt the rubber. When the fitting came off, the rubber was so hot that it ignited, and I had a flaming pushrod in my vise, and a flaming fitting in my pliers. I just wish I had a picture of it.

Next up would have been the gas pedal, but after a little trial fitting, I decided to ditch the donor pedal. It just doesn't fit right, and the proposed modification from the build manual would result in the pedal pad being at a strange angle and the lever arms being all wrong. So I bought a Russ Thompson pedal from Breeze. Should have it in a couple of days, hopefully for installation this weekend.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Brake plumbing complete

(2 hours yesterday/this morning, 37 hours total)

Finished up the brake line plumbing. Starting from the master cylinder:

Simplest possible brake setup. Cobra master cylinder with no proportioning valve.

Left front on a T fitting, with the line continuing to the right front.

Right front.

Left rear. I need to figure out how to anchor these lines on the axle.

Right rear.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Brake lines

(5 hours this weekend, 35 hours total)

Hard to get a lot of time for the car with a new baby. But I did put in some work on my brake lines this weekend.

I mounted the brackets that hold the flexible lines on the rear end, then fabricated the rear end hard lines. I should get a picture of this up, because I think it looks pretty cool. The only thing that I don't like is that they don't match. On the right side I have a loop in the line to provide for some flexibility in the line. But bending the loop was a lot of trouble, and it made it tough to put the wrench on the flare nut. So on the left side I went with an S bend.

I also mounted the master cylinder and completed the rear brake circuit. I don't know how Factory Five thinks you're going to get the brakes connected with the lines they provide. They're just too short! So now I have a 1-foot extension on the rear brake line, which is a different color, and the union is visible. Maybe I'll go back and do it again. But only if it leaks.

Finally, I mounted the small brackets that hold the flexible lines from the front brakes. But now I think I did it wrong, and I'll either need to remount them or cut the aluminum panel in the wheel well. But with the way they're supposed to be mounted I think the left side flexible line just isn't going to be long enough. I guess I need to locate the panel and figure out what to do next.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mounted fuel tank

(1.5 hours, 30 hours total)

I installed the fuel tank today. Nothing too exciting, though it was yet another part that I got to hit with a hammer. This time, the hammer was to straighten out some bent edges that were preventing a good fit.

The return fuel line is now fully connected. The supply line is not properly clipped to the fuel filter. I think I need new clips, and I definitely need a new fuel filter.

I couldn't bring myself to spend time cleaning and painting a fuel tank that is going to be completely hidden from view in the finished car. A lot of Cobra builders seem to paint everything, and I certainly did paint my rear end, spindle adapters, etc. But the fuel tank? That's just going too far.

Friday, September 15, 2006


(3 hours Wednesday/Thursday, 28.5 hours total.)

She's a roller. Not much real progress, but I got the rear LCA bolts replaced, put the spindles back on, connected the tie rods, and put the wheels on. I spent over an hour just replacing one little bolt on the forward arm of the upper arm bracket of the 3-link. It did not want to line up. I finally made myself a custom alignment tool out of a second bolt. I cut the head off, and tapered one end with a grinder. One day I hope to install some part of the car without using a hammer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Spindles and studs

In my last post, I mentioned the bump steer studs that were left in the spindles. I now feel certain that the reason he left these in is that he couldn't get them out.

Well, they're out. Or more accurately, they're gone. Both were removed destructively. The first one was tough. I tried the standard technique of hitting the spindle with a big hammer and had no success. I then tried hanging a 5-gallon bucket of water from the stud (to get some tension on it) and hitting the spindle with a hammer, with no success. Then I drilled a 3/8" hole from the top clear through the tapered section, to release the pressure on the taper, and tried hitting it some more. No success. Finally I used a Dremel with a cutoff wheel to cut a groove in the stud just below the spindle. I stuck a chisel in the groove and hit it hard with a hammer, and the stud popped out.

