Building Up the Rolling Chassis

This page takes the restored bare chassis back to the point at which the body tub can be replaced


Section A : The Basics (Waxoyling, Brake Lines, Fuel lines etc.)
Section B : Front Suspension 
Section C : Differential + Rear Anti-roll bar
Section D : Rear Suspension (including Driveshafts)
Section E : Back Onto The Wheels  
Section F : Rear Brakes 
Section G : Fuel Tank & Sender Unit  
Section H : Finishing Off the Rolling Chassis  

A. - The Basics. 


These items are covered in this section : 


Introduction This was the most rewarding part of the project so far. For not too much effort the chassis went from being a grey fabrication sat on its stands to being a recognisable rolling chassis capable of being rolled out of the garage into the sunlight for the first time in 10 months. 

All the fasteners I used were new and I coated them in copper grease. The bolts for the rear arms and the shock absorbers are imperial sizes - see the fastener list (this is to be added sometime in April/May 2004).

Read on to see what I did....

Holes & Threads To clear out the paint and blasting grit from the I threaded and clearance holes and in the chassis I re-tapped the threaded holes and any of the captive nuts that I would be using to assemble the rolling chassis. If I was in any doubt of the thread pitch I double checked the pitch with the bolts and setscrews taken out, just in case. The clearance holes were cleaned out with a small rat-tailed file.


Waxoyling With the chassis now having a nice paint job on the outside I need to re-apply a protective coating to the inside of the chassis box sections and hollow assemblies. I injected 'Waxoyl' into the chassis box and tube sections.

Fortunately Reliant had the sense to include 10-12mm holes in various locations on the chassis, through which the black Waxoyl could be injected. I say black, as I chose to use 5 litres of black Waxoyl for the following reasons:

  • It would show me how well it was covering when it runs out of the seams, etc
  • It seemed more sprayable than the 5L of clear Waxoyl I had.

Using an under-body spray gun with a long extension tube bought from Machine Mart, I went over all the chassis injecting wax into all the cavities. The centre box sections do need to be done again as the tube was not quite long enough to reach the ends.

After I had completed the Waxoyling I replaced the 10 or so rubber chassis bungs back into their holes.

Brake Lines The next stage was to run the brake lines along the chassis as these would not be easy to get at after all the components had been fitted. I started with bolting the distribution blocks in place, referring to the photographs I had taken during the strip-down. With the blocks in place I was able to produce replica brake pipes using the originals as patterns.

Producing new pipes was fairly straight forward, I chose to use copper/nickel brake pipes as these are stronger than copper-only pipes, but are slightly harder to form the flares on. To form the flares I used a flaring tool from Machine Mart which produced both the single and double flares needed. The only problem I had was that now and again the brake pipe slipped through the pipe-vice - the key here was to ensure the pipe was held securely in the vice. I only forgot once to place the pipe flare nut onto the pipe before flaring the end. I used new clips to hold the pipes to the chassis, with the exception of the special clips which run inside the centre tunnel, these I cleaned and re-used. All of the brake fittings on the SS1 are metric and, together with the roll of tubing, were bought from  Vehicle Wiring Products.

Front Brake pipework

Rear Brake Pipework

To form neat bends in the pipes I also bought a pipe-bender, from Vehicle Wiring Products, this worked very well, even very tight bends could be easily formed using the static small rollers on the tool.

View of the Front Brake Flexibles

Another view of the Brake Flexibles

For the pipes that needed to be ran up to the ends of the flexible brake pipes the flexibles were assembled into the mounting lugs temporarily. The front flexibles especially as these need to be fully assembled into the callipers before the chassis end is tightened up.


Fuel Pipes

As mentioned in the strip-down section, I replaced the fuel lines with single runs of pipes instead of the original rubber - plastic - rubber. These new runs were clipped to the chasses using rubber coated P-clips, held in place with pop rivets and stainless button-headed cap screws.

