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I did this while the body was attached to the wheel.
After that it was easy to apply a bead of grease to the upper cup of the freewheel body, install the bearings, place the spacers, and then re-thread the cover plate BACKWARDS (because it is reverse threaded).
Little attention is paid to this important feature of any vintage steel bicycle.
Vintage dropouts include: old style Simplex dropouts (shown above – but often model specific), newer style Simplex dropouts, Huret drop outs (several styles), Campagnolo dropouts, Shimano and Suntour dropouts, and stamped or forged dropouts with no integrated derailleur hanger.
Meanwhile, I recently purchased a used Suntour Perfect freewheel on e Bay that I wanted to have on hand because of its useful wide gear range.
Many nice upper end vintage steel frames did not have manufacturer specific brazed dropouts. In fact, having plain dropouts on a vintage bicycle can be helpful, because derailleur options are automatically expanded, depending on the style of claw chosen.But, the Shimano’s pawls were held in place with a clip, and I realized that I could just turn the body upside down, position the cogs, and slowly turn them counter clockwise as I gently seated them over the bearings.Having the freewheel body upside down for this step allowed me to be sure that all the bearings stayed in place during the process.Rear dropouts determine what derailleur options are available for a given frame.Rear dropout spacing also determines hub options, with derailleur equipped vintage bicycles having narrower spacing than their modern counterparts.