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I started doing my control arm reinforcements first because I wanted to get them done and sent out to get chrome plated while I was wrapping the frame. The work that I did to reinforce these control arms was absurd. You can't even begin to imagine the amount of effort and time that is put into doing this kind of work. Hopefully after reading this page, you will understand. Also remember that since I was chrome plating these parts, they needed to be in extra smooth shape, which meant more shaping, molding, and smoothing to make them look good.
Me and Paul rented a nice Plasma cutter to get our 1/4" steel cut. Since we both had a bunch to cut out, we split the cost for it so it wasn't so bad. We were up pretty late cutting steel. MY NEIGHBORS LOVE ME! :)
To start things off, I will show what I started with. Since the Impala had hydraulics put on it at one time, someone had already begun doing some reinforcements to the control arms. However, most of the work was either redone by me because it looked like complete ass or because it wasn't finished properly. This first pic shows the upper A-Arms and lower A-Arms. The uppers were already extended 1" in the middle of the arm by welding a 1" thick chunk of steel in the middle. While this works just fine, lowriding has evolved a bit so that we now extend them at the "ears" or up by where the bushing goes. This looks much cleaner and is arguably easier to reinforce for added strength. In the second pic, you can see the amount of steel that hangs over past the A-Arm that I needed to grind off. The lower arms had a partial 1/4" plate on them already but whoever did the reinforcing left the stock THIN sway bar mounting plate. Not only did this look like ass, but it did not strengthen the arm the way I needed it to for hopping.
Upper A-Arms and Lower A-Arms before:
First thing I did to the lower A-Arms was to remove the stock sway bar plate. it was rather ugly and since I wanted to further strengthen the arm, it had to go.
Now some real work. The problem is that from the factory, there is no deep pocket to hold the spring in place like on a normal A-Arm. You can use a pipe welded on the arm to keep the spring on as it is in the pics below, but it looked rather ugly. Also, I wanted to make a deep pocket to keep the spring in and so that I could fit more spring. More spring is wanted because the car can hop higher with more spring. So, I started by making a cut on the bottom plate that was already in place. It would have been very difficult to grind the welds off of this plate, so I decided to keep it and add more plate. Then, I cut the sides off to make room for my pocket.
Originally, I had planned on using only 1 piece of 1/4" thick C-Channel as my base with a regular cup welded to it. Then, I had planned on wrapping the outside with 3/16". The designed proved to be too weak after I really stared at it for a little while and started bending the C-Channel to form fit the curve on the lower arm. The C-Channel could easily bend inward too much and the outside wrapped 3/16" could easily bend outward. Check out the pics and you can see my initial design flaws.
I ended up keeping the initial piece of C-Channel curved to fit the bottom of the arm, and the strengthening piece that goes under the stock arm and up to the C-Channel (see above final 2 pics). I then added another piece of C-Channel sideways that would NOT bend under force. I made these quick drawings on the PC to see how I planned on making the design work. The red line shows how I cut the C-Channel to shorten the width to fit on the arm better. I also placed the regular cup a little to the outside of the arm by about 2 inches due to the way that the spring sits on these years Impalas. The final pictures show the 2nd piece of C-Channel welded in place.
After getting the base design structure figured out and welded in place, I started welding the 3/16" side pieces to start molding the arm to actually look like an arm. After the side pieces were in place, I cut out a semi circular piece of steel to place on top to make the hole where the spring fits to appear more like a hole instead of a box. I then welded another semi circular piece on the opposite side and connected the two with small pieces of steel to make the 2 top plates look like 1.
Here you could see how much extra spring I gained from my pocket design. (about 1 1/2 to 2 turns total).
Finally it was time to fill in the gaps on the sides so that I could make one smooth side edge to get it ready for chrome. This was VERY VERY time consuming. You can see the progression from when I first started, to rough welds, to grinded smooth, to 120grit smoothed. Then I had to re-fill in holes that came through and go over AGAIN with the welder and 120 grit. I did this several times until it was smooth on both sides like the final pics. The last pic is the bottom side after smoothing. Can't even tell that there are actually 2 plates there.
Anyone who doesn't respect the amount of work put into these arms should really try to duplicate what I did and let me know how long it takes. I'm not saying they are perfect by any means, I'm just saying that I worked my ass off on them.
The uppers were already extended 1" in the middle of the arm. I wanted to extend another inch and cover the ugly 1" plate used on the original extension.
I wanted a flat piece on top so that once chromed, the smooth top would stand out from the engine compartment or when the car was raised up all the way, from the wheel well. To make the additional 1" extension, the arms were cut near the ears (where the bushing goes) and a 1" flat plate was welded in place. Then, I went over it with 3/16" steel on the sides and top to strengthen the arm. Also, on the back side where I put the 1" piece in I welded a 3/16" plate for extra strength. I didn't take any pictures of this process :( However, I did take some to give some welding/molding tips to others that are looking to get a nice smoothed chrome ready arm.
This is what I figured out as I was
molding my A-Arms to get a smooth look. When putting two plates together, you
usually weld down the seam. Then, you break out the grinder to smooth out those
welds in order to make them chrome ready. Well, what can happen is you end up
going too deep into the weld and grinding down to the original metal even
leaving the original line sometimes. To prevent this, I butted the two ends
together at a 90 degree angle then turned my grinder sideways and made a
"channel" of sorts into the steel like this:
Then, lay your weld down into the channel. The idea is that now most of the weld will be in the channel so when you grind away, you don't get into the original material. I used Flux core you can see I needed to clean the welds up a bit. The last pic is after I used the wire brush on the welds.
Now that the weld is in place, the grinding takes place. The upper A-Arms are so important to be smooth because everyone can see these and in great detail. You could barely tell on the end by the ear where the 3/16" plate meets up with the stock metal.
Now that the top plate and sides were on, I had to make a final plate to go down toward the ball joint. I kept it in place while I did this plate to make sure it would clear properly. The completed upper A-Arm is below. They look a little wavy because of the grinding, but they smoothed out fine after going over them with 120grit.
The rear lower control arms had a bracket on them to mount the air bag since when I got the car it had air ride on it. These had to be removed. Also, when hydraulics were on the car before, the installer reinforced the lowers in a bit by welding a 1/4" plate on the bottom side of the control arm. While this basically served its purpose and was a good start, it did NOT look very pretty and didn't fully strengthen the lowers since the ends were not boxed in.
I started by welding a plate directly on top of the arm wide enough to accommodate the powerball. The Pro-Ball (Pro-Hopper's name for their powerball) was then welded onto this plate.
Next, the sides were plated with 3/16" and the edges molded with the bottom plate. All that was left was to weld the ends in place to strengthen around the bushing. I also did not get any pic of this, but I just basically welded the steel down in place and hammered it over the curve until it met up on the other end.
Here's what all I sent out for chrome plating. The bill was $1270 for what you see below. I want to do so much more, but that will have to wait until next summer!
-Rear Upper control arms
-Rear Lower control arms
-Upper A-Arm bars
-Wheel well brackets
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