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In the Doghouse: The Right Way to Install a Dynacorn Front Structure
In the Doghouse
One of the great advantages of the popularity of the Mustang is the fact that complete subassemblies are now available for major structural repairs. But how do we do it in our home garage and come away with something that tracks down the road straight? We’re here to show you the process.
The patient for our demo install was in a major incident on a highway—an overzealous troll pulled in front of this 1967 hardtop and proceeded to slam on the brakes. Using proper defensive driving techniques, the owner slammed on the Wilwoods and made some evasive moves, which resulted in saving the others around him but taking off the front end and right quarter of the Mustang. Normally with damage this severe in sunny SoCal you would just go get another car, but this one has been in the family since new, so it is time for some major work.
In the past, we would go cut an entire clip from another car in the yard, but those sources are all but dried up. Enter Dynacorn International. While the quarter-panel of the car was replaced with an N.O.S. part found online, the front end is being replaced with Dynacorn’s Apron assemblies (PN 3630R and PN 3630S), radiator support (PN 3640F), strut rod brackets (PN 3640FAWT and PN 3640FBWT), and firewall to floor supports (PN 3631ZEWT).
Preparation Is Key
Whether you plan on doing this by yourself or with a little help, do all your homework before trying to weld parts in place. Since this car was in an accident and was severely bent, we chose to have the remaining body checked out by a local frame shop. The dimensions for your Mustang can be found in the body section of your Ford factory shop manuals. We had a copy of the dimensions from a body shop manual, but you might luck out and find them online.
If you are doing this in your garage, note that garage floors are not level by design. They generally slope to get rid of water. You either need to level your car or square up the body with the floor angles in mind. Safety is always a concern, so make sure you have plenty of safety stands before proceeding. A cheap leveling system can be made from a set of scissor-type jacks from the local salvage yard—you can use them to correct for variations in the floor. Always use safety stands with the scissor jacks. One place on the body that is parallel to the floor is the rocker panels—take your measurements from the four corners of the outer rocker panels to assist in leveling the body. If you cannot level the body, you may need to have the car straightened before you weld new panels in place.
If possible, photograph everything before you start taking things apart. Items like the strut braces sometimes don’t go back in the same place. Take additional measurements to add to the factory drawings. Remember, cars that are rusted, wrecked, or have endured 50-plus years of road use are usually not in the same position they were when they left the factory. If you have some friends’ cars that are available, take some measurements off of those cars too. There is some variance on how Ford put these together, and you don’t want to use just one example because it may have suffered from one of the above issues.
Finally, while we didn’t get the chance to do this, do one panel or section at a time. Don’t just start hacking off all the parts. A rusted part may still be a good guide for installing the replacement part, and once you take off more than one panel you lose that reference point.
A quick note about aftermarket parts: Your car went through 50-plus years of torture, and the aftermarket parts are good but may not be perfect—you may experience some holes not lining up. News flash: some of the holes on the factory panels didn’t line up either. I once took a part that wouldn’t fit one car, and then I took it over to another car—it fit worse. Sometimes it is the car as well as the part. Be patient.
Shelby-style braces are obviously much stronger and less flexible than the originals (and have less adjustment). Some of the aftermarket braces are not very good quality, so make sure you have a good one. Always use your export or shock tower braces to help center the shock tower assemblies.
Tram and Measuring
Pro shops have some really nice gauges to measure the squareness of the body. You can make one yourself out of some conduit and threaded rod that will do the job. Make sure you are measuring from the same point on your gauge. For example, choose the side of the hole edge rather than trying to measure from the center. Make sure you mirror your measurement to the other side. If you need to, you can use some string and a weight (a nut works great) to create a vertical line to check side measurement from the holes listed on the Ford drawing. If the car is elevated enough, you can mark the string at the Ford distance and then check these marks with your level.
Strut Rod Braces
The strut rod braces serve two purposes—they provide the mounting point for the strut rod bushings, and they provide rigidity to the front end by bracing the side rail and radiator support. Once these go in, they really lock the front down. If you need to make any small tweaks to the front end or rails, do it before these go in. The dimensions for these are not on the factory dimension chart, and I have seen them mounted with a lot of variance. Mark where your originals were mounted prior to removing them or use several examples to find the location from other cars. The front suspension pieces can be mounted and squared to help locate these pieces as well.
Once all your preparation is done, the assembly usually goes quickly. You will need plenty of body clamps, Cleco pins, and straps to hold it all together until it is welded in place. After the first few tack welds are in place, double-check (and continue to double-check) your measurements. We added a set of Tin Man Fabrication subframe connectors to our hardtop, and they fit the squared-up chassis perfectly. For a job like this, it is possible to do it yourself—just remember that preparation is 75 percent of the job and patience is necessary.
Photography by David Stribling