In June 2020 I will hit the two-year mark since I have started this endeavor, I have been planning for a very long time, however.
Because I have been planning a long time certain things have changed, what I had planned to do 20 years ago may not be the best route today because certain parts may have become difficult if not impossible to find (or not affordable).
While a lot of the information on this is redundant I thought I would like to maybe state some things differently and give you more of an idea of what was the motivation behind certain mods, or as nearly as I can recall them.
In 1979 when I bought the Comet, the front suspension was worn out, it squeaked and was sloppy, but I just never got around to changing it so like other things it was a top priority to finally have something really nice on the car, I thought it deserved it.
So one of the biggest changes to the car is the suspension and air-ride system, this was never planned from the beginning, initially, I was going to rebuild the front suspension with quality performance stock parts, perform all the standard upgrades like the Shelby drop, etc. but I had determined earlier to do all this on a budget, even though I already had purchased a Granada spindle conversion and disc brakes years ago I determined it was cheaper to switch the front over to a Mustang 2 style and update the front suspension by a decade (which is still old technology today) plus parts were plentiful and easy to obtain because of the popularity of MII with the street rod crowd. Also in the process, I had decided I wanted to do and air-ride system. I sold the Granada set-up and also a rear conversion using Lincoln discs and Caddilac calipers.
The reason I decided to do an air-ride system was for the adjustably, I could make the car sit how I wanted and change it whenever I wanted, it was not to air it out and sit it on the ground, even though it does look cool when you do that.
As large and expansive as the internet is I really couldn’t find any/much information on anyone doing air-ride on a Comet/Falcon, you have to understand I have never even seen a car with air-ride in person so I did a lot of research, it was at this point I determined to go MII because there was a lot of info/parts to do a conversion to a MII style front.
Initially I did what everyone else does, most likely, I looked at all the kits out there, I thought they were too expensive (mind you they have a distinct advantage of being pre-engineered) I looked at what you got in the kit and decided to build my own. Welder Series out of Canada sells weld it yourself kits, you can buy each part as individual pieces, I bought the front and back of the 56.5″ wide crossmember.
At the time I purchased the crossmember parts the front and back were around $35 each ($70-$75 for the crossmember) the coil over bracket (2) were around $22 each. Of course you have to weld it all together yourself and make the proper cuts for it to fit your car. I actually messed up installing mine and had to remove it and drop it down an additional 2″ because I had made some mid-stream changes I should not have done and had to correct them.
I only used the bases of the coil-over mounts that hold the arms because I was doing my own bag mounts for the front. once installed with the frame plates (homemade from an old trailer tongue) it looks just as good as a packaged kit, IMO.
There are several ways to add airbags to the front all the way from the very expensive Shock-Waves to something like I did. I couldn’t see spending the money for some special bracket or bag/shock so I just used a regular frame mount bag bracket and cut it down to fit between the upper arm tubes, because space is limited I chose Slam Specialties SS-5 bags because they are highly rated and non-ballooning, easier to fit in the cramped space of a MII install, I already had the lower arms made for an airbag I just needed something to secure the top, I found a 1/4″ thick steel frame mount for a pickup or suv on eBay fairly inexpensive and bought them and modified them.
I made them so they tilted slightly up on the outside edge kinda like a coil spring does but not quite as pronounced.
The final thing was moving the shock to behind the control arms, it really does not matter that much where the shocks are mounted the purpose is to dampen the up and down movement. I know some people opt to not install shocks on air bagged vehicles, I think that is a bad idea. I built a upper shock mount out of 1/4″ angle iron welding them to the frame and to the inner fender, later when I added the filler plates over the former shock tower holes, I welded them there as well. I used some Marathon Checker Cab front shocks that I had removed the bar pins from the lower mount (I think Crown Vic shocks would work too without having to remove bar pins)
The final thing to complete the front suspension was the filler plates over the old shock tower holes, they are not really cosmetic but add strength back into the front frame structure, I built mine out of 13 gauge galvanized steel from an old industrial electric box that was a garden trailer my dad had built, it was hard getting the sharp bends and I ended up having to weld some of the corners.
Still working on the front sway bar, even though I bought a new one I was not happy with clearance on certain items, mainly the tie rod end would contact it at full lock plus it was below the scrub line so I reused the aftermarket sway bar I put on the car 30 years ago and just bought some new poly frame mounts. I still need to make the lower arm brackets and get the end links.
I haven’t driven it yet but I am pretty happy with the install overall, now to see what was done on the rear.
When I was doing the mods to the Comet in ’86-’87 I replace the original rear diff. with an 8″ from a Maverick, I wanted lower gearing and the only gear set I could find was 4.11 so I had them put in, the problem was it was really low for a street car with a 3-speed transmission and no overdrive plus the 23″-24″ tall tires made for some higher RPMs at highway speed, wasn’t totally irritating and did launch well. I also had the rear leaf springs rebuilt and added a rear sway bar.
I had decided to get some lower gears and replace the 4 bolt axles with some 5 bolt and add disc brakes (had a kit with brackets, rotors and Caddie calipers) one problem was the bearings were too small for the V8 axles and it would require the ends to be removed from the housing and larger bearing cups added. I did some research and learned about using a Ford Explorer rear diff. that could be narrowed by using two right axles (shorter ones) cutting the long tube down approx. 3″ and re-welding the bearing end back on. I decided it would be better to go this route and gain Trac-Lock, disc brakes and higher gears.
