In the interest of making this series of articles as informative as possible, we arranged to take the truck from Early Classic Enterprises home in Fresno to Fontana Speedway in Southern California for before and after comparisons of the trucks stopping and handling performance. Since the suspension and brake upgrades are completed, we are now ready to show a full comparison of the test results.
EARLY CLASSIC ENTERPRISES TAKES A REALISTIC APPROACH TO A SUSPENSION REBUILD
By Mark Ansted and Stan Hammond
It seems like every time you turn on the TV or pick up a magazine these days, all you see are high dollar custom built vehicles with seemingly unlimited budgets and mega teams building them. While everyone enjoys looking at expensive customs, the reality of the Classic vehicle world is that only a very small percentage of truck owners actually tear their vehicles completely apart and build a wild unlimited rig. Most truck owners are do-it-yourselfers working evenings and weekends accomplishing as much as possible themselves. Many are daily drivers that take years and sometime decades to finish as their budget allows. No one in the industry realizes this more than the folks at Early Classic Enterprises. For over a decade, they have pioneered virtually every cool suspension and brake upgrade for the 1960-’72 General Motors trucks. Early Classic Enterprises allows the hands-on truck builders the ability to buy off the shelf components to upgrade their ride to modern standards, without the need of an engineering degree or a machine shop in the basement.
It was during one of many similar conversations between Kevin Lee and Early Classic Enterprises’s Stan Hammond that the idea for a new project was born. Why not find a makeover candidate and show the readers what can be accomplished with off the shelf components and a realistic and reasonable budget?
A short trip to Early Classic’s back storage lot produced the perfect start, a clean 1965 Chevy Custom cab shortbed in need of just about everything, but running and drivable. Over the next few months, we’ll show you step by step the transformation as the crew at Early Classic Enterprises does their magic rebuilding and upgrading this tired old soldier into a hotrod any of us would be proud to have in our garage.
One of the biggest drawbacks to the sixties era GM trucks were the front drum brakes, which left much to be desired when it came time to stop. To solve this dilemma, Early Classic designed the original bolt-on disc brake spindle kit for these trucks over 10 years ago, advancing these trucks braking capability to modern standards. They also designed the original 2 ½-inch drop spindles, which were selected for the project along with their six-lug disc brake conversion kit.
1) With the truck on the lift at Early Classic Enterprises' R&D shop, the front suspension disassembly process begins. First separating the upper and lower ball joints, followed by the outer tie rod ends, remove the original drum brake spindles.
2) After disconnecting the brake hose from the cross member and draining the old brake fluid from the system, the entire spindle and hub assembly is lifted off in one piece.
3) This stage is the perfect opportunity to inspect the condition of the front suspension components. The ball joints, tie rod ends and control arm shafts are wear items that need to be replaced periodically, and since the mileage of this particular vehicle is rather high, the decision was made to replace everything and start fresh.
Early Classic offers a complete line of front-end replacement components from Moog, the leading brand of steering and suspension parts since 1919. If maintained properly, their ‘Problem Solver’ line of heavy-duty chassis parts should outlast the truck. Complete front end rebuild kits come with everything needed for the job, including the complete upper and lower control arm shaft kits, which often times are neglected and need to be replaced, along with the tie rod ends and ball joints.
4) With the lower control arm removed from the vehicle, the shaft cap nuts are removed using an air impact gun.
5) The Moog replacement shafts have a larger rubber boot, which are designed to hold more grease than the original. The lower shafts have a dimple that locates their position in the cross member saddles and determines their direction in the control arm.
6) The factory riveted the upper ball joints in place, and they need to be chiseled off for replacement.
7)After pressing out the old ball joint and bead blasting the control arm clean, the new Moog lower ball joints are installed using a floor press. This is one step that slows down many home projects, and Early Classic Enterprises’s Stan Hammond suggests taking your lower control arms to your local trusted mechanic if you don’t have access to an impact gun or floor press. A few dollars spent on outsourcing will lessen your aggravation level and help speed up the installation.
8) The upper control arm shafts use the same style cap nut as the lower arms, but are smaller in size and a little easier to remove. The factory riveted the upper ball joints in place, and they need to be chiseled off for replacement.
9) With the control arms and a set of Early Classic Enterprises’s 1.5” drop small block coil springs in place, the 2.5” Early Classic Enterprises drop spindle and custom 6 lug rotors are next in line for installation.
10) With the new Raybestos caliper in place, the brake hose is installed using the supplied banjo bolts.
11) Then the new tie rod end is re-attached to the steering arm of the spindle.
12) Prior to 1967, all GM trucks used a single master cylinder, which operated both the front and rear brakes as one system. The problem with this design is that any component failure would cause a complete loss of the trucks brakes.
13) Early Classic’s kit uses the correct GM dual master cylinder and proportioning valve, which together create a separate front and rear braking system. Should a failure occur in either system, the other will still function to stop the vehicle.
14) In the ’60-’66 brake kits, Early Classic includes all of the necessary pre-bent steel brake lines to make plumbing the new system a simple process.
15) The new brake hoses also come with their own mounting brackets, which replace the original drum brake hose design.
16) To help improve the handling, an Early Classic Enterprises 1 ¼-inch front sway bar was chosen for the project. They include polygraphite sway bar bushings in every kit as an upgrade over the stock factory rubber design.
16) Because this truck will have a 4-inch total front drop, Early Classic Enterprises’s lowered front sway bar frame mounts were picked to raise the front of the bar closer to the frame for more curb clearance.
17) The sway bar end bushings attach to the lower control arms using the existing holes on the front edge.
18) Since the replacement engine installed in the ’65 already had a power steering pump installed, it was an easy decision to finish the job and upgrade to power steering. Early Classic offers a standard power steering box, along with a quick ratio model that’s 25% faster. Guess which one they picked? The 1960 -‘66 trucks require a frame adaptor, shown here with the new box and hoses.
19) The power steering adaptor kit has a reinforcement plate that mounts on the inside of the frame for support. With both pieces in place, the new power box slips right into place.
20) If you are using an original steering column, it will need to be shortened. An aftermarket tilt column is planned for this truck, so the original column was sent to the swap meet pile along with the rest of the old parts.
Next month we'll cover the rear suspension upgrade and then head for the track for some post installation testing. Stay tuned!