Q: I bought a '70 El Camino as a rolling bucket of parts. I haven't done a full frame-off, but I did bring the front down to the framerails and firewall. Reassembly was done with a new 350, and I changed all the joints, bearings, and bushings. I used what torque specs I could find from the manual, and the only modifications I made to the suspension was to cut the springs and add 18-inch rims. This was definitely a budget build, but once the car would roll again I went to a suspension shop for an alignment and paid them to go through my work. Then I moved on to the hundreds of other issues the car has.
A couple of weeks ago, after about 3,000 miles of road time, I was in a parking lot when I heard and felt a suspension noise. I found that the three remaining bolts on the upper control arms were all hand loose. Fortunately, the missing one was on the trailing side so I didn't snow-plow-or worse. That said, I obviously didn't cover all my bases. Should I have used Loctite on everything, or do I just need to perform periodic inspections?
A: We're assuming you lost one of the upper control arm shaft bolts and washers that attach at the end of the shaft that captures the upper control arm bushing. Did you use factory-style bushings or aftermarket polyurethane ones? The factory bushings have serrations on the inner sleeve that cut into the control arm shafts and into the washer. The bolts that retain the washer are 3/8-inch 24 fine-threaded Grade 8 fasteners. These bolts from the factory have split lock washers under the head of the bolt, between the washer. You should have torqued these fasteners to 45 ft-lb. The factory spec assumes that the threads are clean and lightly lubricated. If you didn't torque them properly, they are notorious for loosening up as the suspension jounces up and down. Using Red Loctite is a great safety measure to retain these fasteners.
When using aftermarket polyurethane bushings it isn't as much of a problem. The inner sleeves of those bushings are smooth on the ends and don't dig into the washer. This prevents them from imparting the twisting force into the washer and loosening up the bolts.
Good thing you found the missing bolt while parking the car. As you said, turning your El Camino into a snow plow wouldn't have been pretty. Wash out the threads in the shafts and torque the bolts down with some Loctite, then forget about them. Good luck and be safe.
Q: I have started a tranny swap with my '73 shortbed originally equipped with a three-speed floor shifting trans. I dropped that and picked up a five-speed out of an '88 Camaro. I need a crossmember to install this properly and was hoping you could point me in the right direction for not a lot of dough.
A: The original factory trans crossmember should be able to slide right back and pick up the T-5 gearbox. You'll need to re-drill the frame to pick up the new bolthole locations. The stamped steel crossmember may need to be trimmed on the front side to clear the transmission case.
If you have issues with your factory crossmember you can pick up a universal trans crossmember (PN 550-40105) from Jegs. This inexpensive crossmember requires fabrication. This crossmember is fabricated out of 56 inches of 11/2-inch, 0.134-inch mild steel that should fit the width of your frame with no problem. It requires you to weld tabs to the factory framerails, trim the crossmember to fit, and weld sleeves into the crossmember for the through bolts for mounting.
If you can, stick with the factory crossmember. You'll find it much easier to modify the factory crossmember to fit than all the fab work required for the aftermarket. Good luck with your five-speed pickup.