Disc Brake Project – Speedbumps

After relatively smooth sailing in my last update, I encountered several speedbumps in my recent forays in the garage.  As you may recall, I gave up trying to rehab the original upper control arms and ordered new replacements from OPG.  The driver’s side part was on backorder and originally due to deliver within the month.  However, when I called to check on their availability a week later, I was informed that they wouldn’t arrive until at least the end of May.  Since that would completely stall the project, I started looking elsewhere.  Only one other Pontiac restoration parts house offered the part, and they were also out of stock.  Remembering that Chevelles of the era are virtually identical (and generally have greater aftermarket support), I started looking at companies that specialize in parts for old Chevys and found that National Parts Depot had the part I needed in stock in Michigan for the same price with cheaper shipping.  I quickly ordered it and cancelled my order with OPG.  Within a few days, I was able to assemble the driver’s side control arms, spring, shock, spindle, steering arm, backplate, and caliper bracket (phew!).

Bling Bling

With that completed, I moved on to the steering linkage.  It was already mostly removed from the car, with only the idler arm still attached to the frame.  I unbolted it and inspected the old tie rods, center link, and idler arm:

Going into this, I assumed the center link was just a formed metal rod with holes in it for the various linkage parts to connect; unfortunately, there are two joints in the link that attach to the idler arm and pitman arm.  Of course, the connection at the idler arm is completely shot.  Checking again at some Pontiac-specific parts suppliers, I found that if the center link is available, it’s sometimes laughably expensive – in some cases over $200.  Thinking back to my earlier success with Chevelle parts, I started hunting for Chevy center links and found that they are significantly cheaper – as low as $60.  After doing a little more research, however, I was disappointed to find that they won’t work – the holes are further apart and the taper for the idler and pitman arms is different.  Summit Racing has one for $89.99, but their catalog shows it fitting both Chevelles and Pontiacs; I guess I’ll have to take my greasy old part up there with me this weekend to make sure it’s right before I drag it home.

Finally, moving on from the stalled steering linkage assembly, I started to hang the power brake booster on the firewall.  Since this manual-brake car didn’t have one of these originally, I had to bend the existing brake lines out of the way (and hope they will reach the now displaced master cylinder later) and thread the rod and clevis onto the brake pedal.  There are four studs that protrude through the firewall that the booster is bolted to, but apparently you need to be a triple-jointed sideshow performer to tighten those nuts – I couldn’t even get the camera in there to get a picture.  After some contortions, I was able to get all four nuts started by hand, but wasn’t able to get them all the way tight before it was time for bed.

"Mostly attached" probably isn't good enough for brake components

Hopefully, I’ll get that buttoned up and the center link sorted out this weekend so I can finish assembling the steering linkage and get the brakes actually on the car – we’re approaching the home stretch and warm weather is fast approaching.

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