Torsion Bar Adjustment

Getting a more personalized or stock look with a Torsion Bar Adjustment

One of the unique features of a classic Mopar is the front torsion bar used in place of the commonly used coil spring front suspension. The torsion bars have an adjuster which allows control of the front end ride height without replacing any parts.

In the past, on my first Challenger (1971), I needed to increase  my tire clearance when I changed from the stock 70 series tires on skinny 14 inch wheels to F-60’s on 15×10 inch mags.

Check out the size of those mags and tires on my first car. No doubt needed to crank up that fender clearance! Taken in 1981 by my friend Mike Avery in San Diego, while we were in the Navy,

Check out the size of those mags and tires on my first car. No doubt needed to crank up that fender clearance! Taken in 1981 by my friend Mike Avery in San Diego, while we were in the Navy,

Today, I want to increase the front end height, not for tire clearance problems, but to change the appearance of 1970 Challenger to appear more stock.

Before I changed my suspension, the car rode about two lower, due to worn leaf springs. After I changed to “stock height” HD rear leaves from Firm Feel, the rear end rode higher than I expected. Replacing the front torsion bars increased the front end height (about 3 1/2 inches) but that was easily adjustable.

My initial desire was to keep the same front end height as before the suspension work, but the previous ride height was way too low for the new rear springs and the car looked “jacked up”.  At the suspension shop, we raised the height and kept a slight rake on the car although the guys at the shop thought it looked better leveled out…

Alternately, in the 1970’s a lot of guys raised the front ends high to give their Mopars a bit of that “Super Stock” look.

After driving the car for almost a year, I think giving the car a more decided “level-look” rather than a “slightly raked” look matches what I want out of the appearance, so I wanted to raise the front end to emphasize more of a showroom look than modified look.

 

Making the Adjustment

In order to do this, I decided to do it manually, meaning no power assisted tools. I first used my non-ratcheting breaker bar, but figured out it would take too long when I could only get about an 1/8 of a turn per pull with the car on the ground. I ordered a long handled ratchet to get the job job.

I looked on-line and found a nice black-parkerized Proto 16-inch ratchet, the same length of my breaker bar, and it gives me adequate leverage to pull on the adjuster screw while laying on the ground. If using a standard depth 3/4 inch socket, it’s helpful to use a short extension to both clear any undercarriage obstruction and allow ground clearance for the swing of the ratchet handle.

Before the adjustment, the distance from the ground to the apex of the froth wheel well (using the center of the wheel cap for a reference) was 24 inches (BTW, I am running 235/60/15 BFG’s, the equivalent to the old F-60’s which was the largest option sized tire for the E-bodies, only the T/A model had the larger G-60 on the rear).

After approximately 5 complete turns of the adjuster in a clock-wise, or tightening direction,  increased the height by approximately 3/4 inch. I did this pulling on the ratchet about an 1/8 of a turn at a time x 40 pulls.

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A standard 3/4 inch half inch drive socket with a short  extension (not shown) would work well to help clear the lower control arm, under-carriage, and allow ground clearance when adjusting the torsion bar. Photo taken on my non-ratcheting 16 inch breaker bar.

 

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If you don’t have an air driven power tool and your Mopar on a rack, you’ll need at least a 16 inch breaker bar/ratchet like this one to have enough leverage to make it reasonably easy to turn the torsion bar adjuster. A 10 inch long ratchet could work if you are Arnold Schwarzeneggar in his prime.

The one I used I bought myself for a Christmas gift, a Proto 5350BL. All the reviews suggest this is a quality tool that will not strip out on you when you on a high torque situation, like when you need a breaker bar. A torsion bar adjuster is not extremely hard to turn but I hate cheap tools.

The one I used I bought myself for a Christmas gift, a Made in the USA Proto 5450BL. All the reviews suggest this is a quality tool that will not strip out on you when you on a high torque situation, like when you need a breaker bar. A torsion bar adjuster is not extremely hard to turn but I hate cheap tools.

Here's the general area under the passenger side lower control arm. Notice the lower control arm is braced with a piece of sheet metal from FirmFeel. This stiffener plate is recommended for heavy duty front sway bars to reduce the stock lower control arms from twisting into mush with hot cornering.

Here’s the general area under the passenger side lower control arm. Notice the lower control arm is braced with a piece of sheet metal from FirmFeel. This stiffener plate is recommended for heavy duty front sway bars to reduce the stock lower control arms from twisting into mush with hot cornering.

Here's a closer look at the adjuster for the torsion bar. Tighten (clock-wise) to raise the front end. I turned mine about 40 1/8 turns to raise the car 3/4 inch, or approximately 5 complete turns to raise 3/4 inch.

Here’s a closer look at the adjuster for the torsion bar. Tighten (clock-wise) to raise the front end.
I turned mine about 40 1/8 turns to raise the car 3/4 inch, or approximately 5 complete turns to raise 3/4 inch.

