'56 Chevy Wagon-Front Suspension Rebuild - Hot Rod Forum : Hotrodders Bulletin Board
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Old 07-29-2019, 04:07 AM
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'56 Chevy Wagon-Front Suspension Rebuild

I started getting the wagon ready for the trip to Louisville for the 50th anniversary of the Street Rod Nats.
This odyssey started a week ago Sunday afternoon when I decided to rebuild the passenger side front brake corner. new rotor, bearings and pads. The issue arose when I pulled the tire off. Badly worn on the inside, same thing on the drivers side. Camber is WAY off and these tires were ruined in less then 3K miles...
Note the lack of tread on the inside edge... Both tires were like this.


Took the car in for an alignment early Tuesday morning of last week. The tech called me into the pit after 10 or 15 minutes and said there is nothing he can do until the front suspension gets rebuilt... Everything needs to be replaced! Upper and lower control arm bushings, all four ball joints and the idler arm bushing is totally shot with no rubber at all in the joint... Incredibly, as bad as it was, it didn't drive like it was falling apart! This was totally unexpected.
I ordered all of the parts right then and there, drove the car home and started the tear down. We leave for Louisville next Wednesday morning!
I got both sides torn down to the frame in two evenings, started the clean up and rebuilding the arms Thursday and Friday evenings, and started putting it all back together Saturday morning.
Got her done Saturday evening. Took her for a short shakedown drive Sunday morning and was amazed at the difference! Even needing an alignment the drive was so much better! This will make a great highway cruiser with new idler bushings and an alignment.
Some pics of the job.
Tear down. I did this over two evenings. One side each evening.





Cleaning up and rebuilding the spindles and arms. I gave everything a bath and a scrub in Greased Lightening degreaser. This stuff is impressive. Works very well!


Painted gloss black and ready to go back together.




New bushings.

New ball joints.

Cleaning 63 year old grundge off the spindles.

Back together.

Drivers side.

Passenger side.

Back on the ground with new tires and ready for a test drive.
The tires that were ruined were 235/45-17's. These are 245/45-17's.

Thanks for following. This was done fairly quickly because of the timeline for the NSRA show. If I had more time I would have stripped the frame down and thrown some paint on that as well. Maybe next time!
Mark

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Last edited by astroracer; 07-29-2019 at 04:21 AM.
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Old 07-29-2019, 06:50 AM
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Good pics!

When I did my 56 back 30 years ago, the first thing I did was rebuild the suspension. Those bushings were the worst part to do. The ballpoints disintegrated when I popped them out.
But I see one thing wrong.
Your idler arm is on wrong. The castle nut and cotter pin should be on the top.
It’ll run like that but your steering will feel notchy.
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Old 07-29-2019, 10:45 AM
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Yes, I see what you see now. I just got back from the alignment shop and I had them do the idler arm bushings. I am pretty sure he put it back together upside down... It drove great though, I didn't notice anything but a nice smooth ride and tight steering... It is going to stay like that for a while now... No time to fix it before Wednesday morning.
Thanks, I'll keep an eye on it!
Mark
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Old 07-29-2019, 01:13 PM
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The steering only feels notchy with the stock steering box. If you’ve got a 605 or Vega conversion box you likely won’t feel it.
Have a good trip!
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Old 07-29-2019, 02:03 PM
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500CPP box. The car drives great so I hope the trip goes well. I plan to take lots of pics.
Mark
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Old 07-30-2019, 11:03 AM
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Be sure to tell the alignment shop you want as much caster as possible while keeping camber in spec. Unfortunately that's probably only 1 degree or so. The more caster you can get, the better the stability at speed. The best solution is aftermarket upper control arms, some of which allow as much as 4-5 degrees caster. And it makes a huge difference.

Just noticed you have a CPP box. It will also help with stability. But I hope you didn't use CPP ball joints, Pitman arm, idler arm, or tie rods ends! And what did you use for control arm bushings -- rubber or poly? Huge difference with poly, and they will last a lifetime. OK, at least 20 years.
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Old 07-30-2019, 04:23 PM
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Yea, we talked about that before he started. He got as much as he could. The 500 box helps a lot! The car had a worn out 605 on it when I got it. The box swap was one of the first things I did to it. Driving it around yesterday and today it seems very stable at speed but maybe I'm just used to the worn out suspension kind of going where it wanted to at times... it doesn't do that anymore!
I used all Moog stuff in this rebuild. Ball joints and bushings. The pitman arm was already in place and the tie rod ends were fine.
I put all rubber bushings back in. I have a couple of vehicles with all poly and didn't want the harshness that comes with it.
Thanks for the help, I hope this is good to go for a few thousand miles anyway... We'll see. I will definitely be keeping an eye on the tread wear.
Mark
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Old 07-30-2019, 05:54 PM
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I vividly remember rebuilding the front end on my 55 Chevy Convertible back in 1969. It was given to me but I had to fix the front end and when I turned 16 the car was mine.. Yeah painful memories in the winter in the back yard Hitting the chisel and having it jump out of my hand and getting rapped on the knuckles. using a dull cold chisel and a small ball peen hammer. Them Rivets that held the ball joints on to the control arms were a bugger to get out. The control arm bushings, Well lets just say as a 15 year old teenager I thought I would never get the job done. There was a Local Mechanic named Joe that I hung around with when he would let me and that man taught me more about Old motors from the early 60's on back that any reading books! He never did any work for me he would tell me to grab the tools and get busy. He gave me advice, usually after I broke something or screwed up. I really didn't need that but the knowledge he had and passed on I consider to be some of the most positive things I learned while actually doing the work.

Sorry for the ramble I was just tripping down memory lane and your 56 just triggered my fond memories of childhood. BTW I traded my 55 vert for a 56 4 door wagon 6 cyl powerglide.. Don't know what I was thinking but had a lot a fun in the wagon ..
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Old 07-30-2019, 06:10 PM
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I lucked out with this one. All of the ball joints had been replaced so I just had to unbolt them. I've done my time with a cold chisel as well. It seemed like heaven when I finally got a compressor and an air hammer...
Mark
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Old 07-31-2019, 02:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astroracer View Post
Thanks for the help, I hope this is good to go for a few thousand miles anyway... We'll see. I will definitely be keeping an eye on the tread wear.
Mark
Sounds like the car is done right and all ready for the trip!

Yes, the poly bushings are a matter of taste, but they do flex less under load and last a lot longer.

My 55 had the CPP 500 box and their upper control arms that allow for more caster. Pretty nice stuff except for the ball joints which I sold for $20/pr at a swap meet! Like you, I used Moog ball joints and tie rod ends.
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Old 07-31-2019, 03:36 PM
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I used moog for all my rebuild too.
One of the better improvements in handling happened after I installed a shock cross mount in the rear to support the shocks better than the original into the trunk sheet metal arrangement.
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Old 08-02-2019, 07:41 AM
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Hey guys, just an update. The car did great on the drive down. Not a single problem! Rides good, steers and stops straight and the A/C works. We did the show yesterday. What an incredible number of cars! The vendor building is packed and the swap meet is huge.
Most of our group is doing some sight seeing today. Jim Beam distillery, a huge flea market and this evening a dinner cruise on the Belle of Louisville.
Tomorrow we will be at the show all day. I plan to make the rounds of the swap meet and vendor buildings and get more pics of the cars.
Mark
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