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In last month’s installment, we explored what it takes to disassemble a worn out Chrysler torsion bar front suspension system. Though our subject vehicle happens to be a compact model A Body 1966 Plymouth Barracuda, the same design principles are shared among larger mid-size B Body, E-Body pony car and full size C Body, so the process is transferrable.
I used to fear front end rebuild work. This attitude was rooted in a very frustrating experience I had back in the eighties with a 1968 Hemi Road Runner I was trying to buy. Just out of college and juggling student loan payments on a shoestring budget, I worked out a deal where I’d pay $10,000 for the car (a non-numbers-matching J-code post coupe with a 4-speed and Dana), plus help with the task of rebuilding the suspension and brakes for road use. When it came time to have the old bushings removed from the upper and lower control arms and have the upper ball joints replaced, I got seriously bent over by a shop that charged me $250 for the work – which only took the guy an afternoon. At the time, that money would have paid for an original “chrome dome” Street Hemi air cleaner. I was pissed.
After paying up I vowed to learn how to do it myself and never again be at the mercy of pirates. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? This is not to say specific tools are not required. You’ll need access to a good bench vise, ball joint separating tool (aka pickle fork), a beefy hydraulic press, a reciprocating saw, and a cut off wheel. Other than that, basic hand tools – and a bunch of brute strength – are all it takes to freshen any Mopar front suspension.
When we left off last month, we removed the front suspension and had it ready for action. Now let’s complete the job using a PST Super Kit with standard rubber bushings ($379 for our Barracuda). This kit includes upper ball joints, lower ball joints, inner and outer tie rod ends, upper control arm bushings, lower control arm bushings, strut rod bushings, sway bar bushings and links (not used on our Barracuda), control arm bumpers, upper cam and bolt set, tie rod adjusting sleeves and an idler arm. PST also offers kits with polygraphite upper bushings for a firmer ride and improved handling ($439), but for our unrestored original subject car, we opted for the basic rubber bushing kit since it’s basically a cream puff that’ll be driven gently.
Regardless of body class; A, B, E or C, the Chrysler torsion bar front suspension system looks like this when removed. Before disassembly, remove as much caked on grease and crud as you can to make the job easier. Note how we removed each assembly from the car with the upper control arms, lower control arms, brakes and strut rods still attached to each other. It saves time and we’ve learned it is usually easier to separate the parts on the shop floor. This gives you better access to insert the pickle fork and plenty of room to swing the hammer without smacking the inner fender of the car.