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1965-66 Ford Full-Size Cars Frame Replacement

by Russ Owens

1965 Ford Custom 2-door sedan, shown here in a pre-introduction press photo. Note the '289' engine insignia just behind the front wheel opening.

            There are 3 variations of the frame: convertible, station wagon, and all the rest.

            I know in 1965, the station wagons had the rear area enclosed, as did the convertible, where all the rest have a 3-sided frame member from behind the rear wheels, back, and across the back. When I used a 1965 hardtop frame for my 1965 ragtop, I did not add this 4th side, because my original frame was too far gone to bother using it. I can only assume that enclosing this portion of the frame was intended to add rigidity, but in 7 years of driving mine since its restoration, I have had no problem. Although, I will admit, that if I have it jacked up with a bumper jack (something I try not to do), there is enough flex that the trunk lid will just touch the sides of the trunk opening, and possibly chip the paint. I prefer to use a floor jack under the corner torque boxes.

             Getting to the modifications necessary… all the holes are located in the same places on all the frames, its just that some aren't used in other applications. A ragtop has extra rubber donuts mounted along the frame rails, that the others don't have, but the holes are there, in the other frames, so it’s an easy task to relocate them. The only tricky part is the front body mounts, which do not mount on the front corner torque boxes, as do all the other cars, but mount on a pair of L-shaped corner brackets that are welded on the inside of the main frame. If you look under the hood of a ragtop, at the area where the body meets the frame, and compare it to any other model, you can easily see the difference.

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             Since the floor I used in my 1965 ragtop restoration came from a hardtop, I elected to stay with the hardtop mounting boxes on the corner torque boxes, rather than relocate everything. If your original ragtop floor is solid, then I would recommend staying with that location, and removing the L brackets from the original frame, and welding them to the hardtop frame in the same location. Some careful measuring, cutting and welding is necessary here.

            1965 frames are different from the 1966-68s, in how the rear coil springs mount, although the difference is fairly minor. In a 1965, the springs are held in place by a specially shaped piece that is bolted through, to hold the spring at the top, and also at the bottom. 1966-68s have no such pieces, and the springs rest in a recessed area where they cannot come out, once the car weight is on them, and the shocks are in place.

            If you are using a 1967-68 frame, you will see that the emergency (parking) brake cable is routed down the left frame rail, where the 1965-66 is routed to a bracket on the rear transmission cross member. You can keep the 1967-68 version, if you like, but if you stay with the 1965-66 setup, you will need to use your original trans cross member.

floor

Here is a Ford LTD (from California) floorpan mounted on a Florida convertible's frame, ready to be rolled under the transplant recipient Wisconsin Galaxie 500 with Arizona quarter panels. Quite a mix of parts. Another convertible saved!

 

            Doing a frame transplant is not difficult, once you know all that needs to be done, but it is not a quick operation. Before mounting your body on the replacement frame, you may want to replace the springs up front, just because it’s easier to do, then. Also, if your replacement frame originally had a small block mounted in it, and your car is a big block, you will need the heavier springs for the heavier engine. Or vice-versa, as the case may be. Running big block springs in a car with a 289 will cause it to ride way too high in front.

            You will want to try to save as many of the rubber donuts, and mounting hardware as you can, from both frames, and use the best ones on your replacement.

             New replacements are now available from Metro Molded Rubber, through Auto Krafters, Mac's, and other vendors. It is part number BCK 33.

             In order to save the frame nut mountings from the old rusty frame, I usually use a cutting torch, and remove the front of the front torque boxes, so I can get a wrench and some heat on those clips that hold the nuts, that usually break off. I don't know anywhere you can buy these, so you want to try to get them off intact. Heating them from the top only destroys the rubber mounts.

            As far as how to lift the body off the frame, you must remove both bumpers, and the entire front clip. The ragtop has extra mounting bolts along the rail donuts, which can only be accessed from inside the car, under the carpeting, and under the sill plate. There are the usual bolts, 2 at the rear of the trunk, 2 on the top shelf of the trunk, where the spare tire would sit in a hardtop, and the 4 at the front torque boxes. Plus of course, the extra ones I mentioned for the ragtop, on the rails.            

no floor

Here is a 1966 Galaxie 500 convertible  with the rusty floor and frame removed, ready for the transplant.

           

            Once these are all removed, lifting the body without damage is another thing. I have found that for a body that is solid, you can take a length of 2’ x 6’ board, cut to the proper length to fit across the inside of the trunk, up close to the front of the trunk, and wrap a chain or strap around it, and lift the back end that way. It worked very well for me, rather than wrapping a strap around the body, and stressing the rear quarters.

             Up front, I used a chain hooked to the front body mount boxes, but there is some interference there, from the heater plenum, and windshield wiper motor. I have removed these, rather than damage them. If you are doing this in a building with an overhead hoist, it is easier, because you can lift the car, and roll the frame out from under it. I did mine outside, and had to support the car on 4x4s, mounted across 4 stacks of 4 tires each, or 55-gallon drums, if  you have 4 of them, so you can get the cherry picker engine hoist out of the way, after lifting the body, and lowering it onto the 4x4s.  

            Well, how long will all this take? Given the outdoor conditions I have and no full shop, it takes 2 days or more to do the complete change, depending on how much stuff needs to be changed over from one to another.

             If replacing all the brake lines, gas line, suspension, it would be best to do this to the replacement frame before removing the body from the old frame.  If you are just replacing the rubber donuts, and do not have a rusty frame or body, you only need to lift the body high enough to access the rubber mounts. If you get an identical set-up, that is, same motor mounts, same springs, so you don't have to change those too, it goes quicker.

            Basically, I can do it alone, in a weekend, given good weather; quicker, if there is another pair of hands. Tim Miller and I got a body off the frame in less than 2 hours, but the front clip was already off, before we started.

 

Regards,
Russ Owens
1965-66 Galaxie Collector
Milwaukee WI 

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