|Alex Smith's Vortex|
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Vortex 3-wheel Vehicle
17' Wind Turbine
Bradly GT II Kit Car
1966 Ford Fairlane GT
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This page will show detailed information concerning how I constructed/assembled the front suspension.
The default Vortex plans utilize a Triumph Spitfire front end and rack & pinion steering. You can use the Spitfire, but there are numerous options open to you such as Mustang II, many imports, custom fabrication, etc. Your wallet is really the limiting factor as well as your expertise will probably dictate what you eventially use, the only thing to keep in mind is the small amount of area on the Vortex in which to fit the suspension components.
I liked what I saw when checking out the Spitfire suspension, it is pretty compact, parts are available for it and it utilizes the more exotic looking coil over shocks. So I went with the plans recommendations and have acquired an entire Spitfire front end assembly.
Along with the parts I also got a rebuild kit for the suspension, go with the entire kit as it is actually cheaper in the long run.
Here are some initial pictures of the suspension that I bought:
I also will be using the standard Spitfire rack and pinion steering, plans call for extending the length to the tie rod ends.
The gaiters (rubber boots) typically have to be replaced as well as the tie rod ends, so plan on it.
Here are some images that display the Spitfire front suspension:
Below shows some front end upper A-arm suspension brackets that were machined up for me:
And here is picture of completed upper A-Arm brackets.
Here is the box-frame that the front suspension components will be mocked up on and tack-welded. I made it a bit oversized and open on the top side so that I could easily clamp pieces.
The plan sheet #11 looks pretty complicated, but it really boils down to only a couple of measurements, the 12 degree angle formed by the jig, the 6.7 degree tilt of the main upright section, the same angle for the lower control arm mounting brackets (A, B, C, D), and finally the distance from the bottom centerline of the upright to the upper control arm mounting brackets. Besides the shock mounts anything above this point is mearly for fastening the structure onto the vehicle!
Here are the semi-completed front subframes without holes in top plate yet. Yet have to locate holes in top plate as well as upper shock brackets.
The shocks that I got are the 'standard' Triumph Spitfire shocks with a vertical stud on top and not like what the plans show. Be sure also to check your shock length, the mounts in the plan are located for a 13" long shock, if your length varies then you will have to locate it properly. Here is picture of shocks:
The picture below also shows the enclosed area that I made up for the electric motors to raise/lower the front pop-up headlights. Since the subframes are a bit more forward than I originally imagined I may need to adjust these. Once front end assembly is completed and tires/wheels are mounted I will run the front suspension through it's range of motion to see if I have issues.
As previously stated the upper portion of the shocks are the 'normal' stud style that is used on the Triumph Spitfire, and the Vortex plans use a different style upper mount. So I spent some time studying the front suspension that came directly off of the Spitfire, luckily for me the setup that I purchased also had the complete original shock towers. I quickly realized that a couple simple brackets just would not do the job. I was going to have to replicate the original to some degree.
The original setup had an plate which holds not only the shock but the spring as well, what you do is to use spring compressers and put the spring onto the shock using a retension plate at the top end of the shock. This retension plate has 3 bolts that connect to the upper mount on the shock tower.Below is an image that shows the complete shock/spring assembly (note the double nuts on stud end!).
I mocked up what I needed onto 1/4" plywood and made some templates from which I could use with my plasma torch and cut out the parts from 1/8" steel plate, I needed a flat plate which the shock/spring assembly bolted onto which is drilled to accept the shock unit. The entire shock/spring assembly should be able to be installed/removed intact, the central hole in the upper shock mount should be big enough to allow the rubber bushings to pass through. Here is a picture of the completed upper shock mounting plate.
This plate would need some reinforcement with some sort of gussets. I would not have looked right if I used simple flat gussets so I decided that what I needed to do was to "wrap" it using 1/8" material that would reinforce the entire structure. I welded the shock mounting plate onto the front subframe at about a 65 degree angle. This angle is needed so that it is roughly perpendicular to the shock when bolted onto the lower control arm. Be careful not to place the shock too far away from the subframe, just enough so that the spring clears it, as there could be interference between the spring and the trunion on the spindle assembly!
