In the earlier days of street rodding there was typically a broad gap between looking cool and riding smooth. Many rodders built their pre-’49 hot rods to look slick first with little concern for the ride quality of the car or truck. After all, if your car looks cool, what does it matter if there’s a few stiff bounces and maybe even a little bump steer?
Those uncomfortable driving days are long behind us thanks to the innovation and engineering of a number of manufacturers dedicated to producing the components that help us build safe, balanced, and smooth-handling street rods.
Today you have your choice of individual components that will fit your budget when the time comes or selecting a complete suspension kit or package for your specific application. Looking to keep with a traditional solid axle with a better ride and the consistency of disc brakes? How about a complete independent rear suspension system that can still support 750 horsepower? This is all possible with the number of different suspension kits and components available today.
You can surf street rod suspensions all day long on the web, but the best place to get the straight scoop is to cruise through the vendor area during a Goodguys event. That’s where you can go one-on-one with an expert and discuss the options for your specific application. If you can’t make it out to a show any time soon, we gathered some great examples of suspension systems for ’48-and-older cars and trucks to help you with your research.
If you’re looking for a solid start to putting IFS into your ’35-’40 Ford car or ’35-’41 pickup, head over to Speedway Motors. For those of you looking to do the work yourself, this Speedway front end upgrade is designed to bolt-in place with no welding required! A few hand tools and a powerful drill motor will do the trick. This bolt-in crossmember kit delivers the foundation you need to upgrade to rack and pinion steering that is a based on a Mustang-II-style independent front suspension. The Speedway kit is supplied with a trick bolt-in crossmember assembly, plus a frame brace and boxing plates to strengthen the factory frame. Speedway also includes the spring towers with adjusters and all the hardware needed to bolt the new crossemember assembly in place. Once complete, the ride height will be about 3-4-inches lower than stock. Learn more at Speedway Motors.
Linked-In With IRS
Not only does the unique design of the Art Morrison Enterprises Multilink IRS produce a significant advantage in comfort and performance over solid-axle designs, it just looks bitchin. AME now offers its trick IRS in four different track widths (from 55.5- to 61.5-inches) making it available for everything from early Mustangs to mid-’60s Cadillacs. The carefully engineered cradle design of the AME IRS allows it to be easily installed into unibody and existing chassis projects by welding four brackets to the frame and then bolting the suspension to those brackets. The low-profile design allows for an under-the-stock-floor location on most of the vehicles while the suspension cradle provides an extra level of noise and vibration dampening. Check out Art Morrison for details.
Dropping With Uprights
In the rodding world, there’s a long list of cars that came from the factory with independent front suspensions that will still work well today – when properly rebuilt. Popular applications include ’39-’54 Chevys, ’37-’57 B-O-P, ’49-’64 Fords and Mercs, first-gen Corvettes, and most ’34-’56 Mopars. Fatman Fabrication understands how to not only rebuild these vintage systems, but they know how to make them better with their line of Dropped Uprights. Fatman’s uprights will drop the front end 2.5-inches to give your car a better stance and are also designed to improve the handling and ride. To complement the shave and a haircut with their new uprights, Fatman also offers a complete line of steering and disc brake upgrades. Click over to Fatman Fabrications for the low down.
For more than 40 years, Pete & Jake’s has been the premier hot rod manufacturer of suspension and chassis components, not to mention complete chassis. The company understands that choosing the right suspension for your street rod can be intimidating and confusing, so they’re ready to answer any of your questions to guarantee you get the parts you need. If you’re looking for a solid-axle system, be sure to check out their AlumIBeam axle. This 46-inch axle assembly is fit with Pete and Jake’s hairpin radius rods and a Super Bell Super Stopper brake kit topped with finned backing plates and polished calipers. The company also offers chrome steel axles in 46- and 47¾-inch lengths, as well as a front kit with their patented Four-Bar system. Decisions, decisions! Visit Pete & Jake’s to help make up your mind.
IFS For You
Doing things right the first time has never been more important than when it comes to selecting the right suspension for your street rod. Scott’s Hotrods ‘n Customs of Knoxville, Tennessee, will make sure you get exactly what you want for your rod as each of their IFS systems is built to order. They’ll work through your application to help you get the right track width, ride height, bolt pattern, coil-overs, air bags, power rack-and-pinion and more.Scott’s IFS kits use a trick one-piece crossmember rather than a Mustang II-based system. The crossmember is crafted from 2x4x3/16-inch-wall box tubing and TIG welded for rigidity and strength. Their control arms are created using 1 1/8×1/4-inch-wall DOM seamless tubing and are built to provide the travel and correct geometry required for your application. Scott’s can do an IFS for any make or model dating back to 1925! Check out Scott’s Hot Rods ’n Customs for details.
