As most GM fans know, Chevy and GMC stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park by going for a well-designed, tough front suspension in their 1/2-ton trucks in '62. (We won't mention the short-lived and more than a little embarrassing torsion bar fronts just prior to this.) This same basic IFS, with unequal-length A-arms, a substantial cross-shaft, and ball joints, was used until '87 before being substantially changed. It has excellent geometry, little tendency to bumpsteer, and wears like iron. The paradox is that while it was a great suspension, for quite some time people have looked for any number of ways to replace it-with good reason.
Among the reasons is that until '71, GM did not offer disc brakes. Drum brakes just don't cut it unless you have a very light car or you don't plan on driving normal modern speeds. Another reason is that the design of the crossmember does not allow a really good front drop. Get it down a little too far or have a little too soft a spring and every pebble in the road becomes something to drag the crossmember or inner ends of the A-arms on. Yet another would be that for a serious custom, the factory-stamped parts are too bulky and not exactly a fashion statement. Finally, right from the factory, you are limited by the bulky crossmember as to the space for headers.
Many replace the original front suspension with a Mustang II variation, but there's always been debate about this. Some still do not understand that most parts of these suspensions are no longer Mustang II at all, but aftermarket upgrades, modifications, and reproductions. They miss that the original Mustang II brakes are almost never used because they are too small for full-sized vehicles. Big brake upgrades are standard now. They also miss the fact that Mustang II spindles were used in vehicles up to the size of a full-sized Ford Galaxy-often because they are forged spindles and much stronger for their size than the cast or nodular spindles they replace.
Kits like the Fatman Fabrications' bolt-in unit we'll be looking at here are certainly strong enough to be used in a 1/2-ton pickup truck and have adequate stopping power. They also have the advantage of being bolt-in. Some like weld-ins better, especially for a completed truck (where a lot of welding and re-work is not appreciated), or for someone who wants to do a quality upgrade without welding. (Not everyone is a great welder.)
This truck had all the sheetmetal...
This truck had all the sheetmetal off and the engine and trans out before it arrived at the Fatman shop. The more stuff out of the way the better. You could leave the engine in if you support it well, along with the rest of the chassis.
The original crossmember assembly...
The original crossmember assembly is held in with seven bolts per side. The entire suspension/crossmember assembly comes out as a unit.
On the passenger side, we...
On the passenger side, we removed the idler arm. You can let it hang or remove the steering cross-shaft with idler and tie-rods separately.