How to Install a Fatman Fabrications Independent Front Suspension Kit

Hot Rod Specialties Improves The Handling & Stopping Power On This 1934 Chrysler Sedan

By Gerry Burger   –   Photography By Kenneth Denney

There is no doubt that complete chassis swaps have become commonplace in the world of street rods, but oftentimes that doesn’t fit budget or driving requirements. The basic concept of street rodding is to improve the power, handling, and braking of a vintage car. To that end this old ’34 Chrysler had already seen plenty of road miles with the original suspension upgraded to a late-model steering box, tube shocks, and disc brakes. (In an upcoming issue we will show you how to repair the frame damage on this Chrysler. We followed along as Ken Denney and the team at Hot Rod Specialties repaired some frame damage on Terry Thompson’s ’34 Chrysler Fordor Sedan. This repair was in preparation for a complete front suspension swap.)

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02 At Hot Rod Specialties they use the long level to span the frame rails and a digital indicator to match the bubble
The first step was establishing a level chassis side to side, front to back. Working “on the bubble” is fine, but today digital levels are incredibly precise. At Hot Rod Specialties they use the long level to span the frame rails and a digital indicator to match the bubble.

Thompson wanted an improved stance and more modern suspension for his Chrysler, which included power rack-and-pinion steering, tubular control arms, and a better spring rate. Denney and his team at Hot Rod Specialties decided a Fatman Fabrications stub would be just what the doctor ordered. A straightforward front frame clip that would effectively do away with the old and in with the new and result in better handling, better stance, and an overall safer hot rod. As an added bonus there was a substantial weight savings.

03 Next we will locate the cut points on the original frame rails
Next, we will locate the cut points on the original frame rails. Measure from a common point on the original chassis. Things to consider before cutting are original fender mounts, the shape of the frame rail, and the location of existing motor mounts.

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The process is very straightforward and over the years many of the Fatman Fabrications front stubs have been installed in backyard shops. Like any chassis work the key is to establish a level chassis and get the critical measurements, such as engine mount location, height of the front crossmember, and the front axle centerline. The height of the front crossmember/radiator mount is very critical as it dictates the fitting of the hood. It pays to leave it just a little bit low as you can always shim the mount up to the desired height. Making a simple but accurate chassis blueprint is always a good idea, using a plumb bob, critical locations, such as axle center line, can be marked on the shop floor as a secondary checkpoint. Measure from a common point on each side of the original frame rail. Once the critical measurements have been established, it’s time to measure twice and cut once.

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04 To graft the Fatman Fabrications stub to the original frame the engine must be removed
To graft the Fatman Fabrications stub to the original frame the engine must be removed. The exact location of the top of the intake manifold was established and marked on the firewall. This ensures the driveshaft angle will not change and exhaust components will fit.

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The original chassis is cut at a nice straight area of the frame rail, then the Fatman stub is slipped into place. When doing any chassis clip it is imperative that you fishplate the joint by several inches. Team Hot Rod Specialties first fit things up with the fishplate welded to the Fatman stub. Several holes were drilled in both sides of the original chassis for plug welds into the fishplates. After a couple substantial tack welds, double check all your measurements.

05 A simple blueprint of the measurements is important
A simple blueprint of the measurements is important. Measurements include axle centerline to the existing frame reference point, front of harmonic balancer to a chassis reference point.

Since the 1934 Chrysler frame is taller than the Fatman frame rail a wedge was cut from rectangular tubing to form the lower transition between the two frame rails. Tack the wedges in place and measure again. Measure both straight down the frame rail and diagonally to be certain the new Fatman clip is perfectly square to the original frame. Once you are certain everything is still square, do the final welding. Alternating side to side with short welds helps to prevent unwanted movement caused by the heat of welding.

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06 it was decided the ideal location for the cut was behind the existing motor mounts and in front of the two studs that serve as fender mounts
After much consideration, it was decided the ideal location for the cut was behind the existing motor mounts and in front of the two studs that serve as fender mounts. This keeps the front fenders in the original location.

