Fabricating the Pushrods & Upper A-Arms / Wishbones / Control Arms

Finished

Finished set of control arms, tierods & pushrods

The upper control arms are all identical except that the bearing cups are mirrored from the left to the right so that the snap rings are on the bottom. If I can find a way to stake the spherical bearings then all four could be identical. Staking is a process that uses a hydraulic press to deform the bearing cup into a chamfer around the circumference of the spherical bearing, holding it permanently in place.

I printed out the layout of both control arms onto size A0 paper, glued the paper to a sheet of plywood, and drilled holes for the centerlines of each rod end and spherical bearing. This gives me a jig I can use for tack welding the parts in place. Washers under the bearing cups locate them vertically for tacking. The bearing cups proved a little too thin to weld without distortion, so I had to re-cut the spherical bearing bores after welding. Luckily I have an indexable end mill of just the right diameter, and running my mill at high speed with a lot of coolant gave a good finish on the bores. I then pressed the spherical bearings into place before painting as I wanted to make sure there were no glitches that would require messing up the paint to fix.

I sprayed Jotun Penguard 2-part epoxy paint directly onto the steel after first making sure the steel was scrupulously clean with a Scotchbrite pad on an angle grinder, followed by a cleaning with acetone and paper towels. The finish came out beautifully.

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The Build Begins– The Front Subframe

After more than a year and a half of design and several months of tool preparation, that long-awaited day has finally arrived: the day I touch saw to metal on an actual car part. The first step is to build the front subframe that sell sit horizontally at the bottom of the nose of the car. The chassis table already has holes drilled and tapped for 3/8″ bolts locating the subframe members precisely. Here’s the first tube in place among the pins on the chassis table.

First Tube

First tube in place on the chassis table, bent to fit pins

First Weld

Lower front frame member cut to fit and tack welded in place

Finished Subframe

Finished front subframe, fully welded. Since it's laterally symmetrical, it's flipped over to weld the bottom.

Subframe on jigs

Front subframe raised to final position, supported by chassis jigs. Note Natural-Polymer Swing Press at right. A useful tool.

Building the Chassis Jigs

Scrap Jigs

First "professional" jigs

Because this looked like a lot of busy work, my first thought was to have the chassis jigs built by a local machine shop. So I bought the metal and had it sent directly to the machine shop and went over the drawings with them. They kept asking me how big various things were, when the dimensions were clearly right there on the drawing. Then it became clear they didn’t know how to deal with dimensions in meters. They asked me how to convert a dimension from meters to centimeters. “You mean like move the decimal point two places to the right?”, I’m thinking… This was not looking promising. Eventually I went home and tried to come up with a set of orthographic-projection drawings, with hidden lines removed, that they couldn’t possibly misinterpret. I soon gave up. When I went to pick up the first two jigs the next day, the list of errors was long and creative. Mounting footprint on one reversed, vertical tube holders cut too shallow and not in line, overall height incorrect, horizontal alignment out of spec, etc., etc.

Sigh. I called a local aerospace-engineer type that I know and asked him if he knew a good machinist, and he directed me to a local guy who I visited the next day. We met a couple of times and he is indeed capable of handling the project; in fact, I decided it’s really below his capabilities and ended up building the jigs myself, saving him for building actual car parts.

Cut Pieces

Lots of cut pieces waiting for welding, drilling, & milling

I needed a good, strong right angle to hold the pieces in place while welding. The bandsaw table served perfectly.

Welding Jig

Welding the angles onto the uprights. Chassis table is very useful here.

Drilling Crossmembers

Drilling the chassis table crossmembers on the milling machine.

Trial Fit

First trial fitting of the chassis jigs onto the chassis table. Top rail guides not yet cut; other tube guides not yet in place.

Welding Verticals

Welding tube guides for vertical tubes. Sample tube keeps things in alignment, along with very careful tack welding.

Jig Set

Almost-finished complete set of chassis jigs

Subframe Pins

Chassis table crossmembers were drilled for pins to hold front subframe during welding.

Stretched Bolt

3/8" bolts should be tight. But not this tight.

Designing the Chassis Jigs

Frame on Jig

Chassis in place on chassis table with all jigs in place

I had been trying to keep the chassis jigs in my head, but finally decided they’d probably come out better if I put them on paper first. So I spent the past few days designing them, and it became quite clear why I couldn’t keep them all in my head. I intend to bend the top chassis rails in one continuous curve as that will add a lot of style to the chassis. A lot of race car frames look like industrial equipment, but I have something in mind more like an Ariel Atom exoskeleton car, where the frame is so beautiful you don’t even need a body. Of course the car will have a body for aerodynamic, esthetic, and safety reasons, but I’d like people to see the frame without the body and still say “Wow!”. Now, the top rails are splines, not just arcs, and the only way to really bend one properly is to know where it’s supposed to be in 3-d space along it’s length, and that’s where the chassis jig comes in. When the chassis jigs are all in place, it will give me target locations all along the length of the frame that I can bend the rail to fit.

I eventually ended up with 22 pages of drawings that look like this:

Sample Jig

1 of 22 chassis jig drawings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And two pages of drawings that look like this:

Cross Rails

Sample chassis jig cross rail drawing