(By Robert Williams) – 6 weeks into the Weapon X build and here’s where it stands… After writing and sending Part 1, I lost my work assistant Craig, due to a serious injury to one of his arms (a torn bicep muscle). We did manage to get some work done together before that happened, though.. So with Craig being on the shelf, I had no choice but to soldier on alone for the time being…
The first order of business was to address the frame and chassis.. A lot of the work I thought was “done” turned out not to be (lesson to learn – NEVER ASSUME!), so we first tied the rear frame rails, which were hanging out in the breeze, to the ladder bar crossmember. We also tied the OEM subframe to the crossmember with some lightweight 2X3. Extra work to be sure, but I had figured on some “finish work” underneath, and some “brain damage” time. How prophetic THAT turned out to be! More on that later…
With the basic chassis work done, it was time to make sure the 315 Pro radials fit inside the wheelwells. The rearend had been cut by the previous owner to fit 275 radials on a 10″ wheel with 4.5″ of backspacing, so I thought that the 315’s on a 10″ wheel with 5.5″ of backspacing (which Pork Chop had), would fit.. WRONG! While I had plenty of clearance inside, of course the tires hit the outside. What to do?
The Fab 9 housing had axles in it, but they were 31 spline axles. Since i was reusing Pork Chop’s center section that required 35 spline axles, and new axles were required anyway, the decision was made to take an additional 1″ off each axle tube. The axle housing was measured, and the ends chopped off. Craig then TIG welded the housing ends on, and finish welded some other items. This was to be his last part of work for the foreseeable future, as his injury happened, and I didn’t want him to screw his arm up any further simply to make a deadline..
Here’s where the “brain damage” part comes in… The housing and ladder bars were in place when I got the car, but nothing was tightened up (understandable), and again, the “assumption bug” bit, and bit HARD! During disassembly, I noticed that the attaching hardware was incorrect on the ladder bar rod ends (too small), so I got the correct sized fasteners coming while we were narrowing the housing. I started reassembly with the new hardware to check tire fitment, and noticed right off that something was wrong with the housing alignment in the car (it was hanging down crooked). I dropped the housing out, and found the ladder bars were not aligned to each other; with the passenger side bar being dead level, the driver side was up about 5 degrees. This was BAD news!
Apparently, the drivetrain shop that welded up the housing, somehow got the brackets misaligned during final fitment, and welded them in place that way. Probably due to the incorrect sized fasteners having some “slop” in the holes.. So.. after looking at the brackets about 100 times, I figured the most expedient solution was to relocate the holes on the driver side to correct the misalignment issue. So, using piece from a second set of ladder bar brackets, I cut and modified the driver side brackets to bring the ladder bars back into proper alignment. I then carefully REmeasured and made certain the ladder bars were the exact same length, same number of turns, etc. and square. A TON of extra work, but the brain damage wasn’t done with me yet!
I got the housing up back in the car, and with some mockup axles in, I put the wheels on to check fitment. Where the tires had been square in the wheel openings before, now the driver side tire hit the rear edge of the wheel opening. So.. I grabbed Pete from Cape Collision Center (the shop that’s charged with painting Weapon X), and getting his frame gauge, we determined that the rear crossmember was 1/2″ out of square, with the driver side being (you guessed it!), too far to the rear. It was at this point that I was about at my wit’s end, as everything was built and welded, etc. This was looking and feeling like a bad “reality TV” show at this point..
Sucking it up, I worked the problem though… Seeing as there was NO way I was cutting the crossmember out to square it up, I decided instead, to make the housing square to the front wheels by whatever means necessary. Since the wheels don’t care as long as the pickup points are square, my solution was make a custom set of ladder bar brackets for the crossmember that were offset 1/2″ to make up for the out of square condition. I then contacted Dan Neumann, who has Pork Chop in his chassis shop jail, and had him whip them up for me.
After cutting the existing front brackets out, and welding in the new offset brackets, everything was square, and I was finally able to fit the wheels and tires. I was dog tired and felt like I’d run a marathon with all the brain damage this car had thrown at me, so fabricating the wishbone locator, frame rail brace and upper shock crossmember felt like a piece of cake in comparison.
With my workforce being cut down to 1 person, (me), I’m thinking the time frame of near completion by June 7th (when I leave for Power Tour) is a bit “optimistic” at this point, since I’m juggling working on Weapon X while still doing major customer projects (gotta pay the bills!).
However.. let’s see where we are at the next update.. who knows?