Rear end of Fuel Pipes ready to connect to the tank

At each end plenty of allowance was made to connect to the fuel tank and carburettor (3M of pipe is sufficient length). The pipes now dip under the front diff-mount, as they are of a larger diameter, and it would have been difficult to pass them through the top of the diff-mount. I also ensured the pipes would not chafe against any edges on the chassis.


Handbrake Cable

Whilst access to the underside of the chassis and the rear suspension area was clear I put the handbrake cable assembly back on. The pulley and adjustable connecting link had been cleaned up so the cable was passed through the bracket in the chassis and these parts assembled onto the cable.

The rear of the cables was attached to the chassis using the handbrake cable clips.


Engine Mounts

After cleaning them up and spraying them black another small job completed here was to screw in the engine mounts.

Engine Mounting Rubber



B. - Front Suspension.  


These items are covered in this section : 
Upper & Lower Wishbones

The assembly of the front suspension gave quick results and really brought the chassis on. I started with the lower wishbones, to ease assembly I cleaned out the paint from the holes and smeared Armourall onto the inside faces of the wishbone bush mounts. This allowed the arms to be easily moved around to line up the bolts. When tapping the bolts through I ensured the bushes were lined up with the holes in the chassis using prybars and the old bolts. The new bolts were left loose ready to be fully tightened when the full weight of the car is on the suspension.

Next I put the upper wishbone arm on, again ensuring the bolt was well lubricated with copper grease. This part straight forward, but I was careful to put the large spacing washers back exactly where they came from as they control the suspension geometry. Early and late cars do differ.

Lower Wishbone ready to fit

Lower Wishbone and Bump Stop Rubber

Once the top arm was in place I bolted the top ball joint in and also pushed the bottom ball joint into the lower wishbone. Both suitable coated with copper grease purchased from Halfords

One of things that could of easily been overlooked here and that would of caused great embarrassment would of been not to fit the bump stops! - Fortunately I did remember to clean them up and fit them. These I cleaned up and coated with Armourall to help protect them and so they would pop in more easily.


Vertical Links & Springs

The coilspring was located in position complete with its top insulation pad. I carefully located the spring to align with the lower wishbone and managed to pop it into its final position. It was under a small amount of compression so worked quickly to complete the next part.

Upper and Lower wishbones on

I fitted the vertical link to the lower ball joint, but only put the nut on a couple of turns. To raise the lower wishbone and vertical link up enough to allow the top ball joint to be bolted in place I used a hydraulic jack with a short length of 2" x 2" timber, suitably notched as the end to stop it slipping off. The this took 2 people to complete, one person to work the jack whilst the other lined up the vertical link with the top ball joint and when the spring had been compressed enough, screwed the ball joint nut into place, holding the whole assembly into its final position. The chassis just started to come off the ground as the nut could be put on so I sat on it, allowing the nut to be put on.

Vertical Link

Vertical Link with the Disc Dirt Sheild bolted on

Partially Completed Front Suspension

Before releasing the jack I protected the chassis with some squares of old carpet as my up-rated top wishbone arms foul the top spring mount and would have damaged the paint. When the car is back on its wheels with the weight of the body and engine in place I will add some knock-on edging onto the wishbone to protect the paint when the car is jacked up in the future.

Completed Front Suspension

The upper and lower ball joint nuts were nipped up. All of the fasteners were left to be fully tightened later when the full weight is on them.

Completed Front Suspension


Steering Rack

The steering rack was simple to bolt to the chassis, then I replaced the rack bellows before putting the track rod ends in place. The track rod ball joints were pushed home into the arms on the vertical links and the nuts screwed home.


Anti-Roll Bar The anti-roll bar is another simple part to attach. With new anti-roll bar rubbers and painted brackets it was bolted to the chassis, making sure the anti-roll bar arms went over the track rod arms and that the ARB was was the correct way up.