Next I cut out some 1/8" flat plate and tack welded it as I bent it around this upper shock mounting plate, once the steel completely wrapped the mount I welded it all around and ground the welds flush. I'm pretty happy with the results, and the following photos show the completed upper shock mount from a couple different angles.
So that the upper shock mount does not collect water I will make sure that there are a couple of weep holes at the lower corners to allow accumulated water to run off. Here is a picture of the completed subframe ready to mount onto the chassis.
In order to put in the angle iron into the area behind the dashboard I had to cut some 4" holes to access this closed area, also rather than using fender washers in the headlight area I cut through the glassed plywood so that I can extend the single piece of angle iron. Later on I will probably use silicone caulk to seal this area up.
I also got the completed front subframes, assembled the suspension components and mounted them onto the Vortex. Here are pictures of drivers side and passenger side.
The vehicle is almost standing on the ground - almost... I wanted to replace the original wheel studs as they are pretty small diameter with some 7/16" or 1/2" studs and began what turned out to be a bit of a quest to find ones suitable. Below shows the rough dimensions of the original Spitfire weel stud.
A while back I had bought an additional Spitfire steering rack. Rather than make up some extensions for the steering rack and bolt them onto the ends of the rack (Moss Motors calls them ball pins), I decided to permanently weld them on. The original length of the rack was about 45" from tie rod end to tie rod end. Measuring up the front suspension I figured that I needed about 52-1/2". So I took the ball pins from one rack cut it off near the thread, took another one and cut it off near the ball and TIG welded them together to get the desired length. I then ground the weld down, below shows the 2 parts in a Vee-block and then the finished part. It came out great and looks better than cobbling together some extension!
The spare rack also included a steering coupler to attach the steering column to the rack as well as the end of the steering column. I can use this end and mate it to whatever steering column that I will eventually use. Here is a picture of the completed steering rack.
Here is a picture of one side of the completed front suspension, the steering rack is still not mounted to the chassis at this point:
Here is the steering rack mounts and clearance on the front suspension for the gaiters:
I got about 90% of the total steel components cleaned, sand blasted, primered and painted. I still have some major components to do (rear swing arm, engine subframe and rear axle), but it is a good start. The sand blaster really does a great job and leaves the parts with a good surface for paint to adhere to, here is a picture of what the parts look like coming out of the sand blasting cabinet, ready for paint:
They are nice and clean and you certainly do not want to handle them with your bare hands as any body oils will get onto the surface and spoil the paint adhesion. Immediately out of the sand blasting cabinet they are handled with plastic gloves and then primed. Once the primer has dried they are treated with a coat or two of finish paint. For all of these components I opted to use Krylon anti-rust primer and finish gloss black paint. I did not want to bother using the spray gun and feel that most of the success in finishing parts is cleaning them (aka sand blasting or grinding) keeping them clean (free from oil) and immediately primering them, and once dry putting on a finish coat. The fact that it comes from an aerosol can or spray gun is immaterial.
Yes this took about 7hrs worth of work - here is an image of the parts baking in the day light sun:
I painted both of the front brake calipers that I recently received as well as portions of the brake rotors, I had the paint and there was extra so I figured what the heck. The paint went on using a small brush supplied with the paint kit and had some sort of hardner that came with it. It seemed to air dry quickly when applied on thin coats the parts required a couple of coats to get sufficient coverage, it does not want to stick to sharp edges. The directions suggested mixing it in a single batch but I split it into two so that I could get the undersides of the parts later on. Here are the resulting pictures:
In doing some more research pertaining to master brake cylinders I decided to try out the late model Spitfire unit for the years 1976-1980 #7-084 (small cap) from Victoria British LTD. There were a number of factors that went into my decision, 1) the mounting should be similar to large cap version, 2) it has 2x 10mm-1.0 ports, 3) in looking at pictures it looked like it should work. Here is a image of the small cap brake master cylinder:
Here is a picture comparing the large cap model to the small cap one, other than the ports there is another major difference that being under the back of the reservoir. The large cap one has a raised section at the rear, which when mounted horizontally makes it marginal for getting enough fluid into the reservoir so that the rear 'intake' remains covered. While looking at the late model 'small cap' one you can see that the master cylinder does not have this raised section, making it more appropriate for my application.
