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The restoration story of Mrs. Jones

Shocks Replacement, Generator Pulley Repair

1/17/00 -- I decided to remove my front road springs and shocks today in order to fit some new Koni dampers all the way around. I fitted them to my original '67 Spitfire back in 1977 and though they were a lot more expensive than the OEM variety, they made the car handle like a dream. While I'm striving for originality in most areas -- especially cosmetically -- I'll take handling and ride improvements any day of the week. It's a safety issue more than anything else.

The springs are crusted with road dirt and some rust. This will be a good test for the bead blaster I've ordered. Tomorrow, I'm going to try and finish the removal of all shocks. Then, I'm going to take the struts down to my local garage and they'll compress the springs and dismantle the front shock assemblies for $5 each. The shop manager originally quoted me $10 per strut to remove and replace the shocks all at once, but I explained that I want to bead blast the caps and springs and repaint them before reassembly. He sort of grimaced and mumbled that these things should all be done at the same time and agreed to lower his price for me. What a guy.

I'm debating on whether or not to bead blast and repaint the front shock assemblies while they're still assembled. I don't care about the old shocks getting some paint on them while I repaint the springs... and this might make it easier as far as getting the Konis' fitted during the same visit to the garage. I guess it will all depend on how thoroughly I can clean and repaint the assembly without breaking it down. I'm planning on replacing all the rubber bushings, anyway.

I also removed and dismantled my generator. I'm beginning to think that perhaps I'm tackling too many different projects at once. After I get the wheels put back on the car and the brakes bled, I want to enjoy driving it for awhile before I start getting involved with the remedial body work that needs attention due to rust bubbles that have formed on some of the body panels. As you can see, the front rocker cover is shot also...

The previous owner told me that the generator needed a new woodruff (shaft) key and fan plate. I ordered a new fan and received a slightly banged up (and used looking) one from Victoria British. Without the woodruff key, the pulley and fan will not be locked to the shaft. In other words, both will be useless and while the pulley will turn from the tension of the fan belt, the shaft certainly will not. NAPA has the woodruff key and I'll pick one up tomorrow. I understand that they will also test the generator for me to insure that it's putting out a charge (Note: They sold me a key -- but it was the wrong one. They also did not have the ability to test my generator at the particular store I was in).

The bolts on the lower side of the front shocks are giving me lots of problems. One of the bolt heads has worn into a circle, preventing me from the few remaining turns I need to free the bolt. On the other side, I can't seem to budge the bolt loose at all. Very frustrating. My right arm is killing me. Time to call it a day.

1/18/00 -- I purchased a set of 10" vice grips today and managed to finally remove the damaged bolt from the lower front shock bushing. What an ordeal. I also determined that my generator pulley was too badly worn and damaged to salvage. Note how the pulley on the photo at left is skewed slightly and not lining up true with the generator. Not wanting to spend $44 to buy a new pulley, I got lucky and found a local British salvage yard that had what I needed for $10. The place is about ten minutes from my house. I can tell that I'm going to be a frequent visitor. The owner was all business, but very helpful. He made sure that the correct woodruff key was inserted and the pully locks on the armature shaft tight as a drum now. While I was there, he quoted me $1,000 to remove and replace the rusted out floorpans on my Sptitfire. Ouch. I'm going to try and find an alternate body shop that might do it for less, but at least I have an alternative for getting it done. And get it done, I will.

I managed to get my generator re-installed with the new pulley and fan and it should be good to go. I probably should have taken the extra time to clean the actuator off while I had it open yesterday, but I didn't. I had to remove the two long screws at the back of the generator to take it apart so I could remove the large nut that holds the pulley and fan in place. Before I bought the new parts, the pulley spun freely on the shaft, which meant that I had nothing to "grab" onto in order to loosen the nut. The trickiest part for a novice like me, was to reassemble the generator, but it was actually quite easy once I figured it out. You have to angle the brushes (which really look like small magnets) back into their spring-loaded holders just enough to be able to get the armature back in place.

I'm selling the octagon chrome knockoffs that came with my eBay wire wheels and ordered a set of two eared (I prefer to call them "winged" -- sounds better) knockoffs today. These are correct for the 1967 model year and like the originals on my first Spitfire. I also ordered a 4lb lead hammer to do the honors without beating up the knock-offs too badly. Other items on the shopping list included a new lower radiator hose, a new set of chrome trim rings for the headlights, a new set of chrome trunk hinges and a set of three point, vintage style safety harnesses to replace the more modern, simple lap belts that are on the car now.

1/20/99 -- Along with other items for the car, my new Koni shock absorbers from The Roadster Factory arrived today. It was my first order with them and I'm pleased with their service. Based on some stories I've read on the Internet about back-ordered parts not arriving months later, I made certain that they had what I needed in stock. As it turns out, I was lucky. I got the last two front shocks they had in stock for now.

