Few years back on the HAMB, there was a young man who wanted a custom ’59 F100. He didn’t get off on the right foot with his build and things went sideways. I did my best to try and help him sort out the front and rear suspension, I would link to the original build thread however it may have been scrubbed from the HAMB after the great restructuring. It involved a shop in California construting a new IFS suspension from parts with air bags to “lay it out” and while they met the goal, the delivered suspension conversion was less than safe or good to drive. In the end Rob from No Limit ended up helping him out of his situation. My input was key in directing Jon-Wulf to us. Jon is a member of the same car club as Blake, and suggested Jon talk to us so he doesn’t go down the same bumpy ride.
We spoke on the phone several times before we both came to an agreement. I needed a good clean example to prototype this generation truck parts from and he needed to get this thing closer to the ground.
Before the truck got here Jon and his friends had installed a 454/TH350 combo and got it running. After receiving the truck, we stripped it down, removed the front sheet metal and hood, bed and drivetrain. I had to measure the entire frame with critical mounting holes and bed and body mounts and created a 3D model on my Alibre’ 12 Software, this will allow me to do other projects including offering complete frames in the future. For now however we are going forward with our front and rear suspension kits.
The plan is to do a static drop with air bags on the front in the future. I do have some ideas on how to pull this off for those of you who have one of our kits already. Jon supplied the front suspension parts, upper and lower control arms, springs, stock spindles and brakes, and a set of used KYB Gas-A-Just GR2 shocks (used), rack and pinion, along with some rebuild parts. We supplied the dropped spindles, and caliper brackets and tie rod drops. The rear plan was a bridge notch and sleeve air bags. And as of this writing I am working on something special to cover up the hole in the bed, it will be an option on the new rear suspension kits.
Front end was pretty standard stuff. We used Energy Suspension Polyurethane bushings because of the future use of air bags. I recommend using OE style rubber bushings wherever possible to minimize road noise and give you the best possible ride quality. With the installation of an adjustable suspension, the range of motion and extended periods of time in the extremes would potentially tear up OE rubber bushings, poly will allow the arm to move freer without any damage, the sacrifice is a bit more road noise. We installed his engine and trans back in place, slightly different location than before to clear the oil pan on the Dakota front crossmember, this required a small notch in the front core support crossmember in the frame. If he were using a short water pump and pulley system, this may not be necessary. We used Energy suspension engine mounts and a set or our GM style engine mounts. Installation of the rack and pinion showed us that the provided center dump (tite-tuck) style headers were not going to work. We installed a reproduction set of stock manifolds and reconstructed the exhaust head pipes.
Detail wise, we used the supplied springs. They were an older set of V8 Dakota springs and we trimmed one full loop off the bottom of the coil.
The stock wheels would not clear the disc brakes, the wheel band doesn’t allow caliper clearance. The D150 rotor used is large and has the stock 5 on 5 1/2″ bolt circle. Just be aware that the hub on those rotors is rather large and may not clear all wheel choices. These Wheel Vintique 15 X 6 OE style wheels fit just fine. I sent the out for some tan powder coating and had his existing 225/70-15 tires swapped over.
We had noticed an issue with the Airbagit.com spindles. The caliper mounting surface was angled. This was the first set we encountered this way and it required us mounting them up in the mill and planning the surface flat and adding a sheet metal shim. Spindles with all the modifications for the tie rod drops and caliper brackets will be available in the store.
While Matt and Dr Marvelus were assembling the front end, I was drawing up the rear suspension. This will be a weld in kit, full boxing plates, brackets and such included. The front four bar bracket is a bolt on. Uses four existing holes where your stock spring hanger was. You will need to drill out two holes per side to complete their installation. The bars are 1 X 2 boxt tube with large Polyurethane greasable bushings. All Grade 8 hardware and lower adjusters to dial in your pinion angle. We use a panhard bar, it’s simple and it works. Yeah, not as trick as a Watts link or whatever, but effective. I designed this unequal length and unparrallel four bar system with positive anti-squat numbers. So those of you with some power can actually get that power to the ground. To tame the ride, we are using Firestone 9000 tapered sleeve bags and RideTECH shocks. This combo results a very smooth and controlled ride. 35 psi gets us to ride height and there is over 6″ of travel to the suspension. While it won’t “lay frame” it get damn low. Right now it can put the rear bumper on the ground and once Jon puts the bags on the front, it will lay down to about 2″ off the ground all the way around. While not Big G’s definition of safe, it at least passes ours.
High positive anti-squat can cause some brake judder. This doesn’t seem to be an issue. I plotted the entire suspension before putting anything on permanently to see just how this would handle. And to my surprise, it handles excellent. We reused the stock Dakota front anti-roll bar but determined that a rear bar was unnecessary. The addition of more roll stiffness in the rear would result in some dramatic oversteer. As it stands now, you can corner harder than your butt can grip the old bench seat!
Interior creature comforts as follows. I modified the stock steering column with a section of 3/4″ DD shaft and a lower bearing. I shortened the steering column to get the Borgeson universal as close to the toeboard as possible. At the same time, I modified the stock three speed column shifter to a single lever shifter for the automatic. The clutch pedal is still intact and to the casual observer, looks stock inside. The steering hookup required three universal joints and a support in the middle to snake around the exhaust. The power steering hoses were pretty straight forward also, requiring a change to the stock replacement Dodge Dakota V6 power steering hose. We had to replace the O-ring fitting that attaches to the later style press on pulley power steering pump to an inverted flare fitting that fits the key shaft pump we installed.
Everything went as planned, no real sidesteps involved. The truck drives fantastic. Very smooth and controlled. The brakes are spectacular, able to haul up this truck in short order without skidding around or any other such nonsense. Cornering is above average. With the addition of some sportier tires and a better front shock, this should be a contender in the autocross course near you, provided you can drive… In other words, it’s fun comfortable and practical. Something I would not hesitate to drive as a daily. Were not sure we want to give it back!