Suspension - Front Beam Replacement


Before getting too far into my plan of rebuilding a Porsche 356 engine and installing it in the Ghia, I drove the car with it's stock engine and brakes.


The front end was not good. Closer examination revealed a problem with the passenger side link pin and who knows what else. I picked up the link pin and king pin rebuild kits, but decided I really didn't feel like screwing around with this stuff anymore. I called a local VW shop for a price on a rebuilt front beam assembly. The price seemed reasonable so I ordered it.


Installing the new beam was pretty straight forward. Read the manual, think about what you're doing, and there's not much to it. The hardest part was getting the new beam lifted into position since I'm stubborn and hate asking for help. I ended up placing blocks of wood under each side of the beam to raise it up high enough so while it was resting against the frame head I could get a floor jack under it. Then, I grabbed the top of the beam and guided it into position as I worked the jack with my foot.


As I went to put the two top bolts in, I remembered that I needed to replace one of the lockwashers. D'oh! My foot was wedged against the floor jack to keep it from rolling, my hands were holding the top of the beam in place, and I needed to find a lockwasher . Hmm... As I stood there balancing everything, wondering what to do now, I glanced over at my conveniently located tool chest. Sitting there within arms reach was one brand new lockwasher, left over from when I assembled a trailer a year or two ago. The question was, would it fit? Of course it did! Ah yes, life is good...


I put the two top bolts in, just tight enough to help keep everything in position on the jack while I got underneath and put in the four frame head bolts. Once I got them started (with new locking plates of course) I snugged everything up and removed the jack. Ta dah! One new front beam assembly, in position, awaiting the torque wrench and installation of the other components.


Notes on putting a new beam in an old car;

If you check the catalogs you will see there are some differences among link and king pin front beams, depending on year. I had an early German beam from 1960. The replacement beam is a built-in-Brazil model. All indications are that the new beam is the "later" king pin style. This old beam/new beam situation meant I needed to get new upper shock mount bolts. The good news was the new style bolts are significantly less expensive than the old style bolts, and easier to find too.


Also, the steering box from the 1960 beam would not bolt directly on to the new beam. It would physically bolt on, but the clamp on the earlier steering boxes doesn't have the locating notch that the later style clamps have. I tried to scrounge up a later style clamp for the steering box to see if I could bolt that on, but never found one. I ended up positioning the old box on the new beam using the dimensions in the Bentley manual (Buy a manual!) and filed the clamp to fit.


Since the front end was apart, I also installed the 356A front brakes. I was amazed at how bad the bolt holes in the new beam's spindles were, each one of them had to be cleaned up with a tap, and one in particular was bad enough I gave up on starting it from the front, and had to insert the tap from the BACK of the spindle. I had the same issues with the threads for the upper shock mounts. I also noticed the beam was missing one Zerk fitting. A cheap thing to fix, but still, what's up with that? Bad bolt holes, missing Zerk. Not too confidence inspiring.


After getting the beam and other components installed, I'm still not 100% sure replacing it (as opposed to restoring my original beam) was the right thing to do. If you do buy a new beam, do NOT think it will be a simple bolt-on operation, especially if you are installing it in an early (say, about pre-63) link pin car.


A few more comments on installing a new beam;

Make sure that each part you have fits the "new" beam before you install the new beam on the car. By this I mean check all bolt holes to make sure that bolts will actually fit in them, Check all zerk fittings to make sure they are present and installed properly. Give the beam a good inspection before you put it in, since if it's like mine, every single threaded hole on it will need to be cleaned out before a bolt will actually fit. Also, finding the correct position for the old steering box on the newer style beam was a complete pain in the butt... cleaning the threads and measuring the position for the steering box would have been much easier if the beam had still been on the floor!