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Technical air suspension in '59 Ford Fairlane

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by deuce666, Apr 25, 2019.

  1. deuce666
    Joined: Jan 10, 2008
    Posts: 158

    from Oregon

    Okay, here's a challenging one!

    I maintain a website that shows all the old hot rod and custom magazine covers from 1945-1975. I just got an email from a gentleman in Germany who is modifying his '59 Ford into a custom. And he wants to install air suspension. According to him, the German DMV (or equivalent) requires him to prove that any modifications to the suspension must have been technically feasible in 1959 or within that general timeframe. (And we think we have it bad with our respective DMVs)

    I searched my Rod & Custom magazine index and only found a two-part, how-to technical article in 1957 where a company called Air-Lift was installing air bags in cars and pickups. This is unfortunately more general in nature, and our German hot rod buddy needs to find a technical article or magazine write-up showing air suspension applied specifically to a '59 Ford Fairlane, Galaxie or Ranchero.

    I know this is an oddball request, but have any of you found or have magazine articles or technical documents from the 1959 to 1969 time period outlining such an upgrade with any air suspension system?

    Any help would be appreciated!

  2. andydodge
    Joined: Sep 28, 2008
    Posts: 998


    For what its worth 1959 Cadillacs came with an air suspension option..........I remember seeing a 59 Eldo Barritz in a local Sydney gas station in the mid 1970' had air suspension that had gone kaput and the car was laying frame 30 yrs before it became popular.......I'd be checking whether there was any air bags setups available on Mercury or Lincoln in the same time period..........andyd
  3. Chavezk21
    Joined: Jan 3, 2013
    Posts: 611


    58 impala had Air suspension also.
    31hotrodguy likes this.
  4. green53ford
    Joined: Mar 4, 2009
    Posts: 206

    from Wisconsin

    58 Fords had air suspension as an option.
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  5. abe lugo
    Joined: Nov 8, 2002
    Posts: 2,182

    abe lugo

    If you find the info on the corvette that was the first low rider with hydraulic suspension. Built on purpose for stance. Then you may have a chance.

    Basically air ride or the 50’s-60’s is not equal to modern air ride.

    It seems people want to find sneaky ways to talk about air ride here.

    I would recommend the Germany guy setup his ride to look stock for inspection then modify after.

    I’m sure it’s like guys with modified exhaust and changing it out for smog.
    town sedan likes this.
  6. Chrisbcritter
    Joined: Sep 11, 2011
    Posts: 1,830


    A bit of trivia for the model builders. Air suspension was apparently supposed to be offered by Ford in '59 but was canceled; however the early promotional models of the station wagon produced by PMC had a Ford-Aire script on the tailgate:
    Ford-Aire script.JPG
    town sedan and s55mercury66 like this.
  7. BJR
    Joined: Mar 11, 2005
    Posts: 6,294


    I found this with a quick web search.

    Ford, like GM, dreamed of air suspensions in 1958, and its "Ford Aire" setup proved just as nightmarish. Optional only on Fairlanes and wagons, it consisted of a 300-psi compressor and an air storage tank placed close together at the right front of the engine compartment, plus an air spring or dome at each corner and three leveling valves, one for each front dome and one near the right rear spring.

    Except for the domes, the front suspension differed little from the conventional coil-spring setup, while the rear added trailing arms to take care of the axle location normally performed by semi-elliptic leaf springs. This set Ford Aire apart from the various GM systems that necessitated more fully redesigned chassis.

    Alas, it worked no better than any other of its typically Fifties ilk. When you entered the car, solenoids connected to the door courtesy lamp switches caused air to be pumped to each dome as required to adjust ride height to load weight and distribution. Once underway, the leveling valves kept the domes properly pressurized to compensate for road surface changes and hard braking. That was the theory, at least.

    In practice, Ford Aire proved so troublesome that only 100 or so 1958s were so equipped. The main problems were leaky air bags and water condensing and/or freezing in the lines. No air-sprung T-Birds, Lincolns, or Mercurys were ever built, though systems were planned and Mercury even advertised one. By 1960, only Cadillac and Rambler still offered "air ride" options, and they wouldn't last long either. Ford wouldn't try one again until 1984.
    town sedan likes this.
  8. deuce666
    Joined: Jan 10, 2008
    Posts: 158

    from Oregon

    Great information, thank you much!!
  9. Soft springs with air bags can be found in period applications.
    Sole reliance on air support of weight, laying frame and parking with jacked up camber looking like the springs are broken isn’t part of the traditional program. Everyone knows this
  10. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 17,012


    Double convoluted bags were invented in the late 1920's.

    I built the suspension on a car that was sent a car to Germany, about 6-years-ago, with bags on all 4-corners. It is registered there, and is regularly driven.

    It is is a 1937. It is owned by the manager of Bavaria Kustomz. You could have your friend contact them.

    They have plenty of cars in their portfolio with air ride, all old.
    31Vicky with a hemi likes this.
  11. deuce666
    Joined: Jan 10, 2008
    Posts: 158

    from Oregon

    Thanks Gimpyshotrods, a great tip!
  12. anthony myrick
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 5,540

    anthony myrick

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