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Five Alive - 1957 Chevy Rear Suspension Upgrade and 9-inch Install

Total Cost Involved resurrects this '57 for the street

Aug 14, 2006
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strong>Tri-5 TECH POINT: In 1957, the stockthird-memebr rear end was strong enough to take all the punishment thatthe factory engines could dish out, inclduing the 283 horse F.I.equipped 283 small-block. When racers and street guys began dropping inhigher horse small-blocks, W-motors and eventually big-blocks, theshoebox's stock rear couldn't take the abuse. Today the aftermarketofferrs a wide variety of beefy rear end options, from 12-bolts to9-inches to Danas, so your Tri-5 can take all the horsepower you canthrow at it! What's the point of living if you don't feel alive? You must havesomething to run through your veins and get your motor running, becausewithout it, life is just like watching a mundane episode of Oprah. Idon't know about you, but I'm not about to sit around and pay homage tosome talk show host while I gorge on a box of Bon Bons.

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Here's a look at the TCI relocation kit in its entirety. Everythingneeded is all there.

When you jump behind the wheel of a vintage cruiser, you should feelinvigorated. Sometimes that's hard to do given the inadequate handling,braking, and overall drivability of a stock Tri-Five. What Tri-Fivesneed is some sort of kit or package that can bring them back to life--anautomotive defibrillator, so to speak. What they need is what we here atSuper Chevy call a "Five Alive" package, and Total Cost Involved hasjust the parts we were looking for.

Just because we're going to call it "Five Alive," doesn't mean thatTotal Cost Involved (TCI) does. In fact, TCI doesn't even have a package likethat. What TCI does have is an assortment of kits that can be orderedindependently, or all at the same time. TCI is a company thatspecializes in bringing vintage American rides into the 21st centurywith updated suspension and brakes. Whether it's a Ford Model A or aFirst-Gen Nova or Camaro, its catalog covers a wide variety of cars andtrucks. Somewhere in the middle of all those part numbers, a handful ofproducts for Tri-Five Chevys are available.

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The '57 was taken up to Total Cost Involved's shop, where George andJeff threw it up on the rack and got to work. The TCI rear leaf-springkit doesn't use any of the old suspension hardware. For that reason,remove the entire rear suspension and rearend. In some instances, youmight reuse the rear and brake assembly, so be sure to hang on to that.In our case, the '57 is getting a new Moser Ford 9-inch with TCI reardisc brakes so we threw everything to the side.

For this story, we rounded up this '57 Hardtop. The car is pretty much stock,with all the underpinnings that Chevy had originally intended on it.Although the timeless lines and fins covered in the near-perfect blackfinish are cool to look at, all it takes is a quick trip around theblock for you to step out and say, "Man, that's a nice cruiser"--which isexactly what we are trying to escape. What we want is a car that's notonly cool to look at, but can handle its own on the street. Total CostInvolved has designed several upgrades that accomplished this.

From front to back, this '57 is getting new running gears. Although wewill get to the front setup next month, we're going to start with therear. One problem that Tri-Five owners are more than aware of is thatstuffing some meaty tires in the rear requires some reconstructivesurgery. Because the leaf springs mount on the outside of the framerailsand take up a good amount of real estate in the wheelwells, thisprohibits Tri-Five owners from running anything besides pizza cutters.One way to get around the problem is to install a ladder bar setup orfour-link, but the problem with this is it's a lot of work, and manyowners aren't willing to cut their car that much. Weighing the options,Total Cost Involved came up with an alternative solution that doesn'tcall for a major change in the rear. TCI has engineered a kit thatrelocates the leaf springs. The TCI kit chops off the leaf-springhangers and shackles, and moves the leaves up in to the framerails.

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On '57 Chevys, the leaf springs mount on the outside of the framerailson two hangers that protrude from the frame. The biggest advantage ofthe TCI kit is that it removes these hangers and relocates the leafsprings inside the frame, which clears up 3 inches of room that can beused to run some bigger rubber...

Relocating them up into the frame clears up nearly 3 inches of valuablespace, and the best part is no ladder bar or four-link setup was needed.Along with clearing up some room, the kit also brings the back of thecar down to what we think is a more appropriate ride height. (Anotheroption is to move the spring mounts inboard of the framerails)

TCI gives users two options when setting the ride height of the vehiclein the rear. Depending on which mounting position is chosen, the kitwill lower the car either a 1 1/2 or 2 inches. To complement the newrear setup, we're also ditching the rest of the running gear. Therearend is going to be replaced by a Moser Ford 9-inch with GM axleflanges. This '57 will receive an engine upgrade, however, and the stockrearend isn't going to be able to cut it.

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...The rear leaf-spring bracket is mountedto the frame using rivets. Using a cut-off wheel and cutting the rivetsdown the middle can remove the head of the rivet. Don't worry aboutgrinding a bit of the bracket; we won't be using those anymore, now willwe?

At the end of the Moser rearend, the drum brakes are being thrown asidefor TCI's disc brake kit. Sure, we could have gone with 13-inchcross-drilled and slotted rotors with four-piston calipers and the like,but remember we said all this car needs to be is a kick-ass streetcar,nothing more. For that reason, we went with TCI'sbottom-of-the-totem-pole GM rotor with single-piston caliper conversionkit. The rotor and caliper is all GM, but to mount it up, TCI hasfabricated mounting brackets that will allow the brakes to be used withany rearend. The setup uses a Wilwood internal parking brake. We alsohad to get a set of Wilwood Chevy Special axle flanges to bolt thebrakes to the GM flanges on the Moser housing

Assembling the rearend and brakes is no different than on any other car.As for the relocation kit, it takes a bit of work. The install calls forcutting, grinding, and trimming, but anyone with at least one hemisphereof the brain functioning can handle it. The "advanced learning" neededfor this install is the ability to weld. The install does call for afair share of welding, so if you have these skills, you can do ityourself.


Wilwood Engineering
Camarillo, CA 93012
Total Cost Involved
Ontario, CA 91762
Moser Engineering
Portland, IN 47371



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