The Jim Meyer IFS set is engineered...
The Jim Meyer IFS set is engineered specifically for C1 Corvettes, and is both complete and beautifully crafted. It is about as close to "bolt-in" as you can get, with only a cut or two of the inner fender wells and a weld or two to complete the installation. This was important, as Bob knew some future restorer might choose to convert this resto-mod C1 back to its original configuration some day.
In issues past we've chronicled the saga of how Rob Sutter's business partner, wife, and other friends conspired to spirit away his long-dormant '59 Corvette with the intent of secretly replacing the ex-dragster, non-streetable, wildly-cammed 327 engine with a daily-driver-friendly GM 350 crate engine. As we noted, partner Bob Yeoman owed Rob a host of favors and schemed to have a local shop install the crate engine without Rob's knowledge.
As you might expect, the installation, as these things always seem to go, blossomed into involving a new radiator, carburetor and manifold, ignition system, and more. And Bob was more or less prepared for this project/budget expansion. However what he wasn't quite prepared for was when Rob's wife Bonnie, who was in on the secret, innocently asked if the 50-year-old steering, brakes, and suspension were up to the task of safely managing Rob's new-found horsepower. Your author, long a straight-axle guy and consultant on this project, contacted CF to see if some well-known suppliers would like to get involved and provide some upgraded under-car parts to make the '59 (nicknamed Karen Ann some 20+ years ago), safe, fun, and reliable once again.
Among the suppliers who stepped up to the plate were Jim Meyer Racing, who provided a full independent front suspension (IFS) setup, and a lovely set of adjustable coilover shocks from Carrera/QA1. Flaming River Products supplied a nicely-crafted rack-and-pinion steering setup and column that is engineered to work in pleasant harmony with the Jim Meyer IFS.
The installation assignment went to Gary Gardner and his techs, son Craig and grandson Kyle at Gardner's Automotive in Easton, PA, who do a fair amount of Corvette work and aren't afraid of doing a little "creative engineering" when installing non-original parts. Following is an overview of the conversion to IFS and R&P. The under-car upgrades to this '59 included installation of 4-wheel disc brakes courtesy of Stainless Steel Brakes Corp., and the brake installation will be covered in a future issue of CF. Let's get to it.
|Difficulty Index - 4 Wrenches|
|Anyone's Project: no tools required||1 Wrench|
|Beginner: basic tools||2 Wrenches|
|Experienced: special tools||3 Wrenches|
|Accomplished: special tools and outside help||4 Wrenches|
|Professionals Only: send this work out||5 Wrenches|
With the brake lines and Pitman...
With the brake lines and Pitman arm disconnected, the original front crossmember can be removed complete with suspension, steering arms, and brakes. Sixteen high-grade bolts hold the crossmember to the car's frame. Gary Gardner, along with his son Craig (standing) and grandson Kyle (kneeling) often do Corvette and other "special" work as a team so they can give these cars the extra care they deserve.
Gary Gardner has found that...
Gary Gardner has found that it's easiest to remove the crossmember assembly first, with the steering box still bolted in place. It's much easier to remove the steering box later since the box and column are a single unit, and it's very awkward to remove this unit with the crossmember in place.
The original front end is...
The original front end is now ready for long-term storage. Note that the Gardners carefully used three floor jacks so that the crossmember assembly would be lowered slowly, evenly, and safely. The crossmember was originally bolted to factory-welded tabs on the frame, and it is not uncommon for those tabs to be broken. This is an area that warrants inspection by anyone working on the front end of a C1.
Gary Gardner "really gets...
Gary Gardner "really gets into his work." Here he is cutting the inner fender well before doing the only welding required in this upgrade--attaching one bracket to each side of the frame for secure mounting of the new IFS. These brackets can be easily cut off and the welds ground down if some future restorer wants to do so.
Likewise, the only cutting...
Likewise, the only cutting involved in the installation of the Jim Meyer IFS and Flaming River R&P is a slight enlargement of the cutouts in the inner fenders to provide clearance for the new crossmember uprights and upper inner A-arm pivots. Note that the forward rounded cutouts are factory-provided for the original sway bar to pass through. These cutouts will provide adequate clearance for the beefier bar that comes with the Jim Meyer IFS setup.
You can see the resemblance...
You can see the resemblance of the new crossmember to the original. This unit is carefully jig-welded and precisely pre-drilled at the factory so installation will go smoothly. The Gardner guys found that all sixteen mounting holes lined up perfectly.