As it turns out, removing the rear springs to replace the bushings was more intuitive than I thought. Following the manual and some great guidance from a VTCI member, it was straightforward—if sometimes heavy—work.
I ran a die down each leg of the U-bolts to chase and clean up the threads, which were pretty beat up after years of road debris. I also tapped out two of the nuts, which were damaged when I unscrewed them. I’m told that wasn’t such a great idea, as they are meant to work like pinch nuts, locking in place. I’ll check the torque on them after a few hundred miles, just to make sure replacements aren’t in order.
It’s hard to say for sure, but wear marks on top of the axle lead me to believe that the clunking noise was coming from the U-bolts walking around the axle over bumpy stretches (the rubber insulators having degraded and shrunk so badly.) If the new bushings don’t quiet things down, the next step would be to replace the springs and mounting pads. For the moment, though, except for replacing lock washers, I reused all the non-rubber parts. Despite some rust and corrosion, everything still appeared sound, and the ride height is ok.
I don’t yet know how the new bushings feel because the new fuel pump is not yet installed. I discovered that with the car up on jacks, tires hanging, the anti-sway bar in front interferes with its removal. (Having the car up in the air did make an oil change super easy, though). The pump came right out when the bird landed. With luck, I’ll have everything buttoned up in a day or two.
I took advantage of a lazy Sunday afternoon to finally crawl under the back end of the ‘Bird and attack the leaf springs. I’d had penetrating oil on the shackles and pivots for about a week, but it’s hard to say if that helped or not. In any case, I was able to move the bolts on the shackles with some effort using a breaker bar. (I tried an air-powered impact wrench, but it didn’t have enough power, sadly.)
The three bolts for the rear bracket—like so many on this car—are awkward to reach, but were not difficult to turn. There are four very large bolts holding the bracket at the front, and they gave me a bit of a scare—I thought I felt the tell-tale pop of a caged nut breaking free on a couple. (Always a disaster!) That was not the case, fortunately. With the last front bolt, the spring came off gracelessly, in a shower of rust and dirt.
Disassembly of the spring was pretty straightforward after a glance at the drawing in the manual.
I had ordered new bushings for this project well over a year ago (maybe two, even…) and it was quickly clear that I got the wrong type for the front eyelet and the bottom of the rear bracket. These are now on order. Unless there is a surprise waiting on the other side, I should be able to get both springs done in less than a weekend.
Before I can test drive it, though, I’ll need to swap out the fuel pump (the new pump is already on my bench) and reinstall the spacer under the carb. Hopefully, I can carve out an hour or two for that sometime this week.