Daytona struts work!
 
This entry is going to be one some people may want to bookmark. It’s also one I may eventually turn into a bit of a how-to and put on the front of this website. I have never seen the information I gained last night documented anywhere on the net before. It was flat out a case of I had to buy the parts and try it myself.
What’s the big deal? Well, L bodies (Charger, Turismo, Horizon and Omni) are kind of unique compared to just about all the other TD’s. Daytona’s, Shadows, Lebaron’s, every other K car derivitive uses the same struts as each other, same knuckles with some variations year to year. The poor L body got unique parts it’s whole life for no damn reason.
Why not stick with L body struts? A couple reasons. First is I want to get away from the L body knuckles. For some reason, I cannot get wheel bearings to last in them, they come loose from the hub all the time. BRAND NEW bearings in my old knuckle are so loose I can wiggle them by hand. The knuckles seem to have missed the heat treating process at the factory. Granted, I could find a good set at the junkyard (good luck!) and have them cryo treated before installing new bearings. Or Not... So Omni knuckles are about .050” thinner where they slide into the strut. You might think, just machine the standard knuckles to be thinner and fit into the Omni struts. WHY?? What if, somehow, I damaged a knuckle, do I want to take the replacement to the machine shop before I can use it? Not to mention that’s not the only difference in that part of the knuckle. The knuckle is also thicker on the back side, uses the next size up bolts. Several problems with that route. Ok. Enough with that, one other reason why I want to run other knuckles. I happen to have a set of ’89 Daytona Shelby knuckles/brakes. These are the huge 11.25” rotors. When I upgraded my ’88 Daytona Pacifica to these brakes, I just about launched myself through the windshield the first time I stepped on the brakes. Shave 1000lbs off the car and imagine how well these will work! I can’t just use these brakes on a standard knuckle either, the caliper bracket is part of the knuckle, rather than removable as they were just about every other year.
How do you do it? The key here is to use the Omni strut mount. Daytona (standard) strut mounts are bigger around, and use 3 bolts rather than 2. I’m not sure if you’d even be able to get Daytona strut mounts up inside the strut tower/through the hole in the top. I don’t have any handy to try, and I see no reason to try to drill new holes for the extra bolt.
Daytona struts work
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Here’s a small problem with using the Omni strut mount. On the left is the top of the Omni strut. On the right is the Daytona strut. I have the pictures setup to get the scale of the two as close to the same as my poor photography skills will allow (read: lazy skills). There is an extra half inch between the threads and the mount perch. You simply need to come up with a 1/2” spacer to take up this extra space. I don’t have pictures of the spacer I used, use your imagination and see what you can find around the garage. I put the spacer after the hat that goes on top of the spring. So it goes hat, spacer, collett (little piece of metal that goes inside the strut mount), strut mount, cup (black cup shaped thing that you see in the engine bay) and finally the nut.
Oh yeah, the thread pitch/size and all that is identical between the two models of struts. That was another part I was not sure about when I ordered the new struts.
You may have noticed in the first picture, the spring perch on the Daytona strut is about an inch higher than the Omni one. Well I wanted to lower the car some anyways. I also wanted to be able to assemble the struts without a spring compressor. So I grabbed the dremel with some cutoff discs.
I chose to remove 2 full coils from each side. I think it’s really important to keep track of which coil goes to which side, as the passenger side one was FAR easier to compress than the driver’s side. And yes, I did say compress. I got the springs on and all the parts in place and the shaft of the strut was just below the surface of the strut mount. So I stood on top of the whole contraption to get the spring to compress some while I put the nut on a couple threads by hand. On the driver’s side this involved 3 people, one to push down on me, while a third put the nut on. The passenger side was just a two person deal. (Hard to keep my balance and put that nut on..)
On a side note, I thought my struts were just fine. Well the new struts stay fully extended when you’re not pushing down on the rod. My old struts not only don’t do that, they sink a little after you pull them up by hand. The car should handle better now.
Here they are assembled. You can kind of see the spacer I mentioned earlier. And below is a picture of the strut installed in the car.
And here we have the fruit of my labor. First thing I need to point out is the rusty rotor, it’s just surface rust from being on my Daytona parked out in the weather for about 2 years. The rotors and pads were brand new about 6 months before that. I installed new brake lines because the ones on the Omni had recently started leaking (and destroyed the clearcoat on my rims). The knuckles fit into the ball joint on the control arm and the tie rod end just fine, the sizes are the same on an Omni. I checked that before ordering the struts (because if they didn’t fit, I’d have ordered replacements for them too!).
Enough with tutorial mode.. Back to blogging!
So for the price of a set of struts (I found the pair on Ebay for $55), I’ve upgraded my brakes, converted to 5 lug up front, fixed bad wheel bearings on both sides, and fixed the clearcoat problem on my rims. Yes, I have an identical pair of rims in 5 lug instead of 4, so no more clearcoat problem.
Here’s the axle on the passenger side (half shaft, whatever you want to call it). It turns out I had the engine rocked just a hair too far back. With the strut fully extended (car in the air) the axle was rubbing the top (far inboard edge) of the control arm. Luckily it’s just a matter of adjusting my solid bobble strut. 5 minutes later I have the engine closer to the 13 degrees I’ve been told is the original setting for this engine (eyeball measuring the angles). Now I have a small space between the axle and the engine. The strut virtually never be this fully extended in real life, so I considered leaving the engine where it was. But now I have some wiggle room, and am less likely to hear odd noises from time to time. Not to mention I couldn’t check the engine centering with it bottomed out like that. The engine is perfectly centered already. Whew, since I already bolted up that front mount!
I expect to finish the lions share of the work on this project this weekend. There will be loose ends that I’ll get back to, but as for getting the car on the road, I’ll be doing that this weekend. What’s left? Install the clutch pedal, manual shifter and route their cables. And I need to install and wire up the wideband O2 sensor before I drive it. I’d much rather tune with that than an 8 year old Narrowband sensor. Maybe I’ll be able to post some video of it on the road. The weather here is going to have to really clear up if I’m going to be able to drive the car at all this weekend, I really don’t want to drive it with these mis-matched brakes in the rain (tiny old TBI drums in the back, big racing brakes up front, same old proportioning valve it’s always had..). Not to mention the car itself isn’t watertight in a half dozen places.
Stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted..