(Words and photos by Kaleb Kelley) – My dad & I finally got around to installing the Hotchkis suspension on my ’73 Scamp, A.K.A. Project Possum. Ever since it came home from the body shop we’ve put it off to clear the garage out to be prepared to take on what we thought was a momentous task. We’ve never really messed with something like this, but once we got started it was significantly easier than expected. It still wasn’t hiccup-free (hey, we’re learning as we go here!), but we got it figured out and finished.
The first task was to remove the old slant-six torsion bars to take the tension off the suspension. This was a lot harder than I would’ve thought. The torsion bars probably haven’t been removed since they were new and they sure didn’t want to start now. We tried to do everything we could to get them off, but they didn’t want to cooperate. My dad attempted using set of vicegrips and a hammer to try to get it loose, but that wasn’t working. We sort of gave up and starting looking for something else to use. I was taking off the control arms, when my stepmom came in and helped my dad try again with a pipe wrench and they nailed it.
Once we got those beasts out, I finished taking off the control arm. I didn’t realize my dad had a pickle fork until afterwards, but thankfully my stepmom came through again with a pry bar to help me get the ball joint off as I was hammering on it. That worked like a charm and we got the old grease covered control arms out of there. Next we decided to take off the steering rods and strut rods. While removing those, we noticed that the idler arm was way too loose. Since I noticed this, I’m going to go ahead and get Hotchkis’ Idler & Pitman arm that quickens the steering ration to 12:1. Now it’s out with the old and in with the new.
After that, we installed the new control arms. Getting the right amount of shims on both sides to center the upper control arms was the trick. We also had to cut a small section off of the control arm mount on the front-facing side on both sides. My dad got in there with a sawzall and made some seriously clean cuts. Truthfully, the Hotchkis suspension was the easy part. The only difficult part was getting the old stuff off. The control arms, steering rods, and strut rods went in pretty easily. The strut rods were kind of difficult because getting the joint to stay reasonably level in the small area was a challenge. In the picture below, you’ll see the lower control arm that we cleaned off so that the sway bar brackets can be welded to soon.
It took us roughly 11 hours to get it all done, and it was thanks in large part of the quality of the Hotchkis components we were using because if the stuff didn’t fit it would have been way longer! I can’t wait to get the car running and test it out.
Next up, we are going to get the new 8 ¾ rear end and Hotchkis’ lowering leaf springs in. Once we get that all finished, we are going to get our good friend Steve Campbell over to weld on the brackets for the front and rear sway bars. I actually have to find shock plate’s for the rear spring’s U-bolt to go into. The one on my car is setup for the 7 ¼’s axle tube’s, which are just 2 and a half inches wide instead of the 8 3/4 , which had an axle tube diameter of 3 inches. A local performance store, Smiley’s, has some that my dad is going to try to pick up for me tomorrow, so hopefully they work fine. I have to thank my dad for being such a huge help and support as I try to get this done. I know that if it wasn’t for him, this college kid wouldn’t have a chance at owning something this cool.
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