The brake lines that went into the brake master cylinder had to be redone for the new master cylinder. The new unit uses 10mm-1.0 fittings, so I remade them.
Very important note here: the ends of the brake lines that go into the master cylinder have to have a bubble flair! Be sure not to double flair them or they may not seal properly. The other ends of the lines used a 7/16"-24 tube nut with a proper double flair. Here is a picture showing the new plumbing installed it looks real nice with the new master cylinders installed!
I needed to run a vent for the fuel cell and decided to put it into the tunnel for the steering rack. I used a 1/8" NPT to 1/4" barbed nipple and drilled a hole and screwed it into the plywood. The red arrow above shows it mounted right next to the battery. A short length of tubing is used along with a couple of clamps to connect to the tank vent. Here is picture showing the current front trunk layout.
Got the new lines made up and installed as well as using some clamps to secure them in place. I also decided on how I was going to route the stainless steel braided lines, a bit differently than I had previously thought that they would be done I had concerns about the length of hose that was free to move. I had decided to use two nylon cable ties and secure them onto the upper A-arm and then clamp them to the underside of my headlight boxes, rather than routing them around the top plate of the sub-frames.
A quick check and saw that there was enough length in the lines and enough slack to allow proper movement of the front suspension through out the entire range of motion. Here are some pictures showing how they were routed:
I used some clear silicone caulk and filled all of the holes in the front trunk area where the brake/clutch lines were routed through to seal them up.
Working with the stainless braided lines was pretty easy and I thought that I would pass on some techniques that I learned:
Well I decided to take my own advice and convert the end of the three brake lines to AN-3 using tube sleeves and nuts, I have to say that the installation of the new pre-manufactured lines went very smoothly and quickly! In installing the new lines I figured out a far better way to route them by using five plastic wire ties holding the hoses onto the leading edge of the upper A-arm and then directly into the front trunk area. To do this I had to modify two of the hard brake lines but I feel that it was well worth it and even happier with the final results.
Here are a couple of shots showing the final routing of the brake lines along the front suspension:
Here are some pictures of the lines coming into the front trunk:
Lastly I got the front sway bar mounts installed. I had to drill the mounting holes for them into the front suspension and used some 7/16" bolts with nylock nuts to hold into place. The sway bar mounts have zerk fittings to allow greasing which is a nice addition. The picture below shows the linkage connected to the back of the lower A-arm connected to the bar using some 3/8" bolts and nuts:
In doing a bunch of research I found that the SPAX G761 front adjustable shocks from MotorHead Ltd, they are not only ride adjustable but they are also height adjustable. I found other height adjustable shocks but most of them seem to allow only for the lowering of a vehicle, I wanted to be able to increase the ride height if necessary. These have to be shipped from Europe so may take up to 6-8 weeks to arrive.
I also looked into Koni shocks, the suitable ones for the Spitfire are #80-1388, but to make them height adjustable Koni sells some 42mm threaded sleeves (#80.0000.005) and threaded perch (#80.0000.0006) that can go on the outside of the shock. The price for a Koni shock w/sleeve and lower perch is about $153. I decided to go with the Spax instead and not have to fuss over extra parts, plus I get the ride adjustment to boot. The Koni shocks would have to come from Holland and they also had a 5-6 week waiting period.
In reviewing the front suspension construction sheets from the Vortex I believe that I might have put the top shock mount about 1/2" too high, this was probably what was making my tire/fender problem worse that it should have. The problem stems from the fact that the top of my shock was different than what the plans called for and the difference in mounting geometery caused the slight shift in height. The original plans called for a 1/2" top mounting bolt (similar to the lower mount) while the original Spitfire shocks use a top spring mounting plate as follows:
I can adjust the Spax shocks to compensate for this, in addition I can also use the height adjustment to alter the camber adjustment if necessary. Using these shocks I will have the best of both worlds.
Front Suspension - Done!
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