On to the left side. Basic techniques again failed. I tried the drill and chisel technique that worked for the first one, with no success. I cut the bottom part of the stud off so I could get an impact socket on the hex section, and tried to break it loose with an impact wrench. The stud sheared off where I had cut the groove. (Note that it was hollow at this point from the drilling!)

With no way to pull on the stud, I started trying to figure out how to push on it. My big sledge (on a punch set in the hole) did nothing. I got a 12-ton hydraulic press from Harbor Freight and tried that, but the remaining portion of the stud above the spindle just crushed, since it was just a thin shell. So I drilled out the top of the stud to 1/2", matching the top part of the spindle hole, and drilling about half way through. Then I flipped it over and hollowed out the bottom part of the stud to just a thin shell of the taper, using a tungsten carbide cutter on a Dremel. Finally I put it back on the press, dropped a 1/2" bolt on top of the remaining portion of the stud, and pushed. Hard.

Sproing! Something popped, and everything moved. I looked around to figure out what happened. And there, on the floor, was a thin-shelled taper. Success! There was an odd odor, too. Not sure what that was about, but I definitely smelled something when it popped out.

The spindle is scratched up good and has a small divot at one edge of the taper hole, but nothing to worry about. Between the drill bits that I dulled, the Dremel cutter, and the hydraulic press, I spent more on this than it would have cost me to get a good used spindle. But I have wanted a press for other things, and the cutter is really good. Wish I hadn't messed up my 1/2" drill bit so much, though.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Suspension is done

(12 hours in 3 days, 25.5 hours total)
The suspension is complete. The 3-link rear was interesting, because the FFR instructions are pretty poor. Fortunately, a lot of guys have put pictures of their builds online, so I was able to find some photos that helped me figure out where everything goes. I think everything is together, except that I'll need to swap out the rear lower control arm bolts.

FFR sent me the wrong bolts for the rear LCA. The donor bolts are 100mm, but that's not long enough for the rear brackets on the 3-link. So FFR includes 110mm bolts. Unfortunately, in my kit, what they included was 90mm bolts. Folks on the FFCobra forums complain that even 110mm isn't really enough, and you should use 120mm. Anyone ever try to find Class 10.9 120mm M12 bolts, in Utah, on a Sunday? Not gonna happen. So I just got a couple of 3/8" bolts to hold the arms in place while I completed the rest of the rear end, and I'll swap them for the correct bolts later.

I put the steering rack in, because I was thinking that it would be nice to have steerable wheels. But I found something troublesome. The SN95 spindles that I got with the Cobra brakes seem to have a bump-steer stud mounted. So I have to figure out either how to use it or how to get it out. Either one seems a little tricky right now. I suppose I'll consult the forums for some advice.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


(2 hours the last two days, 13.5 hours total)

I got my wheels from Rev Wheel in Riverside. I'm using the "340 Cobra" which is a rough Halibrand replica. The wheels were $150 each for 17" x 9" in chrome, including the fake spinners with snakes. I think they look pretty good.

Next up on the purchase list is tires. I've heard good things about the Potenza RE050As, so I'm thinking I'll go with those. Other major purchases still to come are the iSquared electrical system and an AC unit from North Racecars.

Latest work has proceeded smoothly. I opened up my rear end and pulled out the axles. Dropped one of the c-clips down into the depths, but I think I can get it out when I change the oil. My new ball joint separator tool works wonders, so my spindle adapters are painted and reinstalled, and properly aligned this time.

Unfortunately, I realized I need the spindle-to-strut bolts from the Mustang. My spring compressors won't go on the Mustang springs, so I have to figure out another way to protect myself from explosive decompression when I remove the strut. I'm still thinking on this one.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I painted my rear end blue!

(30 min today, 11.5 hours total)

I painted my rear end blue. Specifically, "Old Ford Blue". I'm not counting this time toward the build. I'm counting it as donor prep. Because I spent way, way too long cleaning this thing for the paint. It was rusty, greasy, and covered with that dense black dust that I assume is tire dust.