Assembling the tubular control arms, springs, spindles, brakes, and power rack-and-pinion is all straightforward wrench spinning. The directions that come with a Fatman stub are very good, so you should have no problem with assembly. Using a tape measure and an angle finder you should be able to get that frontend aligned close enough to drive to your local frontend shop for a precise alignment. That is the general procedure, follow along with the photos to see how the pros at Hot Rod Specialties handled the job. MR

07 This simple gauge was fabricated to locate the exact height of the radiator cradle mount
Before cutting the front crossmember free of the car one last location was established. This simple gauge was fabricated to locate the exact height of the radiator cradle mount. This is critical for proper hood and grille shell alignment.
08 Cutting off this mammoth front suspension will result in a dramatic shift in weight
Before doing any cutting be certain the car is safely supported. Cutting off this mammoth front suspension will result in a dramatic shift in weight. Note the motor mounts are attached to this discarded front suspension.
09 Since the Fatman Fabrications front stub was designed for this chassis things will literally slide into place
After removing the original front suspension crossmember the 1934 Chrysler chassis looks very clean and simple. Since the Fatman Fabrications front stub was designed for this chassis things will literally slide into place.
10 A preliminary check shows the Fatman Fabrications stub is a perfect fit including the radiator cradle mounting points
A preliminary check shows the Fatman Fabrications stub is a perfect fit, including the radiator cradle mounting points. Jack stands are shimmed to perfectly locate the frame rails, while the level is used to locate the stub side to side.
11 The Fatman Fabrications stub has a fishplate splice piece that fits inside the new stub and inside the existing 1934 Chrysler chassis
The Fatman Fabrications stub has a fishplate splice piece that fits inside the new stub and inside the existing 1934 Chrysler chassis. Talk to Fatman and they will custom build a stub to fit any car.
12 the new Fatman Fabrications stub and ready to slide into the original frame rails
Here we see the fishplate splicer pieces are plug welded to the new Fatman Fabrications stub and ready to slide into the original frame rails. Be certain to properly grind the original frame rails to clean metal.
13 critical measurements the stub can be plug welded to the original frame rail
After one last check of the level and critical measurements the stub can be plug welded to the original frame rail. Tack welds on the seams are also seen.
14 A simple piece of box tubing was wedge cut to form a transition piece on the bottom for the frame rail
The box tubing used for the new stub is not as tall as the original frame rail. A simple piece of box tubing was wedge-cut to form a transition piece on the bottom for the frame rail.
15 Fatman Fabrications and the skilled installation at Hot Rod Specialties this now looks like a factory frame rail
Here we see the finished front stub joined to the 1934 Chrysler frame. Thanks to the engineering at Fatman Fabrications and the skilled installation at Hot Rod Specialties, this now looks like a factory frame rail.
16 The chassis is now ready for new motor mounts for the ’69 Mopar 340 engine
Viewing from the front the chassis has a simpler, cleaner look. The chassis is now ready for new motor mounts for the ’69 Mopar 340 engine. This hot rod is pure Mopar.
17 The team at Hot Rod Specialties crafted these custom motor mounts with their own frame adapters
The team at Hot Rod Specialties crafted these custom motor mounts with their own frame adapters in combination with aftermarket motor mounts. The result is a super clean and strong installation.
18 Looking from the side we see the motor mounts and the engine is in the exact same position in the frame
Looking from the side we see the motor mounts and the engine is in the exact same position in the frame. The control arm mounts have been welded to the top of the spring pads and the power rack-and-pinion is bolted in place so steering linkage can be fabricated.
19 These tubular control arms will provide improved handling and substantial weight reduction compared to the vintage 1934 Chrysler parts
These tubular control arms will provide improved handling and substantial weight reduction compared to the vintage 1934 Chrysler parts.
20 grinding was completed a coat of chassis semi flat black paint provides a clean functional look to the frame
After all the welding and grinding was completed a coat of chassis semi-flat black paint provides a clean, functional look to the frame.
21 Rotors and calipers are bolted in place along with the upper and lower control arms
Rotors and calipers are bolted in place along with the upper and lower control arms. This car is a driver so once again chassis black is the perfect finish.
22 Completely modern in design the rack and pinion steering will be much more responsive than a steering box
The view from above shows the utter simplicity of the entire suspension. Completely modern in design, the rack-and-pinion steering will be much more responsive than a steering box. Note the two universal joints connecting the rack to the steering column.
23 We couldn’t resist this side by side comparison of the 1934 Chrysler front suspension and the new Fatman Fabrications suspension
We couldn’t resist this side-by-side comparison of the 1934 Chrysler front suspension and the new Fatman Fabrications suspension. The improved handling and braking will make driving this old hot rod a real pleasure for many years to come.

24 The improved handling and braking will make driving this old hot rod a real pleasure for many years to come

SOURCES
Fatman Fabrications
(704) 545-0369
fatmanfab.com

Hot Rod Specialties
(317) 802-7762
tech@hotrodspecialties.com

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