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Technical Houdaille-type shocks v. tube shocks: Real world performance between the two

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by banjorear, Feb 12, 2018 at 9:47 PM.

  1. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,559

    banjorear
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    OK, so I'm in the middle of an AV8 build. Car is a '28 roadster on a '32 frame with a 59AB. Car is a rumble car and the rumble area will be used by my two boys.

    Zach Suhr is doing the work and we are going for a mid-40's time period. Tube shocks were used as early '42, so I know they are correct for this time period, but I'm not 100% sold on tube shocks for the front. Rears will definitely get them and we'll be using shortened stock '48 forged mounts to use back there.

    Here's my question: I'm looking for folks who have run either type of shock to post their experiences. I'm leaning towards running tube shocks for a number of reasons: I feel it would handle better with them, it would be considered "high tech" in '44 if you ran them, and I like the fact that if they go bad they can be somewhat easily replaced.

    Maybe I'm missing something with the Houdaille-type shock that would convince me to use them. I have all the parts, so that's not an issue. Would it make for poor handling to run different types of shocks front and rear?

    Thanks, all!
     
  2. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,431

    Ned Ludd
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    Lever-arm dampers look cool but they displace tiny amounts of fluid for any given stroke, compared to any kind of telescopic. Generally, greater displacement makes for better damping and better durability. That is also why monotube telescopics are better than more common concentric-tube types, as the former have room for bigger pistons. Fortunately they are visually similar.

    Lever-arms are useful in cases where the spring you want to damp is very soft. I've given a lot of thought to suspensions with different spring rates in different modes (bump/roll/pitch/etc.) and a desirable spring rate in pitch can easily fall within a lever-arm's capability. (My investigations have been leading me to the use of air springs as fluid displacers running water/glycol mixes, which is common industrial practice. That would create relatively huge fluid displacements and allow robust remote-mounted damping valving fed by a central reservoir. But that just by the way.)
     
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  3. theHIGHLANDER
    Joined: Jun 3, 2005
    Posts: 7,162

    theHIGHLANDER
    Member

    Related, maybe, but there's lever shocks on the front of my 47 Packard. Surely more volume than the Houdaille shocks found on Ford models, but the service is easy enough. Check/add fluid. They were 1/2 empty when I got the car so I filled em up. Night and day, and this is a 2 ton or more post war luxury boat. They haven't leaked a drop so far and I'm quite happy with how well they work compared to before. One of the upgrades back in the day, that would lend creds to Ned's observation, step up to Lovejoy shocks. Still lever shocks, still "old", more volume in 2 chamber versions. I'd think that's a mod worth doing. Then there's the Armstrong type (I think) as found in many British sports cars and pop up for sale here now and then. Levers can be serviced, most tube shocks are throw-away.
     
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  4. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,559

    banjorear
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    Thanks, guys. I've been looking at those Armstrong type shocks. New, but do look old. Hhhmmm.

    Definitely some food for thought.
     
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  5. "Airplane Shocks" were the hot ticket in the late 40's - the guys then must have thought it was worthwhile. Reading a recent book on 1950's motor racing in the UK I learnt that tubular dampers from train door closing mechanisms were used to replace lever arm and friction dampers.

    Sent from my SM-A520F using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
     
  6. Stueeee
    Joined: Oct 21, 2015
    Posts: 109

    Stueeee
    Member
    from Kent, UK

    The Armstrong's damping can "tuned" by using a different grade of fluid. AFAIK the "proper" Armstrong oil is equivalent to 10W -I've used Bel-Ray 20W fork oil to increase the damping on one of my cars, has worked well so far. Bel-Ray fork oils here: http://www.belray.com/bel-ray-high-performance-fork-oil
     
  7. louisb
    Joined: Oct 13, 2008
    Posts: 594

    louisb
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    Nothing to add to the conversation other than I have been watching the progress on your car on Zach's instygram page. Very cool ride and can't wait to see more.

    I also just realized I bought those 33/34 lever arm shocks from you for my late forties 28 on 32 rails AV8 project. I will be doing tube shocks in the rear as well. I just like the looks of the lever arm shocks up front.

    Thanks,

    --louis
     
  8. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 39,279

    porknbeaner
    Member

    An AV8 is a sort of a bouncy car, face it buggy springs are very old technology.

    I like the looks of a houdaille shock but I prefer the dampening action of a tube shock. Hot rod magazine did an article on a real world AV8 that was built by a guy in Colorado in the late '40s early '50s. It was a fender car and a kind of a sleeper, it used tube shocks on all 4 corners.

    Tube shocks dampen better if they are good shocks but they don't have the look that most are after. If you are not driving it like you stole it and you probably shouldn't if you got the kids in the rumble the lever shock should suit you just fine.

    On a side note, I would run Houdaille style shocks on a heavier car and only use friction shocks on a light car like say a T or a traditional FED. That is just useless information but there is no charge. LOL
     
  9. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 2,315

    jimmy six
    Member

    Hopefully not to cause to much controversy but as I understand it an "AV8" is a model A, frame and all, with a Ford flathead engine installed. A '32 frame and engine with an "A" body was not....but times have changed......
    A friend mine has both and the 29 with the V8 in it has the license A V8. It probably doesn't matter anymore.
     
  10. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,559

    banjorear
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    No controversy, I believe you are correct and I'm using term incorrectly. So I'll call it a Model A hot rod. LOL!
     
