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Project front shocks and brakes question.
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TC/TeamEvil
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2021 11:36 am    Post subject: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

Although I'm not building a dune buggy nor kit car, I AM using a shortened VW pan and alternate body for my project and have some questions about the front shocks and brakes that I don't have any answers for.

The project is a Fiat 600 body fitted to a shortened Karmann Ghia pan/chassis. The front end weight is honestly next to nothing. I can pick up the front of the pan easily and can literally wear the Fiat body like a rain slicker and carry it around the yard with my head through the sun roof hole.

I'm wondering just what sort of shocks that I could use with this project or if I should bother with shocks at all? I'm also wondering about the front disk brakes and if I should really install a brake bias valve to put more of the braking power on the rear wheels? Should I remove the torsion leaves and substitute threaded rod to hold the arms in place and coil-over shocks to adjust the firmness? Should I use stock shocks and remove a couple of leaves from the upper and lower torsion leaf packs? I would think that the car will ride pretty harsh with the stock set-up "as is" and the lack of stock weight up front. And, again, there's the front brakes thing to work out.

I drove a fiberglass nose Karmann Ghia for a number of years and had to make constant adjustments to compensate for the lack of weight in the front. I kept locking up the front brakes and sliding through intersections, Driving it in the Winter was very difficult with the slippery streets and stock front disk brakes. In the end I had to remove the shocks and front brakes entirely in order to be able to drive the car safely.

I sure could use some tips or information on what to do with front end this Fiat 600 project. Anyone have an idea?

Thanks—
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joemama
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2021 12:49 pm    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

I think I would go back to drums for the front, and install front wheel cylinders in the back, and the back ones in the front. You will need to do a search to find out what years fit. This will move more of the braking to the back. I think you are on the right track removing some of the leaves from the front torsions (you still need to keep a portion of the removed leaves at the ends and at the center, so the grub screws grab). Worn out oil shocks will work best, do not use any kind of gas charged shocks. Years ago, Bruce Meyer showed were he would take oil filled front shocks, drill a hole and drain the oil, then replace 50% of the oil with I think kerosene, fill the shock back up, and use a threaded plug on the hole. Apparently this softened up the shock for use in a fiberglass buggy. Is the gas tank going to be up front? I would think that your project should be in the general weight of a fiberglass buggy, 1300 to 1500 lbs., so much of what works for a buggy, should work for you.
Good luck.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2021 6:41 pm    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

Use a pair of worn front shocks...

bnc
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TC/TeamEvil
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2021 10:23 am    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

Joemama,

Thanks for the reply and ideas, all of them just what I needed to know. I have another/extra drum brake beam that I could easily substitute for the disk brake Ghia item. Swapping the cylinders make very good sense, I have an assortment if new and good used to work with down cellar.

The drum brake beam has an old pair of well used shocks on it, easy to clean up, sand and paint to look decent. Good idea ! MAYBE try the oil-to-kerosene switch on another pair and keep them to the side just in case.

Any suggestion on how many leaves to remove from the upper and lower tubes? I would seem like two out of each, but I don't really know. I have an aluminum fuel cell that fits well up front, a little added weight there when full, but not a ton as the brackets are aluminum as well. A heavier stock VW tank might have been better, but the front of the Fiat body is too narrow,

I'll have to search deeper into some of the buggy builds here to gather more info on what others have done. As you mention, my project should follow along the lines of a fiberglass buggy bodied car over-all, maybe just a smidge lighter, but not by much.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2021 11:30 am    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

I installed adjuster’s in both the top and bottom, And set them so in the max up position the suspension is the same as stock. I can lower them both from there. I’m using it to tune my suspension, trying them both lower at the same time, lowering one to achieve a progressive spring Rate, haven’t driven it yet so not sure where I will end up
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DeathBySnuSnu
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2021 9:14 am    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

My experience is mostly with trikes and rear brakes.....but for a while now I have been into kit cars.
So far I have not experienced what you describe with your glass nose ghia.
But.
I did carry over some trike experience.....and every kit car I have been around all had the same problem that was not corrected at build time.
When you take the body weight off then the pre load on springs are less and the suspension is hard hard against the top out stops.....then because when it hits a bump and slams back against the up stop most relate that bang sound to bottom out......not top out.....so 98% of the ones I have seen have those cheep add on helper springs on all the shocks......that keeps it from banging....and keeps the suspense from moving at all too.....rough and slides everywhere.
So with a light body you must adjust the pre load.....rear is work but is just wrench time.....the rear spring is on splines and you just rotate them. The front you have to add adjusters or cut the tube, rotate and weld back together.

If you reduce the pre load all the way around so that it is not on the stops....up or down.....somewhere near the middle of the factory travel......it will be quite firm bit the suspension will work
Stay away from gas charged shocks as they add spring rate.
Stock type oil shocks are the most comfortable.