Universal Rearend Kit
Looking to do a traditional rod with a touch of modern design and engineering? There’s only one name that comes to mind when you think about Southern California hot rodding; So-Cal Speed Shop. Their New Traditionalists ladder bar rear suspension is ideal for not only ’28-’32 Fords, but any number of hot rod applications. The ladder bar system is a universal kit that is available in 55-, 56- and 57-inch widths and is supplied with a heli-arc welded So-Cal 9-inch Ford housing, ladder bar, Panhard bar and rear suspension. All you’ll need to do is to select the axles, brakes and diff and decide if you want it plain steel or chromed. Head over to So-Cal Speed Shop for more info.
A Better Bone
There’s nothing more traditional for locating a solid front axle than a pair of split wishbones and the team at Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop has taken the age-old split wishbone design to new heights with stylish designs and modern machined aluminum construction. The radius rods fit Ford-style I-beam axles with standard 2.25-inch perch bosses and have correct caster angle built-in. The design fits early Ford and aftermarket spring perches and allows ample travel of the drag link to move in unison with the front axle. The radius rods are made from T6061 aluminum and are available in machined or polished finishes. They’re sold in pairs and come with hardware and frame tabs. Five distinct styles are available: Solid Dog-Bone, Dog-Bone with Hot Rod holes, Hot Rod Hole-Shot, Hot Rod Oval, and Hot Rod Oval Raised Lip. JHRS radius rods are designed to deliver superior strength and clean lines. Matching rear ladder bars are available, as are custom-designed lengths and styles. Get yours today at Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop.
Looking to go with something different under the stern of your street rod? Perhaps an independent rear suspension system will suit your needs! Dutchman Axles offers a number of IRS components for rodders looking to build their own hybrid IRS using a combination of their custom rearends and axles with a few well-proven OEM components. The Dutchman housing is designed around the legendary Ford 9-inch third member so parts and gear ratios are readily available. The custom housing has extra-thick cross sections for added strength. Dutchman uses a stronger 206-T7 aluminum alloy for even more strength and offers their 31- or 35-spline axles. Choices need to be considered for inboard disc brakes or to keep them out behind the wheels, but either way, Dutchman can take care of your rearend needs.
Total Cost Involved, out of Ontario, California, has been designing and manufacturing street rod suspension components and chassis for more than 40 years. Their line of Coil Spring IFS systems has been popular for years, but the R&D never stops at TCI. TCI’s Coil Spring IFS kit has been re-engineered to utilize a vertical metal plate to mount the upper control arms. This design provides easier camber and caster adjustments via shims instead of alignment slots and T-bolts for a stronger, more secure alignment. The IFS kit is backed by TCI’s Dual Warranty which covers wear-and-tear items such as coil-overs and ball joints for 6 Years/60,000 miles, while a lifetime warranty is placed on TCI manufactured components (control arms, spindles, etc.). Visit Total Cost Involved for details.
The Right Leaf
Swapping in or changing over to a new set of rear leaf springs is one of the best upgrades you can make to get your street rod riding better. However, getting the right spring for your application can be tricky. A common update to the rear suspension includes swapping to a 48-inch leaf spring, but you need to make sure that the springs are designed for your vehicle or you may end up with a firm, uncomfortable ride. Eaton Detroit Spring can ensure you get the right springs for your street rod as they’ve been manufacturing leaf and coil springs since 1937 right in the Motor City. With the number of engine combinations, vehicle weights and setups in the rod world, Eaton will make sure you get the best spring combination to produce a smooth, safe ride. This set of 48-inch leaf springs comes with the hangers and U-bolts to complete your installation. Spring over to Eaton Detroit Spring for more info.
The suspension of your hot rod is all about a safe ride with comfort and control. A major part of those goals comes from the braking and steering systems as they’re integral to the overall suspension and chassis design. Magnum Suspension & Hot Rod Parts understands the importance of the complete package and offers a diverse selection of suspension, brake and steering components for `28-`48 Fords. One of their most popular kits is their 4100 series disc brake kits designed for `37-`48 Ford or Magnum spindles. These kits come complete with CNC-machined billet aluminum hubs, heavy-duty .812-inch vented iron brake rotors, precision-machined caliper brackets designed for four-piston Wilwood calipers, along with all of the required hardware topped with a comprehensive set of installation instructions to bolt it all together! Stop in at Magnum Suspension & Hot Rod Parts for details.
