High Flying Or Low Riding?
I need some advice. After serving for over 30 years in the Air Force, with many of those years as an aircraft mechanic, my wife told me to get off my behind and do something. Well, I did just that by finding myself an old '59 Chevrolet Apache 3100 Stepside to restore. I did a complete frame-off restoration that lasted about three years. I still have some work to do on it and, with your help, maybe I can complete the restoration. I am keeping the straight-axle for now and have rebuilt the frontend. My truck sits a little high off the ground and I would like to lower it a bit. I would like to replace the springs, both back and front. Could you direct me to where I can purchase new springs that would lower the truck? If I did that, what effect would it have on the steering and driveshaft? I have power steering with the Saginaw 800 steering box, Camaro front disc brakes, and a Malibu differential. In addition, the truck has a high-performance 350 Chevrolet engine and Turbo 350 transmission. Most of the parts I used in the restoration were purchased from those companies that advertise in your magazine. The truck was painted in pieces, and with the help of my 13-year-old grandson, we did the assembly without a scratch. I would appreciate any info you could give me. I enjoy CLASSIC TRUCKS, especially your articles. Thanks for your help.
Guy T. Ventura
Guy, great to see the missus got you from flying high to riding low...well, fairly low, which we're about to correct. If you're looking to get the '59 a tad bit closer to terra firma, you can definitely do so-and without compromising steering components and/or functions. Whether you go with Classic Performance Products (CPP), Brothers Trucks, Chevs of the 40's, Eaton Detroit Spring, or LMC Truck for specific-drop springs, you will get your fenders more intimate with the tops of your tires, that's for sure-just don't expect an extreme drop. However, if you still desire more, there's always the option of going with a dropped axle, such as those offered by CPP. Hope this helps-and good luck with the remainder of your project.
Where To Go?
I am an avid reader of CLASSIC TRUCKS, and found your e-mail address in the Postage Paid section. My 16-year-old son and I are in the process of building a '55 Chevy truck from the ground up. So far we have installed a Total Cost Involved IFS kit in the '55, and have also purchased a TCI four-link setup for the rear. We had a 350 Chevy motor and 700-R4 tranny donated to the project.
The real challenge right now is engine placement. What is a good method for determining how far forward or back the motor should sit? Also, how high or low should the motor sit? I am planning on using the stock radiator mount and a Be Cool aluminum radiator that fits the stock mounts. I am also planning on using a serpentine belt system on the motor. Right now I have the motor mounts mocked up just back of the IFS crossmember and am concerned if this will be too far back.
Another area of concern with the motor placement is the steering linkage from the power rack-and-pinion steering and getting it past the headers to the firewall. I am also concerned with what is the best choice of rearends for this application. I have a rearend out of an '86 Camaro and was told by a rear axle business that this was not stout enough for this truck. Any suggestions? Any light you can shed on my questions will be greatly appreciated.
Steve, you've got many variables to deal with, but fortunately you have everything you need to work with in order to set your drivetrain in place and connect your steering. Basically, since you're sticking with the stock radiator location, start there. As long as the truck was a V-8 model (the sixes had the radiator positioned further forward), try to get the fan as close to the radiator as possible. Typically, the center of your forward-most cylinders (numbers 1 and 2) should be above your axle centerline. In many IFS applications that puts the motor mounts on top of the crossmember, and with a typical SBC, puts the rear sump of the oil pan sufficiently behind. As for height, again, start with the fan and try to keep it as centered with the radiator as possible; beyond that, use the truck's tranny tunnel and firewall as a height guideline. Finally, the last thing to check is the angle you mount the engine. Since the carb-mounting surface on most intake manifolds is angled forward, you can achieve a 3-degree rearward rake by setting it at zero. As for your steering, well, either your headers will dictate how you route the linkage, or how you route the linkage will dictate what headers or exhaust manifolds you use! Just avoid any tight angles in the U-joints when mocking up. And lastly, find yourself a '70s-era Camaro/Nova rearend somewhere in the 3.00-3.50 range (and a 12-bolt if you plan on adding any substantial horsepower to your engine). I'd imagine you were told the rearend you currently have wasn't sufficient because it's out of a lightweight (V-6) model.