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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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Five Alive - 1957 Chevy Rear Suspension Upgrade and 9-inch Install
Here's a look at the TCI relocation kit in its entirety. Everythingneeded is all there.
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.
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...
...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?
The front brackets are tack welded to the frame. Start by drilling outthe tack welds, and then use either a cut-off wheel or plasma cutter toremove the rest of the bracket.
On the TCI spring pockets, there are two holes you can choose from whenmounting the leaf springs. The relocation kit lowers the vehicle, butdepending on which hole you decide to mount the leaf springs to willdetermine if it's roughly a 1 1/2- or 2-inch drop...
...There is a 1 1/4-inchhole in the frame. Use this hole as a reference point, because one ofthe two holes on the spring pocket should be centered in this hole wheninstalled.
For TCI to clear out 3 inches of room, the kit relocates the leafsprings inside the framerails. By cutting out a section from the bottompiece of the frame, this spring pocket is placed up into the framerailand becomes the new mounting position. To get an idea of where to cut,place the pocket against the frame and make a few reference lines on theframe. Remember, one of the holes on the TCI spring pocket needs to bealigned and centered in the OEM frame 1 1/4-inch hole, so use that as areference point when placing the pocket on the frame to make yourmarkings.
With your lines drawn, begin cutting. The total area to be removed isapproximately 3 inches wide by 16 inches long.
It may be necessary to do a little grinding to clean things up a bit andhave a proper fit for the new spring pockets.
Once your initial cuts are made, place the pocket up into the frame. Ifthe mounting hole is centered and the pocket is following the contour ofthe frame, you're in position. In some cases, the pocket may be in theright position, but the rearend of the pocket may be sticking out just alittle bit. Instead of hacking away at the frame, trim down the TCIpocket at the end to fit.
Once the pocket is installed, tack it into place. Then measure 57 inchesfrom the center of the 1 1/4-inch hole to the rear of the frame wherethe leaf spring used to mount.
At the 57-inch spot, mark the frame and place the new TCI shackle hangeron top of the frame with the hole of the hanger centered with the markon the frame. This is where the new leaf spring will mount in the rear.
From there, measure 4 inches from the line drawn on the frame toward therear of the car and make another mark. The mark should be right at themiddle of the rear OEM shackle-mounting hole.
With the rear mark in place, take the shackle notch plate and place itagainst the frame with the rear of the notch plate (the end that doesn'thave an incline) right at the second mark we made. Once the plate is inposition, trace the outline of the plate.
All of the material inside the trace of the notch plate needs to be cutout to bring the leaf up into the frame. If you're not sure what areaneeds to be cut, take a look at the X's that Jeff drew so he would knowexactly what to cut...
...Once mapped out, he cut out the area and welded inthe notch plate.
With the front pocket, rear notch plate, and shackle hanger tacked in,measure everything once more to make sure it is all is squared up. Itwould be a good idea to make reference points showing exactly where youmeasured from, that way when it comes time to do the other side, youknow exactly where to measure from and both sides will line up. If allthe measuring "measures" up, go ahead and weld everything into place.
The TCI kit comes with new leaf springs, so there's no need to botherwith the old ones. With everything all welded up, install the leafsprings. The front of the spring has the pressed-in bushings; as for therear, place the busing in the eyes and slide the 5/8-inch sleeve intothe bushings. In the rear, install one end of the shackle to the mountand the other end to the spring. The fronts use a bolt that slidesthrough the OEM 1 1/4-inch hole, and the new spring pocket hole to mountthe leaf spring.
Remember when we said we're tossing the old rearend? Here's why: abrand-new Moser Ford 9-inch with GM flanges. The Moser 9-inch Fordhousings are made with new heavy-duty housing cores, seamless steeltubing (3-inch O.D., 1/4-inch wall), new brackets, new housing ends, andnew bushings. All of the Moser 9-inch bolt-in housing and axle packagesinclude a new housing, Custom Alloy axles (28-, 31-, 33-, or35-spline--we went with 31-spline), ball bearings, up to 1/2-inch studsand heavy duty retainer plates. This package is designed specificallyfor Tri-Five Chevys and we figured this would be the perfect rear end toget our '57 up to modern-day performance and drivability, even if it isa Ford. Another cool thing we found out while doing this story is thatMoser can custom-build the axle length. Meaning exactly what? Let's sayyou want to shed 2 inches on each side of the axle and mini-tub the car;all it takes is a call to Moser. In the end, that means that since theleaves have been moved in 3 inches, thanks to TCI, and the axle has beenshrunk, with the addition of a mini-tub, you could put some seriouslywide rubber out back. See we here at Super Chevy have open minds...most ofthe time.
Along with the new Moser 9-inch, we ditched the drums and went with aTCI rear disc kit. TCI offers several for Tri-Fives, but we wantedsomething that would suit everyday driving, not the turns of LagunaSeca. The basic kit from TCI uses GM 12x0.810-inch rotors with aninternal e-brake, which we got from Wilwood Disc Brakes and GM calipers.TCI builds its own bracket in order for the kit to bolt up. However, foreverything to work, we also had to get the proper axle flanges fromWilwood, which are the Chevy Special flanges. The basic TCI setup isnothin' fancy, but they do look and perform better than drums, which isexactly what we were looking for.
Once the TCI discs were installed on the Moser 9-inch, the rear wasmounted to the leaf springs using the five-hole plates provided.
With the rear in place, the shock mount and shocks can be installed. Bymeasuring 18 3/8 inches back from the front of the leaf-spring eye, thentransferring that mark to the top of the inside of the frame, the shockmount brackets can be installed to the frame. Do this on the other sideof the frame, as well.
Next, mount the shock mount bar from mount to mount. On the bar thereare two perches that the shocks will mount to.
Done for now. Next month we'll head to the front of the '57 and then outto the track to check our final results.
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