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1955 Chevy Suspension - Putting Up A Good Front
Installing A McGaughy's Front Suspension And Disc-Brake Kit On A Classic Shoebox.
Jan 1, 2008
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1955 Chevy Suspension - Putting Up A Good Front
Our '55 front end was already disassembled, and with the front clip off we can better show you how to do the install. Fear not, you can do this with the front clip still on, you'll just have to wiggle around a little more in the engine compartment when getting the control arms out. If your front clip is still installed, invest in some good fender covers, or several cheap blankets to protect your paint while working.
Since our original cross-shafts were looking a little rough, we bought a set of new shafts, then took them and the control arms to a local shop for installation. Here, Jim Kelly of Port Orange Auto Repair in Florida installs the cross-shafts into our McGaughy's tubular control arms with new bushings, also from McGaughy's. This part of the job is best left to the pros. If you don't know exactly what you're doing, you can bend the ears of the control arms, and forever doom yourself to an out-of-alignment front end. Make sure you have your cross-shafts labeled for which side they go on. While the upper shafts on a Tri-Five are symmetrical, the lower shafts are left/right specific.
Here's our new control arms with shafts installed. The McGaughy's shafts are made out of heavy gauge, highquality steel tubing for extra strength.
The McGaughy's control arms feature welded construction for superior strength. Here you can see the ear on the upper control arm with the new bushing and cross-shaft installed. Don't tighten the bushing keeper bolts (arrow) until you have the arms installed and the weight of the car on them. If you tighten before, you'll never be able to get the front end properly aligned.
The lower ball joints only go in one way, from the bottom, so you don't have to worry about incorrect installation. If you put it in wrong, the bolt-holes won't line up. Slide the new ball joint in and line up the boltholes by hand.
Next, install and hand-tighten the vertical installation bolts. Make sure you've got the included lock washers installed also.
Then do the same thing for the vertical bolts, and you're all finished installing the lower ball joint. After the bolts are tightened, install the included grease fitting so you can lube up the new joints when everything's installed on the car.
With the bolts holes properly aligned, install and handtighten the ball joint retaining bolts, being sure not to forget the lock washers.
To tighten the horizontal bolts, you'll need a ratchet and an open-end wrench. Tighten down the horizontal bolts until the lock washers are crushed flat.
Just like the lower joint, the upper ball joint will only install one way. Once all the holes are lined up, you're good to go.
Here's a great comparison between the original lower control arm and the new McGaughy's unit. The McGaughy's unit is a little lighter, and features much sturdier construction, especially in the spring pocket area. Overall, the McGaughy's A-arms just give a cleaner, more high-tech look. Don't throw away your original A-arms, though. You never know when someone doing a stock restoration might need a control arm, and it's just good insurance to keep parts like this around. Our original A-arms have an appointment with a bead blaster and some fresh paint before being stored.
Here's a close-up of the factory lower A-arm ...
The new bumpstop just presses into place using the OE mounting hole on the frame. A few love taps with a hammer, and the bumpstop is in place and ready to go.
Odds are the bolts attaching your original A-arms to the frame are the 50-plus-year-old originals, so investing in new, grade-8 hardware is a smart thing to do. Along with the bolts, grade-8 nuts and lock washers are extra insurance against an arm coming lose, throwing your suspension geometry off, or even causing a full suspension failure.
And here's the new McGaughy's A-arm.
Before bolting the upper control arm to the frame, we set the arm in position just to check fit and make sure it would clear the frame.
Then slide the mounting bolts in, with the heads of the bolts on the engine side of the control arm.
For tightening the bolts, you'll need a half-inch drive ratchet with a deep well socket, and a combination wrench. Tighten both bolts down evenly until the lock washers are crushed flat. You'll know when the bolts can't be tightened anymore.
With the lower arm in place, it's time to install the coil spring. This part of the job you can do yourself, but it's easier if you have a second set of hands to help you out.
In place and ready to go, tighten down the castle nut. You definitely want 1/2 -inch drive ratchets and sockets when doing this swap, so you can have enough leverage to tighten all the bolts properly.
Installing the lower control arms takes a little more patience and effort, but it's not hard. To help yourself out, line up the bolt-holes and hand-tighten two of the bolts in place to hold the arm up while you install the other bolts. If the bolt-holes don't line up, then you need to rotate the cross-shaft 180, or make sure you've got the correct lower arm for the side you're working on.
Using a floor jack, we supported the lower control arm and compressed the spring a little more to get the upper arm ball joint to slip into the new spindle. Save yourself some effort and make sure you have the castle nut for the ball joint close by, so once everything is in place you can secure the upper ball joint to the spindle.
After the top ball joint is secure, tighten down the bottom ball joint to the spindle assembly. Once both castle nuts are in place, insert the cotter pins and bend the ears back.
The rotor goes together just like any other: grease the inner races, pack the wheel bearings, and install the inner bearing with wheel seal. Before installing the rotor, grease the spindle with a light coat of bearing grease.
Next, slip the caliper onto the spindle bracket, then secure it with the supplied caliper bolts.
With the spindles installed, it's time to put the brakes on. The McGaughy's kit uses G-body GM disc brakes, featuring an 11-inch rotor and single piston calipers. G-body brake parts are cheap and easy to find at any parts store, so if you ever have to fix anything, or when it's time for a brake job, you won't have to search for what you need.
Slip the rotor on the spindle, then install the outer wheel bearing, washer, and castle nut. At this point you're basically doing the install part of a normal brake job, so it's not rocket science. Tighten the castle nut down far enough to eliminate any side-to-side play in the rotor.
Here's the finished product. Compared to the original suspension, the McGaughy's kit offers a much cleaner look while opening up a little more space on the front end. In the near future, we'll use a McGaughy's front steering kit to rebuild the rest of our front suspension, along with remounting our steering box and getting the front end of our '55 back on the ground for the first time in years.
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