The Vega steering box has been a go-to steering gear for rodders since the little cars were lining the junkyards decades ago. They’re compact with a manageable ratio for parking or cruising, but they’re not as easy to find as they once were. Leave it to the steering system pros at Borgeson to develop an all-new Vega 140 manual steering box so rodders can continue the tradition. When Borgeson says new, they mean it with an all-new precision-machined casting created from the original tooling and specs right from Saginaw, the original manufacturer. The Vega boxes are built in their Travelers Rest, South Carolina, facility where the boxes are then closely inspected, finished with all new internals and tested before shipping out the door. Get steered straight with the experts at Borgeson.
Kugel Komponents is a family-owned and -operated business which also happens to have quite a research regimen for their parts on a number of land speed cars. They know a thing or two about the importance of form and function working together on a street rod, which is clearly evident at the sight of their Independent Rear Suspension system. Kugel’s IRS uses all new components starting with their own cast aluminum housing (available in two styles) that accepts a Ford 9-inch third member and uses Corvette bearing assemblies. You can choose between cast stainless or fabricated tubular control arms, dual or quad coil-overs, inboard brakes, and nearly any gear ratio. The IRS will arrive in a natural finish, polished, painted, or powder coated and will be fully assembled with a basic pre-alignment calibration and ready for installation. Declare your independence at Kugel Komponents.
C4 UR ROD
Corvettes have always been designed with cutting-edge technology and components. This is especially true when it comes to suspension design and Flat Out Engineering of Orange, California, offers a number of IFS and IRS kits for street rods that install with readily available C4 Corvette suspension components. The result is a great riding and handling early Ford, Chevy or classic pickup using proven technology. Narrowed suspension kits for ’35-’40 Ford cars and ’35-’41 Ford pickups and panels are available plus receive the benefit of Flat Out’s own power rack-and-pinion steering that was designed to eliminate bump steer. All kits are available with adjustable Aldan American coil-over shocks so you can fine-tune the ride to suit your driving style. Learn more at Flat Out Engineering.
Super Ride = Super Rod
Looking for a front suspension system that’ll provide a super ride for your rod? Heidts offers their Superide II IFS system for a number of applications including ’35-’48 Fords, ’37-’41 Willys, ’37-’48 Chevy cars and ’40-’54 Chevy pickups. The Superide II system was designed for each specific application to ensure a perfect fit and complete installation. The front-mounted power rack provides clearance for a number of engines and Heidts designed the upper control arms to incorporate threaded adjusters that will never slip or lose the alignment. Once installed, your rod will have a smooth ride, a low stance and no bump steer. Each system is manufactured in the USA and supplied with everything you need for installation from hub to hub including: Heidts crossmember, tubular control arms, stock or 2-inch drop spindles, 11-inch rotors with four-piston Wilwood calipers, billet coil-over shocks and springs, your choice of manual or power steering rack, and a sway bar. See Heidts for details.
Know the Law
Sometimes it’s best to understand the law and when it comes to suspension upgrades, Johnny Law Motors knows what it takes to make your rod drive comfortably. The company’s Helix Universal IFS kit delivers the goods with factory dimensions and mounting locations for a trouble-free installation and smooth handling. The Universal 565 IFS system is available in an economy or deluxe configuration, with or without the crossmember. The system is supplied with 2-inch dropped spindles, tubular control arms, coil springs, 11-inch rotors, GM-style calipers and brackets, and a choice of manual or a power rack. Hardware, shocks, tie rods and more round out the kit for a complete installation. Learn the law at Johnny Law Motors.
Turn a New Leaf
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the parallel leaf spring rear suspension used on many late-’30s and ’40s vehicles – similar designs were used well into the ’70s and ’80s. That said, many original parallel-leaf rear suspensions can benefit from updated components and technology available through the aftermarket, like this Bolt-In Rear Suspension Kit for ’41-’48 Fords available from WeedEtr Street Rod Components. The WeedEtr kit comes with new multi-leaf springs (available standard or reversed-eye), U-bolts, brackets, lower spring plates, new shocks, and spring pads ready to weld to the rear axle assembly of your choice. The kit mounts the springs inside the frame to allow for wider tires and a lower ride height, while the benefit of new components will give you a better ride and increased peace of mind. Check out WeedEtr for details.