Rizcayne...The Saga Begins

Improving Safety and Driveability with Classic Performance Parts Components

As you may recall, in the May '02 issue's What If? feature, Jimmy Smith penned a way-cool rendering of just what my low-buck '64 Biscayne beater might become given a bit of sorely needed attention. Both CRM Editor Rob Fortier's aim to extol the virtues and endless possibilities of '50s and '60s mild customs, and Jimmy's artwork served their purpose and motivated me to see for myself just how easy (and relatively inexpensively) a halfway solid mid-'60s driver could be converted into a neat mild custom.

Having purchased the '64 two-door post as cheap, reliable rainy season transportation (an economical $2,500 investment), I realized that without spending a huge sum of cash, it was definitely conceivable I'd likely wind up with a pretty darn nice driver--that is, with a bit of planning, some elbow grease, and the help of the aftermarket.

In my case, having a plan was a must, as this time of year is a bit cold and damp for many early morning, 40-plus-mile, one-way commutes to the office on a bike. So, any modifications to what Rob laughingly refers to as the "Rizcayne" would have to be undertaken with this in mind. The plan, in a nutshell, boils down roughly to this: safety, reliability, driveability, comfort, and, of course, looks.

The first order of business was to pay some attention to the Rizcayne's safety and roadworthiness. The '64's rather tired 250-six and three-speed would have to be addressed in the near future, but it was determined that it was smarter to focus on the car's steering and braking capabilities first. After all, building a solid foundation, i.e., suspension, brakes, and steering, is by far the smartest way to begin any automotive project.

To this end I enlisted the aid of a few of the most respected names in the automotive aftermarket to get the ball rolling. Classic Performance Products was an obvious choice for a brake and steering system upgrade because their dropped spindle disc brake conversion kit is one of the industry's highest quality and easiest to install conversions available. To go hand-in-hand with the CCP conversion I chose a set of Eaton Detroit lowering coil springs. And to keep the Rizcayne's down time to a minimum (and so I could chronicle the upgrade for the pages of CRM), I asked Archie Green of Archie's Automotive to perform the upgrade while I tried (sometimes in vain) to elbow my way into the mix with camera in hand.

So, check out the accompanying photos and get in on the start of a cool custom conversion that could easily become a bit of motivation for you to start a relatively quick and easy project of your own.

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Here's a shot of the '64 taken minutes before Archie Green and Emilio Gonzalez of Archie's Automotive rolled up their sleeves and got down to business.

To ensure I'd live long enough to enjoy the Rizcayne I made sure immediate attention was paid to two of the most important systems on any car--the frontend and brakes. The Classic Performance Products dropped spindle disc brake conversion kit (PN 5864CBK-D) was just what the doctor ordered. It came complete with 2-inch-dropped spindles, rotors, calipers, bearings, seals, dust caps, spindle nuts, hoses, a power booster/master cylinder assembly, and a proportioning valve. An added bonus that knocked my socks off was the fact that the unit (spindles, rotors, calipers, etc.) came pre-assembled! I mean complete down to grease and pre-loaded bearings!

CPP's POLYPLUS frontend rebuild kit (PN 6164SFK-P) was every bit as complete as their impressive brake kit. The POLYPLUS kit included upper and lower ball joints, inner and outer tie rod ends, tie rod adjusting sleeves, an idler arm, POLYPLUS Performance Graphite control arm bushings, end links, and bumpstops--virtually everything needed to restore the '64's frontend to better-than-OEM specs.

Once Emilio rolled the Rizcayne onto the lift and yanked the front wheels we got a good look at the car's tired OEM components--no wonder the thing was a scary ride. Disassembly began by removing the original shocks, disconnecting the tie rod ends, and loosening the upper and lower ball joint nuts.

Once the lower control arms were properly supported, an air hammer and fork were used to pop the ball joint stud from the control arm, allowing the removal of the original spindle/drum assemblies.

With the spindles and drums out of the way, the next step was to remove the upper and lower control arms.

Archie made quick work of removing the old worn out control arm bushings with the aid of an air hammer. The new CPP POLYPLUS graphite bushings are far superior to the OEM pieces in that they're manufactured with the ultimate combination of polyurethane for performance and durability and the superior lubricating qualities of graphite for smooth and quiet operation.

