Here at Super Chevy magazine we have received numerous e-mails from readers asking how to build a straight-axle Tri-Five. It seems that over the past decade or so, the nostalgic gasser look of the '60s has returned with a vengeance.
We won't bother going into the history of gassers in this article. Suffice it to say the gasser look and stance was all about weight transfer at the track. We put out the call for anyone doing a straight-axle install, and a year or so later found ourselves heading up to Clearfield, Utah.
The guys at Salt City Speed Shop (SCSS) answered the call and let us stand over their shoulders as we documented them installing a Jim Meyer Racing straight-axle conversion kit.
The crew at SCSS was in the middle of setting up a new shop location, so we moved the installation of the front clip to a more familiar setting-the family home garage. To tell you the truth, during the course of the install we kept expecting things not to fit quite right or run into some sort of problem. It never happened. On several occasions, SCSS's Kris and Larry Elmer commented on how well-engineered the Jim Meyer clip was. The '55 Chevy rolled into the shop, and five days later it rolled out of the shop, complete and ready. Due to the length of this install article we are going to jump right into the specifics.
What you see is what you get. The rear-steer leaf-spring suspension includes everything you'll need to install it into a stock 115-inch wheelbase Tri-Five frame. The straight axle assembly is complete with tube axle (any width), leaf springs (rated at 3,500 pounds for the pair) with front shackles and rear-frame brackets, shocks with frame-mount brackets, new Super Bell early Ford spindles with bolt-on Super Bell 2-inch dropped steering arms, new cross-steer Vega steering box with 2-inch dropped Pitman arm and cross-steer drag link and tie-rod. It features Wilwood 4-piston calipers with 10 3/4-inch rotors with a 5-on-4 3/4 wheel-bolt pattern to fit inside nostalgic 15-inch wheels. Included are box tube grafting sections to install the new suspension to the stock chassis that will be cut at the first body mount, just in front of the firewall. Also in this subframe kit are steering linkage hook-up kits or new ididit steering columns and disc/drum brake kits that plumb into your existing brake system.
After all the king's horse and all the king's men put the Chevy together again, the only hiccup we ran into was the radiator position. Notice how close it is to the pulley, leaving no room for the fan. That problem was easily solved by moving the radiator to the other side of the core support. Now it's time to uncork the headers and upset the neighbors.