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School me on 60-62 Chevy Torsion bars front ends

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Tugmaster, Sep 19, 2012.

  1. My son (Cometkid) just picked up a SWEET 61 Apache. It as a torsion bar front suspension. They only made these for 3 years so I'm guessing it wasn't a engineering marvel on GM's part. I know nothing about these type of susepsions. Good? Bad? Anything bolt up to these trucks?
    He wants to lower it all around. Can these be lowered?
    Thanks, Todd
  2. Yes, they can be lowered. Brad54 and several others on the board have lowered early Apache trucks. Drop him a line if nobody chimes in.
  3. CPP sells drop spindles and disc brake conversions for the front. They sell a power steering kit that uses a newer GM box, works great. The ball joints (I can't remember if it's the uppers or lowers) are pricey! Rides and handles good for an old truck in my opinion.
  4. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,222


    The guys who bought those new, claim that they ride better than the 63-up coils.

    Some were scrapped and switched to coils front ends, only because repro lower joints were not being made 15/20 years ago. NOS joints were tough to find, before the repro's came out.

    I'd keep the torsion setup.

  5. I dumped my front as far as it would go without re-clocking the bars...which would drop it waaaaaaaay to far and bottom out completely as they're only about 6 sided.
    Just go to the rear end of the torsion bar and you'll find an adjuster..back it off as far as it'll go.

    Attached Files:

  6. Brad54
    Joined: Apr 15, 2004
    Posts: 6,015

    from Atl Ga

    I've got well over 60,000 miles on my '61 Suburban, and have researched them A TON.
    The T-bar front end is, as you said, a 3-year wonder.
    I have found two different sources that claim the reason GM stopped using the design is because Chrysler sued them. The design is amazingly similar, including the length of the torsion bars (though the distance across the flats is different, so Chrysler T-bars won't swap in, without an adapter sleeve... which I've thought about working on)
    To lower it, just crank down on the torsion bar adjuster. I've dropped mine several inches this way.

    The rebuild parts for the front end are, or at least were, breathtakingly expensive. Prices have come down a lot in the last few years.

    There are currently no front sway bars available for them, but I am doing the final mock-up on a prototype and will have them in a few months, bent by one of the major sway bar makers in the industry.

    Drop spindles were just recently made available, and it's the better way to go: it preserves the front end geometry, gives you more travel, and lets you keep the stock-length shocks. I have not been able to find any shocks that work well with the t-bars cranked down: the ones out there don't have the right eyes or lengths, and I've gone through all the catalogs. The result is that you end up with shorter shock life because they keep bottoming out.

    If it's the truck I'm thinking of (your son's), it's an Automatic, yes?
    The good news there is that you can much more easily convert to a dual reservoir power brakes set-up. These trucks used a hydraulic clutch that had it's reservoir as part of a side-by-side dual reservoir set-up on the manual trucks. CCP came out with a dual-reservoir power set-up that also had a hydraulic clutch master. That they came out with it shows the trucks are getting more popular.

    To convert yours, it won't be as expensive, and a kit is available.

    The rear axle is another issue: They usually used the stock round-cover 10-bolt with drop-out center section. The GMC trucks and HD Chevy option used a Dana 44. That's what I've got in mine.
    The Dana is the most common rear end in history, used in everything from Checker cabs and Studebakers, to early Jeeps and postal jeeps, to modern Ford Explorers, Jeeps, and even the Viper and Corvette.
    Once you find a housing (they're 30-spline axles), you can find a modern limited slip from a Jeep (the jeep guys often take them out for bigger gears) and new Dana gears. I've got a 3.42 in mine.

    If you work on the trans, it'll have to come out through the floor. The t-bar mount has a cross member that is in the way, plus the exhaust goes through that area. Chevy designed the truck to have the trans removed through the cab, that's why the trans tunnel unbolts.

    The trans is unique too: it mounts with ears on the bellhousing, not at the tail shaft. That'll make adding a later auto trans more difficult. There are no aftermarket trans cross members available.

    Finally, a 3/4-ton radiator bolts right in where the smaller 1/2-ton radiator mounts. Yours being an auto truck probably already has the bigger radiator: it's wider, and taller.

    If you don't have a shroud for it, I just picked one up... they're VERY hard to come by.

    Good luck with the truck--they're GREAT!

  7. Brad,

    Thanks for chiming in. I would feel more comfortable it the young lad had discs up front. I did look at the CCP kit and it seems like a fair price with the drop spindles.
    The rear is 3.73 gears. I will double check what type it is. If it the same as they used on cars from 58-64. I have access to a center section with 3.36 gears. It is a SWB C-10 so I don't think it's the haevy duty Dana rear.
    I did notice the fan sits pretty far back from the radiator. I would like to get a shroud for the fan.
    Yes the front end rebuild kit is STUPID expensive. WTF??
    Thanks, again, Todd
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2012
  8. CodeMonkey
    Joined: Sep 13, 2012
    Posts: 92

    from Moline IL

    What Brad said. I've had my '60 panel truck for almost a year now - can't complain about the ride. Previous owner raved about LMC - don't have any personal experience with them, but they also have drop spindles and lowering springs (mine currently has 2" lowering springs in the rear).

    Some day I will get around to putting drop spindles on - adjusting the torsion bars as far as possible gives it a decent stance, but it bottoms out on every tar strip and cigarette butt.

  9. Brad54
    Joined: Apr 15, 2004
    Posts: 6,015

    from Atl Ga

    Yeah, everyone is REAL proud of their rebuild parts!
    I'm with you on the disc brakes... though mine doesn't have 'em. Yet.
    I DID add self-adjuster kits at all four corners, and with the power dual reservoir, and a little coaching/warning, I am comfortable letting my 17 year old drive the truck.
    Mine is a SWB too--1 piece drive shaft!
    It was originally a California parks service vehicle, so it had the HD rear end, 3/4-ton radiator, HD heavy-duty 5-blade fan, 283 and Granny 4spd trans.

    The truck drop-out rear is different than the passenger car rear.

    Patrick's sells rebuild kits and I think gears too, though 3.73 really isn't too bad. Mine had 3.90s in it when I got it, and with a tall tire, it wasn't at all unreasonable going down the highway. I drove it to Florida, home from Joplin, and to Virginia with that set-up before switching to the new drivetrain.

    If you do decide to swap rear ends for something later, the frames are narrower on the '60-'62, so the angle of the perches on the rear for the trailing arm is different than later trucks... it's '60-'62 only for a bolt-in.
    In '63 they came out with the Truck 12-bolt, and that's a 1-year-only housing, because of the location of the panhard bracket.

    I played hell finding another Dana 44 housing... but one eventually turned up. I think it's a good way to go, but it's not easy. The EASY ticket would be to just get a later rear end, and weld on a set of perches. I'm not comfortable enough in my welding abilities to do that, and wanted it to be "original." For some dumb reason.


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