Ignorance can be bliss but it can also be an indication of moving too quickly, stubborness barricading common sense. Or put simply, sometimes one is just dumb. Such was the case with lowering the rear of the 48 Commodore.
In my internet hunting I came across a few pictures of lowered Hudson’s. The irony is there really isn’t a NEED to lower it – the Hudson is low from the factory owing to it’s “step down” design whereby the rear floor is sunk down a bit. Add some fender skirts and the illusion of the car being lower than stock is enhanced even more. But once I get something in my head I literally cannot think about anything else. For an entire day I scoured the web trying to decide if I wanted to lower it, if so how and with what. Do I make my own blocks? Do I find some prefab ones? Is the aluminum strong enough? I called some local metal places for scrap steel prices. Sent messages into the ether to eBay sellers asking if they had the blocks in 2 inch wide versions. Tried to find out the diameter of the stock axle. It just kept going and going. Honestly I wanted to stop thinking about it. It was a small piece of the puzzle and I have plenty to move on to. But again my mind doesn’t work that way. I become consumed and quite literally the only way to satiate it is to give in. I have always been the one who touches the stove after being warned, who had to push the big red “DO NOT TOUCH” button. I drag my fingers across the bricks of old homes and have to make a game out of how long I can keep a snowball in my un-gloved hand. I can’t know something without literally feeling it. Words on paper help but without that physical connection, the knowledge is lost. It’s not the healthiest approach as my fingers and hands bear the scars of poor decisions. I’ve learned to tame it when it comes to dragging multiple old motorbikes home or passing on that extra beer at the bar. But sometimes the fight is futile. i know I am going to give in and it’s just less stressful to simply do it and deal with the consequences. So I stopped in to a local auto parts store and sure enough they had a set of 2in blocks with u-bolts. Done.
With 2 young kids at home my time to work on the car has to fall in between my daughter’s softball practice and dance lessons, fixing the remote that my son smashed, playing catch, mending nose bleeds, convincing a 4 year old to get dressed and yes he needs socks and no he cannot wear his Ninja Turtle shirt for the upteenth day in a row. These things take time. And I get exhausted. To get to the garage after 8:30 having spent an hour brushing 2 sets of teeth and wrangling the slippery eels into pajamas means I have to literally tell myself to get out there, the car won’t fix itself no matter how much I hope it will or for some classic car savant to take up space in my garage wrenching away. So when I do have time or make it I want to get as much done as possible. That almost always inevitably leads to frustration and disappointment as parts don’t fit or are missing, things don’t go as imagined, nothing is as smooth as it is when I assemble it in my mind. I’m teaching myself to take it hour by hour, part by part, piece by piece. For some that is just common sense. For me it’s a struggle unto it’s own.
So when I got home with the lowering blocks I told the Better Half I needed a “few minutes” just to check the fitment. 90 minutes later I’d missed dinner, ruined a good shirt lying on the ground, and turned my knees black because I didn’t change from my shorts into my garage pants. After all it was only going to be a few minutes. For my efforts I had exactly 1/2 of the lowering blocks installed. The nub for the leaf springs to settle into was too wide. I didn’t want to drill out the leafs themselves so I kept whittling the aluminum down a little at a time until it finally sat in the pocket. Torqued the ubolts down and set about getting the other side done. That’s when the proverbial s&*t hit the fan.
My garage is fairly large – until I started adding welders, compressors, a motorcycle life, another motorcycle and of course a sled that is the Hudson. So every time I have to do something it invariably requires twisting and contorting, getting up, moving from 1 side of the car to the other smashing an ankle into a protruding jack stand handle or stepping on the broom and smashing my chin ala Bugs Bunny. There isn’t enough light so it makes for a maze of extension cords and flashlights. Half my time is spent looking for tools that I put down strategically so that I won’t have to look for them. Having found all the parts I needed I was ready.
I moved to the passenger side which means I was wedged between the bike lift (with a bike on it) and all of 1.5 feet between it and the car. I assumed – wrongly of course – that I would simply lift the axle with the jack, prop the block in and lower it, secure the ubolts and be done. Nope. 2.5 more hours later and I was in no better shape than when I’d started. No matter what I did the axle wouldn’t slide back far enough to let the nub settle into the leaf spring pocket. I pushed, pulled, I twisted. I lowered the passenger side and raised the driver. Raised the passenger and lowered the driver side. Released all tension on both. Used multiple jacks. Used 1 jack. Used no jacks. Lifted the springs to the axle. Hit it with a hammer. More than once. Pushed with my spindly legs. Tied a tow strap to it to pull it back. Loosened the ubolts on both sides. Tightened them on the passenger side. Nothing. Finally said screw it and decided to start over. Undid everything. Axle set in place loosely. No tension on ubolts. And …………… nothing. Wouldn’t budge. Threw the wrench. Cursed. Loudly. And then – my ignorance became apparent. Why wouldn’t the axle slide? I mean it’s unhooked from everything? Nope, no it wasn’t. I never undid the PanHard bar!!! Satisfied that I’d solved my own mystery I went in, had a beer, laughed at my haste and wasted efforts and fell asleep.
Friday I was able to sneak away for an hour. Tried getting the 70 year old bolt out of the panhard bar mount on the driver side. Nope. Ok, pick up all the tools and lights and air hoses and toss them under the car and move around to the other side. Got the nut off the bolt on the panhard bar where it attaches to the axle. Great now just to simply push the bolt and … Nope. Won’t move. Ok no problem, hit it with PB Blaster, have a beer, try again. Nope. Ok fine. Take the impact wrench and attach it to the bolt head and spin it out. Nope the impact with the impact socket won’t clear. Ok, use a short socket. Nope I must have lost it. Damn it. Ok raise the axle to make room. Now it won’t spin. Turn on compressor. It’s dead. Check fuse box, nope. Whatever I’ll do it by hand. Whack the bolt with a hammer, again. Nope it’s stuck. Give up, go to bed.
Saturday I decided 1 more effort at getting the bolt out was it else I was breaking out the cut off wheel. 5 minutes in and the cutoff wheel was running. Cut the bolt, whacked it with a hammer and out it came. Finally got the panhard bar out and was home free. Got the lowering block in place, tightened the ubolts on the passenger side. Threw the tools under the car, went over to the driver side and tightened them down. Installed the passenger side tire. Went back to the driver side and saw the panhard bar had fallen and was now under the leaf spring. Curse. Undo the ubolts again, pry the panhard bar back up, tighten ubolts yet again. Luckily the compressor had cured itself and was now working again. Packed all the tools up and took stock of the progress. Getting the tires on isn’t fun but it’s doable. Pictures to come this week.