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Street Race Truck More... The Toolbox

Front Hub and Wheel Installation - 1967 Chevelle

6/1/2020

Do you remember how excited I was after I installed the front brakes? I was finally going to be able to put the wheels and tires on the “broken car” and show Max my progress. Well, that didn’t go on-script either. After so much careful measuring and mocking up, my 15” front wheels are the ones that proved to be the problem. The 10” wide rears cleared the 12” brakes no sweat. The fronts didn’t fare as well. They contacted the calipers at the drop in the rim. It looked like the only way to be able to get away with skinny steel wheels on the front was going to be with the help of a spacer.

If you’ll also recall, I mentioned my dislike for the Wilwood aluminum hubs. This is a purely aesthetic hang-up that I have and is in no way a reflection on the brake system or the performance. The hubs just look silly when you run them with wheels that allow the dust cap and hub neck to show. They’re a non-sequitur. The timeless look of open centered mag wheels is jarred back into the modern-day by the precision machined cap poking through where a hammered in chrome dust cap should be.

Silly, I know. It’s one of those things that will totally put me off of a car though. Since I needed to take apart the brakes again, in order to install longer studs to use with a spacer, I might as well do something about the look of the hubs as well. For the record, I don’t like using spacers, but if I need to employ them, I wanted plenty of thread engagement and the strongest studs I could get.

Black steel wheels with dog-dish caps and redlines are a big part of my original vision for this car. With a hubcap covering the center of the wheel who cares what they look like. My concern comes from personna #2 for this all-black Chevelle. A set of Real Rodder Sprints with a polished magnesium EZ-Care finish. Incidentally, they cleared the calipers without a problem. At any rate, I plan to run the mag wheels with center delete plates on the rear and no center cap in the front. That leaves the world exposed to these hubs I despise.

If you remember the way that these brakes are assembled from the earlier article, you know that changing the lug studs means removing the rotors from the car and backing the studs out after the brake hat is removed from the main hub. Remember that red Locktite? Yeah, at least this time, it dawned on me to break all the hardware loose while the rotors were still attached to the car.

Once I had the setup removed, I could mask and paint the face of the hub and tower leading up to the dust cap. These parts are precision machined and fit very cleanly together, sealing with an o-ring. I was sure to take care in masking the mating surface to protect it and the bearings inside. I chose semi-gloss black and painted just the face of the hub. You could easily do this on the vehicle as well. Just mask the lug studs too.

The caps share the same machined finish and have a metal decal in the center. This decal is placed in the center of a depression and is difficult to get under. I used the corner of a razor blade taking care not to gouge the surface.

After thinking on it for a bit, I came up with a slick way to expedite the sanding and polishing steps required to bring the caps up to standards. You may laugh, but as it turned out, a small sanding drum attachment for my die grinder fit snugly in the tapered dust cap. I loosened the nut and put the sanding drum and fixture inside the cap and tightened the nut back up to expand the diameter. This proved to be a secure and concentric way to hold the cap in my drill press.

If it works, it's not dumb.

With the cap spinning at medium speed in the drill press I began by sanding off the machined lines on the surface. (no rings, no gloves, no long sleeves) I also softened the ledge on the face of the cap where the decal had been. This went quickly with 400 grit sandpaper. I stepped to 600 grit and then 1,000. All of this sanding was done dry. You can stop the drill periodically and gauge your progress. It’s key to keep the sandpaper moving and not to gouge or dwell in one place. After the surface was free of all unwanted texture, I stepped up to 2500 grit. At this point, the part should start to take on the characteristics of cloudy polished aluminum. That’s when you know you’re ready to really make a mess.

I like Busch polish (look for it soon from Speedway Motors) you can use whatever liquid, paste or wadding polish you like. With a moving part like this, the process will go quickly no matter what.

I put a small dab of polish on a terry cloth rag and worked it into the part with the drill turned off. After the surface started giving off some black onto the cloth, I started the drill at a low speed to help control heat. Taking this approach will also help save some of the mess. After I was satisfied with the smoothness of the surface I cleaned excess tarnish off with a clean terry rag and buffed the cap to a mirror-like shine.

While not exactly period-perfect they don’t stand out like a sore thumb anymore and that’s good enough for me.

After both sides were done, I stuck everything back together and was able to add a ½” spacer to the front that allowed the use of my 5” steelies. So, after months of constant ribbing from my two-year-old son about my, “broken car not having any tires”, I was finally able to set the car on the ground and roll it around.

His response to my proud presentation of this revelation? “Can we drive it now?” This kid. . . I can’t get a break!

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