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Galaxie Brake Conversion

by Tom Volpone

 

I'll write down from memory on the conversion of power brakes on a 66-68 Galaxie. This is to convert a 7 Litre or power disk brake car with the Kelsey Hayes 4 piston caliper assembly to a 77-79 T-bird front disk brake system. The benefits for doing it are that parts for the TBird system are much easier to obtain and are cost friendly. This conversion is possible on earlier year Galaxies, and those with drum brakes, but a couple of other items are required to convert which would include addition of a proportioning valve and new disk brake master cylinder. If this conversion is considered for those cars, upgrading to a dual circuit brake system would be beneficial, which would require a new dual master cylinder, replumbing the brake lines to separate the front and rear circuits and addition of aforementioned proportioning valve.


Kelsey Hayes Spindle asm

 

In my conversion, I obtained the front spindle assemblies from a 77 Tbird at a local yard. The spindles were in decent shape, and the yard only charged me $40. The yard torched the upper and lower control arms and tie rod ends to extract them from the donor. Other spindles that could be used are from any 77-79 Tbird, Ranchero, Cougar, or LTDII. These all have the 4.5 x 5 bolt pattern for the wheels. Additionally, you'll want to obtain is the actual wheels from the donor, as the center hub on the spindle assemblies are larger than the Galaxie's making the Galaxie wheels unusable. You might want to grab 3 and use the extra as your spare tire. It will bolt right up to the rear axle, though there will be space between the center of the wheel and the hub assembly, but that isn't of any concern when using it temporary in a spare situation. You could also pirate the anti-sway bar from the Tbird, it is 1-1/8 diameter and much more robust that the stock Galaxie bar. It bolts right in, though you'd need new frame mount bushings and mounts. It would make the anti-sway bar links angle backwards which is usable this way but you can also reposition the frame brackets by drilling new holes and moving the J-nuts that hold them in place. I did not extract the master cylinder, brake booster or prop/distribution valve from the donor, as my 7 Litre is already a disk brake car and I desired to retain the original single master cylinder for originality appearance. The methods below detail this conversion.


Proportioning Valve

 

The detail in starting the conversion begins with first lifting up the front of the car and set it on jackstands, preferably under the front torque boxes which will keep them out of the way. Raise the car up a good height, as you will need it to swing the lower control arms all the way down to remove the springs. Remove the front wheels from your Galaxie. Open up the brake bleeder from the caliper and let the small amount of fluid out that will inevitably spill, then take a 3/8 brake wrench and separate the brake hose from the frame mount. A regular 3/8 wrench can work, but it risks rounding out the nut as it only grabs it on two sides, and it may be a tough extraction. Use whatever method, as you won't be reusing this or the brake hose. You can cut the hose if you'd like. Next you'll remove the cotter pin and nut that attaches the outer tie rod end to the spindle. You will most likely need a tie rod separator (see picture below) that will hold the spindle ring while it presses the stud out. You can loan one from Autozone for free (you pay for the tool, but when you return it you get the money back). You'll need to detach the strut rod from the lower control arms. They are attached with two bolts. The nuts are captured under the arm, but sometimes they come loose and you'll need to hold them with a deep socketed wrench to remove. Next remove the bottom of the anti-sway bar links, which connect the anti-sway bar to the lower control arm. It is held in place by a nut at the bottom of the arm. Once the links are separated, you can remove the shock absorbers. There are two nuts at the bottom and one nut at the top. This may be a challenge depending on how long they have been in your car. The bottom bolts may break, and the top one can be a test as the shock will want to rotate as you turn the nuts. After you get them out you'll be separating the lower ball joint. This will free the spring, so here is where caution is to be practiced. The spring is loaded with energy and can be a projectile if allowed to separate freely. To safely do this, first run a heavy chain through the center of the spring and make a generous loop around through the upper and lower control arms. This will be the safety net that keeps the spring from launching. The chain should be secured on both ends together, and be generous in length, the idea is to contain the spring during separation of the control arm from the spindle. Next you'll take a pickle fork, which is a two pronged fork tool that has ramped teeth which are placed on either side of the ball joint stud. You'll have to wedge it under the grease boot and position it so that when it is hammered into place it will straddle the ball joint stud. Then, you'll get to hammer on the end of the fork until the joint separates. You might have to exert some forceful blows to get the separation. This will happen in a sudden manner, almost violent which is why you need that safety chain in place. Now you can remove the chain and the control arm will swing down out of the way and drop the spring out. You might have to lift up on the control arm with your floor jack to separate and remove the chain if you made your chain loop too small and it is bound in place. You can remove the upper ball joint nut. If you wish to replace your ball joints, you can make it easier by grinding off the three rivets on the top of the control arm that hold it in place and allow the spindle with joint to separate from the upper control arm. I recommend this method, due both because a 40 year old car could use new ball joints most likely, and the method to separate the upper ball joint is difficult. When I removed my assembly, I took the upper control arm off of the chassis, then had to make a tool using a spacer and long bolts to press the old ball joint out of the spindle. If you grind off the three rivets and replace with a new ball joint, you won't have to extract it from the old spindle. The spindle assembly is heavy, so take care as it comes apart. You could have removed the caliper and rotor if you wanted and make this lighter to remove.