Anti-Roll Bars and brackets

ARB, Steering and Handbrake brackets

Assembling up the new anti-roll bar links was only partially completed as the weight needs to be on the car to allow pressure to be placed on the anti-roll bar allowing the last rubber to be put in place. I tied the remaining bushes to the anti-roll bar as to not forget them later.

Front Hubs & Discs Whilst working on the front suspension the front disks were assembled to the hubs, the wheel bearings having been previously pressed home into the hubs and secured in place with new circlips. The disc to hub cap-head screws were replaced for new ones and Locktited into place. A smear of copper grease was added to the mating faces and the cap-heads torqued up.

Front Hub and Disc

Front Hub and Disc

Fitting the hubs was relatively easy. The stub axle, which had already been cleaned and oiled, was coated in copper grease and the hubs were slipped on. The hubs were then knocked onto the axle with a pipe of a suitable size, just enough to allow the hub nut to be screwed in place. This was then tightened further which pulled the hub further onto the axle. When it was on sufficiently enough to take the thick hub nut washer this was added on as well, and the nut re-tightened.

The hub nuts were tightened using a long breaker bar, but these will need fully tightening when the car is nearing completion.

At this point I fitted the new brake callipers using some M10 x 50 x 1.00p bolts. These needed to be cut down in length to 38mm which produced bolts which exactly matched the original Reliant versions. I painted the ends to protect them. I used spring washers and the next grade up of plain washer which are called Form A, these being a lot thicker and more substantial than standard washers. Theses bolts were then torqued tightened.

New Brake calliper



C. - Differential & Anti-Roll Bar.  


These items are covered in this section : 
Driveshaft Seals Moving to the rear of the car the next item to be tackled was the differential and its mounting cradle. Before any work commenced I de-greased the differential assembly (after blanking the driveshaft holes up) and then I pulled out the old oil seals, replacing them with new Ford ones (FINIS Code 6107894).

The new seals were then driven into place having cleaned up the bores with fine emery paper. The seals need to be driven in square to prevent them leaking and to aid this I coated them with some of the differential oil.

Talking of differential oil the Sierra/Granada differential units are "oiled for life" types and only require topping up at service. I took the opportunity whilst the unit was out of the car to drain out and renew all the oil. I drained out the old oil through the filler hole. On replacement of the filler plug I tied a label to it, a reminder for me to fill it up with oil before driving the car!

With a clean differential and new seals installed the assembly was mounted into its cradle using 4 new setscrews at the front & back. The long top bolt was cleaned up, given a coat of black spray paint, greased and fitted.


Differential to  Cradle The differential cradle was checked over and the holes where the bolts were to pass through were cleaned out with a file.

Differential Cradle

It was then ready to receive the diff unit which was straight forward to complete.


Mounting the Differential

All the holes where the differential mounting rubber fit to the chassis were cleaned out with a rat-tailed file to allow the bolts to fit easily.

The 3 rubber mounting bushes needed to go in next, these are straightforward enough to install, each having 2 M8 setscrews holding them to the chassis. The two rear rubbers went on top of the chassis and the front one was fitted from below. My rubbers were in good condition and their flanges only needed a quick coat of matt black paint to tidy them up. All of the setscrews holding the rubber in were fully tightened at this point.

During the strip down I had noted were the large and small washers had been fitted on the differential rubbers, allowing me to correctly replace them on re-assembly.

To mount the differential/cradle into the car I stood the whole assembly on my tool chest which gave me enough height to fit the 3 main M12 mounting bolts, pushing them up from the cradle and through the rubbers, with the nuts fitted to the top side of the chassis.

I left the tightening of these 3 bolts until the car was back on its wheels, something that was not now too far away!



D. - Rear Suspension (including Driveshafts)  


These items are covered in this section :


Preparation Working at the back of the car I began to install the rear suspension. This would then mean the car could be lowered off the turnover stands.

