How to Install Heidts Front Suspension on a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

Suspending The Lean - Heidts and Wilwood come together to create a flat-cornering, stop-on-a-dime front suspension for Tri-Fives

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Spindle 2/38

15 Per the instructions, we placed one 0.016 shim per bolt between the mounting bracket and the spindle before bolting it up opposite the steering arm. These shims, which are provided with the kit, are used to center the caliper over the rotor.

Install Spindle 3/38

16 Now the lift was lowered so we could load the lower arm with a jack to install the spindle nuts.

Install Rotor 4/38

17 Then we installed the new rotor assembly as if it were stock. One thing to note is the cotter pin. There is not enough clearance between the end of the spindle spud and the dust cap, so the cotter pin must be trimmed as shown and kept from going over the top or it will keep the dust cap from threading on all the way.

Install Thick 5/38

18 Before installing the caliper for the first time, two 0.035-inch thick shims per mounting stud were used to space the caliper far enough away as to not rub on the edge of the rotor. These shims will also be used to properly position the pads on the rotor.

Install 6/38

19 Now the caliper is temporarily installed to see if the 0.016 shims centered the caliper. In our application they were not; we needed the caliper to move out the thickness of the shim. So we removed the mounting bracket, dropped the shim and put it back on. This got us centered. The shims are provided to compensate for machining tolerances on the spindles, but ours were perfect, so kudos to Heidts for excellent machining. Also, once we slipped in a set of pads we noticed the caliper was just a tad too high, so we removed one each of the 0.035 shims under the caliper and that got us full pad contact.

Install 90 Degree 7/38

20 Once happy with caliper alignment, we installed the 90-degree fitting provided in our brake line kit (PN 220-8307). A super small amount of thread sealer was used to prevent any fluid from weeping from around the threads.

Wilwood Flex 8/38

21 The new flex line from Wilwood is 18-inches long and has the proper ends to attach to our existing front brake lines. They even fit into our stock frame bracket.

Tie Rod 9/38

22 Next on the to do list was shorten the tie rod assemblies. Since our arms are narrowed, the steering arms have been moved in. We assembled the passenger's side and then made sure the rotors were sitting straight and the center link was also centered. That allowed us to measure the distance between the two points, which for us was 13 inches. We decided to make our assemblies 12 inches, which will give us a bit of wiggle room to get the steering wheel straight during the alignment.

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Install Tie 10/38

23 We picked up a new set of sleeves from our local parts store and chopped off 3/4-inch from each side with a chop saw. Then we de-burred the cuts, threaded in the tie rod ends and put them on the car.

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Install Sway 11/38

24 With the steering out of the way, we moved to the sway bar install. This is when we found a huge clearance issue between the calipers and the end of the sway bar. At first we thought we would not be able to run the sway bar, but before giving up we called the Wilwood and Heidts tech lines. We asked both manufacturers “Are there any issues with moving the calipers to the rear?” Both company tech line guys said, “No problem. That spindle will go either way—just make sure you have no interference with the steering arm.”

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Wilwood 12/38

25 We flopped the caliper mounting bracket to the back of the spindle and hoped it wouldn't hit anything. Luckily for us, there is plenty of clearance this way, and now we could turn lock-to-lock with no issues. Whew, crisis averted, plus we think it looks better this way.

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Mount Sway 13/38

26 Knowing our clearance issue was cured, we continued on with mounting the sway bar. The bar installation necessitated us drilling a couple holes on the frame horns for the front mounts.

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air U 14/38

27 The bar comes with a U-shaped bolt that drops in from the top, through the holes to provide the threads for the Nylok nuts.

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Brake 15/38

28 With all the major components in place we turned our attention back to the brake system. We chucked the new master into the vise and installed the provided bleeding hoses, filled it up with Wilwood's hi-Temp 570 DOT 3 brake fluid and began bench bleeding the master. We kept pushing the plunger in until there were no more bubbles in the hoses.

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Bolt On 16/38

29 Once we were confident there was no air in the master, we bolted it on to our existing booster. One thing we did that is not shown is re plumbing the rear brake line with 5/16 line. Ours was still the 1/4-inch line for drum brakes, and using it would cause a pressure drop in the rear system due to the larger line. When converting to four-wheel discs, it's best to have the same size brake line going to all components.

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Bleed 17/38

30 We started bleeding the system, starting with the caliper furthest from the master (passenger side rear). We used a vacuum- type bleeder to start the process, and once we had fluid coming out of each bleeder we switched to the two person, pump and hold scenario. According to Wilwood, the system wants to see 900 to 1200 psi at the calipers. To check this, we used a gauge threaded into one of the bleeder screws. As you can see, after all the air was out of the system we had proper pressures.

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Install Steel Wheel 18/38

31 The last step was to take out the pressure gauge and install the thin steel wheel shield that will protect the aluminum hat from our stamped steel wheels. If you are running aluminum rims you won't need this, but for stamped steelies you will. This basically keeps the rims from denting the aluminum hub and possibly creating an uneven mounting surface down the road.

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Side 19/38

32 With that we idled the car out of the shop, checking the brakes as we did. While the brakes stopped the car our pedal felt a bit soft—not spongy, just too easy to push. We made another call to Wilwood's tech line and they told us to check the pedal ratio and distance between the push rod coming out of the booster and the master. We will cover all of this along with proper pad bedding in an upcoming story. Since the car actually stopped fine, we felt confident enough to take her for a cruise. What a difference a day makes. The car feels tight and responsive, even with a 58-year-old steering system. We still have things to do before we can really drive the car, like get it aligned, address the soft pedal feel, and measure for bigger and better rolling stock. Then we are taking her to the track to adjust all our new goodies and see what she can really do.


Wilwood Engineering
Camarillo, CA 93012
Heidts Automotive
Lake Zurich, IL 60047


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