CCT readers may remember that last month we followed along as Altered Engineering in Orange, California, installed a Corvette C4 ('84-97) rear suspension in a '55 Chevy Series 2 chassis. Moving to the front this month, we'll show you how the crew installed a '96 Corvette independent front suspension on the same chassis, completing the ride and handling upgrade.
As long as enthusiasts have been modifying classic cars and trucks there have been various frontend swaps. We've seen Jaguar frontends and odd-ball-AMC Pacer IFS installs. For years the Camaro clip was popular, as was the Plymouth Volare adjustable IFS. Then the Mustang II started to show up everywhere. All of these frontend conversions have their pluses and minuses. Volare's IFS is less manageable than the Mustang II and more fabrication is involved. The exotics are simply that, exotic; therefore it can be more expensive to obtain parts. Besides, did that XKE weigh anywhere close to what your 1/2-ton truck weighs? Mustang II front-ends are quite popular; in many areas they have become the industry standard. The swaps, where the front of the original frame is cut off and one from another car is welded on, are a great amount of work-work that includes remounting the radiator, core support, inner fenders, and motor mounts. Many are installed with little regard for the original steering geometry.
Another issue with an IFS clip is that often the welding and engineering of the attachment is not gusseted properly-a fact that inspired the owner of this chassis to look for alternatives. As he was heading home from a truck show, he witnessed a truck not unlike his own crash to the ground when the poorly welded Camaro clip broke away from the frame. Immediately his wife remarked, "You're not doing that to our truck!" We admit there are safe IFS swaps on the road, but the sound logic to keeping the stock frame intact is obvious.
Flat-Out Engineering in Orange, California, also thought there must be a better way, and owner Don McNeill decided the idea of using Corvette C4 parts was a solid improvement. Good old American muscle with the charm and mystique of the Corvette name sounded fine to Don. When Chevrolet reengineered the Corvette for '84, they pulled out all the stops with a race-inspired suspension system that not only performed great, but the aluminum parts looked good too. Although minor changes, including larger brakes, evolved the system over the 14-year run, the basic suspension remains the same and the units are now reasonably available in salvage yards.
What McNeill created was a crossmember kit to allow enthusiasts to mount one of these performance suspension systems into early pickup trucks. Flat-Out offers the kits for Ford F-100s as well as the '55-59 Chevy Series 2, and many more kits for both classic cars and trucks are currently under development. We really like using the Corvette suspension. When you use both the front and rear suspensions, your ride has a well- balanced system-not a miss-match of brands and steering-system geometry. Here's how the crew at Altered Engineering installed the Corvette IFS on a Chevrolet Series 2 chassis.
It's hard to believe that...
It's hard to believe that this unsightly mess will actually make a good-looking, superior-riding/handling suspension system. It appears as though this Corvette led a hard life-but all the components are here, and under the grime they're actually in decent shape.
In sharp contrast to the salvage-yard...
In sharp contrast to the salvage-yard parts, the kit from Flat-Out Engineering is a work of art. All the brackets and hardware are included along with complete instructions.
Our first step was to measure...
Our first step was to measure the front axle centerline and indicate its location on the frame for reference. Not everyone agrees where the front wheels should be located-as Chevy didn't center them in the original wheelwell. Depending on how low your truck is, the diameter of the wheel and tire combo (and personal aesthetics) will determine where you place your centerline. The lower your truck, the farther forward you will want to mount the crossmember.