PROJECT W-31 DONE
Part 3: Rebuilding the chassis
In case you are seeing our Olds project car for the first time, here’s a brief introduction. This 1970 Cutlass W-31 has been owned by Oldsmobile expert Stephen Minore since 1993. He showed it for a brief time back then, drag raced it, then decided to return it to stock form in the late 1990s. But circumstances worked against the project (life happened, as we so often say) and the car sat, partially disassembled, for the better part of two decades.
In 2017, Minore worked with partners Ken Garner and Allan Steinbock of Garner Customs and Restorations in Bradenton, Florida, on the restoration of what became an award-winning 1972 W-30. During that project, Garner and Steinbock offered to help Minore finish his W-31, and we were invited to tag along. We introduced the car to readers in our Oct. 2018 issue, and the tech stories kicked off in our Nov. 2018 issue with the restoration of the rearend. For this installment we will go through some of the steps taken to restore the frame and suspension components.
The process starts with the separation of the car’s body from the frame, and the removal of all the components bolted to the frame, including the upper and lower control arms, front and rear suspension parts, steering box, fuel and brake lines (and their related clips), and so on. Minore’s longtime friend Thomas McClosky was tasked with performing the frame separation and removing all items from it. Then the W-31 went to Cheshire, Connecticut, to another of Minore’s contacts, Walter Damm, who sandblasted and painted the frame. The frame then sat for a couple of years in Damm’s garage until the Garner crew gathered up the car and all the parts in September 2017.
More sandblasting and painting of the upper and lower control arms was done in Florida. The W-31 was treated to new upper and lower ball joints, control-arm bushings, inner and outer tie rod ends, sleeves, a center link, and coil springs. One part that Minore has been holding onto for his car is an original, unworn, 1970 idler arm assembly, as he believes most of the reproduction ones look a lot different.
He also went to Ground Up Restorations, located in his backyard in Naugatuck, Connecticut, for some of the front-end components. As you might guess from its web address, SS396.com, Ground Up offers a vast supply of items suited for the Bowtie crowd, but Minore uses the company regularly for parts that are common to most of the A-Body cars from GM’s divisions. For instance, most inner tie rod ends are produced with the grease fitting facing towards the frame, which could present an interference problem. Ground Up offers a correct, inward-oriented grease fitting location on the inner tie rod end that duplicates a stock inner tie rod.
Assembling the front-end components can be tricky, so the boys at Garner Customs worked together to insure their own safety as well as the protection of the restored parts during reassembly.
“The process starts with the separation of the car’s body from the frame”