Here’s the pitfall we encountered. According to Fatman, the body-mounting locations vary even within a year’s production on Packards, Oldsmobiles, and Pontiacs. This particular car’s owner plays an active role in his car’s construction so he took it upon himself to order the parts. He did his due diligence and consulted Fatman’s techs who described how to measure the chassis. Fatman’s people, armed with the measurements, chose the appropriate stub to send.
Call him skeptical but after decades of doing things to old cars Woolery knows to expect the unexpected. Case in point, last year we showed how he installed another manufacturer’s subframe in a ’39 Chevy. Because someone along the line didn’t bother to ask if the car came equipped with IFS or a beam axle (and yes, there is a difference) and because we didn’t know to tell, there was a 50-50 chance the wrong one would arrive. Well, tails we lost. But because early on Woolery plotted all of the chassis and suspension’s locations on the floor he had a roadmap to follow. He lightly modified the crossmember and voilà, it fit.
Well, tails we lost again. Despite the homework the stub came up short—about 3/4-inch too short in fact. But once again rather than point fingers we shrugged it off and made the parts fit. The extra little bit of work has a silver lining, though: regardless of what you install you know to document every component location and to cut parts long and trim them to fit. And to be fair any invasive chassis modification like this benefits from the type of reinforcement Woolery built into this job.
There are some design considerations with this particular model stub. The kit has a pretty wide track. It’s close to the factory track width, which shouldn’t present any problems if using narrow tires on OEM-style wheels; however, wider wheels and tires will require some careful planning.
In a nutshell this kit favors wheels with a considerable amount of positive offset (greater backspace or the distance between the wheel’s backside and its mounting flange). Wheels that have a separate rim and center (most steel wheels and many aluminum ones) can be easily configured to work perfectly. However, wheels with fixed offset (most one-piece cast alloys) usually don’t have much positive offset and may not work so well. Case in point, the 225/60R16 tire we mocked on the car isn’t excessively wide but the zero-offset wheel it mounts on made the tread interfere with the fender opening.
To be fair, a zero-offset wheel would create fit problems with most cars. A wheel with greater positive offset (same width but additional backspace) would move the tires back into the fenders and out of the danger zone. Or, if you’re dead set on running a particular wheel with a zero or negative offset, ask about the narrow control arms that Fatman offers.
All in all the kit works incredibly well. Not including the sheetmetal and drivetrain removal we made the swap and had the car back on the ground within a day (hobbyists with an average tool selection would do well to budget a day for prep, a day for install and suspension assembly, and at least another day for engine mounts and body reassembly). It also reduces an incredibly difficult task to one that most experienced amateurs with welding skills and modest tools can accomplish. Yes, even the solution to the problem we encountered is easy.
And best of all, these stubs bestow cars with early IFS the handling and ride characteristics we’ve come to expect. When properly set up there’s no reason an old car can’t keep up with or even outperform modern traffic.
Thun Field Rod & Custom