With wide tires and light weight you will always have wet road problems. Very skinny tires help with this.
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TC/TeamEvil
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2021 11:49 am    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

"it will be quite firm bit the suspension will work"

Think that by removing some of the leaves in the bars that it will soften up the ride? I know that the car will be VERY light, sort of hoping that I can retain a decent ride quality without resorting to pulling the leaves out of the tubes entirely, replacing them with rods to hold the arms in place, and running SOFT spring rate/motorcycle coil-overs in place of the shocks and torsion leaves.

A lot more work than I want, but if there's no other combination to come up with a decent ride, I'm not opposed to it.

I doubt that everyone/anyone here would put up wit such a harsh ride. Maybe another post (later on, when I closer to buying the front end components) concentrating on ride quality rather than shock choice might be in order.

Thanks all—
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TC/TeamEvil
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2021 12:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

"I'll have to search deeper into some of the buggy builds here to gather more info on what others have done. As you mention, my project should follow along the lines of a fiberglass buggy bodied car over-all, maybe just a smidge lighter, but not by much."

I surfed through a lot of buggy build threads and was sort of surprised at how many folks were running stock suspension and drum or disk brakes. Maybe/hopefully I'm worrying about that something that doesn't really exist with regards to suspension/ride quality/front biased braking problems.

Probably going to but the brake/suspension thing on hold for now and concentrate on reinforcing the chassis itself. Bought a roll cage already, a new "spine" as well for a smoother, more finished look to the shortening work, t will take a bit of cutting and shaping, but ought to be much better than my first attempt.

I can handle the above easier than the theoretical work of redesigning the stock suspension. Most likely take what you guys have told me with me and bring the chassis into a pro shop for the real suspension and brakes design/troubleshooting/fabrication.

Again, thanks for answering my questions !
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2021 12:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

Ball joint front end. No adjusters. I removed all of the small leaves on the front of my buggy (there are 4 sets of 3 total), and the first time I did a hard stop the fenders rubbed the front tires. So I added one of the 4 sets of small leaves back in. I am now running all of the big leaves and one set of the small ones, and about 12psi in the front tires.
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TC/TeamEvil
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PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 8:25 am    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

Brian,

Are the 'small leaves" the narrow ones that are shorter than the leaves with the "dimples" in them that hold the grub screws fast? I'm not familiar with the terminology.

I haven't yet disassembled either of the beams that I've got here, so I'll have to check the order of the leaves and remove three sets of the smaller leaves as you did.

Is there any special orientation for the remaining three set of small leaves? Should they be spaced between the large leaves in any pattern or order? Big leaves, small leaves, big leaves, small leaves and such, or . . . ?

Any additional help would GREATLY be appreciated, nothing like first hand info for sure ! ! !

Thanks—
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PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 11:46 am    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

There are 4 big and 6 small (or wide and narrow if you prefer) leaves on a beetle front end. On a ball joint front end you can just remove the small (narrow) leaves as long as you do it in groups of 3.


On a King/link front end, you need to do a little bit more work. and have to figure out a way to fill the space the small leaves occupied. Some people cut the leaves and weld the small pieces to the big ones.

Some people add adjusters. Some remove all spring from one tube. There are different ways to do it, but bottom line is you need to take out some of the spring. How you do it is up to you.

There have been a lot of threads about softening buggy front ends. Have you tried a search?

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 1:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

TC/TeamEvil wrote:
"it will be quite firm bit the suspension will work"

I doubt that everyone/anyone here would put up wit such a harsh ride.

Thanks all—


Slowly raises hand.........
I am in mid process of shortening one of my spring stacks to increase rate but not ride height. I will have double adjusters and shortened spring on the top beam and a single adjuster with stock spring on bottom.
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PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 4:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

Thank you for that photo ! ! !

"There have been a lot of threads about softening buggy front ends. Have you tried a search? "

I've been looking through the forum and checking out any topic that seems to make reference to the front suspension or brakes, but you're right, a simple search would be much better, Kind of didn't even think of it . . . I'll do that tomorrow and, no doubt, have all of the info that I need by the end of the afternoon !

" . . . as long as you do it in groups of 3." Why is that? Why is 3 the magic number? Just curious!
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PostPosted: Tue May 04, 2021 6:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

Look at the picture. There are 3 narrow leaves on each side of the group of wide leaves. If you remove any one from the group of 3 there is nothing to secure the other 2. It will become crystal clear once you take the front end apart.

Do you have ball joint or king pin front end? King pin needs a few extra steps not needed on ball joint front end.
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PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2021 9:07 am    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

Brian,

Once again, thanks for the clear explanation !

I have a shortened 1972 Ghia pan with stock front beam, and a spare 1971 Ghia beam. Since this is going to be a street car and NOT a dune buggy or even part-time off road vehicle, I wanted the handling of the ball joint set-up.