I also attached the competition brackets to the rear end and did some test fitting of the various parts. I think the rear end will come together quickly, but I'm not putting it in until I change out the axles.

Speaking of which, I'm picking those up from L.A. this weekend. I'm also going to swing by Rev Wheel in Riverside and get some of their Halibrand replicas (340 Cobra). 17" x 9" in chrome, spinners with snakes included. For just $150 a wheel.

Friday, August 18, 2006

More front end

(2.5 hours yesterday and today, 11 hours total)

I mounted the lower control arms. At first, they didn't appear to fit correctly. I posted a question on and got a very quick answer, saying that yes, I was doing it correctly. I just needed to install a couple of "shims" (i.e., washers).

I then put in the coil-overs. This time, when they didn't really fit with the provided spacers, I didn't miss a beat. I just ground down the spacers a little bit and made them fit.

Not much more to do at the front end until I get the spindles next week.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Front upper control arms

(30 min yesterday, 8.5 hours total)

I put on the front upper control arms. These are very cool adjustable arms that FFR supplies. Very simple job, consisting of putting the ball joints into the control arms, attaching a grease fitting, and then bolting the control arm to the frame.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Waiting for brakes

(1 hour yesterday, 8 hours total)
Didn't get much done on the car this weekend. I don't want to put the rear end in until I replace the axles, so that needs to wait for the brake kit. And there's not a lot I can do at the front end until I get the SN95 spindles, also in the brake kit.

So I spent some time sorting through some of the back-ordered parts that I have received, trying to match them into the boxes they belong to. I also prepped my e-brake handle for the rear disc brakes by removing the auto-adjuster, and pulled the brake pedal out to send it out for shortening.

In other automotive news, I replaced the expansion valve and receiver/dryer in the minivan. That was pretty easy once I figured out that I needed to remove the front bumper to access the refrigerant lines on top of the r/d. The shop wanted almost $500 for this job, including about $75 each for the valve and r/d. Here's my cost breakdown:

Expansion valve: $20.
Receiver/dryer: $15.
O-ring set: $5.
Vacuum pump (venturi type): $25.
Assorted fittings/valves to hook up vacuum pump: $15
Evacuate system (Tunex): $20.
New refrigerant: $20.

That's $120 including tooling. Total time was maybe 3 hours. And now I have a vacuum pump, some assorted fittings, and a nice ball valve, too.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cobra brakes

I got a good deal on a used Cobra brake kit. Complete system, including 13" front rotors, rear disc brakes, master cylinder, SN95 spindles, axle shafts. Essentially what you would get with the Ford Racing M-2300-K kit, which currently goes for over $2000. I paid a bit more than I was expecting to spend to upgrade to 5-lug, but I'm very happy to upgrade to 4-wheel disc brakes, and the 13" front rotors should be good on the track.

The only problem right now is the brakes are in L.A. and I'm here in Utah.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Fuel lines in

(3 hours today, 7 hours total)
I put in the fuel lines. Here are the lines running under the car. The frame is on its side, to make things a bit easier. The aluminum piece is the passenger side floor, just laid in place to indicate where the firewall will be.

Detail on the riveted clips that hold the fuel lines in place:

Here's the front of the frame, on its side. This frame is actually light enough for me to tip it up on its side by hand, unassisted.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Construction begins

(4 hours today, 4 hours total)
I finally started building the coupe. Today I put in the rear brake line and attached the fuel filter bracket.

Here's the rear brake line bracket, installed on the frame:
And here is the fuel filter bracket:

Monday, July 31, 2006

Almost ready to start build

Wow. Over two months since my last post, and I haven't done much. I'm still working on the Mustang. I did drop the gas tank a few weeks ago. That was easier than I thought. Then this weekend I got the rear end. That was vastly harder than I expected.

