When we left Project Get Shorty last month, the frame had just been buttoned back up, and it was time to start putting things back together. Like we said before, the '71's underpinnings aren't going to be the stock trailing arms, coil springs, control arms, etc. Instead, a complete setup from Air Ride Technologies is going to take its place.
As every truck and hot rod enthusiast knows, the rear suspension setup on '63-72 Chevy trucks is more than adequate. In fact, it's so consistent and proficient that to this day every NASCAR running the oval utilizes the same Chevy truck arm suspension designed in the '60s. Knowing the rear suspension's history, Air Ride Technologies (ART) has retained the basic blueprint but refined a few areas to accommodate lowered, air-suspended vehicles with their new STRONGARM kit.
For starters, one of the key developments on the new ART kit is the C-notch plates. In order to get the truck's rear as low to the ground as possible without cutting the bed floor, ART designed a bolt-in C-notch. By cutting a minimal amount out of the frame and bolting up the new plates, the truck's rear can lay as close to the ground as possible.
Another area that ART honed in on is the trailing arm crossmember. Because the suspension geometry, mounting locations, and more are the same as stock, the ART kit can be used with the stock trailing arm crossmember. The new ART crossmember is basically the same, but with one vital advantage: Since the truck can now be dumped on the ground, something had to be done with the exhaust. The old crossmember enabled the exhaust to either run underneath the crossmember or to the side, which defeats the purpose of laying the truck out if the exhaust is going to hang low and hit. To solve the problem, ART developed a tubular crossmember with adequate room to run the exhaust through the crossmember, eliminating any clearance issues.
With the question of clearance out of the way, ART's next move was to make sure the rearend geometry stayed the same throughout the range of travel. One area of focus was to make sure the rearend wasn't engaging in excessive lateral movement, or in laymen's terms, moving side to side, due to the insufficient Panhard bar setup. To compensate for the stock Panhard bar system, ART designed a billet aluminum bracket that bolts from the 12-bolt housing to the frame. The new Panhard bar and mount keep the rearend stationary and the truck tracking straight. The other area that needed attention was making sure the pinion angle was within spec during travel. To solve this, ART designed a new bracket that attaches to the tubular trailing arms and keeps the pinion angle where it should be.
Instead of reusing the factory...
Instead of reusing the factory trailing arm setup, we're going to install Air Ride Technologies' rear STRONGARM kit. Here you can see a bird's eye view of everything in the kit.
With the truck's rear half...
With the truck's rear half dismantled, I decided now would be as good a time as any to clean up things. Using a wire wheel on the grinder, I cleaned up the rearend and rattle-canned it black.
The next step was to find...
The next step was to find the new wheelbase. We knocked out the factory crossmember and set the Air Ride trailing arm crossmember in place.