Before installing the rear swinging arms into place on the chassis several jobs needed completing first:

  • The new bearings were pushed into the hubs, with new circlips to secure them in place.
  • All tapped holes and plain holes were cleaned out
  • The rear ARB links were screwed into the arms (see image below)
  • The mating faces of the rear brake plate, swinging arm and rear hub were cleaned off and copper greased
  • The brake plate, hub and swinging arm were assembled (having ensured the LH brake plate was installed into the LH arm!) together using new bolts, they needed torque tightening at this point as they not accessible later

Drop link being installed on the swinging arm

Rear Trailing Arm and Hub

Two other larger bits of work had been done before commencing with the assembly.

The new springs had been fitted to the second hand Spax adjustable dampers and the driveshafts had been cleaned & inspected. The Black & Decker Wizard tool fitted with the wire brush attachment proved to be the best way to clean out the threads and splines of the driveshafts and hubs.

Rear SPAX dampers and springs assembled up and ready to fit

At this stage all was ready to start the installation of the components, having double checked the Anti-Roll Bar links were in and tight (as these cannot be screwed in after the driveshafts are in) I beganů.



The first thing to do was to oil the differential oil seals and the driveshaft splines to help them into position. The driveshafts are different lengths and I had marked them up as they had come off the car, so I was able to install them the correct way round. Once lubricated the LH driveshaft was inserted into the differential and its loose end supported by tying in a horizontal position using suitable twine.

Driveshaft assembly

Rear Swinging Arms

The next item was to fit the rear swinging arms and after smearing Armourall onto the mating faces of the bushes and the chassis location points, to help the arm slide around more easily, I began the installation of the arm.

There are two methods that could of been used; I tried both with equal success:

  • Method 1
    The LH side was accomplished by sliding the swinging arm assembly onto the driveshaft and spinning the hub nut on a couple of turns to hold it on, then the bushes were pushed into the chassis location points. The arm assembly was then supported on wooden blocks, the lining up the bolt holes was then fairly easy to do, but it did involve using ever increasing diameter rods/bolts etc to slowly line the holes up whilst pulling and pushing on the arm. Care was taken when the new bolts were knocked through; I did not want to damage the threads.

    When this was completed the rear coil-over damper shock absorber assembly was bolted to its top mount on the chassis and then the swinging arm raised to locate its bottom mounting point.
  • Method 2
    This was done to install the RH side, and as with method one, the first thing was to install and support the driveshaft. Next the rear coil-over damper shock absorber assembly was bolted to its top mount.

    The rear swinging arm was then slid onto the driveshaft and the nut attached, followed by bolting the arm to the lower mounting bush of the shock absorber. This allowed the weight of the arm to be taken on the shock absorber, this I thought would be easier than supporting the item my self. It was, but it made sliding in and aligning the bushes slightly more difficult due to the restriction of not being able to rotate the arm.

Out of both I would use Method 1 next time, especially if the car was one jackstands.

Rear LH suspension and the Differential

Closer view of rear suspension

For both methods I went for the approach of getting a small bolt/drill/rod into the bolt holes first, then by working in turn on the bushes I pulled and pushed the arms, lining up the holes further and each time increasing the size of the temporary "bolts". Wrapping prybars in cloth stopped the chassis and arms from being damaged.

At this point I nipped up the hub nuts with a 32mm socket and a 2ft breaker bar.


Rear Anti-Roll Bar Now the differential and swinging arms were in I fitted the rear anti-roll bar. To do this I lubricated the bushes with Amourall and bolted them to the chassis using the clamps.

Rear Anti-Roll Bar showing Drop Links and Mounting Brackets

Next the ends of the ARB were hooked onto the droplinks and the M12 nuts nipped up.



E. - Back Onto the wheels  


These items are covered in this section :
Cleaning the wheels

Having completed the front and rear suspension the car could go back onto its wheels! A big occasion.