First, I had to take the wheels off. Easy enough, right? Four lugnuts each, with an impact wrench. Except that one of the lugnuts was stuck. So I soaked it with Liquid Wrench and hammered away with the impact wrench for a while. Finally it started to turn, but very slowly.

Actually, the nut wasn't turning at all. It was rounding off, and the cheap impact socket that came with the very cheap pack of air tools was actually flaring out to accomodate it.

Took me about four hours of drilling, cutting, chiseling, and prying to remove that wheel. Of course, the wheel stud is destroyed, too. But since I'm probably replacing the axles to go five-lug, that's not really a problem.

Worked for another couple of hours on the rear end. I was afraid to use those cheap impact sockets again, which left me with no 1/2" drive 18mm socket. So I was using the 3/8" drive, and a hand ratchet. But I simply couldn't budge the left lower control arm with that little wrench.

After that, I went down to Sears and got a quality set of Craftsman impact sockets, and a heavy duty impact wrench. $300 well spent, as I popped those control arms off in no time flat.

Pull the spindles and I'll be ready to start building.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Still preparing

So I got the kit. Inventory went pretty smoothly, with only two things missing that were supposed to be packed. (Some bolts and some spacers.) I've even gotten most of my back-ordered items already. Still missing seats, door and window frames, and a few other odd bits.

Mustang disassembly continues. The motor and tranny came out two weeks ago. I still need to pull the fuel tank, rear end, spindles and brakes, and the rear wire harness.

Didn't get to work on it this past weekend because I was replacing the struts on the minivan instead. What a PITA! The bracket on top of the strut wraps all the way around the nut and the end of the shaft. So you can't put an ordinary box end wrench on the nut. Using a socket on the nut means you have nowhere to grip the shaft except the completely smooth and amazingly hard body of the shaft itself. Of course, there's a 10mm hex end on the shaft, so if you had a 21mm ultra-deep-offset box-end wrench, it would be no trouble. Know anyone who sells such a beast? Neither do I.

Finally, I put the frame, body, and nose onto furniture dollies, so I can roll them all around the shop as needed.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Still not here

The delivery was delayed by snow last week. Stewart Transport is hoping to get it delivered this week.

I got the dash harness the rest of the way out. Whose idea was it to have the harness wire directly into the washer pump, which is inside the fender, without an accessible connector? I figured that I'm not likely to be using the washer pump in my coupe anyway, so I cut those wires rather than remove the fender.

I figure I'm probably into this donor car 8-10 hours, and I haven't gotten very far yet. This is going to be a very long project.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Arrival time confirmed

The coupe is arriving tomorrow around 5pm.

I got the dash out of the Mustang last night. Next target is the wire harness. The more I see of the harness, the more I think I'll go with I Squared's power management system. That is just one scary bundle of wires.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Welcome Utah Cobra Club

Hello to readers from the Utah Cobra Club. The coupe will be delivered on Thursday, March 30, probably in the afternoon. Unloaders and gawkers are welcome. 2538 W 6830 S, West Jordan. I'll post a better time estimate as soon as I have it from the driver. You can call me at (510) 282-0670.

A warning if you use Google maps or the like to find the place: Fargo Rd is 2350 W, and the sign on 7000 just says 2350, not Fargo.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Getting started

My FFR coupe will arrive in less than a week. I've been pulling parts off the Mustang, but took a pause to clean up the shop and get it ready. Here are some photos of the shop:

This is my current fleet. That's my Suburban, Stephanie's Grand Caravan, the donor Mustang, and my RX-7 in front.
Here's the donor Mustang. Those lights are very bright halogens, for paint work. If you look closely, you can see that the car has no steering wheel. I had already pulled the steering column when I decided I'd rather turn the car around. So I had to jack up the front end each time I wanted to turn the wheels. Did about a 5-point turn in the shop.
One of the best things is that there's no air compressor in the shop. Instead, it's in the shed next door. It's plumbed in to two locations, as shown here. With the door closed, you can barely hear a hum when the compressor comes on.