Tonight, I started in on the removal of what I believe are the original road shocks in the rear. I ended up replacing them with the new Koni units as well. The photo illustrates the two bolt removal areas for the rear shocks (socket wrenches attached for reference). In addition to having the car on jack stands, you'll also need an additional hydraulic jack to raise the rear wheel in order to compress the shock for removal and refitting. This step isn't necessary until you've got the nuts removed.

The lower bolt is welded in place, so you only need to remove the nut and the large washer which presses against the rubber bushings. The entire bolt on the top side must be removed from the eyelet. I found it easier to do this once I disconnected the lower shock from the threaded mounting shaft. The only time you really need to compress the shock absorber with the hydraulic jack supporting the suspension assembly, is when you're wanting to remove or refit the lower eylet of the shock to its mounting shaft.

TIP: To more easily break loose old nuts, be sure to spray liberally with a penetrating lubricant. Then, place a length of open pipe over the handle of your ratchet wrench to use as an extention. It provides much greater leverage than the short handle of the wrench itself and makes getting the nuts started a lot easier. Of course, if the nut is severely frozen in place, this technique may also result in shearing the bolt, so try it at your own risk. Spraying the penetrating oil first will lessen the chances of that problem, but your mileage may vary...

Once the nuts and washers have been removed, the large shaft bolt must be pulled out of the top eyelet. This is a real chore compounded by the tight work area and the rubber bushings that are gripping the bolt tightly. On my first try, I managed to work the bolt out by applying pressure with my index finger on the threaded end of the bolt while loosening the head of the bolt with a ratchet driver. It's a slow difficult process. I'm certain that there must be a better, easier way to remove these bolts, but I was unaware of it. On the opposite wheel, I used my trusty needle-nosed vice grips to grasp the head of the bolt (where the ratchet is attached in the photo) and used some leverage against the mounting flange to slowly press the bolt out. It was slow going as well, but somewhat easier than the first side had been.

While I was grasping the first old shock absorber to try and wriggle it free, my thumb went right through the brittle, decaying housing. I noted the "Girling" name stamped onto the rubber bushings, further confirming my suspicions that these were the original 33-year old shocks with 86,500 miles on them. May they rust in piece(s).

Refitting the Konis' turned out to be difficult as well, thanks to that top shaft bolt. Working each bolt back through the new rubber bushings that came with each shock proved as challenging as getting them out. The first trick is to squeeze the shock eyelet back between the mounting flange with those new rubber bushings on there. In preparation of shoving the top eyelet back into the mounting flange, I used a mallot to pound the bushings as far into the top shock eyelet as I could get them. If you have any red rubber grease left over from a brake or master cylinder rebuild, I would heartily suggest that you apply it liberally to the inside bore and outside face of the bushings before trying to shove the top eylet into position and before trying to push the threaded bolt through the mounting flange.

Before trying to shove the bolts in, I used the handle of my 1/4" ratchet (it was handy and it fit the opening, but you can use something else about 1/4" in diameter and 3"-5" long if you wish) to align the opening holes and make sure that the bushings were lined up correctly.

Alternately tapping with a very small (and fairly useless) hammer, turning with the socket (but without being able to apply pressure because of the tight work area), I s-l-o-w-l-y worked the bolt back through the bushings. Once I had it in far enough to position the jaws of my needle-nosed vice grips on either side of the mounting flange and head of the bolt, I was able to further squeeze the bolt back through the hole, taking care to work different sides of the bolt head surface to keep it moving straight through. Once I was able to work enough of the threads through the opposite side to attach the washer and nut, I tightened the rest of the way with an open wrench and ratchet on the bolt head side.

I had contemplated adjusting the shocks for a stiffer setting before installing them, but decided not to for now. We'll see how they work right out of the box. Man, that old leaf spring in there is looking gnarly... I suppose that will be on the shopping list further down the road. Hopefully a lot further. I'd like to be able to drive this car down the road a piece before I have to replace the u-joints, leaf springs and whatever else it's going to need before I do the floorpans, body work and paint respray.

1/26/00 -- This evening, I bead blasted the front brake springs and dampers in preparation for painting them tomorrow. After which, I'm going to take the assemblies to my local garage to have them compress the springs, remove the old shocks, fit the new Koni struts and reassemble. I'm hoping to have the time to reinstall the front shocks and springs on Friday the 28th, then bleed the brakes on Saturday morning, mount the new wire wheels, throw caution to the wind and take my first test drive...

1/28/00 -- I had a tough time reinstalling the shocks after getting them back from the wheel store today -- but finally managed to get them squeezed into place without wrecking anything. I reconnected the front brake hoses to the rebuilt calipers, too. This project is done!

Please. Always wear your seatbelt while driving -- and that goes double for your children if you have any.

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