I'm putting the beam to one side and concentrating on the pan itself, and kind of wondering about caster shims and a quick steering kit. Decide that when I get back to the beam later this Summer.
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PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2021 3:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

I'm thinking this will end up a bit different than most of our buggies. The Fiat 600 body likely will put a bit more weight up front. I'm betting the tire size difference won't be so extreme as many buggies either. My first glass buggy had a front axle weight of 370 lb. and rear axle weight 730 lb. It ran rear tires a full 4 inches taller than the front. So, I don't know that I would recommend wheel cylinder reversal for his application, perhaps run the same ones all around? You really don't want the ass end of a tail heavy car to lock up first -- squirrelly is putting it nicely!
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PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2021 8:21 am    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

EVfun wrote:
You really don't want the ass end of a tail heavy car to lock up first -- squirrelly is putting it nicely!

I would have used a lot stronger language!
TC/TeamEvil wrote:
In the end I had to remove the shocks and front brakes entirely in order to be able to drive the car safely.

When I read this I just had to shake my head in total disbelief! This same thing keeps coming up over and over here. I cannot understand why people do not get what the automotive industry has known for well over a 100 years. Front brakes are mandatory for safety and they must lock up first especially on a rear weight biased car.

I don't know how you could possibly get a car inspected and licenced to drive on the street without. And, to be quite frank, if any member of my family was ever killed by a driver with a car without front brakes or with brakes heavily rear biased not allowing the fronts to lock up first, I would sue them until their grand children felt the effects!

Tractors are the ONLY vehicles built without front brakes and they are limited to under 20 mph.

I am so glad you are no going to make this mistake again!!
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PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2021 12:54 pm    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

"Front brakes are mandatory for safety and they must lock up first especially on a rear weight biased car."

That was the problem with the Ghia. With SO little weight up front due to the fiberglass race-weight front clip, the front brakes WOULD simply lock up first and the car would just slide through the intersections. Not enough weight up front to stop it.

With any amount of left over sand on the street (from Winter salting and sanding) it was INSANE ! In snow or wet conditions it was like trying to stop on a sheet of ice.

There was enough weight in the back due to the engine position and the tight brake shoes, that the car was very drivable once the front were disconnected.

I've stopped bothering with the braking and shock situation on the Fiat project for now, concentrating instead on the chassis, cage, and body mount reinforcements. Once the body is on the pan and I have a need to make it a roller, I'll maybe bounce back to the brakes and suspension, although there's a shop in town that does a lot of VW and dune buggy work. I'll probably just dump it on them and have everything sorted by a pro.

Thanks for the ideas/help/tips/answers here. I'll be back on the forum later on during the Summer, hopefully with a reasonable progress report or even a "build thread."
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PostPosted: Fri May 14, 2021 10:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

TC/TeamEvil-
I get it- I found that with both a Cal Look Beetle (135's, 4 1/2" Sprintstars and Ghia discs up front, 185/70's, custom widened 6" Sprintstars and type 1 brakes in back) and a Baja Bug (7.00-15's front, 28 or 30" off road tires with heavier, wider rims on the back and stock brakes all around) that the trick to balanced braking was to increase the effectiveness of the rear. I did this in both instances by using type 3 drums/shoes in the back, and I'm also the first to admit that I didn't figure this out with either car the first day...

The front of my Cal Look bug would slide on the least bit of sand, dirt, and even pollen on the road, was downright dangerous in the rain and the baja bug's braking was just generally poor because the rear tires were just too big and heavy to be controlled by the type 1 drums and shoes, leaving most of the work to the front. In both instances type 3 rear brake assemblies went a long way to balancing the front/rear brake forces so the cars were much safer to drive in all conditions. The Cal Look bug became much more civilized, with only the hardest panic stops locking up the front (the way it should be), and the baja bug would now stop anywhere, any time (including emergency highway stops from 65 and 70 mph where the brakes no longer just 'faded' at 30 or 40 mph).

As previously said, cars have brakes on all 4 corners for a reason. When you change the inherent balance of a car (such as I did in the 2 examples above and you did with removing most of the weight from the front of your KG) it's our responsibility to ensure it is still safe under all conditions if we're going to drive it on the street.

I'm not saying mine was the only solution (it did solve the problem with both cars, though), but removing your front brakes entirely wasn't really a solution at all, as it endangered every one around you. Not only was it not safe, it's also illegal in most locales, and if something were to have happened and your insurance company found out I think you would have been in a heap of trouble.

Fortunately that time has past (for both of us) and hopefully someone will read this and learn from our mistakes. Al
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PostPosted: Mon May 17, 2021 8:26 am    Post subject: Re: Project front shocks and brakes question. Reply with quote

Thanks for the advice ALB.

While no longer concerned with the front suspension or brakes, I did talk with the pro shop near by about maybe bringing the project in at the end of the Summer to get it all sorted out.

They recommended trying a brake bias valve first off with added weights above the beam. Possibly stickier front tires, type 3 rear drums if needed, and rear discs if all else fails. Kind of more coin than I wanted to invest . . . I'd hoped to build this one out of parts in hand.

We'll see. Although I do sort of like idea if having a VW powered Fiat 600, I don't want this to become a life-style nor do I want to get upside down on the project from the beginning. It's a silly little car that won't return either money invested nor the joy that I might get out of it.

This one might well be ended before it began.
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