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Old 04-04-2003, 09:15 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 35
Week off, $2,500 and lessons learned!!! (long!

Guys, I wanted to share with you what I have done to my 450SL over this past week while I was off. I consider myself an average DIYer and over the past 20 years have restored numerous early model Mustangs and Corvettes and have leaned a lot from working on them. Bottom line is that if I can do all of these things, you can too!!! Here is what I did and some of the lessons learned along the way!
My father has owned this Silver with blue interior 1977 450 SL since new and has truly "babbied" it over the years with only 107,000 miles on it now. Over the past couple of years we have redone a few things but not much has been required. We re-did the heads on it(seals leaked), replaced the fuel distributor and last year rebuilt and covered the seats, and that's really about all we've done to it. It is truly an A+ car!
He finally decided to go ahead and give it to me (after years of bugging him) a couple of months ago and we decide that I would replace a lot of items that probably needed it. I bought new bilstein shocks, steel brake lines, upper control arms, lower ball joints, carpeting, all new steering components, sub- frame bushings, motor and trans mounts, flex discs with new center bearing and differentail support bushing. Spent about $2000... Lots of stuff but I since I was going to be under there and had his help, I wanted to get it all done at once.
I started out by raising the car and placing it on 4 jackstands, as high as I could get it. I next took off the wheels and took off the all of the shocks. I then took off the front sway bar.. very easy and made it easier to get at the front suspension!
Now the fun part!!! (One side at a time!) Lossened the nuts on the ball joints and used a pickel fork to actually seperate them off of the control arms (but still attached by the nuts). With the shock absorber out of the spring, I took a 6 foot long nylon web (12,500 lbs tensil strength) and ran it through about 4 coils of the spring and around the upper control arm. I tied it off while leaving a little slack in there. This was my SAFETY insurance so the spring would not get away and hurt one of us in case my plan didn't work!!! I placed my large floor jack under the bottom control arm and raised the arm up enough to actually take off the nut for the lower ball joint and the 2 bolts that hold the lower arm to the sub-frame. I next SLOWLY lowered the jack all the way down and the spring just released tension and I was able to just pull it out!!! No spring removal tool required!!!! Moved to the other side and repeated the process. I then disconnected the rest of the steering (drag link, steering damper, tie rods,etc).
This left the upper control arms attached to the sub-frame. I took my jack and from the front of the car, slightly raised the engine (placed under the front of the oil pan). Next trick was to take off the 4 large nuts that hold the sub-frame up and then loosen the engine mounting brackets. This was really pretty easy and straight forward! The only thing holding the engine up at this point is the floor jack!
I took my control arms down to the machine shop and for $50 they replaced the lower ball joints and replaced the bushings in both the upper and lower control arms. With that done, I placed the upper arms back onto the sub-frame and with new sub-frame bushings I bolted the sub-frame back up to the main frame of the car. I next lowered the engine back onto the sub-frame with the new engine mounts installed. All of this is fairly straight forward and easy!
I next attached the lower control arms to the sub-frame. Now the really tricky part!!! I attached the upper arm to the spindle and left it "hanging" there. I put the spring into it's perch and ran the safety strap back through several of the coils and onto the upper arm for security. I placed the jack back under the end of the lower arm and slowly raised the lower arm up into the spindle and ran the nut finger tight on the ball joint "bolt". This really worked out pretty well...I was surprised!!! I removed the jack and tightened the nuts on bothe the upper and lower to spec.
I bolted the new steering components up and replaced the shocks, sway bar and steel brake lines. All done up front!!!
I next focused on replacing the Trans mount, flex discs and center bearing. There is a protective cover that has about 14-16 small bolts that must be taken off to get at the front disc. Very easy but there are a lot of them! Lower the exhaust by taking off the 4 rubber hangers that hold it up. This will give you enough room to do what you have to do. I then unbolted the front disc (8 bolts), the 2 bolts that hold the center bearing and support bracket and the rear disc. I then swapped out the disc for the new ones and replaced the center bracket and bearing. Once again, all pretty easy and straight forward.
I placed the jack under the trans pan and slightly raised it so that I could replace the trans rubber mounting support. Very easy! Took the jack to the rear differential, raised it a little also and un-did the 4 bolts that hold the mount in place and simply replaced it too.
I then bled all of the brakes with new brake fluid (used my new power bleeder!, Fantastic little thing!!)
All Done!! Drove to the alignment shop and had the alignment done! Drove and rode like a dream!!!
Lessons Learned.... First think safety!! The spring was the thing that was truly a concern. The nylon webbing worked very well! It also is very helpfull to have somebody else there to do this with you! You will do a lot of "up and down" just getting the right sockets, wrenchs etc. while you are under the car. It's easier on the old body when someone is there to "fetch" for you!!! (Thanks Dad!!!)
All of the bushings needed to be replaced!!! After 25 years they were all deteriorated significantly and certainly effected the overall "feel" of how the car rode and handled. Bilstein shocks are the only way to go!!! Difference in the before and after ride was incredible!
All of this took about 4 days of work. No special tools and can be done by anyone! Like I said..If I can do this, you can do it too!!!!!!!!!!
I'm sure that I left out some things and If you have any questions, just ask. Hopefully I can answer them!!!

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Old 04-04-2003, 02:18 PM
4NDELIT's Avatar
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Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 887
Re: Week off, $2,500 and lessons learned!!! (long!

Originally posted by Mike T
Bilstein shocks are the only way to go!!! Difference in the before and after ride was incredible!
I know exactly what you mean... they're great.

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