Last month, we covered our woeful tale of how we began this project. A rain-slickened road and drum brakes led to the situation seen above; our bone-stock, 318-equipped, four-door granny car was found lacking in safety when it counted. Luckily, nobody was hurt, but it was decided immediately afterward to update the vintage brakes and suspension as soon as possible. Wilwood, PST (Performance Suspension Technology), and MagnumForce Racing were all quick to answer the call to help upgrade the front end of this stout little Dart.
The disc-brake conversion kit and a suitable master cylinder and proportioning valve came from Wilwood in Camarillo, California. PST (Montville, New Jersey) supplied an original-performance suspension-rebuild kit with all the parts, pieces, and bushings to eliminate the age-related deficiencies of the Dart's 30-year-old front suspension. Finally, MagnumForce (Campbell, California) turned out to be the icing on this effort's cake, providing not only the people, place, and expertise to do the work, but also a set of trick new tubular upper control arms.
They don't build cars like this anymore, that's for sure. Here's the Dart after it was rel
Additionally, MagnumForce proprietor (and serious Mopar madman) Ron Jenkins provided various other required components and fittings before we were finished, including the braided brake lines. He even rummaged around in his storage loft and found a loaner set of 15x7 police wheels with the 4 1/2-inch bolt circle that were needed for the Wilwood hubs up front.
As a related and final piece to the puzzle, Stockton Wheel (Stockton, California) easily solved the spare-tire problem that exists when driving a car with one bolt-circle size up front and a different size in the rear. These folks manufacture and carry a wide variety of DOT-approved adapters that let you put just about any wheel on just about any hub. I didn't know this when I called to inquire about getting a wheel drilled for both bolt circles, but finding out certainly made life easier.
The inch-thick adapters for this application, whittled out of 6160 aluminum billet, presently give the back of the Dart a wide-track stance with its borrowed rims in place; these are cool pieces. Stockton Wheel also signed up to adjust the backspacing of whatever wheels are chosen for permanent use.
Meet Michelle, one of a half-dozen people who showed up to help before this '71 Dart's whe
During its two days in the MagnumForce shop undergoing this suspension upgrade, nothing was done to the Dart that a competent home mechanic couldn't handle. Aside from a few moments spent with a hydraulic press, the most exotic items used were pickle forks and a flaring tool for the brake lines. And the most frustrating, time-consuming part of the entire process (as seen in the last issue) was removing the outer bushing shell from the lower control arm, which could have been avoided if high-performance, urethane bushings were installed (which reportedly drop right inside the existing shell) instead of rubber.
Of course, after this sort of suspension work, a stop at an alignment shop was required to true everything up. And during the three-hour drive back home after all was said and done, I was amazed at the difference and couldn't believe I'd even been willing to drive it in its previous condition.
All of that mental, "Well, it's a 30-year-old car" allowances as to its handling were now gone. The steering was solid, positive, and quickly responsive, and it no longer had the slightest tendency to wander around in its lane. But the improvement in the braking situation was the most profound of all. I was told that greater pedal pressure would be required with the change to front discs (and no power assist), but any difference was unnoticeable. Instead, I was overwhelmed that its braking action was equal to, or better than, any vehicle I've ever driven. Going from worst to first in any venue is great, but I was able to notice, by its glaring absence, just how apprehensive I had actually been about the brakes during the short time I'd been driving this car-and for good reason! Follow on as we finish our trip to the straight and narrow of Mopar front suspension conversions.
The new MagnumForce Racing tubular upper control arms (left) that were installed on the Da
The PST suspension kit includes new cam assemblies for mounting the upper control arms.
Only a couple of modifications were required to use the trick new upper control arms. Firs
Next, the trailing edge of the forward control-arm bracket was bent back out of the way to
Can you spot the mistake that's about to occur in this photo? After the lower control arms
Then the boneyard '76 Valiant spindles, with their new PST ball joints and bushings, joine