I needed to clean up the wheels a bit first, and by using a jet washer and some "multi-purpose" cleaner 99% of the brake dust and road grime came off. The wheels had not long been re-furbished before I bought the car, and them came up really well. Sufficiently enough to stop me getting dirty when taking the wheels on and off the car, some I thought would be happening a lot over the next few months!


Dropping onto the wheels

To lower the car back onto its' wheels I enlisted the help of the Wife and the Father-in-Law. By now the chassis was quite heavy and would take two to lift it and one person to pull away the turnover stands.

I put the wheels back on and nipped up the wheel nuts, the rear went down first, followed by the front without any problems.

It was great to see the car back on its wheels at last.



F. - Rear Brakes


These items are covered in this section :

Rear Brake Assemblies

I could have assembled the rear brakes shoes to the backing plates whilst the car was on the stands. But I knew the brake springs would need to be pulled into their slots and thought it would be better to do this part with the car safely on the ground.

Rear Brake backing plate

I jacked up and supported the back end, taking car to use some old carpet to cover the axle stands, protecting the new sills. This then allowed me to re-assemble the brakes.

Earlier in the week I had bought a kit of new springs from Halfords, the Ferodo part number is FBA24, and the kit contains all the springs and shoe retainers needed to complete the job. The first job was to fit the new rear brake cylinders, these were fitted with new rear seals (Ford FINIS number 1484848), these stop the cylinder from being cracked on assembly and only cost 27p each.

Moving on from here the handbrake cable was routed through the swinging arm and pushed through the back plate. I also fitted the plastic plunger assemblies at this point.

The plate with the automatic adjuster cam on it was cleaned, painted and some copper grease was added to its sliding faces to stop any problems from occurring later.

The Haynes Ford Escort manual is excellent in its description on how to re-assemble the shoes, springs, clips etc. Something that took 20 minutes on one side and then only 5 on the second!

Following the instructions ensures that things like "watch the plunger is properly located behind the shoe" etc. are all noted and followed. I don't intend to explain all the stages here, just refer to the Haynes book.

With the brakes completed the drums and wheels were popped back on and the car lowered back down.

Rear Brake Pipes

With the rear suspension and brake cylinder installed I finished off the routing of the flexible brake pipes from the chassis to the swinging arm and made up the two remaining copper brake pipe sections joining the flexibles to the rear cylinders as shown below:

View of the rear brakes and driveshaft

I fitted the new bleed nipples to the rear cylinders at this point as well.

G. - Fuel Tank


These items are covered in this section :
Mounting The Tank

Mounting the tank was an easy job. Two lengths of 50mm x 10mm Closed Cell Neoprene rubber were stuck down onto the chassis were the fuel tanks sits. Next some 3mm Neoprene was fitted to the two fuel tank retaining straps.

The tank was lowered onto the chassis and centralised, the straps were then fitted over the tank and bolted to the chassis. The front bolts were pulled up straight away and the rear ones were tightened up progressively. The rear ones do not pull down onto the chassis and do not need to be over tightened.

Fuel Tank installed onto the chassis


Fuel Sender Unit

The sender unit was fitted back into the tank using a brand new rubber sealing ring as the old one had perished and cracked.


Fuel Pipes

The two fuel pipes were pushed home onto their respective tubs on the sender unit and held in place with the correct fuel pipe clamps:

Fuel Tank Sender Unit


H. -Finishing Touches  


These items are covered in this section :

Odds & Sods

The final things done on the chassis at this stage were:
  • Seam sealing any joints in the fabrication
  • Rubbing down and painting the areas where the chassis had been mounted to turnover frames
  • Cleaning off any extra Waxoyl that was visible on the chassis
  • Tapping and drilling out the remaining holes
Finished Rolling Chassis

Here are some images of the rolling chassis : 

3/4 Front View of finished rolling chassis Front View


Front View Front View

Rear View Rear End and Suspension

Front Armature Inside the engine bayGeneral View of Chassis

This concludes the work to build up the rolling chassis.

The next section starts to put the body and panels back on the car