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Rearend Woes?

Solid-Axle Rearend Kits For First-Gen Corvettes

Jul 22, 2004

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.


The first two years for Corvette, '53-54.

The last two straight-axle Corvettes, '61 (shown) and '62.

The complete Jim Meyer '53-62 Corvette replacement rearend kit features Dutchman alloy axles (not shown), new 9-inch Ford housing with new flanges, urethane-bushed adjustable four-link and Panhard bars, QA1 aluminum adjustable coilovers, brackets, grade-8 hardware, and instructions. As a new suspension kit, it is available without the housing and axles, and you supply the complete rearend.

The smaller bracket (in hand) on the '53-58 models (serves as a spring stop with rubber pad) and the...

...taller bracket with torque arm ('59-62) both need to be removed from the outside of the framerails for the installation of the kit.

So you don't have to cut up the stock chassis, Jim Meyer made a special coilover adapter bracket that utilizes the stock...

...upper shock mount hole, in the rear crossmember, to attach the upper coilover mount bolt.

With the coilover bracket installed in the upper rear crossmember, a support plate is welded in the corner of the chassis and the crossmember.

This adds support to the frame and the upper coilover mount bracket/bolt.

This is how the upper coilover mount looks fully assembled. Notice, the coilover bolt goes through the bracket and support plate that anchors to the frame and crossmember. The two washers (in hand) go inside the bracket between the urethane coilover bushing and the bracket on each side.

The lower coilover mounting bracket on the housing offers three positions (about 3-4 inches) for the stance that is right for you. Notice how the bolt goes through the bracket and is held by a Nylok nut on the front side.

Remove the four bolts holding the forward spring bracket on the outside of the frame and butt the new forward four-link bracket up to the same frame bracket.

The two inner holes next to the frame can be used to "rosette weld" (through the holes) the bracket in position. Jim also recommends welding to the body mount bracket above and to the framerail as well.

The complete rearend kit has the brackets welded on the housing. Once the forward four-link bracket has been welded in position on the chassis, all that is necessary is to adjust the four bars with four threads showing beyond the adjustment nuts. This will put your pinion shaft at a 0-degree angle that has been designed into the jig that mounts the brackets on the housing. Notice on the side of the frame (just above the upper four-link bar) where the spring stop bracket has been removed on this '53-58 chassis. This kit retains the stock rubber bumper between the axle housing and the frame (upper right-hand corner).

Without the body, it's a little easier to see the installation. With the four-link in the same outboard position as the old springs and the coilovers near the framerails on the inside, it leaves plenty of room for mufflers in front of the rearend and tailpipes over the housing.

A Corvette without sway bars! This is a "must-have" item if you want your Corvette to handle like the big boys. Jim Meyer offers 1-inch diameter sway bar kits (both front and rear) for Corvettes up to '82.

Jim Meyer offers a universal '53-62 Corvette kit that will work with any make, straight-axle rearend. The '63-82 sway bars are especially made for use with the stock IRS and IFS.

With the sway bar assembly loosely attached to the housing, rotate the U-bolts attached to the sway bar toward the rear until you have 1 1/4 inches between the lower coilover bracket and the sway bar. This will place the arms to the rear and parallel with the ground.

With the weight of the Vette on all four tires (or jackstands under the housing), swing the sway bar up to the framerails. Assemble as shown, minus the square U-bolt that goes up inside the framerails.

Using only the bracket between the upper bushings, mark the two mounting holes and then drill two 7/16-inch diameter holes in the bottom of the rails.

The Panhard bar (installed last) should be bolted to the housing bracket first. Center the rearend housing side to side--between the housing flanges and the chassis rails--by adjusting the Panhard rod end, swing the frame end of the Panhard bracket up to the inside of the frame, and weld into position.

The stock '53-62 Corvette uses a 1310 series Spicer U-joint. Depending on which yoke you may have on your Ford third member, you may or may not need a new U-joint to connect to the stock driveshaft. You could have two different cup sizes. Measure the cup diameter and width of the yoke (id and od) to find the correct U-joint at the parts house. They do have U-joints to fit this application.

This view from the rear shows the completed installation. Connecting into your old brake line system is possible if you don't feel like running new lines.


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