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Special Projects

1948 Ford Woody

Here at the Tune Up Shop we are called on frequently to fabricate many interesing and unique items for automobiles. Often, we reconstruct parts for cars that have lived out their lives under harsh conditions. At other times, we invent items with which the vehicle was never equipped. For instance, we have modified a particular 1948 Ford Woody extensively. When we first began the modifications the owner wanted to lower the front end "a couple of inches". Those were famous last words. Since the final plan was to modify the vehicle in such a way that quality disc brakes could ultimately be installed, we began the "lowering job" by removing the intire heavy front suspension and replaced it with a light weight but strong Kugel front suspension with disc brakes, independent front suspension with tublar A arms, rack & pinion steering and a complete cleaning and repainting of all front suspension parts. That wasn't quite the end of the mods for this visit. The owner wanted to keep the flathead nostalgia look while improving the power. We elected to replace the heads with finned high compression aluminum units and replaced the intake manifold with a dual carb setup. At the same time we installed a MSD front mounted distributor, MSD wires and the 6AL box with a new coil. All fresh primary wiring to these things made the underhood area really look better and helped the performance as well. Fresh Autometer gauges were built to fit into the square opening where the OEM Ford gauges were located. A rescreen of the Speedometer (recalibrated to 120 mph) and clock to match the Antique Autometer font style and a conversion of the clock to a quartz movement brought the dash up to modern standards without making it look overly modified.

All those items had a considerable cost but I believe they were worth the price. The vehicle drove considerably different. It handled better and controled itself over small bumps better than ever. It felt more like a modern car with the independent suspension and shock absorbers that had superior engineering to that found on 1948 Fords. The larger sway bar and modern shocks combined with disc brakes and a dual diaphram 9" booster and dual master cylinder from a Corvette made stopping and steering much like a current vehicle. We were not finished with modifications. We were finished with this particular visit. More was to be done later.

On a second episode several months later we finished the disc brake job and made it a four wheel disc vehicle which already had the Corvette master cylinder and booster to give us a head start with four wheel discs. (on the previous mods we included a bias control valve to make the front disc/rear drums behave) During this visit we were attempting to relieve the vehicle of the high rpm it was forced to develop when running at 70 mph on the freeway. As everyone knows, 70 mph barely keeps your from being run over by the normal traffic.

The owner wanted to be able to cruise without running WOT all the time. We selected a Currie 9 inch Ford differential and equipped it with disc brakes that complemented the front discs in rotor size and cylinder diameter. We choose a 4.11 ratio because we were, in addition to the differential, planning to install a Gear Vendors overdrive unit to the back of the stock Ford three speed trans. This was the first Gear Vendors unit to attach to the back of a 1948 Ford three speed. It took two passes to get the proper components in the Gear Vendors unit so that it would fit the 1948 Ford unit but the second attempt mated perfectly with old Ford trans. To compliment the differential change and overdrive addition we moved the pedals from the floor and constructed swinging pedal with a hydraulic clutch. All the necessary bracketry was fabricated because at the time we did this reconstruction no ready made brackets could be found. We made a slight change to the hydraulic ratio between the clutch slave and the clutch master about a year later. That made the clutch a bit easier to press. However, it has operated quite well for a year. It just took a very large left leg to press the pedal. All is well now. The stopping power of the four wheel discs with large rotors and larger wheels to accept the rotors made stopping incredible. The function of the dual diaphram booster was such that we have used it many times with various drum to discs conversions. The 9 inch dual diaphram booster with the Corvette master is a good combination. The booster gives the sensation of normal light braking when first applied. There is no panic. There is no sudden lock up. It just feels quite nice. If the braking event evolves into a panic and more pressure is applied the wheels begin to slow in a very controlled manner. If you go from a mild stop to a panic stop you can progress from tires that are mildly protesting to four wheels that are fully locked if you choose to do so. Or, you can ease off the fully locked mode and return to an aggressive stop without sliding the tires. The tires are under complete control at all times. A good driver can keep the tires on the ragged edge of locking up easily. The brakes on this vehicle are now completely at the mercy of the stickiness of the tires. This is all achieved with mild pedal pressure.

We were still unfinished. When the vehicle returned a few months later we removed the engine and sent it out to a famous rebuilder for a rebuild and a few internal modifications that we requested to give it more power and to resolve some oil leaks. The engine was away for about three months. During the time the engine was away we rebuilt the carburetors and rejetted them. When the engine returned, were ready to go. For the first time, everything was new in the running gear. We were excited to drive it and after a few adjustments, the engine was doing well in it's freshly detailed compartment. The absence of the engine allowed us to complete all the detailing under the hood. The change in engine power made the cost of the sublet rebuild seem less expensive.

This car was not fully finished. A few months passed and the owner and I had a nice conversation about power steering. The owner is a big guy. He's a former USC football player. Well, he and a few of his former ball player buddies chose to cruise around in the Woody one week end. Afterwards, he told me that five or six footbal players in that Woody made it very hard to steer. So, we set out to change the steering over to power steering. We already had a rack and pinion unit in the vehicle. So, all we needed there was to swap in a comparable power steering rack in the place of the manual one. That was simple. Then came the challenge of how to and where to mount a power steering pump and belt to drive it. I had been wanting to do an electric power steering system. On most vehicles it is far more simple to use off the shelf products to change over a manual steering to power steering since most every manufacturer has offered power steering as an option. Or, the engine in question is a late model transplant that came from the manufacturer with power steering. In 1948 Ford offered no power steering on this Woody. So, I selected the necessary new electric pump and related parts to install electric power steering on this vehicle. Long story short, it worked perfect. Even the jetting that determines whether there is too much or too little assist was perfect on the first try. We used wiring that was beyond the needs of the pump. We protected the circuit with a self resetting relay that protects the circuit to 90 amps. I was planning on 60 amps drain at full load with the steering locked in either position. The drain at full lock was only 40 amps. It was well under the load I expected. With the engine off and only the ignition on, the wheel can be turned lock to lock with one finger and the load on the electrical circuit is about 5 amps. The sound from the pump is barely noticable under those conditions with the engine off. When on the road, the feed back from the road resistance is exactly as one would expect. It is very similar to a modern car. There is ample resistance to give the driver the feel of the road. However, in those places where one normally needed to use both arms it can be accomplished with one hand easily. The system feels great.

During the same visit, we removed all the windows including front and rear glass. All were replaced. Those on the side and the rear were replaced with tinted glass (tint embedded) for an overall improvement in the appearance and a cooler temperature inside.

This vehicle has turned into a great appearing and great running vehicle that is safe. That statement fits our motto for work at the Tune Up Shop. Make it safe and reliable.


We welcome any questions.