Here's a look at the driver's side in the daylight. You get a good look at the lower arm stiffener that is welded to the lower arm to strengthen it.

Here’s a look at the driver’s side in the daylight. You get a good look at the lower arm stiffener that is welded to the lower arm to strengthen it, plus you can see the torsion bar adjustment screw head protruding from the plate.

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Here’s how I measure the height of the car, from the ground to the lower lip of the fender well moulding.

Be consistent and specific on your adjustment. It started at 24 inches, I raised it to 24 3/4.

Be consistent and specific on your adjustment. It started at 24 inches, I raised it to 24 3/4. The photo is a bit of an angle looking downward, you’ll need to look directly perpendicular to sight your measurement.

 

 

BEFORE and AFTER SHOTS

In the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School, the boys' gym in the background. Same building as in 1980 and many years before, but we didn't have the cool looking Viking Ship paint job back in then.

BEFORE ANGLE: In the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School, the boys’ gym in the background.

BEFORE ANGLE- side view

BEFORE ANGLE- side view at work last Summer

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UPdated driver’s side

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UPdated passenger side

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UPdated side view,

So what do you think? Car’s have this great capacity for personalization and the torsion bar setup on your Mopar makes tweaking your ride height a snap.

 

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The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976. I think I wore this hat everyday through my Freshman year in high school. Photo by Nick Yee

The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976.

Copyright © 2015 ChallenYee.com TheDodgeKid.com BestBuckBuck.com  TeamBetterLiving.com All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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1978 – 1985: The Days of My First Challenger

Note: This is a continuation of previous posts about experiences during my teenage years in the late 1970’s. I’ve been looking for the rare photos I had of the car but I haven’t been able to find the few I remember having. If I find them I’ll update this story’s photos (which I have with some old photos).

I recently was contacted by a few of my old high school streetmachiner friends who discovered this blog and it was a pleasant surprise to hear about some of their car experiences over the last decades. So it’s with you all of you guys in mind that I post this article, hope it helps bring back some pleasant memories.

It was a fun and fascinating time, those days searching for my first car. I had two close car buddies, Scott Douglas (The Ford Expert) and Rick Elliott (The Chevy Expert) who together through junior high school and the early days of high school, would spend more time than we should have day-dreaming about life cruising the streets, roads and highways. Rick was the first one to get his car, a 1955 Chevy Bel-Air Wagon which he wanted to restore, so it sat in his backyard for what seemed like years. Then Scott got his 1967 Mustang fastback, which he kept in his driveway as it went straight into customization mode, which over those early years became a local legend, a wimbledon white GT-350 styled ground pounder with gold stripes. Then I found my 1971 Challenger, which, by the way, was the first one that was able to be driven.

 

A summary of the High School Days with my first Challenger

 

The Family Outing

My dad and I checked out a lot of Challengers of all years, but in January of 1978, when I was 15, I finally found a Challenger with a combination I could live with that was under $2000. By this point, my mom was involved and I think she wasn’t interested in me getting a radical fire breathing monster. Funny how mom’s suddenly get involved when that critical moment materializes, as if she’s going to drive it. Buying a Challenger, my first car, becomes a bit of a family affair. We found the Blue Flash in some obscure used car lot in San Jose with about 42,000 miles, previously owned by an old lady. And as far as what you think Challengers are normally, it was a bit of an old lady’s car. It had a floor shift automatic and a 383 two barrel (which still had some awesome torque), single exhaust, no sway bars, dark metallic blue paint with a black vinyl top, power steering with a 5.2 turn box,  a salt and pepper interior with a cigarette burn hole in the back seat, air conditioning, and wire rim hubcaps with 70 series “Mohawk” Tires, and a unique trim package I’ve rarely seen since.  The price was $1700, or $1900 out the door. It ran great. At the time I had $1250, so my Dad helped me with the rest.

first_1

Thanks to my brother Nick Yee, he uncovered this photo with highlights the original condition the 1971 was in before I started tampering with it with my teenage hands. Photo taken about 1978.

 

Some Random Reminiscing

As with many of the younger persuasion, I slowly began modifying and personalizing my Challenger. I will not go into extensive details here, but suffice it to say that as a young street machine freak, you just do as you feel and that is okay. It was all about whatever you can afford and whatever seems like a cool idea gets the nod of approval. This Challenger turned into my high school ride and also my ride into adulthood. The Challenger was a reliable partner through my high school days: having a really great time cruising with all the motorheads at school, wild burnouts in the back parking lot, road trips, and general partying. We were raising hell on the highways and byways and, fortunately, survived the experience and didn’t hurt others.

Worthy of MoPar note was the quickest car at school owned by Dale Mosher, a hemi-orange 1969 Dart with a 440 six-pack with a black vinyl top and 4.10s in the back. Truly a rad rocket.

