Welcome to Early Classic Enterprises
The premier manufacturer and distributor of quality suspension and restoration components for 1960-1972 GM pickups, blazers, panels and suburbans.
One of the big drawbacks of most classic vehicles is the limited fuel tank capacity, and the early Suburbans were no exception. With a tank size of only 18-gallons, they are limited to a couple hundred miles or less between fuel stops. Now this may not be a big issue for the cruise-night guys, but it's a real pain for anyone taking that long trip.
The buys at Early Classic enterprises have come up with a viable solution to this dilemma with their new 27-gallon Suburban tank. Constructed using 14-gauge stainless steel, these beauties feature an inner baffle-chamber design to restrict fuel sloshing. Optional features include an in-tank electric fuel pump for those truck owners running a fuel-injected engine.
We know that there are still a lot of truck and Suburban owners that use their rigs to tow. Early Classic kept this in mind when they designed these tanks to make sure they worked with their line of receiver hitches that hide behind the factory license-plate box until needed. These class-4 hitches allow you to have the ability to take even more stuff along on your next road trip to the lake or swap meet.
The Early Classic tank kit comes with the correct sending unit and replacement rear crossmember. At 27-gallons, this Suburban tank offers 50-percent more capacity than the factory unit. ECE also offers a 23-gallon unit for shortbed trucks. Both tanks are available with an optional manifold to allow an in-tank electric pump for fuel-injected applications.
Follow along and we'll show you what's involved in the installation of both the tank and hitch kits on a classic '72 Suburban.
One of the most annoying aspects of many older vehicles is door sag and alignment problems. This problem is generally caused by worn-out hinge pins and bushings due to wear over the years. Every time you open the door, it drops down slightly, and closing it requires you to slam the door to latch it all the way. In most cases, this dilemma can be solved by simply replacing the pins and bushings in the door hinges. The rebuild process isn't very difficult. The hardest part will be removing the hinges and getting the doors re-aligned after the hinges have been rebuilt. We were able to witness just how easy this rebuild was recently while we were at Early Classic Enterprises, and we watched them go through a set on a '65 Chevy C10.
since installing the Airlift airbag kit in Project Old School, the driveshaft comes dangerously close to hitting the top of the trailing arm crossmember when the truck is aired all the way down. For those of you that have never crawled underneath a '63-72 Chevy or occasional GMC, there is a large crossmember under the rear of the cab that the exceptionally long trailing arms on these models bolt to. On most models, the center support for the two-piece driveshaft bolts here. On some models and most hot-rodded trucks, the driveshaft simply passes through. The opening is plenty big for any and all suspension travel. Once you lower the truck, however, the driveshaft rides in the upper region of the opening, and if it ever began to make contact with the crossmember, it wouldn't take long for the crossmember to slice the driveshaft open like a can opener. Another byproduct of lowering is the loss of ground clearance. The stock trailing arm crossmember hangs down a few inches past the bottom of the frame rails. And since this low point resides right in the center of the underside of the truck, it becomes a punching bag for driveways and speed bumps. A third issue arises with severely lowered trucks when it comes time to reroute the exhaust.
The factory crossmember spans the area between the frame rails, making it impossible for the exhaust to be routed along its natural path. Early Classic Enterprises' new Extreme Drop Center Crossmember has solved all three of these clearance problems associated with 5-inches or more rear drops. Not only does the new unit give your chassis 2.5 additional inches of ground clearance, its raised center hoop design eliminates driveshaft interference on trucks with a slammed stance. This assembly also provides exhaust passages to allow you to run a 3-inch dual exhaust through the center of your chassis and out of harm's way. The Early Classic crossmember is fabricated from a 1/4-inch thick laser-cut and formed steel plate to be stronger and more functional than the factory unit, and it comes with a black powdercoated finish. The new design also retains the factory brake line, fuel line, and parking brake cable passages, and it is provided with all necessary grade-8 hardware.
