During the mid-1930s, many of the car companies were developing new suspension systems, changing from the old straight front axle to the independent type, providing better handling and a smoother ride. Packard's answer was the Safe-T-FleX, introduced in 1935 on the new Junior Series 120 8-cylinder cars, then in 1937 in the Senior line including the Super 8s and 12s. This was a front coil spring, king pin system, which consisted of left and right upper support arms attached to each of the front Delco hydraulic shocks. The shocks were bolted to the left and right frame rails and the wheel supports were attached at the shocks via a rubber/metal sleeved bushing with a bolt through the top end of each wheel support and a pin and needle bearing/bushing setup at the wheel support's lower end (at the lower support arm). There were two torque arms, left and right, that attached forward at the lower control arms, and rearward attaching near the cowl area at the bottom of each frame rail by way of a 2 1/2" diameter rubber ball bushing at the end of each torque arm, held in by a cover plate. These arms were designed to protect the alighment of the front wheels and protect the front wheels and protect the front end from twisting in case of a rear-end collision.
Our 1941 LeBaron (current project car) has this Safe-T-FleX system. With all of the front end sheet metal off of the '41, now was the time to completely disassemble the steering and brakes. We put the car up on 4 jack stands and started by removing the brakes, first the drum, then the entire backing plates with the wheel cylinders and shoes still intact. (The brake rebuilding will be featured in an upcoming issue.) Now the king pin assembly and wheel support arms were exposed, so we removed the knuckle from the back side of the king pin on each side and removed the nut under the radiator and disassembled the steering crank and ball assembly from the frame. Next, we disconencted the connecting rod from the cross shaft lever assembly, leaving the lever intact. Now we were able to pull the splash shield on the driver's side out for cleaning and paint. This gave us access to remove the master cylinder, clutch and shifter linkages. We disconnected the stabilizer bar from the frame, leaving it connected to the lower support arm assembly brackets, and took the bolts out of the torque arms. To remove the coil springs, we placed a floor jack under the lower support arm assembly (to keep pressure on the spring), wrapped a chain around the coil spring to keep it from flying out while we disconnected the support arms from the frame, then we lowered the jack and removed the spring. We took out the four bolts on top of each shock and removed the front end in one piece. This allowed us to lay it on the bench for photo documentation, labeling and making a list of parts to be ordered.
TO DISASSEMBLE THE FRONT END: We first took the top bolt out of the wheel support arms to separate the shocks, then drove out the king pin lock pin (it's a press fit), removed the flat freeze plugs and removed the king pin. Next, we drove out the lower wheel support lock pin to remove the lower-support-arm-to-wheel-support-arm pivot pin. We now separated the tie rod ends from the tie rods, being careful to count the revolutions and stamp the count into the ends of the tie rods so we could put them back in the same position. The rest of the small parts were unbolted, the rubber pieces were removed, and the bearings pressed out. All the parts were shot-peen cleaned, then metal-prepped, cleaned, primed and painted gloss black with Eastwood's Chassis Black.
There are complete front end kits available for most cars, but we caution against ordering them until you have a list of what is needed for your car. For example, the kit we looked at didn't have inner tie rod ends or lower wheel support pins ets, so we bought the parts individually, getting our pin sets and tie rod ends from John Ulrich Packard Parts (510-223-9587), and rubber bushings from Steel Rubber (704-483-9343), and were able to get everything we needed without buying pieces we didn't need. Next month, we will rebuild king pins, repair shocks and assemble our front end. See you then...keep 'em driving!