  11. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 39,279

    porknbeaner
    Member

    I think that there were both styles built. I talked with the ol timers at my old man's 80th B day, some of them were his cronies from clear back in the '30s, kids he grew up with ( born in the '20s). Some said that an AV8 was a flat head stuffed in an A roadster, some said that a true Av8 was a deuce with an A body dropped on. So even the guys that were there don't agree. They all agreed that it had to be a roadster, but a sport coupe with the roof removed would do in a pinch. LOL

    These guys never wrote a book but I got an idea if anyone really wanted to sort it out they wrote The Book on the AV8 or at least helped. ;)

    I think that we have to recognize one simple truth the AV8 morphed with time. Different styles with different eras and even different regions. There is only one thing that defines the AV8 from other hotrods and that is the flathead Ford V8. I cannot say that it has always been my favorite engine but it is the engine that changed the world.
     
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  12. I believe telescopic tube shocks were starting to become common in American cars already in mid-to-late '30s and in some applications were used in the rear while lever type hydraulic ones were used in the front.
    Whether one works better than other depends somewhat on rest of the suspension design, but in general I believe (twin)tube shock to be more effective (One of the reasons why I converted my '32 PB to them, both front & rear, along with designing/researching their OE application having "period correct" availability, i.e. early '50s).

    Just out of curiosity, how accurate period correct build are you attempting to create ?
    Just aesthetics or using also all components, parts and technology commonly available in period (or before) automobiles, i.e. no 12V, electronic ignition or any other technology developed/invented after specified date/period (mid-'40s ?) ?
     
  13. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,559

    banjorear
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    As accurate as possible. As noted, you can see numerous examples in Throttle magazine of racers using "tube" shocks as early as '41, so it's not that I know they weren't used and I want to keep the car as much of a period-correct piece, but as a "high tech" version of what someone would build in the '41-'44 time period.

    I hope that makes sense.
     
  14. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 39,279

    porknbeaner
    Member

    I can imagine someone mixing and matching the shocks. Tube shocks in the rear where they really don't show and lever shocks in the front where they do show. Other then chromed shocks that would have come later in the game tube shocks are not real appealing to the eye.
     
  15. Yes and no, thank you.

    While "Hot Rodding" as we know it was starting to gain popularity in the late '30s (after the depression), I've always felt that most of those in to "it" were likely involved with WWII in your reference period and hopping up cars was, if not completely put on hold, at least secondary consideration in the minds of youth or their social activities, so focusing your build to that time period will likely present its own unique challenges (i.e. no post-war components, parts or speed equipment, etc. I assume ?).

    As for the "high tech" of the period, I believe the war effort actually helped usher fair amount of it to civilian automotive world, especially after the war, where many returning youth had experienced its applications first-hand and with surplus supplies becoming available, could apply it to their rides ( I took some of those cues into consideration and use when building mine ;)).
    I personally wouldn't consider tube shocks to be out of line with '41-'44 period build, especially since they had already been around for a decade or so.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018 at 5:49 PM
  16. whtbaron
    Joined: Sep 12, 2012
    Posts: 527

    whtbaron
    Member
    from manitoba

    Didn't someone bring out a rebuildable lever shock in the last few years that used superior hydraulic valving to the old ones? Keep thinking that rings a bell, but maybe I've got a loose nut. I wouldn't mind a good pair for the front of a speedster build as well.
     
  17. banjorear
    Joined: Jul 30, 2004
    Posts: 3,559

    banjorear
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    Yes, Bill Stipe (Specialty Motor Cams) did. They are approx. $275 a piece, which is decent considering. They look well built. I just e-mailed him tonight to see if these are designed to take the extra weight of an AV8 car. I'll report back what he says.
     
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  18. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,431

    Ned Ludd
    Member

    The original Houdailles weren't rebuildable because they didn't have seals, and instead relied on tightness of clearances from the factory. I wonder if the SMC pieces are the same way.

    Another factor is that the thinking around damping has changed a lot over the history of suspension theory. At first damping was considered fine-tuning; it has since become as important as the springs themselves. So, we find damping rates generally increasing relative to spring rates over the history. Near-critical damping isn't as uncommon as it was.
     
  19. adam401
    Joined: Dec 27, 2007
    Posts: 1,226

    adam401
    Member

    I feel like even on a finish painted frame you could go with one of the 2 styles of shock up front and if you werent satisfied with the ride quality you could experiment with the other style without much drama.
    A heated and bent f1 style upper shock mount could use at least one of the holes in the side of the frame that would be there for a houdaille shock.
    Long story short I don't think you'll paint yourself too far into a corner either way.
     
  20. tb33anda3rd
    Joined: Oct 8, 2010
    Posts: 12,217

    tb33anda3rd
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    1. Connecticut HAMB'ers

    when i was a kid i removed the lever shocks on my car because i thought they didn't work......i couldn't keep the car on the road, it bounced so much. i put them back on and have run them since.
    fyi: i recently worked on a '42 willys gpw that had tube shocks. they are listed for sale, including '41. maybe they are the first?
    https://www.kaiserwillys.com/catego...ck-absorber-fits-41-64-mb-gpw-cj-2a-3a-3b-m38
     
  21. andydodge
    Joined: Sep 28, 2008
    Posts: 622

    andydodge
    Member

    For what its worth, Australian built Fords used tube shocks from 1939 onwards apparently........and I think mopars used them at least from 1936.........andyd
     
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