If you are replacing the stock crossmember with the Early Classic unit, the big step involved is removing the eight stock rivets that hold it in place and bolting the new unit in with the supplied grade-8 hardware. Since Project Old School used to be a longbed, there was significantly more work involve since the old crossmember had been moved up in the frame and welded in place. This meant torching out the old crossmember, setting the new one into place, taking a series of measurements to determine that it was sitting perfectly square in the frame, and finally welding it into place. For this we called on Jim Iiams of IMZZ Industries in Brea, California. Jim is a master welder who has been scratch-building custom lifted and lowered suspensions for trucks for many years. IMZZ Industries can perform anything from a simple lowering job and wheel and tire packages to a one-off show-quality airbag suspension - so we knew we were in good hands. Follow along as Jim installs the Early Classic crossmember. Contact IMZZ Industries or Early Classic using the contact information in the source box if you have any questions.
As much as we love our classic trucks, they simply are not as quiet inside as newer vehicles. Much of the problem stems from worn-out window weather-stripping and seals, which allows air to pass through the door and window edges into the cab while traveling down the highway. Factor in years of use and abuse to the window and latch mechanisms, and it all adds up to a less-than-pleasurable driving experience.
Rubber weather-stripping has a shorter life span than most components, but over the years, both the window regulators and door-latch mechanisms slowly wear out too. Fortunately, just about everything needed to rebuild the doors is available in the aftermarket these days.
We stopped to visit the crew at Early Classic Enterprises recently and followed along as they rebuilt the door assemblies on a '72 Suburban. The steps of the rebuild process are basically the same for all the '60-72 truck doors.
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.
In the March issue, we followed along as the crew at Early Classic Enterprises converted the front of its new Project Suburban from a 3/4-ton work wagon to a 1/2-ton cruiser. The company's new conversion drop spindles and brake components were easy to install, and simplified what used to be a complicated process
With the front complete, we will now turn our attention to the rear suspension. The Early Classic rear air suspension kit is a complete system and includes KYB shocks, shock mount relocator brackets, 'bags, a compressor, lines, and the company's Super Track Bar kit.
Since the Early Classic air suspension kit is designed to run approximately 5-6 inches lower than stock, the factory Panhard bar would offset the rear axle to the left by close to 1 inch. The company solves this problem with its Super Track Bar kit, which runs from the original left-hand mount over to a new bracket fixed between the rear axle saddle and the right-hand trailing arm. This lowers the mounting point to correct the angle issues, and the bar is adjustable in length to center the axle between the frame rails.
The airbags have a 6,000-pound capacity per pair, so not only can you adjust your ride height, you can also tow virtually anything you desire. Early Classic's VP and General Manager, Stan Hammond, did the honors of installing the kit.
When '64-'66 truck owners get together and talk about rare factory options, several items are always up front in the conversation. Factory air-conditioning, big back windows, and triple bucket seats are always on the list, but one of the rarest factory options available on the '64-'66 Chevrolet trucks was the in-dash tachometer. Many people are misled into believing that the 5,000-rpm tachometer was only available in the C-40 and bigger trucks, but it could be ordered in the C/K-10 through 30 series as option RPO U16.
Thankfully, now any gauge-style '64-'66 Chevrolet instrument cluster can be converted to a tach dash with this new reproduction kit from Early Classic Enterprises. Installation is a basic bolt-in affair and requires only basic tools and skills to accomplish. In less time than it takes to watch a few Saturday morning cartoons, you can upgrade your '64-'66 Chevy truck dash with one of the coolest options available. Follow along as we show you how.
The original dash in our donor truck is in reasonably good shape, and all of the instruments are in working order. Because the lens is scratched and dull, a new one will be installed at the same time, along with a new outer bezel.
How to install Early Classic's Trailing Arm Reinforcement Kit
Story and Photography by Matt Emery
One of the best suspension designs ever to come out of Detroit came on a pickup. The trailing arm form of rear suspension used a long swing-arm that was held aloft with a coil spring instead of the more common leaf spring.
Top - The Early Classic kit comes with all that you will need to add the strength necessary for safe, high-performance operation of a '67-'72 Chevy or GMC truck.