 

The absolute best cruising night was in 1979 when a huge group of us got together to go cruising on a Saturday Night in San Mateo, California. We met in the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School and just about everyone showed up who had the car fever, including the blue Torino Wagon with the yellow dome light pulling unsuspecting motorists over (you know who you are, my friend). I could  start naming people but I’m sure I’d miss someone. If you were there, you’d remember those days before the “No Cruising” law. That strip on El Camino Real was absolutely packed.

We were living the mystique that is conjured in ones mind when you think of the “Muscle Car Era” all the while with Van Halen, AC/DC or Lynyrd Skynyrd blaring in the background. Actually it was the Oil Crisis Era, but we did not care. What was cool was my young nephew and niece used to cheer out, “Dukes of Hazard!” to the sounds of the big block Mopar or how some high school girls used to have their talks while sitting ON my car in the back parking lot at school, thinking it was cool place to hang out.

first_2

This photo was taken by my Navy bud, Michael Avery. I think we were doing some backroad moto-ing in the National forest east of San Diego in 1981.

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This photo is from my Navy bud, Michael Avery, here I am probably at the Navy gas station or Navy DIY auto shop at Naval Training Center, San Diego in 1981.

 

 

A quick rundown of most of my modifications that occurred over time:

Edelbrock Torker,  a Holley 780 CFM with vacuum secondaries, topped off with a Moroso Low Profile Air Cleaner

Eagle Headers and dual exhaust with cross over and Thrush turbo mufflers, tail pipes dumping down over the rear axle

Windage Tray, B&M shift kit, Accel Supercoil, and Mopar Electronic Ignition

American Vector 15×8(?) with Goodyear Polyglas GT G-60 back and F-60’s front (torsion bars needed to raise front end to clear tires)

Addco sway bars front and rear with urethane bushings

KYB Shocks with coils overs in rear (gave me another 1/2″ clearance for my tires)

Stewart Warner under dash mounted Tach

Ducktail T/A type rear spoiler

Sanyo Bi-Amp AM-FM Cassette indash strereo Jensen co-ax rear speakers and some small tweeters in front

Dual racing mirrors from the local Scherba’s Auto Store

 

In Closing

I could recall a bunch of stuff, but I just want to pitch something out there for you guys to chew on.

Thanks for reading.

First Challenger a 1971 as in the area it was stored while I was away serving overseas in the Navy after 1983.

First Challenger a 1971 as it was in the area it was stored while I was away serving overseas in the Navy after 1983. Friends said that the Amrican Vectors looked great when I was peeling out. When I find my photos of the car when it was stock, I’ll post them. Originally the car had longitudinal side “door-ding” moulding and the biggest piece of chromed pewter wrapped around front edge of the hood and fenders to give the bumper a wrap around look.

This early 1980's photo is of Scott Douglas, the Ford Expert, part of a triad friendship along with Rick Elliot, the Chevy Expert. When I had my Mustang, Scott was always ready to help me with whatever I needed.

This early 1980’s photo  of Scott Douglas, the Ford Expert, part of a triad friendship along with Rick Elliot, the Chevy Expert in the early days at Palo Alto High School. When I had my Mustang, Scott was always ready to help me with whatever I needed.

A partial gathering of the PASM Association, the Palo Alto Street Machine Association. Photo taken by yearbook staff in1979. I was on the yearbook staff that year, so I made sure we got this photo in. Too bad one of my friends decided it was cool too draw over it with his pen. Location, the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School.

Just a partial gathering of the PASM Association, the Palo Alto Street Machine Association. Photo taken by yearbook staff (1979) . I was on the yearbook staff that year, so I made sure we got this photo in. Too bad one of my friends decided it was cool to draw over it with his pen. Location, the back parking lot of Palo Alto High School. Ready for exhibition speed at the slightest provocation.

Three of my Industrial Arts teachers at Palo Alto from 1976-1980, from left to right, Bud Jamison (Architecture), O.D. Mitchell (Auto Shop), and Bob Hoskins (Metal/Algebra/Geometry). All of my teachers were great, but Mr.Mitchell was my favorite through 4 years of Auto Shop. Photo is from my 1979, Junior year, Yearbook.

Three of my Industrial Arts teachers at Palo Alto from 1976-1980, from left to right, Bud Jamison (Architecture), O.D. Mitchell (Auto Shop), and Bob Hoskins (Metal/Algebra/Geometry).Missing is Mr. Don Jang, my drafting teacher for 3 years.  All of my teachers were great, but Mr.Mitchell was my favorite and mentor through 4 years of Auto Shop. Photo is from my 1979, Junior year, Yearbook. I was class of 1980 but 1979 ROCKS!

