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Technical Lifting a 1955-57 Chevy's Stock Suspension

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Scotch Buzzard King, Mar 13, 2020.

  1. Once again, I find myself deeply enjoying George Klass's Gassers website ( One thing that Mr. Klass has pointed out is that there were many Tri-Five Gassers in the Sixties that did not run straight axles. These cars simply had lifted stock suspensions.

    My question to you fellows is what's the best way to lift a stock suspension on a Tri-Five Chevy? I've seen ball joint spacers. I've seen spring lift blocks. I've even seen people who sliced the a-arms and reworked them to create lifted a-arms. What's the best way to achieve this without making the car feel like riding in a covered wagon?

    Last edited: Mar 13, 2020
    41 coupe and oldiron 440 like this.
  2. glrbird
    Joined: Dec 20, 2010
    Posts: 483


    Once you start lifting the stock suspension, it will change the ride characteristics. It is going to be rough. Ball joint spacers let the front of the car rise higher than normal. They are not recommended for street use. Find a body and build a gasser with straight front axle. It will ride better and look better.
    Deuces likes this.
  3. While I don't disagree with you, once you cut the frame and burn in a straight axle you're done. If you change your mind in the future, there's no going back. At least with a lifted stock suspension, you have the ability to reverse what you've done if you change your mind in the future.
  4. He was asking how they did it and yes it changed the handling, THATS WHY THEY DID IT, for weight transfer.

  5. I lifted my car on the stock A-Arms, this is what I can tell you.
    You lift the front with a taller spring, you're compressing a taller spring in the same amount of space the stock spring had, of course it's going to ride like hell. I lifted my car with Moog 656 springs and at first it was a too stiff. Then I added balljoint (solid style, not the C-style) spacers to give the springs more room to breathe and the ride is now plenty compliant, even on the shit roads around here. There is still plenty of movement in the front suspension. You need to do the balljoint spacers when you do a coil lift or it will ride like hell because the factory location of the balljoints does not allow for enough spring movement when you run a taller coil. The spacers do not add height, but they do allow the springs to expand more. I've put quite a few miles on this setup and have launched the car several times on a cheater slick and everything is perfectly tame and streetable. A properly set up straight axle will be as well but like you I didn't want to go that route. The one thing you will run into is your camber. You will run out of adjustment and you can't get the camber to factory spec anymore. On my car, this means the front tires are basically just slightly tipped out at the top. With the 205/70 tire I'm running, it still handles fine. I imagine it might get twitchy on a skinny tire. The solution there is to go with adjustable or extended a arms. I may do this in the future. I'd also recommend doing your upper and lower balljoints while you're in there if they're not fresh. I am running KYB gas-a-just factory replacement shocks up front, and have not experienced them maxing out as of yet.

    Here's the springs I run:

    Here are the ball joint spacers:

    Here's how my car sits with the 656 springs, balljoint spacers, and stock height spindles. I also have a glass hood and no front bumper. That's a 29" tire in the rear, so something shorter would only add to the rake. This is as high as I'm comfortable going on the a-arms, but it looks plenty legit with the stuff you saw running in gas classes back in the day.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2020
  6. I like it. Simple and effective.
    VANDENPLAS and Mr. Sinister like this.
  7. wvenfield
    Joined: Nov 23, 2006
    Posts: 5,086


    We used to put wagon springs in. Easy to do, easy to reverse.
  8. I like the idea of a longer spring. I also like the idea of a longer spring with a longer a-arm. I guess I'm shocked that the aftermarket never went this route. It seems obvious to me. The aftermarket does this with 4x4s. Bolt on, twist off. Simple.
  9. Here's another great example. Wanted to share it:

    41 coupe and Deuces like this.
  10. Here's a shot of this vehicle's frame. Looks like he used ball joint spacers also...

    Deuces likes this.
  11. lumpy 63
    Joined: Aug 2, 2010
    Posts: 1,304

    lumpy 63

    ^^^^^^ Stacked spindles... There was a thread , think it got deleted.
  12. primed34
    Joined: Feb 3, 2007
    Posts: 1,082


    409 or big block El Camino up to '65. I once used 409 station wagon with ac springs. Got a lot of lift but a hard ride. I got big block El Camino with ball joint spacers in mine now. Rides good but doesn't set as high as I would like.
  13. I'm interested. What is this?
  14. lumpy 63
    Joined: Aug 2, 2010
    Posts: 1,304

    lumpy 63

    Basically two sets of spindles welded together... Google 55-57 chevy raised spindle's or stacked spindle's . BTW I am not condoning this method.
  15. Explains a lot really. I can see doing a set like that if say one had access to creating a new, forged spindle from the design created by welding the two spindles together. Otherwise, the straight axle would be the cheapest option.

