Dropping The Big Ship Part 1 | Early Classic Enterprises

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The premier manufacturer and distributor of quality suspension and restoration components for 1960-1972 GM pickups, blazers, panels and suburbans.

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Dropping The Big Ship Part 1

Publication Name: 
Sport Truck
Publication Date: 
March, 2004
Section: 
Technical

In the world of sport utility vehicles, the Suburban has long been at or near the top of all urban assault vehicles. Since the late '30's, Chevrolet has been building the ultimate vehicle for both work and play. Ask any truck owner with kids what they dislike most about their ride and the general answer is lack of room for the car seat, toys, bikes, and so on. One of the main reasons that SUV's are so popular is their ability to haul everyone and everything, all in the same trip.

With the price of new SUV's going through the roof, it only stands to reason that the classic Suburban market is booming, too. This newfound popularity has created a seller's market, leaving many people looking at alternative solutions to the shortage of prime project vehicles.

Early Classic's VP and General Manager, Stan Hammond, faced the same dilemma recently. With a growing family and the need for a bigger, yet cool, mode of transportation, he started looking for a suburban to fill the garage. After realizing that most of the 1/2-ton models were either overpriced or just plain worn out, he found this very clean 3/4-ton Suburban and struck a deal.

From a customizing standpoint, 3/4-ton trucks and Suburbans have generally been passed over, due to their heavy suspension and eight-lug wheels. Stan and the crew at ECE decided that this would be the perfect R&D vehicle to test and display their new 1/2-ton conversion spindle kit, along with a rear air suspension and anything else that could be bolted on while it was in the shop.

Follow along as we show the transformation from zero to cool in just a few short hours.

How To Steps and Images: 
Early Classic's C-20 conversion kit makes it possible to change from eight-lug to either five- or six-lug brakes and suspension on '60-'87 C-20 trucks. The company manufactures its spindles in both stock height and 2.5-inch drop, and each spindle is machined to fit the original tie rods and ball joints. The kit comes complete with all the necessary brake components for a simple installation.
The worn-out front anti-sway bar is unbolted from the frame and lower control arms, then thrown on the same pile as the old eight-lugs. It will be replaced with a bigger model later on.
With the Suburban securely set on a lift, the old eight-lug wheels are removed and tossed aside
Since everything is being replaced, the entire spindle assembly can be removed in one piece. The tie rods and ball joints have a tapered design that needed to be popped loose for removal. This can be achieved using several different methods; since the front-end parts are fairly new on this truck, a hammer is used to strike the spindle boss and shock the taper loose.
It is imperative to only loosen and not remove the ball joint's nuts, due to the serious coil spring pressure of the front suspension.
With the outer tie rod removed and the ball joints loosened, the brake hose is disconnected from the steel line on the crossmember. The caliper is the same on the C-20 as the one on the C-10, but due to the mileage and wear, the decision was made to replace them. If your original calipers are in good condition, they can be reused with the new conversion spindles.
After slightly raising the lower control arm to relieve the coil spring pressure, the entire old spindle and rotor assembly is removed.
Stan wanted this Suburban to be down in the weeds, so a set of Early Classic drop front coil springs and KYB shocks will also be installed. Adding to the pile of take-off parts are the old front coils and worn-out shock absorbers. An hour or so of wire brushing, degreasing, and a little paint goes a long way toward making the finished job look that much better.
ECE offers many different coil springs for the '60-'72 GM trucks in both small- and big-block engine applications. The spindles provide a 2.5-inch drop, while the coils add another 1.5-inches for a total of 4 inches in front. The new kyb shocks will help dampen the bumps and smooth out the ride.
The beauty of the ECE spindle is that it's machined to accept the factory C-20 ball joints and tie rods, eliminating the need for changing out all the front-end parts in order to make them fit. The upper and lower ball joints are then torqued down to the proper specs.
Early Classic also includes new backing plate dust shields, which mount onto the spindles before the rotor is installed.
The new Federal Mogul wheel bearings need to be greased, which can be done using a special bearing packer, or the old way using your paws and a handful of high-temperature grease. This is a great job for the neighbor who always wants to help out on you projects.
The inner bearings are installed into the back of the rotor, followed by the inner grease seals, which are gently tapped into place. The rotor is then mounted onto the spindle pin and the outer bearing is installed and tightened to specs.
It's very important to thoroughly clean the brake rotor surfaces to remove all grease and hand-prints that will contaminate the brake pads.
To help prevent noise, the new brake pads need to be crimped to fit snugly in the calipers. This keeps the pads from moving around when the brakes are applied.
After tightening the caliper to the spindle, the new brake hose is attached to the caliper using the supplied banjo bolt. To seal the hose to the caliper, a copper washer is installed on both the front and back of the hose bulkhead before torque is applied.
In addition to the lowering and conversion kit, an ece front anti-sway bar kit is also installed to upgrade the Suburban's handling capabilities. The kit consists of a large 1-1/4-inch-=diameter anti-sway bar, polygraphite bushings, and hardware.
The kit also includes a set of lowered front anti-sway bar frame mounts, which are designed to raise the front of the bar closer to the frame for added ground clearance.
The factory mounts are riveted to the frame and need to be chiseled off or drilled out to be removed.
With the new mounts in place and the outer bushings installed on the control arms, the new anti-sway bar is raised up into place.
To compliment the appearance and improve the ride and handling, a set of 255/55sr18 toyo tires was chosen for duty on the Suburban. The Proxes' 2,200-pound rating and 4,5-inch sidewall are exactly what this Suburban needs.
A set of Centerline billet aluminum Sundance Series Dagger wheels was also ordered in an 18x8-inch size with a 4.5-inch backspace measurement. The wheels are rotary-forged in a two-piece design and are rated at almost 2,000-pounds to match the tires. This combination will tuck the tread inside the fenders, while filling the giant wheel-well openings on the Suburban.
Category: 
Technical Articles
Sources: 
Company Name: 
Centerline Wheels
Address: 
13521 Freeway Dr.
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
United States
Phone: 
(562) 921-9637
Company Name: 
Toyo Tires
Address: 
6261 Katella Ave
Ste. 2B
Cypress, CA 90630
United States
Phone: 
(800) 678-3250
Call to Action: 
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Dropping the Big Ship
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