Bottom - Early Classic has a bunch of parts that it uses when the need arises.
The advantages of the trailing arm system over a leaf-spring design are many. The trailing arm suspension makes for a much better handling vehicle than those with leaf springs (just ask the NASCAR guys), but the arms themselves had a not-so-hidden design flaw.
The arms are made up of two stamped pieces that are riveted together. The problem can be that during the normal operation of the truck, the two pieces can begin to separate. This is a two-fold problem. One is that there is the possibility of the pieces separating enough that the holes through which the U-bolts are attached become dangerously loose. When that happens, much like an our-of-round tire, the action of the U-bolts moving back and forth within the holes exacerbates itself. This action could begin to destroy the arm. Another issue is that with the U-bolts coming loose in their mounting holes, the handling of the truck will become sloppy as the rearend wanders. This will especially be evident during cornering.
To combat this, Dave Clark of Early Classic Enterprises in Fresno, California, offers a Trailing Arm Reinforcement Kit. The idea behind the kit is to weld 1/8-inch steel plates to the upper and lower edges of the trailing arm. These will act to integrate the two pieces of the arms into one. In addition to simply preventing the two pieces from separating, the plates will also greatly add to the overall rigidity of the arm by preventing the arms from twisting during hard driving, thus improving the truck's handling.
The Early Classic kit not only supplies the plates, but also includes new bushings and U-bolts. With the original arms being 40 years ld, the bushings are probably thrashed, so replacing these is a must. Another important safety consideration is to occasionally replace the U-bolts that hold the axle tube in place.
With the exception of the time it takes to weld the plates on, this is a simple modification, and one that is important to the safe operation of '67-'72 Chevy and GMC trucks. Follow along as we demonstrate how to install the Early Classic Trailing Arm Reinforcement kit
Upgrading 60'-72'GM Pickups with LEDs*
* requires electronic flasher
In the never-ending quest to improve and update our classic trucks, the subject of lighting is one area often overlooked by most people. Many of us are looking for ways to improve the functionality of our pickups without compromising the looks.
LED's, (light-emitting diodes) are a revolutionary form of lighting that can do just that. LED's use solid-state semiconductors that emit visible light when an electrical current passes through it and excites the photons. This technology is currently used in traffic lights, scoreboards, message centers, and in the semi-truck and trailer market, and the benefits over incandescent bulbs are numerous. LED's are vibration resistant, use less power, and illuminate faster--- producing very little heat.
Early Classic Enterprises now offers custom LED inserts for the '60-'72 GM trucks that replace the original light bulbs with a patented plug in design. These inserts can literally be installed in seconds using only a screwdriver to remove and re-install the lens.
In addition to the taillight inserts, ECE also offers a third brake light insert for the '69-'72 trucks with a factory cargo light. By simply running a single wire to the brake light switch under the dash, you can now have an LED cargo light and third brake light to update your classic ride.
Follow along and we'll show you just how simple it is to install better lights in a '72 Chevy pickup.
After we enthusiasts put a strong small-block Chevy (or bigger) engine in our pickups in search of white-knuckling acceleration, we have to think about the other part of the equation: slowing everything down.
The mid-'60s (and some of the early-'70s) Chevy pickups originally came with drum front brakes. They require too much brake pedal pressure, they fade after one big stop and they aren't very powerful. Frankly, they suck. It takes only one trip down the street in an original old truck to realize how far technology has advanced in the last 30 years or so. It's no surprise that brakes (and suspension) are generally first on the "to-do" list of most truck owners.
Fortunately, there are several choices available to help with these problems. For nearly 10 years, Early Classic Enterprises has been manufacturing brake and suspension upgrade kits for the '60-'72 Chevy and GMC trucks. With their help we showcase here the installation of a front disc-brake conversion on a '66 C-10 pickup.
Not only will this upgrade kit give you modern stopping power, the lowered stance (if desired) will improve the looks and handling of your classic, too. Early Classic Enterprises also has 1.5-inch drop-front coil springs and drop shocks for these trucks. You can end up with a full 4-inch drop if you want it.