What would you do if the rearend in your '53-62 Corvette broke? Could you afford the parts--if you can find them? Or, maybe you're worried about breaking that numbers-matching original. Perhaps you're not getting the traction you always wanted with that traction-bar-less leaf-spring suspension on your '53-58. Or how about making that '59-62 drive a little better? Well, now you have an option. Jim Meyer Racing Products has been building a 9-inch Ford replacement kit for a number of years for all solid-axle Corvettes. The Ford dropout gear selection is large and very popular for both new and used third members. The stock 28-spline axle, 9-inch gear selection for most big Ford passenger cars ('57-81) is everywhere. The larger 31-spline axles were mostly in pickups, up to 1986, when they were discontinued. Both have the same third member with different side gears to accept the two different axle splines. Over-the-counter parts and pieces are readily available in parts stores across the USA and Canada.
As for installation, you won't have to cut up the chassis to install this kit. Jim Meyer has done his utmost to adapt his kit to a stock chassis by welding a couple of brackets to hold the upper coilover shock mounts in position and the forward four-link brackets to the frame. Depending on the year, the '53-58 requires removing a small spring-stop bracket on the outside of the rails. And, on the later '59-62, the upper traction-bar bracket in the same location on the outside of the frame also needs to be removed, as shown in the accompanying photos. A clean removal with a cut-off wheel can make replacement back to stock very easy.
The Jim Meyer kit will make your Corvette look totally stock from all outward appearances. The kit places the narrowed (any width) Ford housing in the original location for a stock appearance (with tire) under the fender and even incorporates the Corvette's stock driveshaft. And thanks to Dutchman Motorsports axles, you can keep your stock wheels on all four corners.
The complete kit features a 9-inch Ford housing (any width) with all necessary brackets welded in position and jig-straightened. New outer housing flanges and Dutchman alloy axles with your choice of splines and wheel bolt pattern are also included, along with a urethane-bushed, adjustable 1-inch diameter Panhard bar with mounting brackets and fasteners, and two QA1 aluminum, adjustable coilover shocks with (optional) adjustable valving and upper mounting brackets. Four urethane-bushed, adjustable four-link bars with forward mounting brackets complete the basic kit. A 1-inch diameter sway bar, standard or Posi-traction third members, and rear disc brake kits (Wilwood, Baer, or Explorer) are optionally available.
This installation could be done at home if you have a MIG or TIG welder, a floor jack, jackstands that will go up 18 inches or more, and basic hand tools. If you don't feel comfortable doing this job yourself, bring your car to Jim Meyer or find a reputable hot rod shop in your area. Complete 12-page instructions with large, clear photos are provided showing every step. And if worse comes to worse, tech support is just a phone call away.
When the time comes, you will be removing all the stock components. The quickest way to do this is to remove the bolts holding both the forward leaf-spring brackets and the rear shackles and bolts. The stock forward spring bracket must be removed to make room for the new forward four-link brackets that weld into this position. The new bracket welds to the frame and the body mount above it (as we show below). You'll also need to remove the top and bottom shock bolts, E-brake cables, driveshaft, brake line hose to the housing (which can be reused), and rear U-joint.
There are only five new brackets that need to be welded to the chassis--the two forward four-link brackets and two upper coilover shock-mount brackets. The Panhard bracket gets welded into position on the inside of the frame last, with all the weight on the suspension. If you do all the welding first, then the coilovers and the housing with four-link bars can be simply bolted into position. The instructions include how to adjust your new QA1 coilovers and how to mount the optional sway bar.
The Jim Meyer kit is available two ways. One is the complete kit mentioned above (for $1,790) that includes a new '58 Ford-style housing with new 3-inch diameter tubes (any width), with new housing flanges and Dutchman alloy axles. Basically it includes everything except new brakes and a third member. The second kit (for $895) is available as a new suspension kit (replaces the old leaf springs) with all the housing and suspension brackets, QA1 coilovers, urethane-bushed Panhard, and four-link bars and fasteners--minus the housing. This way you can use your favorite 10- or 12-bolt GM housing--or whatever you like best. Available separately, a narrowed rearend housing, with axles and housing flanges, goes for $895 but doesn't have the brackets welded to the housing; this is only available in the complete kit.
For those of you looking to take this suspension idea a step further, you can always add rear disc brakes and a Posi-traction third member. And, if you've always wanted to upgrade the '49 Chevy front suspension, Jim Meyer also makes a complete bolt-in IFS kit that mounts to the same original factory holes as the '49 IFS. This kit features '70-81 Camaro spindles (11 inch), rotors, calipers, ball-joints, rack-and-pinion steering, and tubular A-arms.