Originally Posted by 1stproject
I am a newbie and am in the process of taking everything off of my 55 2nd series truck in preparation for a new IFS. I am still a bit undecided about which brand, but I am leaning towards the Heidts. I still have a few weeks to make my final decision. (By the way, I am open for any last minute recommendations!) I am thinking about using 16 x 7 rims for the finished truck and the 2" drop spindle. The truck will be minus the engine and transmission for the install. I will be eventually install a ZZ4 350 with a 700r4 tanny.
I am going to complete all of the layout work but I am going to hire a professional welder to come in and complete the final welds.
I am fishing for any recommendations from those who have been down this road before. Any tips? Any suggestions regarding ride height, special reinforcements to compensate for no struts, centering of the wheels/tires?
Any advice is welcomed and appreciated!
Hi 1stProject, and welcome! I too went down this exact road this past summer. I have a 55 2nd series shortbox stepside project. It has a 350 crate motor and the original 3-speed trans. It had the original rear end and front straight axle, along with 6-lug wheels. I wanted the truck to ride low to the pavement, with disk brakes all around and with a modern suspension. I looked at the Fatman, Heidts and TCI products. I finally decided on the TCI Mustang II style front suspension kit (sourced from CPP) with the power steering option, large vented/slotted disk brakes, 2" drop spindles and sway bar kit. After tearing out the old suspension, I removed the grime and old paint/rust from the frame and filled all the un necessary holes. Make sure to get the boxing plates, these are the first things to be installed. The crossmember goes in very easily, but measure carefully. A mistake here can be catastrophic. My kit came with minimal instructions ,so most of the work was intuitive. It did include mounting dimensions from a benchmark measured off the frame. In my case, the benchmark was the front bumper bracket mounting hole. Tack everything in, and remeasure, including the wheelbase dimensions on both sides, just to make sure. Using the drop spindles means that you'll need to cut a round or so off the new coil springs. Only do this AFTER the motor/trans/sheetmetal weight is imposed on the frame. In my case, the motor/trans was already installed, so I added a sand bag to replicate the weight of the front sheetmetal before cutting the coils. Another important step is this; before tacking/welding the crossmember into place, make sure the frame is sitting at the desired ride height/rake. The crossmember needs to be installed level to the ground in order to maintain all the proper geometries. After reading many threads about the IFS failures, I decided to add struts. I got a set from a 64-65 T'bird. Since this will be a driver, I don't mind the look of the strut....not that it looks bad anyway. The other option is to add a rear bracket, putting the lower control arm bolt into double-sheer. But I decided the struts were an even safer bet. Oh, one other thing; while not absolutely necessary (and not mentioned in the instructions), I c-notched the frame where the steering rack's tie rods pass. Since the front end sits so low, I only had about 1-1/2" of clearance there. So I c-notched it using a half diameter of a 3" diameter schedule 10 pipe. The entire front end suspension went together very easily. I probably have about 3 full days of labor into it, from start to finish, including the final painting (brushed-on POR product).
For the rear suspension, I opted for TCI's 4" dropped leaf kit, including a rear sway bar. I'm using an 2004 S10 extreme rear axle with disk brakes. It's 54" wide, which is quite narrow and tucks the 15x10 wheels (Vintique steelies) way inboard, so I'll need to tub the bed somewhat. I didn't c-notch the rear frame...I have about 2" of clearance to the top of the axle housing. If this proves to be a problem (bottoming out), then I'll c-notch it later.
I'm an amateur welder and did all of the welding myself. Although my dad is a retired pro welder, he only oversaw what I was doing and gave me a few helpful tips. The real trick is knowing when to leave the bead alone! Most rods I see have completely smooth grinded welds, especially at the boxing plates. I left my beads alone to gain as much strength as possible. Not the prettiest looking thing, but again, this is no jelly-bean trailer queen.
My biggest suggestions are; get the final wheels/tires that you want to use, install the rear suspension first, and set the frame to the final desired ride height. THEN start on the front end. Build from the wheels on up. If you decide on different wheel diameters later, then the geometry will be all wrong. Anyway, that's all I can think of at the moment. If you have any Q's, just let us know, and have FUN!