I didn't know the PALY yearbook staff was not print my write up I submitted with my photo. At the discretion of some high schooler in 1980, I will only be known as the guy with his Challenger

I didn’t know the PALY yearbook staff was not print my write up I submitted with my photo. At the discretion of some unknown high schooler in 1980, I will only be remembered as the kid with his Challenger

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The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976. I think I wore this hat everyday through my Freshman year in high school. Photo by Nick Yee

The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976.

Copyright © 2015 ChallenYee.com. TheDodgeKid.com BestBuckBuck.com All Rights Reserved.

When the rubber meets the Road

Observations on the suspension, tires and handling

With the updated suspension, the Challenger drives straight while staying pretty level and even around turns.

I’m running the standard arc Firm Feel Industries (FFI) HD leaf springs, 1.00 FFI torsion bars and Bilstein shocks. FFI 1.25 front sway bar with lower control arm braces, FFI factory style 0.75 rear sway bar, factory manual steering, and Mopar Performance frame connectors. If I had to characterize the new suspension in just a few words, I would say it feels like the car “acts as one unit” and not the front end feeling like it’s in one city and the rear end is in another.

The straight line road feel is good and reasonably comfortable. The suspension feels tight and a lot quieter with the new leaf springs. After having taken the car out for a few drives, the one thing that I found uncomfortable was the sort of bumpiness feeling of the tires when driving pulling some G’s around a constant radius turn.

 

tire

One thing about my BF Goodrich Tires are they are NEW. Which is terrible for best traction. So I want to put some wear on them before I fully judge them. Yet this weird feeling with the tires jogged my memory from a past experience.

I remember from open-tracking my old 1965 Mustang was the tire pressure can have this effect.

When I first started open-tracking, I was under the wrong notion that having a higher PSI is better for racing or track driving, and some fear of tires coming off rims. On my Mustang (a red GT350 clone with white stripes) I ran 225/50×15 BF Goodrich Comp T/A’s and ran 40 psi in front an 38 PSI in the back. The result was the car felt a little bit like a sidestepping hobbyhorse going around turns. Instead of a nice smooth controlled slide/drifting around turns, the car seemed to be be stupidly bouncing sideways. It felt terrible. It felt like being in Bozo the Clown’s car at Sears Point Raceway.

 

A Ford Interlude

MoPar fans, please excuse the Ford photos ;), but that is what I had to do in the 1980’s, when my brother and I picked a Mustang for a platform, a car that had lots of available parts at the time to do what I wanted at reasonable cost.  I still had my first Challenger up until about the mid 80’s, but sold it when it was idle in storage – I was serving in the Navy overseas at the time. My brother drove the Mustang while I was away.  Also I want to give thanks to the influence of a good friend, Scott Douglas, who was one of my original car fanatic buddies in junior high school. He grew up becoming an expert on Mustangs and Shelbys and was always willing to lend a helping hand when I was home on leave.

Photo at left is my first open track at Laguna Seca, using 235x60x15 Goodyear Eagles on steel magnum 500’s, and photo right is with the 225x50x15 BFG Comp T/A’s on Torq-Thrust D wheels plus side exit exhaust.

lagunasecaOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I lowered the tire pressure to 35#(F)-32#(R) everything completely smoothed out and I had complete confidence in the ability to feel the car drift very smoothly around turns. Absolute control.

 

Okay, okay… and back to the Challenger!

Anyway, back to my Challenger. I checked the pressure on all 4 tires cold, and they were all at 36 PSI. I immediately lowered all of them to 33#. I’ll see what happens the next time I’m out. The max recommended pressure in 35#.

[one day later]
Okay, took the car out for a spin with my son and we mildly terrorized the local highway and cloverleafs and what did I discover? Ahh… I got that loving feeling back between me and the road. I can tell the bumpy drifting is gone and the BF Goodrich, while not sticking as long as a lower profile tire with racier tread, was acting consistently and predictably. I was able to control the drifting with the accelerator pretty easily without feeling like Bozo the Clown.

The E-body was staying very level around constant radius turns and the tires feel like they’re drifting with just a little oversteer. The manual steering is giving me some decent feedback and feel. Definitely would like to take on turns where I can stab the front end into a tight corner and see how it handles going through and out of the turn. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the handling of this big E-body that’s packing a 440.

I’m watching my 10 year old son riding shotgun. He is more interested in Minecraft, watching TV and listening to the local rock station, so he’s not too much of a motorhead yet, but I can catch him out of the corner of my eye when I’m getting on to the highway and bringing the RPM’s high enough to engage the outboard carbs, the exhaust is roaring while our bodies are getting pressed back on the seats. It gives me some sort of weird fatherly pleasure as he’s bracing himself in the presence of horsepower.

.

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The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976. I think I wore this hat everyday through my Freshman year in high school. Photo by Nick Yee

The Dodge Kid in his youth about 1976.

 

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