The new bushings were then located and pressed into place. The use of a press is a heck of a lot easier than using a hammer and a big socket and will ensure the bushings are seated properly and with no damage.

Archie had removed the original upper ball joints at the same time he disposed of the control arm bushings. Here we can see the original worn joint (L) and the new replacement supplied in the CPP POLYPLUS kit. The new joints replace the originals perfectly and will serve to greatly improve the Rizcayne's handling.

Archie's trusty air hammer made mincemeat of the original lower ball joint rivets allowing the new CPP bolt-in replacements to be mounted in a flash.

While Archie was stripping and re-outfitting the control arms, Emilio was busy removing the tie rod assemblies and fitting the new inner and outer ends and sleeves. Emilio measured the original assemblies before taking them apart and re-assembled the new components to exactly the same lengths so the frontend toe would be close to what it was originally.

Once the control arms were cleaned, painted, and re-outfitted with the new bushings and ball joints, Emilio reinstalled them in preparation for the new CPP dropped spindles and disc brake assemblies.

To get rid of the Chevy's nose-high stance, I opted to install a set of Eaton Detroit Spring lowering coils. The new springs will not only lower the '64 to a more acceptable level, but they'll actually improve its handling by giving the car the support it sorely needed, as well.

Once the new Eaton Detroit springs were correctly located in their pockets, Archie and Emilio proceeded to attach the CPP spindle/disc brake assemblies to the lower ball joints. They then placed a jack under the control arms and lifted the assemblies (compressing the spring) up to meet the upper ball joints and control arms.

The ball joint castle nuts were then tightened to spec and the cotter pins inserted. As I stated earlier, the spindles/disc brake units (unlike most other brands) are packaged as pre-assembled units and are ready to bolt on, obviously saving a lot of time. Thumbs up to Classic Performance Products for not only making quality products, but also for taking the time and effort required to make their installation as easy and pain-free as possible.

This view shows the Eaton Detroit spring and the CPP assembly at home on and between the '64's newly reinvigorated control arms. You can also see that the guys have connected the new flex hoses (also included in the CPP kit, by the way) to both the caliper and the frame bracket.

The next step was to install the new idler arm, pitman arm, center link, and tie rods. It was then time to head upstairs and swap out the original master cylinder for the new CPP power brake booster and dual-pot cylinder.

After the old cylinder's removal and before the new one was installed, the master cylinder's actuator rod was fitted with a new clevis (also supplied in the kit) so it would attach to the stock pedal assembly.

The new power brake assembly was then mounted to the firewall (using the existing mounting studs, by the way) and the new brake lines fashioned, flared, and run. Notice the nifty proportioning valve CPP provides with their power brake assemblies. The bracket and valve assembly comes pre-assembled and plumbed (valve to master cylinder) right out of the box--just another example of CPP's forethought.The new power brake assembly was then mounted to the firewall (using the existing mounting studs, by the way) and the new brake lines fashioned, flared, and run. Notice the nifty proportioning valve CPP provides with their power brake assemblies. The bracket and valve assembly comes pre-assembled and plumbed (valve to master cylinder) right out of the box--just another example of CPP's forethought.

After the brakes were bled, tested, and inspected for leaks, Emilio proceeded to grease the new frontend components. It's important to note that using high-quality grease is strongly recommended whether you're lubing a fresh frontend or an existing one. Skimping on something such as this will only save you in the short term--in the long term it'll cost you a ton more in replacement parts and labor.

The last bit of work to be performed before my first test drive was to rough-in the frontend alignment. It won't be long before we install a complete Air Ride Technologies airbag suspension system and a new set of 18-inch wheels and tires, but I don't want to trash my rollers between now and then, either. All in all, even though I didn't so much as turn a wrench during this installation (an extremely rare occurrence I assure you), I've just got to say what an easy conversion this is. Archie and Emilio performed the installation in a matter of a few hours in a fully equipped shop, but you or I could do the same in our home shops in a weekend. CPP's quality parts and the effort they exert designing and providing some pre-assembly in their kits make the upgrade nearly as pleasurable as driving the finished product.

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