    I actually have a perfect, complete straight axle for the swap. I just can't commit to cutting up my frame. I have a "California" 1 piece frame under my Bel Air. If my car were sitting atop a channeled 2 piece frame, I wouldn't be having any issues.
  16. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 2,588

    from illinois

    Very few of "us" in the 60's could afford a straight axle , plus in many cases , these were are everday cars . New "station wagon " springs and a 1-piece fiberglas frt end and the attitude / ride height of the front was about right ..
    olscrounger likes this.
  17. oldtom69
    Joined: Dec 6, 2009
    Posts: 509

    from grandin nd

    I would bet the green 55 you show has welded spindles-look at the photo on the street,when the center of the wheel is at the same hight as the lower ball joint about the only way to do it was modified spindles.It was very common in the late 60's when EVERYTHING had to jacked up to the max.No only was it common,I never saw any break,but no internet then to spread it around if it did
  18. blowby
    Joined: Dec 27, 2012
    Posts: 6,778

    from Nicasio Ca

    I did this on my '58. Rode same as before.

    s55mercury66, 41 coupe and LOST ANGEL like this.
  19. glrbird
    Joined: Dec 20, 2010
    Posts: 483


    “Find a body” means start with a different frame or complete car. If you can take a rough ride then no problem. But I still would stay away from ball joint extensions. My 2 cents
  20. glrbird
    Joined: Dec 20, 2010
    Posts: 483


    He was worried about rough ride!!
  21. High5
    Joined: Jul 2, 2012
    Posts: 185


    There were many tri-5 cars back in the 60's with straight axles fabricated to the stock frame. The only reason the front rails were cut off is to save on weight. For a street car, it didn't matter. Just fabricate the axle to your stock frame.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020
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  22. flatmotor40
    Joined: Apr 14, 2010
    Posts: 538

    from georgia

    I used station wagon w/air springs but I had a 427 big block in 67 on mine
  23. paul55
    Joined: Dec 1, 2010
    Posts: 3,307

    from michigan

    Ball joint spacers will not raise the front. They are used to allow you more camber adjustment after raising, if using a longer or stiffer spring. It also allows the upper arm to remain in a stock position, so that the front susp. can work properly.
    wheeldog57 and 427 sleeper like this.
  24. Why don't you just find a different frame 55 and 56 are the same, 57 is different. I see where your coming from as far as cutting up the west coast frame. I have a 56 west coast frame I saved, a just found a 2 piece frame to do the straight axle thing too. Just food for thought, I have seen where auto salary yards save frames so you should be able to find one.
  25. First off to all you guys who ran gassers in the 1960s, I have a great deal of respect for you. You guys are awesome.

    I actually have a 55 Thunderbird that was a gasser in the late 1960s, and you are right. About the only modification they didn't do to it was a straight axle. It has a 9.3 Olds, a 1964 Ford Mustang Toploader, and a set of homemade ladder bars that started from the front door seam and went back all the way back to the axle. They were made from steel plumbing pipe. If those guys would have had the budget, I believe it would have had a straight axle.

    Now concerning the frame swap, I actually have a 55 Handyman that has a perfect frame under it for a straight axle conversion. Swapping out the frames from it to my Bel Air does make the most sense since I already have a straight axle as well. It actually would be a great way to use up all my resources...
    427 sleeper and kidcampbell71 like this.
  26. Does anyone here on the HAMB have any pictures of these spindles. The clearer the better. Please post them if you would. Thank you.
  27. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 18,878

    Staff Member

    found this pic with a google search spindles.png
  28. RmK57
    Joined: Dec 31, 2008
    Posts: 1,547


    I had installed a 2" set on my 57 Ford and had about 3-4 degrees of positive that in no way you could adjust out, but that was without taller coil springs. I ended up cutting one in half and using it. Got my camber adjustment back, barely. I wanted a little more front suspension droop than what the car came with.
  29. ...these are from back in the 60's,...coil spring spacers, some were homeade from pieces of water pipe with grooves ground into both ends, needed a spring spreader to install em,on the rear we used those coil springs that went over the rear shocks,...easy for a poor guy to do...road a bit stiffer but that's what you wanted back then on the street...
    bikes 006.jpg bikes 007.jpg bikes 008.jpg bikes 014.jpg
    kidcampbell71 and 41 coupe like this.
  30. Mimilan
    Joined: Jun 13, 2019
    Posts: 603


    Google would also reveal this

    raised spindles.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020

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