I acquired a really cheap rear from a ’98 Mercury Mountaineer and did the narrowing myself. I de-bracketed it and got it cleaned up, added all the brackets for a triangulated four-link and airbag mounts after everything was painted I added a Mustang aluminum rear diff cover just for looks. My hopes are the combination of the T-5, 3.73 gearing and 26.6″ diameter tires I will have a nice highway cruising car.
I bought a cheap 4-link kit off of eBay and basically used some the brackets and a couple of the end links, it was ok made stuff and mostly 1/4″ steel. The bars were too long for my application so I ended up getting adjustable steel tubes and adding some left hand end links (the original bars had one fixed end) The lower front bars I utilized the the cars front leaf spring mounts by getting end links that used the same size bolt as the leaf spring. The frame was plated with 3/16″ steel from the trailer tongue I cut up and everything was welded in place.
The upper bag brackets were welded to the frame plates as well and a bar was added for upper shock mounts, the shock of choice was from a Mitsubishi Montero Sport so I would have enough stroke for the Slam Specialties SS6 bags full extension of 11″.
Everything articulates well and while the car won’t go super low it has a nice stance at ride height, will have to wait and see how well the Comet rides.
Modifications and repairs done to the chassis include repairing both front torque boxes, the right one was nearly gone on the bottom and the right side had a bit of rust part way up.
I used 14 gauge steel to repair both boxes, while it doesn’t fully match factory I don’t think that is really too much of a concern for me.
One thing I did is build a jig and tip the Comet up on its side so I could check my welding and re-weld or finish weld anything to make sure I would end up with something safe to drive down the highway. I also decided to build some subframe connectors to maybe aid in stiffening the car a little and help in overall handling, not sure they will help but shouldn’t hurt anything either.
Two outriggers run from the rockers to the subframe connectors, they double as seat mount points.
Replacement braces were made for both the export brace that had to be removed when the shock towers were taken out and replacements for the strut rod braces that were gone.
I used some left over parts from the rear 4-link to fabricate some new fender braces.
Strut rod braces were pretty straight forward, a heavy piece of “C” channel was cut and fit where the original braces had been (also part of the electrical box garden cart).
Four wheel disc brakes were what I wanted, not really necessary but when you have had as much trouble with brakes as I have had on the Comet I wanted to completely replace the whole system, the only part of the original ’64 Comet brake system left is the pedal.
Rear brakes were pretty much determined by what was on the Explorer rear already, no need for any fancy after-market replacements because the Ford brakes should be more than capable of stopping a Comet when they were designed for a big SUV. Even-though the calipers were rusty on the outside they were fine on the inside, I cleaned them up and installed new seals, the rebuild kits were ridiculously cheap, IIRC they were like $7, I painted the calipers with red POR15 Caliper Paint.
The rusty, pitted rotors were replaced with a new set.
The rear e-brake system on an Explorer rear is a tiny little drum brake located under the disc hat, I bought complete rebuild kits for those and installed them, if you have ever done drum brakes on a car they are just like that without a wheel cylinder, instead they have a manual cable-pull lever that replaces the hydraulics.
I had the rear axles removed so I was able to install the e-brakes without the axle hub in the way, you can’t do that unless the rear is drained and the c-clips removed, which would be overkill to just replace the e-brake components, it can be done with the axles in place.
I tried to get the Explorer e-brakes to work as designed but was not successful so I made a brake equalizer bar and mounted both cables that run to the drums to the frame, because the free ends of the cables are different lengths I made one arm shorter than the other so replacement cables can be stock, not that I will ever have to change them again most likely.
I wanted the brake handle different in the car as well, this is totally related to having to use the e-brake in an emergency at least twice, and because on a standard shift car I set the brake every time I park, I installed a center console lever out of a ’98 Mustang.
I am still in the process of getting the e-brakes adjusted to actually work fully but I am confident I will have them functional in the current configuration.
Moving back to the main hydraulic brakes, I used new stock Explorer soft lines on the rear and made my own hard-line running between them because a stock hard line won’t fit with the one side shortened, plus I had a different set of brackets welded to the axle tubes.
I used the body mount from the Explorer for the brake line that runs up to the body, I just bolted it in place to the shock mount upper plate.
Front brakes are 11″ rotors and GM metric single-piston calipers like would have come on a mid-’70s Monte-Carlo, in this case, they are new after-market units from Speedway Motors along with a bracket to fit them to the M2 spindles, I painted the calipers to match the rear ones.
Speedway Motors sells a kit that for some reason I did not buy but bought all the components separately. The rotors look rusty but it is just from sitting unused for a year and a half and will shine back up when used. Braided stainless, coated soft lines were used to connect the front brakes to the body.
For a master cylinder I chose an aluminum dual bowl for a ’85 Lincoln Town Car with 4 wheel disc brakes. The Lincoln master is a 1″ bore unit and I am not running a booster, the line connections are on the right side.
I used a Wilwood proportioning valve on the rear brakes because of the mismatched parts I am using I will be able to manually adjust the brake bias.
All lines are 3/16″ copper-nickel that I cut and flared myself, the complete brake system is run and I filled it, bleed it using a Harbor Freight power bleeder, it worked well but took a lot of fluid, I actually ended up filtering the new fluid and using it over until I had all the air out of the system. Only a couple of leaks that I was able to fix by just tightening the fittings down further, the pedal is firm and seems to stop the car well, at least when pushing it a few feet back and forth in the shed, I still need to set the proportioning valve which will happen later.
Things like the trunk floor and the passenger floors are part of the whole chassis on a unibody car but I am going to include those items under the “BODY MODS” section so I don’t want to be redundant here. That pretty much wraps up the suspension and chassis.