Upper Ball Joint Replacement

 

 

 

 

Pickle Fork

 

 

 

Tie Rod Separator

 

 

 

I will not get into refurbishing the spindle assemblies from the Tbird here. It is assumed that you have cleaned them up, made any necessary refurbishing such as new bearings, rotor replacement or turning, new pads, etc. I'm also assuming you have installed your new ball joints and control arm bushings if you chose to do so.

It is best to install the spindle by itself, meaning you don't have the caliper or rotor attached. This means you don't have to muscle up the entire assembly to position the upper ball joint to the upper spindle eyelet. Position the upper ball joint stud into the eyelet and start the castle nut. Torque the nut to 60 - 90 lbs-feet and install the cotter pin. You are ready to install the spring. There are a couple ways to safely install the spring. The spring is very thick and has a lot of energy when compressed. Still assuming that your engine is in the car, you can use the weight of the car to help compress the spring. If you are doing a restoration and you don't have your engine/vehicle assembled you will have to compress the spring externally before installing it. You can do this by taking the spring to a place that compresses and bands them, or getting an inner-jaw spring compressor and compressing it with that. Spring compressors work, but since the spring is so heavy duty you'll tax it good, most likely needing to use an impact gun to get it compressed enough to fit in (even though the instructions say not to use an impact gun). I did it this way, and it destroyed the spring compressor as it galled the threads on it (I did my work on a bare chassis). Keep in mind that if you have it shrunk down in a spring compressor there's enough energy there to fire a cannonball some impressive distance, so be careful and use a good robust compressor. The method I will continue with is as if your car is all in one piece with the engine installed.

The control arm mounting perches are indexed so that the spring will seat flush in the pockets. By this I mean there are provisions on the upper and lower control arms to position the ends of the springs so that they sit flush when installed. The springs are not flat on the ends. When you lift the spring in place you will have to find the correct orientation so that the spring end is positioned in the pocket index. You will have to lift the spring and locate it in the upper pocket, then lift up the lower control arm and position it so that the spring will seat in the pocket when it is compressed. The spring will be straight, but the bottom arm will not line up flush with it due to the angle of the arm. Place your floor jack under the arm such that you will have access to the lower ball joint, and use it to hold the arm in position while you make sure your spring is aligned properly. For safety, you can thread your chain back through the spring and arms and tie the chain ends together leaving a generous loop. Now, you will lift up the lower control arm with the floor jack. The arm will swing up into place. Keep an eye on your spring end alignment, the spring will compress as you lift. Align the lower ball joint stud into the spindle as it gets close and press it up into place, then thread the castle nut on. Torque the nut to xx lb-feet and install the cotter pin. You can lower the floor jack and pull it out of your way, and remove the chain.

Position the outer tie rod in place. The eyelet at the bottom of the new spindle is about 1/8 inch thicker than the Galaxie's original spindle. This will result in the inability to align the cotter pin through the castle nut, as the nut will not be able to be tightened far enough due to the spindle thickness. There are two ways to address this: 1. shave the bottom of the castle nut down. 2. deepen the slot on the castle nut that will be aligned to the cotter pin hole. You also could have machined the spindle mount thinner. What I did was after torquing the castle nut to factory specs, I used a file to lengthen the slot aligning to the cotter pin hole which allowed then the insertion of the pin. Once you have selected your method, install the cotter pin after torquing the castle nut to 35-47 lb-feet. Your spindle is now in place.

Now you'll reattach all the peripheral components that you took apart, including shocks (20-28 lb-feet upper, 8-12 lb-feet lower), strut rods (70 lb-feet), sway bar links (5-10 lb-feet). You can install the rotor, and position the caliper in place and tighten. Check the brake spindle to backing plate bolt torque as well, which should be 80-106 lb-feet.

You will install the hoses to the caliper and hardline. I used the stock TBird hose. The caliper will position the hose in an awkward looking manner. It will work this way, the alternative is to reposition the front hardlines and have them exit in a different place. This would most likely require new front hardlines I chose to keep the hardlines as they were.

You can now bleed your brakes. Install your front wheels and you're done. You'll note that the 7Litre style wheels may have trouble fitting over the larger hub covers. You can take a dremel to the inside lip of the wheel cover center cap. It requires very little grinding to acquire the necessary spacing. With a little care the grinding is unnoticeable. It is not often that people inspect the inside of your wheelcovers at a show. (This is a difficult decision if you are putting NOS wheelcovers on. User discretion is all I can say). Also you'll notice that the air valve on the wheel may not align with the corresponding hole in the wheelcover. You will need to reposition the hole in the wheel for the air valve by 45° so that it will allow the lug holes in the wheelcover to line up with the wheel. When you have the front end aligned, use the 77 Tbird specs.

 
 
 
 
 
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